Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mission Cube Challenge at the Capitol

The Texas State Capitol is a great place to spend an hour or so…with or without a camera.  And, it’s been too long since I spent some focused time photographing something other than dogs, wildflowers or baby calves.  So, when Precision Camera announced an upcoming "Mission Cube Challenge" in cooperation with Canon USA and “adventurers and photo takers the New Darlings,”  I was game to sign up. 

Precision Camera and Video is Austin's first-class, full-service, one-stop-shopping location for all things photographic.  Founded in 1976 by Jerry and Rosemary Sullivan, it grew from a spare-bedroom camera repair operation to the largest camera store in Texas.  Precision personnel, especially Sales Associate Robert Backman, have answered my questions (and taken my money!) on numerous occasions, and have given me outstanding service and photo products.   

A group of 40 or so of us arrived on Saturday morning, and were issued loaner Canon EOS M5 or M6 cameras with our choice of lenses.  The M6 I used is one of Canon’s new mirrorless cameras…this version had a viewfinder as well as an LED screen.  I prefer a viewfinder to the rear screen, which is the only option on the M5.  I chose the 14-150mm zoom lens (28-300 35mm equivalent), which is my go-to lens on the Olympus OM-D EM-1 I currently shoot.  The cameras are very similar, but the Canon is newer, and has more bells and whistles and a very intuitive menu system.  It was a pleasure to shoot.

We met our photo challenge leaders, and were issued “mission cubes” which contained the themes for the images we would shoot.  Our choices were:  “reflections,” “fine lines” and “green.”  We were told we could submit one image that represented one of the themes…or if we could manage it, an image that represented two, or even three of them.  Then the fun began.

We were bused downtown to the Capitol and fanned out like a swarm of bees in search of flowers.  I decided to focus on the “fine lines” theme, and shot a number of images outside on the Capitol grounds.  

The beautiful architectural details outside, including the impressive Texas Peace Officers' Memorial, provided lots of options.

The Capitol sits on four blocks designated as Capitol Square in 1839.  The first Capitol building on this site was completed in 1853, but burned in 1881.  The current Capitol building, constructed of sunset red granite, was completed in 1888.  Topped by the zinc Goddess of Liberty statue, it measured over 566 feet by 288 feet and cost more than $3.7 to build.  From the terrazzo floor to the star 281 feet above in the dome, which was installed in 1958, it is a beautiful structure.

After 45 minutes or so outside, I decided to cool off and explore the photo options inside the Capitol itself.  There are more beautiful architectural details inside, 

including a dizzying look up into the rotunda.  

There are also impressive views looking down from the three balconies the public can access.  

Unfortunately, for "accessibility and safety reasons," the dome is not open to the public.  That nice zoom lend did, however, give me a pretty good look at the spiral staircase accessing the very top.

Some of my favorite shots were of the frosted glass panels in the interior doors.  The light streaming through from outside made for some interesting effects.

The outing truly qualified as an adventure.  On the way back, the bus broke down and stranded us under Hwy I-35. 

(Turns out, even that isn't a bad place for a photo op.)

Learning that the bus being sent to rescue us was at least 30 minutes or more away, a dozen or so of us opted to walk the mile or so from the bus back to Precision Camera.  It was sunny and hot, but with a nice breeze, thank goodness.  We made it back before the replacement bus and had first pick of the yummy Schlotzsky’s sandwiches and cookies waiting for us.  While we munched our lunches, our chosen images (one per participant) were printed and judged. We even got to keep the SanDisk 16 GB SD cards with all our images!  Thank you, Canon!

This was my favorite image, and it was chosen for a fourth-place prize in the photo challenge.  I didn't get first place, which was a new Canon M5 kit, but that's OK.  I had a great time.

Thanks, Canon, Precision Camera and Video and New Darlings for a most enjoyable Saturday.


  1. I would have voted for your banister rail photo for 1st place. I love it. Would like to see what got 1st. Sounds like a lot of fun and makes me want to take classes again. I'm disappointed that the LLI photo club doesn't do group outings. Themes are announced and you have a month to come to the club to show your photos. As usual, well done, Michal. All are great shots.

  2. Glad you liked the images. I liked the one of the bannister as well, but couldn't get the perspective right until I could work on it in Lightroom. I'll see if I can find the winning photo on Instagram, but I think they go away in a short time...I'll let you know if I find it.