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Posts from the ‘Texas’ Category

Annular Eclipse

I got up early this morning and drove southwest of Austin to take photos of the October 14, 2023 Annular Eclipse. I first drove to Kerrville, because NASA was livestreaming from the Kerrville River Fest. There were some high clouds I was worried about, but it was clear to the north and there was a northerly wind. I waited, but they didn’t seem to be going anywhere. About 45 minutes before the eclipse was to begin, I decided to head west where it looked very clear. I probably would have been fine to stay in Kerrville, but I didn’t want to chance it.

I ended up at a convenience store at a highway intersection south of Junction and west of Kerrville. The red dot on this map shows my location, along with the path of the eclipse. A couple of dozen other eclipse watchers were in the same area.

Click to enlarge.

I set up two cameras… a Fuji X-H1 with a 100-400mm f/4.0-5.6 with a 1.4x teleconverter, and a Nikon D810 with a 70-200mm f/2.8 with a 1.7x teleconverter. Both had Nisi 100x100mm 16.6-stop solar filters. The longer focal length of the Fuji (840mm at 35mm equivalent) was the clear winner, even with half the megapixels of the D810. That’s what I expected, but I was treating this as a dry run for the full solar eclipse that’s coming to central Texas in April 2024, so I wanted to experiment. I’ll try to use a longer lens on the Nikon next year.

It was a long drive, but a fun excursion. Below are some of the photos from the Fuji.

Click to enlarge.

Addendum: More Thoughts on Gear

I used two solid tripods–a Manfrotto 3221W and an Induro CLT304L. For both tripods, I normally use a small center post because the legs of the tripod give plenty of height for terrestrial viewing without needing to raise the center post. But for the eclipse, I installed center posts that I could raise 6-8 inches so that I could view the back of the camera without having to stoop down. It’s a small thing, but if you’re standing around for a couple of hours taking photos, it’s a nice ergonomic comfort.

I learned this because I practiced with all my gear a few days before the eclipse. I wanted to make sure I knew how well the filters worked, how to focus, etc. If you’re planning to photograph a new situation, I encourage you to practice.

Because I practiced, I also decided that my main camera (in case, the Fuji) should be on a fluid video head instead of a regular ball head. I used a Manfrotto 701HDV head, which allows for smoother movements as I readjust where the sun is in my frame every few minutes. On my other tripod, I used my Really Right Stuff BH-40 ballhead–which was fine, but not as smooth for making small adjustments with the weight of a DSLR and mid-sized telephoto lens. I would have loved to have a motorized star tracker mount, but I don’t do enough astrophotography to warrant that.

I also set up both cameras for GPS. In the case of the Fuji, it’s as simple as pairing it with my phone over Bluetooth and using the Fujifilm Camera Remote app. For the Nikon, I use a Dawn Technology di-GPS Pro. This not only adds geolocation information to my image files, it also synchronizes the camera’s clocks to GPS time. Among other things, this makes it easier to sort photos from multiple cameras by time after I’ve downloaded them to my computer.

Creativity vs. Snow and Ice

Perhaps you heard that in mid-February, Texas suffered a devastating winter storm, which overwhelmed the power and water infrastructure.

(Click on any image to see a higher resolution version.)

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It started with an ice storm on February 11. These are relatively uncommon in Central Texas, so when they happen, they tend to wreak havoc. This storm brought more ice than usual. The weight of the ice on trees and power lines led to several power outages around the city.

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We lost power for 31 hours, beginning Thursday afternoon, February 11. Once power came back on Friday night, it pretty much stayed on for us through the rest of the storm. We were among the lucky ones; we had friends who went for several days without power or water or both.

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To round out the week, we had a frozen water heater for a couple of days, and then went through five days of a boil water notice in Austin. Oh, and don’t forget about the pandemic.

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Wildlife Photography in Rockport, Texas

An old friend of mine, Joe Des Rosier, runs the Blue Lagoon Lodge, down in Rockport, Texas. He invited me down to visit with thoughts of putting together wildlife photography tours, to add to his already popular fly-fishing tours. I had 24 hours to scout out a few possibilities. We ran into some challenges and learned a lot, but overall, it was a great trip.

The Texas coast is well known as a birding destination, and is home to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge was set aside in 1937 to protect the marshlands favored by migratory birds and other wildlife. In 1938, there was only one migratory flock of whooping cranes with fifteen birds. Today, there are over 500 whooping cranes that winter in the Aransas Bay area.

While whooping cranes were high on my priority list, I was eager to see other large birds, and any other wildlife that presented itself. After settling in at the lodge, we hopped on the boat and set out. The very first photo I took was of this Great Blue Heron, only a few hundred yards from the lodge.

Click on any image to enlarge.

Great Blue Heron

We saw heron in several other locations, as well.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron

We also saw a few sandhill cranes, with which I am familiar from my many trips to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. I’m pretty sure the bird below is a juvenile Sandhill Crane. Any bird experts want to confirm or correct? Do so in the comments below.

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Wildflowers and the Balcones Canyonlands

We’ve had a fairly wet spring here in central Texas, which is great for the wildflowers.  The weather yesterday was ideal for wildflower photography—mostly cloudy and temperatures in the low 80’s.

I left the house with my Fujifilm X-T2 and a few lenses.  The images shown here were taken with my XF16-55mm f/2.8 and XF50-140mm f/2.8 lenses.  I used the builtin Fujifilm  Velvia profile.

I drove north of Austin, finding many wildflowers along the way.  These photos were taken along Ranch to Market Road 1431, between Lago Vista and Marble Falls.

_DSF8245Bluebonnets and Fleabane
(Click any image to enlarge.)

The high season for bluebonnets (the state flower of Texas) was about a month ago.  In many locations, the blue flowers have given way to the yellows and reds and oranges of other wildflowers.

_DSF8231Indian Blanket, with a few Bluebonnets and Coreopsis mixed in

As I prepared this post and looked up the names of the wildflowers in the various photos, I realized how close I came to suffering a painful fate. Read more

Austin Lyric Opera’s 2011 Production of Jonathan Dove’s “Flight”

Tonight is the opening night of Austin Lyric Opera’s production of “Flight”, a story of several travelers stuck in an airport waiting to leave.  This sounds kind of like my life for the last few months. Winking smile

Thursday night, I again had the privilege of photographing during the final dress rehearsal. It’s a great production and great cast, conducted by Maestro Richard Buckley.  Nick Zammit plays “The Refugee”. You can see more and purchase images in my gallery, http://gallery.bhpowell.com/flight.

It runs through April 17.  Buy tickets through the Austin Lyric Opera.

Jonathan Dove's opera "Flight"

Jonathan Dove's opera "Flight"

Jonathan Dove's opera "Flight"

Jonathan Dove's opera "Flight"

Jonathan Dove's opera "Flight"

Jonathan Dove's opera "Flight"

Austin Lyric Opera Performs Verdi’s La Traviata

Last week, I had the privilege of photographing the last dress rehearsal of Verdi’s tragedy La Traviata, performed by the Austin Lyric Opera.  (It was also wonderful to attend an Asleep at the Wheel 40th anniversary concert with guest Willie Nelson the next night on the opera set—and the following night, to attend the black tie and boots opening night of La Traviata.)

Here are a few scenes of the dress rehearsal.  Pamela Armstrong (Violetta) and Chad Shelton (Alfredo) had the lead roles.

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Military Funeral at Fort Sam

    “This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”

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The funeral for my uncle, a World War II fighter pilot for the US Army Air Forces, at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, in San Antonio.

Bluebonnets

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.

Texas Bluebonnet

Click to enlarge

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.

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Zilker Kite Festival

There’s a whole lot going on in Austin, Texas, this week.  The biggest event is, of course, South by Southwest (SxSW).  This last weekend was also the Zilker Kite Festival.

Inspired by my friend Carol Watson, who showed me some of her early infrared work at the kite festival, I took my infrared Nikon D200 (converted by LifePixel).

There were thousands of people, and hundreds of kites in the air at any one time.  (Not to mention the dozens of kites stuck in trees.)

Click on any of these images to enlarge.

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A squid…

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Tinkerbell…

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A gecko…

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Hill Country Ranch Weekend

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.)The Front of the House After Sunset

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…

Infrared View of the Back Porch

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. False Color Infrared View of the Front of the House

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.

Madrone Tree

The hillside opposite the front of the house was covered in wildflowers, especially Damianita.  Here’s a fisheye view of several hundred flowers.

Damianita Daisy (Chrysactinia mexicana)

The Prickly Pear cactus were also beginning to bloom.  Here are some near the old corn cribs.Prickly Pear near the 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.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

Here’s a photo of John Wheat, in search of the elusive warbler.

John Wheat

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.

My Buddy Copper

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.

Our Photography Group

Thanks for a wonderful weekend!