Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Range in Winter

I usually visit the open range country of the Otero Mesa in the high season of summer.  That also happens to be the rainy season here in the desert and September is when the area is its most lush and green.  Much of the rest of the year is very dry.  Winter is not much of an exception.  The snow event has left several inches of snow that will melt into the ground providing some moisture that will hopefully help when spring arrives.

For me the snow has added a whole new depth to the photographic possibilities here on the Lost Mesa.  Seeing the snow on this big empty landscape really inspires me as a photographer.  Looking across the open range the snow and lonely mountains is like stepping into another epoch.  If a mammoth walked into view, it would not seem surprising at all.

I captured those views in the ever changing light  of the day.  Mountains, open range, snow, and distant views.  From the cold dark of twilight through the sunrise and into a cloudy day that rapidly started to clear (as they always seem to do in the desert).  Each change presented new opportunities and different light to interpret the scene.

Each  view becomes something different, unique, and fleeting.  It is one of those days I want to both stay in one place and yet be everywhere at once.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Distant Mountains

Looking across the Otero Mesa toward the Guadalupe Mountains on a winter sunrise.

The Guadalupes rise east of the Otero Mesa in an impressive escarpment that looks like a giant wall.  The are lit at sunset and make a great silhouette  at sunrise.  Here I was able to capture them under a glorious winter sunrise.

The escarpment looms in the east and ends suddenly at the dramatic El Capitan as it flies in the sky over the desert below.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Winter Sunrise on the Lost Mesa

I woke to a cold still morning on the Otero Mesa.  It was dark and I could tell there were some heavy clouds in the sky.  I knew that clouds could mean a great sunrise and I sprung out of my sleeping bag and prepared for what I hoped would be a great morning for photography.

It was chilly.  The temps were down below freezing.  Probably around 20 degrees or so.

I set up my camera on my tripod and tried to see if I could get some images of the night sky.  Unlike the prior evening I was unsuccessful.  Between the clouds and moonless sky it was so dark my attempts at night images met with no luck.  Add in the the Milky Way is not readily visible in early January (it rises right around sunrise) and there was no success for me and mostly just dark images.

Then it started raining/sleeting.

I covered my camera and waited for dawn.  As light began to creep into the eastern sky I started to make out some of the details of the clouds and the mountains.  It was then I knew we would have a good sunrise.

I moved to a slightly different view.  I was north of the lonely individual peaks that are the Horned Mountains and wanted to show them with that way.  I also wanted to see the snow that still clung to the north faces of the peaks.

The spot I found had basically nothing for a foreground but I hoped the open quality of the grasslands with the peaks would make a good base.  Then I waited for the magic of the light.  The rain/sleet came and went in the twilight.  However that did not deter me from staying out nor did it stop the sun from coming up in a glorious fashion.

This is the sunrise I caught.

It was one of those magical mornings where it all came together to make a great image.

I was also able to turn to the west and photograph the lone Alamo Mountain under the wonderful lit clouds I had that morning.

Winter morning at its finest.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Winter Night on the Otero Mesa

The lost Otero Mesa is a lonely place by day and it is a dark one by night.  After spending the day chasing the snow I caught the late afternoon light and a fair sunset.  I settled into my camp for the evening and waited for the dark.  It was close to the new moon and I knew it would be dark skies.

I ate a quick meal and then when the stars were popping through the high thin clouds, I set my camera back up to see if I could photograph the stars and the night sky.

One thing about night photography is you need a strong foreground object.  Something to anchor the image to the ground.  Luckily the nearby mountains provided a nice feature to put in the frame.  I started making images and one of the longer exposures was picking up just enough light in the distant western sky to make out some detail in the land.

I thought it made a nice scene with the snow, mountains and stars.

I also added a similar image made in the afternoon to compare and see the amazing detail you can now get at night with modern digital cameras.  The top image may look like daylight but it was dark.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Winter Snow on the Lost Mesa

In January we had a snow event move through west Texas around New Years.  I heard reports of several inches of snow hitting parts of the state.  I knew that such things were rare and when it sounded like the temps would stay cold for it to last more than a day, I decided on a quick trip to see what I might find.  

I headed west into New Mexico and the Otero Mesa.  I found that winter white was still found here on the open range.  Snow was spread out across the grasslands, with some areas melted and other still with patches. The north facing slopes and valleys of the Horned Mountains were all still holding several inches.  The roads that had any shade were still snow packed.

I had found winter.

I had it all to myself.

I drove, hiked, and explored the mesa where it meets the lonely Horned Mountains.  The north facing slopes were all still snowed in and I set about finding some of the better compositions to show the snow here on the open range of these desert grasslands.

I have always liked the big empty quality of the land and the view here.  Getting the rare chance to see it with snow was one that was I was glad I had not missed.