The Haunting Textures of the Hotel Sax

The Crimson Lounge sits behind some ornate doors in the lobby of the Hotel Sax in Chicago. I was lucky enough to get a private tour of this beautiful and secret place. It would be callously gauche to call this a hotel bar, because it is so much more.

There are about a dozen little rooms, enclaves, and velvet-curtained grottos that make up a textured complex of rooms that are just waiting around for me to lounge in while drinking something with an absurd name.

I collected a variety of other shots from this little gem of a place that I will be sprinkling into the blog over the next few months and years…

Shall we retire to the den for some port?

Street Scenes from South by Southwest

South by Southwest is a huge music, film, and interactive festival down here in Austin. People from all over the world come here to what has become known as the music capitol of the world. Many streets shut down for all kinds of interesting activity. I went out an evening ago to get some shots of some of the action on the streets to share with you all. I usually don’t do these sorts of shots, but I wanted to mix it up a little so you could see a local slice of life right here in my hometown! :)

Street Scenes from South by Southwest

The Glowing Forests of Endor

It was dark in Hangzhou, former home of the Song Dynasty in Southern China. The Songs ran the show until the Mongols invaded in the 1200′s. No one ever expects the Mongol invasion.

Now it is devoid of Mongols, but it is filled with cute Ewok-like creatures that live up in the hills and along the idyllic lake.

The Glowing Forests of Endor

Musician Loading and Unloading at SXSW

SXSW is a big deal down here in Austin! I missed the first few days in Chicago, and when I arrived back I see it was just as crazy as I expected. Our studio is right on 6th street, which has been pretty much a nonstop party for the past week. Of all the various locales where the top bands play, this is one of the better-known ones. It’s called Emo’s, and a closeup of the little sign there (might need to zoom on flickr to original size?) will show a special rule for the elite musician class of Austin who might be surprised to know they get their own sweet set of traffic laws.

Musician Loading and Unloading at SXSW

Join me by the fire?

I notice that good interior design, once rare, now is pervasive. Something has happened in the last 10 years that has enabled the best interior designers in the world to get their work spread widely. It’s snowballed because now everyone has high expectations everywhere they go.

When I stayed in Houston, I went to The Magnolia hotel, since it was recommended by Tablet Hotels, which is my favorite hotel booking site. I normally don’t like giant hotels that are impersonal and predictable. The hotels in the tablet line seem to put a premium on good design and are more along the “boutique” specialty locations. Often, I find, they are cheaper than the Hiltons and Hyatts of the world too.

The other half of good interior design is that it is traditionally very difficult to capture in a photograph. Have you ever been somewhere really cool, taken a shot, then gotten home and said, “well it was much cooler in person!”. I think the problem lies in the detailed textures and light levels that change on a small scale. The eye can pick it up, but the typical camera method can’t. Of course, this HDR method I use and describe in the tutorial is perfect for picking up the subtleties of the textures and light.

In other news, the nice people at Fotoflot sent me a sample of their work using one of my photos. I put up some photos here that you can check out.

Join me by the fire

Chicago Thaws into Spring

Here is a shot of our pilots for the shot below, Bill and Jeff, circling back towards the city about an hour before the sunset.

bill and jeff

(also, the site is going through a redesign… please ignore any changes you see that might mess up in IE or Safari… getting it worked out…! thanks for your patience).

Daily Photo – Chicago Thaws into Spring

I was lucky enough to be in a helicopter over Chicago at sunset. A big thanks to Fiona and our pilots Bill and Jeff. They took the door off the helicopter for me, which sounds like a good idea until you are experiencing 100 MPH of chopper backwash while hanging out trying to get this kind of shot!

It was a fun day. We stayed up for a few hours and circled around the city several times. I got hundreds of amazing shots. I haven’t had time to process any of them except for this one… but I wanted to go ahead and get it up since I know the Twitter and Facebook crowd has been waiting on it since I mentioned it on there. Also my mom was very worried about the whole door-off-the-helicopter thing.

Right in the center of the shot on the bottom is the famous Navy Pier. We timed this shot to get at the right height the second the sun dipped below the horizon to cast a rainbow of hues into the sky.

Chicago Thaws into Spring

Chicago Thaws into Spring

Photo Information

  • Date Taken
  • Camera
  • Camera Make
  • Exposure Time
  • Aperturef/2.8
  • ISO800
  • Focal Length15mm (15mm in 35mm)
  • Flashflash did not fire
  • Exposure Programaperture priority
  • Exposure Bias

Where the rivers start

The Rockies are the source of a few rivers, and here is one of them. I can’t remember the name of it for sure (although I am sure some of my smart readers can), but I am pretty sure this is the Yellowstone (or maybe the Madison?) river, flowing westward out of the park. This part of the river is impossible to see from the road. I had to pull over and then walk over a tiny little hill/mountain to get there. I stayed at the top, listening to my ipod, waiting for the sun to set… It was all quite serene, as you can see! :)

Where the rivers start

Salsa in Houston

After a few long days with lawyers, I was invited out to go dancing with one of ours. He’s a great guy and, as much as I like to tease lawyers as members of an impenetrable sovereign nation (they have their own superset of rules, their own imports and exports, they live among us, yet exist within a patina of independence), I do like being with them for the intellectual stimulation. From these photos, it’s hard to get any sense of intellectualism, although that’s not really the point. I suppose the counterpoint is the point in this case.

My attorney here is Chanler, the only guy consistently in all the photos! And in the end, I put up a sunset photo of Houston. That’s about the prettiest you’ll ever see Houston.

Salsa Dancing in Houston

Houston and Salsa-2817-March 12, 2009

Houston and Salsa-2776-March 11, 2009

Houston and Salsa-2822-March 12, 2009

Houston and Salsa-2840-March 12, 2009

Houston and Salsa-2863-March 12, 2009

Houston at Sunset

The ruins of Angkor from across the moat

Angkor Wat was really more of a fortress than it was a temple.

There is a massive moat that encircles the complex.  I can only imagine how long it took peasants to dig a thousand years ago.  I also wonder how they all drank fresh water back then.  I know I couldn’t go more than 10 minutes walking around the area without needing a drink.  The massive heat, humidity, and standing water was a perfect recipe for cavalcade of bacteria to rise up and fight back.  I don’t suppose they all boiled their water.  Maybe everyone was just more hardy back then…  Luckily, when I was there, there were plenty of little children running around selling me bottled water.  Which, upon further reflection, I probably should not have drank.

The ruins of Angkor from across the moat

The Guardian of the Ancients

I found this daunting chap while trekking to northern India. We stopped to rest on the long road to Agra at a fairly imposing little structure on the side of the road. I was curious to see if I could find a drink or maybe a bit of food.

As I approached, this guy stood out front. I was pretty sure he didn’t speak English. We regarded one another for a bit. I tried to survey the authenticity of his weapon and the his circumspect agility. He examined at my anachronistic garb and camera for a bit. Then I gave him the international symbol for, "Can I take a photo?" He stiffened proudly in a pose. I took a quick shot, nodded, then passed by to see what he was guarding within.

A Guardian on the way to Agra

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