Sunday, August 17, 2014

Nolan River Nightscape

Exploring the Nolan River has been one my main photography projects over the last year or so.  The Nolan is a small short river that maybe covers 50 miles over it's entire length running through Johnson and Hill Counties before it empties into the Brazos at Lake Whitney.

It is a place that, in essence, few people see and no one photographs.  

It is however, close to home.  In an hour or less I can be at any spot along the river.  That gives me a chance to make it a Saturday morning destination.  It is one I have visited on a regular basis for the last 15 months.

The river is small, in some place, not much more than a creek.  It often has a rock or rocky bed.  It flows past a few bluffs.  It also has one last key piece-a few places you can access it.

River beds are public land in Texas.  River banks are not. So access without trespassing is tough, but I know just a few places where I can access the river by bridges and photograph it.

This summer I have been visiting every weekend near the new moon to work on Milky Way images.  The Nolan has pretty dark sky for being only 50 miles from Dallas-Fort Worth.  It helps that down in the river one can see no lights.

To photograph the Milky Way that usually means leaving at 2AM, which puts me in the river by 3 and I photograph until the Milky Way fades or the sun comes up.  It depends on the clouds if I stay for sunrise.

Normally, Texas summers are too hot, too clear, and too green for landscape photography.  Nightscapes open up a whole new possibility as those clear skies are perfect for the stars, and the temps are much more tolerable.

Every month, the Milky Way has moved higher and farther west in the sky.  I have been there every new moon weekend and luckily I have been able to get some nice images and follow it across the sky.

I have been light painting the bluff and letting it stay dark.  Luckily being limestone, it picks up the dim starlight well and has some definition even in the dark.  

I work one particular section of the river where there is a nice east-west view along a bluff and the river then bends more north-south too which lets me have some different angles.

There are many compositions that I have tried, but find I keep coming back to the same 3-4 which really jump out at me.

Most mornings I can visit all of them, although I find the 2-3 hours I photograph in the river goes by very quick.

These are some of my favorites over the last four new moons.  You will notice the images put the Milky Way in different spots over the bluff or river, with June and July giving me perfect placement for the down river shot.

I hope to get in a couple of more mornings this season and might even try a sunset in the fall in this spot.


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