The views from the top of Enchanted Rock are incredible. You can see for miles and miles across the rugged Texas landscape that is the hill country. While these vistas are breathtaking, rare ecological gems are often scattered across this wide granite uplift. Formed by weathering and erosion over thousands of years, vernal pools form in the depressions in the granite. Also called soil islands, these small water collections can provide life to a broad range of plant and animal life. Tadpoles, insects, and even fairy shrimp can inhabit these pools. As the rains come and go, these vernal pools are often changing shape, as well.
On a recent walkabout at Enchanted Rock State Park, I was struck by the color, the beauty and shapes of these pools after a very wet spring. A few of these pools resembled the Tao – the yin and yang of the zen.
Another looked like a heart or an arrow.
And still others housed grasses that stood several feet high. These vernal pools can be found throughout the park, but are most noticeable on the top of Enchanted Rock and Little Rock.
As I sit and type this blog, the rain is coming down on my little home in the Texas Hill Country. We’re almost at 2 inches just this morning. And while I know we need the rain, I’m ready for a break just to have a chance to photograph what remains of our Texas wildflower pictures. The last time I was out, maybe 10 days ago, the firewheels and bitterweed (reds and golds) were abundant in Mason and LLano Counties and seemed to get even thicker as you neared San Saba. The prickly pear cacti were beginning to show their colors as well. Alas, I’ll ride out the rain and hopefully find some wildflowers still around when the sun appears again. Here is a panorama of my last trip. This firewheel image was taken north of Llano.
Bluebonnet pictures wasn’t as good as I had hoped, but there were some nice landscapes to be found. I expected the coverage of blue to be more widespread. I think the lack of rain in March held back the more prolific blooms. But around Lake Travis, bluebonnets filled the landscape.
So here are a few thoughts, whether good or bad…
* I know folks enjoy bluebonnets. A lot. I wish more people would respect the wildflowers and those people that will come after them. I saw so many places with bluebonnets completely trampled. I found a nice field with tire tracks running through the middle of it. I witnessed one woman climb over a fence onto private property to take a few photographs. If the bluebonnets plants are not allowed to fully bloom and pass to the seeding stage, they will not reproduce the next year. I realize this doesn’t apply to everyone, but I saw enough to wince. Be respectful out there.
* One of my favorite forums for wildflowers stopped sharing specific locations where the blooms were appearing. Apparently, a few dirt roads that I had traveled a few days before without encountering any cars at all was overrun with cars (50-60+ vehicles) after someone posted how beautiful the area was. And the drive was amazing – roadsides and fields of bluebonnets. But then it had folks climbing fences and mashing the blooms, leaving not much for those that would come later to enjoy the Texas beauty. I don’t know what the solution is here as far as sharing locations, but I do know how to keep the area pristine for others to enjoy.
* Texas has a lot of beauty out there. Whether wildflower season or not, the winding roads of the hill country – both main roads and dirt roads – make for some enjoyable treks. One of my next blogs will be to list a few of my favorite places in Texas to shoot.
* I’ve done a few photography workshops in the past, but haven’t in recent years because it seems I never have free time. I’m considering doing this again, but only taking one or two folks out at a time. I think this would be more enjoyable for all parties. That’s in the works, but I don’t know when it would start.
* There are several places in downtown Austin photos I want to shoot, but again, the weather hasn’t been good for any outdoor photography unless you are doing close-ups or macros.
* Recently, I’ve worked with a few families for portraits. While I normally don’t do much portrait work, I have the lighting equipment and enjoyed producing some nice images for these families. I may look at expanding this service in the future as well. If anyone is interested, let me know. I prefer to shoot outdoors and capture you in the landscapes Texas has to offer.
* Heading to Caddo Lake in a few weeks. I haven’t shot there before, but I’ll have several days with a boat to explore the area. Looking forward to that.
As the bluebonnets fade, the fields give way to other varieties of Texas wildflowers. Along Highways 16 and 71 near Llano, the reds and golds are in full bloom. Led by firewheels and bitterweed, the fields along the highways and dirt roads are alive with color – some appearing as if they are on fire. I don’t normally shoot during the day, but the colors and contrast between the reds, golds, and blue sky were just too much to pass up.
I drove over 400 miles last weekend, searching some of my favorite places to see what this spring would offer. I even discovered a few new areas that I’ll pursue in future years. It seems that north of Llano, over to Brady and back to San Saba offered the best displays of flowers. There is even a nice little red bard along Highway 16 north of Llano that, from the road with a medium telephoto lens, offers a nice landscape view with firewheels in the foreground.
In my travels, I also noticed many prickly pear cacti in bloom. I hope to get out and capture some of these distinctly Texas flowers in the next few weeks – as soon as the weather again allows for good light. For now, it looks like my area of the hill country is set to receive quite a bit of rain over the next 7 days.
In other news, I’m pleased to announce that one of my images will appear on the cover of an upcoming book. Austin, Texas, author Irving Munro will use one of my Austin skyline images on the cover of his second book. See more about Mr. Munro here.