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

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 🙂

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

Rain and Wildflowers

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.

Texas wildflowers - red firewheels - enjoy the last light of day on a Texas Hill Country sunset.

Evening falls across a field of firewheels in the Texas Hill Country.

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.

Fog drifts through downtown Austin in this early morning black and white panorama.

The Austin skyline in black and white sleeps in the early morning fog.

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.

~ Rob

http://www.facebook.com/ImagesfromTexas