Tag Archives: music

A 100-Year-Old Ranch & A 10-Year-Old Vision: A Lesson in Nurturing Inspiration as a Photographer

If you know me, you know I love music.

While I started my photography career early (my first paying job was at age 15), it coexisted with music as a sideline. My parents were music fans, so I was exposed to it early and often growing up. Two years of piano lead to my desire to become a drummer, but my father couldn’t stand the racket of just a snare drum in my room. I eventually ended up on bass guitar; the drummer’s accompanist in “the rhythm section” of a band. Today, I’m married to one of the most incredible singers you’ll ever hear.

Introducing Danny Everitt

From 1970-1973, Danny Everitt was one of my bandmates in Austin. While he soldiered on playing, I took a 20-year hiatus. From day one, Danny gave me the honor of doing photography for his recordings.

Cover of Danny Everitt’s first album in 1981, “Fire Down Inside.”

I also provided the cover for 2007’s “Cold Wind, Cold Rain,” on which I also share co-write credit for the first track, and promo images for 2013’s “Acoustic Souvenir.” However, only recently did I have the opportunity to bring an image that had been percolating in my mind for almost 10 years to fruition.

When Inspiration Strikes “a Chord

In 2007 I started working for Bob McClaren at his beautiful Angus Beef ranch, 44 Farms, near Cameron, Texas.

Almost immediately, the sight of a lone chimney next to a large stock tank struck my attention. I knew the remnants of a long lost farmhouse (the land has been in Bob’s family a little over 100 years now) would make a great photo. The time to use this scenery finally arrived.

44 Farms Chimney and Stock Tank, Near Cameron, Texas

10-Year-Old Vision Realized

When Danny told me about his upcoming music release, “Dream Big,” I knew we needed to take a little road trip.

On October 21 a cold front had pushed through Texas and cleared the air, so Danny, his wife Patrice, and I headed to 44 Farms. My idealized photo would take place at twilight.

While we waited for the sun to creep down, I suggested we make use of the glorious weather to get some shots “in the can.”

In a similar vein as client assignments, I complete the shots as planned, but also try to come up with additional images that may or may not work for the brief.

This afternoon, we started with the sun directly behind Danny. I used a battery powered Alien Bees flash head with a beauty dish to illuminate his front, which would have been in shadow:

Danny Everitt, “Dream Big” CD Shoot

Then, as the sun was barely above the horizon during “The Golden Hour,” we shifted to a hillside just behind us where the warm light raked across Danny and the golden grass of a Texas autumn:

Danny Everitt, “Dream Big” CD Shoot

Finally, we set up for the shot that I envisioned all along; Danny in front of a fire, strumming his guitar, singing softly, and the sporadic accompaniment of the Angus cattle who occasionally came to drink water from the tank:

Danny Everitt, “Dream Big” CD Shoot

For the technically minded, there was a battery-powered head inside the fireplace, with a warming gel to simulate the warmth of a fire. The aforementioned Alien Bees head and beauty dish, with a honeycomb grid, gently opened up the side of the chimney so there would be some detail in it.

I was pleased when we finished, and even more so when I started processing the images back at home. I just knew this would be the perfect wraparound cover for a CD titled “Dream Big.”

Unfortunately, it didn’t make the cut. It WOULD have been the chosen wraparound cover if I hadn’t gone the extra mile to shot other scenarios while waiting for the sun to go down.

May The Best Photo Win

Danny’s wife Patrice, or “Pete” as commonly known; Jack Saunders, Danny’s music producer and engineer; and Houston graphic designer Kenny Ragland, who I had enlisted to create Danny’s CD package, all liked the first setup the best.

This image became the cover of “Dream Big,” the one pictured above with a little post-processing tweaks:

Danny Everitt, “Dream Big” CD Cover

Thankfully, all is well, and my originally envisioned image, with the addition of a real crescent moon judiciously place above the horizon, became the inside spread with plenty of room for CD production credits to be reversed out:

Danny Everitt, “Dream Big” CD Inside Spread

The hillside image is being employed in Danny’s promotional material and his Band Camp page, where you can buy all three recent CD releases:

A Lesson in Inspiration

The lesson I want to impart is that the image you go out to capture may not be the one that ends up being the best or the one that you use. Be open to surprises and inspiration – it’s what keeps the process fresh, and often results in a happy accident.

As an addendum, Danny, most of our old mates from the Austin band (with guitarist Gerry Hailer, from my early 90’s “ad band”), and I did a CD in 1998 to prove that we could still rock and roll. If you’d care to have one, just let me know, I have a few left. We are hoping to finish up our sophomore effort later this year, 17 years after we started it. Stay tuned for more.

You’re Going To Get A Tattoo?

No no, what I SAID was, “I’m going to THE Tattoo!” OK, I’ll explain…

The word “Tattoo,” is derived from “Doe den tap toe”, or just “tap toe” (“toe” is pronounced “too”), Dutch for “Last Orders”. Translated literally, it means: “close the (beer) tap”. It started when the British Army was quartered in “the low countries” during the Austrian War of Succession, and was the cry that accompanied the beat of the drums as the pipe and drum corps marched through town, and was a signal to “turn off the taps,” it’s time for the soldiers to return to their barracks.

It evolved over the years to become a form of evening entertainment performed by the various military musicians, but primarily the pipes and drums.

In 1950, the military decided to take part in The Edinburgh Festival, an annual celebration of the arts that transforms Edinburgh, Scotland for the month of August. Erecting grandstands around three sides of the castle esplanade, and with the castle itself as an imposing backdrop, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo has grown into a spectacular event that sells out its three-week run of performances, every night but Sunday, and with two on Saturday. It is also televised all over Europe, which further enhances its reputation as a “must see” event.

I attended my first Tattoo in 1998, and it literally brought me to tears. This August marked my fifth time to attend, and it was as spectacular as ever. With new grandstands in place since 2011, the seats are more comfortable and, while not generous, more spacious than the previous ones.

I have always attended the late Saturday show, as the darkness that has finally fallen at that late hour allows the full impact of the incredible lighting of the performance, and graphics that are projected on the castle facade. The fireworks that cap the show off are an added bonus.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, 2013

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, 2013

But it’s not just pipes and drums. They bring in guest artists from all over the world. This year, for instance, there were performers from South Korea (in observance of the 60th anniversary of the Korean Truce), Mexico, and Mongolia, as well as the military band from New Zealand, which absolutely stole the show! And as all the performers take the esplanade for the grand finale, the lights dim, a solitary spotlight illuminates a lone piper, high on the castle battlements, and upon completion of his solo, the massed bands play “Auld Lang Syne,” as the 8,500 spectators in attendance join hands and sing along.

Massed bands, the finale of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Massed bands, the finale of The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Corny? Maybe. But it was, as always, extremely moving. The atmosphere is like nothing else I have ever attended. But then again, I am a fan of the pipes, and, indeed, most things Scottish. I’ve already ruminated on the lure of Single Malt Scotch, and I even like Haggis. So am I Scottish? No, seems I’m Irish, with a little bit of English thrown in, although I hope the Scots will forgive me that.

If you’d like more information on the Tattoo ( it really SHOULD be on your bucket list, you know),you can find it here: http://www.edintattoo.co.uk

Of course, we spent many more days in Scotland, and had the good fortune to run in to Mr. Neil Clark, a champion piper, as he played on the grounds of Urquhart Castle, overlooking fabled Loch Ness.

To borrow a phrase from Spinal Tap: “‘Tis a magic place!”

Neil Clark, Champion Piper

Neil Clark, Champion Piper