Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Spring of a New Year

Spring has arrived in Texas!

I spent last week in Big Bend National Park and spring has begun in west Texas.  Wildflowers are popping up and the trees are leafing out.  Our short winter is behind us and the new year has brought a new season.  It is a magical time of renewal and the return of color to the palette of nature.

There is something about the rebirth of the new growing season.  The freshness in the air energizes you and the bright colors begin to fill the landscape again.  Then there are the wildflowers.  Nothing like wildflowers in the desert.

Texas is a great place for wildflowers and Big Bend is no exception.  The winter snows and rains we had brought enough moisture that the flowers look like they will be nice.  The bluebonnets here are popping up along the roadside and there are small yellow ones starting to spread across the desert grasslands.  It looks as if any rain this month would make it a banner year for flowers.  That would be a welcome sight after the 2011 drought that was very hard on the plants here.

The bluebonnets have returned and they are also appropriately big out here-over two feet tall.  Bunches of bonnets will be up to your knees (or taller).  It is quite a sight to see.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

First Snowfall in Montana

On my last morning in Montana, I was up and gone early.  I had a plane to catch but thought if I left early I could have about an hour right at first light to see what it was like up the mountain.

The snow had stopped and I got into the higher country in twilight.

The snow was soft, white, and fresh.  The gold of aspen peaked out here and there.  A few streams bubbled down the mountainside in this winter wonderland of fresh snow.

I found a few scenes and worked quickly at each one.  I knew my time was measured in mere minutes.

 I found a hillside with aspen, their yellow leaves peaking through a dusting of snow.  I walked in the fresh snow and set up my tripod along streams and framed as many possible images I could make.

I watched as the clouds were beginning to break up with the sunrise.  I knew it would be a perfect day to be out with a camera.  I only wish I had longer to stay and enjoy the new snow.  I wish I had time to get back over to Glacier National Park as I am sure the snow must have been glorious there.

However, I made these few images and then headed out of the mountains and raced to the airport to catch my flight home.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Snow in the Bears Paw

Timing can be everything in nature photography.  Being in the right location at the right time is a combination of planning and luck.  After, the fall colors and great sky of the last night of the season in Glacier I was east of the park on the prairies of north central Montana at the foot of the Bears Paw Mountains.  

I got to see fall colors along the Milk River and some as I explored the mountains too.  Then it snowed!

The first snow of the season happened and I was just able to get out long enough in fading light to make some images in the mountains.  I drove up into the range in a light snow that got heavier the higher I went.

As I climbed out of the prairies the road followed a stream through low treeless hills.  Then cottonwoods appeared along the stream and slowly pines begin to appear on the hillsides.  The hills got steeper and more wooded until I was in the deeper mountains where the hills had become small mountains and it was a thicker forest of pine and some aspen in color.

The snow was billowing in.

I was delighted to catch such a scene.  Seeing the first snow of the season on the golden aspen and in the lush pine forest was spectacular and I made the most of the brief time I had photographing until it was too dark to see.

As I made my way back down the mountain in the dark, I smiled knowing that I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Montana Great Plains Country

East of the Rockies lie the Great Plains.  Just a short drive from the grandeur of Glacier National Park the incredible openness of the  prairies seem to stretch forever.

I left the park and traveled east along the "High Line" where US2 and the old Great Northern line traverse the plains just south of the Canadian border.

You drive past open range, wheat fields, and the occasional small town.  This is truly Big Sky Country.

I saw the colors of the fall grasses and the immense blue of the sky.  I saw the cottonwoods in bloom along the Milk River.  I caught the moonrise over the prairie.

I also got to see some of the "island" ranges that dot central Montana.  While the Rockies do suddenly rise and mark the edge of the prairies, there are also small isolated mountain ranges on the plains.  They pop out of the grassland and add elevation and are like islands in a sea of grass.

The Bears Paw Mountains are one such range.  A small range of isolated peaks, hills, and trees is a hidden gem of a location unknown outside a few locals. Here is a shot of the Bears Paw Range as it rises out of the prairies.  Those distant hills and ridges drew me to explore and see what kind of views and scenes they might hold.  I have always liked to find these off the beaten path locations and I knew they would be another great place to photograph.  I would not be disappointed.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Montana Fall colors

The end of September is a great time for fall color in Montana.  However it is not so great for visiting the area.  The lodges either are shut or will close for the season by October 1st meaning it is hard to find a place to stay.  It is if everyone just leaves.

That is too bad really as the show the aspens put on is a good one.

After getting a great sunrise on Swiftcurrent Lake I started to make my way out of the park but had to stop for a few fall color images along the way.  I even drove up to see Chief Mountain.  By that time the wonderful morning clouds had given way to blue sky and I got a nice location with just ok light.  Still could not beat being in Montana.

By mid-morning I was pretty hungry as I had not had breakfast and found a small general store where I got a banana, a muffin and some M+M's.  After just a bag of almonds the night before, it hit the spot.

So I left the park and headed east out onto the prairies.