January 16, 2016
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
April 18, 2015
I’ve driven 500 miles the last week in search of bluebonnets. But between readying a new website, trekking around for wildflowers, and processing these images, I just haven’t had time to update this blog. Nevertheless, this will be my attempt to add a little more information.
I’m currently posting my most recent wildflower images on my new website – mainly under my bluebonnet gallery. I’ll also be posting images on my Texas facebook page. So far, bluebonnets have been the main subject of my latest photographic adventures. I’ve been all across the Hill Country and have found some pretty nice sites. Many of the dirt roads in a makeshift quadrangle area from Fredericksburg to Mason to Llano to Marble Falls have produced some nice roadside displays, with some bluebonnets reaching into the fields. I’ve explored some of my favorite roads as well as some I haven’t been down before. You just never know what you might find. Here is one image from just south of Mason:
Another nice surprise was a trip to Big Bend. After good rains over the winter and spring, I was fortunate to be there when the bluebonnets were out and other wonderful wildflowers were in the middle of a desert bloom. While I’ve visited this amazing and remote national park, I’d never seen the colors I enjoyed this trip. In the photograph below, a patch of bluebonnets rests under a rare rainbow – just very good (and lucky) timing!
Bluebonnets are out! So if you enjoy driving the Hill Country, now is the time. The blues won’t last long. Next will be the reds and oranges of firewheels and coreopsis, along with a myriad of other wildflowers… just a few weeks away!
Thanks for stopping by. Safe travels to everyone.
November 21, 2014
I had the opportunity recently to take a trip through the Texas Hill Country and photograph the fall colors. My folks agreed to watch the kiddos, so my wife and I packed our bags and headed out the door. We had a few interesting experiences, but I’ll get to that in a bit.
My plans were a bit unresolved until the morning we decided to depart. We had reservations at a bed and breakfast near Vanderpool but the weather appeared a bit iffy, but we finally headed out. However, just before that we got a call from our said bed and breakfast indicating they had double-booked us, and because we had booked after the other folks, we were to be bumped. They offered another option – 30 minutes further from our desired location, no breakfast, and more expensive. Say what? So I kindly said no thanks after expressing my displeasure at this turn of events, and I hopped online, figuring it would be easy to find another option.
Did you know the Hill Country is full of tourists in November? I did not. But after surfing through some options, we settled on a little cabin near Leakey, Texas – close to two of our destinations. So we headed out – finally.
First stop – Lost Maples State Park. A few days in Lost Maples – on a weekday – can be a wonderful thing. On the weekend when cars line up for hours to enter – not so much. Luckily, we hit the park during the week and enjoyed the solitude such beauty warrants. The maples were turning red, the winds were nonexistent, and the crowds were thin. My wife patiently allowed me to practice my art. Lost Maples is a lovely place. Spending time there with someone you love on a crisp fall afternoon makes for good memories and good conversation.
For lodging during our visit to Lost Maples, we had booked a cabin. It was cold – really cold – when we arrived that first night, picked up the key at the dropbox, and unloaded our belongings. The nice lady I had spoken to earlier said the room might be a bit cold, but the heater should warm it up quickly. So the first thing I did was turn on the heat. On high. For 15 minutes. But no heat came out. We called. She apologized and moved us to another room. No problem. These things happen. The next room did have heat. Time to shower… But no hot water. Uggh.
OK… we survived, but the shower was brutal. The temperature of the water finally reached lukewarm.
After a few days at Lost Maples, we headed south for a bit and arrived in Garner State Park. We spent a little time in this area along the Frio River photographing the colorful cypress. I even had a duck swim into my photograph. I thanked him, he quacked, and then swam off.
From Garner State Park the last morning of our trip, I wanted to swing through Boerne and visit the Cibolo Nature Preserve. I had not been here before but had seen some stunning photographs of the cypress along Cibolo Creek. As we approached the Preserve, I was creeping along at 30mph, not sure of where I was to turn, when quick as the wind a deer committed suicide on the front of my car. The whole scene was surreal. I was going so slow. How could such a dumb creature cause this much damage at only 30mph? As I write, my SUV is scheduled to go to the car doctor tomorrow for a front end makeover. I never even had time to hit the brakes. With heavy hearts, we continued on (never saw the deer, so I assume he stumbled off and died somewhere). We spent some time walking along Cibolo Creek while I tried to be inspired by the stately cypress along the riverbank, but with the recent deer-into-the-headlights incident, I just wasn’t feeling it. Hopefully some of the images I captured from this trip will help recoup some of the $$$ lost.
In the meantime, please feel free to visit my photography website.
The colors are beautiful out there right now. I hope you have a chance to get out an enjoy them!