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 22, 2015
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! 🙂
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!
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!
July 9, 2015
I recently headed to the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area with a lifelong friend this past week. I had hoped to photograph the area and add to my Maroon Bells portfolio. The weather forecast was not great, but I’d seen worse and still ended up with some great sunsets. So we met along I-70 and drove west through Vail, Eagle, and Glenwood Springs. Along the way, since we were ahead of schedule and the skies were great, we decided to take an excursion to Rifle Falls State Park. Neither of us had been to this small park, so we wanted to check it out. About 20 minutes past Glenwood Springs heading west, we turned north at Rifle and then drove another 20 minutes to the park.
While not big, this little park offers a view of three separate waterfalls that plunge 70 feet and converge into a green, lush valley. A trail makes a loop around the falls – up and over and back down. It is short (maybe a mile), easy, and offers visitors to Glenwood Springs a nice excursion if you have a few hours to kill and the weather is good.
Next, we headed to Rifle, stopping to eat at a local establishment before driving back to Glenwood Springs, down to Carbondale, then on 82 heading to the Snowmass/Aspen area. We drove up to Snowmass Village, checked into our room, and then, since the weather was still ok, drove the 35 minutes up to the Maroon Bells. While driving the final 10 miles or so the clouds rolled in. We pulled into the parking lot and decided we didn’t mind a little sprinkle, then began a short walk around the lake loop. (We had planned on hiking to Maroon Pass, a 13 mile round trip, the next morning at sunrise). For now, we just wanted to be outdoors.
The view from where you begin this walk is amazing. The two 14,000 foot peaks of Maroon and North Maroon rise above Maroon Lake and provide one of the most grand views of Colorado – and I think the most photographed of any location. This is an image from last year.
However, the peaks were hidden in a thick fog. Every once in a while, we’d see a blurred outline of something in the distance.
About 50 yards into our walk, the rains picked up. No matter, it wasn’t bad. We continued on. A minute later, the bottom fell out. We turned and walked back to the car. We are optimists. We sat in the car for another hour and a half, thinking the deluge would pass by. Finally, near dark, we returned to the room, but not before trying to find something to eat. Everything was closed. The evening was a complete wash, literally.
I set my alarm for the next morning at 430am. When I awoke a little before the alarm, I went outside to find the rains just as we had left them – very active. So I checked again at 530am, then 630am. (As a sidenote, my buddy and I had both played college tennis, so we figured at least we could watch a little Wimbledon on the hotel TV, but even those matches were rained out). Since this trek was for hiking and photography, we finally bailed on our plan and decided to head back towards Denver. Along the way, we’d find another hike. We passed Hanging Lake, a beautiful waterfall at the end of a mile-long uphill climb (it was raining when we passed by the exit). The we passed through Vail – still raining. Next, the rains followed us through Frisco and Dillon. I finally dropped off my friend at his car and drove back to our place in Winter Park. The short trip was a bust. And it still rained all night.
Oh well… the weather doesn’t always cooperate.
Next week, we’ll try again!
Feel free to visit my Colorado galleries for more (and more colorful) photography.
June 30, 2015
Recently, I had the opportunity to photograph Caddo Lake located in east Texas. This unique Texas landscape is a giant swamp covering 25,000 acres. The bog was formed by the New Madrid earthquake of 1812 and is now home to the largest cypress forest in the world. When my friend offered his boat and was willing to escort me around the lake at sunrise and sunset for a few days, I packed my bags and made the 6 hour drive from my home in the Hill Country to Uncertain, Texas, a small town on the shores of Caddo Lake. As I neared the area, I think the number of churches increased exponentially. I also saw lots of folks sitting on their front porches. They were quite friendly – always waving as we passed by – and seemed to enjoy watching the world go by in a much slower pace of life. (Maybe I could learn something from them!)
Out on the lake, I found a surreal landscape of cypress trees draped in Spanish Moss. Most of the lake is only 2-4 feet deep, and we skirted several passageways just barely wide enough for our boat to fit. There were even places we couldn’t go, but a kayak or canoe would have been perfect. I enjoyed seeing the well known “Government Ditch” and “the Cathedral” – two areas where cypress trees reach up and over the waterway and form a canopy-like tunnel for the boat to slip through.
I did find photographing this location quite challenging. I normally shoot 99% of my photographs using a tripod. However, while bopping around in a boat, a tripod is pretty useless. So most of my images were taken hand-held while kicking up the ISO to 800 or even 1000. For sunrise, I jammed my camera against a waterway signpost to steady it in order to take long exposures. One glorious sunset we used a duck blind to set up a tripod. Our efforts were rewarded with one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve seen this year.
I had hoped to see an alligator on our treks, but alas, the only gator I encountered was deep fried as an appetizer for one of our lunches (tasted like chicken). We did see turtles, snakes, egrets, herons, and a huge wolf spider that was the size of my hand. I thoroughly enjoyed my short stay and am already thinking of ways to be more productive on a return visit in Autumn.
See more photographs from this unique area of east Texas in my Caddo Lake gallery.
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.
May 9, 2015
Last weekend was just about perfect. I covered a lot of ground in the northern part of the Texas Hill Country. From Llano to San Saba to Brady and back – the highways and dirt roads had a lot to offer. Texas wildflowers were abundant. Sure, the bluebonnets have passed, but they have made way for even more beautiful displays, primarily reds and golds of firewheels and bitterweed. I normally don’t shoot in the middle of the day, but the contrast from red to gold to the blue skies overhead offered a combination I couldn’t pass up. Even with a bit of harsh sunlight, the colors were still quite striking.
One evening I found the last long light of evening streaming through an old willow tree. Beneath the tree a patch of red firewheels added a splash of color to the sunlight and Texas landscape.
If you enjoy wildflowers and the many colors they offer, take a drive before the blooms fade. Highway 71 from Llano to Brady. Cut over to San Saba and take Highway 16 back to Llano. Enjoy some great bbue at Coopers. Explore the dirt roads and only use your GPS to find your way home! 🙂
Happy Travels, Texas.