Friday, May 29, 2009

Rock Art of the Big Bend

Hidden across the reaches of the desert and mountains of Big Bend one can find signs of the past peoples who dwelt here.

Some places like the Chimneys or near Hot Springs are well marked and seen by many people. Near Persimmon Gap they say you can see the signs of the old Comanche War Trail.

Others are not so easily found. But, if you look at the right places you can find some very nice rock art here.

Here are a couple of images from such places. This field of large boulders has a variety of petroglyphs (carved into rock) and pictographs (painted on rock).

The large boulder panel measures some 10+ feet across. The petroglyphs rise 8-10 feet off the ground. I was here very early one morning and wanted to photograph the panel at twilight. I liked the idea of the distant dawn the panel painted by flash.

The second image is taken in a nearby shelter. Here I found pictographs painted on the ceiling of the large boulder as well as a grinding stone.
Look and explore out here. Never know what you will find.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Mariscal Mine

The Mariscal Mine is an old cinnabar mine that operated in the early part of the 20th century.

Today the ruins of the mine are still somewhat standing in Big Bend National Park.

I had been to the mine several times when out driving on the backroads of Big Bend but it was always in the middle of the day. this last trip I decided to camp at the nearby Fresno backroad site and photograph the mine.

The first thing one will notice is that the mine is on a steep side of the mountain and is actually on several "levels". That makes it neat to explore and to get interesting camera angles. It also made it a little difficult to paint with light at night as it was difficult to get large views one could easily paint.
I spent an afternoon looking for the best potential angles to light paint from. After watching the clear sky fade to night (cannot really call that a sunset), I set up a few locations to light paint. After working several smaller scenes I went to the base of the structure and used a spotlight to paint the front as the sky darkened into the black of a moonless night.

After being at the mine I made my way down to some of the mine houses and painted them with light too.

Finally after several hours I called it a night about 1130pm.

Back up at 4am to work with the almost full moon that had risen in the night, I returned to the mine houses which with their windows, doors, and roofless nature, worked well for what I wanted to do.

I enjoyed the images I was making I did not make it back to the mine itself until almost sunrise and went for a different view by climbing the ridge next to the mine to be able to see over it toward the Chisos.
Two thumbs up as a location. Well worth the drive (two hours on rough road from pavement) and staying the night really made it a photographers place.
See more images in my galleries

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Big Bend By Night

Big Bend is a spectacular park. I conservatively rate it as one of the top five National Parks. The views here are big and the landscape is amazing. From the canyons of the Rio Grande, across desert flatlands to the views of mountains, to heights of the Chisos-this park is someplace special.

It is a place I never tire of visiting and always find new images at. Another way to put it is every last person I have ever met who has been to Big Bend loves it and cannot wait to get back.

It is that kind of place.

It was that kind of big country I was ready to spend a week in and photograph.

One of the things I have been doing more of lately is night photography. I used to go out at night on occasion, but now it is a part of every day in the field.

A full moon on the landscape of Big Bend is amazing. Then again, even on a moonless night the sky is so amazing here, that you cannot help but want to stay awake 24 hours a day.

So on this trip my days would start at 4:30am under the stars. I would be out through sunrise and then all day to sunset. Even after dark I was still in the field, finally calling it a day at 11pm.
Only to get up the next day and do it again.

Man, I love that.
I arrived in the park right after the full moon. That meant that the moon would rise after sunset and get a little later every night. So over the course of the week I spent many an early morning under the light of the full moon, or many an early evening under the dark skies of night.

I was able to photograph the big landscape, old ruins, overlooks, the road, etc. A plus of night photography is that everything takes on a whole new look at night. You do not have to worry about clear skies either as the night sky looks equally good clear or cloudy.

Here are some of those night journeys.

The Chisos by the light of the full moon. I had always been to Sotol Vista for sunset. I found it takes on a whole new magic at night. The view with the stars. Wow.

I stood on the side of the road near Cerro Castellan and it looks great by moonlight.

The last one is a view of the Rio Grande by full moon light. The left bank is Mexico. the notch of Santa Elena Canyon is visible in the distance.

Click the images to see them a bit bigger so you can see the stars and the night.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Deep in Pinto Canyon

With this being my new favorite road, you just know there had to be more than one post.

So while my last post mostly displayed images from the paved part or high in the Cuesta del Burro Mountains, this one will be from deeper in Pinto Canyon.

The elevation drops quickly and the grass of the Cuesta's fades rapidly into the desert. Rock and cactus become the main features here.

The canyon is deep. In places it is cliffs or big peaks that rise within the canyon itself. It is a rough, rugged looking place that is quite different from the grassy ranchlands in the highlands above.

Everything here is based on water and temp. The Marfa Highlands and the Cuseta del Burro Mountains are just high enough to be cooler and get more rain. But as you descend into the depths of Pinto Canyon, the elevation drops, the temps would rise, and the rain would be harder to come by.

I pass by sheer cliffs on the drive. The narrow one lane road passes right beneath them and I stare up at their heights.

There are a few creeks that run through the canyon and they are marked by a thin line of green. Water has that effect. A little moisture and you find life. No water and just rock and cactus.

As you pass through Pinto Canyon you look up at the Chinati Mountains and as you exit the canyon they dominate your view to the east.

There is supposed to a large ranch in the Chinati's that might become a state natural area. It would be nice to see additional parks and natural areas for public access, especially here in the wilds of west Texas.

As I make my way out into the desert and head across the long slope to the Rio Grande I encounter this old truck. I just don't think it will make it up the canyon anymore. I photograph it looking back toward the Chinatis and Pinto Canyon to place it out in the empty desert.