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

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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

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.

Mount Bonnell is an Austin icon.

The view from Mount Bonnell in Austin, Texas is great for photographing the 360 Bridge to the west and looking at the Austin skyline to the east.

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.

Sunrise comes to the Austin skyline as seen from the balcony of the Long Center.

The Austin Skyline seen from the Long Center before sunrise.

The Long Center in Austin, Texas, hosts world class performances.

The Long Center in downtown Austin sits quietly in the early morning.

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.

Austinites enjoy the cool waters of Lady Bird Lake in Austin Texas on a summer afternoon.

Folks enjoy water sports on a summer afternoon in Zilker Park in the shadow of downtown Austin, Texas.

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.

The Austin skyline comes to life on a cold December morning.

Daybreak appears over the Austin skyline and Ladybird Lake on a cool December morning as seen from Lou Neff Point.

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.

Taken from the Zilker Park clubhouse, the Austin skyline comes to life at sunrise.

The Austin skyline comes to life as the first light of day appears.

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.

A swan swims by underneath Lamar Bridge in Austin, Texas.

Lamar and Congress Bridges offer interesting architecture and unique photo opportunities.

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 🙂

Hamilton Pool outside of Austin, Texas, is a favorite of the locals in summertime.

Hamilton Pool is a great place to spend an afternoon and enjoy the views.

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.

The UT tower is lit orange after a huge football victory

The University of Texas Tower is lit orange after the football team defeats Texas A&M.

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.

Along the Pedernales River, cypress turn a vibrant orange in autumn.

Fall colors at Pedernales Falls State Park offer amazing photo opportunities.

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!

The sun sets in the west and lights up the skies over Pennybacker Bridge and Austin, Texas.

Sunset comes to Austin, Texas, and the 360 Bridge on an August evening.

A perfect sunset over Pennybacker Bridge and Austin, Texas.

The moon rises in the sky on a perfect evening at the 360 Bridge in Austin, Texas

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.

In Austin, Texas, the state capitol is a great place to photograph at sunrise.

The Texas State Capitol is calm in the early morning hours just before sunrise.

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!
~ Rob

One of my favorite places in Austin is the walk along the Zilker Park Hike and Bike Trail. You can find great views of the Austin Skyline, great downtown Austin panoramas, and you can watch the scullers flow by on Ladybird Lake in the early morning hours. There are also swans and ducks bobbing in the cool waters. If you like to run or bike, there are miles of trails to enjoy.
If you enjoy photography, one of the locations I like to visit is at Lou Neff Point. This little part of the rocky shoreline grants a view looking down the river towards downtown Austin. In this image of the Austin skyline, I arrived at Lou Neff Point well before sunrise to figure out what I wanted to do. The clouds were seemingly pretty thick, so I was wondering about my chances for good light and colorful clouds. As the sun started to rise, I was rewarded with some soft oranges and pinks over the Austin cityscape. This image was taken in December, so a chill was definitely in the air – cold for even Austin. I’ve also seen folks doing portraits at this location. You have a great backdrop!
But no matter where you are on the Zilker Park Trail, it seems all the views are pretty good. Enjoy, and thanks for looking!

The Austin Skyline from Zilker Park

This image of the Austin skyline was taken from Zilker Park along the hike and bike trail. The morning was cold and crisp and steam was rising from the water.

For more Austin images, visit My Austin Skyline Gallery

or My Other Austin Gallery