Tripod – Yes or No?

Do you need a tripod? In my humble opinion, if your focus is truly on landscape photography and you want to produce clear, sharp prints, the answer is yes. I shoot with a tripod nearly 99% of the time – even in daylight. The only times I do not use a tripod are when I’m on a boat or know that particular image will not be going on my business site. Tripods add stability, and in my case, allow me to produce larger prints that are crisp with no vibration nor blur.
In low light – before sunrise or after sunset – tripods help with longer exposures. They also allow the camera produce nice, smooth water in waterfall or river images. Below is a longer exposure from a tripod taken along the Pedernales River.

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The Water's Edge 605-1 : Prints Available

I loved the pastel colors on this evening along the edge of the Pedernales River. The water was a bit higher than usual after Spring rains, and this long exposure attempted to capture the beauty of the evening.

I also take a lot of bracketed images (groups of 3, 5, or 7 images of the same scene with different exposure times.) Using a tripod, I’m later able to align these groups of images and tinker with the lighting – what is too dark or too light – to create a photograph more pleasing to the eye. The use of a tripod during bracketing is especially helpful during sunrise or sunset when one of my goals is obtaining a sunburst. Below is an image made up of 7 different images with different exposure times. I later merged these together in photoshop, creating a nice, balanced image. This scene would not have been possible without the use of both a tripod and bracketing.
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The Alter of Palo Duro at Sunset 11-1 : Prints Available

High up on the eastern ridge of Palo Duro Canyon, an arch rests close against the cliff. I’ve heard locals call it the Alter of Palo Duro. I was fortunate to have a friend familiar with the area guide me up to this unmarked location for an opportunity to photograph this remarkable rock formation at sunset. The hike up wasn’t easy. Nearly half of hte trek was off the trail, up loose rock and unforgiving scree. The prickly pear and other plants that stick were more than willing to impede our progress, as well. Finally, at the top of the ridge,, and after a short walk to find the exact location, the arch and landscape spread out before us. As the sunlight neared the horizon, the inner portion of the arch seemed to glow orange. We were the only ones around, and the evening was memorable in that we saw what few visitors to this park witness.

So, in short, use a tripod if your goal is crisp landscape images. I have at least five tripods laying around and each has its purpose. One is lightweight and small – perfect for long hikes. Another is bigger, heavier, and sturdy. And another weights about 50 pounds and is used for astrophotography (I don’t haul it around much!).These tripods are some of many helpful tools that produce high quality photography.
Happy travels, Texas.
Images from Texas

Zen Pools of Enchanted Rock in the Texas Hill Country

The views from the top of Enchanted Rock are incredible. You can see for miles and miles across the rugged Texas landscape that is the hill country. While these vistas are breathtaking, rare ecological gems are often scattered across this wide granite uplift. Formed by weathering and erosion over thousands of years, vernal pools form in the depressions in the granite. Also called soil islands, these small water collections can provide life to a broad range of plant and animal life. Tadpoles, insects, and even fairy shrimp can inhabit these pools. As the rains come and go, these vernal pools are often changing shape, as well.

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Zen Pools of Enchanted Rock 2 : Prints Available

On a picture perfect late afternoon in the Texas Hill Country, the vernal pools at Enchanted Rock are full of water. Rains had fallen for weeks, leaving these little sanctuaries strewn across the granite summit of this famous Texas landscape. Within the small bodies of water, the depressions teemed with life. Some of these pools resembled the yin and yang, so I named them the Zen Pools of Enchanted Rock.

On a recent walkabout at Enchanted Rock State Park, I was struck by the color, the beauty and shapes of these pools after a very wet spring. A few of these pools resembled the Tao – the yin and yang of the zen.

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Zen Pools of Enchanted Rock 1 : Prints Available

Vernal Pools are an important part of the ecological system at Enchante Rock State Park. This gem in the Texas Hill Country offers so many different places to explore. In this Texas landscape, at the higest point in the iconic Llano uplift, the pools formed by depressions in the granite give life to many plants and even animals – tadpools were everywhere in this calm pool.

Another looked like a heart or an arrow.

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Heart Pool at Enchanted Rock 1 : Prints Available

Thousands of years of erosion atop the granite summit on Enchanted Rock leave areas called Vernal Pools. These collections of water pop up after rains and provide sustenance for both plant and animal life. They also provide beautiful subjects for photography. Just as the weather changes constantly, so goes the ebb and flow of the water level, leaving always unique shapes for these ecologically important pools. I named this little depression the Heart Pool, though it will surely look different in a week or so. This is sunset across the Texas Hill Country and this rugged landscape.

And still others housed grasses that stood several feet high. These vernal pools can be found throughout the park, but are most noticeable on the top of Enchanted Rock and Little Rock.

To see more, please visit my Texas Wildflower Gallery.
And follow my current photographic adventures on my Images from Texas Facebook page.

Happy travels!
~ Rob