Road Trip

April 30, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Last weekend my wife and I made our annual pilgrimage to the Texas hill country to photograph wildflowers. Admittedly, we were kinda late this year, and the bluebonnets were beginning to show their age a bit. But April had been a crazy month for me, and other obligations simply prevented an earlier trip.

The plan was to leave Friday afternoon from Abilene, drive to Brady for the night, and then up early on Saturday for a leisurely drive to Llano and then down scenic Highway 16 to Fredericksburg, with a side jaunt to take in the Willow City Loop. Things mostly went according to plan, except we had to delay our departure on Friday afternoon because a large and brooding super cell was passing through the country between Abilene and Brady. With reports of tornadoes on the ground and baseball-sized hail, we decided we'd just sit at home and wait for it to pass. By 6:00, we'd decided it was safe to leave, so we loaded the car with a small bag of clothes and my small mountain of photography gear, and headed out.

Aside from a few drops of rain, the trip to Brady was uneventful. But the clouds and the light were spectacular! Just south of Santa Anna, I slammed on my brakes because I saw the explosion of color at the top of the post. The sun was low in the western sky and its light labored over the small hill to the right of the frame and just kissed the tops of some of the flowers.

I usually see red Indian Paintbrush, but here, pinks, yellows, oranges, and reds were all growing out of the same patch of dirt, accented by a few bluebonnets and assorted daisies.

A bit further south, we began to watch this cloud formation as it moved east. I knew I had to photograph it, but needed something interesting on the ground to complement it. This field provided just what I needed, and I made this image. The color was strange and surreal, as it often is in the midst of a passing front, and I struggled with the color as I processed the image. In the end, I decided the image was about mood and texture, and the color was merely a distraction. So I converted it to black and white and I like it much better. As much as I like color photography, sometimes an image says more when you silence the color and allow the mood and texture to speak for themselves.

We hit Brady, and the sun was just setting, and the clouds were reflecting a rich deep pink that was almost lavender as the front moved further east, leaving a beautiful shade of blue in its wake. But the hotel just would not provide the photographic interest for the bottom of the frame, so we raced off down a side road in a desperate race to find something more compelling before the color disappeared. The cardinal rule of landscape photography is to never waste a spectacular sunrise or sunset. Find something - anything - to put in front of it, but by all means don't let it get away. So this is what I found. In some ways the image was slightly more intriguing if I turned the camera to the right and let the fence row diminish into the background, but I lost the bulk of the clouds. And since the image was really about the clouds anyway, I chose a straight-on approach.

I thought these three images were a great start to a photography trip, especially on a travel day where the only real goal was to get to our motel without getting swept away by a tornado. As it turned out, these three images set the tone for the whole trip.

More to come . . . .


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