End of the Year Thoughts

Well, here we are at the end of 2016. While I look forward to more good things in 2017, I wanted to take a minute or two and reflect on the past year.
In superficial matters, I was able to take some good trips that helped grow my business: Big Bend several times, the Guadalupe Mountains, the Texas coast, Dallas and Fort Worth, and many beautiful locations throughout the hill country. From these little treks, I’ll share my five favorite photographs in just a bit.

First, I’d like to share a few things I learned, personally, this year.

1 – I still prefer to be somewhere outdoors and mostly left alone to my thoughts rather than around a group of people (my family and a few close friends are the exception.) I’ve never been a part of a photography group or club. That just isn’t for me. I don’t like “talking shop” as some do, either. I’d rather enjoy a good hike, do my work, and hike back. If someone is with me, we can talk about other topics – just not photography.
2 – There are two kinds of people – those without kids and those with kids. If you have kids, you know what I mean.
3 – You’ll never love anything or anyone more than your own kids. It wasn’t until I had two girls that I understood how much my own parents loved me.
4 – Photographers are not good at sharing. This seems to be an unfortunate generalization. I’ve interacted with a few established photographers this year, and when it comes down to it, they were not forthcoming (actually quite evasive and selfish) in sharing any sort of locations to shoot (and one did this even after I helped him secure a great location earlier in the year through one of my contacts). I certainly won’t name them here, but I think it is sad how they behaved. Maybe they felt threatened? I know one in Austin who does, and he really shouldn’t. While I won’t put locations online, I don’t mind sharing. I figure if you help out someone, that good will eventually will circle back around.
5 – Drones are not for me – at least just yet. I bought a high end model for work, then sold it several months later. It just couldn’t produce the high quality images that can be made large that I needed. Plus, I just didn’t have enough time to do both standard landscape photography and drone work. Maybe someday… I do have a friend that is quite good at drone work, though, and produces amazing skylines of Austin. They just cannot be printed very large.
6 – Positive affirmations work; a positive attitude and mental mindset do make a difference.
7 – Sometimes people are going to do what they do, and it is fruitless to attempt to understand them. Even logic often fails.
8 – Despite the naysayers, you can support a family of four shooting landscape photography and do quite nicely. Everything you read seems to indicate this is quite difficult. And yes, it does take some perseverance and attention to tedious detail. Yes, I’ve worked hard to get where I am, especially with the behind-the-scenes portion of the business (marketing and getting my name out there). But it can be done.
9 – I have a supportive family.
10 – I really like what I do.

OK… with those random thoughts done, here are some of my favorite images of the year in no particular order:

1 – Amazing light from Big Bend… this has turned out to be one of my best sellers:

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Lost Mine Trail Sunset 1 : Prints Available

The first mile of the Lost Mine Hike in Big Bend National Park is a gradual uphill walk to a nice vantage point overlooking the basin below. Go another 1.5 miles up some relatively easy switchbacks and you reach this point that looks over Juniper Canyon toward the South Rim. I had hoped for a nice sunset, but the amazing light that spread forth from the western horizon suprassed my expecations. The beautiful colors did not last long, but they offered a lingering memory of a magical place amid this rugged Texas landscape.

2 – Bluebonnets at Sunset – I met a local rancher who allowed me access to his land. As I tromped across cacti-filled fields, I found this unforgettable landscape:

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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.

3 – Bluebonnets at Sunrise – another bluebonnet image – this time taken at sunrise as the sun dissipated the fog and clouds:

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Windmill and Bluebonnets in the Morning 3 : Prints Available

When I set off from my house to photograph this windmill with a foreground of bluebonnets, the sky was overcast and fog made visibility quite limited. I arrived with the sky pretty dark but still had 15 minutes until sunrise. I had just about given up hope when I noticed a little break in some low drifting clouds. Five minutes passed, and suddenly the sky begain to light up in oranges and pinks, and I was escatic with my good fortune. I only had time to capture a few images from that morning. This is my favorite.

4 -Texas Hill Country Waterfall – You couldn’t ask for a better sunset on this perfect evening. I also appreciate a friend and fellow photographer not keeping this beautiful location a secret.

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Texas Hill Country Waterfall 1 : Prints Available

Sometimes you just get lucky. A friend had shown me this location in the Texas Hill Country, but we’d waited to visit until the flow of water was just right. After heavy rains from weeks prior, the river had risen, then dropped. On this night, all elements of the image came together – water, color, wind, and sky. With turquoise falls below me and an amazing sunset peeking through the trees and spreading light rays into the fading thunderheads, I knew this landscape of the Texas landscape of cascading water would be special.

This image is available in sizes larger than 36×24. Please contact me for more information.

5 – South Rim, Big Bend National Park – A 13 mile round trip allowed me access to this amazing view in south Texas:

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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.

6 – Sunset at Port Aransas This one is special not only because of the morning light, but one of my little girls had rolled out of bed to accompany me on a pre-dawn stroll along the beach. I photographed the pier and ocean while she chased sand crabs and even found a starfish:

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October Autumn at Caldwell Pier, Port Aransas 25 : Prints Available

It was a glorious sunrise along the beach at Port Aransas. This is one of Texas’ favorite beach destinations, and this sunrise shows why. In the foreground, Caldwell Pier stretches more than 1000 feet into the warm gulf waters on this October morning. The only company I had this morning were the gulls and sand crabs and my youngest daughter (who shockingly rolled out of bed to accompany on this morning of work. Behind me, chased sand crabs and even found a star fish.) Doesn’t get much better than this!

7 – Two from the Guadalupe Mountains – The first shows the Autumn colors of McKittrick Canyon; the second shows the inconic El Capitan beneath beautiful light:

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McKittrick Canyon Glory, Guadalupe Mountains 1 : Prints Available

Following the trail through McKittrick Canyon, there are places of dense maple trees. At one point, you are nearly surrounded by the beautiful leaves, and in Autumn the forest can turn orange and red with some of the most beautiful fall colors in Texas. The main hike is around 4 miles each way, but you can continue up to ‘the Notch,” a climb of about 1500 vertical feet over another mile or so at which point you can look down into a canyon on each side of you. The hike up is a grunt, but the views are incredible. You can look back down and see the colorful maples as they follow the path of the river.

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El Capitan Sunrise, Guadalupe Mountains 2 : Prints Available

On the road to Williams Ranch in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, the views of El Capitan are stunning. As Texas’ 8th tallest peak at 8,064 feet, the rocky cliffs were once underwater – part of the Delaware Sea from the Permian Period. About 30 million years ago, the Guadalupe fault block was thrust upwards over 2 miles from where it sat on the ocean floor. Now, made up of Capitan limestone, it is one of the best cross-sections of fossil records showing what life was like in that time period. At the edge of the Western Escarpment – in relatively modern times – El Capitan has long served as a landmark for travelers.

The morning view of El Capitan in this photograph shows the landscape from the 4WD road that winds its way to Williams Ranch. While this road normally serves as a day-use only road, the park service was kind enough to accommodate me – allowing me to enter early and photograph this massive limestone peak in the predawn hours of the morning.

If you actually read this, thanks! I’d love it if you left a message just to say hi and share any thoughts you might have. The year 2016 was a good one for my family and my business. I look forward to growing even more in 2017. Thanks for your support, Texas!

~ Rob
www.ImagesfromTexas.com

Texas – Home Sweet Home

As I write this blog, My wife, two girls, and I just crossed the Texas-New Mexico border and passed the Happy State Bank in Texline. I just finished up six weeks in Colorado, but I’ll get to that in a moment. For these long drives we usually leave early. This morning was no exception as we departed a little before 3am for the 15 hour trip. And I’m tired but can’t sleep. So I’ll ramble a bit…

First, some good news… I found out yesterday I will have two images in the Texas Highways Magazine 2017 Wildflower Calendar, and one of those will also serve as the cover photo! But as of now I don’t know which image that will be. Still, that is a nice bit of news. Texas Highways also pays well ? . A few weeks before that, I received word my Perseid meteor shower image won 1st place in the Texas Hill Country Alliance annual photography contest.

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Perseids over the Texas Hill Country : Prints Available

Starting at about 2:00am, I let the camera roll, taking 3 hours of time-lapse images of the Perseid meteor shower over Pedernales Falls in the Texas Hill Country. This final photograph is a compilation of the brightest meteors from this amazing scene. The sky photographs were taken using an astro-tracker, then stacked together using photoshop. The foreground was taken just as first light was beginning to show across the landscape – again a long exposure – and blended into the final scene.

This is nice, too, though I’ve been spoiled, having won the grand prize two of the past four years. And last, this past May I had my first book published by Far Country Press – a collection of images around Austin, Texas. I shared the photography work with another photographer, Jon Rogers – a real artist and super guy.

And now as we plow towards Dalhart (my wife is driving) I have time to reflect on the last month-and-a-half. I had high expectations – both for photography and for personal accomplishments. For at least the past ten years, my best guy friend and I have summited at least one 14,000 foot peak. Overall, we’ve climbed 31 of Colorado’s 54 14ers – all but one together. My home away from home is in Winter Park at about 9,000 feet in elevation. That first week while acclimating to my summer surroundings (my home in the Texas Hill Country rests at around 600 feet in elevation), I usually include one longer hike up to ~ 12 or 13,000 feet. On the first longer hike, I turned an ankle on the way down from an easy trek up to Herman Lake near Georgetown. It was an unremarkable hike and the slip didn’t appear to do noticeable damage. About five days later while trail running back in Winter Park, I did the same thing while cruising downhill and really buggered up my ankle. Something popped and my foot was purple a few days later. Fortunately, I had just started the five mile run! And I hopped back a half mile on my left foot.

I should add here I’m not patient when it comes to being sick or injured. I was forced to cancel a trip to the Elk Mountain Range to scale two 14ers. Several days of icing and elevating the ankle passed, and I was frustrated and ancy to get back out. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I wrapped my ankle, loaded up on painkillers, and met my friend to climb a nearby 13er (Square Top Peak at 13,758 feet). The meds worked and we enjoyed a nice view at the summit complete with mountain goats. But the next day I couldn’t put any weight on it. Now, two weeks later, I’m able to hobble around, but it hurts to even push on the accelerator of our SUV. I’ll give it some more time. Hopefully it will improve.

In the midst of all that, I was able to photograph some of Colorado’s most beautiful landscapes in Rocky Mountain National Park, including wildflowers, elk, and even the Milky Way. To peruse some of my favorites, check out my Colorado Images gallery.

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Colorado Sunflower Sunset 2 : Prints Available

From 12,000 feet and high in the Rocky Mountains, these sunflowers, known as ‘Old Man of the Mountain,’ enjoy the cold air and a beautiful July sunset. These wildflowers of Colorado were taken in Rocky Mountain National Park as the last light of day peeked over the distant summits.

In the meantime, we make our way home and I’m contemplating what I can photograph over the next few months. After six weeks of not seeing any temps above 80, I’m not keen on returning to the heat. Can we just fast forward to autumn?

Dalhart is in the rear view mirror and an early lunch in Dumas awaits.

Safe travels, Texas! 🙂
~ 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 Bluebonnet Report #1

February 29, 2016 – I’ll start posting wildflower updates here as the season progresses. I spotted my first bluebonnet bloom on our land yesterday. I’ve never seen one show up in February, so this is a first. I’m thinking now that our bluebonnets will arrive earlier than usual. I’ve read reports there are some patches of blue along the road near Burnet, Texas, and I’ve seen some scattered fields of phlox in areas south of the Hill Country near San Antonio. With the recent rain, it seems to have started the season. No bluebonnet images in this post, but they’ll be here soon!
~ Rob
www.ImagesfromTexas.com

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.

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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!).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Bluebonnet Hunting

I’ve spent the last few weeks hunting bluebonnets. While not as prolific a display as 2010, there were still some gems to be found (and still are, hopefully).
One of my favorite roads is FM 152 between Llano and Castell. This winding road often has roadside displays of bluebonnets, phlox, poppies, and other colorful blooms each spring, and this year was no different.

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Texas Bluebonnets and Stork's Bill 2 : Prints Available

Texas country roads are wonderful to explore in April and May. Here, a vibrant display of wildfowers – stork’s bill and bluebonnets – greet visitors on Highway 152 just outside of Llano.

Another of my favorite roads in the Hill Country is 3347 just west of Marble Falls. This road has a few dirt roads that connect to it that can be quite colorful in good years.

A few dirt roads run between Highway 16 and Highway 71. If you time it right, you’ll have these little sanctuaries all to yourself. With bluebonnets, longhorns, windmills, white prickly poppies, and much more to take in, this can be a Texas wildflower nirvana. (I have to add here… please be respectful to the landowners. Many of these roads are free range for cattle, but not for folks like us!)

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Bluebonnets along a Hill Country Fence 1 : Prints Available

After winding along a twisting dirt road between Fredericksburg and Llano in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, I came across this old wooden fence with bluebonnets all around. I really enjoy scenes like this. It seems this is the essence of the Hill Country in spring.

In any case, these wildflowers are here and I’d better get back on the road in search of more beautiful Texas landscapes! Feel free to check out my latest bluebonnet images or see my updates on my Texas facebook page.

~ Rob

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.

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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