June 30, 2016
Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to photograph one of the favorite vacation destinations of Texans – Port Aransas, Texas. (Go here all of the newest Port Aransas photos.) This little coastal town is just up the road from Rockport and Corpus Christi and provides a relatively close location for a quick getaway, especially from Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. I tried to shoot at sunrise and sunset each day I was there. I do love walking the beach in the early morning. Even in the summer, you’ll have the stretch of sand mostly to yourself. Of course, the herons and seagulls will be making their morning rounds looking for small fish and sand crabs.
One of the unique landmarks of the area is the Horace Caldwell Fishing Pier. This wooden structure stretches out 1200 feet into the surf, allowing anglers to put their lines in where the fish are. The pier also makes for a nice foreground when the sun is rising in the east.
One thing I discovered while walking the beach in the afternoon is that seagulls like bread. I made the mistake of tossing up a portion of bread to a hovering seagull. Amazingly, and literally within seconds, twenty or more seagulls flapped around me wanting a handout. While this was amusing, I also realized this would make for a unique photo opportunity. Here is the result:
I do look forward returning again in the fall. There are many more places to see and experience, and more seafood to be enjoyed!
February 10, 2016
The month of February is not high on my list of favorite months. This usually gray, cold, windy month leaves me longing for the end of March when our Texas wildflowers begin to appear. The weather folks say El Nino is as strong as ever, but here in the Hill Country, it has been 38 days since we’ve enjoyed any appreciable rainfall. This does not bode well for a colorful spring. Copious amounts of rain fell in November and December. Parts of my land are covered in bluebonnet rosettes right now – as many as I have ever seen. But these baby bonnets need some rain, as do their seedling cousins, the Indian paintbrush, the coreopsis, and the firewheels, among others. The long term forecast from the Climate Prediction Center shows the weather pattern may change in a few weeks, hopefully bringing us into a more favorable jet stream cycle. Keep your fingers crossed! In the meantime, here is a bluebonnet field from 2013 along the shores of Lake Travis. Ironically, this stretch of land is now underwater thanks to the precipitation from this past fall:
In the meantime, I’ve spent more time in downtown Austin searching for unique angles of the skyline where few, if any, cranes are visible. That is a difficult task. Still, there are a few locations where you can minimize the distractions. And from certain perspectives, the cranes are easily removed through post-processing in photoshop. In the winter months when the trees are bare, I like to shoot at a few of these locations.
First, Lou Neff Point offers a great view across the water of the downtown cityscape. In late January, the sun rises directly down the eastern flow of Lady Bird Lake. Often on cold mornings, fog drifts off the warmer water creating a mystical feel as the first light permeates the mist. From about 40 minutes before sunrise to a few minutes afterwards, this single location offers a great contrast in lighting conditions, and you don’t have to move at all. Just wear warm clothing because standing still when the temperature is in the low 30s is not a recipe for patience.
Next, I enjoy shooting at a pool near the Long Center. On calm mornings, this shallow structure gives wonderful reflections of Austin’s most well-known high rises, including the Austonian and the Frost Tower. Two flag poles rise in the same image and give you a chance to use them in framing the buildings if so desired. I also like to create a panorama from this area, and that allows me to include most of the skyline and even the Long Center itself.
Recently, I’ve also been flying my drone a bit more in an attempt to capture some unique views of the downtown area. About 25 minutes before sunrise, with a faint glow of orange on the horizon, I can start shooting downtown Austin aerial photographs. With such low light, many of the shots come back blurry, so I make sure I take plenty. Usually, I can obtain a few crisp RAW files to work with, and often use them in creating wide angle panoramas of the skyline. The image below shows downtown as seen from South Congress Avenue looking north, and this panorama is made of 3 separate images. At the end of South Congress is the Texas State Capitol.
While I await our spring wildflower season, locations such as these keep me coming out for early morning sunrises. But I do admit, I’m ready for spring. We just need a little rain to make the wait worthwhile!
In the meantime, happy travels, everyone!
January 16, 2016
The latest ENSO (El Nino – Southern Oscillation) report came out just a few days ago. All indications are this weather pattern will continue into spring and early summer. For us Texas Hill Country folks, that means more rain and mild temperatures. It also holds the promise of a spectacular Texas wildflower display beginning in March and lingering into May.
In past El Nino Years such as 1998, 2005, and 2010, the wildflower blooms were some of the most colorful on record. And I am banking on this spring surpassing in color and coverage these past El Nino Events.
The image below shows what the shores along the Colorado River and Lake Travis looked like last year. This year, these same areas are underwater thanks to the copious rains that have fallen already.
I expect the wildflowers to start showing up in early March down south – south of San Antonio. Some of the Big Bend Bluebonnets may even bloom in early February depending on the weather. I have plans to visit the Big Bend area in mid-March, so I’m hoping I can shoot there during peak, or at least close to it. Last year I was there the third week in March and a few fields of bluebonnets put on some amazing displays – mostly well off the beaten path.
In early April, bluebonnets in the Hill Country should begin to fill in. Expectations are high for areas around Mason, Llano, and Fredericksburg, as well up near San Saba. Areas east of Austin may explode with color, too. Anywhere along the 290 corridor to Houston is full of potential. From there, the bloom will move north. Ennis, famous for their bluebonnet trail, should enjoy nice colors this April.
One thing to note – with milder temperatures that linger later into spring, the bloom may be pushed back a week or two from average. But patience will be rewarded.
In any case, start making plans to get out and enjoy the colors. This should be an unforgettable wildflower season – one that you’ll talk about for years to come.
I’ll also be updating wildflower sightings on my facebook page.
January 2, 2016
As I reflect on 2015, I’m filled with thankfulness on what has been a really good year.
My life is busy. Trying to manage a hectic work schedule while keeping a wife and two wonderful little girls happy can be formidable. And I know I’m not alone in this challenge. Lots of folks out there work through the same issues – some going at it alone and with much less support. So for starters, I’m grateful for the patience of my family. As my photography business has grown over the last few years starting with the Rob Greebon Photography website, free time has become a premium. And with the launch of my newest website, Images from Texas, business has more than doubled in the last 9 months. That’s great, but it also creates more demands and responsibilities. I’m also excited about the future. My girls are old enough now where they are starting to want to accompany me on some of my treks. While I’m not sure if they are quite ready for 4am wake-up calls, they did stay out with me one night to photograph the Milky Way while at Pedernales Falls (yes, the following day was a bit tough). More adventures will be in their future, I imagine!
Along with this, around the middle of June, whether through circumstance or fate or whatever you want to call it, a new opportunity arose in my life. With support of my family, stepping through this opened door has been a blessing – both with the new people I’ve met as well as the enjoyment of day to day life. While I won’t go into more detail, it was a prayer answered.
I’m also thankful for having the good fortune to live in the Texas Hill Country just outside of Austin, Texas. The state parks are enchanting and the opportunity to photograph the Texas landscapes seem endless. I’m a short drive from the Pedernales River and Pedernales Falls State Park, and it isn’t too much further to Enchanted Rock. The sunrises and sunsets can be stunning. Often when I’m out at sunrise I’ll not see another person the entire time. I do like my quiet time.
The Texas Hill Country also offers dark skies which are perfect for photographing the night sky. Whether it is the Milky Way or a meteor shower, clear nights can be amazing. Here is a time-lapse image from the Perseid Meteor shower that comes around each August. This final image is a composite of over 3 hours of photographing the meteors.
Another aspect of life I’m grateful for is the beauty that I find in the details of what I photograph. This idea is especially evident each spring when I’m out searching for Texas wildflowers. Sometimes when I find a field of bluebonnets, I am in awe of the beauty that springtime in Texas brings. I know there is suffering in this world, but there is also good. And through my photography I try to bring out the uniqueness, the color, and the amazing scenes that are out there for us to appreciate.
As I get older, I think I’m getting better at enjoying the little things despite a hectic schedule. I try to stop and really notice my daughters – their expressions, their wonder, their precious mannerisms. I am not as stressed about things that just don’t matter in the big scheme of things. I stare at the the stars a little more at night; I study the patterns and petals of a red and gold firewheel just a bit more when it blooms in the spring. The fleeting time I have with my few close friends I appreciate even more for I know the moments will not last.
I have a pretty good life, and it is just getting better. 2016 is going to rock!
Happy Travels, everyone.
And follow my photography on my facebook page if you are so inclined 🙂
December 12, 2015
I had the opportunity to travel through the Texas Panhandle during the middle of Thanksgiving. I took this opportunity to spend a few days at Palo Duro Canyon State Park just south of Amarillo. I’ve passed by this area so many times to and from Colorado, but my car was always packed and I’d have miles to travel before I slept, so Palo Duro never made it in the plans. This time, however, I stopped. And I’m glad I did.
First, I invite you to visit this gallery and see all my Palo Duro Canyon images. I’ll also be adding the same images to this gallery, but it will be a bit longer as this location is still a work in progress.
The gates at Palo Duro Canyon State Park do not open until 8:00am. This can pose a problem for photographers if you are not staying in the park. As I was with my family, and camping out in 20 degree temperatures was not an option, we stayed in nearby Canyon, Texas. So in order to shoot in the canyon at sunrise, I arranged with a park ranger to enter the park boundaries about an hour before sunrise. This kindness from the Park folks made all the difference on this trip. I was able to photograph sunrise both at the canyon rim and down on the trails, and the colors I enjoyed were magnificent.
One evening, I convinced my patient wife to accompany me on a 6 mile walk (round trip) to one of the icons of the park, the Lighthouse. This trail is the most popular in the park. As we walked the first three miles, we encountered many folks returning, but no one going our way. We arrived about an hour before sunset. We had the beautiful hoodoo all to ourselves. We explored, talked, took in the view, and enjoyed a sunset not soon forgotten. Our walk back as a nearly full moon lit the trail before us was both surreal and enchanting.
As far as the technical aspects of shooting here, I’d suggest a tripod and a wide angle lens. I primarily used my Canon 11-24L and my 24-105L (just a bit). All images were shot with the Canon 5DSr, and the details are incredible.
On the way back to the Hill Country, I also had the opportunity to shoot both a cotton field and a crazy good sunset over a field of hay bales, and both seemed about as “Texas” as you can get.
If you like rugged Texas landscapes, I hope you get the chance to visit this remote part of our state. It is well worth the effort. Personally, I’d like to return in spring when everything is turning green and the wildflowers are blooming and again in Autumn when the trees are changing.
In the meantime, happy travels, everyone!
October 20, 2015
The Austin skyline offers the photographer many options, from sweeping panoramas to close-ups of the skyscrapers. Photographing the capitol city of Texas presents aesthetic challenges, as well. I’ve tried to go out recently at sunrise to play with the new Canon 5DSr – putting it through the rounds and trying to see what 50 megapixels looks like.
A few of my favorite areas to photograph the skyline come from Lou Neff Point along the Hike and Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake. All along this path, you’ll find nice compositions of the downtown area. From the Pedestrian Bridge just east of the Lamar Bridge, you’ll also find a photo opportunity of the high rises with Lady Bird Lake in the foreground.
Earlier, I mentioned aesthetic challenges – and here is why: the Austin skyline is growing exponentially. On any given week, you can count seven or more cranes popping into the air, making the downtown area not-so-pleasing. So when I’ve been downtown this past year, I look for scenes where the cranes are not visible. One location with a crane-free view comes from beneath the First Street Bridge. I found another looking at the State Capitol from Congress Avenue on the south side of Lady Bird Lake. But for this view, you have to be careful to avoid traffic (I shoot this area early in the morning on a weekend – fewer cars).
For the wider angle skyline views, and even panoramas, one of my favorite locations is the Zilker Clubhouse on the west side of Mopac. I like sunrise here because you can often have amazing colors in the sky. Nearby – just a small distance from the Zilker Clubhouse gate – is a nearby trail leading to an opening that provides a sweeping view of the city. You have to stand on a rock wall to see above the trees, but the view is worth it. Getting your tripod legs to fit on the small wall can be a challenge, but do-able. Taking several images from this location to stitch into a panorama scene works perfect for longer lenses (I use a 24-105 or a 70-200 here). For scenes like this, I’ll also go into photoshop and clone out the cranes to give the entire image a cleaner feel.
If you want to see more examples of the Austin skyline – both standard sizes and panoramas – feel free to visit my new website’s Austin skyline gallery.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
September 29, 2015
The State Capitol in downtown Austin, Texas, is a photographer’s dream. The building itself covers 2.5 acres of land and is surrounded by 22 acres of lush, well-manicured trees, gardens, and shrubs. Along with the greenery, over 20 monuments and statues fill the grounds, each commemorating an important figure or event in Texas History. And here is a bit of trivia… did you know the same man who designed the Texas State Capitol (Elijah Myers) also designed the Michigan and Colorado Capitols? In return for his services to Texas, he was granted 3,000,000 acres in the panhandle!
The Capitol opened in 1888. Over the years, this landmark has undergone several renovations. In 1990, an underground Capitol Extension was built on the north side of the building, creating a few unique opportunities for photography including a ground-level glass atrium that can be used as a foreground, a 65-foot deep open-air rotunda, and several flower gardens.
I enjoy shooting the historic architecture in the early morning or late evening. In the half-light of morning, the red-granite building seems to glow in the warm sunlight. Even before that, you can enjoy a nice deep blue (known as the blue-hour) to accentuate the sky above the capitol. When doing this, I often bracket my images (taking 3-5 images of the same composition with different exposures). The Capitol is lit by bright floodlights at night, so these different exposures can be used to soften the harsh or overexposed light or even blended together in HDR fashion.
Monuments around the Capitol can be used as foreground elements or even for close up telephoto or macro images. Another of my favorite locations is the Great Walk – the sidewalk leading from Congress Avenue to the front steps of the Building. The checkerboard path makes for great contrast, especially when converting an image into black and white. Play with the level of your tripod for different views of the sidewalk.
As noted in the previous paragraph, I mentioned a tripod. I always shoot with a tripod because my exposures area usually several seconds long during the hours I’m there. I always shoot as ISO 100 and most often use a wide-angle lens set at f/11-f/18, depending on the proximity of my foreground objects.
I have two galleries dedicated to the Lone Star Government Seat – one linked above and on Texas State Capitol Gallery here. The latter is a newer website featuring only Texas images and usually has more current photography and prints available. Feel free to visit either site, and don’t hesitate to contact me should you have any questions!