Through the Lens: Three Lubbock Photographers Capture West Texas
Lubbock’s breathtaking sunsets, flourishing arts and culture scene and monthly First Friday Art Trail have attracted the attention of photographers looking to tell a story through their lens. Three professional photographers sat down with us to discuss the beauty they’ve found in photographing the “Hub City.”
Jerod Foster, Ph.D., owns Jerod Foster Photography and is the Associate Professor of Practice and Assistant Dean for the College of Media and Communication at Texas Tech University. After training under the official State Photographer of Texas, Wyman Meinzer, Jerod decided to pursue a professional photography career. Jerod is a prolific author of photography books, published by Peachpit Press and Rocky Nook, and has received the Texas Tech President’s Excellence in Teaching award. His work has appeared in many publications, including Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine, Texas Highways and The Techsan.
Q: Jerod, after moving to Lubbock in 2002 for college, you ended up staying. Why did you choose to make Lubbock home?
JF: First and foremost, the people. They hooked me from the beginning. They’re warm, laid back and similar to those who I grew up with in rural North-Central Texas. There’s a vibrant arts community here, and as a former musician, I’m definitely proud of the city’s musical heritage. I love working at Texas Tech. Lubbock’s a great place to raise a family and, photographically, it has a special quality that is hard to describe to others in larger cities. The sky here does something with the light that photographers love. Although I travel a lot for photography assignments, I always look forward to returning home.
Q: Where do you find beauty in Lubbock?
JF: I see the most beauty here in the agricultural heritage. I grew up around agriculture, and even though the bulk of what I do on assignment is not ag-related, I’m enamored with the people, history and economic impact it has on the city and the region. Another thing I find extremely beautiful is the topography. I hear some folks complain about how flat it is in Lubbock, but I see it as a unique feature of the Llano Estacado. It makes for interesting studies of color in the sky during sunsets and sunrises.
Q: Speaking of that, where is your favorite spot to photograph an iconic West Texas sunset?
JF: My absolute favorite place to photograph a West Texas sunset is about 15 miles north of town. Head north on Frankford Avenue and drive until it Ts with Farm-to-Market 597. On the east side of the road is the West Texas Regional Disposal Facility, and on the west side of Frankford is an empty field. When you get low enough in the playa that 597 runs through, all power lines are hidden by the horizon. This area offers a completely unobstructed view of the western sky as the sun sets and lights it up with all the colors.
Q: Thanks for the tip! Where are your other favorite spots to take photos in Lubbock?
JF: For the sky, I love photographing from near the top of the parking garage near Texas Tech on the Marsha Sharp Freeway. The Tech campus is undeniably a prime place to shoot because of its unique architecture, and I love the parks on the east side of the city. Two areas that often get overlooked in Lubbock are Buffalo Springs Lake and Ransom Canyon. I especially like the Audubon Trail at Buffalo Springs. It’s a short hike that will get you away from the sounds of the city within a very short drive.
Q: Your clients include the Texas Land Conservancy and The Nature Conservancy. Where are your favorite places around Lubbock to capture the beauty of the land and nature?
JF: The Canyon Lakes system offers everything from landscapes to wildlife. And every winter is fruitful for migratory bird photography, especially among the city’s playa lakes. One of the nice things about living in Lubbock is that it’s also easy to make it “out” to nature. Within a 20-mile radius, just about any kind of topography and ecological nuances can be found, aside from mountains. We have a variety of state parks within a couple hours, three sizable lakes within an hour and some fairly unique areas of natural importance just as close, including the region west of Lubbock that plays home to the largest population of lesser prairie chickens.
John Weast moved to Lubbock in 2009 when his wife accepted the head coach position for Texas Tech University’s women’s golf team. He’s been interested in the art of photography from the time he was a young boy on road trips with his mother, where he’d look for images that would make interesting photographs. John became a professional photographer in 2011, working as a sports photographer for Getty Images. He continues to provide regional sports coverage for Getty Images. John’s photos run the gamut from food and music to sports, portraits and weddings.
Q: John, you’ve taken some amazing wedding photographs. In your opinion, which venues in Lubbock make the best scenes for wedding images?
JW: I enjoy shooting at several venues. The campus of Texas Tech can provide a wonderful backdrop for some really nice wedding portraits of the bride and groom. I also think the Mae Simmons Park area is just gorgeous. And for skyline shots, I go to the top of the parking garage across from Texas Tech’s Jones AT&T Stadium. The National Ranching Heritage Center is also a fabulous place to take photos, but you need special permission.
Q: You also shoot a lot of food. What Lubbock restaurant serves up the most picture-perfect plates?
JW: I really enjoy photographing food. Most of my work is for local magazines and features recipes created and prepared by local chefs. The best part is getting to eat the food after the shoot! Cagle Steaks is one of my favorite places to eat. It’s a quintessential hometown spot and a really fun place to go. Not only is the food delicious, but Cagle’s grounds are expansive and make a great place to photograph a wedding or event. Plus, you have a perfect view of the sunset there with wide open skies to the west.
Q: What interests you most about Lubbock?
JW: Lubbock is a fascinating town. When you look at the skyline, you see a vibrant setting. This city is such a mix of lifestyles. You still have people living the real, honest cowboy life—barrel racers, farmers, ranchers—living alongside doctors, business owners and investment bankers. And the musical talent here is unbelievable. There’s more talent concentrated here than any other place I’ve been.
Ryan Shelburne, owner of Ryan Shelburne Photography, can be considered somewhat of a Lubbock boomerang. He’s moved to the “Hub City” four—count ‘em—four times. He’s resided in Portland, Oregon; St. Louis, Missouri; and Athens, Greece, but can’t seem to stay away from Lubbock’s big skies and friendly faces for too long. All in all, he’s lived here for 20 years and is making a name for himself as an artist behind the camera. Ryan recently became a father and says, “It takes a village; Lubbock is our village.” He has focused on wedding and portrait photography for most of his career but gravitates toward landscape and street photography. “Like life in general, photography is always in transition, so I want to be accustomed to that constant change, ready for the next thing, never getting complacent,” says Ryan.
Q: Ryan, what draws you to Lubbock?
RS: Lubbock is a city with a population of a quarter million, with an inviting personality that feels like a town with a population of a couple thousand. It’s a nod-and-a-handshake kind of place where people are just good, friendly people doing life together. It’s the biggest small town I’ve ever seen—the perfect place to dive head first off the proverbial entrepreneurial cliff and start a photography business.
Q: Where do you find beauty or inspiration in Lubbock?
RS: My time away from Lubbock made my heart grow fonder. Lubbock is beautiful. It’s the thriving arts district intermingled with Western heritage along the brick-paved streets of downtown. It’s in those few moments when the sunset is throwing color across the sky and in the thunderstorms, you watch roll in for hours. It’s in the determination of people that make a joy-filled life on the South Plains, and the friendly nod from a stranger. Maybe I just missed it when I was younger.
Q: Where are your favorite spots to take photos in Lubbock?
RS: There’s an alley downtown southeast of Broadway and Avenue K where an old brick wall hides all but the tops of the Pioneer Building and the NTS Building. I also like getting outside of town somewhere where there is nothing but earth and sky.
Q: What is your favorite Lubbock story you’ve told with your photography?
RS: Some friends of mine own Gold Stripe Coffee Roasters. Once a week they do what’s called a “cupping” where they test the quality and consistency of that week’s roasts in a blind tasting at their shop in Cactus Alley Courtyard. The coffee is measured to the bean, ground at two different settings, stirred into a bottom-marked cup of hot water, shuffled, settled, then slurped from a spoon with written notes taken along the way. It’s as much science as it is art—a very unique experience in and of itself—that you can have for yourself any given Thursday. They’re the only people who have convinced me to drink black coffee.
Q: Where is your favorite spot to photograph an iconic West Texas sunset?
RS: Before we moved to St. Louis we lived west of Lubbock in a community called Sundown—perfect, right? Drives home from Lubbock in the evening were often delayed by me pulling off the road and running into a cotton field to shoot the sky.
Q: What tips and tricks do you have for shooting great photos in Lubbock?
RS: Find places where the elevation changes, even slightly. With 263 days of sun, it’s good to plan around where the sun is going to be at the time of your shoot, especially if you won’t have lighting equipment. And bring hairspray for the wind.
Thanks so much to Jerod, John and Ryan for sharing their unique perspective on capturing the beauty of the “Hub City.” Readers, post your best Lubbock photos with the hashtag #livelovelubbock—Visit Lubbock might share them!
Get outdoors in Lubbock and snap some perfect photos of your own.