I haven’t “blogged” here recently. But I’m back to share a few images from the past few months, as well as offer an informal review of the new Sony A7r, a 36mp mirrorless camera.

First, this spring’s bluebonnet season was a bust. There really isn’t any way to sugarcoat it. What started with much potential with the rains last fall ended in a drought. Sure, there were a few nice spots. I drove many miles south and east of Austin and San Antonio. The best wildflower images I found were not bluebonnets, but a mix of flowers on Church Road near New Berlin. Below is an image from an early morning there. For more wildflower images, please visit my wildflower gallery.

A Texas wildflower image from the Spring of 2014 shows a variety of colors at sunrise.

From near New Berlin east of San Antonio, this field of Texas wildflowers was one of the few colorful displays in the spring of 2014.

Another location that broke the norm was Turkey Bend, just southeast of Marble Falls, Texas. This little park offered a huge field of bluebonnets. Unfortunately, folks also used the field to plow their trucks through and leave tracks. One evening the field was great. The next, the bluebonnets were smashed into the ground. I just do not understand people sometimes.

This bluebonnet image comes from Turkey Bend, just south of Marble Falls in the Texas Hill Country.

Sunrise at Turkey Bend shows a field of bluebonnets – one of the few nice Texas wildflower displays in 2014.

As the bluebonnets faded, I had hopes of other Texas wildflowers replacing them. Firewheels were set to explode, but the lack of rain prevented them from ever really putting on an impressive display as in years’ past. The roadsides showed some nice color, but the fields just didn’t have much to offer. So I turned my attention to the prickly pear cactus.

I haven’t spent much time in the past looking for this cactus with yellow and orange blooms. But this year I still wanted to find some nice colors. After a lot of miles driving around and days spent exploring, I finally decided to focus on Enchanted Rock State Park. On the lesser outcrop, Little Rock (just west of Enchanted Rock), there were some nice displays of the Prickly Pear. I awoke very early one morning and headed out to photograph the milky way from Enchanted Rock, then capture the blooming cacti as the sun rose. While the milky way was great, I discovered the Prickly Pear cacti flowers close up at night. Uggh! So I returned several different evenings, hoping for a stellar sunset. Finally, I captured what I was after, but not before many rather painful pokes from cacti needles.

Prickly Pear Cacti bloom at Enchanted Rock State Park in the Texas Hill Country.

In this Texas Hill Country Image, the prickly pear cactus blooms at Enchanted Rock State Park.

You see more Prickly Pear images on my Texas Hill Country gallery.

Aside from chasing wildflowers this spring, I’ve been trying out the new Sony A7r. I should say I shoot with Canon cameras, including a 5D3 and 5D2, as well as with many L lenses. I’m happy with Canon. Still, when the new A7r appeared and offered a high resolution camera at a very light weight, I thought I’d try it. After all, I spend a lot of time lugging a heavy, camera-laden backpack around. In Colorado, when I’m chasing those Colorado wildflowers and climbing 14ers, I can often cover 10-20 miles in a day. A powerful, lightweight camera did sound good.

I’m not going to get bogged down in the details. You can find many reviews of the camera online if you want to delve into all the formal reviews. I’ll just share my experiences. First, the good (and keep in mind, I’m coming at this from a landscape photographer’s perspective who tries to earn a living at this gig. I don’t particularly like photographing people, though I will do it for friends). I have been using the A7r with a Zeiss 35mm lens.
The good:
1 – It is lightweight = great for backpacking. It really lightens my load. I wish more lenses were available, primarily a wide angle lens. There is a 16-35mm on the horizon. I will see what the reviews are on that before purchasing. I know I could buy an adapter for my Canon lenses, but then I’d lose the perk of a light weight camera.
2 – the detail is incredible. There is really a noticeable difference in resolution from the A7r and my Canon 5D3. Still, the 5D3 can produce very large, clean images when shot from a tripod and using good glass.
3 – The ability of the A7r to bring up shadows and turn night images into photos that appear to be taken in the day is unrivaled. Absolutely no comparison with anything Canon has.

What holds me back:
1 – to me, it is not intuitive (maybe this is bc I can work the Canon functions with my eyes closed). When the color is popping at sunrise or sunset, I just don’t trust it.
2 – I don’t trust the colors. Coming out of the camera, the colors are just not true to life – and I’m talking about primarily at sunrise or sunset. I find there is yellow banding and I’m not happy with the sunflare just yet.
3 – You cannot bracket and use the timer. This is just a brain fart by Sony. The landscape photographers I know bracket, and bracket nearly everything around sunrise or sunset. There is a workaround – I ordered a remote control from China that helps, but you still have to make it take three images by clicking 3 times – it will not do this automatically.

Bottom line is the camera has great detail and handles night images extremely well. I’ll be using it more with my astrotracker to photograph the milky way. But when the sun is on the horizon, I’ll be sticking with my canon cameras.

OK… last thing… I spent a peaceful evening at Mount Bonnell. This image comes from that evening. If you are visiting Austin, Texas, this is a nice place to see the sun dip into the horizon out across the Texas Hill Country. See more Austin images here.

The sun falls into the Texas Hill Country. This Austin image comes from Mount Bonnell on a peaceful May evening.

Sunset comes to Austin, Texas, as seen from Mount Bonnell.

Thanks for reading!

Feel free to follow my photography on my photography facebook page.

~ Rob