This weekend I was in Dallas to see the Stars play the Pittsburgh Penguins, my favorite hockey team. Yes, I am into hockey now. Don’t question it.

I’ve been planning this trip with my roommate Jessica and our friend Lacye for months, and it was awesome (even if the outcome was less than desirable for the Penguins). Obviously this means we’re going to have to travel to see the Penguins much more often than the one time a year they come to Texas.

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Today Bryan Cranston was scheduled to talk at an event on UT’s campus (oh by the way, I work here now) and I was bummed because I hadn’t gotten a ticket. But lo and behold, a pop culture miracle occurred and less than an hour before it started my coworker Allen, who spent every Monday this summer geeking out with me about the most recent episode of Breaking Bad, asked me if I wanted to go because he had two tickets and basically I screamed “YES” in his face.

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Earlier this year I submitted a photojournalism portfolio to the Oklahoma Collegiate Media Association for the 2012 awards and this month I found out I placed first. A pretty awesome end cap for my collegiate photojournalism career.

Below are the photos I included in my portfolio along with the judges’ score sheet and comments.

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This semester for my photojournalism class I spent a month trailing after Austin, one of my friends and co-workers who also happens to be Pistol Pete. Here’s my final photo essay.

Austin Bowles, a 21-year-old strategic communications junior, is also known by another name: Pistol Pete.

Austin unwraps the head of Pistol Pete before an appearance. The head itself weighs 45 lbs.

These spurs are only one element in an elaborate costume that includes a white button-down shirt, black jeans, orange cowboy boots, a leather vest, chaps, a neckerchief and a special Pistol Pete belt buckle. At one of Austin’s first events as Pete last fall, an elderly woman in a motorized scooter ran over one of his spurs and punctured a tire. She and the scooter had to be carried out of the event.

Austin’s name is written inside Pete’s head next to others who have worn it before him.

Becoming Pete involved learning how to communicate without using his voice. Austin gives a thumbs up to let OSU baseball player Vince Wheeland know that he has enough sunflower seeds.

Austin reviews a promo for Cowboy Baseball with videographer Ryan Jones, an assistant coach and his daughter. The finished video can be found on YouTube.

Austin is one of two students selected to portray Pete for the 2012 – 2013 school year. This year’s other mascot is Dillon Craig, pictured with Austin at cheer practice.

Austin takes a seat at cheer practice between routines.

Pete’s role in cheer routines is simple: “Act spirited and stay out of the way.” Above, Austin imitates a cheer move at a cheerleading showcase shortly before nationals.

Austin competes on OSU’s Large Co-Ed Cheer team, which won the National Cheerleaders Association Division 1A National Championship in Daytona Beach, Fla. on April 12.

Austin interacts with one of “Pistol Pete’s Partners” at a special event before a Cowboy Baseball game.

Being Pete can be exhausting, especially when taking seemingly endless pictures with kids who need Pete to crouch down on their level.

Austin looks on as someone else shoulders Pete’s head. Austin will “re-Pete” for his senior year next year.

The best part of the spring semester at OSU happened Thursday night; Dragonfly is OSU’s annual drag show whose proceeds (more than $2500 this year) go to The Equality Network, which advocates for LGBT rights in Oklahoma.

This is my third year shooting it for the O’Colly (see my 2011 and 2012 recaps), and it seems that it only gets better each year I attend.  Each show involves student contestants – the “amateurs” – as well as professional drag queens from Oklahoma City and a “special guest” – this year it was Chad Michaels, who placed third on season 3 of RuPaul’s Drag Race and won All Stars Drag Race.

Check out my photos below. These are always my favorite photos of the year, and I’m going to miss getting a chance to shoot it every year.

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