Sunday, December 30, 2012

Fall Colors of Palo Pinto County

At the end of November I was in the field every chance I had chasing the peak weeks of our fall color here in north Texas.  Most of that was done here locally visiting various parks  but I also did a few day drives chasing the color.  Here is from another trip I did west to Palo Pinto County.  The hills and curvy roads west of the Brazos River are a great area to photograph and the colors put on a good show.

On a weekend morning we planned an early start and made the 45 minute drive to be here for sunrise.  The clouds were not cooperating like I had hoped but the trees had some nice color.  The reds did not have the pop I was seeing in Fort Worth but there were nice muted oranges and yellows that colored the hills and that made it pretty nice for photography.

With the clear sky it meant I had to change to a longer lens to extract areas of color from the scene and it helped me keep the clear blue sky to a minimum or complete exclude it from the image.

A polariser also helped put a little snap into the colors by taking glare off the leaves.  

I then went hunting through the scene looking for those ares I could pick out interesting trees, patterns of color or rocky outcroppings to put in the image.

It is a slower process for a guy who usually looks to take in the whole big picture of a  scene in a photograph.  For me I find my success rate drops dramatically with a longer telephoto lens.  However, with enough looking and taking enough images to have a good sized pool to edit from, I pulled these three as some of my favorites from the day.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Perot Museum of Nature and Science

The new Perot Museum of Nature and Science opened this month in Dallas and features two of my images.  

The museum is a fantastic new show piece for the city and I was honored to be asked to provide two images for the Texas Wild exhibit in Discovering Life Hall.  They have highlighted three of the geographical regions of the state in the exhibit-Desert, Prairie, and Piney Woods.  My images provide the backdrop scene for the Desert and Prairie sets.

Each image measures about 10-12 feet tall and 15 feet wide.  The images form the backdrop scene has rocks, grasses, and animals from that region on a diorama set in front of it.  They provide an interesting look into the geography and ecology of the region.  The top photograph has both images framed behind me.

The Chihuahuan Desert display features an image from Big Bend National Park that has  the distinctive and aptly named Mule Ears Peak in it.

For any of the photographers who feel caught up in the megapixel race, this image was made on my 10MP Canon Rebel.  In all modesty I have to say it looks pretty awesome printed at 12 foot tall.

You can the image with the cactus, javelina, and assorted other plants and animals in front to complete the desert set.

The Blackland Prairie display features an image that I photographed in Tarrant County of an area where open grasslands of the prairies still exists.

You can see here how they added some of the native grasses and have a hawk in flight above it.  Note the person on the other side of the display for scale.  The horizon line in the prairie image is 6 feet from the ground.

The museum has several other amazing exhibits with everything from learning about the galaxy, dinosaurs, geology, biology, as well as science and robotics.  Many things are hands on and will bring out the kid in anyone (earthquake simulator anyone).  Even the building itself stands out for architecture.  A truly world class destination.

I am deeply honored to be a part of it.

This is an easy place to spend 3-4 hours to take it all in and experience all that it has to offer.  If you get a chance it is well worth the visit.

Find out more about the Perot Museum

Perot Museum of Nature and Science

 PS-And look for my images too!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Prairie Hills Autumn

One of the areas I have visited a couple of times this autumn has been one of our local parks that with prairie hills.  It has been kept in an undeveloped state and still has some of the prairie grass and a few trees along the creek beds at the base of the hills.  The trees are a mix of cedar and oaks.  Luckily there are some red oaks among them and that helps bring out the fall color.  They put on a great display this year and combing them with some of the fall grasses and broomweed and the setting was right for some good fall photography.

This is a great area to walk around in but it is a little more difficult to photograph since just about every horizon has buildings of some type.  So here I had to be careful with how I framed the sky or if I even put it in the image at all.    Usually I opted to leave it out.  Partly because I am not a big fan of huge radio antennas in the image but also since it keeps your eye in the image.

Here are some images from a couple of different days in the hills.

Conditions varied and we had fog one morning, dense clouds the next trip, and then mostly sunny.  With the constantly changing light and leaves it made each visit different and led me to making different images each trip.

 That is really a neat thing when you think about it.  Photographing the same place in the same conditions is something that rarely happens.  The place might be the same but the conditions are always changing.  The light, the clouds, the color in the trees.  Over time even the size of the trees change.  Nature has a way of not keeping things the same.

One of my favorite trees that we photograph down by an old church was a perfectly shaped live oak.  I have photographed that tree for several years, but a wind storm took several large branches.  The tree is now different.  I photographed a balanced rock in the Guadalupe Mountains that has fallen and is no more.  Even Ansel Adams for all those years of living there only got the light for clearing winter storm once.  It is always different.

Enjoy it for what it is because it will be different the next time.

Already the leaves are almost gone and we are almost to winter, my next walk through these hills will be different.  No telling what it will be like.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Into the Gardens

The Japanese Garden here in Fort Worth is putting its the annual display of fall colors.  The maples there really get going after Thanksgiving and make the first weeks of December special.

As I seem to do every year, I make my first visit to check out the potential color a week or so before the holiday and then start regular visits for the next three or four weeks to see the color.

I always hope for a rainy day around the peak of the color to make the most of the photography.  Our very dry fall here has been without any rain in November so no such luck this year.  However, I did catch a cloudy day and be there as the clouds broke up so I got some great light.

The native trees seemed to turn a little slow this year so I was impressed with the color in the cottonwoods while enjoying the deep reds of the maples this year.

One thing you notice about fall color in places you visit every year is how the trees can have good or bad years.  This year we had darker reds, in some years past the maples went crimson but the last few have all been darker red.  Not that there is anything bad about that, it just adds to the variety of what you can get and why every year and trip is different.

I hope for a few more visits over the next week or so to take in the last of our major color peaks.  Then I will pursue those last few trees as the colors fade into winter.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Even More Colors

The calendar keeps moving forward.  The colors keep changing too.  However, there is still nice color to be seen here locally.  I keep going back to the same handful of parks where I see the best color and every time is different.  A few days can make a big difference.

Where a colorful tree might have been on Thursday is a bare tree on Sunday.  But two more trees may have turned vivid red just down the trail.

It is a visual feast and I cannot get enough of it.  Everyday I look out the window and hope for great clouds and the chance to make a good image of some fall color.  Some days I can only look and hope to go.  Other days I am lucky enough to make it out.  It might just be for 30 minutes, but every moment counts, especially when it comes to fall color.

Blink, and you might miss it.

Here are some of the trees and moments that jumped out at me over the last couple of weeks as I explored the views along the West Fork of the Trinity River.

I was lucky enough to catch a foggy morning but even on clear days I have been able to catch the backlit trees in a colorful view.

Every day counts and I hope I can get a few more in the field to see the fleeting colors.

Friday, November 30, 2012


The vivid reds, oranges and yellows of autumn color are my favorite time of the year to photograph.  I usually try to plan travel in the fall to see some of the great color displays of maples or aspens in October.  Then when November gets here I start to think more local as that is when our fall color season kicks in.

This year I have really put an emphasis on getting out as much as I can in search of finding local fall color.  Most people who live here would say there is not any.  A few photographers might say it is too short or things are just brown.  They are both very wrong.  We have a very nice and long fall color season.  

We also have some very vivid colors-you just have to pay attention and know where to look.

Most of our trees go yellow, but we do have native red oaks that can go very crimson.  Find red oaks and you find fall color.  There are several parks that I know of where there are red oaks and I have been frequenting them a lot over the last few weeks.  

Luckily the two best parks are also more natural areas where the trees grow on hillsides and in valleys.  That also helps from a photography standpoint since that lets me frame a shot where I can just show the trees in a natural setting.  Of course, I also try some close ups of individual trees too.

Here are some of the highlights from the last week.  The colors are probably peaking and there is some great fall color in the area.  I'll still be going out as the late changers will keep going almost to Christmas.  
The scene will slowly change to more and more bare trees and fewer and fewer with color until we enter our brief winter right after solstice.

Until then, I keep chasing the vivid reds and oranges of autumn.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Going Long

One thing I have learned about myself as a photographer is I like wide.  I may have carried a three lens kit of a wide zoom, mid zoom, and telephoto zoom-but I mainly used the wide zoom.  When I looked at my usage it went something like 80% or more of my images were taken with the wide zoom and 90% of my favorites were wides. If you look through my blog posts, I bet most of them are wide angle images too.

In fact I use the wide zoom so much, that when I made the jump to full frame I decided to never change the lens.  My lens of choice on my Canon 5D2 is the 17-40 and it stays on the camera permanent.

I like wide.

However, I still carry my Canon 50D with my 70-200 f/4L lens for those times I want to go long.  It is not often and I often think of simplifying down to just the one camera and lens.

Well, this fall I have tried to work a little more with the long lens to isolate scenes of fall color along the Trinity River.

Here are a few of those attempts as I chase autumn around Fort Worth.

The woods have been golden and some of the red oaks are living up to their name and putting on some crimson.

The longer lens does help me lose distractions and keep out the sky, houses, or whatever else might be in the scene. It is still a tougher way for me to see and I frequently find myself reaching for the wide again.  At least it is an attempt to be different.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Changes of Autumn

Autumn is passing through Texas right now.  A long slow process that takes several weeks and brings changes a bit at a time.  I have been getting out as much as I can to see it and photograph it whenever possible.

Much of that time is spent along the Clear Fork.  I think of the Clear Fork as my own backyard.  First, because it literally is in my backyard.  Second because I know of no one else who photographs it.  I know that when I take my camera out along the Clear Fork, there will be no other photographers there.  I have to say, I like it that way.

One of my favorite views along the river is in a wooded stretch.  A nice view of just a small piece of the river.  I have been by that spot every few days for several weeks now. Looking back over my images from there I can follow the progression of the colors from the yellowing greens through the first few cycles of leaves turning and falling.

I thought that change would make an interesting blog post and it is presented here.  

The first image if from October 21st.  The trees are green, but you just notice a hint of yellow that fall color is fast approaching.

We jump to November 4th and the fall color is here.  Cool days and nights have brought out the colors of the seasons.

Move forward a week to November 10th and the color really looks good, even though the first wave of change is falling.

Then we jump another week to November 17th and see the early color is gone and the second wave has gone golden yellow.

I'll probably be back by this spot a couple of more times before Christmas, which is the end of our color season, to see what happens next on the journey through autumn season.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Along the Clear Fork

Fall colors are rolling through the trees and floating down the river.  Our first wave of leaves went yellow and have fallen in the last ten days or so.  Last week I photographed them in the trees and this week as the floated on the Clear Fork. It was a whole different experience of photography and a different feeling of fall. 

It is a refreshing difference after the long summers we have here in Texas.

The leaves crunching underfoot.  The cool crisp mornings.  The yellows of fall in the trees.

The seemingly endless blue sky of the last few weeks had given way to cloud cover and it made the day even more autumn like.

I wandered the gravel bars of the river looking for patches of leaves, pools of water, and compositions that might work to put it all together.

Big yellow leaves of some tree that I have no idea what it is- you know, the big yellow kind :-)   making an ideal foreground to look downstream.  The second wave of color in trees to complete the shot.

Later in the morning I wandered the banks of the river and found this one tree jutting out over the river like an arm.  Leaves pooled on the surface of the river.  More leaves floated slowly past.  I knew I could get another image here if I could just slow the shutter enough to get a 10 second exposure.  Luckily the cloudy day and polariser did the trick and  I got just enough motion to get the shot.

Downstream I find even more color floating on the river and lining the bank.  I think there is another image to be made and hop around on rocks until I find the angle that has the nice leading lines of the water moving into the color of distant trees.

It ends up being over five hours of wandering the river with the camera and making over 200 images.  I would easily call it one of the finest days I have ever had photographing locally.  Fall color, cloudy sky, and a river-I call it a trifecta.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Fall Colors on the Clear Fork

On a cool Sunday morning, I grabbed my camera and headed for the Clear Fork.  Inspired by the fall colors I had seen west of town, I decided to see if they had reached that first wave of yellows along the Clear Fork.

The river is low right now from both lack of rain in the last few weeks and due to some work being done along the river.  That allowed to to walk on gravel bars into some areas I normally would have to wade to.

The colors are not quite as far along here in town as they are west of here.  More yellowing-green than yellow.  With luck, that will be nice in another week.  I sat up this shot in the early light and hoped the long exposure would capture the reflections of the trees in the still water.

Then later in the day I was out again with the camera and saw the one cloud we had Sunday hanging over the river and grabbed this second image.  Here the colors were further along giving me hope I will get some nice local images over the next few weeks.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fall Arrives in Texas

Fall color has arrived in Texas!

After weeks of waiting, watching and hoping-fall colors are arriving in north Texas.  I have been watching the greens of summer start to yellow and hoping something would kick them up a notch, then last week a cold snap seems to have done the trick.

I went out to Palo Pinto County yesterday to see how the last several weeks had changed the countryside.  The bright green grass of late summer had gone dry and brown.  The trees had some nice yellows.  There was even some reds in the red oaks.

Fall at last.

I started along one of the creeks in the early light.  The native trees we have here all seem to go yellow with the exception of the red oaks and the sumac.  The red oaks are a couple of weeks out although I did see a few lone trees looking bright.  What we are getting now are the yellows.

I photographed the bluffs and the trees on a clear blue sky day.  I wish it could have been cloudy and rainy but you have to work with what you have.  With the clear skies I tried to frame some views with back lit trees to highlight the colors.  A polariser helped make them pop too.

The colors were nice and are the beginning of the long fall we have here.  People do not think of Texas as a fall color destination.  What they do not realize what we have here is not a burst of vivid reds but instead almost two months of a slow rolling change.  We have our first wave now and the last one will end the week of Christmas when the bradford pears lose their leaves.

So, at last, fall is here and it means the high point of our photography season.  I plan to be in the field as much as possible chasing colors and hopefully clouds too.  Here are a couple from the day yesterday. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Palo Pinto Moonset

Moonset on a late summer morning in north Texas.  

The area west of Fort Worth around Palo Pinto County is one of my favorite places to go for a Saturday morning drive.  This summer has been one of some nice rains and even in late August there was some nice quality to the grasses.  Combine them with a moonset and some nice morning light and there was the possibility for a nice image.

I arrived on site and began photographing the hills and the moonset.  I liked the green lush quality to the grass and thought there has to be a better image, but it just was not working.  Then  I walked down the road to put the trees into the image and found just what I was looking for.

On a different note, you will find an article I did on Fisheye Lens Landscapes was reprinted in Wild Photo Mag this summer.  It's a South African based English language magazine.

You can see the article here:

Wild Photo Mag Article

The are some nice articles in the magazine from a variety of contributors and a good database of nature photographers too.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Oxbow Bend

On my last morning in the Tetons, I was up well before sunrise, broke camp and made the drive to Oxbow Bend.  I had saved this location specifically for this day as it worked out well with my route home.  

Being one of the popular spots other photographers started to show up and soon it was a small crowd.  It was not like my day at the Blacktail Ponds or out on the grass where I had a location to myself.

I moved along the bank of the river to get away a little from the crowd and found a place where I could catch a reflection of the wonderful morning sky.  At first it seemed it might just be a blue sunrise, but at last the light broke through the clouds just enough to put a little warmth on the scene and give me one last image from the Tetons.

After that quick morning it was time to hit the road for the all day drive to Fort Collins where an Elvis Presley Graceland pancake had my name on it.  That's a peanut butter banana pancake with bacon and caramel maple syrup.  As I drove away from the Tetons, I could only quote the king "Thank you. Thank you very much!"

See the Wyoming Gallery on my website for all of my best Wyoming images.

Wyoming Gallery

Let me know if you think  need to add some of the others from the blog.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Bison Herd

Another afternoon in the Tetons got later in the day and with the clouds almost non existent in the sky, I decided to work on a different kind of image.  Others were headed to Oxbow Bend or Mormon Row barns, I decided to work the backlit grasses with the Tetons that I had noticed earlier in the day.

I parked over by the barns and wandered out in the knee deep green spring grass going toward the mountains.  I set my tripod low and wanted to take in the expanse of the grass and the mighty Teton Range.

I started making images and then noticed bison moving my direction across the valley.  The animals have pretty much free range over the entire valley that is Jackson Hole and they are wild.  I consider myself smart enough not to approach a wild animal and stayed where I was.  As the shadows got longer they moved closer and I just set there and watched them, taking an occasional image and wondering if that got too close what direction would I retreat.  

The animals, of course, knew right where I was and the herd split making their way around me about 60 yards away on either side.  They seemed neither interested nor bothered by one lone individual sitting in the grass.

I photographed the animals as the worked their way around me and the sun set behind the peaks.  The light lit the scene and the animals moved and grazed.  In just a few minutes the bison had moved past me and reformed a single hers headed east away from the peaks.  It was like water flowing around a rock and I was the rock.

It was an experience I could only describe as primordial and a one of a kind sight.  I sat there thinking it was another great day to be here.  Then I wondered what the next day might bring.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Schwabacher's Landing

When I was pre-planning my visit to the Tetons, I looked over many images of the park and kept noticing that I was really drawn to the images from Schwabacher's Landing.  So, of course, I wanted to work it in as a location to visit.

Like all the famous views in the Tetons it is a marked turnoff from the highway.  You follow a gravel road down to the river.  Now the only tricky part is the first place you get to is not where you want to be.  Follow the road to the end and a small parking lot.  You will see the river, and the boat put in-but that is not "the shot" either.  Follow a path to the right and you walk along the edge of some beaver ponds. Finally reach an area with a bench and the famous framed view.

I set up there one morning and waited for the light.  Several other people showed up.  There were just enough clouds in the sky to be a shot.

I got mine.

However, I was actually kind of underwhelmed with it.  Turns out that "the shot" was not all I hoped it would be.  So I started walking back along the length of the beaver pond until  found one of the beaver dams.  The pond was more narrow, the grass was taller, and  some of the trees on the far side were dead.

This had much more interest and I worked that and got this second image, which I like significantly better.

So pre-planning gave me a good place to start but actually taking some time there got me both something a little different and also a little better.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Tetons

Grand Teton National Park is just south of Yellowstone, but is a completely different park. Really it is hard to believe they are next to one another.  Sure both have a lot of animals, but the scenery is topography is very different.  Yellowstone has its thermal features and is more rolling.  In the Tetons you are in a deep and flat valley with a range of huge peaks right there.

That flat valley can be useful for images and it also makes it easy to get around.  In fact most of the famous images you see from the Tetons are from easy to reach spots along the road.  Add to that fact that many are fairly close together and it really is an easy place to photograph.

What had been a clear morning in the Hayden Valley and at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone became cloudy and rainy as I made my way into the Tetons.  I set up my camp in the Gros Ventre campground, which is a little less crowded than most and very close to a few of the areas I wanted to photograph like the barns of Mormon Row.

I explored several locations for potential and watched the rain.  Late in the day it looked like it was going to have the potential for a great sunset.  I decided that I liked the view from the Blacktail Ponds area.  First, it was an area I had not seen images from, I really liked the stream that meandered through the valley there, and finally no one else was there. 

I made a few images and played around with different compositions.  I walked down to the stream but it lost something in the view down there so I walked back up the small hill.  I saw some bison not too far away and tried to frame them with the Tetons, but they did not want to cooperate.

As the evening wore on the clouds started to break up and I wondered if they would last until sunset.  What had been a completely cloudy sky soon only had clouds right along the ridge of the Tetons.  

Luck was with me as those clouds lit up nicely.  Still I had to frame the mountains tighter to keep out the clearing sky.  If only the clouds had stuck around.  I guess those are just things you have to be able to work with.  It was still an awesome view and I was able to photograph until the light was gone.  

Truly a spectacular place!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is one of the classic images of the national parks.  One that just says being out west on vacation.

Look at my last post of the Hayden Valley and the realize this is just a few miles down river from that wide expansive view.  Actually the Yellowstone River changes greatly in the park.  The broad expanse of Yellowstone Lake, the running through a narrow forested canyon, opening up to the wide Hayden Valley, back into the woods and suddenly over the falls into the magnificent canyon.

Quite a view.

Of course it was clear again.  However you work with what you have.  I spent about an hour taking it all in and then as the sun was already bright in the sky, headed south.  It was time to get to the Tetons!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hayden Valley

The Hayden Valley is another area favored by the wildlife crowd in Yellowstone.  It follows the Yellowstone River as it flows north out of Yellowstone Lake and before it gets to the big waterfalls at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

The river is actually rather forested and passes the Mud Volcano area I blogged about in my last post.  It then opens up into the wide Hayden Valley suddenly in front of you.

The views are rather expansive here.  The river meanders through the valley.  There seems to be ever present bison.

I would really like to be here on an overcast day with elk, bison, wolves, and bears in the valley.  Not that I would make much of a picture of any of them.  One thing I have learned is I am not a wildlife photographer at all.  Give me rocks and trees, they move a lot slower.

Still being here on a day with some spring green and a few bison made me try to capture a sense of place for what the valley is.  

Actually being here confirmed my earlier thought that Roosevelt is the place to stay in Yellowstone.  It is a great base camp to explore the Lamar Valley to its west, the Northeast corner to the northeast, and south to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone into the Hayden Valley.  It also is far less crowded than the Old Faithful area.  Great views, animals, mountains, and not near the fire damage as the western side of the park.  Seems more like a winning plan.