Bluebonnet Hunting and More…

Before I start in on bluebonnet season, I’m pleased to make a few announcements. First, for the third year in a row I have several photographs featured in Texas Highways magazine. Next, over the winter I have been working on launching a new website – Images from Colorado. While it is far from complete, it is up and running. I’ll be working at adding a lot of images over the next six months. The descriptions and keywording each image just takes a long time. And that process will slow down as wildflower season gets into full swing.

As we turn the page and head into April, bluebonnets should be nearing peak. However, thus far this wildflower season has been less than stellar. This past week I drove over 500 miles through the hill country looking for a few colorful fields. Many of the roadsides were nice, especially on Highway 29 between Mason and Llano. The spaces between the road and fence lines were full of bluebonnets sprinkled with red Indian paintbrush. Still, the fields were relatively barren of colors.

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Wildflower Highway Sunrise 3 : Prints Available

Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush, two of Texas’ favorite wildflowers, filled this roadside between Mason and Llano. The sun lit up some low clouds and brought another gorgeous day to the Texas Hill Country on this late March morning.

All my driving yielded little except a few nice sunrises taken along 29 and some morning photographs from the famous “bluebonnet house” in Marble Falls. The pasture in front of this 100 year-old stone house had the most bluebonnets in over five years. Because I live pretty close to this location, I waited for a really good sunset. Despite some of the photographs that have been posted on popular hill country Facebook pages, I can assure you there have not been any spectacular sunrises in Marble Falls since the bluebonnets have bloomed. For some, photoshop is a best friend, and non-disclosure is obvious. But that is a topic for another blog! And even more crazy… one afternoon when I drove by this old house surrounded by bluebonnets, a family had evidently crawled over or through the barbed-wire fence in order to take their family photo – this despite the “No Trespassing” signs posted prominently about every 15 feet Anton the fence! Anyway, on a few nights there were some high soft clouds that made for pleasing pastel colors of pink and blue.

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Bluebonnets in Marble Falls Panorama 1 : Prints Available

Bluebonnets surround and old stone building in Marble Falls, Texas, in this morning panorama. The high clouds were soft and gave a pastel feel to this calm and peaceful sunrise. These favorite Texas wildflowers were the best in many years at this site.

This panorama of bluebonnets is available in larger and custom sizes. Please contact me for more information.

With little clouds to speak of, I decided to use what God had provided. I stayed late and shot the night sky over the bluebonnet house,p. To make the stars really shine in a photograph, I useda star tracker to take long exposures of the stars without any trailing. While the Milky Way doesn’t appear in the north, the stars at night are big and bright and still magnificent.

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Bluebonnets under Starry Skies 1 : Prints Available

Under starry skies of a clear spring night, this field of bluebonnets in Marble Falls slept in the still air. I arrived early to shoot this iconic location – commonly known simply as the “Bluebonnet House” at both sunset and after dark. The winds were calm and the skies were nice. When I arrived, many photographers lined the fence to capture this Texas landmark surrounded by Texas wildflowers. As the sun faded and night crept across the Hill Country one by one those folks left, leaving only my camera and me.

Using a star tracker, I took long exposures of the sky facing north. At this time of year, you won’t find any dazzling Milky Way images to the north, but you can see the North Star as well as the Little Dipper. This classic bluebonnet landscape was taken about an hour after dark. I hope it conveys the sense of history, beauty, and nostalgia that I felt that quiet evening.

Thanks to a new friend, I received a tip about some healthy bluebonnets not far from Marble Falls. Immediately, I headed out before this location became public knowledge and before the bluebonnets were trampled by family-portrait folks. The winds were calm, clouds easy and soft, and for an hour we enjoyed our time photographing what so far is a rare scene this year. In one particular spot, a single firewheel (also known as an Indian blanket) rose above the bluebonnets. I photographed this little red wildflower from all directions before settling on one particularly nice angle. I don’t think I could have planned it any better.

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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

That night, I lingered in the bluebonnets and decided to shoot into the early morning hours and capture the Milky Way as it crawled across this beautiful field. The sky was taken with a star tracker and the results can make for a large print! In one of the Milky Way photographs I even had the good fortune of capturing a meteor. I did not recognize this until working on these the next day.

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Bluebonnets under the Milky Way 2 : Prints Available

In the early hours of the morning and well before sunrise, the Milky Way appears over this beautiful field of bluebonnets in the Texas Hill Country. To achieve maximum sharpness, this image is a composite photograph. The foreground was taken about 45 minutes after sunset when just enough light allowed some depth and clarity to show in the bluebonnet landscape. A little after 3am when the Milky Way was in position, I used a star tracker to take a long exposure of the night sky. Back at home, and after some sleep, I used photogshop to blend the two images together to show what they eye could see but the camera could not capture. I had not noticed the meteor in the Milky Way photograph until I got home. Sometimes you just get lucky!

Near this same location in Marble Falls there is a small herd of longhorns. In one of the fields where they graze, patches of bluebonnets are scattered across the pasture. More than several times I drove by this location but the longhorns were never in good position. Finally this past Saturday just before a major storm, I found them sitting among the blooms (and any Texan knows that if cattle are laying down, that means rain is on the way!) With this nice surprise I was at last able to photograph a few of these regal and rugged creatures within the bluebonnets.

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Longhorns on a Lazy Afternoon 1 : Prints Available

A longhorn and a calf rest easy in a green pasture surrounded by patches of spring blueobonnets. I’d been to this field numerous times but the longhorns were always too far away to be photographed. Finally, they arrived and allowed me to get in a few shots before standing and sauntering off.

When shooting these or any fields of Texas wildflowers, I usually take several images of the same scene with variying depths of field. Back home, I’ll align and merge these images into one photograph in order to achieve maximum sharpness throughout the image. Most of the bluebonnet photographs from this year consist of at least four separate images blended together. The panoramas are made of eight or more photos stacked and merged. This process is tedious but allows me to provide my clients with the highest quality. And being obsessed with details myself, this is the only way I’d do it!

With the recent rains these last few days, I’m hopeful the wet weather will stimulate a future bloom. The hill country still has reds and golds to offer, and perhaps even a few bluebonnet surprises. Time will tell.

Thanks for reading!
Via con dios.
~ Rob
Images from Texas

Bluebonnet Report # 3

Bluebonnet Report #3

After several unproductive wildflower hunting trips around central Texas, including east and west of the San Antonio areas, as well as the Texas Hill Country from Fredericksburg to Mason to Llano, I finally discovered some nice fields of bluebonnets. Thanks to a tip from a fellow wildflower chaser, I checked out the areas from Round Mountain, including 962 and 3347 along with connecting side roads.

On one portion of this drive, bluebonnets along the roadsides make for a beautiful and very serene drive (not much traffic at all). I’ve driven this area many times in the past, and admittedly this is not my favorite stretch. But bluebonnet season is quickly coming to a close and times are desperate, so I figured I’d take a chance.

Upon arriving in the general location with about an hour to go before sunset, I was initially disappointed. The bluebonnets were nice, but there were not sweeping vistas nor great landscapes. Both sides of this road were higher than the road itself, making nice views nonexistent. Frustrated, I drove up and down the road, searching for at least some serviceable stops for sunset. I had passed a guy in a truck several times and was getting a little self-conscious. I finally stopped and said Howdy so he wouldn’t think I was a stalker. I explained what I was doing after some small talk. He turned out to be a ranch manager for much of the surrounding land. He went on to say the bluebonnets were beautiful on his land and that I could explore some of the hills if I wanted. Suddenly given hope to salvage the trip, I said thanks and headed for the hills – literally.

Upon rising over the first hill, my effort and good fortune was again rewarded because before me bluebonnets rose and stretched across gentle slopes filled with yucca and cacti. I changed lenses and quickly went to work, opting for my medium wide angle, the 16-35L. I worked the area, then quickly trekked to another location to shoot the moment of sunset. More bluebonnets, more images. (I should note here I shoot between 5 and 7 exposures of each image along with 3 or 4 sets of these exposures at varying depths-of-field, so each image would often be made of anywhere from 15-28 individual photos in order to align all the details. )

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Colors of a Bluebonnet Sunset 1 : Prints Available

Bluebonnets adorn the gentle slopes of the Texas Hill Country in this sunset image taken in early April. Thanks for a local rancher and land manager, I was allowed to visit a few areas of private land that were covered in these favorite wildflowers. The sunset helped the landscape come alive, as well.

With the sun having already fallen below the horizon, I saw one more hill I wanted to shoot, so I ran up and over the terrain and settled at the edge of the blue wildflowers, all the while enjoying the distinct aroma of bluebonnet pollen. I set the tripod low and sat down in order to get a better view. In my haste, I sat squarely on a cactus. I guess I should note it was better sitting on a cactus than a rattlesnake, one of which I’d seen the previous day. Nevertheless, I impaled my posterior with cactus quills that were at least an inch long. In my pain, and with the sky turning all sorts of orange, red, and pink, I consciously thought to myself that I just had to endure the pain for a few minutes, and then I could figure out what to do. With thorns in my backside, I managed to capture the fleeting moment. Then I had to remove the longer thorns. Those were easy. It was the small, barely visible prickles that were the long term pain. I’ll end the story here and just say the ride home was difficult… as was sitting the next day.

A few days later, I made my way to Kingsland and photographed the bluebonnets that sprang up through and within train track rails. As this is private property and I do not cross private property unless invited, I stayed on the boundary and enjoyed a nice sunrise over train tracks and colorful bluebonnets.

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Bluebonnets along Train Tracks 1 : Prints Available

Old train tracks are covered with bluebonnets in Llano County. This little area is often filled with bluebonnets. The land past this point is private, though, you can’t get much farther. Old train tracks are covered with bluebonnets in Llano County. This little area is often filled with bluebonnets. The land past this point is private, though, you can’t get much farther.

I’ve heard there are some fields on 281 north of Burnett and near Lampasas, though I haven’t seen them for myself. While there may be more fields of blue that pop up, I’m beginning to think this season was a bit of a dud based on earlier expectations. I have heard speculation that we could enjoy a nice season of other Texas wildflowers including firewheels, coreopsis, and mexican hats.

In the meantime, watch out for rattlesnakes and aggressive cacti.

Happy Travels,

Rob
www.ImagesfromTexas.com

Bluebonnet Report # 2

We’re on the cusp… of what, I do not know – maybe the biggest bust for wildflowers in the last 10 years? I’ve driven over 500 miles the past week looking for bluebonnets and other wildflowers but have been a bit disappointed at every turn. I’ve talked to fellow photographers and they are coming up empty, as well.

Thanks to El Nino, we had plenty of rain over the winter, but in January the jet stream split, sending rain either north or south of Texas. The Hill Country received nary a drop for nearly 60 days. That, combined with warmer temperatures, seems to have produced a less than stellar wildflower display.

I’ve driven the roads west, south, and east of San Antonio. Some of my favorite places just didn’t produce any color. I only found one field worth stopping for – this Easter-colored field near Poteet.

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Texas Wildflowers on Easter 2 : Prints Available

A lone windmill rests in a Texas wildflower field colored in the reds, golds, and blues of an Easter egg on a cool March evening. Bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush help color this area into a palette of beautiful color, and the windmill adds to a classic Texas spring landscape.

In the Hill Country, I’ve driven up and down 87 from Fredericksburg, north to Mason and Cherokee, traveled some of my favorite dirt roads in that area, then over to Llano and Gillispie County. The best displays of bluebonnets I’ve found were on the roadsides along Highway 29 just west of Llano and on Highway 16 north of Llano. This image was taken near sunset on Highway 16 and shows a mix of bluebonnets and paintbrush.

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Wildflowers of Gillispie County : Prints Available

Along Highway 16 in Gillispie County, bluebonnets and paintbrush fill in the roadsides in late March. Texas wildflowers were scattered along the roads just north of Llano, and this was one of the better patches of color during this Spring.

Some areas along 71 near Llano show signs of the bluebonnets spreading into the fields, but whether the coverage is thick or not remains to be seen. The next few weeks will be critical in determining if the wildflower season here in the Texas Hill Country will be a flop or average. Considering the potential this year had with all the winter rain, anything short of stellar will be a bit of a letdown. Still, there are a few weeks left in the bluebonnet window. After that, we can hope for firewheels (also known as Indian blankets) and a few other late April/May wildflowers.

Happy Wildflower Hunting!

~ Rob

Texas Wildflowers Seek Rainy Day

It has been 40 days since the Texas Hill Country enjoyed any discernible rain. This past October, November, and December, the rains were plentiful. Many area lakes were again above average after years of drought. And the wildflowers season of 2016 looked very promising.

Right now on my small piece of land, bluebonnet rosettes are everywhere. They’ve been that way for a few months – sitting and waiting for spring to arrive. But they also need water. To quote one of our central Texas weathermen, “for us, El Nino has been a real dud so far.” From a photographer’s perspective, this statement is true in many ways.

Don’t lose hope, though, for a prominent and colorful season Texas wildflowers. The long range forecast by the Climate Prediction Center still shows the hill country with “above average” rainfall predicted for the next several months, especially in March, April, and May. Looking at the long range forecasts on accuweather and weather underground, we begin to see rain show up again about 9 days. Let’s hope this holds up.

In the meantime, I’ll spend some mornings poking around downtown Austin, maybe spend some time near my home in the hill country, or out flying my drone and taking aerial images from a bird’s eye view. I also have a trip planned for Big Bend – and I’m hoping the bluebonnets will be nice out there. But really, I’m looking forward to (and hoping for) a very colorful spring season not just for bluebonnets, but for the Indian paintbrush, firewheels, coreopsis, and even the prickly pear blooms that appear in late May and early June.

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Firewheel Sunlight 1 : Prints Available

Across a field of red Texas wildflowers, the last sulight of the evening streams through the still trees. This patch of firewheels was found just north of Llano in the Texas Hill Country.

Between now and then, happy travels, Texas (or wherever your life leads you)!

~ Rob

www.ImagesfromTexas.com