Sunday, January 31, 2016

Volcano Country Nightscapes

One of my favorite places to do night photography in the park is the volcano country on the west side.  Here one finds the remnants of volcanic cores, fines, dikes, and tuff.  

The interesting geology of the volcanic activity makes for great foregrounds in an image, especially a nightscape!

I visited the volcano area on two different nights.  Each time I would move around the rocks and tuff looking for a composition.  It is harder in the night although the white tuff helps one see the dark rocks that make interesting subjects.

Sometimes I light paint the rocks and others I do not.  The high ISO capability of my Sony A7S is so good it often makes dark look almost like day.

I mostly worked with the 12mm fisheye lens.  The ultra-wide view it has is great for capturing the night sky and foreground subjects.  

As it gets dark enough to see the Milky Way I start to try to make images.  Walking around on volcanic tuff is actually pretty tough as the tuff is often loose and gravelly making it easy to slide.  And you do not want to slide when you are carrying a camera on a tripod.

So one moves carefully.  Take your time.  then carefully set up.

Then worry about the image.


Luckily the camera makes it pretty easy so I can worry more about the composition than the technicals.

Each time I visit this area I tend to work spots I have in the past as well as new angles and views.  Always there is the hope I will get another good image I can put in my website galleries.

This fall there was some great dark skies and even with a few clouds (which were missing at sunset.....) made for some good night conditions.

Here are a few of my favorites from those October nights.  Each one with a different take on the geology features of the volcanoes and with views to the Milky Way shining in the dark sky of west Texas.  I am already looking forward to returning here in the spring of 2016 and working several different compositions that I will be able to do then.




Sunday, January 24, 2016

Santa Elena Canyon at Night

In the fall of 2014 I had planned a trip to Big Bend just for one photograph.  This last year I went back to take it again.

Some might wonder I would go back to take the same photograph I already had, but I know every chance I get into the field is going to be different so I often revisit the same locations.

I arrived at the canyon before sunset and there were too few clouds to make a sunset.

The light slowly faded toward dark and a few clouds moved in.

The the darkness went from twilight, to blue to black. Finally it was dark enough to see the Milky Way and I went to work to capture it.

Standing in the dark on the edge of the Rio Grande with the black walls of Santa Elena Canyon climbing 1500' (500m) above you and then the Milky Way soaring above that and across the sky is a humbling experience.  It makes one feel awfully small in a very big universe.....


I had a couple of cameras to use here:

Sony A7S with Samyang 12mm fisheye.  This is my main night setup.  The camera is amazing at night and the fisheye is the lens that truly captures the vastness of the Milky Way.

I also had my Canon 5D Mark II.  This is a very good camera that has been my all-round model but is surpassed by yhr A7S for night work.  Here I am using my Samyang 24mm f/1.4 lens.

Between these two models, I have very good capability to get a nice close view and the ultra-wide view the fisheye offers.

I would bounce between cameras and even with the longer exposures it keeps you very busy.

I photographed the sky, watched the clouds move around, and kept making images.  Occasionally a fish would jump and the splash always sounded very loud and close.  It always surprises you in the dark.

After an hour or so, I felt I had to have something, I decided to go try another area with an old ruin before calling it a night.

I left thinking, I should probably go try this again in 2016......






Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Secret Slot Canyon

Big Bend is a big park.  It is a landscape photographers dream.  It is seldom visited and it is truly the end of the road.

There are many neat things to see.  There is also much that is hidden within plain sight.  There are three huge, world class canyons in Big Bend- Santa Elena, Mariscal, and Boquillas.  Two of the three are easy to access.  All can be floated.

But there are others.

Places off the map.

Places few know about.

Over the years I have found two such canyons.  Canyons that would be major attractions in most other parks.

But amongst all that is her....there are lost and hidden.

These images are from a secret little slot canyon.  

A little canyon that is just a 100 yards or so long, yet fairly narrow and twisty.  A place that is neat to explore and try to photograph.  It is not a slot canyon in the true sense of those in Utah with the light spilling down a deep narrow place.  It is very narrow for Texas with some great geology.

A few years ago I was looking at Google Earth at different area in Big Bend and saw what looked like a crack.  I was not totally sure what it would be like in person but it looked like it might be a narrow canyon.

I gathered a few friends and asked if they wanted to go explore what might be a slot canyon.  They were intrigued but I made no promises, telling them it might be neat or it might be nothing.  Regardless with thought the hike would be fun.

We had to do a little hiking and scrambling but sure enough we looked down ito a little slot canyon.  We had to then find a way down into it.  That took a little searching but we made it.

What we found was a truly neat little slot canyon.

While I am sure others have been here, I have never seen an image from here before and it has never been mentioned in any guidebook either.

That unknown quality adds to the charm and the call of a spot like this.

I have been back a few times now (even at night) slot Canyon at Night

This last fall I spent a few hours one morning in the canyon, looking for images and enjoying the cool shadowy recesses of it from the warm October sunshine.

I worked several different sections of the canyon, always looking for curves, overhangs, and neat looking rocks.

I really like the geology here.

It was easy to walk the length of it and still stop many times for images.  Every time is different in a place like this and everytime I seem to find some new spot or angle to make an image.

After a few hours I had a few I liked and I made my way back out into the sun and then off to the shade of camp and a cold bottle of Gatorade.


Saturday, January 9, 2016

Fall Sunrise on the Rio Grande

In October I made a solo trip west to Big Bend National Park.  There were some locations I was hoping to photograph in the dark sky of west Texas.  I was also hoping for a few nice sunrises and sunsets in the park.

October is still a warm month in Big Bend.  The mornings are comfortable cool but the afternoons still get warm to hot.  I spent my time here, photographing sunrise, going for a hike in the morning and then after lunch I would return to the shady trees of Cottonwood and rest and read during the heat of the day.  It is not often I relax like that on a photo trip but I wanted to try to relax as much as I could.  Then it was back out for sunset followed by Milky Way photography for a few hours in the dark west Texas nights.

Here was the best sunrise I had in the park.  I was at an area that overlooked the Rio Grande and had a view south toward the Sierra Ponce in Mexico.  The fall rains had the Ocotillo covered in little green leaves, the sign of recent desert rains.


I noticed some early distant orange and spent a few hours here as the sun rose and colored the sky.  I made images and changed up several compositions trying to make use of the colorful green of the Ocotillo.

As the light changed to daytime.  I decided it was time to go explore a slot canyon and headed up the road and hiked in to a secret little slot canyon I had found last year.