Photographer: Events, Weddings, Portraits – Austin, Texas


Drought and Low Lake Levels in Central Texas

As everyone in Central Texas knows, we are currently in a severe drought, with no rainfall in sight. I don’t live near the lake, so when I arrived for my photo shoot in Lakeway on Lake Travis a few days ago it really hit me how dry things are. At the time these photographs were taken, the lake levels for Lake Travis were less than 640 ft, approximately 30 feet less than the normal average lake levels according to LCRA data.  Of particular interest to me were the bare, white rock shores of the lake; in most places on Lake Travis near Lakeway Resort & Spa (on the southernmost portion of Lake Travis) there is a large gap between where boat docks normally sit, and the much lower point on the lake where they now sit. Another interesting thing I witnessed was a pickup truck driving along the dry lake bed (where water would normally be at least 10-20 ft deep) in the bottom photo.

Hopefully our drought will end soon and this will all just be a memory next year. Hopefully….

Low Lake Levels at Lake Travis

Low Lake Levels at Lake TravisLow Lake Levels at Lake Travis

Austin Wedding Photographer – “Best of Vol. 1”

Yesterday I photographed a fun wedding at Central Christian Church and Allan House near 12th Street and Guadalupe in Downtown Austin and on the way home it occurred to me that I haven’t been posting enough photographs of the weddings that I shoot. I think many times photographers get caught up in the job that they do, which is to take great photographs of the wedding at hand for their clients and then provide those images in some form directly to the client. Working for my clients is something I’ve been able to do well, but sometimes I forget to let the rest of the world know what I’ve been up to and to share my photographic work with my fellow Austinites.

So, I’m posting some of favorite wedding photos from the last 1-2 years. The work I’m including is a collection of mostly wedding photographs that Austin Americana Photography captured at various weddings in the Austin, Texas area. Some of the Venues include places like Casa Blanca on Brushy Creek, Green Pastures, Canyon of the Eagles, Avery Ranch Resort, Laguna Gloria, Zilker Botanical Garden, as well as a few not-so-familiar other venues. There will be a 2nd volume of wedding photos to follow this one in the next day or so. Enjoy!

View more of my favorite Austin Wedding Photos: Volume 2 & Volume 3Austin Wedding PhotographerAustin Wedding Photographer

Austin Wedding PhotographerAustin Wedding PhotographerAustin Wedding PhotographerAustin Wedding PhotographerAustin Wedding PhotographerAustin Wedding PhotographerAustin Wedding PhotographerAustin Wedding PhotographerAustin Wedding PhotographerAustin Wedding PhotographerAustin Wedding PhotographerAustin Wedding PhotographerAustin Wedding PhotographerAustin Wedding PhotographerAustin Wedding PhotographerAustin Wedding Photographer

A 1930’s Style Austin Wedding at Mayfield Park

In March I had the pleasure of being selected as the official wedding photographer for a 1930’s wedding that occurred here in Austin at Mayfield Park. Having photographed many weddings which can become a bit “cookie cutter” in nature, this wedding definitely changed the typical look and feel of an Austin wedding and what an Austin wedding photographer shoots into something classic and fun.

It’s not that often that I get the opportunity to photograph a wedding or event that doubles as a costume party like this event did, which is pretty exciting. Obviously, the bride, groom and wedding party were all donning 1930’s wedding/dress attire. But what was great and what made the event all the more fun was that many of the guests also went to the trouble of dressing in the clothing styles of the early 1900’s.

And no detail of the wedding was left to chance. The theme of the wedding was 1930’s and not only was clothing of the utmost importance, but décor at the wedding was also in the turn-of-the-century style, along with the cake, flowers, etc. Mayfield Park Cottage also lent some genuineness and credibility to the event, given that Mayfield Park and Cottage was constructed around the turn of the century (around 1900?) and gives the feel of being on a rural homestead during the given period of time.

1930s black and white shoes

According to the Mayfield Park Community Project Website, Mayfield Park and Preserve is a suburban park that has been a relatively lengthy part of Austin’s history. The Mayfield Park Estate was handed over to the city of  Austin in 1971 by Mary Mayfield Gutsch for the purpose of creating public use parkland. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it encompasses approximately two acres of lush, green gardens, mature palm trees, peacocks and ponds containing water lillies, as well as 21 acres of nature preserve, walking trails and wildlife habitat.

Geographically speaking, Mayfield Park is located West-Central of Downtown. It’s just a stone’s throw away from some very well known Austin Landmarks, including Camp Mabry, Laguna Gloria and Mount Bonnell, all names that are synonymous with the history of Austin as a city. In fact, Laguna Gloria and Mount Bonnell are two of my favorite engagement and bridal photography locations here in Austin!

More from “Allison Mayfield purchased the board and batten, twin-gabled cottage and 23 acres for his family as a summer and weekend retreat in 1909. A prominent Austin political figure, Mr. Mayfield was Chairman of the Railroad Commission and former Texas Secretary of State. He and his wife had one child, Mary Frances, who married Milton Gutsch in 1918. Dr. Gutsch was Chairman of the History Department at the University of Texas for many years. As a young couple, Mary and Milton moved into the cottage in 1922 and added porches to three sides of the house, reflecting the Bungalow style of the early 20th century.

Mary Mayfield Gutsch designed the gardens while Milton directed the building of the stone walls, ponds, and garden features with the help of Steve Arredondo, resident gardener for many years. The peacocks were gifts from friends in 1935 and their descendants are here today. The Mayfield-Gutsch family developed this site over a 62 year period. Dr. Gutsch died in 1967. Mary Mayfield Gutsch died in 1971 and left the home and acreage to the City of Austin to be used as a park.

An interesting feature of the park and preserve is the Sabal Mexicana Palms. These palms were introduced in the thirties and now are one of the predominant species growing throughout the preserve. Originally from the Rio Grande they have survived Austin’s climate and are naturalizing to the area.”

More history about Mayfield Park, including old photos can be found at the City of Austin PARD Mayfield Park website.

See ALL the photos from this 1930s wedding in Austin Here:

1930s Bride in 2011

Happy Bride and Groom

Zoot Suit

Home at Mayfield Park

Flowers on Table at Mayfield Park

Bride at Mayfield Park

To reserve the cottage and/or grounds, you can call (512) 974-6797 or visit: City of Austin PARD Mayfield Website – reservations. Maximum attendees for events: 200

Information for Photographers: Mayfield cottage and gardens provide a beautiful setting for pictures. Although there is no fee for taking professional pictures at Mayfield, a tax deductible donation in support of these historic gardens is encouraged and would be greatly appreciated. Send to: Austin Parks and Recreation Department – Mayfield Park/Community Project 200 S. Lamar, Austin, Texas 78704 –

My Favorite Austin Photographers

It seems like I do more than enough self promotion on my blog, specifically about the kinds of photography that Austin Americana does and the kind of clients we work with. But what about other photographers here in Austin, Texas? Austin is full of fantastic and wonderful photographers who specialize in all kinds of photography, from weddings to landscapes. Central Texas has an enormous pool of talented artists who regularly display their work in galleries and on websites for public viewing and enjoyment. So in the spirit of sharing and promoting others work and talent, I’d like to tell my readers about some of the talented photographers I’ve worked with or admired here in Austin. Eight of the nine artists listed below are people I’ve been taught by, worked with and/or consider a good friend.

Peter Tsai, Austin Photographer:

I met Peter while taking a photography class through the University of Texas Informal Classes. He is a very talented and soft spoken individual who never ceases to amaze me with his creativity and ideas. A particular favorite of mine is his “b-boy” photography, capturing break dancing in a beautiful way.

Joseph Pettyjohn, Austin Photographer:

Joe has to be one of the most relaxed, laid back photographers I know. I learned about landscape photography from him years ago during a UT Class. He specializes in landscape photography and is rarely without one of his trademark hats.

Tim Babiak, Austin Photographer:

Tim is an amazing portrait photographer who is overflowing with knowledge and information about portraiture. His photos are truly exquisite (like his business name) and his enthusiasm for photography is second to none. I have attended several of his Photography MeetUp groups which he graciously hosts and teaches at his home in Austin.

Carlos Austin, Austin Photographer:

I probably know more about wedding photography because of Carlos than any other single source. Carlos is a 3rd generation Texas photographer who photographs portraits and weddings. He is a true professional and he is a very experienced photographer and planner.

John Langford, Austin Photographer:

John is a master portrait photographer who tells stories through a single photograph, which is an amazing talent. He has a magnetic personality that provokes brilliant responses from his clients who are photographed in his studio. He also brings a level of eccentricity to his work that is creative and has led him on a world-wide journey recently.

Jason Wang, Austin Photographer:

Jason is a very good friend of mine who also happens to be a talented and up-and-coming photographer. He is capable of shooting a studio portrait one day, sports action shots the next and then following up with beautiful macro-photos of insects. He photographed my family portrait and has shot next to me on several important photographic assignments.

Jamie Kovach, Austin Photographer:

Jamie is a true art photographer at heart. She photographed weddings with me and eventually photographed my wedding. She has a knack for capturing images in a surreal, yet simple way. She has now taken on a new challenge, pursuing a master’s degree in fine arts photography – something that I have a sneaking suspicion she’ll be very successful with.

Kirk Tuck, Austin Photographer:

Although I must admit I’ve never met Kirk, I thoroughly enjoy reading his Austin Photography Blog, where he frequently discusses new photographic products, lighting and puts a personal spin on all things photography. He is inspiring and talented and perhaps one day I’ll have the opportunity to meet him.

Heather Wise, Austin Photographer:

Heather is a talented up-and-coming wedding photographer. She has worked with me on a number of weddings and bridal sessions. She is devoted to the trade of photography and has wonderful insight into her work and telling a wedding story.

Zilker Clubhouse Downtown Austin Night Photo

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a wedding for fun. Normally when I arrive at a wedding I get there an hour early, packing multiple bags of photography gear, dressed in a tie and jacket with my green tea in hand and a wedding photography schedule to work from. However this weekend I got to relax at a wedding, which was kind of nice to do. I had the privilege of enjoying myself which meant I could interact with guests and the couple without constantly racking my brain about where the best shots were and what would be happening next.

The wedding was a small one, here in Austin at a place called the Zilker Clubhouse, which is located west of Zilker Park, accross Mopac. It is a small stone building that includes a simple patio that overlooks downtown Austin. The location is somewhat remote and quiet and makes you feel like you’re going camping (sort of). But when the sun begins to set, the truly beautiful view of downtown Austin’s lights begins to reveal itself. As my wife, myself and the rest of the guests finished dinner at our tables on the patio, a big orange (burnt orange by some accounts) moon began to rise just above the downtown Austin skyline, kind of like the dot that is placed just above the lowercase letter “i” – except much larger than normal. There was a rush of photo enthusiasts over to the banister to get a great skyline shot, and lots of “Ooos” and “Ahhhs”. I must admit the full moon made things feel all-the-more magical.

When it was finally dark and the toasting was complete I headed over to get a photo myself. I knew that it would be tricky because there was almost no light outdoors other than some dimly-lit, overhead lamps and the ambient moonlight, which means I’d need to complete the shot with a VERY slow shutter speed. In order to do this one normally needs a tripod. I improvised and found a table that gave me a decent view of the Austin skyline as the moon ascended. I not only captured a few shots of the skyline itself, but one that I liked of a couple who were having a romantic moment gazing off into the wonderful view of downtown Austin.

At any rate, I just wanted to share a few photos. I didn’t even bother packing a flash unit for the event, so I don’t have any of my standard, artificially lit shots to share; just some good ‘ol, home grown snapshots using the tried and true photo techniques. I must say that my photos don’t do the view that we saw any justice, though. That moon was awesomely beautiful and big.

And one more thing worth noting. I took several shots through my 50 mm lens and what the camera was capturing was not at all what I was seeing through my human eyes. I have read that the human eye is close to 50 mm focal length of a lens; I can’t say that I’ve experienced this though…

Technical details: the panoramic shot of downtown itself was shot using my 5DMii with a 50mm lens (not ideal for this situation, I know, but I get tired of carrying the larger lenses), approximately 2s shutter speed, ISO 500 and F9.0 aperture. The couple shot was approximately 1/50s shutter speed, ISO 6400 and F2.8 aperture.


New Year’s Resolution: Dump The Bank, Cable Co. and More…

I’m not usually one to make a new year’s resolution. As a Virgo, I feel like I’m always reminding myself to make changes throughout the year, so why should the new incoming year be different?! But for the New Year 2011 something just feels different to me. I had already started planning to make a few financial changes toward the end of 2010. Since the economy has contracted (i.e., we all feel a little poorer) I decided to give myself a raise by shedding some unnecessary bills, like cutting back on cable TV, phone service, etc. But when I started thinking about all the little changes that were happening in my life and the plans that I was making, it all seemed to fall into the “resolution” category.

So why do you care? Well, perhaps you don’t – and that is ok. You can stop reading here if you like. But if you are looking for some good ideas on how to give yourself a raise like I did, then read on. Please feel free to use my ideas to put a little extra money in your wallet and to hopefully improve overall happiness in your life. After all, if you don’t decide to take action and save yourself some money, then no one else will. Carpe diem!

Here are 5 things that I have put into action in the last 30 days. You may refer to them as resolutions if you like.

Martin’s 5 New Year 2011 Resolutions:

1. Dump your cable company! Did you know that here in Austin, Texas you can get approximately 20 free channels (some HD – higher quality than cable) on your TV set by simply using a $30 antenna? (I actually got 25 channels!) Did you also know that for a $8 flat subscription to Netflix you can stream thousands of movies/programs to your TV?! So why are you paying your cable company so much for so little.

For a small investment in equipment (antenna, coaxial cable, DVD/Blu-ray/streaming device) and a little work, I was able to wire 3 TVs in my home to free, mostly local HD TV programming this weekend. You can too! And I can’t tell you how empowering the feeling of independence is when you unplug your cable box! Exhilarating!

My Cable Box. I bid you farewell!

2. Break up with your bank! After a 14-year committed relationship with my bank, I decided to break it off. Why? Well, in hindsight I realized that my bank was bleeding me dry with constant demands of payment of fees. And the demands were increasing every year. At first our relationship was laid back. The bank was understanding and cordial, and not high maintenance. But at some point the bank took on new friends and ownership, became completely corporatized and turned cold. It became clear that it’s only intention was to take as much money from me as possible and hurt me whenever it could. So I let my bank down gently and ran into the arms of another: my local credit union! So far things have been wonderful; the credit union has hardly any fees, isn’t judgmental about my past and has even offered to help me out with lowering my interest rates on my car. I think we are a match made in credit union heaven!

3. Shop more locally. This is something that has always been important to me. But the longer I live in Austin, I realize how important it is to support the local economy and in turn, your neighbor by buying from local businesses whenever possible. When you purchase something from local businesses, you are putting money into the local economy, as opposed to when you buy something at a national chain store, which in all likelihood gets put in a bank in Delaware.

It’s also good for the environment in many cases to buy locally. Think of the example of your local farmer or rancher. Does it make sense to buy beef or produce that is shipped from South America. In some cases this might save you a few cents, but think about all the energy and pollution that goes into shipping a pound oranges or beef from Chile to Texas. It just doesn’t make sense when you can purchase those things here in Texas from Texas farmers.

4. Work smarter, not harder. I think that having this mentality of working smarter is really what got me to this blog in the first place. Is your money working harder for you? Are you saving your money and not wasting it on things like cable TV and phone services you don’t use? It’s likely that your job isn’t handing out raises this year because of the declining economy, so if you re-assess your financial standing and “cut some fat” out of the budget, then you’ll already have your money working harder for you, especially if you can take those extra dollars and invest them.

But how else can you work smarter? I look at this subject a little more holistically. My job frequently requires lots of time on a computer reviewing things that can get quite boring. If I mix things up and read something fun or interesting on my breaks, then my efficiency automatically goes up. If I get rid of bills that strain my budget, then I get rid of stress, which makes me happier, and not worried about bills. And when I shop locally I feel good about myself for helping my community, which gives one an overall sense of well being. It can also be a good way to network in your community, which can be good for recruiting future clients. The result: I work smarter, things are easier and I’m happier. It’s a win-win-win situation.

My Bank Statement: I don't need you anymore!

5. I want to read more. I could go on and on about the powers of reading: self education, mental exercise, remaining informed, healthy alternative to TV, etc. The problem for most people is making time. The other problem is turning off the TV (notice in a blog about reading I’ve already mentioned TV twice in the first 2 sentences). So just do it. Take 15 minutes, turn off the TV and step away from whatever you’re doing with a good book and read!

These days you have more options than ever. You can pick up the traditional book, you can go online and download a PDF of your favorite book, article, etc., you can surf the net for articles and information and now you can also read from electronic devices like your phone or new devices such as Amazon’s Kindle. So many options. So what’s your excuse for not reading? I don’t have one and I plan to read some books in 2011. I’m currently working on the classic, Crime and Punishment.

Final Armadillo Christmas Bazaar Snapshots! (I promise)

These are the final Armadillo photos that we’ll post for the year 2010. These beautiful images were captured by my good friend Jason Wang. Enjoy!