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!
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.
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!
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:
October 5, 2013
Last June, I had a really productive day. I had scheduled a shoot for a client in Dallas that allowed me to photograph the Dallas skyline at sunset. On the drive up from the Texas Hill Country, I turned off of I-35 near Hillsboro and took the back roads for a ways – exploring and looking for potential sunflower fields. While on that excursion, I came across some of the best and most beautiful Texas Wildflower fields I’ve ever seen – acres and acres of golden sunflowers that stretched to the horizon. I took a few images of these flowers and knew I’d return several more times.
I ended up battling traffic heading into downtown Dallas, and after much angst, I made it to my destination. I shot Dallas skyline images and Dallas panoramas for an hour or so before driving back home late that night.
Recently, I was contacted by and sold an image to CBS – a Dallas skyline panorama – which will be used in their television program, Criminal Minds. I’ve been told the image will air on October 16th and will be placed in their studio representing the Dallas FBI branch. Though I rarely have time to watch television these days, I will be tuned in to watch this show (for the first time ever).
So between the sunflowers photos and Dallas skyline images, that was one drive that was worth the effort. You just never know what you’ll find!
For more images from Texas, please visit my Texas pictures website.
Feel free to follow me on facebook, as well.
August 29, 2013
I think one of the necessary evils in trying to run a photography business is putting your work on display. This past week at Austin Java on Barton Springs in Austin, Texas, I was able to display 21 framed prints. Thanks to the guy in charge of this display, it was made super easy for me (Quincy, I really appreciate how easy you make it!) It is always hard for me to choose which images to print and frame. It seems the photos I like are not always the crowd favorites. I think sometimes my enjoyment of a particular place interferes with the images I choose.
After much deliberation, I came up with an assortment of Austin skyline images, Texas bluebonnet images, Sunflower images, Colorado images, and even a few images from the Cinque Terre in Italy.
I’ve also launched a website dedicated strictly to Colorado photography. I have a long way to go on the site, especially formatting and uploading all the images, but it is a start. I’m doing this after spending the last few years attempting to hone my skills in SEO tactics. I hope to post a blog about my findings one of these days, as well as the results I’ve had with several different photography website hosts. But that is a post for another time.
My new Colorado website is hosted by zenfolio at
I’m not totally enamored with the look of the site. I wish I could change some things about it to give it a more polished, professional look, but I’ll save those big bucks for my business site:
So for now, here is one of the images I have on display at Austin Java from now until the end of October. It comes from the Texas Hill Country from the spring of 2012.
August 24, 2013
In my previous post, I had offered up a picture of the Austin skyline taken from the Milago’s roof. I visited this location several times this August in an attempt to photograph the bats of Congress Bridge as they departed on their way to find their evening meal. I needed a clear, calm sunset so the bats would show up against the orange sky. (If it was cloudy, they would not show up as well).
I finally had this opportunity this past Friday evening. The sky was clear, the colors were great, and the bats started their nightly departure just after sunset. It was curious, though, because I was photographing from the Austin Hyatt the week prior and the bats left about 7:30pm – 40 minutes before sunset. Not sure what was going on with their internal clock!
Nevertheless, the bats soared into the Texas Hill Country sky and made a plume of bodies heading south. This Austin Skyline image shows some of the more well know buildings in Austin such as the Austonian, the 360 Condos, the Springs Condos, and the Austin Hyatt. Ladybird Lake was hosting more than several sightseeing boats, and folks were gathered all along Congress Bridge to watch the nightly spectacle.