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.
Between now and then, happy travels, Texas (or wherever your life leads you)!
As we approach February, I’m already looking forward to March. As those around me know, my least favorite month is February. It is usually cold, gloomy, windy, and lacking in any color. These past few weeks I’ve gone out to shoot around Lady Bird Lake, but the lack of green on many of the trees leave the images feeling drab and lifeless. Here is an aerial view of downtown shot with my drone. While the Austin skyline looks nice, notice the lack of green along the banks.
And I haven’t much bothered with shooting out in the Hill Country, though that time is coming soon with the advent of spring in just about 6 weeks or so.
With all my disgruntledness (is this a word?) about this time of year, one location that does produce for a few weeks at this time of year is Zilker Park’s Lou Neff Point. While the trees lining this portion of the Colorado River are without leaves, at sunrise the sun shows itself straight down the river. This can lead to spectacular sunrises over the water and the Austin skyline. On very cold and calm mornings, you might be lucky and find a mist rising up from the warmer water. This image comes from one of those mornings:
I shot from this same location for over an hour one morning. The change in lighting was dramatic – from 45 minutes before sunrise when Austin glowed beneath the fading darkness to a few minutes after sunrise when light streamed through the mist.
Other than that, I’m just biding time until spring begins to show up again. With trips planned to photograph bluebonnets in Big Bend in March, and all sorts of wildflowers across central throughout the Spring, I should probably just enjoy the down time for a while!
In other news, I’m pleased to say one of my Texas wildflower images will be in a new Austin hotel opening in the fall of 2016. This field of flowers will be 116 feet long and accentuated with textured glass. I look forward to seeing the final product.
I hope everyone fares well in the dog days of February. We should have a very colorful spring as long as El Nino doesn’t turn off the water faucet. If so, I’ll be posting wildflower updates on my facebook page as well as on here, so feel free to follow along.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
As I sit and type this blog, the rain is coming down on my little home in the Texas Hill Country. We’re almost at 2 inches just this morning. And while I know we need the rain, I’m ready for a break just to have a chance to photograph what remains of our Texas wildflower pictures. The last time I was out, maybe 10 days ago, the firewheels and bitterweed (reds and golds) were abundant in Mason and LLano Counties and seemed to get even thicker as you neared San Saba. The prickly pear cacti were beginning to show their colors as well. Alas, I’ll ride out the rain and hopefully find some wildflowers still around when the sun appears again. Here is a panorama of my last trip. This firewheel image was taken north of Llano.
Bluebonnet pictures wasn’t as good as I had hoped, but there were some nice landscapes to be found. I expected the coverage of blue to be more widespread. I think the lack of rain in March held back the more prolific blooms. But around Lake Travis, bluebonnets filled the landscape.
So here are a few thoughts, whether good or bad…
* I know folks enjoy bluebonnets. A lot. I wish more people would respect the wildflowers and those people that will come after them. I saw so many places with bluebonnets completely trampled. I found a nice field with tire tracks running through the middle of it. I witnessed one woman climb over a fence onto private property to take a few photographs. If the bluebonnets plants are not allowed to fully bloom and pass to the seeding stage, they will not reproduce the next year. I realize this doesn’t apply to everyone, but I saw enough to wince. Be respectful out there.
* One of my favorite forums for wildflowers stopped sharing specific locations where the blooms were appearing. Apparently, a few dirt roads that I had traveled a few days before without encountering any cars at all was overrun with cars (50-60+ vehicles) after someone posted how beautiful the area was. And the drive was amazing – roadsides and fields of bluebonnets. But then it had folks climbing fences and mashing the blooms, leaving not much for those that would come later to enjoy the Texas beauty. I don’t know what the solution is here as far as sharing locations, but I do know how to keep the area pristine for others to enjoy.
* Texas has a lot of beauty out there. Whether wildflower season or not, the winding roads of the hill country – both main roads and dirt roads – make for some enjoyable treks. One of my next blogs will be to list a few of my favorite places in Texas to shoot.
* I’ve done a few photography workshops in the past, but haven’t in recent years because it seems I never have free time. I’m considering doing this again, but only taking one or two folks out at a time. I think this would be more enjoyable for all parties. That’s in the works, but I don’t know when it would start.
* There are several places in downtown Austin photos I want to shoot, but again, the weather hasn’t been good for any outdoor photography unless you are doing close-ups or macros.
* Recently, I’ve worked with a few families for portraits. While I normally don’t do much portrait work, I have the lighting equipment and enjoyed producing some nice images for these families. I may look at expanding this service in the future as well. If anyone is interested, let me know. I prefer to shoot outdoors and capture you in the landscapes Texas has to offer.
* Heading to Caddo Lake in a few weeks. I haven’t shot there before, but I’ll have several days with a boat to explore the area. Looking forward to that.
As the bluebonnets fade, the fields give way to other varieties of Texas wildflowers. Along Highways 16 and 71 near Llano, the reds and golds are in full bloom. Led by firewheels and bitterweed, the fields along the highways and dirt roads are alive with color – some appearing as if they are on fire. I don’t normally shoot during the day, but the colors and contrast between the reds, golds, and blue sky were just too much to pass up.
I drove over 400 miles last weekend, searching some of my favorite places to see what this spring would offer. I even discovered a few new areas that I’ll pursue in future years. It seems that north of Llano, over to Brady and back to San Saba offered the best displays of flowers. There is even a nice little red bard along Highway 16 north of Llano that, from the road with a medium telephoto lens, offers a nice landscape view with firewheels in the foreground.
In my travels, I also noticed many prickly pear cacti in bloom. I hope to get out and capture some of these distinctly Texas flowers in the next few weeks – as soon as the weather again allows for good light. For now, it looks like my area of the hill country is set to receive quite a bit of rain over the next 7 days.
In other news, I’m pleased to announce that one of my images will appear on the cover of an upcoming book. Austin, Texas, author Irving Munro will use one of my Austin skyline images on the cover of his second book. See more about Mr. Munro here.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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