Ordinary to extraordinary is a collection of freelance photography and a veritable cornucopia of random musings, made by Larry Wyatt.

31 March 2007

NHRA Spring Nationals

I love sports! Almost all sports, save for sailing and the like, which to me is like watching paint dry. I enjoy being on the water in a boat, but it's just not much fun to watch on television. To each his own. Drag racing, along with ice hockey, baseball, football and soccer are my favorite sports. Heck, I even like a good tennis match!!

I have been attending drag racing since I was but a wee lad in southern Illinois. The Gateway Nationals were the big yearly event held very close to my home town and they are still held today. Yesterday, March 30th, I made my yearly pilgrimage to the National Hot Rod Association Spring Nationals. This drag racing event is held in the Spring in Houston every year and brings together the top drivers in the country in classes from street eliminator to top fuel dragsters and everything in between. It is a rockin' event!

This years races were a bit overshadowed by the recent death of Eric Medelen, a racer for the John Force racing team. There was a nice tribute to Eric, who was killed after a test run accident last Friday in Florida. He was only 34 years old.

If you've never been to a drag race, you must go. But don't bring along a nice Chianti and some fava beans. Pfffft-pfffft-pfffft. The funny cars(so-named because of their unique flip-top bodies) and top fuel dragsters hit the track with some 7,000 horsepower. Yes, that's seven thousand. Each cylinder puts out more horsepower than an entire NASCAR engine and these nitromethane-powered puppies make it down the track in less than five seconds at about 330 m.p.h.!!! The drivers in these two classes experience the same G-forces as the astronauts on the space shuttle at take off. Drag racing is a sport unique to any other in the wide world of sports(should there be a TM here?) Your entire body shakes and you may lose a filling or two too. Do yourself a favor and once, just once, watch two top fuel dragsters scream down the track at night without wearing ear plugs. It will be an experience that you never forget!!! I promise.

In any event, the weather was nice with relatively cool temperatures and cloudy skies, so the photo opportunities were many. I have been wanting to begin honing my skills with sports photography, so I gave it my best. Perhaps the honing only resulted in a moderately dull knife, but I sure had a good time doing it! Below are a sampling of some of the shots from the races. Just click on a picture to see a larger version. The photos were taken with either a Canon 70-300 mm 3.5-5.6 IS zoom or a Quantaray 18-125 mm 4.5-5.6 zoom on a Canon Rebel XT body. I used a neutral density filter on some for panning.


Drag racing is a family event. This young man was hamming it up when he saw that I was taking pictures.

Drag racing brings out every kind of fan imaginable and their dogs!! This wheelchair-bound gentleman is a regular at the races.

This is a funny car. This is a false body overlying the chassis.

Much work goes into preparing for each race. In the top classes, the engines are re-built after each race.

This is the 'Christmas tree' and it tells the drivers when it's time to go!

These are 'burnouts'. The drivers spin the wheels at a high rate of speed to heat up the tires and make them more tacky for better traction during the race.

This is Brandon Pesz's wife(and crew member) making the sign of the cross before her husband makes his run down the 1/4 mile track at over 250 m.p.h. She had just finished directing him backwards into his starting position after his burnout.

This is a close up of the engine of a dragster.

This is a shot of the Kalitta top fuel funny car leaving the starting line. Notice that the light on the Christmas tree is green. The power of these cars is incredible. Take special note that everything in the photo is in focus except the funny car body. This demonstrates the 'shake' that these cars experience when leaving the line.

Some cars pull wheelies when leaving the starting line.

These captures of a pro modified and a competition eliminator give you and idea of the speed of these cars.

Time to go home.

And there you have it. A bit of a story of this year's NHRA Spring Nationals in Houston, Texas. I hope you enjoyed it.

Remember to keep clicking that shutter, because if you aren't clicking, you're just holding an expensive black box that makes lots of noises.

Please don't pirate my images. I've worked hard to make them. Please enjoy them, but don't steal them.

Copyright 2007 Lawrence H. Wyatt

26 March 2007

Early Musings of an Amateur Photographer

It was quite a decision for me to finally get involved in serious amateur photography. As I pondered how to 'take the plunge', I did a great deal of searching on the internet for the appropriate camera and supplies that would be necessary to take me to the next level of photography.

You see, most of us start out, regardless of our camera model or price, by placing the main subject in the middle of the frame, setting the camera on automatic and pushing the shutter button. This new-fangled expensive camera will do the rest, we assume. This is how we set about to take vacation pictures, family photos, birthday celebrations and the like. We are ultimately satisfied when there are no red eyes in the picture and everyone who should have been included actually was. While this satisfies the needs of most people, it is a far cry from serious amateur photography and galaxies from the professional level.

I started out the same way. Certainly my new Canon Rebel XT(MSRP $799) would do most of the work for me. I took some pictures and voila'!! Horrendous doesn't even begin to describe the look of the first few hundred pictures that I took. They looked nothing like the beautiful artful photographs made by serious amateurs that I'd seen on the internet. What was I doing wrong? I bought a nice camera and lens. Had I wasted my hard-earned money on equipment that wouldn' work in the hands of Ansel Adams? Frustration was the emotion that haunted my first few outings with my new camera.

And then I thought about something about which my father used to tease me. He would say, "son, when all else fails, read the directions." So, I followed his advice and read the directions. I read all of them and set out once again. The photographs were better(a term whose intent I use quite loosely in this context), but only from a technical perspective. The colors actually began to look like the ones in the scene I had photographed. Hey, it was a start. But I was the tortise in a race with the proverbial hare. Technically, they were better but the still lacked any semblance of art.

So what did I do, you ask?(Thanks for asking, by the way, or I'd have to stop here) I read and read and when I was done reading, I read some more. I read articles on the internet and I read books. My reading concentrated primarily on the compositon and art of photography and less on the technical aspects of the trade. I literally read 10 books on the art of photography in 30 days. I also looked at every good photographers web site that I could find, including blogs like this one.

While there has never been a true epiphany, I have slowly but surely learned some basic techniques that have made my photographs more artful. Notice that I intentionally did not say that my photographs are art. Far from it, I suspect. But I am enjoying making them and looking at them more and more.

Well, what have I learned that made my photographs better? Here are five rules that I follow that I believe have made my work product more esthetically appealing.

1. Ensure your camera settings are accurate and make some photos. Then(and this is the fun part), make sure your settings are inappropriate and make some photos. While you will have tons of photographs that make it quickly to the trash bin, you'll have a few that will surprise you. BE CREATIVE AND TAKE CHANCES. Some of the best photos that I've seen were the result of not following the 'rules'.(Funny that I would place this in a list of rules, huh?)

2. Fill the frame with your subject. If my photos are not pleasing to my eye, the first thing that I do is move closer and fill the frame. Remember that the camera sees everything in the frame, while the human eye ignores some things and fills in others. By moving in closer, we remove the natural tendency of the brain to ignore inappropriate items in the photo. Try it, you'll like it!

3. Watch out for distractions in the background of your photos. Let me tell you, there is nothing quite like a telephone pole growing out of your son's head or a power line across a beautiful sunset to make you want to turn your camera in for a six pack of beer and a pizza. Look around the entire frame of the viewfinder. In most cases, you have plenty of time do this and it is well worth taking the time given to you!

4. See shapes, colors, patterns and textures, and the like instead of seeing items that you want to photograph. In other words, don't photograph an old man, photograph the lines on his aging face and capture the essence of what makes him sage and wise. Making ordinary items look extraordinary is the mark of photographic genius. Along this same line, understand the principle that flat horizontal lines are dull. Instead use diagonal lines, shapes(eg, triangles circles, etc...) and curves to make your photos come to life.

5. Don't place the main subject of the photo in the precise middle of the frame. Instead, place it off to one side or the other. If you think I'm kidding, look at photos in magazines or at video on television. Placing the object off center creates more visual tension in the photograph and this interests viewers in your work.

Well, that's about it for today. In the next installment, I'll show examples of some of these principles in action. For now, I'll leave you with a photograph of my son Cole. Good lookin' like his dad, huh!!?? LOL

He is my rainbow. After his picture, you'll find a poem I wrote for him a few years back. Enjoy!

My Rainbow

In every life, a miracle arrives
A gift sent from heaven above
Mine is a rainbow, a brand new life
Graced by unconditional love

A million adventures for you await
But none as important as these
Learn how to give and to create
Of comfort, a provider be

I pray the Lord will keep you safe
And ever questioning why
Marveling at the beauty of life
And why stars fill an evening sky

Do not regret your choices, my son
Be they good or bad, you’ll see
Lessons taught are not undone
If we learn, we’ll better be

I wish you peace in every way
That indifference may pass you by
Fear not the future and live for the day
When you are a better man than I

Someday I will leave and forever be gone
To be in heaven with a watchful eye
But never forget that my love lives on
Until we’re together again on high


December 2002

Remember to keep clicking that shutter, because if you aren't clicking, you're just holding an expensive black box that makes lots of noises.

Please don't pirate my images. I've worked hard to make them. Please enjoy them, but don't steal them.

Copyright 2007 Lawrence H. Wyatt

25 March 2007

Differential Focus

Recently, I was looking at one of my favorite photoblogs. It is run by a gentleman named Michael Brown and is called Macro Art in Nature.

Michael does phenomenal work and has been an inspiration to me. What I like most about his photographs is a technique that he calls 'cramming.' In essence, he opens his macro lens to the widest aperature and crams it into something. This technique creates what I call differential focus. It can certainly be hit and miss as I've found it, but the technique can also yield some beautiful artful photographs. Cramming is well worth your time and effort, if you're a photographer.

Below are my attempts at some basic cramming

You can access Michael's blog by right-clicking the web address below and opening it in a new window: http://macroartinnature.wordpress.com/

Remember to keep clicking that shutter, because if you aren't clicking, you're just holding an expensive black box that makes lots of noises.

Please don't pirate my images. I've worked hard to make them. Please enjoy them, but don't steal them.

Copyright 2007 Lawrence H. Wyatt


I love animals; animals of all kinds, including most of the homo sapien species.

Animals can be a bit of a challenge to photograph however. They move just when you have that perfect pose and ruin your shot. But alas, we tread on until we at least can capture a reasonable photograph.

Below are some photographs of animals of varying kinds, from tigers to horses and a little bit in between. They are what are called animal portraits. Essentially they are almost posed shots of animals. Some photographers prefer to make action shots. These are more difficult to make and I'll post some of my feeble attempts in a separate blog.

For now, I hope you enjoy looking at them as much as I enjoyed making them.
Be sure to hug an animal today. It will make your day, of this I'm sure. Unless, of course, you hug a puff adder.

Remember to keep clicking that shutter, because if you aren't clicking, you're just holding an expensive black box that makes lots of noises.

Please don't pirate my images. I've worked hard to make them. Please enjoy them, but don't steal them.
Copyright 2007 Lawrence H. Wyatt
Welcome to Ordinary to Extraordinary Photography Blog. My nickname is Beaux and I'm from Houston, Texas.

Last October, I became serious about photography and bought a Canon Rebel XT with a kit lens. In the last few months, I have acquired a bunch of new glass and accessories including wide angle, IS telephoto and macro lenses. I also am learning to use extension tubes and a teleconverter.

I am having the time of my life making photographs and learning and developing new techniques.

So, on this blog I'll post musings about photography, getting involved in photography as an amateur, photography techniques, tips and tricks and various and sundry other topics that strike my fancy.

Here is an image I made last week while doing some macro flower photography. I like using my macro lens wide open(f2.8) as I like the differential focus provided by this aperature. This photograph was made under cloudy skies on a B-M tripod.

Enjoy and keep on clicking, because if you aren't clicking, you're just holding an expensive black box that makes lots of noises.

Please don't pirate my images. I've worked hard to make them. Please enjoy them, but don't steal them.
Copyright 2007 Lawrence H. Wyatt