Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Chisos from Desert Mountain Overlook

My most visited viewpoint in Big Bend is the Desert Mountain Overlook.  I stop here every day as this is the closest view to where I camp at Cottonwood.  It also has a several possible compositions in different directions.  It has a great view east to the Chisos that is good for sunrise as well as sunset.  Across the road are a couple of views west and south along the Rio Grande and the Sierra Ponce.  Those varied possibilities make it always a place worth checking out.  

It also has a good view of the entire sky.  Meaning when I leave the campground every morning, I always drive here in the dark.  With a clear view of the sky I can judge what the clouds are and use that to help me decide my morning location.

There are several great possibilities within a 15 minute drive so by stopping here I can judge the light and then pick the best of several possible locations.  Sometimes that means driving a little, other times it means staying put.

This was an afternoon and it was a chance to photograph clouds over the Chisos in the afternoon light.  Again, that afternoon light offers a view with the Chisos front lit.  Add in some big sky clouds and you have a great shot.

This is very different from the morning view here with the back lit peaks that truly earn the name "Ghost Mountains". 

With the clouds like they were I went with both color and b+w, figuring each might be good.  The color was ok, but honestly the wider view I was able to make with my DSLR at 17mm was better.  However the b+w image had something the digital did not.

Here is that shot on Efke 25 with DR-5 processing.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Tule Mountain

One of the unique mountains on the west side of Big Bend National Park is Tule Mountain. It is a solitary flat topped peak near the west entrance to the park at Maverick.  Geologists will tell you that it is related to the Burro Mesa which is just east of it and that faulting and blocking caused the space between the two to fall.

The result is a peak that stands alone and makes a great subject for the camera.

After spending the middle part of the day west of the national park along the river in Big Bend Ranch State Park, I stopped near Tule in the afternoon to try an image.

Being the afternoon and having another location for sunset, I decided to just do a black and white image of Tule.

The view is looking south, so I put on a polarizer to see if it would help the clouds pop slightly.  I also used the orange filter to see if that might help darken the sky a little.

Otherwise, it was simply metering and adjusting the exposure for the two filters.

Here is the result on Efke 25 with the DR-5 process for a b+w chrome.

I made two exposures to allow for a little safety in case I was off and then it was pack up and go for a sunset location.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Clear Sky Morning at Santa Elena

I made a second morning stop at Santa Elena Canyon a few days after my first visit.  It was a completely clear sky day.  This morning I decided to photography from a different vantage point to the south and downstream of the canyon and see if I could get the light on the canyon walls.

As soon as the light started to come up I began to make images.  When the pink predawn light of a clear sky is in the west before sunrise I was able to get this image.  Velvia capturing the softness and delicate color in the sky.

I photographed on through the sunrise and I had hoped the orange light of the first rays of the sun would be stunning, the final results on film lacked the qualities of this image here.

That sometimes unknown is one of those fantastic things about photography, you have to try and then see what works.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon is my favorite location in Big Bend National Park.  It is a location I visit every trip.  If you follow my WildernessPhotographer blog you have seen many entries about this amazing location.

After witnessing a spectacular sunrise where I did not even try to use the 4x5, I set up my tripod and the Arca-Swiss and decided to work with black and white.

The amazing light show of the sunrise not only ended but the clouds were rapidly fleeing the sky.  Some shadows were still sliding across the canyon and I hoped that monochrome was the way to.

I worked on two compositions.

First thith the canon centered and then with the canyon left and the the bulk of the Mesa de Anguila as the main subject.

Luckily the few clouds were making just the right amount of shadow and light.  I worked with Efke 25 and then had it processed by DR-5.

These are the best two.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Chisos Mountains

The Chisos Mountains rising out of the desert in Big Bend National Park.  The Chisos are a small compact range of mountains that are in the middle of the park.  From the river elevations of around 2000' they reach heights of 7800'.  

Mountains like this are known as a "sky island".  The desert is hot, gets little rain, and has limited plant/animal life.  The mountains provide cooler temps, gets more rain (the mountain helps generate the rain), and has significantly more plants and animals.  The desert is harsh, the Chisos has pines, aspen, and bears.  It is an island in a desert sea-hence the name "sky island".

I love the view of the Chisos rising out of the desert and usually hope to find some images that can show them for a backdrop of a desert scene.  On an afternoon of exploring on was on western side of the mountains and some clouds were starting to build in the sky.  I thought it would be a good chance to photograph the Chisos in black and white.  I found a location with a good view, however I had limited foreground and since I was west of the park, I was limited by a fence from searching for the right element.

Working with what I had, I set up the tripod and framed the view to take in the clouds with the Chisos anchoring the bottom of the frame.

I used Efke 25 that I had processed in DR-5 to a chrome.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

On the Way to the Chisos

Heading into Big Bend National Park, I always make a lot of stops for photographs.  The view here is big and scenic.  I always hope for decent clouds, good light, and a chance to make an image.  

Having a combo of light and clouds it was a great day to take my time and do some large format work as I made my way toward the Chisos.  It was mid morning and I was making it a relaxing drive of frequent stops.  It is roughly 30 miles from the north entrance to the park headquarters at the base of the Chisos.  I think it took me almost 3 hours to make that drive with all the frequent stops I made and especially if I thought there was a good spot for the 4x5.

Here was one of those spots.  I could see this rock pile from the road and carried my gear out with the hopes of making a good image of the desert floor and distant Chisos.

At first I was going to put the pock pile in the image but as I scouted the area with my digital camera it seemed the better image was from the top of the rocks, so it was there I set up the tripod and worked this image.

The shot is on Astia 100 and this box has not aged well.  When I got my film developed, all the Asita looked bad and my Velvia looked great.  This is pretty much what the chrome looks like.  I could probably work it more in Photoshop but decided to leave it as is.

I spent about 30 minutes here and the sun was already warm-and it was early February.  I packed up and headed down the road.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Desert Arroyo

In February of this year, I had the opportunity to head to Big Bend National Park in west Texas.  Big Bend is a park of superlatives that is frankly one of the five best national parks for the landscape photographer.  This is big empty country and the end of the road.  

I arrived at the north entrance to the park one morning and began the long drive to the Chisos.  The light was interesting.  Not great, but it had potential for both photography and for using large format film.  I crossed a dry desert arroyo the was leading toward the Rosillos Mountains and thought it might be worthy of an image.  I snapped a few quick pics and decided to give it a go on color film.

I set up the camera wondering how long it can take for this gully to fill when it flash floods here in the desert.  There was a nearby sign that said the road bridge across this gully had been taken by the flood waters more than once.  That would be some powerful moving water.

I decided to go with the longer 210mm lens to compress the distance to the mountains slightly.  210mm is not very "long" but it is realistically as long a lens as I need.

I framed up the arroyo with the Rosillos Mountains in the upper corner and used Velvia 100.

One image in the bag.  With luck I would have the opportunity to make several more on this trip.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Urban Wilds

Finding landscape images in town can be a challenge.  The urban setting most people live in keeps getting bigger and finding nature and specifically nature you can photograph and just get the nature part of is tougher.  Luckily it is still there if you know where to look.  

I know of several good local parks where I have found views and scenes that lack the trapping of modern society and I can just photograph nature.  Here is one of my locations in Trinity Park.  Right across the river from downtown Fort Worth is a great urban park that follows the river for a ways.  Much of the park is set up for the "modern" visitor with playgrounds and picnic tables, but there is also some areas where the tress grow thick and small streams run through them.

Here is a view that is right off of the bike path where it crosses one of those small streams.  It is a great view and I set it up specifically to photograph the creek in black and white.

Taken with the 75mm lens and Efke 25 processed in DR-5.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Great Falls of the Clear Fork

The Great Falls of the Clear Fork of the Trinity River in Fort Worth, Texas.

Texas is not known for waterfalls.  We have some historic and some very scenic rivers but the Trinity River is not one people seek out like the Rio Grande, Pedernales, Guadalupe or some of the others.  The Clear Fork is not a very long river either.  Running through only two counties and is about 50 miles long from its headwaters to where it joins with the West Fork in downtown Fort Worth.

It is a small river.  It is also in my backyard (literally) and I often walk, bike and photograph along it.

This waterfall is on the river close to where I live and I visit this spot a regular basis.

I like finding such a neat spot in town and close to home.  Over the last decade I have photographed in a variety of light, seasons, and conditions.

Here is a time I was wading in the river as some nice rain had put a nice flow over the rocks and making it a potentially good image.  I set up the camera and photographed it in both color and B+W.

Here is the monochrome version which better captures the scene this day.

I need to revisit this scene again as the new view here now has a bridge crossing the river only a few yards behind the falls.  My nice scene that might be mistaken for someplace wild will now be firmly pulled into the city.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Rock Ledges of the Clear Fork

Rock ledges of the Clear Fork of the Trinity River in Fort Worth, Texas.

It was a clear morning one day and even though the conditions were less than idea for color photography, I decided to take the camera and walk along the Clear Fork near my home.

The rock ledges have always intrigued me and I often spend a sunrise or sunset with my camera.  With mostly clear sky I decided to concentrate more on the details of the ledge, water, and some of the early morning light reflecting there.
 The river had a decent flow and I waded along the shallow ledges until I found a good set up.  I made the shot on Velvia and then with the tripod securely not going anywhere, I walked upsteam some and made the image of the camera in the water. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The Clear Fork of the Trinity River

The Clear Fork of the Trinity River is a small river by almost any standard.  It forms in Parker County, just west of Fort Worth and runs southeast into Tarrant County, where it turns northeast and runs to downtown and joins with the West Fork.  All told 40-50 miles or so.

It is the river I live along and one I do like to photograph.  Usually I walk or bike along the length of it looking for photographs.  I also will drive out into Parker County and look for vantage points of the river.  Usually that means finding roads that cross the river as it is all on private property here.

This is one such location I can see from a bridge.  Luckily this is a unbusy side road that lets me safely visit early in the morning and make images.

On this spring or early summer morning I was able to set up my camera and work with with greens and the river to make this image with black and white Efke 25 film.  

I like the forest view here.  The river is young and not really much more than a stream.  

It makes me wonder what the view is like around the bend.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Catching the 8:05

I was out photographing the prairies here around Fort Worth one morning.  I had parked near a railroad track and was photographing a ranch road as it went across the prairie grasses.  After making my shot I packed up and put the large format camera back in the SUV.

Then I heard the train.  I decided to see if I could get an image with the 4x5.  I knew the train was close, I had maybe 90 seconds to get set up.  Maybe.

I sprung into high gear.  Set the tripod back up.  Opened the camera pack and grabbed the Arca.  Racked it out.  Put on the 75mm.  Did a quick rough focus.  Leveled.  Put in some Efke 25 and used what I had metered before as my exposure.  Cocked the shutter and pulled the slide.  The engine was less than 100 yards away.  As it sped past I fired this image.

Speed and luck were with me this day.

The Arca made this possible as it is so easy to set up and use it can be done quick.  My buddy with a folding wooden field camera also tried setting up but got no where near ready.  

Gotta love the Arca!!

FWIW, I took the top image after the train had passed.  I was lucky to get set up so quick but had no time for the obligatory camera on tripod shot before.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Winter on the Upper Mississippi

Winter on the Upper Mississippi River is a fantastic time to capture images in another little photographed location.  Wisconsin, with the possible exception of Door County, is not much of a vacation destination, let alone a photography destination.  However, do not let that fool you.  Here on the Upper Mississippi River south of the Twin Cities is a true gem of a photography destination.

Most people presume the Midwest is all flat, they are wrong.  The glaciers of the last ice age missed this area and the bluffs along the river here are around 500 feet tall.  It is like being in the hill country.

I was lucky enough to have to do a several week job assignment in the area and jumped at the chance to photograph this place in January and February.  Yes, it was cold.  Several mornings were minus 25 or so.  However that did not deter me from getting out early with the camera to chase the winter light.

Here is a set up and shot I made in the marshes along the Mississippi River near LaCrosse, Wisconsin.  It was below zero this morning as I hiked into the area in the dark.  I found a view of the bluffs and slowly began to set the camera up.  Slow and methodical being the key here.  Large Format is naturally slow, but the cold adds another layer to it.  You have to think about things and you have to be mindful of how you breath.  In other words do not exhale under the dark cloth as that will freeze on your ground glass and your day will be over very quickly.  

I took my time and then waited for the shot.  In the clear morning sky the moon hanging over the bluffs was the best composition I could see.

You may also notice the bag hanging from the tripod.  I stored my lightmeter and digital camera there and wanted to keep them out of the snow.  My large pack was sitting upright in the snow behind me in an area I had stamped down to keep the bag from sinking in the powder.  That helped keep things dry and the snow out.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Autumn on the Great Plains

Autumn on the Great Plains is a little different than most places.  Primarily that means you have to look harder to find fall colors since you have to work more to find trees.  The grasses of the prairies can put on their own colorful display but let's be honest, most people still want trees to photograph.

That usually means looking for cottonwoods along streams and rivers.  However, if one knows where to look there can be other places of color.  

One such place is the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in southwest Oklahoma. Smack dab in the middle of the south plains between Wichita Falls, Texas and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma a small range of granite mountains pop out of the flat prairies.  

Some of the rocky hills here rise around 800' above the surrounding flatlands.  Streams and small lakes fill the flat valleys between the hills.  Bison, elk, and longhorn roam the refuge.  At some 50,000 acres it is one of the largest areas of public lands on the Great Plains.  It is a fantastic location that is off the beaten path of all but a few local photographers.

It also can put on a great little fall color display.  The rocky slopes of the hills and some of the narrow zig-zag valleys contain some oaks that will put on a little color display in early November.

Here are a couple of images of one early November a couple of years ago.  This is Mt. Sheridan (I presume named for General Phil Sheridan of Civil War fame) in predawn light.

The colors were in great shape that year and this display was one of my favorite scenes.  I am glad I captured it then as the drought of 2011 was severe here and hundreds of acres of the refuge burned that year.  This mountain was one that the fires raged on and today many of those trees are just charred remains.  So while nature has renewed itself, it may be a few years to capture this scene again in full autumn glory.