On the Road Again…….


As we do each year at this time, we get to thinking about traveling.  So, next Monday, January 30, we are going to make another trip out to the Big Bend area of Texas.  Essentially, it will be to Big Bend National Park, but we will also be taking in some of the surrounding sights.  We’ll see the ghost town of Terlingua, parts of the huge Big Bend Ranch State Park, and travel one of the most scenic drives in the country: the El Camino Del Rio, (the river road) from Lajitas to Presidio, Texas.  We will have four days of scenic photography and birding.  I should come home with plenty of material for a future blog post.

Of course, most of you know that we have already made numerous trips to that area.  Sometimes, we go to the Davis Mountains, which lies just north of our current destination.  I am sure we will be returning there in a few months, too.  But, this time, we will be staying again at the Casitas at Far Flung Outdoor Center, located in Study Butte, just down the highway from the ghost town.

Our birding destinations will be in Big Bend National Park.  Favorite spots include the Sam Nail Ranch, Cottonwood Campground, Rio Grand Village RV campground, Dugout Wells and the Chisos Mountains.  We hope to add many birds to our 2017 list.  Our goal again is 210.  To date we are at 100 even.

Here are a few more photographs more photos that I have captured this month.  Click any image to see an enlargement.

I photographed this Osprey on New Year’s Day.  A nice way to start the year.

Osprey - 1/1250 @ f6.3, _0.3 EV, ISO 1000

Osprey – 1/1250 @ f6.3, _0.3 EV, ISO 1000

The Common Yellowthroat is a shy, tiny, elusive, colorful little bird that likes to hangout in swampy reeds, etc.  He only makes an appearance whenever he darned well pleases, and that is not very often.  It took Ann and I several mornings, of getting to the location where was last sighted, then just watched and waited.  When he showed I was ready and he was out for only about one minute, then he was back in his hidey-hole once again.

Common Yellowthroat - 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 400.

Common Yellowthroat – 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 400.

I believe I photographed this Vesper Sparrow at San Angelo State Park.

Vesper Sparrow - 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 500

Vesper Sparrow – 1/640 sec. @ f6.3, +0.3 EV, ISO 500

Just before the entrance to Middle Concho Park, there is a small pond surround by cattails and reeds.  Most of the time it is empty of birds, save an occasional heron, but this time there was a male and female Hooded Merganzer swimming casually around.

Hooded Merganzer - 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, -0.3 EV, ISO 250.

Hooded Merganzer – 1/1000 sec. @ f7.1, -0.3 EV, ISO 250.

The female is a pretty little thing, too.

Hooded Merganzer - female - 1/2000 sec. @ f6.3 -0,3 EV, ISO 200.

Hooded Merganzer – female – 1/2000 sec. @ f6.3 -0,3 EV, ISO 200.

This Fox Sparrow dropped by for a drink from a puddle of water in Spring Creek Park.

Fox Sparrow - 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO 250.

Fox Sparrow – 1/800 sec. @ f6.3, -0.3 EV, ISO 250.

The wind was getting up a little when I photographed this Great Egret, just hanging out.

Great Egret - 1/1250 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7 EV, ISO 400

Great Egret – 1/1250 sec. @ f7.1, +0.7 EV, ISO 400

I do believe that is it for this post.  It is most likely my last until I return from our vacation and February 3, unless I can squeeze a little quicky before we leave.  But I will mention, as it nears Valentine’s day, I would appreciate it if you would consider the many gifts in my (click) FineArtAmerica store.  If you love my photography, whether it be birds, beautiful landscapes or flowers check it out, you can find decor, useful items, or photographic prints.  You can also click the link under Bob’s Galleries in the sidebar.  Thank you.

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Visiting the Big Bend – Part Two


In this part two or our visit to the Big Bend area,(click for Part one) I am going to show you more of the scenic grandeur of the place.  I know that this blog is mainly about birds, but sometime I just have to get out of that mode for awhile.  Not that I didn’t watch for birds during our visit.  We saw a total of 35 species, but I was also overwhelmed with all of the beauty.  You will understand when you see this scene to welcome you in the morning.

Big Bend Sunrise

Big Bend Sunrise

What a way to start the day.  For breakfast we headed to La Posada Milagro in the Terlingua ghost town for their fantastic burritos and steaming hot coffee.

Energized and ready to go, we piled in the car and headed out.  We entered the Big Bend National Park and headed for Ross Maxwell Highway.  It is a route that will take us past some high scenic views and on down to Santa Elena Canyon.  Again, I will mostly let the photos do all of the talking, as to be perfectly honest, I am not an expert on the geologic materials of the land.  A lot of lava created formations dot the area.

This highway skirts the western side of the Chisos Mountains and there are some great scenic pull-offs.  Such as the Sotol Vista pull-off where this photo was taken.  From an altitude of what I surmise to be about 6500 feet, you can see Santa Elena Canyon, about 20 miles distant.

View from Sotol Vista

View from Sotol Vista

This is Tuff Canyon, so named for the white material that is beneath most of the topsoil in the region.  There is a hiking path to the bottom of the canyon, but we were content to just roam the rim.

Tuff Canyon

Tuff Canyon

Tuff and volcanic rock formation.

Tuff and volcanic rock formation.

This next photograph, I have named “Texas Moonscape”.  One of my favorite photos of the trip.

"Texas Moonscape"

“Texas Moonscape”

A lone Loggerhead Shrike surveys the desert for maybe a snack.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike

Old ruins are scattered all over the big bend area, many of them are in this national park.

Old ruins and Cerro Castelan in the background.

Old ruins and Cerro Castellan in the background.

Farther along the way, we passed the Cottonwood Campground.  It is a popular RV campsite, but one of best birding areas in the park.  We decided to spend some time checking it out.  We saw many species there including this Vermilion Flycatcher.

Vermilion Flycatcher

Vermilion Flycatcher

Rock Wren

Rock Wren

Arriving at Santa Elena Canyon is an awesome sight to behold.  This image shows the Rio Grande exiting from it’s nine mile run through the canyon and heading downstream to cut more canyons on it’s journey to the Gulf of Mexico.  These walls reach a height of 1,500 feet.

Santa Elena Canyon

Santa Elena Canyon

After spending some time at the canyon, we decided to return by the Old Maverick Road.  It is a thirty mile rough, washboard road that will eventually return us to the park entrance, but not before showing some amazing scenery and this old Mexican Jacal.  A man by the name of Gilberto Luna built it when he was first married.  He lived there all of his life, had five marriages and many children, finally dying in 1947 at the ripe old age of 108.  So if you do the math, this jacal is roughly 150 years old.  The National Park Service manages to keep in close to original condition.

Gilberto's Jacal

Gilberto’s Jacal

That pretty much concludes our visit.  Of course, this is condensed as I had taken several hundred images.  But I believe I covered the main points.  I hope you enjoyed the journey,

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

and on the way out of the park, I managed to capture this amazing beauty.  What a great way to end the trip.  I can never get enough photographs of the beautiful Red-tailed Hawk.

Click any image to see beautiful enlargements.

Happy Birding!

 

Photography as Art – A Rant


I woke up this morning with a bug up my rear.  Something happened yesterday that really rankled me.  I decided I would use my blog as a platform to tell you about it.

The San Angelo Art Club is currently having an art show that, for the second time this year, photographers are welcome to participate.  A friend of mine, Mr. Bill Yeates, entered some of his very excellent photographs.  His work is as good, if not better, as mine on any day.  Well, the powers that be, in this club, decided that they had to place his images in the “computer-generated” photographs category instead of the proper photography.  The reason?  He post-processed his photographs.  Gad!  What an asinine decision on the part of those judges.

I consider this a slap in the face to Bill, and to me in association.  He and I shoot the same type of nature and wild life photographs.  Neither one of takes our photographs using a computer.  We use what is commonly called a (wait for it)……a camera.  Our photographs are camera-generated, not computer-generated.

Plain and simple, the individual or individuals, that decided this are plainly ignorant of the workings of photography, and need to get themselves educated.  First off, post-processing has been part of photography since the first photo was taken a couple of hundred years ago.  In the days of film, the negataive that the camera produced was developed in pans of chemicals.  We then had to print the photos, using dodging and burning techniques, to the get the light, contrast and sometimes the color right.  To anyone that believes the camera doesn’t lie, I would like to sell some ocean-front property out here in west Texas.  Most photographs directly from the camera don’t represent exactly what we saw.  It is all about the light.  If we expose for a certain part of a picture, another part of it suffers from being too dark or too light.  If the camera tries to strike a medium, the photo looks flat.  So we have to post-process to make any corrections.

To any of you that took your film to a photo lab, or to Wally World to get your photos developed and printed, they did the post-processing.  Yes, that’s right.  Their machinery looked over your negatives and decided how to best print your little 4x6s to your satisfaction. Sometime they didn’t get it right, and you had to take the negs back and ask for reprints.  Or you could do it yourself in your own darkroom.  That my friends, is post-processing.

Now here in the late 20th and early 21st centuries we have digital cameras.  We use our cameras to take photographs the same as before, but instead of using film, the images are captured on memory cards.  Again, we can take those cards to a photo lab, or back to Walmart, and have them produce our prints.  Again, they have to use their machinery to get the photos right, and depending on the operator, you might get prints to your liking or you take them back and get them to do it right.  Again, what is this called?  You got it.  Post-processing.

Now we can also do this at home as before, using our darkroom…..except it is now called the digital darkroom.  We can again, do our dodging, burning, adjusting color with the computer.  Except now, voila! we don’t get our hands dirty.

This photograph of the Mule Ears Peak in Big Bend National Park presented a problem for me.  As I looked at the scene I loved the different hues that the different ranges of mountains presented.  But the original image looked flat and so I had add contrast so to distinguish the different layers.  Aha!  Post-processing.

Mule Ears at Dusk

Mule Ears at Dusk

I captured this next photo early one morning down at the ghost town in Terlingua, Texas.  The sun was shining on the distant mountains.  I wanted to photograph those distant cliffs and have the adobe ruins in the foreground.  However, the structure was in deep shadow and the camera couldn’t react and get exposure I wanted for each of the elements.  So I did what photographers have done for ages, including the great Ansel Adams, I adjusted the lighting during, yes, you have already guessed……..post-processing.

Ghost Town Sunrise

Ghost Town Sunrise

So nowhere did I carry a computer on my back into the wilderness to capture my photos.  I carried a camera and a tripod.  Sometime I visited a scene a few times prior to getting the shot so I could decide when would be the best time to get the best lighting.

So, to the San Angelo Art Club, I say to re-think your judgement in deciding what categories to place photos.  This is the 21st century.  For the record, my photographs, and Bill Yeates’, are “camera-generated”.

Incidentally, computer-generated photographs, to me, are not photographs at all, and sometimes a camera isn’t even  involved.  They are just pictures of non-existent scenes made by using special effects graphics software.

Scenes from the Big Bend


In the photos for this post, I wasn’t going after asthetically perfection.  These are just a few images from the area that I thought you would enjoy.  They are snap shots of a desolate, remote part of TexasTerlingua Ghost Town and Study Butte are really one and the same.  Two remote desert communities that run together with no visible boundary.  Just a few hundred people inhabit the area.  But having said that, they do have a school, bank, church, medical clinic, etc.  Personally, I love the area for what it is.  A place to go and just lay back and forget your troubles.

One distinct thing about the place.  You can drive around and see things of unusual nature.  You wonder where they came from, what possessed people to come up with things.  You never know what you will see around the next bend in the road.

Old ghost town ruins

Old ghost town ruins

Old ruins near Study Butte

Remnants of another time, a bygone era.  In the early 1900s a mercury, or quicksilver mine existed in the area.  Today all that is left is ruins of old buildings, piles of slag once removed from the ore, and signs of rusting equipment scattered here and there.

Terlingua ghost town sculpture

This is the result of some enterprising sculptor being creative in the desert.  In and around the Terlingua Ghost Town are small art studios or galleries.  I use those terms loosely, as many of the artists just moved into some of the adobe ruins, or an old van and done some renovation.  I don’t know what the above sculpture above represents.  Perhaps, a dragon-fly with it’s 6-foot wingspan,  or a giant mosquito, of which there are very few in the desert, or maybe just an imaginery bug.  Anyway, it is just planted there in the sand.

An abandoned home??

This is an old abandon house trailer and pickup truck.  They are still attached together.  They both need a little work.

Red-tailed Hawk

A Red-tailed Hawk flies overhead.

Desert Sotol

A familiar sight in the desert.  The sotol standing vigil with the gap of the Santa Elena Canyon in the far distance.

Balanced Rock at the Hoodoos

Along Highway 170, by the Rio Grande River, there is an area of eroded formations called the Hoodoos.  This 10-foot diameter balanced rock looks like it is nearly ready to fall into the river.  Look carefully and you can see daylight underneath.

Passing Wind

Don’t ask.  I have no idea what it is supposed to be either.  There are sails furled on those masts.  To the right is an old conning tower from a submarine. (or maybe a replica).  A large number 643 painted on the side.  There is a camper trailer parked to the side.  I have never seen an individual on the premises.  It is located on the road that passes by the Terlingua ghost town.

Terlingua Ghost Town cemetery

This old cemetery at the Terlingua ghost town has grave sites dating back to during the 1800s.  It is still in use today.

Greater Roadrunner

A Greater Roadrunner, or chapparal, on a rare patch of grass.  He doesn’t seem to know what is going on either.  Time to move on.

I hope you enjoyed this selection of photos from far southwest Texas.  Click on any image to see an enlargement.  For more photos from the Big Bend and other images, click on my Flickr logo on right side of this page.

Birding Big Bend Again March 2011 – Part II


I thought that for this part I would just show you a bunch of photos from the trip.  No bird photos, but some “touristy” images.

We were staying at The Lajitas House, a bed and breakfast type of house that we rented for our stay.  It is located on a bluff overlooking the Rio Grande River.  This first picture is looking upriver from our patio.  Mexico is on the left, of course.

Rio Grande looking upstream from our patio.

The second image is looking across the river towards a little Mexican village.

Looking south across the Rio Grande River

Number three is looking north from our patio.

Looking north or to our right from our patio.

Our patio, where we sat enjoying the sunsets, sipping margaritas, and just relaxing.

The patio of The Lajitas House

Image number five – it doesn’t get any better than this. 🙂

Another view from the patio.

This view is from high in the southern part of the Chisos Mountains.  The cleft in the distant cliffs is Santa Elena Canyon, about 30 miles away.

Looking south from high in the Chisos Mountains

Next photograph is of a line shack on Homer Wilson’s Blue Creek Ranch.  Behind it is Sentinel Peak.

Homer Wilson's line shack below Sentinel Peak

This tunnel is on the highway that leads to Boquillas Canyon and Rio Grande RV campsite on the east side of Big Bend National Park.

Tunnel east of Panther Junction park headquarters.

About twelve miles north of Lajitas on highway 170 is the ghost town of Terlingua.  Someone had made this junk sculpture and mounted it on a post.  A whimsical replication of a wasp, I would say. 🙂

Junk sculpture at Terlingua ghost town.

How about a beautiful sunset shot from our patio.  As I said before, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Sunset from patio of The Lajitas House

I hope you enjoyed these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.  Click on any image for an enlargement.