Sunday, December 28, 2008
Wintery trees in north Texas.
We had a great fall this year in north Texas. The color started in early November and we had it peak the two weeks after Thanksgiving. The last of the leaves blew away the week before Christmas.
Now it is winter. We even had a couple of nights it was down in the 20's although those only last a few days and then we are back to 65 degree days. At 5am on the 27th it was 68 degrees, not what many would call winter. Today on the 28th it is a bit more seasonal at 36. Ahhh, Texas weather. Winter is just begining but I know it will be spring again in just a few weeks. I am already thinking of where I will chase the bloom and how far afield I will go. but for now I enjoy the winter.
Here is an image of some wintery trees taken this last week. The moon hangs in the sky and the colors of the early dawn are starting to light the sky.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
The view looking up at the bare branches waving in the breeze with orange glow in the clouds made a cold wintery night image. The perfect way to make my first image of the winter season.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The mountains, the rocks and the sky. Timeless.
Monday, December 8, 2008
That water in those canyons creates a sight to behold. In the deep recesses under the towering walls of McKittrick Canyon there is free flowing water. The pure clear water spills over stark white limestone. It provides life to animals. It supports trout in the stream. It allows maples to survive in the desert.
The maples of the Guadalupes put on some of the most vivid color you will ever see. They cling to north facing canyon walls and a narrow strip around the life giving water.
This is a spot that has been called the prettiest spot in Texas, and rightfully so.
I have chased the colors here in the autumn for many years. I have seen days of warm sunny sky. I have been here in the rain. I have been here in the wind. Every time I am here I am more impressed with these canyons. When I walk these paths under these colorful trees and see the huge canyon walls above I understand how John Muir must have felt in Yosemite. The best part still is that the Guadalupes are still a secret-I can spend a day here and practically have the canyon to myself. If I go out on any other trail I will have it to myself.
I marvel at the reds, oranges, and yellows of the leaves. The colors are so vivid, I sometimes wonder if you can truly capture them.
Here you will see several images from these fantastic canyons. I start with the water flowing in McKittrick. It is that water that makes it all happen. The water flows but there are places it does not. The porous nature of limestone will have the entire stream sometimes disappear underground only to re-emerge a few yards later. You can see the orange leaves and canyon walls of McKittrick. Or a close up of the maple leaves in color.
Finally there is a view from the neighboring and dry of surface water in Pine Springs Canyon. What it lacks in flowing water it makes up for in rugged splendor. Here you hike in the streambed. Over rocks and around boulders up into the narrowing canyon until you reach the Devil's Hallway where the rock walls close in on you.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
The Lost Mesa is a lonely place by day and it is a very dark and lonely place by night. There is only the stars, the wind and the cry of the coyote.
The dark sky is filled with stars and they shine ever brightly. The Milky Way is visible and is truly understandable as the "milky" way in a place like this.
I spent hours in the evening and the middle of the night staring up at the stars. This is the night sky the pioneers and the ancients would have seen. This is the night sky as it was meant to be seen. And I had it all to myself.
I could see the shadowy shapes of the Horned Mountains rising out of the now dark grasslands. Above them was the glow of the heavens. The occasional falling star would streak across the sky.
I watched. I also set about to photograph.
The moon was still in the sky in the early evening and even though it was less than half it still was very bright in the sky and cast shadows across the land. It was when I would be up at 3am that I would see the darkest sky, the most stars, and it was then I made my best night images.
It is a time that made really appreciate the DSLR. I had always used a film camera and hoped I was getting something. With the DSLR I was able to tweak and try things as I worked. It meant more images and that I could change settings on the go.
I was actually working three cameras. I had two DSLRS working as well as my medium format film camera doing an all night image (started 90 minutes after dark and let it run until 4am).
I made images in all directions, but my best ones either had the shadowy shapes of the mountains or had the North Star as the hub of the night sky with the stars spinning around it.
As the night approached twilight I was even able to get more detail in the landscape and still get the stars -like the third image looking north across the range to the distant Sacramento Mountains.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
I arrived on the mesa on a spectacular afternoon. The sky was blue and a few white clouds sailed across it. The mesa has seen some nice summer rains but now was a fairly dry and dusty time. I set about exploring knowing that I had three days to see things.
After the long drive I decided to start with the area closest to the Horned Mountains. I got in a nice afternoon hike and really started to get a better feel for the big open empty quality of the place. A nice sunset turned into evening and then a star filled sky. The moon was barley more than a quarter but with the area being so dark it seemed much brighter.
I was up and photographing early the next day. At first it was stars but as dawn moved closer I began to see some clouds were slowly drifting across the sky. I knew this had some great potential for some great images.
Actually it was almost too prefect. There were sights all around. There were glowing clouds in every direction too. I could not move fast enough. I had cameras pointed in three directions trying to capture the moment. The top image was pretty close to it. See the best one in my gallery Lost Mesa II where a longer exposure gave movement to the clouds and Orion still hunts in the sky.
As the orange light faded in the clouds and the daylight grew I began to work farther images such as the view north across miles of open range toward the distant Sacramento Mountains (image 2).
I hiked for rock art, drove through a yucca forest, and explored the Horned Mountains. Th view here is in the afternoon. From left to right we have Wind Mountain, Flat Top Mountain, and San Antonio Mountain (which is actually in Texas).
I was again struck by the big quality of the open range here. How big is it? At 1.2 million acres it is almost 50% bigger than Big Bend National Park. And I had it all to myself. It was me, the sky, and the open range.
This is a big, empty, lonely land.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
I went west for fall color last week and while exploring some of the rocky slopes near a (now dry) spring I found some great rock art. There were petroglyphs carved into a dark rock of volcanic origin (different than the sandstone carvings in Utah).
I picked the location as I had heard there might be petroglyphs there. As I walked the slope I went for a while without seeing anything but the rock looked promising and I kept walking. Having the spring nearby meant people would have been coming here for a long time, so I hoped and kept looking. Suddenly I saw this first rock with some carving on it. It was a couple of small simple designs. This was encouraging. Where there was one, I hoped there would be others.
I went a bit further and suddenly I saw a Tlaloc man!!!! Wow-this was a great find-a Tlaloc man! Tlaloc was a rain god, notice his large round eyes, and the trapezoidal shape. I could not believe how large this carving was. This one measures a good meter tall (over 3 ft) and is 15-18 inches wide. The carvings around him look like either other versions of or maybe "sample" Tlalocs.
Talk about luck. This is a graphic I had heard of but had never seen. There is a famous Tlaloc drawing at Hueco Tanks State Park near El Paso, but in my several visits to the park I never saw it.
This one was amazing. Here on a rocky desert mountainside staring at the sky was a magnificent piece of rock art. The detail was superb, this must have taken some time. The rock had four other carvings that looked trapezoidal and I wondered if they were prototypes for the final carving or if they were graphics of their own.
After photographing the Tlaloc for a while, I walked further and found several other small carvings. Then I found this panel. This rock was at least 10 feet wide and 8 feet tall. On it were carved several petroglyphs it was practically a mural. I photographed the panel and some of the individual carvings. Again the detail was amazing
All told, I saw dozens of carvings this afternoon, yet I know I found only a fraction of what this site has to contain. The rocks of this hillside must be covered with them. I think a return trip is on order to further document the area.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
There are several areas with petroglyphs in the area around Canyonlands and Arches. The most famous of which is west of the Green River in Horseshoe Canyon. I was unable to work in a visit there but I did explore some areas along the Colorado River with Petroglyphs.
Areas with desert varnish (areas of very dark brown) often have petroglyphs carved on them (see the first two images and notice the desert varnish). Remember that Petroglyphs are carved in rock and Pictographs are painted on rock.
There are other signs of the past too. One my favorite on this trip was an granary high on a butte in Canyonlands National Park.
The Island in the Sky section of the park sits about 6000' high and about 2000' above the rivers. It is basically the top of a huge mesa. The extra elevation makes it a little cooler and also makes it a decent grassland. Although it is mostly flat there are still some hills and small buttes that can be found there. One of the small steeper ones is Aztec Butte. There is a great hike the slowly winds up the face of the slickrock and summits the butte. There one can walk the rim and take in both canyons and the mesa top. At several places tucked just beneath the rim are some overhangs. Some of which have granaries.
The one pictured here was my favorite. The overhang is right about 6' tall. The granary is in a corner, built of stones and is maybe 4-5' tall. Two small arches help frame the scene and the deep Taylor Canyon is visible beyond.
I was lucky to have the 10mm lens (16mm eq on a FF camera) to fit the whole scene in. This granary is on the north-northwest side of the butte, but I believe it gets late afternoon light on it in the summer months. I was not sure it would get it in October so I did not make the late afternoon trek back this trip. BTW this hike is a bit of a scramble toward the top and probably not for everyone, but for those who do not mind heights and a little bit of vertical exposure it is a great destination.
Side note- movie fans will see that a young Indiana Jones was adventuring around Moab area and Arches NP in "The Last Crusade".
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
But there was something else. Before sunrise and after sunset there was the glow.
It takes a few minutes after sunset but as the sky gets yellower in the west the warm reddish glow flows across the land. On those clear days it was by far the best light. For a few minutes early and late the rocks are bathed in color and soft light. The shadows almost do not exist and the scene just glows.
An afternoon at Green River Overlook on a cloudless day was ok, but the glow after sunset was WOW. The colors and light were much better with the glow than the last light of day.
On another afternoon I was photographing in Arches and there must have been 20 photographers nearby. They all left right at sunset and I watched the glow alone and made the best images of the day.
Friday, October 24, 2008
A great thing about being in the southwest is how there is a such a great diversity in climate and sights by elevation. Dry, hot, desert lowlands can be just a few miles away from lush mountain forests.
The Moab area is no different. Arches and Canyonlands are dry red rock country that seems lifted right out of a Roadrunner and Coyote cartoon. Yet a short drive out of town and you go up into the cooler pine and aspen forests of the La Sal Mountains.
So a rather clear day became perfect for heading into the high country in search of fall color. The color started out in the scrubby oaks on the lower hillside. It moved up into stands of aspen and even though the pines stay green some of the higher ones already had snow blanketing their bases.
The color could vary greatly in the aspen, even in the same grove. Some could be green. Others starting the yellowing process. Some were golden. Finally some were bare. All of them were photogenic. Images were everywhere-from long lens compression to staring up with a wide angle there was so much color to photograph it was hard to find where to start.A great thing about fall color is how it seems to photograph well anytime and in any light. As a landscape photographer a clear day is usually our bane but backlit fall color can be stunning. Mid-day light is usually way too harsh for photography, but for staring up at aspens it works.
Now if it had been overcast and drizzly I would have liked that too.
The colors were so nice I made a return trip to see some of the same area mid morning. Just a few days made a big difference (as did the wind) as more trees were bare. There was snow on the higher peaks and you could feel fall was slipping away to winter.
While in the mountains, I also drove one of the high passes to look for snow and did I find it. What had been rain in the desert a few days before had been snow in the mountains. The peaks were white capped. The snow came down under 10,000' and I crunched through it in the thick pine forests that blanket the mountainside above the aspen.
It certainly seemed a long way from the dry red rock country I was camping in but it was only a few minutes by road.
The colors of autumn made the trip even better as did the touch of high country snow. It added a whole different type of photography and gave me many good images. See some of the better ones in the Utah Fall Color folder in my Galleries.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Wednesday, October 1, 2008
It is bounded by three mountain ranges on the north, east, and south. It 's western neighbor is the Tularosa basin and more importantly Fort Bliss. This all makes this one of the most isolated places in the lower 48. It's geography makes it a difficult location to find or get to. There are not any paved roads here. There are no towns here. A few gravel roads enter from the outside, but unless you want to get here-you never will.
The first and third images show the open quality of the range land here. It is big and empty with a view for miles. The second image is at the southern end of the mesa where a few solitary mountains rise out of the grass. This is Alamo Mountain. A lonely mountain that marks the western end of the Horned Mountains. The Fourth image is of Wind Mountain over the ridge of Flat Top Mountain. You can just make out a few head of cattle feeding across the grassland.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
The roads seem to stretch forever out here. Here is a lonely length of road with the lone volcanic cone of Sierra Blanca in the distance. I am some 40 miles away from the mountain, but it is plainly visible in the distance.
Saturday, September 20, 2008
So, I took an extra day to make it a four day weekend and headed west. After driving across the Permian Basin and the heat of the desert, you climb up toward the 5700' elevation of the camp. I get there to find the temps in the 50's. Ahhh, Texas in August!
By the next morning clouds had rolled in and it started raining. Little was I to know but that would be the norm for the entire four days. We seemed to alternate between, drizzle, fog, and rain. On occasion we got a few minutes when the sun would pop out. The first image is one of those few moments. I had been standing in rain and fog when suddenly, this light just happened. Wow, what luck!
Mostly the mountain seemed to look like this:
I felt lucky to get the light when I did.
The Guadalupes have a habit of "catching" the weather and literally holding it around it's eastern valleys. Often time you can watch the clouds spill over the mountains like water. It is often also very different weather just a few miles west as one drops into the salt basin to the west. There have been times I have seen it 45 and misty in camp and 75 and sunny 5 miles away.
This was not quite like that. The seasonal late summer rains socked the camp in, but rain and clouds would cover much of all west Texas this weekend, but there were a few times when the sun would shine.
As a side note-one thing the rain did was make me realize it was time for a new tent. My current tent has been a rock for 11 year but it is small at 26 sqft and after 4 days in the rain, I decided I needed a tent I did not touch at both ends. So I have a newer longer model to try on my next trip.
The rain also made me alter my plans. Instead of hikes into the high country, I spent most of my days west of the mountains seeing the salt basin. I made it out to the Salt Basin Sand Dunes one afternoon to catch some wonderful afternoon light on the dunes. I was afraid the rain would make the road to them impassable (it does not take much to turn it to slop), but it was dry enough to make the drive in. Then after a hike in I got some great light on the sand.
See more images from the trip in my Galleries on the main website:
Saturday, September 13, 2008
I hope to make this blog the travelogue of my photography. I'll post images and notes from my trips here. I'll be posting gallery images on the main site. So be sure to check them both (link on the side).
I'll slowly be incorporating some of the elements of my other two blogs and winding down the Images of Texas blog. The Traveling Camera will continue, after all where else are you going to see images of an Arca-Swiss in action?