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

Goodbye, Colorado

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 Colorado landscape stretches out from the summit of Humbolt Peak.

From the 14,064 summit of Humbolt Peak, Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle rise into the amazing Colorado landscape.

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!

Colorado's state wildflower, the Columbine, fill a rocky slope near Butler Gulch.

Near 11,500 feet, these beautiful Columbine – Colorado’s state wildflower – waited for the morning sun to warm up the rocks and start the day. I, too, was ready for the sunlight. On this morning, the temperature was below 40 degree and rain had fallen the night before, leaving everything wet.

But alas, work calls and I had to return to photograph the Austin skyline for a client.

The highrises of Austin, Texas can be seen from the Boardwalk that parallels Lady Bird Lake.

On a July evening, the Boardwalk along Lady Bird Lake offers great views of the Austin skyline.

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!

~ Rob

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.

From a lookout alongside Rifle Falls, the view is beautiful in this area of Colorado.

Plunging 70 feet into a green, fertile valley, Rifle Falls is a beautiful waterfall just north of Rifle, Colorado. It is a small state park, and the area provides a great place to explore if you have a free hour or two.

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.

Just north of Rifle and Glenwood Springs, Colorado, Rifle Falls plunges 70 feet into a fertile valley.

With a three-forked waterfall flowing over the cliff, the color green stretched as far as you could see at Rifle Falls State Park near Rifle, Colorado. This 70-foot waterfall is the centerpiece of this small park and offers a trail that takes you to the top of the falls for a bird’s-eye view.

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.

Maroon Peak and North Maroon Peak rise 14,000 feet and tower over beautiful Maroon Lake.

The Maroon Bells on a perfect summer morning – taken in 2014.

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.

Fog and rain shroud the majesty of the Maroon Bells near Aspen, Colorado.

The Maroon Bells on a foggy, gray, rainy evening. Unfortunately, this is the most of the Bells we saw in two days during the summer of 2015.

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!

Rob

Feel free to visit my Colorado galleries for more (and more colorful) photography.

http://www.facebook.com/RobGreebonPhotography