Thanks to a wet winter, we’ve had a really good spring for wildflowers in central Texas. There are millions of bluebonnets and other wildflowers along the major highways in Austin. (Thanks, Lady Bird.)
Sometimes, I think I take the wildflowers for granted. Growing up in Texas, I’ve seen and photographed a lot of bluebonnets. So rather than go out and photograph them, I’ve just been enjoying the wildflowers as I’ve been driving around town.
Do I really need another bluebonnet portrait? Can I find a new, interesting wildflower composition I haven’t seen before? Still, the flowers are so good this year, maybe it’s worth at least a little effort.
So this past weekend, one of my best friends and I decided to try to find a good spot for wildflower photography.
But first, we had lunch. And then we went shopping for a hat for her. Next, we drove down some country roads, but didn’t find any wildflower patches that inspired us. Then we gave up the wildflower search to visit a neighborhood garden tour, and to spend some time with a couple of friends who live there.
Near the end of the day, we still hadn’t taken a photo of wildflowers. As we left our friends, we drove by a neighborhood park flooded with the distinctive, blue, state flower of Texas. We got out our gear and walked around. I took several dozen photos, but we were tired, and I don’t think either of us felt particularly inspired.
Back home at the end of the day, I went through my images, and selected a few worth keeping. And when I saw the image below, I was reminded that it’s not about the photography, and it’s not about the flowers. It’s about being inspired by the people who touch us. It’s about friends who make us laugh. It’s about sharing life. Thanks, Nicole, for being part of it.
Tomorrow morning, I leave for Reno, Nevada. I hope to see an old friend, and spend some time near Lake Tahoe. And then on to Yosemite National Park.
I’ve never been to this section of the country before, and I’ve been looking forward to this trip for a couple of months.
Yosemite, of course, has been made famous by photographers such as Ansel Adams, William Neill, and scores of others. I have a good friend who has mentioned that she’s intimidated by Yosemite—“how to take a unique, interesting picture when every square inch of the place has been photographed before?”
I also realize that the week before July 4 isn’t the best time to visit a major national park if I want to avoid crowds.
But I’m not going with a list of “must have” shots. I’m not going with an agenda. I’m not going with much of a schedule to keep.
Will I shoot the iconic pictures of El Capitan, Half Dome, waterfalls? Probably. Maybe just for my own memories—or for some photographic “B roll”, as it were. Or maybe I’ll find a perfect shot.
I do hope that Yosemite Valley will be one of those places that takes my breath away when I see it. Places like Crater Lake in Oregon, or the Grand Canyons of the Colorado or the Yellowstone.
But if I go into this with fixed ideas of what I’m going to shoot, I might miss something beautiful right in front of me. Recently, I’ve had some great lunch conversations with one of my best friends about this—about being ready to let good things happen in life, rather than trying to force them to happen.
Last weekend, I had the great privilege to visit a friend’s ranch near Kerrville, Texas, with a few other photographers.
We were hoping for partly cloudy, interesting skies. Instead, it was overcast and misty much of the time. But this didn’t prevent us from going out and photographing.
One of the tricks I learned from Bob Krist is that when the weather’s bad, you can usually wait until a few minutes after sunset, and the sky will go blue. I also used a little flash to kick a little light onto the Texas flag. (Click on any of the images to view them larger.)
Another trick I’ve learned is that infrared can make overcast skies look pretty interesting even in the middle of the day. I have a Nikon D200 that I’ve converted to infrared (at lifepixel.com).
I took the infrared idea a step further. I used the intervalometer built into most Nikon DSLRs, and set it up to take a photo every couple of seconds for a few minutes, and then converted these images to a video with Adobe Photoshop Extended. (As expected, the “HQ” button below noticeably improves the video quality.)
On Saturday afternoon, we had a few hours of sun, where the infrared images get really interesting. Here’s the back porch of the ranch house…
And in this infrared shot, I’ve left the colors that come straight out of the sensor. There’s a hint of blue left in the flag, and I like the overall sepia tone.
One morning, we hiked up one of the hills to an area that overlooks the ranch house. There’s an old Madrone tree part of the way up.
The hillside opposite the front of the house was covered in wildflowers, especially Damianita. Here’s a fisheye view of several hundred flowers.
The Prickly Pear cactus were also beginning to bloom. Here are some near the old corn cribs.
On our last morning at the ranch, we decided to try to find a golden-cheeked warbler. We never found one, but I did get this photo of an Ash-Throated Flycatcher.
Here’s a photo of John Wheat, in search of the elusive warbler.
And here’s a shot of my buddy Copper. She is a city dog who loves being a ranch dog, too. She’s on a diet.
It is a tradition that every group that visits the ranch gets their picture taken by the bell, so here’s our gang. We’re smiling, but a little disappointed that our ranch adventure had to end so soon.
Yesterday, I traveled down to San Antonio with one of my best friends for a photography expedition. Our goal was to just explore and play. I took my infrared Nikon D200 (converted by LifePixel) and my visible light (unmodified) Nikon D300.