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 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 🙂
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.
August 1, 2015
I have spent the past 6 weeks in Colorado hiking, photographing the amazing landscapes, and enjoying the cooler weather. From the southern portion of the state in the San Juans to the Maroon Bells near Aspen to my base in Winter Park, the roads I’ve taken have been beautiful and exciting. Along with a friend, I was able to climb another 14er this summer (Humbolt Peak – 14,064 feet), my 31st mountain over 14,000 feet, along with hikes to Booth Lake (over 10 miles) and Byers Peak (nearly 13,000 feet). All were great experiences that left us a bit tired but satisfied with our accomplishments, especially the 14.90 mile trek up Humbolt Peak. Here is the view from the summit as it looks across to Crestone Needle and Crestone Peak.
The last week or so I was in Colorado, high country wildflowers began to bloom. Oh, if I only had a few more weeks there!
But alas, work calls and I had to return to photograph the Austin skyline for a client.
When I was rolling out of Winter Park, the temperature was 41 degrees. Even while driving through New Mexico, the temps staying in the 60s. Amazingly, as soon as I crossed into Texline on the Texas/New Mexico border, the temperature suddenly jumped into the 90s. That’s crazy! And now we’re in the 100s once again. I think it is going to be a long month of August (Coincidentally, August and February are my least favorite months of the year for many reasons… but that is another story). The goal now is to survive August, find a few nice photo opportunities, and make it to the fall when the leaves change and the cooler temperatures prevail!
I’ve put some of my favorite Rocky Mountain photo here: Colorado Images
Stay cool, everyone!
May 16, 2015
A few weeks ago I spent some time in the Texas Hill Country north of Llano. The wildflowers of red and gold covered the fields and I looked forward to a week or two of photographic opportunities. Firewheels were abundant, bitterweed (sweet yellow) were mixed in, and coreopsis (yellow) were beginning to bloom, as well. And then El Nino kicked in. I haven’t returned to this area since early May because it has been rainy and cloudy every day – 10 straight days, I think.
My new wildflower images are posted on my website in this Texas wildflower gallery. Here is one landscape from that area. The light was getting long in the evening and the reds of firewheels filled the pasture in front of a red barn.
With the continuous rain over the last few weeks, I revisited a few of my Austin photos. One that I really like comes from the pool near the Long Center. I know some folks like black and white and some prefer color. I really like both. This black and white image is a panorama taken about 40 minutes before sunrise. Fog drifted through the downtown area, and everything was still.
In the next year, I hope to start offering more one-day photo workshops, but limiting it to just a few people. This is in the plans, and I’d like to use the Texas Hill Country as a base. We’ll see what happens with that, but stay tuned for details.
Thanks for reading. Have a good week, everyone.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks for reading!
Feel free to follow my photography on my photography facebook page.
February 1, 2014
I’ve been asked several time what my favorite places are around Austin, Texas, to photograph. After thinking a bit, I thought I’d come up with my Top 10 list. In the meantime, you can follow my current photographic adventures on my Facebook Photography business page. You can also find my images at one of my business sites – either Rob Greebon Photography or Images from Texas.
So, here are my Top Ten locations around the Austin area (and a few that are short drives out of town).
10 – Mount Bonnell
Located just off 2222, Mount Bonnell is the 2nd highest point in Austin and offers great views of the Colorado River and the 360 Bridge in one direction and the Austin skyline in the other. It is a short walk up some steps from the parking lot. From here, you can enjoy great sunrises and sunsets. If you shoot in the morning, the sun will be at your back. Shooting towards the river and the 360 Bridge in the evening will have the sun setting in front of you.
9 – The Long Center
Home to world class performances, the Long Center also offers a balcony with a fabulous view of downtown Austin. At sunrise you’ll have the sky turning colors. In the evening (on a night when there is no show) you can have the Austin skyline lighting up as sunset fades.
8 – Lou Neff Point and the Zilker Park and the Hike and Bike Trails
Take your camera and walk the trails at Zilker Park that surround Lady Bird Lake. You’ll find numerous locations to shoot from, including the foot bridges that cross over Barton Creek as it feeds into Lady Bird Lake. Swans and water fowl also provide opportunities to photograph these beautiful creatures as they enjoy lazy afternoons in the clear water.
Lou Neff Point is along the Zilker Park Hike and Bike Trails, but it deserves it’s own mention. This point offers a great view of the Austin skyline across the waters of Lady Bird Lake. I love mornings here when the sun rises in front of you and lights up the sky. In the early morning calm, you can often capture a great reflection of the skyline in the water.
7 – Zilker Park Clubhouse
The Zilker Park Clubhouse is on the opposite side of MoPac. It is often locked up with a gate, but there are trails leading to the balcony that afford you fantastic views of downtown Austin. Just down the road (before you reach the clubhouse) is a small parking area that leads to another great view of the Austin skyline. If you shoot here at sunrise, you’ll have the sun rising in front of you. In the evenings, you’ll have a backlit skyline with glass reflecting the oranges and reds of the setting sun.
6 – Congress Bridge, Lamar Bridge, and Lady Bird Lake
Also located along the Zilker Park Hike and Bike Trails, these two bridges offer opportunities to capture unique views of Austin, including kayakers and scullers, views of the state capitol (from Congress), and the interesting architecture of the bridges themselves.
5 – Hamilton Pool
Located about 30 minutes outside of Austin out Hamilton Pool Road, Hamilton Pool offers a chance to photograph an amazing grotto and emerald pool. You can also take a dip when the water is clean. Hamilton Pool does charge an admission, and the change in lighting offers a challenge in finding the optimal exposures. This is a location where HDR can really help you obtain a balance of lights and darks. One downfall of Hamilton Pool is that their hours are very limiting – keeping you out during the magic hours of sunrise and sunset. On the winter solstice, you have the best chance at changing colors in the sky. I was there for just this moment and stayed until the kind park ranger escoreted me out 🙂
4 – The University of Texas at Austin
Famous for the UT Tower, the University of Texas also offers interesting architecture and pools to photograph. Still, the tower is an icon and one of the most photographed locations in Texas. Pick an evening when UT has the tower lit orange and your image will be further enhanced.
3 – Pedernales Falls State Park
Pedernales Falls State Park is located about 45 minutes outside of Austin and is well worth the drive through rolling hills. In the spring, wildflowers bloom along the clear waters of the Pedernales River. In autumn, the cypress trees turn a brilliant orange. In summer, cool off in the cold water and enjoy an afternoon. Sunrises and sunsets offer great chances to catch the soft light. The way the river twists and turns, you can always find an angle that gives you a colorful magic hour.
2 – Pennybacker Bridge (also known as the 360 Bridge)
Outside of Austin at the intersection of 2222 and the 360/Capitol of Texas Highway, Percy Pennybacker designed a steel bridge that would span the rivers of the Colorado River and never touch the waters. The result, Pennybacker Bridge, is an Austin icon. On the northwest and northeast cliffs, you have wonderful views of the bridge and the hill country (from the north east cliff) or the bridge and the Austin skyline (from the northwest cliff). Recently after a few accidents by people falling off the cliffs, signs were posted in the parking lot that indicate you can’t park there. Locals seem to ignore these signs. If you are rules follower, you can still park in the nearby neighborhood around the bridge and walk. Pennybacker Bridge is a great place to enjoy a sunrise or sunset – and it doesn’t matter if you bring a camera!
1 – The Texas State Capitol
The Texas State Capitol sits on 22 acres of lush grass, walkways, and monuments. The front and back of the capitol offer great views, especially in the early morning when you rarely find anyone around. With a soft light, you can use a wide angle to capture the grand scene of the nations’ 2nd largest capitol (second only to the capitol in Washington DC), or you can use a zoom to photograph the top of the limestone structure with the Texas and US flags. Nearly any sidewalk offers a great view. You can even walk down Congress in either direction and capture the scene with streetlights leading to the capitol grounds.
There are so many more opportunities around Austin than I can mention here. SoCo (South Congress), the Graffiti Castle, South Lamar, the bats in the late summer, and many other options are there.
These locations are some of my favorite views of Austin, and I hope to keep finding more and more places to visit. I’d love to hear your favorites. Drop me a line or make a suggestion. Thanks for Reading!