I think I’ve fallen in love with Texas. That isn’t easy to admit, as my most recent time as a resident in America has been in New York and up north, we have a tendency to mock Texas’ right to secede, 4 out of 5 people carrying guns and Senator Ted Cruz. For me however, Texas turned out to be a lot like Australia, albeit with 4 out of 5 people carrying guns – but the similarities have been comforting in many ways. I’m not talking about Houston as much as Dallas and San Antonio. The last week has been one of the most fun weeks so far on the Photographing America tour. We don’t want to take anything away from the fun we’ve had or the people we’ve met, but as I often say when asked which has been my favorite destination in the world, “it’s usually the one I just left.” That is really and seriously true this time.

Luke-Ballard, photography-workshops, cross-country-road-trip, Texas

© Luke Ballard

Our week (as you may remember) started in Dallas, where we were lucky enough to catch up with a friend from Australia and her family. She married a Texan and has gone native. She was also the perfect advertisement for why we should move to Texas. For a few days in Dallas, we enjoyed the sights and ate a lot of steak. The beef has been the best we’ve had so far in America (not just on our tour – but ever) and we saw sights like the Texas School Book Repository and the infamous Grassy Knoll. I stood on the spot where the bullet hit JFK and took photos of both the repository and the grassy knoll – and I think I have solved the mystery.

Luke-Ballard, photography-workshops, cross-country-road-trip, Texas

© Luke Ballard

What is mysterious in Dallas is how Texan cows taste so much better than cows from everywhere else in the country. (We are yet to visit Montana and Nebraska.) I think other states should send their cows to Texas to a cow boarding school to learn how to be tastier steak. The food was delicious and I strongly recommend, anyone visiting Texas, give up all pretense at doing your own cooking. In Texas, I also fired a pistol. We visited a gun range with our friend and I spent some time firing a Beretta 9mm. I have to tell you, I did pretty well. Good groupings and didn’t just hit the target, but the general vicinity of where I was aiming at.  I still think the ease of obtaining a gun in the United States is crazy, I prefer to do my shooting on a Canon, not a Beretta – but it was a new experience and I did have fun.

When we left Dallas, we headed to San Antonio via Austin. Austin is another place with tremendous food – visit “Uncle Billy’s Brewery and BBQ”, order the Smoked Ribs and a side of Elote and then send me an email saying thank you. After Austin, we visited the Natural Bridge Caverns – several stories below ground, hot and humid, but absolutely beautiful. These caverns of stalactites and stalagmites are well worth seeing if you’re doing the same route we are.

Luke-Ballard, photography-workshops, cross-country-road-trip, Texas

© Luke Ballard

Finally, we made it to San Antonio. If you haven’t been to San Antonio, let me try to explain. If you’re an Australian, think of it as Surfers Paradise without the beaches and a little more Mexican influence. If you’re from New York, think the same thing but substitute Coney Island for Surfers Paradise. If you’re from Europe, it’s the most touristy café district in Paris, without the beaches and a little more Mexican influence. However, despite the obvious tourist trap status, I loved San Antonio.

Luke-Ballard, photography-workshops, cross-country-road-trip, Texas

© Luke Ballard

Our classes were intensely fun and included many amazing sights around the city. Probably the most famous of the attractions is The Alamo. If you grew up with a father like mine, you watched a western or two. Standing at The Alamo brought back memories of my father and every John Wayne movie ever made. (John Wayne played Davy Crockett in the 1960 movie The Alamo, which I saw with my father when I was 8, again when I was 10 and I’m pretty sure when I was 14.) Being from Australia, such a young country with a smaller population and fewer historical happenings than America, much less Europe, it is easy to forget that some movies are true stories. Standing at The Alamo and walking through the Mission, it really hits home that Davy Crockett was not just a character played by John Wayne or in a Disney movie, that these things happened, in these places I am photographing. Whenever anyone asks me why travel photography rather than any other style, that is my answer – it just took photographing The Alamo to articulate it. My tip this week – if I can impart anything to any reader is to remember, our job as a photographer is not just to tell a story, but to capture how compelling the story is.

Luke-Ballard, photography-workshops, cross-country-road-trip, Texas

© Luke Ballard

San Antonio also has this amazing area called the River Walk. This is where tourists go to eat a lot of Mexican food and drink a lot of booze. I think I counted 1,272 Mexican restaurants, Tequila bars and Taquerías, interspersed with the occasional other cuisine. For our night photography class, we amused the tourists as we photographed the canal (it’s really not a river San Antonio, sorry) and captured some amazing lights and motion blur.  Then we headed to the Cathedral of San Fernando and the County Courthouse to really have some fun with our night photography. Long exposures and fantastic shadows made this one of the most fun workshops in the city!

Luke-Ballard, photography-workshops, cross-country-road-trip, Texas

© Luke Ballard

 

Stepping back into history, our Advanced Travel class on the Sunday toured two more of the missions in the San Antonio area. Mission San Jose and Mission Concepcion. Our focus was to capture a series and use theming to take not just one photograph, but 12. I think a bridal photographer we encountered had the same challenge, as he seemed to be taking the same photograph over and over again.

San Antonio is definitely a place we will visit again. We loved it and loved photographing it. We have decided to open a Remember Forever in Texas by the end of the year – and while it will probably be Dallas rather than San Antonio, you can bet your boots we’ll be visiting here again.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Luke Ballard is the owner and managing photographer at Remember Forever. A travel and portrait photographer for over twenty years, Ballard developed a curriculum of modules to help people become better photographers which later evolved into the Remember Forever system, now available in ten cities around the United States and Australia. In 2014, Luke and his wife Nicole are exploring America in an RV stopping only to stock up on snacks, take photographs and teach some photography workshops around the country. He will send us regular updates on his cross-country trip. Stay tuned for more of his adventures and photo tips from the road!