I don’t like driving. I’m the first to admit that. However, living the life of a photographer means road trips, especially when trying to cover all that Texas has to offer. This past week, I had the opportunity to shoot for a client in Houston, then swing south to hang out with a friend in San Antonio and look for early spring wildflowers.
After arranging a meet-up in H-Town with a friend and fellow photographer from the Woodlands, I headed out the door and made the 3-hour trip (not tour) to my hotel just a few minutes from downtown. This trip would entail shooting around the Buffalo Bayou and Hogg Park area in the afternoon, evening and again at sunrise. Driving the last 30 minutes along the monstrous I-10 in the rain left me with some doubts about this portion of the trip’s success, but the weathermen seemed to agree – the clouds would be filtering out and clearer skies would prevail. Sure enough, they were right.
It has been a while since I’ve shot in Houston. I generally try to stay out in the country where the big landscapes flow to the horizon. In Houston, Texas’ largest city, there are a few new high rises reaching into the sky, and there always seems to be more traffic than I expect. But Buffalo Bayou and the surrounding hike-and-bike trails still seem like an oasis in a sea of steel and concrete. While I much prefer the wilds of Palo Duro Canyon or remote regions of Big Bend and west Texas, a shimmering skyline as the sun sets below the horizon always draws me in. And the views from the trails around Eleanor Tinsley Park paralleling Allen Parkway proved no different.
I met up with my friend, then we walked a short distance to the popular and aptly named “Love Lock Bridge.” I’d not photographed this before, and noticed the bridge that spans Allen Parkway reminded me of the bridge by the same name in Paris. Locks of varying sizes and colors adorned the fence, placed there by past lovers. I used a hole (already) cut into the fence as an opening to photograph the skyline – both during the afternoon and after sunset
This was an interesting perspective, but I had my mind on other sights and soon we were off.
Buffalo Bayou offers many different views, and a few really nice areas for taking in the shimmering skyline during sunset. Not far from this area is Hogg Park. From this location, I used a drone to photograph a slightly different perspective of downtown. I kept the drone low, but with just enough altitude to gather in both the foreground and the distant buildings. In the image below, the vertically-oriented image is actually a panorama of three separate photos stacked on top of each other.
Just a short walk from this location is an overpass that provides another perspective of Houston, taking in both the highway and distant skyscrapers.
While I wish I had more time here, decisions had to be made – shoot here after dark or move to other areas. I finally decided on more variety, so we returned to a different location along Buffalo Bayou – a nice area near the Theater and Fine Arts District. After making friends with the curious geese looking for handouts, we shot a few long exposures of the high rises and their reflections in the still water. I was pleased with the way these turned out.
Around 10pm, we said out goodbyes, and I headed to my hotel for a short sleep. And in just a few hours, I was returning to the area well before sunrise to photograph first light. Here are a few images – one from before sunrise when fog was lifting off the water, and another a panorama using the drone as the sun peeked over the horizon.
Back at the hotel, I had a quick breakfast and was soon on the road. I drove four hours to the south of San Antonio, checked out a few of my favorite wildflower sights for later (areas near Poteet), and discovered how dismal this wildflower season was shaping up to be. Every few years, the area around Church Road can be amazing. This year, however, the fields are dirt and weeds. Disappointed, I drove on to meet a friend and head back out to explore more, hoping to find a proper and colorful field of flowers to shoot at sunset. After a few hours of driving, we only saw a few options – one golden field covered in groundsel seen below.
And another with a smattering of purple phlox and a few bluebonnets. The old barn caught our attention, so we ended the evening photographing a pastel sky as the sun fell below the horizon.
And that was the trip. We had planned on heading out for sunrise that next morning, but the rain and fog turned us away.
Since that excursion a few weeks ago, I’ve since explored parts of the hill country between Fredericksburg, Mason, Llano, and Round Mountain. All in all, it is the worst bluebonnet season we’ve had in a while. Even some of my favorite and little known locations – far down dirt roads where word has not reached the public about these hidden gems, the fields were filled with scrub and weeds. And to make matters worse, the trees are in disarray – broken and tattered after February’s snow and ice storm. On our own property, the bluebonnets were about 30% of normal. If there is a bright side, I’ve found hints of firewheels starting to grow, so I’m holding out hope that late April and May may produce a few areas of colorful wildflowers. Time will tell.
In the meantime, safe travels!
Images from Texas