White Oil

Natural Gas Production Plant
Natural Gas Production Plant – Edwards Plateau
When traveling on the Edwards Plateau at night there are no lights to be seen. Except for the edges along the interstate highway it is nearly unpopulated. You can drive for an hour or more in the darkness and never pass another vehicle. During the day there are oil field service trucks and crude oil tankers on the plateau but at night nothing.

After leaving the town of Sheffield forty miles behind, I notice there is something lighting up the desert. Because there are so few lights on the plateau the glow looks like a city. There are no cities out here. On a hunch I turn off on a narrow strip of pavement towards the lights. After a few minutes I drive up to a huge natural gas production facility that is literally in the middle of nowhere.

As I get closer the ground starts to vibrate and the noise level becomes intense. This plant collects raw natural gas from wells and liquefies it using huge compressors. There is a row of stationary engines driving the compressors; each engine is as tall as a two story building. They are the source of the vibrations and sound. Liquefied natural gas is sometimes called White Oil. White gold more likely for those riding this petroleum boom.

My goal on that morning was to shoot sunrise along the border. Dryden Texas, my destination, was still sixty miles away but the opportunity to photograph the isolated plant was too good to ignore. I spent an hour walking and shooting and then hurried along to catch the sunrise.

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The North America calendar
Weeks starting on Sunday.

Phototrice Calendar No. 40 – North America

The International calendar
Weeks starting on Monday.

Phototrice Calendar No. 40 – International


Seeking Sun
Seeking Sun – Edwards Plateau, Texas
From my home in San Antonio I can drive to most parts of Texas to shoot photographs and return the same day. Usually I head northwest onto the Edwards Plateau and beyond to the Texas Bend country. My inclination is to go as far west as I can and still return in one day. For me there is a sense of freedom when traveling in the less populated parts of West Texas and the borderlands. It is a vast area with few resources so you need to be able to manage on your own.

Logistically, getting to West Texas for a sunrise photograph without an overnight stay means starting out at two or three AM. A shooting plan is a necessity when traveling hours to make a few photographs. It is simply too far to drive without knowing what you expect to accomplish. My first task is always to work my plan. Then as time and distance permit, to scout and shoot documentary images for future trips.

I could spend a couple of days a week on the road and never get to photograph all the interesting places I’d like to see. Being a regional photographer in Texas means there is plenty of room to roam around.

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2017 No. 7

The North America calendar
Weeks starting on Sunday.

Friday Photo Calendar No. 7 – North America

The International calendar
Weeks starting on Monday.

Friday Photo Calendar No. 7 – International

Project Year – One Third Done

I’m now about one third done with my project to shoot with legacy lenses for a year. Using forty plus year old optics full time on a Sony A7II may seem a little unusual. It is a different approach to digital photography and not something to do without planning. For me it is worth doing. Those old lenses are inexpensive and some even give excellent results.

Images captured with legacy lenses often have a different look than those captured with modern optics. Lenses for film cameras were designed using analog methodologies and manufactured with less precise tooling. That gives them what some enthusiasts call ‘character’. When adapted to digital cameras they often render images with unique qualities. That is not to say better qualities than modern lenses.

So far all my project images have been shot with one of four prime lenses in the range of 28-135mm. Not much reach considering I shot many images at 200mm with my X-T1. That would be a field of view around 300mm with the full frame A7II. Using prime lenses with just four available focal lengths has caused me to adapt the way I visualize images. That along with manual lens control has forced me to work slower. I’ve been shooting fewer frames with better results.

Project Year - Kit
Project Year – Kit

The first third of the project has not been as productive as I’d hoped. My time shooting in the field has been less over the last few months than any time in recent years. I expect that to change. I will be shooting more in the Texas Bend as well as around San Antonio in the coming months. Just for starters Día de Muertos is in a couple of weeks. That is always interesting to photograph.

To sum up, the project has exceeded my expectations. I’m enjoying my time with the camera and shooting better images. That makes the project a success to this point. I expected using legacy lenses would be a burden but I like the control they give me. Also the lenses I’m using are producing good results. What’s not to like?