Thursday, April 22, 2010

James River Road

I love finding new places to explore. I had heard about the James River Road from several sources. I left early church retreat to try to capture some more Texas wildflower images. I headed first to Llano. Lunch was at Coopers Old Time Pit Bar-b-que! You go straight to the pits outside to get your meat and then inside to get the "fixins." The atmosphere inside is very informal with long benches that you share with the other folk around you. I don't remember eating there before, but I'll be back!

Since I hadn't done the James River Road, that was where I headed next using information from San Angelo Standard Times which gave not only great directions to the James River Road but also mentioned some additional wildflower loops around Mason, Texas.

I'm sure that Henry and I have never been here before. You take 87 south out of Mason and make two turns onto Farm to Market Roads before you finally reach this road. I was enchanted from the word go. The first place I got out to photograph flowers was extraordinarily fragrant from the thousands of bluebonnets surrounding me. The gentle breeze was wafting the scent into the air around me and I breathed in all the peace and serenity from such a wonderful fragrance.

The gravel road twists and curves through the hills with quite a few stream crossings as well cliffs and small waterfalls.

This public road crosses private land with the inevitable cattle guards and traffic impediments. I was the first of three cars going through this batch of cows. They stubbornly held their ground. I got within inches of them before they moved. But . . . the cars behind me had a clear path.

When I got to this stream crossing, there was a couple surveying it before crossing. The gentleman was out of the car trying to gauge how deep the water was and where the crossing was safest. I knew that two other cars had gone on ahead and had to have crossed safely. So after looking at it and the fence posts that seemed to be the guideline, I headed across. I knew that I must keep my forward momentum going, so I kept my foot steady on the gas pedal and went right straight through. It reminded me of crossing the river every day in Africa to get to one of the game preserves. Only I was the driver this time. Knowing that I had someone watching me probably made me bolder, but later I crossed it again coming back. I continued on my way, but began to get nervous about not waiting until the other couple made it across. What if they tried and got stuck - way out in the middle of nowhere? As I headed back, I passed them and we chatted. They had made it safely, but they had thought about it longer than I did before trying the crossing.

This next crossing is picturesque, but wasn't difficult to cross at all.

At the end of the afternoon, the sun peaked out giving me a chance to get some sunlight and a patch of blue sky on the scene. A neutral density graduated filter helped me keep the details in the sky and a good exposure on the bluebonnets.

I have more to work from the day, but this gives you a sample of how much fun I had exploring a new place!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


We spent last night in Leakey, Texas. We awakened to another cloudy, rainy day. We headed south toward Concan and a patch of wildlfowers on HWY 127 between Concan and Sabinal.

The highlight of the day was a beautiful large patch of wineups. So often I see one winecup mixed in with a bunch of bluebonnets or other wildflowers, but here it was solid and striking. In working the shot this evening, I found that Topaz BuzSim and Topaz sharpen helped me get the look I wanted for this shot.

I've tried many times to capture the details in a single winecup. Their stems are so flexible, the least bit of wind whips them around, so it always feels like you're trying to shoot a moving target. The fresh raindrops were a bonus on this attempt to capture these delicate wildflowers.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

More Texas Wildflowers

Monday, we headed east and south to the La Bahia road. US 290 always has wonderful wildflowers. These were shot just west of Burton.

I was looking for attractive mixes of wildflowers and found a place where the bluebonnets and the paintbrush were intermingled. I started with the wide shots, getting the full riot of colors.

Then I worked my compositions closer, with more simplicity.

Concluding with a single bloom.

As I worked on these last night, I found myself going the DA route to get what I wanted. A radial gradient filter to darken the edges around the paintbrush and make it stand out from its background. Artistic filters that both simplified and sharpened.

Then I decided I wanted to see how this would look using polar coordinates to create a circle.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring in Texas!

Spring is my favorite time of year in Central Texas. This year has been especially delightful, because we've had two years of drought followed by a wet winter. The flowers are outstanding this year.

Today we headed west into the Hill Country near Johnson City and Fredericksburg. The bluebonnets are thick and beautiful!

I love how they form such a beautiful carpet under the trees and yucca.

I'm hoping I get enough chances to get out and see more of this amazing bloom year!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Red Bay, Labrador

I was totally charmed by the small fishing villages in Labrador. The small historic towns each had their own charm. To photograph this one, I fought mosquitoes and another biting insect as I tried to bracket my shots and get decent photos to use. The lighting was such that my guess was correct that I needed to be shooting for HDR so I could catch the subtlety of the clouds and still get the town sufficiently exposed.

Red Bay was the 16th Century World Whaling capital. The Basques Whalers hunted whales in small boats called shallops to render into the oil that lit the Europe's lamps during the late Middle Ages. They built a whale oil factory on Saddle Island to produce this oil. The Basinview Bed & Breakfast has accomodations in Red Bay. Nearby Battle Harbor has accommodations in restored historic buildings. At Battle Harbor there are opportunities for boat tours to see whales and icebergs as well as seabirds.

Labrador is in the middle of an extraordinary road building project. These small village used to accessible only by boat. This new road goes from the Ferry Terminal at Cartwright and connects with the ferry terminal to New Fewfoundland at Blanc Sablon. We were amazed at the engineering behind this wonderful gravel road. Built high above the perma frost, it has a base of big boulders and towers above the small tiaga trees.

Southern Labrador is an area worth allowing time to explore and savor the beauty of the landscape as well as the ambiance of the historic villages. On a more extended visit to Labrador I would like to explore the northern village that still require the ferry for access.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

L'Anse Amour Historic Site and Point Amour LIghthouse

As we travelled south along the coast of Labrador, we had seen the L'Anse Amour historic site on the map. Since I am really interested in early man sites, this one captured my attention because it dates to 7500 years ago. As with many early man sites, there is not a lot to see - this was a special burial mound of an adolescent boy - special because there seems to have much ceremony related with the burial: The body was buried in a deep and wide pit, fires burned, food was cooked and weapons and tools were placed as offerings in the grave. A large stone was placed on the boy's back and a large mound of rocks were placed over the grave. The archaeologists believe that the elaborate detail of this burial means that this young man either had a special role or association with the tribe or there was something significant about his death. The site has been excavated and the human remains have been removed. Since the grave has been reconstructed, it loses a little of its historical sense for me - I always marvel when I see things still remaining from human activity so long ago.

I also knew I had a light house to enjoy - the Point Amour Lighthouse.

It was an overcast afternoon, and it looked like there was an event going on in one of the buildings. Lighthouses always need electricity so I explored trying to find a camera angle to minimize the distracting wires. As I was photographing I heard a noise coming from the sea, a harumph! I glanced over and a minke whale was feeding just off the shoreline, gracefully surfacing to breath. I was shooting with my landscape lens, so I didn't try to photograph the whale. Instead, I just enjoyed the magic of the moment, the quiet evening, the peaceful sea, and the amazing whale as it moved off into the distance.

I came back the next morning. The clouds were still covering the sky, but the light and clouds were still different than the evening before. While the whale was no longer hanging around, this lighthouse is still a peaceful and beautiful place to sit and enjoy the beauty around you.