Friday, September 16, 2011

The Story of Old Homestead

I entered two of my photographs in the county fair this year (for the first time ever).  I thought it would be a good experience and would help me to show a little bit of my work.

I entered two photos (I had three, but the image I shot of Keith Warren didn't print to my satisfaction, so it didn't go) - a shot of the Alamo that I shot early one morning back in May (the same morning that I later used small flashes to light the front of the Alamo at sunrise) and a shot that I call "Old Homestead."  And as it turns out, Old Homestead won Reserve Champion.

The story behind the Old Homestead shot is a little interesting, so I thought I'd share it:
This year on New Year's Day, two friends of mine, Nick and Jen, got married near Abilene.  Early on the morning of January 2, I left Abilene headed back to Brenham.  It was 12 degrees outside and everything was frozen, including the windshield washer fluid in my truck.  The moon was especially awesome that night, so I stopped briefly to try to get a shot, with not much success.  I hadn't brought a tripod with me on the trip (I know, I know...) and so I tried rigging up something using lens caps, my keys and my wallet.

After about 30 minutes of freezing my arse off (and after being questioned by a local farmers as to exactly what the hell I thought I was doing), I decided to head on down the road.  

About 30 minutes after sunrise, somewhere between Cross Plains and Comanche, Texas I happened to look in my rear view mirror and saw this great little old house with a windmill sitting up at the top of a hill with a beautiful valley below.  So I whipped my truck around and went back for the shot.  I almost didn't. I had been gone for a couple of days and I was still several hours from home (and it was really, really cold!), so I really just wanted to get down the road so I could see my family.  I actually sat in my truck debating whether I should get out and shoot or just pass it up and move along.  My experience on my photo trips at work has taught me that I often regret it when I decide to pass up a shot in the interest of time, so I got out and started shooting.

I shot in color and I shot several panoramic shots of the hill and valley.  I loved it because everyting was so crisp and golden.  But when I got into the color correction and the editing at home, I found that this shot really lent itself well to a sepia look (probably because it was a natural sepia color anyway.) So that's how I processed it.

As I was preparing my entries for the fair, I had actually forgotten all about this sot.  I've gotten some really interesting shots this year, from Chasing Cane to Back at the Ranch to the San Jacinto Monument to   a B-17 bomber.  But I happened to stumble upon this shot, and it immediately jumped out at me as being perfect for the fair.  So I ditched one of the other shots I was planning and used this one instead.

And I'm glad I did.  It won me $3.00, and now I can say "James Pharaon, Award-winning photographer" with an (almost) straight face.

And if you'd like a copy of "Old Homestead," it's available for purchase at

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