Big skies and light painting in Terlingua Texas

I got a chance to spend a few days in a little town called Terlingua about twelve miles north of the Mexico border right between the Big Bend National and Big Bend State parks. This is one of those trips that the weather and time of year needed to be perfect for and they were.

This part of Texas was the ideal area to shoot anything with the skies as it is some of, if not the darkest skies in the continental United States. In fact it is even more remote than the observatory north west of Terlingua, McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis. Fort Davis does have the advantage of being a much higher elevation however.

Terlingua was also my chosen destination as it has one of the oldest actual ghost towns around. The mining town of Terlingua was built in the late 1800s and did not survive long. Fortunately much the buildings are still there and it is an awesome place to explore. You can actually wander through and touch the ruins and to me that makes this place extra special. This is made even better since the town is so small, 58 people as of the last census.

I picked the first weekend in June because it was a new moon (no moon up at night) making everything very dark and also having the Milky Way high in the sky in the early morning. July would actually have been better for the Milky Way but the temperatures would have been higher and I already had plans for a large chunk of July that I could not move.

I had wanted to do a trip like this ever since I had heard of a photographer named Lance Keimig. Lance has done some fantastic light painting all over the world and takes a group out to Terlingua every year for a workshop in July. I even bought his book Night Photography and Light Painting: Finding Your Way In The Dark and it is an excellent book on the topic.

The images that follow are all single exposures (no image stacking), mainly 30 seconds at f4 ISO 3200 10mm using a Nikon D7000 and a Sigma 10-20mm F4-5.6 lens on a Manfrotto carbon tripod. The tripod was not only important for holding the camera steady for thirty seconds but for getting the camera inches from the ground on the shot with the dragonfly. I use the Manfrotto 290 XTRA legs with a 3D magnesium RC2 head.

Click on an image for a larger view.

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For my first attempt at light painting I think these went fairly well. We were already talking about going back as we were leaving. I also took a couple rolls of black and white film using my Contax G1 which I will post later.



New name and logo

Welcome to the new Paper Bird Images, formerly Allan Hall Photography. This change will consolidate names, logos and more making things easier and giving all sites a more artistic direction. In addition to this site, Falcon Technologies, my technology focused company I have had  since the nineties has changed to Paper Bird Tek. You may also see a new site for Paper Bird Publishing coming soon. My personal site at will continue under the same name.



The slogan for all Paper Bird entities will be the same “Helping your ideas take flight” and the logos will all be the same bird logo seen above on various colored backgrounds. I will also be changing phone numbers and more to consolidate even more of the entities.

While I am doing all of this I will also be making major upgrades across the board with the websites and substantially improving the strength and direction of each of the companies.

If you have any questions, please contact me.


Time for a new coat of paint!

Finally I got around to putting together a more modern website. This one should be much faster, cleaner, display better on mobile devices and will start to show a lot more information over time.

For nostalgia here is an image of the old site, which in all fairness held up quite well for many years.


If you have any problems with the new site, please use the contact form to let me know. Thanks and enjoy!


Its been a while, but there is a reason…

It has been a long time since I posted here, things have been crazy busy. Although my standard commercial photography has been part of that, unfortunately some of the other things I enjoy such as shooting sports have had to take a back seat while I completed something I never thought I would actually do, write a book.

Yep, I can hear my English teachers crying in agony now. And yep, it is about photography…


If you would like more information you can visit the book’s website here:

visit the discussion board for the book here:

and even purchase the book if you like, here:

It will be available through Amazon US and Amazon in Europe in a few days, with wider distribution in the months to follow.


Space Shuttle Endeavour’s last flight

This past week I was fortunate enough to be in Houston when NASA’s Space Shuttle Endeavour was flown through on it’s way to California. I have never been lucky enough to actually see one of the shuttles in person so I made the quick trip to the other side of town to shoot a few images. It was truely awe inspiring.

shuttle Endeavour 2

To think, this shuttle right in front of me has been launched into orbit 25 times, traveled over 122,000,000 miles and safely returned 154 astronauts to earth.

shuttle Endeavour

This voyage would be the last time anyone would ever see a space shuttle on top of the 747 used to transport it from the landings in California to the launch pad in Florida. Indeed, this was the last time one would ever be in the air at all.

I used this opportunity to shoot the normal images above and one special image here:

Small high res shuttle

What’s so special about this picture? This is a resized copy of an set of sticthed images which are almost 200 megapixels in size, that means it can be printed at just over eight feet wide with no enlargement and be razor sharp from inches away. To give you an idea, here is a small glimpse of what a section of the image would look like at full resolution:

Flag closeup

Honestly, because the blog resizes images, this image shows a little too much and would actually be zoomed in a little more than what you see here. This would make an excellent print for hanging on a wall at an observatory or museum.

This is truely an end of an era. No matter how well the new Orion spacecraft performs, it will never reach the majesty and beauty of our shuttle fleet.

Space shuttle facts and more about Endeavour can be found at Wikipedia. You can also learn more at the NASA official website.

Goodbye shuttle Endeavour!


Annular solar eclipse road trip and more!

My wife and I decided to travel to Albuquerque New Mexico for the annular solar eclipse, that is where the moon comes directly between the sun and our little earth. We choose that city because it was far enough west to see the complete annular part of the eclipse and was directly on the center line where the moon would be exactly in the center. Here is a poster of the images I took while there:

Annular solar eclipse

I even shot a little video of the eclipse and if you missed the actual eclipse, you can see it in less than 60 seconds by clicking below


If you want to see upcoming solar eclipse dates, check out NASA’s eclipse page.

While in the area, no astronomy buff would dare leave before seeing the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, also know as the Very Large Array or VLA. This has been included in many movies such as Contact and is an absolutely awesome place to visit.


Very Large Array 2

You can read a ton more information about the very large array Wikipedia page.

While there was still some daylight left we turned east and went to White Sands National Monument. This place is just breathtaking. Their sign says something about you must see the place at sunset to really get an appreciation of the beauty of it. I agree. My sunset picture does NOT do this place justice and I am still trying to coax a better image out of what I have. The entire sky just lights on fire, and I mean the entire sky, not just the area close to the setting sun, it is simply amazing.

Around here when the sun goes down you get some red/orange towards the setting sun. You can even get some up close to the zenith if you are lucky. Here, the zenith was on fire and the horizon to the east was showing some red/orange colors too. I would not have believed it had I not seen it.

White sands

White sands at sunset

More information can be found at the White Sands National Monument Wikipedia page.

We went for the annular solar eclipse and wound up seeing so much more, what an awesome trip. I hope you enjoy looking at the images as much as I enjoyed taking them!


Bearkats take down Houston 5-4

You could not have asked for a nicer evening for baseball, it was warm and clear, and of course a fun close game with the Kats on top. For baseball fans, it just doesn’t get any better than this. Right fielder Jake Arrington even came away with a home run in the seventh inning making his third for the season.


NCAA Quarterfinals, SHSU vs MSU

Yesterday was a heck of a game with #1 ranked Sam Houston State University pitted against Montana State University who just came off a 48-10 victory in the NCAA quarterfinals. MSU started out strong, and no wonder with their reported 750 fans in the stands. Unfortunately, like a steam roller, SHSU built up power and just overwhelmed them on both offense and defense. Taking the game home with a 49 to 13 victory the Kats of SHSU rushed over 400 yards including six touchdowns.


Nature at her finest…

A couple of months ago I actually got a short vacation. We made several stops along the way, one of which was Cherokee North Carolina. The blue ridge mountains are beautiful and majestic, giving one plenty of quiet time for reflection. I was only there a short time but I had to try to capture some of the beauty to share with you.

Early sunrise:

Waterfalls just outside Cherokee:

Heavily wooded area on top of “the Dome”:

Sunset our first day:

Wildlife was everywhere, and not bashful!

Hope you enjoyed the images.


Pushing youself as a photographer

One of the hardest things to do when both your job and your hobby is photography is pushing yourself to be better and keeping things interesting. If all you ever do is shoot one thing, or one small group of things then you get burned out in your job and bored with your hobby.

In order to stop that from happening to me I am sure you have noticed that on this blog there is a very wide array of different types of photography. That list now gets every wider, by several billion miles!

This is my new astrophotography rig, if you look closely at the bottom right you will see one of my Nikon bodies hanging off the back of the scope. Astronomy is something that has always facinated me and this seemed like a logical and exciting way to keep photography interesting for me.

This is M8, the Lagoon Nebula.

And here we have M31, the Andromeda galaxy.

While this is still photography, it is so much more. Learning about the sky, our solar system, our galaxy, and the entire universe we call home is exciting and mind blowing all at the same time. Spending hours imaging the sky will make anyone feel humble.