Monday, June 30, 2008

Marty Robbins Country

I have always liked the Marty Robbins classic “ El Paso ”. It sums up the open spaces of the west as a lonely place where you ride for miles. A place where the view goes on forever.

As I was heading west toward El Paso across the open grasslands, I kept stopping what seemed every half mile. Stop. Look. Take pictures. Drive. Stop again. .

This is a big open country. After many miles the road starts to climb the first hills that rise up and become the Hueco Mountains. There I stop yet again.

From this first rise the view stretches back almost 100 miles. The volcanic peaks of the Cornudas Range, the Black Mountains, the Sierra Tinaja Pinta, and even the distant Guadalupes are visible. A big view of a wide, open, empty land. Certainly the kind of place Marty Robbins might sing about.

I walk along the grass and look at the yuccas, the sky, and the distant peaks. The clear blue sky is not a photographers favorite, but you work with what you have. Besides, it enhances the open feeling of the place.

The view is empty- I cannot see a house or town or structure. What a place this would be to have a horse.

I set up the camera and decide to wait here for the sunset. This view is too big and too nice to not be here. I already know that I will be back to this spot.-the view here is perfect west Texas.

And that view could inspire a song.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

High Lonesome

The high lonesome grasslands found east of El Paso are some of my favorite country on the open road. The sky is big and the land is empty. The roads are long and often empty too.

The road to Sierra Blanca is one of those lonely ones. It runs almost due south from US 180 through high dry grasslands. This is an area of big open rangeland. Lots of grass. Lots of sky. Sometimes a yucca. Occasionally you will find a “forest” of yucca. Mountain ranges rise in every direction. Some are big, others small. Sometimes they are just a couple of peaks. All one sees are grass, yucca, mountains, and sky.

The road runs west of the Black Mountains , I can see them and the Sierra Diablo to my east. The volcanic rock of the Cornudas range are behind me to the north. To the west I can make out the rise that is the Hueco Mountains . Ahead of me is the bigger mountain that is Sierra Blanca. In the distance I can see the Guadalupes and even make out the snow on them, even though they are over 50 miles away.

This is ranch land. This is big ranch land. Over a 45 mile stretch on highway 1111 you only pass a few different ranches. The range is mostly open too. The pampas colored grasses seem to go on and on. Pronghorn dash across this land. I see several herds of them on the drive and count at least sixty.

I drive for miles and do not see any sign of civilization- no people, no houses, not even a windmill. Nothing but this high lonesome grassland and an occasional animal. I do not even pass another vehicle.

As I pass through one of the yucca forests I see a lone bull in the grass. It is a scene that really grabs my mind as telling a story about this land, so I stop and set up the camera. I can see the yuccas, the bull, the Black Mountains and the Guadalupes in the distance beyond them. Even with my longest lens, I still have a pretty big view of the land and sky. I add the polarizer to help bring out the sky and snap a couple of images. I like it. I wish there maybe were better clouds, but I really like this view.

Then I am back in the car heading south into town. Sierra Blanca is a small town that is on I-10 and the seat of Hudspeth County . I top off the gas tank and drive around to the south for a few miles looking south toward the Big Bend country and Mexico . Part of me wants to keep going that way, but I decide to save that direction for another time. I turn around and head north again.

The open lonely range is calling and so I drive back out into the high lonesome.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Dry Mountain Valleys

I love the mountains in west Texas . After one has driven for hours across the Permian Basin they are a welcome relief of a view. The mountains of west Texas rise out of the desert and can be said to be the southern extension of the Rockies, although they look like nothing in Colorado.

There are well over twenty five ranges (29 depending on what you call a "range") that are all really desert ranges-the vast majority of them are dry. Think of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and you think of clear trout streams but the mountains here are all but dry rocky places. Only the Guadalupes, Davis and Chisos get high enough to generate any real moisture and that is still rapidly runs off or is absorbed into the ground. The rest are mostly rock and brush, although you never know what spring or canyon may contain a surprise.

The Franklin Mountains are like that. They rise some 4000' feet above the city of El Paso and top out at 7000'. They are something to look at, but they are dry. Their elevation and size is just not enough "mass" to generate large amounts of rain, so they are dry peaks with dry valleys. Sure it rains here, it has even snowed twice one week when I was there but moisture is still the exception-not the norm.

When I was up on the trans-mountain drive I stopped at the summit of the pass that the road cut goes through. There a trail starts up a dry wash toward one of the high peaks. With some snow on the peak and the rocky dry stream bed I was struck thinking it reminded me of something one might see in the Himalaya (not that I have been there, but the impression from images I have seen). So I set up my camera in hopes of capturing the scene as my mind saw it, not a mountain range surrounded by a city, but a desolate place half a world away.

The crisp temps, dusting of snow, and wonderful fresh smell of the desert after a rain made the scene even more vivid to the senses. I set up the tripod, picked out a lens and added the polarizer and a grad filter to balance the shadows with the light on the peak. This desert valley of west Texas had taken on a whole new look. I made a few images.

I thought about hiking to the peak, but it was too late in the day. I hoped I would get another opportunity but the snow would be gone before I had that chance. Still I made an image that stood out for me as a rare snow in Texas

It was a good day.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

El Paso Winter

Spring has turned to summer and with the summer heat I was looking back through some images from a winter trip to El Paso.

Texas winter is fairly short and snow is a rare occurrence. I was lucky enough to catch a little of both in El Paso. I flew in one afternoon to be greeted by a dusting of snow on the Franklin Mountains. After getting the rental car I was heading right to the Woodrow Bean Trans-Mountain Highway which crosses right through the heart of the Franklins. On the western side of the range are some pullouts that make a great place to watch the sunset (and do people ever). They also have a nice view looking up at the peaks. The warm afternoon sun has melted what had been several inches of powder but there was still enough to draw my interest and make a great image.

In making the image I was able to use a longer lens (my 210mm) and use rise to take the orange barrier you see out of the image. I was quite pleased with the result.

It does not snow that often but I got lucky enough to catch it.

And on a hot summer day a little snow sounds nice.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Fort Worth Dawn

Dawn along the Trinity Trail near downtown Fort Worth.

Cowtown has a nice downtown and a nicer systems of trails that follow the Trinity River for miles in several directions. A true urban greenbelt.

This view is of a small pond near the river and downtown. The large foreground building is the headquarters of Pier 1. The other buildings rise beyond.

This is a nice place to be in the early morning when the lights of the city and the twilight in the sky fill the scene with color. The reflections in the pond only make it better.

As a photographer it is also a nice place to have the front rise capability of the view camera to keep perspective and distortion under control.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Old Factory

An old factory in Waxahachie, Texas.

I found this image one day on my way to lunch. We had been out photographing the town one morning and were getting hungry. We had a lunch destination in mind but got there about 30 minutes too early. So while we were waiting we drove around, turned a corner, and found this great looking old factory. We had thought that 30 minutes was a long to to wait (hey we were hungry) but once we found this we forgot about our hunger.

I only made two images and would really like to go back and explore this location. I only wish that it was not locked up tight by a big fence as this building has character.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Power Towers

Normally I prefer to photograph out in the lonesome landscapes of west Texas. When I am back in town I look still look to get out and photograph. I have found many "small" landscapes that you would not expect in a city environment.

On occasion I go beyond the landscape and photograph buildings or other objects of interest.

The big metal electric transmission towers have drawn my interest several times. On this morning the lights of the city were lighting up the fast moving, low hanging clouds. I thought the geometry of the towers and the color in the sky made a nice image.

It was not like being out at El Capitan but it was sure alot closer to some good Tex-Mex for breakfast.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Texas Tea

The oil patch is alive and well in the Lone Star State. Record prices for energy and new drilling techniques are allowing drilling even in town.

This rig is one of tens of dozens working around Fort Worth these days. The bonanza is natural gas (but Texas Tea sounded better as a title) in the Barnett shale. There is as much drilling going on here as anywhere.

I was out early one morning to photograph this rig and some old railroad trestles. Since it was dark and the rig was all lit up I went for that as a way to start the morning. The fast moving clouds only added to the image.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Under the Dark Cloth

This is my view of the world when under the dark cloth. The camera is taking the image you saw it set up for in the last post.

It is dark enough to see the image with the dark cloth in place. Without it, forget it.

It is with this view that I focus, frame and tweak the composition. It is slow. It makes you think. The outside wold fades away.

It is just you and the image.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

At the Modern

Back in Fort Worth photographing around town. It is a far cry from the Big Bend country, but there are still a fair amount of locations to make great images.

Here is one from the Modern Art Museum. It is a work of art itself and one I have tried a few times to make a great image of.

I really like the water, glass and concrete-it makes a remarkable place to view art or make it.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Why I Keep Going Back

There are some locations I keep going back to. Sometimes, I am hoping for better light, other times it because I just did not get the image to come out right.

So I keep going back.

This is one of those locations. It is in Big Bend National Park where the Rio Grande flows out of Santa Elena Canyon. I have photographed in this location several times. I have photographed several different angles both into and out of the canyon.

This view out the canyon has the Rio Grande, Terlingua Creek, and the Chisos in it. It is also an image that has intrigued me for four years. The first year the light was not right. For the next two years I got the light but missed the shot (either too weak or too strong grad filter). On this trip I had already worked this image once but at the time I had taken it was not too sure about the light. Then with only a short time left on the trip I got this. The clouds were right. The river was still. The dawn had glorious red sky. It all finally came together. On this morning I was able to get several sheets of Velvia through the camera.

And after four years and several attempts, I finally got a great image. Well maybe I'll have to try again on the next trip to see if I can do better. I guess I'll have to keep going back.