Pancho Villa Stash House

Pancho Villa's Stash House
This old house does not look like it’s long for this world.
331 Leon Street, El Paso Texas

Nikon D7500 with Nikkor 10mm fisheye lens
f/9 1/1000 second ISO 100 10mm

I had to use my 10.5mm fisheye in order to get this frontal view. There was a historical marker right behind me and then parked cars. I let DxO Optics pro turn the fish eye look into an ultra-wide image. Not much to see anyway, the place looks like it’s standing on it’s last 2X4.

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Mexican revolutionary Francisco (Pancho) Villa stashed the currency, coins and jewelry he used to support his political activities in this house owned by George Benton during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920). On November 9, 1915, Zachary Cobb, the U.S. Collector of Customs in El Paso, ordered a raid on Benton’s home. Custom officials found $500,000 in American currency and gold coins, along with $30,000 in jewelry, in Benton’s safe. Certain that the jewelry had been smuggled into the U.S., the government confiscated it.

Pancho Villa used El Paso as his military headquarters, personal residence, and hideout from the Mexican government. Initially, U.S. authorities maintained a friendly relationship with the Villistas, largely because both sides supported President Francisco Madero (1911-1913) and opposed President Victoriano Huerta (1913-1914). By 1915, however, the U.S. government wanted to stop Villa from using El Paso as a recruiting ground and war supply site against the new President Venustiano Carranza (1915-1917).

The raid on Villa’s “stash house” marked a turning point in the U.S. attitude toward revolutionary activity along the U.S.-Mexican border. The raid heightened tensions between Villa and the U.S., an escalation that eventually led to Villa’s ill-fated raid on Columbus, New Mexico, in March 1916, and General John J. Pershing’s unsuccessful “punitive expedition” of 1916-1917. – credit Historical Marker in front of the Stash House.


Neutral Density Filters For Portraits

portrait grossinger photography

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When doing portrait work in photography I sometimes wish to use very fine depth of field control and shoot at f/1.8 or even f/1.4.  Since I use studio flash units I am limited to setting the shutter speed to 1/120th or less. I generally just set the shutter speed to 1/60th and adjust the aperture according to the desired result. I shoot in full manual mode when I do studio work, so that more or less eliminates using large lens apertures unless I use a neutral density filter. In this case I resorted to a ND 8X in order to properly balance shooting at f/1.8 at 1/60th of a second. For my type of photography I find little use for the lighter filters such as 1X or even less. When I need a ND filter it’s because I’m trying to do some dramatic lighting with a slow shutter speed and large aperture combination.


The effect of a large aperture is to give you a more soft and forgiving image, well suited for portraits. You can totally eradicate the background. In fact, in this image the focus on the ears is already very soft in comparison to the eyes. Keep the eyes sharp. Always.

The neutral density filter is one of very few that I carry because I can’t duplicate it’s effect in Photoshop. I always carry two 8X filters when I am out and about.

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Visit the zoo for colorful photography

colorful bird grossiner photography

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There is nothing like a splash of color to brighten any photography portfolio. Visit your local zoo and photograph some colorful birds! I photographed this beautiful pair using a Sony A-350 DSLR, Tamron 200-500mm zoom. ISO was 400, aperture set to f/5.6 with the camera choosing a shutter speed of 1/800th, fast enough for hand held photography. I used a zoom setting of 330mm to give me some distance from the birds.

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Sometimes you have to get dirty to get close

dirty pictures grossinger photography

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Sometimes you just have to get dirty in order to get close to the action. Dirt race tracks are one of those places that give you the choice of getting a poor picture or getting the right picture.

grossinger photographyWhen confronted with this type of situation I would rather go home with no pictures than put up with poor pictures.

Click on image for a worser view

The only other choice is to get close enough to stick the lens through the fence. Whenever I go to events like this I try to get a pit pass. That generally doubles the price of admission but to me it’s worth the money to be able to wander around, talk to mechanics and drivers and then get the close-up race shots.

Get close, get dirty, get the picture! race car grossiner photography

I’m no pro but that does not mean I have to accept bad shooting conditions. Yeah, I got a bit dirty, looked a bit foolish but I went home with the pictures! Situations similar to this one come up all the time. Sometimes you have to get rude and push, other times you have to beg and whine, while most of the time opening the wallet with some cash will get you the desired results.

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Clean your DSLR sensor

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Most of us are deathly afraid of even looking at our camera’s sensor, or more accurately, low pass filter.

We fastidiously clean our cameras and lenses. We try to clean dust from our sensors by using the camera’s sensor cleaning mode.  Yet, way too many photographers don’t even know if their sensor has any dirt on it until the dust bunnies show up in their images. I (GASP!) inspect and clean my camera’s sensors after every shooting session. Yeah, and I live to tell about it.

Kelby Online training has a really comprehensive lesson on sensor cleaning. I use the $24.95 plan because I don’t always have time for training so I save money by opting out when I feel I need to take some time off. Works for me.

Laurie Excell gives an excellent training session on cleaning your camera and lists the equipment you will need. The start up cost is a bit high (about $300.00) but you can spread your cost over a few months by purchasing the most important items first.

Here is my entire checklist for the complete kit and how to use it.

1. Use DeWitt Brush (B&H #VIDB) to clean the external camera.

2. Micro fiber cleaning cloth and lens cleaner to clean lens front and back.

spray lens cleaner on cloth and not the lens

Clean the LCD panels as well.

3. use q-tip to clean metal mounts on lens and camera

4. Use goose neck flash light to inspect the bottom of the mirror box

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5. Use sensor loupe  (B&H # VISL7X) to inspect the rest of the mirror box.

6. Use chamber clean and swab to clean the mirror box

B&H #VICCCK for the kit.

7 make sure you have a fresh battery in the camera

Place camera in the sensor cleaning mode

Inspect sensor with sensor loupe

if you find any dust activate the camera sensor cleaning mode

if that does not work use the Giotto Rocket blower to blow dust away – You can also use one of those spray cans full of air that everyone tells you not to use. If you use the spray can, keep the nozzle about a foot away from the camera and go for short bursts. I have done this many times but I also use the rocket blower because it never runs out of air and is easy to take along on trips.

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Re-inspect sensor with sensor loupe

The above items are probably the most important steps. You can do a good job with just the above steps and items.

The following steps and items will help you do a really good job cleaning your camera.

8. If there is still some dirt on the sensor use the arctic butterfly

(B&H #VIABB724)

Swipe across sensor gently one time

Re-inspect with the loupe

9  If you still have some dirt on the senor use sensor clean solution and green

swab (B&H # VIS1516G) with sensor clean solution (VISCL)

gently give one swipe in each direction and then toss the swab Use the swabs only one time and then throw them away.

10 Use smear away to get rid of oily residue (VISAW)

You might get some smearing so use step 9 again

11 Sensor brush wash VISBC

The upshot of frequently cleaning your camera inside and out is that you will feel more confident that your sensor is indeed as clean as the lenses. It does little good to have ultra clean lenses and a dirty sensor. I have always been paranoid about changing lenses when out in the desert. Yes, I still change lenses inside my vehicle whenever possible. But by using the above equipment and steps outlined, I know that I am starting each shooting session with a clean camera inside and out.

I highly recommend (I do not receive any money from Kelby training) signing up for at least one month of training and watch Laurie’s course a few times. You won’t regret it.

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I went to this tattoo festival

man with tattooOne thing about tattoo festivals. If you are into photographing faces with character, then you are in the right place.

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Lila and I attended a tattoo festival that was wall to wall with interesting faces and people.

Shooting conditions won’t be prime but the interesting goings on more than make up for that.

Click on image for a better view

I used the Nikon D5000 with a Nikkor 18-200mm lens. No flash, so I set the ISO to 1600, f/5.6 at 1/20th with vibration reduction on. Since these photos will never be turned into any kind of prints, I figured I could get away with photographic murder so to speak. For photos that are to be displayed primarily on the net or from an IPOD type device this type of shooting is just fine. I do pay heed to the ultimate use of my images. If I think I will display them at a photo show or gallery then I go about taking the pictures in a different way.

radical hair style grossinger photographyClick on image for a better view

The action at this festival was both indoors and out. Sometimes I would follow a person outside and then go back in, as was the case here, so I snapped the picture with the same settings as the first one but at a shutter speed of 1/1250th. The nice thing about shooting with Nikons is I have no fear of high ISO numbers.

Beautiful woman grossinger photographyClick on image for a better view

This picture illustrates one of my guiding principles that I never break. When I see a beautiful woman I take pictures of her. End of story. I will ask and most of the time will get lucky and have the lady pose for me, as was the case here. It’s a crime against humanity to pass up a picture like this. Never pass up a shot like this!

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The House Of Red Neon

red neon joe grossinger advertising restaurant

I have been meaning to photograph this striking Chinese restaurant for months now. Every time I drive east on I-10 at night I see it just south of the freeway. This image is a 9-image HDR I created using a Nikon D90 camera with my favorite walk-around lens, the 18-200mm Nikkor ISO was 400. When photographing for HDR I like to be in aperture priority so that the depth of field does not change with the different exposures. I set the D90 to bracket 3 images at 2 f-stops apart. After those 3 images were taken I set the exposure compensation to -2 stops and then finally to plus 2 stops. That gave me a total of 9 images for a range of 18 f-stops. Using a steady tripod is an absolute must for this kind of photography. I use the Manfrotto 055XPROB Pro with the Manfrotto 804RC2 head. For general photography, not using extremely heavy lenses, this is an excellent combination in price/performance. I also use this combination with the Sony A350 and Tamron 200-500mm lens with total satisfaction.

I always photograh with the camera set to RAW file mode. I process the RAW files using DXO Labs Optics Pro 6. DXO, which  does the heavy grunt work with the images and saves them in JPG format. I generally only work with JPG files and save the RAW files as my negatives. This procedure saves me an enormous amount of time and effort.

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grossinger photography red neon

This is a single image photo taken around the same time using the same equipment with the aperture set on 7.1 and .62 second shutter speed.

Click on image for a better view

Which picture is “better” comes down to a matter of personal taste. Lila likes the single exposure because in her words “it’s cleaner”, while I like the HDR for the tonal range. Lila has a valid point because in the second image many of the distracting elements such as cars and handicapped parking signs are subdued and hidden.

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Turn Day Into Night

grossinger photogaphy day to night filter

Turn day into night with the CAVISION 4X4 Glass Filter. The one I used came from B&H with their stock number CADFN1.244

This filter is not a regularly stocked item, so if you order it be prepared to wait weeks for it’s arrival.

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As soon as it arrived I went out and ran a bunch of tests on it. I was actually keen to find out if it would make my dream of turning the sky really dark when I did a HDR. I’m sorry to say it does not. So I ran some experiments in different white balance setting but here again I was mostly foiled. The picture above was taken with auto white balance. I made no adjustments except to crop and re-size. Click on the image if you wish to see it larger.

click on image for a larger view

The above image was shot with the white balance set to tungsten. This setting is the only one that had any real affect when I ran through the different wb options.

To back up a little, let me tell you about this filter. It’s a heavy glass square, 4 inches by 4 inches. No frame just glass. The filter comes wrapped in an excellent microfiber cloth. This then goes into a heavy canvas case. I thought the packing was high quality. Now I have to tell you that in my 30 years of photography I have never had a burning desire to turn day into night, so I’m not sure how much use I will get out of this $50.00 item. It is rare, as you can imagine what with B&H not even stocking the filter. It’s primary use is in the motion picture industry where Hollywood sometimes has to turn day into night.

Click on image for a better view

I snapped the above picture in the brilliant El Paso sun and made no adjustments other than to crop and re-size.

grossinger photography day for night filter minus 2 f-stopsClick on image for a better view

With this image I set the camera minus 2 f-stops. This seemed to have a more realistic night-time effect. The filter came through with those beautiful blue-hour tones. In all my playing around with this filter I came to the conclusion that it’s a great tool for some creative and artistic photography, but is not suited for everyday type shooting for any reason other than you just want to turn day into night.

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More Speedway Photography

Bringing out the racer photograph grossinger photographyWhen I spotted this car being brought out from the top of the trailer I knew I had a funny caption. Of course the Barnett Harley-Davidson team was very professional and did not drop off the deep end.

Click on image for a better view

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I photographed this with the Nikon D5000 and my walk around lens, the Nikkor 18-200mm. ISO was 400 because this was late in the afternoon and with a lens aperture of f/9 I was able to shoot at 1/320th. The vibration reduction on the Nikkor comes in really handy for this kind of shooting.

dirt track racing photography grossingerClick on image for a better view

The races started around 7pm, so it was starting to get a bit dark. I took this picture with the Nikon D90 and set the ISO to 3200. I don’t worry much about high ISO settings with my Nikons because the noise even at ISO 3200 is very low. My advice is “don’t sweat the ISO – get the picture!” I was shooting with the 18-200mm vr Nikkor set on f/9 in aperture priority and that gave me a shutter speed of 1/500th. Some folks would choose shutter priority when shooting this kind of scene and that’s fine but I like to keep things simple and stay in aperture priority. If I want a faster shutter speed I simply go to a larger lens opening (smaller f/number). I could be perfectly happy if the only choice my camera gave me was aperture priority. The only other shooting mode I use is manual for my studio work.

grossinger photography dirt track racing Click on image for a better view

I was about 100ft or 30 meters from the action. See those mud balls on the cars? They were on me as well. It’s the price you pay. I was feeling a bit foolish about the mud balls but as I looked around there were about 10 other brave souls watching the race from this close distance and of course they were wearing mud balls as well but I was the only one taking pictures!

into the turn grossinger photography
Click on image for a better view

I snapped a lot of photos when groups of cars were in the turn, that seemed to give me the best action feeling.

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A Fine Day At The El Paso Speedway Park

Portrait of a beautiful young lady Grossinger Photography

Lila and I had a great time at the El Paso Speedway.

I met this gorgeous young lady at one of the cars being prepared for the race. Her eyes are so beautiful I just had to get this shot.

I took this picture with the Nikon D5000 and the Nikkor 18-200mm lens.

ISO 400 f/9  1/250  70mm Aperture Priority

It would have been a crime against humanity to pass up this gorgeous woman.

Click on image for a better view

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The Speedway is a photographer’s paradise!

When we arrived at the speedway about 2 hours early I checked into getting access to the pits. This is crucial at one of these events because some of the best photo ops take place before the race when you can talk to the drivers, mechanics and fans.

A helping hand Grossinger Photography

Nikon D5000 ISO 400 f/9  1/16oth  29mm aperture priority

I like to get in close!

Click on image for a better view

A moment of contemplation Grossinger Photography

Click on image for a better view

I used the same setup for all of these images. The D5000 with it’s swiveling LCD  makes composing a snap and the 18-200mm Nikkor is a super “walking around” lens.

Beautiful woman grossinger photogaphy Click on image for a better view

This young lady was actually posed like this when I walked up and asked if I could take her picture. All I had to do is ask her to turn her head a bit for a better composition. I think the background helps this image a lot. Beautiful women and cars are a natural match.

American Racer grossinger photography Click on image for a better view

Mud Removal Service grossinger photography Click on image for a better view

This young man was taking off a lot of mud the car picked up from the last race. El Paso Speedway is a dirt track that gets watered down just before the race. Yeah, I came home with quite a bit of mud on me. The price you pay for getting close to the action.

Racing El Paso Speedway Grossinger Photography Click on image for a better view

I told you I would get to the actual race. I did get very close to the action. Close enough to get mud all over me.

Tension grossinger photography Click on image for a better view

Slinging mud grossinger photography Click on image for a better view

My final photo for this post shows a car sliding into the turn and slinging mud.

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