Guadalupe Mountains, Roswell, Carlsbad, and the Sand Dunes – and bad food – Part 2

After last week’s trip to the Big Bend area, this week, being spring break for my two girls, found me heading west again, this time with the whole family in tow, to the Guadalupe Mountains. These ancient mountains are a long way from my Texas Hill Country home -~ 8 hours – and if you’ve ever visited the Salt Basin on the southwest side of the park, you know what a remote area it is. After a forty mile drive from Hwy 54 around the south and west sides of the basin, including a 7 mile finish on a white clay road that is impassable when it rains we finally arrived… and saw nary another person en route. After this hour drive off the main road, we still had to cover another mile on foot (according to the park map). However, our total round trip was ~3.5 miles in a trail comprised primarily of very loose sand.

At first the dunes don’t seem like much, but if you head to the right – up and over the steep scrub-filled sand slope -you’ll find a sea of white amazing sand. As you traverse the dunes, avoid any vegetation as this is an ecologically sensitive area.

From the tops of the dunes, the views of the Guadalupe Mountains, including the iconic El Capitan and the tallest peak in Texas – Guadalupe Peak -were amazing.

sand dunes, salt basin, salt dunes, guadalupe mountains, guadalupe peak, el capitan, national park, texas national park, highest point in texas, texas peaks, texas landscapes, texas sand
Guadalupe Mountains – Salt Basin Dunes at Sunset 1 : Prints Available

Like saves of sand, the textures and curves of the salt basin dunes on the southeast side of the Guadalupe Mountains make a stunning foreground for these ancient mountains. In this image, the mountains rise in the spring air as the sun sets in the opposite sky. Guadalupe Peak, the tallest point in Texas, rises 8,751’, and the iconic El Capitan is just south of the summit.
To reach these dunes requires a bit of an effort. A 50 mile drive around the park from the Pine Spring Visitor Center, including 7.5 miles on a caliche road that is impassable after a rain, brings you to the trailhead. After that, a dirt and sandy path leads another 1.5 miles to the dunes (the park maps says 1 mile, but it is longer). The round trip hike on this evening was just under 3.5 miles – all worth the amazing scenery in this national park.

After some time exploring the dunes and having the sand all to ourselves, the sun settled in the east behind us and we raced the 1.5 miles back to the car to avoid being locked in the park overnight (the gates are locked 30 minutes after sunset). I’m not sure how strict the park service is on this rule, but I did not want to take a chance on sleeping in the car – in the remote Chihuahuan Desert – with three angry females. We made it out safely, then drove the 2.5 hours to Artesia, New Mexico, for the night.

The next day we drove another 45 minutes hours north and visited the UFO museum in Roswell, New Mexico. Before the museum visit, we had lunch at the Cowboy Cafe. This dive was ranked highly on Yelp and TripAdvisor, bit I’m assuming the competition wasn’t great. Still, little did we realize at the time we should be happy with “average.”

Later, at the International UFO Museum, we enjoyed life sized aliens and plenty of affidavits from important people concerning the reality of aliens and the alleged government coverup. The small presentation was surprisingly well done, and my girls were sufficiently freaked out by the aliens but still had a good time.

Heading back south and just north of the the Texas border is Carlsbad Caverns, our next stop on the trip. The caverns were amazing and the rock formations nothing like I’ve seen before. We took the self-guided tour that led us through the dark underground and along the 1.25 mile trail and the Big Room. If I was a spelunker or geologist, I imagine I’d have been in heaven.

Carlsbad Caverns
Fairyland in Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
But I prefer above ground landscapes. As we left, we noticed the large crowds and lines already gathered for entrance. We had arrived early and were glad we did. The crowds were thick as we left, which would have detracted from the quiet spaces of our walk.

Next, we headed south through Van Horn and onto Fort Stockton. First, though, we stopped at a place to eat. Many years ago I watched Chet Garner, host of the DayTripper, eat at Chuys, a Tex-mex joint in Van Horn – NOT affiliated with the well-known Tex-mex chain. I’d wanted to eat here for a while, so we stopped in. I’m sad to say our experience was not good. So be warned… the service was terrible. The guy serving us seemed uninterested in working. Please know we are very low-maintenance. After a 20 minute wait just to take our order, we waited another 30 for the meals. My wife and two girls finally received their food, then the waiter asked if I had ordered the fajitas. Yes… and 20 minutes later my wife and kids had finished their food before mine arrived! But no explanation nor apologies were offered. To top off the experience, the beef was full of fat and very chewy -the worst fajitas I’ve ever had. We paid and got the heck out of there…never again.

But the sand dunes of Monahans Sandhills State Park awaited, and our mood quickly improved. I’d photographed this small sandy park at sunrise just a week before, but now was returning because I knew my kids would love the sand… and I could shoot at sunset. This image was converted to black and white for the contrast in curves and shadows:

monahans, sandhills, sandhills state park, sand dunes, texas dunes, sand, texture, west texas, monahans sandhills state park, state parks, texas state parks, texs parks
Sand Dunes Evening 1 black and white : Prints Available

The lines in the sand at Monahans Sandhills State Park can be mesmorizing. Here in the late afternoon, soft shadows enhance the curves and texture as the winds create ever changing patterns.


We arrived a few hours before dusk, and my girls immediately took off, heading to the tallest dune, then sliding down and laughing the entire time. It was a good way to end our trip – sunset was beautiful, everyone was happy at the same time (which is rare), and laughter filled the still air as we traversed the sand back to the parking lot. It was hometime the next morning, and I always become a bit sentimental when family time ends. I know my kids won’t stay young, and I value each day I have with them.

Vaya con Dios, my friends,

Rob
Images from Texas

Favorite Texas Images from 2017

As 2017 prepares to make its exit deep in December, the photography opportunities around central Texas take a bit of a hiatus. On these cold rainy days, I’m left to take inventory of the year, clean up some files, and reflect on where I’ve been. This past year has been a good one, photographically speaking, and I’ve seen some beautiful places and made new friends along the way. Of course, there are always more locations I’d like to shoot, but for now I’ll focus on where I’ve been and appreciate those moments. So in no particular order, here are my favorite images of the past year.

Probably the most unique location I visited, thanks to my new friends – Barry and Todd – were some slot canyons hidden deep in Pal Duro Canyon State Park. A long hike without a hint of a trail, up a canyon rim and across a vast, featureless mesa, down into a box canyon, and into a sliver of a crack in the rock lead us to Upper Central Utah Slot Canyon, one of the most amazing slot canyons in Texas

palo duro canyon, slot canyon, central utah slot canyon, secret canyon, texas canyons, texas state parks, central utah slot, slot canyons, texas slot canyons, texas hiking, hiking texas, texas secrets
Llano Slot Canyons – the Upper Slot 2 – Palo Duro : Prints Available

Texas slot canyons are rare and beautiful. While most folks may be familiar with those in Arizona and Utah, they are not aware of these creations in their own Texas backyard. This image shows Central Utah’s Upper Slot Canyon, one of the hidden secrets of Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Formed by infrequent rainfall but rainfall that occurs and causes flooding in the same locations over a long period of time. The sandstone, usually found between 3100 and 3200 feet in elevation, gradually erodes and forms delicate stratiations and curves. This slot is one of the Llano Slots and resides in the Llano Estacado.
The hike to reach this location covered 9 miles by the time we’d gone out and back, and we were able to explore three different slot canyons. Each slot had its own unique look, and when the morning light of this November day was overhead, the indirect light turned the sandstone walls of the canyon hues of orange and purple.

This canyon is remote and pristine, and thankfully not many folks know its location. Along the hike, Todd and Barry shared a few locations closer to the road that were defaced with graffiti, carvings, and other shameful acts from people with no regard to the landscape or its history.

****

This past spring offered the promise of a good wildflower season, but a lack of rain for 60 straight days ended those hopes. Still, there were a few locations where our favorite Texas wildflower, the bluebonnet, made an appearance. The photograph below was taken one evening in a location that had not yet been discovered by photo enthusiasts. (How did I know this? – The bluebonnets had not yet been trampled by folks plopping down their kids in the middle of the wildflowers). I liked this little scene because a single red firewheel (a red wildflower) stood alone in a sea of blue on a perfect evening.

bluebonnets; bluebonnet photos; texas wildflowers; indian blankets; texas wildflower prints; texas hill country; marble falls; texas spring; spring landscape; texas landscapes
A Dance Among the Bluebonnets 1 : Prints Available

I love this lone red-orange firewheel among a sea of bluebonnets. I took several different angles of this field, but this was my favorite with the splash of red rising up from the blue. These Texas wildflowers were found just south of Marble Falls. The air was still and the evening was just about perfect. I stayed later and photographed the Milky Way in the early morning hours over this same area

****

In early January, I received a call from Westcave Preserve. I live only about 5 miles from this relatively unknown sanctuary, and they said we would be experiencing a deep freeze and wanted to know if I’d be willing to shoot the icicles hanging from the grotto the next morning. Usually this area is off limits unless you are on a guided tour, but I was allowed to visit this area and shoot and rare winter Texas scene.

westcave preserve, texas hill country, texas snow, texas ice, hamilton pool, grotto, icicles, sunburst, texas sunrise, melting water
Westcave Icicles in the Hill Country 2 : Prints Available

The sun peeks over the limestone rock from the Grotto in Westcave Preserve. It was cold this morning in the Texas Hill Country – 18 degres while I was photographing this private preserve. Icicles hung from the top of this sanctuary but were quickly melting in the morning sunlight.

* Shot with permission from the folks at Westcave Preserve. I’m happy to work with and capture the beauty of this hidden gem just 2 miles from the more well known Hamilton Pool.

****

One of my favorite adventures this year was a trip out to Big Bend to photograph Mariscal Canyon. I wrote a blog about this trip a while back. Feel free to read my Mariscal Canyon trek. This drive and hike weekend provided a chance to visit one of the most remote and beautiful places in Texas – Big Bend National Park’s Mariscal Canyon.

Mariscal Canyon, Big Bend national park, Big bend canyon, canyon, big bend, national park, hiking, hiking texas, texas outdoors, texas national parks, rio grande, mexico, talley, river road east, rive
Mariscal Canyon Afternoon, Big Bend National Park 1 : Prints Available

Mariscal Canyon is one of three deep canyons reside in Big Bend National Park. This rocky and beautiful cliffs form the most remote of the three canyons and only the most hearty adventurers reach this point. The cliffs drop nearly straight down 1200 feet into the Rio Grande. On one side of the river is Texas; the other side is Mexico. After an arduous trek of 4WD roads and cross country hiking to reach the rim of this stunning location, the sight before me was much appreciated on this late afternoon in November.

We encountered aoudad sheep, javilinas, tarantulas, and endured 95 degree heat (in November!) to reach this canyon rim. The view was worth it.

****

One of my new toys I bought this year was an underwater case for my camera (a Canon 5DSr). This contraption isn’t easy to work with, and getting a decent shot underwater is a matter of trial and error. Still, with persistence, a good image can be had. Here, after laying still on a rock as I held my camera partially submerged beneath the surface, a few fish wandered in to the scene and I let it roll… Fifty or so shots later, I had a few I could work with. This photograph showing sunrise as well as the clear water of the Pedernales River was the end result.

Pedernales River, Texas Hill Country, hill country, pedernales falls, fish, underwater, underwater photography, sunrise, texas sunrise, september, october
Pedernales River – Sunrise with the Fish 1 : Prints Available

This split image was captured just after sunrise along the Pedernales River. Captured with an underwater filter, small fish swim beneath the surface of the calm, cool water in this pool. Overhead, a beautiful sky welcomes the last day of September on a perfect morning.

****

Back in June, we made a quick trip out to the Davis Mountains. I’d never been to this part of Texas, and it turned out to be a lot of fun. The weather cooperated, offering nice skies and sunrise and sunset. This image was taken at sunrise from one of the highest point in Davis Mountains State Park and looks down at the CCC as it traverses these ancient mountains.

davis mountains images; davis mountains state park; fort davis; texas landscapes; texas sunrise; davis mountains prints
Davis Mountains Sunrise 7 : Prints Available

From  high on the Skyline Drive Trail in Davis Mountains State Park, the summer sunrise can be beautiful and serene. Several mornings while out between 6am and 7am, I never saw another person – just the deer, javalinas, rabbits, and tarantulas!

****

This past spring, I started a new website for Colorado images. While photographer in the Rockies this summer, a friend of mine and I hiked 15 miles to reach Lone Eagle Peak. This location isolated and beautiful, and I was pleased we made it out and back in one piece! So I’ll include this last image as one of my favorites, even though it is not from Texas.

Colorado's Lone Eagle Peak in the Indian Peaks Wilderness.
Lone Eagle Peak stands along in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area in Grand County. Its jagged peak rises nearly 12,000’ into the cool Rocky Mountain air. In the foreground, Mirror Lake offers a nearly perfect reflection of this remote and stunning location.
To reach this area, the trail begins at Monarch Lake and takes you past Cascade Falls – not a single waterfall – but a slow cascade of flowing, ice-cold water over several miles. The round trip is nearly 16 miles, but well worth the sore feet you’ll have later. This pristine area of Colorado is not seen my many, and you’ll likely have the sanctuary all to yourself.

Thanks for looking and reading. I hope 2018 will be even more productive than 2017. For now, have a good end of the year, safe travels during the holidays, and a smooth start to the near year!

Via con Dios, my friends.
~ Rob
www.ImagesfromTexas.com
www.facebook.com/ImagesfromTexas

Big Bend and Bluebonnets

It seems we are again experiencing a disappointing bluebonnet season. What looked like a promising beginning to a wildflower spring has again been thwarted by lack of rain and higher than normal temperatures. I’ve driven across the hill country the last few week, and I’ve received location report from other trusted photographers, and the outlook is grim.
However, there are some stellar displays of bluebonnets and paintbrush along the roadsides, especially on 29 between Llano and Mason, and on 16 north of Llano.

bluebonnet prints, bluebonnet highway, texas wildflowers, sunrise, texas hill country, wildflower photos, llano, mason, 29, 2017, texas landscapes, highway
Wildflower Highway Sunrise 2 : Prints Available

On my first visit to this particular bend in the road along Highway 29 between Mason and Llano, this is the sunset I found. The bluebonnets in the Texas Hill Country were not great in 2017, but roadside displays of these wildflowers and indian paintbrush were quite colorful on this little stretch of highway.


Another nice location is in Marble Falls on 281 heading north out of town. The iconic old stone building has a field of bluebonnets in the front which makes for a great photograph. I was there one morning last week surrounded by many other folks out enjoying the display – and this was at sunrise! Later that morning as I drove by the number of people taking photos had grown by 3 or 4 times.
This week, the Hill Country is forecast to receive some much needed rain. If this comes to pass, there may be a boost in bluebonnet and other wildflower coverage in fields. We’ll wait and see what happens!

Last week, I traveled to one of my favorite locations – Big Bend National Park. I had gone in hopes of capturing bluebonnets with the Chisos Mountains in the distance. However, the only blooms to be found were along the road, and these were pretty sparse. Still, I worked with what I found:

bluebonnets, texas wildflowers, big bend national park, chisos mountains, texas landscapes, texas national park, lupines, wildflowers, sunrise
Bluebonnet Sunrise at Big Bend 1 : Prints Available

Big Bend National Park has its own bluebonnet, and here the lupines rest silently in the glow of a March sunrise. In the distance, the Chisos Mountains rise in the cool morning air. The colors and cold air didn’t last long, though. Clouds quickly gave way to clear skies and the temperatures soared into the upper 80s… just a typical day in the Chihuahuan Desert.


Some of my go-to locations like drainages around Tuff Canyon and River Road East were barren of any blooms. I did enjoy a night hike under the full moon to the top of the Lost Mine Trail. I enjoy long exposures when the moonlight illuminates the foreground and brings to life an otherwise hidden valley.
lost mine trail, big bend national park, hiking, texas hikes, chisos mountains, full moon, night photography, texas at night, big bend, moon
Lost Mine under Moonlight, Big Bend : Prints Available

Under the light of the full moon, Big Bend National Parks glows softly. In the distance is Juniper Canyon and the Chisos Mountains, and further is Mexico.

I had made the trek up to this point, a relatively easy 2.4 miles (one way) to photograph this location at sunset, then await the full moon as it rose in the east. The lighting was surreal and the hike back to the car was just a bit eerie and mystical.

In the lower elevations west of the Chisos, the prickly pear cacti were just beginning to bloom.

big bend national park, prickly pear, chisos mountains, chihuahuan desert, texas landscapes, west texas
Cerro Castellan at Sunset 1 : Prints Available

The last light of sunset lights up the rocky ledges high atop Cerro Castellan on the western slope of the Chisos Mountains. This view of Big Bend National Park shows one of the many Prickly Pear Cacti – this one blooming with beautiful floweres – on the desert floor. But don’t get too close – those prickly pear are well armed with long and sharp thorns!


While not technically considered a wildflower, these blooms can still be stunning.
If I find any wildflowers, I’ll be sure to add some information here. In the meantime, enjoy those colorful roadside displays of flowers – they are still very pretty!
Via Con Dios and safe travels!
~ Rob

The South Rim at Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is home to some of the most amazing views in Texas. I’ve had the opportunity to photograph this remote Texas landscape along the Rio Grande several times, and at the end of each visit I’m left wanting more time, more sunrises and sunsets, and another day to explore the trails and vistas offered here.

The hike to the South Rim of Big Bend is often referred to as the best hike in Texas. Depending on your route or your curiosity, the round trip can often exceed 13 or more miles. While I’ve explored the Chisos Mountains and Chihuahuan Desert, I’d never visited the South Rim until recently. I’d planned to make this hike on other occasions, but poor weather made conditions to photograph the Rim not worth the effort of lugging camera equipment that far. But over the course of a four day visit to Big Bend and using a sunset-conditions predictor program, I finally found a good night to go.

To shoot sunset or sunrise at the South Rim, you either have to camp or hike one direction in the dark. Lugging a camera, several lenses, a tripod, and a star-tracking mount (for Milky Way photographs) took precedence over a tent, so I was left with the only option of hiking back in the dark. So I set out about 4pm on an April afternoon layered in wispy clouds and climbed the 2,000+ vertical feet up to Laguna Meadow. The hike itself isn’t hard. The trail is easy to follow and the uphill isn’t anything daunting. It’s just a long grind with a backpack full of equipment and gatorade. By the time I reached the edge of a 1,500 cliff of the South Rim, I’d only seen hikers going north in the direction of the trailhead. With the remnant of the Chisos stretching out before me and the Rio Grande winding through the desert far below, the landscape that rewarded my efforts inspired a sense of awe and reminded me of how small we are. (I would soon be reminded of this again while shooting the night sky). Finally able to take off the backpack, I set about trying to find the optimal locations for shooting at sunset. Agave, Prickly Pear, Claret Cups, and a view into the desert all clamored for my attention, and choosing was difficult only because of so many options. Ultimately, I decided on four areas – one while the sky was still blue, one for the moment the sun hits the horizon (for the star burst), another to capture the colors of the clouds at sunset, and a last take for the Milky Way finale.

When I shoot at sunset, I usually take 3, 5, or 7 exposures of the same image in order to adjust the foreground and sky accordingly. Some folks do this to create an HDR effect, but I try to bring out the colors while leaving the scene more realistic. I’ll also shoot different focus points in order to make sure the entire image is sharp and consistent. With that said, I was fortunate with the clouds and sunset, as the combination of light and color made the long hike worth it.

This first image is a panorama looking west at the moment the sun fell below the horizon. A path winds along this southwest rim where you can find some amazing panoramic views – even to Santa Elena Canyon on the western edge of the park boundary. This photo is comprised of at least 12 different images, then blended and stitched together to show the true colors of sunset high on this mountain.

big bend; big bend national park; south rim; big bend images; big bend sunset; big bend panorama; chisos mountains; texas national parks; texas landscapes; texas panorama
Big Bend South Rim Sunset 1 : Prints Available

From the southwest rim of Big Bend National Park, this panorama was taken in late spring as the sun set behind the distant mountains. High above the Chihuahuan Desert, you’ll have this amazing view of the Texas landscape from the South Rim of the Chisos Mountains. The hike to this point is over 6 miles – often longer depending which route you choose – making the round trip 13 or more miles in most cases. But the view is well worth the effort in this remote part of the Lone Star State. This panorama can be printed in custom sizes. Please contact me for more information.

The next image comes from the South rim looking south over a portion of ancient remains of the Chisos Mountains. Beyond those peaks, the Rio Grande runs east, serving as a boundary between the Lone Star State and Mexico. Taken about 15-20 minutes after true sunset, this photograph shows a cactus as it hangs onto a cliff 1,500 feet above the desert floor. The foreground was taken as a separate image, then blended with a photograph of the distant mountains to create sharpness throughout. The sky was yet another image in order to bring out the colors of a beautiful Texas sunset.

big bend national park, big bend images, south rim, south rim hike, texas sunset, texas hikes, texas landscapes, texas national parks
Big Bend South Rim at Sunset 2 : Prints Available

This view of the southern Chisos Mountain Range in Big Bend National Park comes from the South Rim. As one of the best hikes in Texas, the trek to reach this point is a little over 6 miles, and to capture an image at sunset or sunrise at this location means you either camp or hike in the dark. But the effort is worth it as the landscape that stretches from Texas into Mexico is well worth the effort. Here, a prickly pear blooms in late spring as clouds light up with another beautiful Texas sunset.

After this series of photographs, I pulled out the IOptron StarTracker, a device I use to track and shoot the night sky. After aligning the machine with the north star and mounting my camera on top, I set about capturing long exposures of the Milky Way at a relatively low ISO to show points of light as sharp and crisp, just as you’d see if you were standing there. I should note the foreground of this image was taken about 30 minutes after sunset while it was nearly dark, but with still enough light to bring out the definition of the distant peaks. With the foreground and the Milky Way taken at separate times, I then blend the two together back at home and do my best to give it a realistic feel. I feel strongly that a good Milky Way image should contain a strong foreground element. It is a fine line when combining the two (foreground and night sky). I want the viewer to feel the sense of awe with the vastness of the Milky Way while also having a foreground that stabilized the scene. Having the foreground just the right brightness – not too light or to dark – is the conundrum. For these prickly pear cacti, I also used a soft light to slightly increase their illumination.

big bend national park, big bend images, milky way images, south rim, south rim images, texas milky way, texas at night, dark skies
Big Bend Milky Way over the South Rim 1 : Prints Available

It is a long hike to the South Rim of Big Bend National Park. On this trip, the round trip was over 13.5 miles. But when you stand on the edge of a thousand foot cliff and look over the ancient mountains and into northen Mexico, you are rewarded with a magnificent view. If you linger a little longer and are willing to either camp or hike back in the dark, you can enjoy one of the more amazing night skies found anywhere in the world. In this image, a prickly pear cactus hangs on the edge of a rocky cliff as the Milky Way begins its ascent and stroll across the sky. To the west, the inklings of sunset can still be seen glowing along the horizon.

I used a small low light flashlight to slightly illuminate the prickly pear blooms in front of me. My left foot was about 6 inches from a vertical cliff while shooting this scene. Sometimes its better when you can’t see everything!

This image is a square, but can be cropped and printed up to 40 inches high.

When you are photographing the Milky Way at Big Bend, you are witness to one of the darkest skies in North America. The stars are truly amazing in this isolated corner of Texas and sparkle with a clarity rarely seen in other places of not only in our state, but the U.S. in general. Underneath a canopy of shimmering light, I embrace that sense of wonder at what the heavens hold and find myself full of ponderings and possibilities.

But then a 7 mile trek in the dark still awaited. The walk back in the wee hours of the morning was uneventful except for the dive-bombing birds and the UFO above a distant ridge. I felt fortunate to have witnessed a beautiful sunset at such a remote and truly Texas landscape. While my time here was brief, I hope to return again one of these days.

If you read this far, thanks!
Happy and Safe Travels.
Vaya con Dios
~ Rob

Big Bend National Park in Spring

While it seems most folks are eagerly anticipating the advent of wildflower season here in the Texas Hill Country, my wife and I sneaked out of town for a few days and found ourselves cruising at nearly light speed (exactly 80mph in case any officers are reading this) west on I-10, then south through Alpine to Terlingua and eventually the Chisos Mountains. If you’ve made the drive from the Hill Country to this area, or heck, anywhere for that matter, you know it is a long one.

I had planned on making the hike to the South Rim of Big Bend National Park on my first afternoon to photograph sunset, but because of inefficiency from certain folks the area, my start time was delayed, and with a 6+ mile hike in front of me, that meant I’d be arriving at the South Rim after dark. No good. So instead, I made the short trek up the Lost Mines Trial and enjoyed one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve seen in a long time. I was happy to be there, but also had some angst and a little irritation about not being out at the South Rim for such a colorful event.

big bend national park,big bend images,big bend prints,big bend panoramas,lost mine trail,lost mines trail,texas national parks,panorama,texas landscapes
Lost Mine Trail Sunset Panorama 1 Big Bend : Prints Available

The hike up the Lost Mine Trail in Big Bend National Park is a relatively easy 5 mile round trip. The first mile is a gradual climb to a nice overlook that surveys the valley below. For the next 1.5 miles of trail, you’ll find yourself navigating switchbacks and a slightly steeper portion of the rocky path, but the view at the end is worth the effort. From the southeastern most portion of the trail, you’ll enjoy views of Juniper Canyon and the South Rim. And on evenings like this image shows, the sunsets can be spectacular. Even the wonderful light seemed to last longer than that to which I’m accustomed. The return trip to the trailhead goes quickly, but bring a flashlight if you stay out past dark. The hike up the Lost Mine Trail in Big Bend National Park is a relatively easy 5 mile round trip. The first mile is a gradual climb to a nice overlook that surveys the valley below. For the next 1.5 miles of trail, you’ll find yourself navigating switchbacks and a slightly steeper portion of the rocky path, but the view at the end is worth the effort. From the southeastern most portion of the trail, you’ll enjoy views of Juniper Canyon and the South Rim. And on evenings like this image shows, the sunsets can be spectacular. Even the wonderful light seemed to last longer than that to which I’m accustomed. The return trip to the trailhead goes quickly, but bring a flashlight if you stay out past dark.

This Big Bend Panorama is available in custom sizes. Please contact me for more information.

Big Bend has a lot to offer – great hikes to unusual rock formations, a variety of ecosystems ranging from desert landscapes to small forests with even a few remnant aspen groves still clinging to the cliff in the upper elevations, and unique wildlife such as mountain lions, black bears, javalinas and an plethora of birds including roadrunners at every twist and turn of the trail. I love this park and it keeps me coming back for more. But if the weather doesn’t cooperate, it can be pretty harsh. While I was fortunate to enjoy a few good sunsets and sunrises, I also encountered 35-50mph winds and near freezing temperatures. That made outdoor activities slightly less enjoyable, and at times photography proved virtually impossible.

Last year I ventured out to Big Bend around this same time and found wonderful areas of bluebonnets. This year, the bluebonnets were sparse. However, the prickly pear cacti were beginning to bloom, so I tried to take advantage of that at sunset (You can’t shoot prickly pear blooms at sunrise because they close at night!). In the lower elevations of the surrounding Chihuahuan desert between the Chisos and Santa Elena Canyon, several areas showed off yellow and orange blooms from Texas most prominent cactus.

Big Bend National Park,Big Bend photos,Big Bend prints,Texas landscapes,texas wildflowers,prickly pear,prickly pear blooms,prickly pear images,Big Bend,Chihuahua Desert
Prickly Pear Sunset at Big Bend 1 : Prints Available

The bluebonnets at Big Bend may not have been prolific at Big Bend during this spring, but the prickly pear cacti were beautiful. Here on the western slope of the Chisos Mountains in the Chihuahuan Desert, the yellows and orange of these blooms seemed to glow in the crazy light of a colorful sunset. To my right, lightening was going off like firecrackers, but straight west the sun had just enough opening to light up the sky in oranges and blues. I must have looked funny running through this desert with a triped and camera, but you do what you have to do to capture light like this!

For prints larger than 40 inches wide, please contact me.

With the winds often gusting, these little blooms seemed the best thing to add to the foreground because they are much sturdier than most flowers, and that worked in my favor. Nevertheless, photography was challenging as I tried to make the most of a difficult situation.

While the return home seemed much longer than the drive out there and with the disappointment of not making it to the South Rim, I am already hoping to return in late April or May- just depends on the weather.

Now, though, I turn my attention to Texas wildflowers. I’ve heard there are already Easter colored fields south of San Antonio. So I need to charge up the batteries and hit the road.

Safe Travels! Via Con Dios, Amigos

~ Rob
Follow my travels on Facebook
Peruse my work at Images from Texas

Favorite Images from 2015

I’m often asked to make recommendations for which images I think would work with this or that, and I’m never sure quite how to respond. It seems some photographs really inspire folks while others leave them feeling ho-hum. My favorites are often not others’ favorites, and vice versa. You just never know.

So to start out the New Year, I thought I’d share my personal favorites of 2015.

In no particular order, here are some of my most memorable images from our great Lone Star State.

It was a crazy night of severe storms, high winds, hail turning the fields white, followed by amazing sunset colors. Then rainbows showed while lightening could still be seen in the distance. The few images I snapped on a highway between Llano and Mason as the storm passed showed amazing mammatus clouds lingering over a field of colorful wildflowers. One photograph from this trek was selected by the Texas Hill Country Alliance as the Grand Prize Winner for their annual photography contest. The Wildflowers at the End of the Storm now appears on the cover of the 2016 calendar.

texas landscapes,texas wildflower photos,texas sky images,wildflower prints,texas photos
Wildflowers at the End of the Storm 1 : Prints Available

** This image was awarded the Grand Prize in the Texas Hill Country Alliance’s 2015 Photo Contest! **

Between Llano and Mason in the Texas hill country, storm clouds move to the east as the sun sets in the west over this lone Oak tree and a field of mixed wildflowers, including bluebonnets, coreopsis, and paintbrush.

In March, I had the chance to spend some time in Big Bend National Park photographing the bluebonnets. The weather was unpredictable, but the flowers were colorful and plentiful. One morning while out shooting at sunrise, I was blessed with bluebonnets, wonderful light, and great background that included the Chisos Mountains. This bluebonnet image has also become one of my best sellers (and that always helps!).

big bend, bluebonnets, texas wildflowers, texas landscapes, sunrise
Big Bend – Bluebonnet Sunrise 1 : Prints Available

Bluebonnets bathe in the warmth of first light as the sun rises over a ridge of Cerro Castellan in Big Bend National park.

Another of my favorite images came from the beginning of the year. I was photographing the downtown Austin skyline from the hike and bike trail that extends out onto Lady Bird Lake near Joe’s Crabshack. It was early in the morning, cold, and fog was rising off the water. The sun had just risen behind me in the east. Just before packing up, I noticed several birds in the area. I waited for the right moment and captured this images of an egret (I think) as it came in for a landing.

austin skyline photos,lady bird lake phots,austin texas photos,zilker park
Bird if Flight – Austin Texas Skyline : Prints Available

From the boardwalk, I was photographing the Austin skyline one cold January morning as fog drifted over Lady Bird Lake. There is an area below the platform where birds congregate. For a few minutes, I focused on these water fowl and captured this image as one came in for a landing.

The Texas Hill Country is my home. And I shoot a lot out here, especially in the state parks. Pedernales Falls is only 25 minutes from my house, so I’m out at this wonderful area several times a month – mostly at sunrise. In May, the area, especially Wimberley, was devastated by heavy rains and flooding. Pedernales Falls State Park was closed for several days. After the gates finally opened, I was one of the first folks down there, and the photographs taken at sunrise were nearly unbelievable. The river ran as high as I’ve ever seen it. The scary part was you could see debris 15 feet higher than where I was shooting – up in the trees along the banks – indicating how high the water had actually risen. This images comes at sunrise as clouds began to break up over the Pedernales River.

texas hill country floods,pedernales river flood,pedernales falls state park,pedernales river images,texas hill country images,texas landscape images,texas landscape prints,texas sunrise
Flood on the Pedernales River 5 : Prints Available

Step carefully when the Pedernales River is flowing like this. Sunrise at Pedernales Falls State Park on this morning offered some wonderful light. The sky was pink and purple to the west as a storm was moving in, but in the east the sunlight was trying to filter through thin clouds. The water was flowing fast after historic rains the previous week. But in this image, the river’s level had actually gone down quite a bit in the days prior.

In the photograph above, I’m often able to walk across this stretch of river to the opposite shore without my feet getting wet at all!

Of course, I have to include a bluebonnet image as one of my favorites. I’ve already put in one from Big Bend, but here is one from the Texas Hill Country. This wildflower photograph comes from the shores of the Colorado River and Lake Travis. With the lack of rains, much of this area is usually under water. However, this past spring it was dry and covered with bluebonnets. I ventured over here one evening and did not see another person the entire night. The irony is that nearby – at another park along this same stretch of river, the bluebonnets were completely overrun with people trampling them until there was very little left to enjoy.

bluebonnets,bluebonnet photos,texas wildflowers,texas landscapes
Path Through the Bluebonnets 2 : Prints Available

On a quiet evening, a path through thick bluebonnets leads back to the car and the long drive home. Evenings like this I cherish the time spent amid the wonders of a Texas Hill Country spring.

There are so many other Texas images I really like from 2015, but for now these are some that stand out. I took a lot of Milky Way images, and I do love the night sky over a Texas landscape. And as we close the books on 2015, I look forward to what 2016 brings. With El Nino in full force right now, I expect we’ll have one of the better wildflower springs in the last 50 years. I’m already planning on a lot of driving in late March, and all of April and May to search for colorful Texas fields. I also have trips planned to Big Bend, Palo Duro, Dallas, Fort Worth, and many other fun locations.

In the meantime, feel free to follow my work on facebook.

Safe Travels, Texas!

Rob
Images from Texas

Favorite Texas Photography Locations

I’ve been asked several times where my favorite places are to photograph the Texas landscapes. Folks also want to know my secret places. So what follows are my thoughts on those most preferred locales, in no particular order.

Caddo Lake
Caddo Lake is a sprawling swampland created by the New Madrid earthquake of 1812. This shallow lake is home to the largest cypress forest in the world. Draped in moody Spanish moss, these giant trees brood over the lake like watchmen. A boat is a must-have for this area. The ability to skirt through small channels and cross wide areas of water only three feet deep opens up a plethora of opportunities. Sure, I guess you could try wading, and I’m sure the resident alligators would like that, too!

caddo lake photos,east texas photos,caddo lake state park,caddo lake cypress,caddo lake prints,texas prints,texas photos
Reflections of Caddo Lake 1 : Prints Available

Scenes like this abound at Caddo Lake in east Texas. When the winds are calm, the reflections of cypress in the brackish water appear as if a mirror was resting on the water’s surface. I chose this particular composition because of the added splash of color mixed in with the cypress and spanish moss.

The Gulf Coast
I love the coast, especially the harbors. Yes, the beaches are nice, but I enjoy photographing the life the fishing boats bring at dawn as the chug in with their nightly catch. I follow the seagulls around and try to include their activity in unison with the shrimp boats arrival. My favorite little harbor is the Rockport-Fulton boat docks. If you can catch a colorful sunrise with no wind, you’ll be in coastal photography nirvana.

rockport texas images,fulton texas images,rockport harbor,texas coast sunrise
Rockport Harbor Sunrise 11 : Prints Available

After almost giving up on any color from the skies on this morning the clouds suddenly lit up in reds and oranges. The little harbor between Rockport and Fulton, Texas, along the gulf coast turned shades of morning. While the colors were beautiful, they only lingered for a few minutes.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park
An hour from the nearby town of Van Horn, Guadalupe Mountains National Park is remote and rugged. It’s iconic mountain is El Capitan, though El Cap rests in the shadow of the tallest point in Texas, Guadalupe Peak. Rising from the Chihuahuan Desert, El Capitan has served as a landmark for travelers for hundreds of years. If you have the time or motivation, hit the trail and make the easy hike up to the summit of Guadalupe Peak. Other trails await, as well, hold canyon,s, lost maple groves, and even sand dunes.

guadalupe mountains national park,guadalupe mountains,guadalupe mountains images,el capitan,guadalupe peak,el capitan trail,texas landscapes
El Capitan Sunrise 5 – Guadalupe Mts : Prints Available

El Capitain is probably west Texas’ most well known peak. It is the 8th tallest summit in Texas at 8,085 feet and rests in the shadow of the highest point, Guadalupe Peak. From the road that cuts around this Texas national park, you can pick up a trail that leads you up to this point. Eventually, the path connects with the El Capitan Trail and affords wonderful views of this rugged landscape.

Big Bend National Park
Even more remote than the Guadalupe Mountains, Big Bend rises from the desert and might be my favorite Texas landscape to capture. This national park offers just about everything – springtime bluebonnets, slot canyons, hidden rock formations, a beautiful river, and a diversity of climates ranging from desert Eco systems to lofty, high altitude forests. Big Bend is also known as the dark sky capitol of the country. If you are willing to stay out late or rise early, the Milky Way is yours to both enjoy and photograph. Another appealing aspect of this park, at least to me, is the lack of tourists. I’ve photographed this heart of this park, the Chisos Mountains, from the desert floor with a tripod in the middle of the road and not seen another person for my entire time there. I’ve also been on a dirt road shooting the landscape with rivers of bluebonnets in the foreground for hours. Over several hours, I never saw another soul.

bluebonnet images,big bend bluebonnets,big bend prints,big bend national park,texas landscapes,texas wildflowers,rainbow
Big Bend – Bluebonnets and a Rainbow : Prints Available

After a storm over the Chisos Mountains in Big Bend National Park, a rainbow appeared in the east as clouds still loomed over the western landscape. Bluebonnets and other Texas wildflowers were thankful for the water, and I was thankful for such a beautiful scene.

Texas Hill Country State Parks
I could lump these last two areas into one topic, but the are vastly different. I’m fortunate to live in the Texas Hill Country with easy access to several state parks. each has its own unique personality. Enchanted Rock offers a short climb to its well known granite slab. But most tourists don’t have a chance to explore other parts of the park. Moss Lake, just behind the dome, can yield wonderful reflections at sunrise and sunset. From nearby Turkey Peak you’ll have great views of the distant rolling hills. And in May and June you’ll find the prickly pear cacti’s colorful blooms of red, orange, and gold.

texas wildflowers,enchanted rock state park images,texas hill country,prickly pear images,hill country photos,wildflowers of texas
Enchanted Rock Prickly Pear Evening 1 : Prints Available

Enchanted Rock State Park offers many great sights, but in the summer when the prickly pear are blooming, the blooms can really glow with bright colors. Though technically not a Texas wildflower, I still include these flowers in this gallery because it seems the best place for them!

Along with Enchanted Rock, Lost Maples State Park blazes with reds and gold each fall, but also has great hiking trails open all year.

texas hill country prints,texas hill country,lost maples state park
Lost Maples State Park – November Stroll : Prints Available

November colors come to Lost Maples State Park, a small refuge for an ancient colony of Red Maples trees. Each Autumn, the colors light up the trails and make for wonderful strolling in the cold, clean air.

Closest to home is Pedernales Falls State Park. The river, canyons, and cypress allow me to always find something new to explore and photograph. Even with varying rises and drops in the river’s level, new compositions and angles continuously emerge.

texas hill country photos,pedernales falls state park,pedernales falls,texas landscapes,texas landscape images
April Sunrise 1 – Pedernales Falls : Prints Available

I didn’t think I’d get much light this morning, but for a few brief moments a portion of the sky over the Texas Hill Country and Pedernales Falls State Park lit up in pinks and reds. This little park close to my house is where I go when I need a respite from the world.

Texas Hill Country Wildflowers
There is no shortage of information for springtime in the Texas Hill Country. In years when the rainy weather has been generous, especially in April and May, the roadsides and fields come alive with bluebonnets, firewheels, coreopsis, and dozens of other wildflowers. The best locations vary according to local rainfall amounts, as does the best time of month to witness the wildflower explosion, but a few of my favorite areas are the off-the-beaten paths and county roads near Fredericksburg, Mason, and Llano.

texas wildflower prints,texas wildflower photos,texas hill country,red wildflowers,firewheels,texas landscapes
Texas Reds – Wildflowers at Sunset 1 : Prints Available

The last sunlight of day streams across a lonely field of Texas wildflowers – this time red firewheels. On a stretch of dirt road north of Llano in the Hill Country, scenes like this were everywhere in May. The hard part was picking a location for the moment of sunset.

If you’ve read this far, thanks! Feel free to peruse my Texas galleries.
If you have questions, don’t hesitate to contact me. I’ll help if I can.

New Blog and Big Bend Bluebonnets

Welcome to a new blog that will compliment my new Images from Texas website! The new site has been in the works since back in November 2014 and is finally up and running.

The timing for the new website is just about perfect. Here in Texas, Winter is fading and springtime wildflowers are just around the corner. The rains, thanks to a mild El Nino weather pattern, have been good to us over the last several months and I have high hopes for one of the more colorful spring seasons in many years. We’re already seeing spring blooms south of San Antonio. On my property in the hill country, bluebonnet plants are abundant – more so than any year previous – and the purple and blue blooms are starting to appear.

In addition to anticipating wildflowers around the hill country, I also just returned from some time at Big Bend National Park where the bluebonnets in that part of the Lone Star State are just past peak. I’ve had the opportunity to visit and trek around this amazing area in the past and, as always, thoroughly enjoyed my stay and look forward to returning again soon.

bluebonnets,big bend national park,big bend,texas wildflowers,bluebonnet prints,texas landscapes
Bluebonnets of Big Bend 1 – Afternoon : Prints Available

Big Bend National Park offers visitors many opportunities to experience the outdoors. In March, the park’s own version of bluebonnet blooms (Lupinus Havardii). Here along a ridge, the the hearty flower reaches for the soft sunlight of a fading spring afternoon.

Closer to home, the Austin skyline is growing like crazy. I’ve you’ve been near downtown at all over the last year, you’ve surely noticed there seem to be more cranes than highrises! All the construction makes it difficult to produce nice cityscape photography, so I’ve focused more on the bridges and architecture this winter. Austin often has warm days and cold nights, and this can lead to fog rolling off the water in the early morning. With this in mind, many mornings were spent photographing these unique conditions while trying to capture some of the buildings of downtown in the background – all the while attempting to avoid the parts of town still under construction.

Thanks for visiting this blog. This spring has a lot of promise, and I’ll keep updates coming here, on my website, and on my facebook page.

If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at Rob@ImagesfromTexas.com

Safe Travels!
~ Rob