Pic of the Week 9/14/17: Sunset on the Rio Grande

September 14, 2017  •  3 Comments

Pic of the Week 9/14/17

"Sunset on the Rio Grande"

Date Taken: 9/3/17

Location: Rio Grande Gorge Bridge near Taos, NM

 

"OK. I think I'm clear now." I quickly darted my head to the left and then the right looking off into the highway. There were several vehicles approaching on both sides. I maybe had 15 seconds before the vehicles made it to the bridge. One by one they crossed over and with each one came a shock wave of vibrations that caused the bridge I was standing on to resonate. The vibration forced me to grasp the handrail next to me. Maybe I'm being a little dramatic, but I don't care for heights, so standing on a shaking bridge some 700ft above the ground made me a tad nervous. But I persevered and when the shaking stopped, I once again looked back to see if more cars were coming. I would look to my right, then my left, and then look towards the sunset and back to my scene to see how the light was falling on the landscape. This was why I was here. Oh, those things we do for our photography, like stepping out of our comfort zones to capture that one superb moment.

There I was looking down below to the Rio Grande River in northern New Mexico standing on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge waiting for the perfect light and clinging on to the hand rail for dear life when cars came driving by. Its funny, because last year on Labor Day weekend I was in the southern part of New Mexico isolating myself in White Sands National Monument and the Tularosa basin, but now I was in northern New Mexico near the heavily traffic towns of Taos and Santa Fe. This time I was accompanied by my good friend and fellow photographer Jim Livingston. I don't have three-day weekends very often, so I try to take advantage when I can and I convinced Jim (although it didn't take much) to ride with me to New Mexico. Here it was coming to the close of our first day there and I was set ready to capture my "hero" shot. My idea was to capture the Rio Grande River cutting through the gorge and leading the eye to the Sange de Cristos mountain range on the distant horizon. Sunset light would just graze the top of the gorge and spill beautifully on the mountains and maybe, if I was lucky, see some nice clouds soaking up some of the sunset color. But that was the ideal shot, Mother Nature always has her own agenda. The mountains were difficult to see due to the smoke and haze from the wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. This haze kept the contrast low on our horizon and in the mountains. There was also a thick cloud bank off to the west which concerned me. We may not even see a sunset. But I made my peace with it and headed out to the gorge anyways.

When we arrived to the bridge the sun was in between cloud cover which gave me a little more hope of capturing my "hero" shot. After some scouting, I found my composition and set up my tripod and staked my claim of the observation platform. I sat there shooting photos and turning around to check for approaching vehicles. Between the cars and the wind I was able to shoot off several bracketed exposures of the same composition. Finally, the sun became low on the horizon and just above the cloud deck to the west. This was the time to capture as close to the shot I had envisioned. The light just kissed the top of the gorge and the canyon wall and while it wasn't the crazy dramatic light I was hoping for, it was still a remarkable scene. Perhaps the best thing was the patches of clouds that absorbed all the color from sunset giving the sky some nice texture. In fact, there is so much texture in this shot. You have the texture of the river, texture of the gorge, texture in the mountains, and texture in the clouds. This gives this image great depth and dimension. It is without a doubt, my "hero" shot from this trip to New Mexico and I'm very happy with how the final image came out. I have many more NM photos coming soon! 

 

Susnet on the Rio Grande Gorge © Ben Jacobi

 


Pic of the Week 8/31/17 "New Mexico: Land of Enchantment"

August 31, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Pic of the Week 8/31/17

"New Mexico: Land of Enchantment"

Date Taken: 8/12/17

Location: San Jon, NM

 

Just like last week's Pic of the Week we are in New Mexico for this week. In fact, we are even on the same day. I'll just go ahead and say that 8/12/17 was an excellent photography outing. I met up with my good friend Jim Livingston at his home in Amarillo. We were going to be driving into eastern New Mexico in hopes of clear skies for the Perseids meteor shower. Around 6pm we left Jim's house and drove west on I-40 towards New Mexico. Along the way we could see isolated thunderstorms building in the hot summer air. Earlier that afternoon I had driven through 40 miles of precip so I was a little discouraged when I saw the storms building. After all, our plan was to shoot the meteor shower, a task which can be very challenging under cloudy skies.

But as we continued driving we watched as the storm began to gain strength and evolve into a massive billowing updraft. The storm itself was photogenic, but there wasn't much of a foreground interest to shoot the scene. We continued west on 40 keeping an eye on the storm. We were just a few miles outside of San Jon, NM when the Caprock Escarpment came into view. Now this would serve as an excellent foreground to the storm! We turned south out of San Jon and headed towards the caprock. Bursts of sunlight were sneaking through the clouds and lighting up isolated areas of the landscape. We couldn't wait any longer and at the first good available road we pulled up and quickly got our gear out and started shooting.

We watched as the storm brewed and churned over the caprock taking on some amazing shapes and contrast. For a few hours we sat there watching the storm and shooting still as well as timelapse images. When sunset rolled around the show really began! The storm clouds became very contrasty, some soaking up the golden sunset light and some falling into the dark shadows and core of the thunderstorm. The light was near perfect shining just slightly on the caprock in front of us highlighting the interesting parts of the caprock and reflecting some of the windmills on the top. As I was shooting, the sun reached the perfect angle to light up a rain shaft and revealed a small, but photogenic rainbow. I pulled out my Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 lens and zoomed in on the scene. The telephoto lens compresses and brings everything in the photo tight together making the storm appear closer. This also brought the windmills up larger in the frame helping to establish a sense of scale in the scene.

I shot about 10 frames during this time before the light and rainbow vanished. It didn't last but for a few moments, but it was excellent. All you could hear was the clicks of our shutters and the gasps of our excitation. It was truly an enchanting scene. As the storm progressed further northeast it started to lose its organization and quickly dried up. New towers started to go up along the outflow of the previous thunderstorm. The light had all but disappeared except for the tops of the storm and we stayed and watched until all the light was gone. 

The New Mexico state slogan is "New Mexico: Land of Enchantment" and I couldn't think of a more appropriate title for the images I captured that evening. We continued on through the night shooting the fantastic night sky counting meteors that zipped overhead and hoping they were in our shots. It was an amazing impromptu trip that resulted in some of my favorite photos I've shot this whole year. 

 

Monsoon thunderstorm rolls in over the Caprock Escarpment south of San Jon, NM. © Ben Jacobi

 

 


Pic of the Week 8/24/17: 2017 Perseids Meteor Shower: Taiban, NM

August 24, 2017  •  1 Comment

It has been almost a month since my last “Pic of the Week” and without getting too much into the boring details I haven't been updating the website because I was searching for a new web hosting service. I have come to the conclusion that I will finish out the year using my current hosting provider and then will move to a new one in 2018. Now that that's out of the way lets talk about this week's Pic of the Week.

 

Pic of the Week 8/24/17

“2017 Perseids Meteor Shower Taiban, NM”

Date taken: 8/12/17

Location: Taiban, NM

 

August always brings us some great night time photo opportunities. Perhaps the most famous of these would be the annual Perseids meteor shower. This year was we would have to battle the waxing gibbous moon and possibility of cloud cover. Where I live in Wichita Falls we were expecting cloud cover all through the afternoon into the following morning so I was closely watching the satellite and trying to decide where to go. Judging by the model trends the only spot that seemed to remain clear was eastern, NM. I remember talking with my good friend Jim Livingston about possible locations and he mentioned an abandoned church in the community of Taiban, NM. I called Jim up and asked if he was still going out and if so could I tag along. He happily said I could join and after work I made the 3hr 20min drive to Amarillo, TX.

 

I arrived in Amarillo just after 5:30pm and met Jim at his home. It had been a while since we went on a photo shoot together so it was nice seeing him again. We greeted each other and began talking about the news in our lives, but then the conversation quickly changed to how we wanted to photograph the meteor shower. Jim showed me where the church was located and we planned out our route hoping we would find something else to photograph along the way. Taiban was about a 2.5hr drive from Amarillo so we wanted to get leaving pretty soon. Jim had to make a quick phone call to a friend a fellow photographer Mark Dieker who was in New Mexico and we arranged to meet at the church after dark. We gathered up all our gear, grabbed some gas, and purchased some snacks then headed down I-40 towards the Texas/New Mexico border.

 

While driving down I-40 I kept looking off in the distance at some billowing thunderheads over the caprock. I thought it would make a nice shot and Jim agreed, we turned south once we reached San Jon and met the storm face to face. We watched the storm build and boil until the sunset where the thunderheads soaked up all the sunset colors like a sponge. It was an incredible shoot, but we still needed to get to the church on time. We turned back north and continued on 40 where we reached Tucumcari and then turned south following some of the backroads to Taiban, NM. Along the way we stopped and shot some images of the milky way under an unobstructed sky. We even found a great location with three windmills on the top of a mesa, we stayed a shot there for a little while before finally reaching Taiban, NM.

 

We pulled into the “packing area” of the old Presbetyrian church and surveyed the sky above us. There was a thick low cloud from thunderstorms to our north that was blocking out the entire northern sky we did, however, have a nice clear view to our south. We approached the old church and walked inside for closer inspection. We decided to leave a flashlight inside to church to light it up. I set up my composition and started to adjust some of my camera settings when a fast green meteor whizzed overhead. I was hoping this was a sign of things to come. We stayed there for a few hours catching brief glimpses of meteors before the moonlight washed out our sky and the cloud cover set in. This is a time-stack composite made from 12 different images to show the meteor shower in one photo. If you look closely you can see 10 meteors in the shot. We would continue to shoot in NM until about 3am where the cloud cover got too thick. Although, it was noting like last year's meteor shower it was still a great time and we all came back with some excellent photos. I'm looking forward to the next adventure!

 

Meteors streak across a starry sky over the ghost town of Taiban, NM. © Ben Jacobi


Pic of the Week: 7/27/17: Once in a Lifetime Capture

July 27, 2017  •  1 Comment

Pic of the Week 7/27/17

"Once in a Lifetime Capture"

Date taken: 7/27/14

Location: St John's Chapel Bomarton, TX

 

When I'm telling the story behind my images I'll frequently use words like "awesome", "epic", "incredible" and even "surreal". While this is true, and the general emotion I was feeling when making those captures, nothing has ever compared to my "Once in a Lifetime Capture". It doesn't seem like it has been three years since I recorded one of the wildest and surreal experiences of my life. Witnessing it, was an incredible treat from the heavens, but getting to record and share it with other's is even more exciting! Three years ago I was meeting up with some of my good friends for some night photography. We decided to use St John's chapel in the ghost town of Bomarton, TX. The first church was built in 1909, but after a fire and some structure damage the new brick church was constructed in 1936. The beautiful old chapel would serve as our anchor point as we tried to capture images of the milky way around and behind it. 

Mike was kind enough to let me ride with him to Bomarton and we met Jim Livingston at the church. Around 9pm we arrived to Bomarton and the church. We got out and exchanged greetings. This was Mike's first night shoot and first time meeting Jim. Jim has been a good friend of mine for a while now and I always enjoy shooting with him. He has a passion and drive to capture great, meaningful images and helping other's do the same. The sun started to set and we set up for some milky way photos. We spent a few hour showing Mike how to photograph the milky way and how to light paint. We captured some nice images that night including some shots of the interior of the church. After that we continued around to the south side of the church. Jim brought a spotlight to use for light painting and it was suggested that we try to capture a beam of light hitting the cross on the top of the steeple. After a few attempts we finally had the right approach and we were able to capture that image. It looked pretty nice. Jim suggested we change our position. He said " Come over here to the other side and shoot the milky way behind the church. I can still use the spotlight to paint the steeple." We agreed and moved over to the other side. This was absolutely crucial for what happened next. 

We started shooting off some frames and were enjoying the images we captured. And then something incredible happened. I shot off an exposure as did Mike and Jim began to paint the steeple. The stars and milky way in the night sky were shining brightly and the weather was quite tolerable, which is pretty rare in late July. I heard the shutter of my camera release as I stood there watching the night sky. And then out of nowhere, we saw a bright flash and the sky split and a magnificent fireball meteor came through the scene bisecting our night sky. The light from this meteor was so bright and pure you thought it was daytime. The fireball lasted for several seconds and we watched as it broke up into smaller pieces. It was so intense that you could hear the faint booms and hiss as it burned in the atmosphere. It was the most awesome, epic, incredible, and surreal experience of my life.

We were jumping around screaming like a bunch of little kids just amazed at the sight we just witnessed and then I heard the sound of my shutter closing. The click seemed to echo forever and I remember thinking to myself there was no way I captured this unbelievable moment. I thought it was way too bright for my exposure settings. I thought all I was going to get was a giant white blob that would be unrecoverable in post processing. I didn't care, though. I was just excited that we got to witness such a remarkable event. I pressed the playback button on my camera and looked on the LCD screen. I felt my heart sink into my stomach and a chill going up and down my spine when I saw the photo. I was wrong--dead wrong. What I had before me was a near perfect exposure of the event. I stood there for several seconds just trying to understand what had just happened. Then I seemed to be snapped back in reality when I heard Jim's voice shout "Did you get it?".

"I got it!" I shouted back. Mike also shouted "I got it too!". I captured the full path of the meteor almost perfectly aligned with the church. Mike was in a little bit tighter and he captured a nice close up view of teh church tower. We all huddled around each other's cameras marveling at the photographs we just captured. But then there was a sobering moment when Jim remembered where his camera was. He was facing the opposite direction and shooting a tighter shot of the steeple, unfortunately he missed it. But Jim couldn't be happier for us and I know he was excited to help us capture this once in a lifetime image. I had captured a historic church in front of the milky way, with a beam of light touching the steeple, and a fireball meteor shooting across the scene. I will likely never get to capture such a thing again and I am truly fine with that. This will forever be my Once in a Lifetime Capture. 

Once in a Lifetime CaptureOnce in a Lifetime Capture © Ben Jacobi


Pic of the Week 7/14/17: Whickham Marsh Sunrise

July 14, 2017  •  1 Comment

Pic of the Week 7/14/17

"Whickham Marsh Sunrise"

Location: Whickham Marsh State Wildlife Management Area near Port Kent, NY

Date taken: 7/14/13

 

We're going back a bit for the week's Pic of the Week. It was three years ago to the day I was in upstate New York visiting for a family reunion. Its always nice to get up there and visit with my other side of the family, and it had been a while since our last reunion in Indiana. July 14 was our last full day before we departed back to Texas and it was also my big photography day. My aunt Becky would once again be leading me through the Adirondacks for nature photography.

After a busy day in Vermont eating at the Old Stowe homestead the guys returned to Aunt Becky's house to play some poker (this is a tradition among me and my cousins). After the card game and the comradery, it was time to send everyone home so I could get some rest for the next day. This was going to be a busy day we had plans to look for bald eagles on Lake Champlain and the Ausable River, then we were driving to Whiteface Mountain where a gondola ride would take us to the top of Little Whiteface afterwards, we would drive to the summit of Whiteface Mountain. So a big day was planned. 

 I woke up a little late that morning because I forgot to set the alarm on my cell phone so my sleep was interrupted by the blaring ring of an old telephone. I immediately woke up and picked up the phone it was aunt Becky and she was checking to make sure I was getting ready--I am very glad she did as I would've likely overslept. I quickly got ready and got my gear together and we got into her car and drove off to our first stop. Our first stop was somewhere along the shore of Lake Champlain watching the sunrise. While it was a very nice sunrise over the lake I couldn't really find a photograph I liked from the bunch and we continued on searching for other shots and wildlife. 

We pulled up at a parking lot in the Whickham Marsh State Wildlife Management Area and started off towards the overlook. The overlook sets you along the edge of the marsh and our idea was to stay there and see what wildlife show up. I gathered my camera bag and started walking on the foot trail. The trail was not long, maybe a quarter of a mile at most, and we were in deep dense forest most of the way. I would come across the occasional break in the treeline and would see the distant landscape lit up by the early morning sun. It was quite peaceful and serene. In a short amount of time I reached the overlook and watched as this beautiful scene unfolded before me.

I was facing almost due west and could see the gibbous moon drifting towards the horizon while early morning light reflected off the clouds giving them a nice pink glow. Looking out over the marsh I could just make out the fog that was hovering above the surface of the water and as the sun got higher and higher in the sky the fog would start to retreat. I found a composition that I really liked showing the moon, clouds, fog, and the marsh in the shot. The close proximity of the surrounding vegetation better immerses you in the landscape almost like your peeking through the dense forest and wetland. I shot off a few exposures and went with the best one to process the final image. I really enjoy the strong triad color combination of the reds, greens, and blues in the photo. It gives the image a very tranquil feeling and I can't help but feel more relaxed looking at it.

This is one of my favorite images I have taken in my visits to New York and one that I hold near my heart. This was my last photography outing with my aunt Becky, shortly after this trip she started getting sick and discovered she had cancer. This was also the last time I saw her in person. I wouldn't return to New York until her funeral. Thank you aunt Becky for waking me up in time to capture such a beautiful image. We love you and miss you very much. 

 

Whickham Marsh: New YorkWhickham Marsh: New York © Ben Jacobi

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