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!
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!
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!
I’m not a big fan of being awake at 4:00am. I like my sleep. But sometimes in order to capture an image I think has potential, I have to give up sleep for a bit. A few weeks ago a full moon rose over Austin, Texas in the middle of the night. Early on a Thursday morning, I pulled myself out of bed and left my sleeping family to make the drive over to the 360 Bridge (also known as Pennybacker Bridge). The air was cold and crisp. I shot from two locations – one on the northeast cliff looking over Pennybacker back to the west and the Texas Hill Country. I also trekked down the trail on the northeast side of the 360 Bridge and shot looking back at the Bridge and the Austin skyline in the distance. I knew a full moon would be overhead, but I was blessed with great clouds, as well. I actually blended two exposures together to capture these images. The first was a 5+ minute exposure at 100 ISO (to reduce the noise). The second exposure had a much higher ISO and was less than 30 seconds in order to keep from having star trails creep into the image (I wanted dots of light rather than the star trails). The blend was easy since everything was the same shade of dark blue under the night sky.
This is one image from that night:
December 21, 2013
As we quickly approach Christmas day and I’m realizing toys I bought for me kids will soon be strewn all over our house, I can’t help but become immersed in the sentimentality of the season. I’m probably more like Chevy Chase in those Vacation movies – always the optimist and always excited about what’s just around the corner. I remember fondly my childhood watching “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and listening to Linus make “The Meaning of Christmas” speech at the end of rehearsals. I can still hear my dad’s Johnny Mathis Christmas record playing Winter Wonderland. And now I’m older and have kids of my own. I wonder what they will remember about Christmas and their childhood. I hope they are good memories.
One thing I’m sure they’ll point out is how dad was always taking photos. And one of my favorite sights each year is the Trail of Lights at Zilker Park. While I sure don’t enjoy the traffic and crowds, it does feel festive – and makes the holiday season feel like it has finally arrived. So with this blog, I’d like to share my vision of Christmas in Austin – The Trail of Lights and the Zilker Park Christmas Tree backed by the beautiful Austin skyline from December of 2013.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
To see more photographs, please visit one of my websites: