Monday, August 22, 2016

Unknown Slot Canyons in Big Bend

Big Bend is a truly majestic national park.  It is big, empty, and full of incredible scenery.  I have been visiting the park for over 25 years on numerous trips.  Of late it has been two to three trips per year to the park.

You might think that after all this time I would be bored with it, but it is really the opposite.  Every trip to the park I find something new.

Over my last few trips, I have been looking for out of the way places- here are a couple of them.

A couple of years ago, I was looking at Google Earth and found what looked like a little slot canyon.  I went exploring on my next trip and sure enough, it was!

I have visited that canyon a few times now and really like it.  

It is shallow and it has both narrow and wide spots.  At times the sun shines right through it.  Other times It gets nice reflected light.

I even ventured into it at Night one time to photograph the Milky Way from it.

It has become a favorite place to visit and this last spring, it was a place I spent a few hours one afternoon.

On another clear afternoon, I went exploring further in the area.  I knew that the rock in the area could form little slots so I wanted to see what I might find.

Imagine my thrill to find another one!

This one was very narrow and not even thirty feet long before it reached a pour-off.  However what it lacked in size it made up for in narrowness and charm.

I made my way in and set up a couple of photographs to capture the light.

Finding these off the map and unknown spots is always fun.  Having a spot that no one else has photographed is rewarding and so different then being at an overlook with 500 people like you get in the busier parks.

Being at the end of the road, Big Bend probably sees fewer people in a year than Grand Canyon gets on Memorial Day weekend.  It means a park I can have to myself and being able to find spots like these.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Night on the Lost Mesa

In the spring of the year I made a trip to west Texas and New Mexico.  It was a chance to get out west for a week of dark sky and some landscape photography.  My first stop was to make the drive out to the Lost Mesa.  I have wanted to get there for a shot at the spring Milky Way for sometime and decided to make that the start of a longer trip into the Big Bend country.

If you have read any of my other  Blog posts on the Lost Mesa you will find out what a lonely and quiet place this is.  Roughly 1.2 million acres of mostly public land that has no paved roads, no signs to point the way, and where you are a long, long way from help.  A place few have heard of, and only a handful will ever visit.

A truly wonderful place for the adventurous.

I made the drive out and found the high desert grasslands were in their typical dry and dusty conditions.  There was also the severe clear that one often finds out this direction.  That would make for no sunset but I hoped that would in turn, make for a good chance at the Milky Way at 0300 in the morning.

I did a hike across the mesa and around some lonely mountains.  Occasionally I even snapped a photo although the light was harsh.
As evening settled in with zero clouds I got to my camping spot and would be close to me selected spot for the Milky Way.  I took a few pictures of the sunset light and probably deleted 98% almost immediately.

As dark settled in, I crawled into my Honda Element which was set up in camping mode, stretched out and slept.  By 0300 the next morning I was up and going.  I walked up a small hill with some ocotillo on top and an angle of view to the southeast.

The Milky Way was rising in the sky just as I had hoped and I set about making images of the scene in front of me.

I had brought both my A7R and A7S and was working both on two tripods.  Photographing with two cameras is very tough, but possible at night as the longer exposures give you time to go from one to the other.  However you stay busy and I always worry about kicking a tripod in the dark.

The ocotillo made some interesting foreground subjects that I did some light painting on.  I also did narrower images where I precluded any foreground and just combined the Milky Way and surrounding mountain peaks.

Before I knew it, the night was fading and dawn was approaching.

The image that I had previsualized was there and I was able to get it.  I had a good shot and it was off across dusty roads toward Van Horn, Marfa, and Big Bend.