Photo Journal: Houston To Poteet In Spring

Houston and San Antonio

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

Love Lock Bridge of Houston 1

This pedetrian bridge crosses Allen Parkway near downtown Houston. Known as the Love Lock Bridge, it is adorned with the promises of past and present lovers - locks to seal their adoration for each other.

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.

Downtown Houston from Hogg Park 328-2

From a small drone, this view shows the Houston skyline on a beautiful March afternoon. The greenbelt of Hogg Park shows off its spring colors below

Just a short walk from this location is an overpass that provides another perspective of Houston, taking in both the highway and distant skyscrapers.

Downtown-Houston-at-Sunset-328-1

From a overpass near Hogg Park, the highway leads to the downtown Houston skyline as evening falls across the largest city in Texas.

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.

Theater District near Sesquicentennial Park 328-2

High rises of downtown Houston light up the spring nighttime as their reflections shine in the waters of Buffalo Bayou. The path along this waterway provides great views of the skyline, and on evenings such as this, provides a nice respite from hectic city life.

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.

Buffalo Bayou before Sunrise 330-1

With a light fog rising from the still waterway of Buffalo Bayou, the reflection of the Houston skyline appears clear and colorful on this late spring morning well before dawn. The lights shimmered in the distance and on the water, making for a peaceful beginning to this day in Texas’ largest city.

Spring Morning near Downtown Houston 329-11

From just above Buffalo Bayou, the Houston skyline is seen on a beautiful spring sunrise. Below, the Carruth Pedestrian bridge crosses the still waterway, allowing walking, bikers, and jogges to continue on their morning travels. This downtown photograph was taken about 50 feet above the ground to give a unique perspective to the Houston skyline.

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.

Blue and Gold - Spring Wildflowers 322-1

A small field of groundsel add gold to the landscape. I love the contrast of the blue sky overhead with the colors of this beautiful spring bloom.

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.

This Old Barn 1

Pink blooms of phlox cover a field on a cool March evening south of San Antonio. In the distance, an old barn still stands, a testament to a bygone era.

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!

~ Rob

Images from Texas

The first light of sunrise shines across the sky and low hanging clouds in downtown Houston. Seen here from just above Buffalo...

Spring Morning near Downtown Houston 329-12

The first light of sunrise shines across the sky and low hanging clouds in downtown Houston. Seen here from just above Buffalo Bayou, the morning was beautiful and the green colors of early spring were beginning to show in this big-city sanctuary. This photograph was taken with a drone just above the Caruth Pedestrian Bridge.