In the summertime, my home base is Winter Park, Colorado. I’ve been spending summers here for 25 years and I feel I know the trails and hidden gems pretty well. Of course, some of the more well known places are worth a visit, as well. Between the resort town of Winter Park and the top of Berthoud Pass on Highway 40, there are many trail that branch off from the highway that are worth exploring.

Running through Winter Park is the Fraser River Trail. This river was once great for fly fishing as it passed through Winter Park and Fraser, but as the years have passed, the river has seen some changes – mostly from construction and growth, and even over-fishing (and folks not practicing catch-and-release). I can remember fishing this area 20 years ago and pulling in rainbows and browns regularly, but now I’m happy to catch a few decent fish on a morning’s excursion. But the banks along the Fraser River also offer some nice areas for photography, especially the wildflowers. Lupine, paintbrush, and columbine grow along the Fraser River Trail, coloring the landscape with bright blues, purples, pinks, and reds.

Colorado wildflowers line the Fraser River Trail in Winter Park, Colorado, and attract hummingbirds, ladybugs, and other wildlife.

A hummingbird hovers near a Lupine along the Fraser River Trail.

As you work your way south up Highway 40 from Winter Park, up the switchbacks, and onto Berthoud Pass, you’ll pass several small creeks that are mostly fed from spring snow melt. First and Second Creek wind up the mountain towards Vasquez Ridge. Along the wet and often swampy banks of these little creeks grow Colorado wildflowers of all colors and shapes. I like to arrive at first light and work my way up the banks, photographing whatever flowers and scenes I come across. On these slopes, I can find peace and solitude – a nice escape from the stresses of everyday life – and I can lose myself (not to be confused with getting lost!) for a few quiet hours.

At the top of Berthoud Pass, the famous Continental Divide Trail (CDT) crosses the highway. I like hiking west up the well-marked trail, following the 14 switchbacks up and over to Russell Peak (12,391′), especially before sunrise. Rarely do I see folks up here that early, and the experience of watching the sun climb over the distant peaks is stunning. Often, there are small yellow sunflowers (Old Man of the Mountain – not to be confused with me) that line the trail and grassy slopes at this lofty elevation. The views atop the small summit offer expansive views of Vasquez Ridge and the valley below. In the distance, you can even see a curve of Highway 40, giving you some perspective about how high up the climb takes you.

 

The Continental Divide Trail near Winter Park, Colorado, provides amazing views of the surrounding mountains.

On the way up the Continental Divide Trail just off of Highway 40, I paused to look back and saw the crescent moon rising in the east just ahead of sunrise.

As you travel back down Highway 40 towards Empire, there is another stop to make and explore – Butler Gulch. But I’ll save this area for a little later. The wildflowers don’t really show up in that area until at least late July.

Thanks for reading. Please feel free to follow my journeys on my Colorado facebook page.

Happy Travels!

~ Rob

Images from Colorado

With the heat of summer bearing down on the Lone Star State, I’ve escaped to the mountains of Colorado for a while. With my wife holding down the store front back in the Hill Country, I’m off gallivanting around Colorado in the middle of the night – photographing the Milky Way – and trying to grow our business in the Rocky Mountain State.

I haven’t had the luxury of much sleep lately. A few mornings ago, I shot at the top of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park (the highest paved road in the United States). From this lofty vantage point over 11,000 feet in elevation, the Milky Way is clear and crisp. But to witness the nighttime spectacle, I had to roll out of bed at 1:45am. I normally never use an alarm clock – always able to awaken on my own even for early morning sunrise shots. However, this was a little early for me. I then drove the one-plus hour to RMNP and made my way up the switchbacks, above tree line, set up and enjoyed the light show. Using a star tracker, I took several long exposures of the Milky Way in a few different locations. One location looked across one of the valleys of RMNP where low clouds filled the cracks and crevices. Another, Lake Irene, provided both a trail and a lake to use in different images. I’d photographed Lake Irene many years before at night, but wanted to return in order to produce high quality prints and digital files – some that could go quite large – up to 8 or 9 feet high – and would retain their crispness.

Starry night over Lake Irene in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Located in Rocky Mountain National Park, Lake Irene is a small, high mountain lake sitting at about 10,000 feet in altitude. In early summer – around 3:30am, the Milky Way rises over this area. Here, the beautiful night sky even showed in the reflections of the calm water.

I returned to RMNP a few days later – this time shooting just after sunset when the Milky Way is more in a horizontal position. I also shot this same view of the Milky Way over Lake Dillon Reservoir near Frisco and Breckenridge.

I think now I’ll focus more on sunrise and sunset photographs. The middle-of-the-night stuff is wearing me down!

Feel free to visit my new Colorado gallery. I hope to be adding images to it for quite a while now.

Happy travels, my friends!

~ Rob

Follow my on my Colorado Facebook page, too!

As the summertime weather moves in, it is time for me to head north to the Rocky Mountains. I’m looking forward to working on and adding to my Colorado Images website. I hope to travel around the state for a month or so photographing mountains, towns, and wildflowers – and maybe even the Milky Way if the conditions are right.

I recently spent a week out in west Texas shooting in and around the Davis Mountains. This little state park rests between Big Bend National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Davis Mountains State Park is small in comparison – only about 2700 acres – but does offer a few trails for hiking and biking. The Skyline Drive Trail boasts some spectacular views of these ancient mountains, and when I was photographing this Texas landscape at sunrise and sunset, I rarely saw another person.

http://www.imagesfromtexas.com/photo/davis-mountains-sunrise-4/

Connected to Davis Mountains S.P. is Fort Davis National Historic Site. You can reach this restored military outpost (manned from 1854 to 1891) by hiking a two mile trail from the Davis Mountains or driving your car to the site’s parking lot. If you hike, the views as you wind down the lava cliffs into the Fort Davis valley are spectacular. Walking the grounds and taking in the exhibits displaying what life was like 150 years ago on the frontier, one can begin to appreciate the harshness of the area and the sacrifices that were made protecting settlers from marauding Indians.

To see a collection of images from this west Texas area, please visit my Images from Texas website.

Thanks, and happy travels!

~ Rob

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I’m pleased to announce the launch of a new website, this one featuring my Colorado images. After the success of Images from Texas, I felt the time was right to start displaying some of my work from the Centennial State.  I’ve created several galleries on the website and will be adding more in the coming weeks, months, and even years. My plans are to feature some of the more popular mountain towns like Ouray, Silverton, Aspen, Breckenridge, and Winter Park. Complementing these galleries will be a collection of wildflower images from American Basin, Yankee Boy Basin, the San Juan mountains, and many other iconic summer locations. Other galleries will showcase hiking trails, mountain summits, including some 14ers, and even  black and white photography. Eventually, I hope to include a Denver gallery by adding both local flavor and skyline images.

Colorado wildflower such as these are often found above tree line in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Colorado wildflowers (Old Man of the Mountain) enjoy the last light of evening on the rocky slopes in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Please take a minute to peruse these images. I’ll be adding to this work every day for a while.

Happy Travels! ~ Rob

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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.

Port Aransas is beautiful at the beginning and end of the day.

The beach at Port Aransas on the Texas coast is a nice place to enjoy the sunrise or sunset. Here, seagulls soar overhead as the sun sets in the west. Waves roll in gently, reflecting the sunset colors in the soft water and shifting sands.

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.

Seagulls fly over the beach at Port Aransas, Texas.

The sunrise greeted the Texas coast and Port Aransas with a display of orange and blue on this warm June morning. Seagulls coasted overhead as waves rolled onto the sandy beach. In the distance. Caldwell Pier stretched out 1200 feet into the gulf of Mexico.

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:

Blue skies and seagulls enjoy a summer afternoon at Port Aransas, Texas.

Port Aransas has a thriving bird population. Here, seagulls coast along this sandy Texas beach. You can even see a half moon rising in the southeast. I don’t normally shoot much during the day, but I do love the contrast between the seagulls and blue sky.

I do look forward returning again in the fall. There are many more places to see and experience, and more seafood to be enjoyed!

Happy Travels.

~ Rob

 

 

Waiting for the Rain

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:

Bluebonnets grow along the shores of Lake Travis on the edge of the Texas Hill Country.

Sunrise greets a flowing field of Texas bluebonnets. As the state wildflower, the bluebonnet is a favorite of Texans everywhere.

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.

The Austin skyline rises in to the cold February morning air.

On a cold morning near the Long Center, the Austin skyline shines in the early morning air. In the southeast, the crescent moon leads the sun above the horizon. This pool to the north of the Long Center offers great reflections of this beautiful central Texas captiol city.

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.

This aerial view of Austin overlooks South Congress heading north to the Capitol.

The Austin skyline awakens to soft pastels of pink and blue in this aerial panorama image looking down Congress Avenue towards downtown and the Texas State Capitol. Taken on a cold February morning, this view shows the high rises that make up the cityscape of this capitol city.

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!

~ Rob

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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.

Bluebonnets fill the dry sandy shores along the Colorado River and Lake Travis.

Along the Colorado River portion of Lake Travis, this sandy bank is usually underwater. However, severe drought exposed this area and in the spring of 2015, bluebonnets exploded across the land, creating a different sort of lake! These Texas wildflowers were everywhere, and the sunset was magical on this quiet April evening.

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.

Safe Travels

~ Rob

Images from Texas