It’s been a while…

But I’m back to blogging!

Well, much has happened lately, but 90% had zero to do with photography and everything to do with life/family. In fact, I’ve only been shooting three times in almost six months. First, we relocated to El Paso, Texas from Yokosuka, Japan after my wife retired from the US Navy (couldn’t be more proud of her!!). It’s a major transition for our family to say the least. Part of that trip from Yokosuka will likely be my next post, watch for it, it’s interesting and falls sternly in to realm of Murphy’s law. Then, after settling in Texas, we bought a new home and that process in itself was no simple task. With moving, being boxed in again after moving to a new house, unpacking hopefully for the last time, getting the former house ready to sell, and all that comes with getting reintegrated in to family here while adjusting to civilian life, means there’s been big things happening. I retired after a 30 year naval career myself, then spent the last ten as a military dependent. My wife retired after a 26 year naval career, so our kids have grown up in the military since birth and this transition has been huge. That means photography hasn’t been a priority, we’ve had bigger fish to fry. This morning is the first time I’m getting in my Jeep and going out shooting, no plan, no idea if I’ll get shots (or not), but just heading out to shoot with no agenda and it feels great! The one thing I do know, I have a full tank of gas. 😎

I’ll be back blogging here so don’t write me off just yet. Just trying to get settled as a family, make new friends at 59 years old which is harder than it sounds, and find my place in life’s next chapter. Below are just a few photos I’ve taken since coming back to the US and hoping to have many more soon. As always, I appreciate your support!

El Paso mixes old and new

Oregon Street

While El Paso is no longer the wild west city of yesteryear, it’s still an incredible blend of old versus new.  Downtown buildings, many well over one hundred years old, are blended in with new architecture and the redesigned San Jacinto Plaza and newly built Southwest University Park (home of the minor league El Paso Chihuahuas).  As if that’s not enough, the city is bringing back the old trollies that have been stored for years in the desert!  That’s just part of reason I really love El Paso, it’s changing and you can feel it!  It’s easy to spend the day out shooting with a camera walking the downtown area.  As a history buff, it’s not difficult to appreciate El Paso’s rich culture and story which is literally everywhere.  Downtown EP never fails when looking for photo opportunities.  The photo at the top of this page, called El Paso, was taken from Scenic Drive on the Franklin Mountains.  The photo at left is called Oregon Street, and shows US Interstate 10 which passes through the downtown area.

Concordia

When talking about the gunfighters of the old west, nobody was more feared than John Wesley Hardin; he is considered “the most deadly of the Old West’s gunmen.”  Hardin was “the best shot, the fastest draw, an excellent horseman and the deadliest gunman in the West—and not simply through hearsay.”  He had killed well over 30 men and his abilities with handguns is well documented, nobody came close in terms of his lethality with a pistol.  Hardin was killed by a shot to the back of his head by John Selman at the Acme Saloon at 274 E. San Antonio Street in downtown El Paso. The Minister called to care for Hardin’s body said if Selman had shot Hardin through the eye from the front, “it would be remarkably good marksmanship,” and if Selman had shot him from behind, “it was probably remarkably good judgment.”(1)  This photo, called Concordia, is John Wesley Hardin’s grave at Concordia Cemetery.

The Plaza

Another older building still in use in downtown El Paso is the Plaza theater. Big name acts routinely perform at this theater which was built in 1930 with the “intention of doing something good for the city of El Paso.” When it opened it was “advertised as the largest theater of its kind between Dallas and Los Angeles” and was the first public theater in the US to have air conditioning.  However, the Plaza finally closed in 1974 and was slated to be demolished in favor of a parking lot in 1986.  The Plaza had become “one of the nation’s largest non-functioning theaters.” Finally, after a $38 million face lift, the theater reopened in 2006 and has been providing quality entertainment for El Paso ever since.(2)  This photo is called The Plaza.

In addition to the historic buildings, downtown EP has become home to some new architecture as well.  This is something I really like about El Paso, while having one foot firmly placed in its history it still has one foot in the future going forward. The Wells-Fargo Plaza can be seen below on the left, this building is a sort of reference point whenever I’m out walking the downtown area.  I shot this photo one night with light traffic last year, it’s called EP at Night.  Below, the top right photo, called Texas Sky, is the El Paso County Courthouse, yet another modern and very cool looking structure.  Finally, the below  bottom right photo, called History, is the El Paso Museum of History and is definitely worth the trip as well and makes for a colorful night shot.  Another aspect of El Paso I may shoot in the future is the food.  After living and traveling for many years in Europe and Asia, I have a spot in my stomach for “mom-n-pop” joints or the local “hole in the walls.” El Paso definitely has a food vibe I’ve close to what I’ve experienced in Europe or New Orleans for that matter.

Since my first visit to El Paso in 2006 to get married, I’ve found it to be a city that definitely grows on you!  I’ve seen and heard complaining about how bad El Paso is from younger people, I’ve even seen some with “Hell Paso” stickers on their computers at Starbucks…  I remind myself that they’ve probably not traveled much and are basing this opinion off never having left the city.  The grass is always greener, till you’ve experienced the “greener” and seen that sometimes it’s not all you thought it would be.  El Paso has a lot going for it in my opinion, not to mention, it’s also in a great location for traveling the the southwest United States; White Sands National Monument is a short trip to the north and Carlsbad Caverns National Park to the east.  With nearby wineries, craft beer spots, minor league baseball, University of Texas at El Paso sports (UTEP), museums, great food & culture, plus very nice people, El Paso is a great place to call home. It’s also a great place to break out a camera every now and then.

 

 

 

 

1. True West Magazine, Hardin’s Deadly Tools, 2012, http://www.truewestmagazine.com/hardins-deadly-tools/  (accessed June 7, 2016)
2. Wikipedia, Plaza Theater (El Paso), 2015, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plaza_Theatre_(El_Paso)  (accessed June 7, 2016).

An Interview 

I was interviewed by a website last week, read it @ http://www.thecrazymind.com/2016/05/bill-chizek-photography.html?m=1

Bill Chizek is an amateur photographer who lives between San Diego, CA and El Paso, TX. After retiring as a Navy musician in 2011, he quit playing music and photography became his passion. While Bill is fond of photographing aircraft and autos, his subjects are just about anything that catches the eye. We have conducted an interview with him.

 

What is it about photographing aircraft that you like?

Photographing aircraft, especially the older models and warbirds, is like capturing a piece of history, which is my other love. When aircraft are on the ground, there is something about the way the aircraft is designed and the how light and images reflect off the clean surfaces. Each aircraft is like its own piece of artwork. Also, the paint schemes which are designed to catch your eye from the ground can be equally incredible up close. When they’re flying it’s about the beauty, gracefulness, power, or speed. But when they’re on the ground, they are a sort of art and a visual part of history to me.
When comparing aircraft to autos, when is the best moment to capture them and which are your favorite perspectives?
They are two completely different subjects because we all see aircraft in the sky and understand them from the ground, but when not flying they may not seem so interesting to some people. A photo of cockpit controls may not be impressive to some people, but those same people will pay big money to see that same plane fly at an airshow. Most people who aren’t pilots, in my opinion, relate to aircraft better from the ground. I usually like to capture aircraft where you can see that pilot at the controls. Cars are different because we use them every day, see them everywhere, and they’re part of our earliest memories and daily lives. Not everyone will be a pilot, but most of us will drive cars. Even my young daughters like spotting old cars when we’re out in our car. Airplanes I have no control over in the air so I shoot them when and where I can, I like to photograph them on the ground preferably in the morning. Cars, on the other hand, I prefer to shoot on sunny mornings in the shade with lots of natural light. That’s why I love when car shows happen in a park under the trees! I try to photograph the parts of old cars that are from another era, like the old clocks and dashboards, or hood ornaments that we just don’t see today. Again, it’s history…
Why did you quit playing music?
A couple of reasons, first was my health. As a musician since 1976 or so, brass playing took a toll on me. I already had two hernia operations, lost a good deal of hearing, and was having a throat issue that was likely going to get worse if I kept playing the trombone. These factors made the decision easier plus I was already getting active with photography and knew I loved it. Additionally, a musicians life is tough, plenty of late nights whether it’s gigs or rehearsals because everything happens around other band members day jobs. Whether musicians are working or not, most still have to practice to keep their skills up for when someone calls. So, even if you’re not working, it’s still time consuming. Because I played mostly jazz with a lot of improvisation, photography filled that creative void in my brain left by music and really was a better fit in my life as well. The second reason was my family because I have a wife, son, and two little girls. They could rarely come out to hear me play unless I was playing during the day (a rarity). Now when I’m out shooting, one or more family members are usually with me and my oldest daughter has her camera and her little sister has a toy camera. Photography is a great way for me to be with my family and stay creative.
How did you get started in aircraft and auto photography?
Since I was a child I’ve been in to aviation, my brother and I had model planes that we built hanging from our bedroom ceiling, and going to airshows was a big deal for us too. Years later, as an adult I would go to the NAS Oceana Air Show in Virginia before I was in to photography and spend all day in awe of the show. A few years later I began taking my camera to the Miramar Airshow in California, I didn’t like my photos and started researching aviation photography online, I was hooked. As for cars, my wife and I checked out a local car show a few years ago and it was pretty cool but I didn’t start shooting car shows seriously until 2014 when I began to grasp the historical aspect of these cars. Initially I started shooting just hood ornaments, that big old piece of metal on the front of the car represented the entire company, early model cars had amazing hood ornaments! They were works of art meant to catch your attention, not some trademarked piece of plastic simply slapped on the car at the factory. I especially love the cars of manufacturers who have gone out of business; companies like Studebaker, DeSoto, Auburn all made incredibly beautiful cars that are not coming back, it was an incredible era. I love when I can combine photography with history! I photograph other subjects as well, cars and aircraft are only part of it. I also photograph buildings and interesting architectural structures, landscapes, seascapes, flowers, boats, and do some night photography among other things.
Which formats do you sell your photography?
They are available in several formats through my website at Smugmug. Paper prints in various sizes and finishes as well as digital downloads are available. If you are looking for something for the home, they are also sold as wall art in the form of traditional, stretched, or flat mounted canvas. These photos are sold as thinwraps or metal prints where again, you can select the finish or covering. Lastly, Smugmug will ship just about anywhere in the world!
Where can our readers see more of your work?
At my website found at www.BillChizekPhotography.com I usually post one photo a day on Monday through Friday. I also post a blog about my photos twice a month at www.BillChizekPhotography.net. You can follow me on many social media websites (below), if you can’t find me, contact me through my website and I’ll gladly help you!
Follow me at:
Twitter: WmChizek
Pinterest: billchizek
Google+: +BillChizek

Missions: 3 in 1 morning

Anytime I can mix my two loves of history and photography, I’m a happy camper.  El Paso, Texas has three Spanish missions that are literally hundreds of years old.  It seems the historically “old” buildings that are east of the Mississippi get all the press but these old missions seem almost forgotten. “During the 16th century, El Paso became an important stop for Spanish explorers on their way to New Mexico to find riches and convert the native population to Christianity.”  After 1609, “El Paso became a critical point” for “communication and trade between the Mexican interior and the missions and Spanish settlements of New Mexico.(1)  These Spanish Missions were the hubs of their communities more than 160+ years before there was a United States. Today all three of these missions, which replaced their predecessors, are on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places for what is now called the El Paso Mission Trail.  Each mission has very cool architecture yet each are a very different in their own way. I thought it would be fun to shoot all three missions together and post them as a collection with each titled simply with the time they were photographed.  Black & White photography is something I’ve been working on and this seemed to lend itself well to these missions.  I headed out on the morning of December 26, 2015 for my little project.

1007 AM

This photo was the first mission I shot that morning, it is the Ysleta Mission and the photo is called 10:07 AM. I really tried to emphasize the old bell in front without blurring out the church itself.  I love this 16-35mm lens because you can get right up on your subject yet still have room in the photo for other interesting items.  The Ysleta Mission “is considered the first and oldest mission established in the State of Texas and the second oldest continually active parish in the United States.”  The first and second structures were washed away from floods, this building was built in 1851. (2) 10:07AM was shot with a Canon EOS 6d, EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM at f/13, 1/25 sec, focal length of 16mm, and ISO 100.

 

1034 AM

Next up was the Socorro Mission a few miles down the road, this is called 10:34 AM.  The prior two structures, like the Ysleta Mission, were wiped out from floods and this mission was built in 1843.  The Socorro Mission began the Socorro community, “which is considered the 2ndoldest community in the State of Texas.” (3)  This is a very rural area and I hoped to show the empty space surrounding this mission through distance. 10:34 AM was shot with a Canon EOS 6D, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM at f/9, 1/320 sec, a focal length of 102mm, and ISO 100

1050 AM

My final stop that day was at the San Elizario Mission for this photo called 10:50 AM.  Like the others, a “flood destroyed the chapel and a new building was erected in the 1840’s.” (4)  Of the three mission, I like to photograph this mission the best because of its architecture and the way it catches light and projects shadows.  This mission sits in the heart of a historic district as well as an art district making it an interesting visit. 10:34 AM was shot with a Canon EOS 6D, Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM at f/13, 1/125 sec, a focal length of 50mm, and ISO 100.

When in El Paso, be sure to visit the Mission Trail as the buildings are truly worth seeing.  Without hustling too much, I was able to shoot these three photos within one hour but I’d allow a good 2-3 hours if you wanted to view the interiors and the surrounding area of the San Elizario Mission which is part of the San Elizario Historic District.  Every time I return to El Paso I make time to head out to the missions, there is always something new to photograph.

Spanish Ceiling
The interior ceiling of the Socorro Mission on El Paso’s Mission Trail.

1. Texas Beyond History, El Paso Missions, 2016, http://www.texasbeyondhistory.net/paso/  (accessed February 21, 2016).
2. El Paso Mission Trail, Ysleta Mission, 2016, http://www.visitelpasomissiontrail.com/history/ysleta-mission-1.html  (accessed February 20, 2016).
3. El Paso Mission Trail, Socorro Mission, 2016, http://www.visitelpasomissiontrail.com/history/socorro-mission-1.html  (accessed February 20, 2016).
4. 2. El Paso Mission Trail, San Elizario Mission and Presidio, 2016, http://www.visitelpasomissiontrail.com/history/socorro-mission-1.html  (accessed February 20, 2016).