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

http://www.ImagesfromTexas.com

http://www.facebook.com/ImagesfromTexas

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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

2015 and Gratitude

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!

Little Girls under the Milky Way

On a summer night, two precious girls enjoy the view of the night sky in the Texas Hill Country.

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.

Sunset over Enchanted Rock in the Texas HIll Country

Sunset over Enchanted Rock as seen from Turkey Peak

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.

Perseids fall across the Texas Hill Country Sky.

The Perseids rain over Pedernales Falls on a clear night in August.

 

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.

~ Rob

And follow my photography on my facebook page if you are so inclined 🙂

Palo Duro Canyon in November

December 12, 2015

I had the opportunity to travel through the Texas Panhandle during the middle of Thanksgiving. I took this opportunity to spend a few days at Palo Duro Canyon State Park just south of Amarillo. I’ve passed by this area so many times to and from Colorado, but my car was always packed and I’d have miles to travel before I slept, so Palo Duro never made it in the plans. This time, however, I stopped. And I’m glad I did.

First, I invite you to visit this gallery and see all my Palo Duro Canyon images. I’ll also be adding the same images to this gallery, but it will be a bit longer as this location is still a work in progress.

The gates at Palo Duro Canyon State Park do not open until 8:00am. This can pose a problem for photographers if you are not staying in the park. As I was with my family, and camping out in 20 degree temperatures was not an option, we stayed in nearby Canyon, Texas. So in order to shoot in the canyon at sunrise, I arranged with a park ranger to enter the park boundaries about an hour before sunrise. This kindness from the Park folks made all the difference on this trip. I was able to photograph sunrise both at the canyon rim and down on the trails, and the colors I enjoyed were magnificent.

Sunrise at Palo Duro Canyon was a magnificent sight to enjoy.

The sun peeks over the distant canyon walls at Palo Duro Canyon State Park on a cold November morning. Below me opened up the 2nd largest canyon in North America, more than 800 feet deep and hundreds of miles long. This area of the Texas Panhandle offers endless outdoor experiences, and sunrise at the canyon rim should not be missed.

One evening, I convinced my patient wife to accompany me on a 6 mile walk (round trip) to one of the icons of the park, the Lighthouse. This trail is the most popular in the park. As we walked the first three miles, we encountered many folks returning, but no one going our way. We arrived about an hour before sunset. We had the beautiful hoodoo all to ourselves. We explored, talked, took in the view, and enjoyed a sunset not soon forgotten. Our walk back as a nearly full moon lit the trail before us was both surreal and enchanting.

The Lighthouse, an iconic and well-known structure in Palo Duro Canyon, enjoys a cold evening in this Texas panorama.

With the moon rising in the east and the sun setting in the west, the Lighthouse at Palo Duro Canyon shows its orange color in the fading light of day. This panorama shows the view from the small plateau near this iconic rock structure in the Texas Panhandle, and below the canyon stretches for miles and miles.

As far as the technical aspects of shooting here, I’d suggest a tripod and a wide angle lens. I primarily used my Canon 11-24L and my 24-105L (just a bit). All images were shot with the Canon 5DSr, and the details are incredible.

On the way back to the Hill Country, I also had the opportunity to shoot both a cotton field and a crazy good sunset over a field of hay bales, and both seemed about as “Texas” as you can get.

A crazy beautiful sunset falls over a Texas field of hay bales.

The sunset was amazing over this Texas field. Hay bales were rolled and ready for the winter, and overhead wispy clouds drifted by as the sun set on the horizon.

If you like rugged Texas landscapes, I hope you get the chance to visit this remote part of our state. It is well worth the effort. Personally, I’d like to return in spring when everything is turning green and the wildflowers are blooming and again in Autumn when the trees are changing.

In the meantime, happy travels, everyone!

~ Rob

http://www.RobGreebonPhotography.com

The Austin Skyline

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.

The Austin skyline is visible from along the Hike and Bike trail at Zilker Park.

With the First Street Bridge and downtown Austin skyline in the distance, the first rays of an August morning break through the trees. In the foreground is Lady Bird Lake, a mecca for water-sport enthusiasts around the capitol city. Behind me, joggers and bicyclers enjoy the Zilker Park Hike and Bike Trail.

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.

The Austin skyline awakens on a colorful Autumn morning.

From the top of a trail along the Zilker Park Hike and Bike paths, this view of downtown Austin and the ever-growing skyline is one of my favorites. With the Texas State Capitol on the far left to the tallest building, the Austonian, on the right, the cityscape is nice from nearly any location around the city.

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.

Thanks!

~ Rob

My Texas Images Facebook Page

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.

Flower fill the small garden in front of the Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas.

On a mild September morning, the historic Texas State Capitol glows in the pre-dawn hours in downtown Austin. In the foreground rests one of the many gardens on the 22 acre complex. The Capitol building itself takes up 2.5 acres, and on the surrounding land are trees, grass, rose gardens, and over 20 monuments commemorating important times and figures in Texas History.

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!

~ Rob

Rob Greebon Photography

My Photography Facebook Page

In the late afternoon on a day this past April, I was at home debating about whether I wanted to drive the 1+ hour to Llano, then onto Mason in search of wildflowers. I knew there were some nice fields of springtime blooms between these two towns, but storms had been blowing across the Texas Hill Country all day, and radar showed more moving in. Still, the forecast showed these storms would dissipate around 8pm. Hesitantly, I headed out, drove up Hwy 71, and as I neared Llano, the rain was so intense I had to pull over (the first time I’ve ever pulled over because of rain). I checked the Ipad and the radar showed the storms would/should be passing through in the next hour. Again, I considered returning home, but instead waited for the rain’s intensity to decrease (it did not stop but did lighten up a bit) and I headed on through Llano, then turned towards Mason. About half way to Mason, light began to appear in the west. Behind me, a rainbow rose into the dark sky as lightening still flashed across the angry clouds. I stopped in several places to capture the rainbow, then the clouds lit up. The image below was one of the highlights of that memorable trek. It was still raining as I reeled off several shots of these amazing mammatus clouds over the wildflower field.

Recently, I found out this photograph of Hill Country Wildflowers after the Rain 1 was awarded the grand prize in the Texas Hill Country Alliance’s 2015 photo contest. This was quite an honor, and it is the second time one of my images has won the top prize. In 2013, my “Milky Way over Pedernales Falls” was the winner. I gave up some sleep and stayed out very late that night, as well, to photograph the stars.

Its nice that perseverance, patience, and the willingness to push through less-than-desirable situations are sometimes rewarded. I’m just humbled to be chosen – and quite pleased, as well. I know there are times I have rather just stayed in bed rather than rise at 4am to drive to a location to shoot. And at the same time, I’m always glad I got up and out there for sunrise or sunset, and I don’t need any sort of reward for this. Just witnessing landscapes and creations like this makes it worthwhile. Of course, it is nice to get paid for these efforts, as well, as I try to support my family doing something I love! 🙂

Mammatus clouds roll through the sky after storms raged through the Texas Hill Country.

After a strong storm had blown across the Texas Hill Country, evening fell and brought with it some crazy clouds hanging over a Texas wildflower field. This image won the grand prize in the Texas Hill Country Alliance’s annual photo contest in 2015.

So I’ll keep on traveling – looking for those unique views of Texas and all that the Lone Star State offers, and I’ll share them when I can.

Visit my Texas Wildflower Gallery to look at more images.

See ya’ll out on the road!

~ Rob

http://www.facebook.com/RobGreebonPhotography