Photography by Ben Jacobi: Blog http://bdjphoto.com/blog en-us (C) Ben Jacobi shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Thu, 12 Oct 2017 16:07:00 GMT Thu, 12 Oct 2017 16:07:00 GMT http://bdjphoto.com/img/s7/v161/u961975040-o578845839-50.jpg Photography by Ben Jacobi: Blog http://bdjphoto.com/blog 90 120 Pic of the Week 10/12/17: Aspens in Mueller State Park http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/10/pic-of-the-week-10/12/17 Pic of the Week 10/12/17

“Aspens in Mueller State Park”

Date taken: 9/24/17

Location: Mueller State Park near Divide, CO

 

This week's Pic of the Week takes us to our last full day in Colorado. Earlier that morning we shot the sunrise in the San Luis valley and photographed some nice vistas near Monarch and Buena Vista, CO. Our goal was to arrive in Muller State Park a few hours before sunset to scout out locations for the sunset. When arrived at the park I went in the visitor center to talk with the park staff and get their recommendations for a good sunset location. More specifically, I wanted an area where we could see the Pikes Peak massif and capture the sunset light traveling up the mountain. Maybe even have a few aspen in the foreground, who knows? After talking with one of the rangers there she suggested we try Elk meadow. It was a great view of Pikes Peak and unobstructed by roads, buildings, and other distractions intersecting our shot—just a nice meadow and then forest. She also gave us ideas on where we could go to photograph some of the fall foliage. Her suggestion was to try the northern most trails behind the campgrounds. This area was supposed to have some aspen.

 

While it wasn't part of our plans, we had some extra time and I am always up for a hike, we reached the parking area for the trailhead and gathered our gear to get ready for a short hike. Looking at the trail maps I thought we could use trail 17 that would take us to the eastern edge of the trail and to a nice open field and hopefully find some nice compositions there. I thought we would only need to hike about .3 miles where we could grab some quick shots and be back to our sunset location. We followed trail 17 for about .25miles before there was a clearing in the forest. The open field gave us a nice view of Pikes Peak and the forest in front of it. Speckled all throughout the forest were bright yellow aspen. I captured a few nice images, but wasn't overly excited about what I had. Maybe it would be nice if the light was better, I pondered to myself. But I didn't let that thought distract me. I knew that we needed to be ready for sunset soon. Still I pressed on down the trail in hopes of finding a more interesting scene. After a brief walk I came to a curve on the trail and just before the curve there was a big field leading out into the forest and an excellent view of Pikes Peak. The best part was the light was positioned in a way that really brought out the aspens in the foreground. This was where I stopped set up my tripod and sarted shooting. The golden aspens, the red rock on Pikes Peak, and the deep blue sky made for an excellent scene just begging to be photographed.

 

© Ben Jacobi

 

Turns out we went a bit further than I had anticipated and we were now hurrying to get back in the car in time for sunset. We arrived about 20 minutes before sunset and shot some more excellent images of aspen and Pikes Peak in sunset light. After this long day, we retired to our hotel in Colorado Springs and turned in for the night. This was one of my favorite shots I captured that day. In fact, it is going to be featured in my upcoming 2018 calendar as the month of September. If you would like to preorder a calendar send me an email or a Facebook message.

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) aspen autumn colorado fall landscape mountains mueller state park nature pic of the week pikes peak sky travel http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/10/pic-of-the-week-10/12/17 Thu, 12 Oct 2017 15:58:14 GMT
Pic of the Week 10/5/17: Blanca Peak Sunrise http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/10/pic-of-the-week-10/5/17 Pic of the Week 10/5/17

“Blanca Peak Sunrise”

Date taken: 9/23/17

Location: Highway 160 near Blanca, CO.

 

Continuing through the wild photo adventure that was my recent trip to Colorado, we arrive pre-sunrise on the second day of the trip and it was going to be a big one. Ian, Jaden, and myself had spent the previous day cramped up in the small Ford Focus we drove to Colorado. We drove through a small portion of the Highway of Legends, photographed the sunset from the lake, and ended it with a short milky way shoot behind the mountains. Needless to say, we were pretty exhausted from the traveling and turned in early for a good nights rest. The next day was going to be a busy. We had planned a sunrise shoot, a trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park during the day, and ending it with sunset shoot at San Luis Lake State Park. I did have concerns about the weather for 9/23. Some models were suggesting extensive cloud cover and wide spread rain over the area which would prevent us from seeing a good sunrise. Only time would tell.

 

I awoke around 4:30am before the alarm on my cell phone went off. I pulled up my phone and checked the infrared satellite and radar for our area. Nothing was really conclusive with the data so I would have to rely on good ol' observation. Ourside the tent it was perfectly still, there was no wind and only the chirping of crickets could be heard. There were patches of dark sky with a few stars in between the clouds. I looked off towards the west and could see a band of clear sky, this was the direction we would be traveling today. At 5:15am my alarm went off and woke everybody up, we gathered our gear and breakfast and climbed back in the car to make the 60 mile drive to our sunrise location.

 

When I learned we were not going to the Guadalupe Mountains for this trip I decided to go to Colorado as a backup. Thankfully, I had a cache of locations and sights I wanted to see stored on Google Earth. Its good having this information at my disposal, it makes it much easier when planning shots for a trip. One location I had marked was a scenic viewpoint off highway 160 outside of Blanca, CO. The pulloff gave an excellent view of the southern most Sangre De Cristos mountains. The goal was to arrive before sunrise and scout out compostitions and wait for sunrise.

 

When we arrived on location the skies around us had pretty much cleared, but one thing I didn't take into account was the elevation of the mountains and the cloud deck. The massive peaks were completely swallowed by a dark moody cloud which may not work so well for the sunrise shot I had envisioned. We waited for almost an hour watching the clouds slowly lift around the lower parts of the mountain, but the peaks were still covered by the clouds when the sun rose. Glorious warm light spread over the landscape and lit up most of the mountains. The 14,345' (elev) top of Blanca Peak could not be seen and we waited and waited as more and more cloud cover began to dissipate. Half of the mountain was bathed in the golden sunrise light, bringing the aspen in the foothills to an almost radiant state. The other half was shrouded in the shadow of the clouds turning everything near the top to a soft murky outline, almost ghost-like in appearance. I opted to use my telephoto lens and bring everything much closer revealing all of the drama in the scene. The tight shot also shows the little nuances of the photo. For instance you can see in the transition where some of the aspen are shining bright and the just behind them the other's fade into the shadows. It was a very dramatic scene and we captured it for quite a long time.

 

Eventually the clouds began to clear exposing the photogenic Mout Lindsey and Little Bear Peak, but Blanca Peak still remained in the clouds. In fact, for the rest of the day Blanca Peak would be masked by cloud cover and we wouldn't see it until the next sunrise. I have to say I was quite impressed with the photos I captured during this shoot, though it didn't come out like I had originally planned. It was still an excellent way to start our first full day in Colorado. I am quite fortunate to have these shots. After I got back home from this trip my hard drive got corrupted and erased 140+ images from this day. Luckily, I was able to recover all but ten of them. One of the ones recovered was this shot right here. I still have many more photos and stories to share from this trip.

 

Blanca Peak SunriseBlanca Peak Sunrise © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) aspen autumn blanca peak colorado fall landscape mountains nature pic of the week sange de cristos sky sunrise travel http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/10/pic-of-the-week-10/5/17 Thu, 05 Oct 2017 16:50:36 GMT
Pic of the Week 9/28/17: Spanish Peaks Sunset http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/9/pic-of-the-week-9/28/17 Pic of the Week 9/28/17

"Spanish Peaks Sunset"

Date Taken: 9/22/17

Location: Lathrop State Park Walsenburg, CO

 

I have just returned from an amazing four-day trip to the beautiful state of Colorado. I was originally going to the Guadalupe Mountains in west Texas, but the weather pattern had another idea. So as I backup I suggested Colorado. My good friends Ian Glasgow and Jaden Corbin. This was Jaden’s first photo trip with us and I think he had a good time. We spent those four days seeking out the best shots for the incredible landscape that was all around us. We were about one week away from peak fall color, but we were able to get some excellent shots of the changing autumn.

We left Wichita Falls around 7:15am and arrived at Walsenburg just a little before 2:30pm (local time) and went exploring for our sunset location. I had hopes that the clouds would hold off and we would get dramatic sunrise light hitting the Spanish Peaks. The Spanish Peaks are two very prominent mountains in southern Colorado. The west peak has an elevation of 13,645’ and the eastern peak is 12,684 and an impressive 6000 feet above the surrounding landscape. Their shape and prominence made me think they would be an excellent subject to use in dramatic sunset light.

After we did some driving through the Highway of Legends (a closer look at the Spanish Peaks), we started back to Lathrop State Park to prepare for sunset. I kept an eye on the cloud cover on our western horizon and I watched as the thin clouds stretched above our heads. Maybe these would make for a good sunset after all. But they might pose a problem if we were going to shoot the milky way later that evening.

The dramatic light I was hoping for never arrived and the sun was blocked by a low layer of cloud cover, but despite this the clouds above us exploded into a fiery orange glow. I still came back with some great shots and a pretty nice timelapse of the whole thing, but the worst thing was I accidentally changed my camera settings to record In JPG and not NEF (Nikon’s RAW). This meant I would have very little control in post processing and I would need to adjust my workflow to get the result I wanted. It just goes to show you, always check your camera settings before you start shooting. This is a silly oversight that I will make sure I won’t skip over next time. Luckily, after the sunset I saw my error and changed back to NEF for the milky way shoot. Yet despite this hiccup I still came back with some excellent images and even better ones came from later in the trip. I am very excited to share these photos with you over the next few weeks. Enjoy!

 

Stunning sunset over Lathrop State Park with the Spanish Peaks on the horizon. © Ben Jacobi

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) colorado landscape lathrop state park mountains nature pic of the week sky spanish peaks sunset travel http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/9/pic-of-the-week-9/28/17 Thu, 28 Sep 2017 16:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 9/14/17: Sunset on the Rio Grande http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/9/pic-of-the-week-9/14/17 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

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) cliff gorge landscape nature new mexico pic of the week rio grande rio grande gorge rio grande gorge bridge river sky taos travel http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/9/pic-of-the-week-9/14/17 Thu, 14 Sep 2017 16:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 8/31/17 "New Mexico: Land of Enchantment" http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/8/pic-of-the-week-8/31/17 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

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/8/pic-of-the-week-8/31/17 Thu, 31 Aug 2017 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 8/24/17: 2017 Perseids Meteor Shower: Taiban, NM http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/8/pic-of-the-week-8/24/17 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

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) meteor meteor shower nature new mexico night pic of the week sky travel http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/8/pic-of-the-week-8/24/17 Thu, 24 Aug 2017 16:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week: 7/27/17: Once in a Lifetime Capture http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/7/pic-of-the-week-7/27/17 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

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/7/pic-of-the-week-7/27/17 Thu, 27 Jul 2017 16:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 7/14/17: Whickham Marsh Sunrise http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/7/pic-of-the-week-7/14/17 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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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/7/pic-of-the-week-7/14/17 Fri, 14 Jul 2017 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 6/29/17: Mesa Arch Canyonlands http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/6/pic-of-the-week-6/29/17 Pic of the Week 6/29/17

“Mesa Arch Canyonlands”

Location: Canyonlands National Park, UT

Date taken: 6/22/16

 

Utah is a photographer's dream. I have always said I want to stay and live in Texas, but if I would move anywhere else it would be Utah. Around every corner you are either greeted by impressive mountains, intricate canyons, incredible arches, or interesting rock formatoins. Its very easy to find a photogenic or picturesque scene to capture. But naturally, this beauty draws crowds of tourists as well as photographers to these areas. Millions of people visit these attractions and national parks each year. In fact, Canyonlands National Park, saw 776,218 visitors in 2016 and I was one of those visitors.

Canyonlands National Park was my last stop for the day on 6/22/16. This was my second full day of traveling and photography. I had spent the day shooting Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, and Monument Valley. I wanted to arrive at Canyonlands, and more specifically the Buck Canyon overlook, before sunset. But before I made it Buck Canyon I stopped at Candlestick Tower overlook and Mesa Arch. Mesa Arch is a natural sandstone arch that spans 90ft at the edge of a cliff. This location has become very popular for photographers especially during the early morning hours. Dozens of photographers line up around the arch shooting the sunrise glow on the underside of the arch with the dramatic landscape of the Colorado river gorge/canyon down below. I was out there just before sunset and had it almost all to myself. There was a young couple that was out enjoying the view as well. I waited for them to leave before I started shooting my images.

I was scouting some locations I could use for sunrise and trying to familiarize myself with compositions I thought would work for a sunrise shoot. Spoiler alert: I didn't shoot the sunrise the next morning! Instead, I made some images from Mesa Arch at sunset. This was actually a pretty tricky shot to capture. When I arrived at the arch, late afternoon light was shining all over the arch and landscape below it and while it was amazing in reality, the still image lacked the sense of depth I wanted to capture in the photo. So I patiently waited for some of the light to be filtered out in the intermittent cloud cover. So the clouds would block the sun and a much softer light would fall on the scene, but now all the landscape was covered in the shadow of the cloud. So now there not only wasn't that sense of depth, but the colors were flat and so I waited some more.

Finally, I got the perfect combination of light falling on the distant landscape, soft light in the foreground, and some clouds in the sky adding some nice texture. The result is an almost 3D look to the photo. You can see all the layers that make up the amazing scene the arch in the foreground, the cliff edge, the rock spires and Washing Woman Arch, the canyon, and emerging from the haze an almost “ghostly” silhouette of the La Sal mountain range. Not to mention, the excellent clouds in the sky adding just a bit more dimension to the overall scene. Although, those clouds would plague my sunset shoot later in the evening.

This is one of my favorite photos of the entire trip, but its not really one that gets a lot of attention. Of course, my favorite thing was capturing a truly unique photo of Mesa Arch and the only reason I can say that is nobody was around me when I photographed it. I captured something truly special to me and ended up with one of my favorite shots of the entire vacation.

 

Mesa Arch CanyonlandsMesa Arch Canyonlands © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Canyonlands Canyonlands National Park La Sal Mountains Mesa Arch Pic of the Week Utah arch landscape mountain nature rock travel http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/6/pic-of-the-week-6/29/17 Thu, 29 Jun 2017 16:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 6/22/17: Horseshoe Bend http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/6/pic-of-the-week-6/22/17 Pic of the Week: 6/22/17

“Horseshoe Bend”

Date taken: 6/22/16

Location: Horseshoe Bend Page, AZ

 

It was exactly one year ago today I was in Page, AZ staring over the incredible overlook of Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell. I was just starting day 3 on my vacation to explore and photograph areas of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. The previous two days I traveled from Wichita Falls and stopped my first night in Gallup, NM. The next day I drove to Grand Canyon National Park and shot both the south and north rim of the canyon. I stayed in Page, AZ that night to be ready to photograph Horseshoe Bend at sunrise the following morning.

When my alarm woke me up I sluggishly arose from bed. I had a very busy day yesterday, but this day was going to be the busiest. My plan was to hit Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley, and Canyonlands in one day. Like I said, it was going to be busy day. I sat myself upright on the bed and let out a deep sigh and tried to collect my thoughts. I was excited for today’s shoot and all the awesome places and landscapes I was going to visit. So much so that the night before I checked the sunrise time I forgot to switch my time zone and ended up an hour behind! I planned to be on location at Horseshoe Bend finding my perfect composition and staking my claim so no one would interfere with my shot.

Horseshoe Bend has become quite the photographer’s hotspot. With simple access and no entrance fee, it is easy to see why some many photographers visit this iconic landscape. So after realizing my timing error, I quickly ran over to my hotel window and pulled back the drapes. To my surprise there were some patches of clouds and a light blue sky outside. It was already blue hour and I needed to get on location. Had I followed the correct time schedule I would be finalizing my composition and getting everything ready to shoot. But sadly, I overslept and needed to get moving! I frantically gathered my gear and dressed myself, no time to shower or even brush my teeth I could do that once I got back to the hotel. Luckily, my hotel was on 2 miles away from Horseshoe Bend which made being late a little easier. I arrived at the parking lot and parked my car. I grabbed my gear and started hiking to the overlook. At first I was a little worried, all I could see was the rocky sandstone I was walking on. It looked like it stretched out for miles. “Did I miss the entrance or was I supposed to go another way?” I thought to myself. But I pressed on and eventually I could see the gap between the cliffs—I had made it to Horseshoe Bend.

I immediately picked up speed and started towards the cliff edge. Peering over my shoulder I could see the yellow glow of the sun, eager to greet the morning. I was almost at a jogging pace when I finally reached the end of the trail and the full extent of Horseshoe Bend came into view. There was no time to admire and enjoy I needed to set up and get ready fast. When I arrived there were only about a dozen other people around and the one place I wanted to be (which gave me the perfect view and composition) was already taken by another photographer. I considered sliding in next to him, but then I saw his 360 degree camera rig and thought it better etiquette to find another location myself. So I did and I just barely got my camera out in time when the sun broke the horizon and the distant Vermillion cliffs ignited in a bright fiery glow. I started shooting frames every few seconds just waiting for that perfect balance of sunrise light, color on the clouds, and soft shadows in the foreground. Then the sunrise light started to fall on the nearby cliffs surrounding Horseshoe Bend.

This time was just simply magical with such spectacular color variation and light. The red glow of the cliffs help add more depth and drama to the scene and the wonderful curvature and cool colors of Lake Powell complimented nicely to the warm sky. The only thing that could’ve made the photo better was a higher vantage point. If you look in the bottom right corner you can see a brownish rock. This was the rock I ideally wanted to be on and where the other photographer had set up. But I still came back with a winner.

I finished up the shoot and headed back to my car with a big grin on my face! On the way back I ran into another photographer and we got to talking. It turns out, he was at Horseshoe Bend the day before shooting sunset (what most photographers prefer at this location) and he claimed that it photographers were lined up all along the rim of the cliff. He estimated there were 300 photographers, imagine the madhouse that would’ve been! I was very grateful for the images I shot and even more grateful I didn’t have the same shot as 300 other photographers. And although this landscape may be “overhsot” I still believe I came back with something genuine and unique of one of the most dramatic landscapes I have ever captured.

 

Horseshoe Bend SunriseHorseshoe Bend SunriseEarly morning light hits the canyon walls and distant cliffs at Horseshoe Bend. © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Arizona Horseshoe Bend Pic of the Week Vermillion Cliffs cliffs lake landscape nature rock travel http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/6/pic-of-the-week-6/22/17 Thu, 22 Jun 2017 16:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 6/15/17: The Stars at Night... http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/6/pic-of-the-week-6/15/17 Pic of the Week 6/1/17

“The Stars at Night...”

Location: Highway 256 north of Quitaquae, TX 

Date taken: 5/27/17

 

The stars at night are big and bright (repeatedly claps hands)... deep in the heart of Texas!!!

 

No truer statement has ever been sung in that cheery folk tune. The stars under a dark Texas sky are big and bright like the stars we saw a few weeks back in one of my favorite locations for milky way photography. I am, of course, referring to Caprock Canyon State Park. This has been one of my favorite locations for a while now and I always look forward to visiting. We were there a few weeks back shooting the milky way over Holmes Creek canyon. After that successful shoot my friend Kyle and I drove on 256 to look for even darker night skies. This road takes you through the north prong of the canyon and with so many mesas and buttes to incorporate in the composition it is easily one of my favorite locations to photograph. Just before the rest area there is an old wind mill that looks like it has seen better days. Although the windmill has not been functional in what looks like a long time, it still provided us with an excellent foreground element to include in the scene. Earlier that night a cold front had passed through and the wind was really cranking at this time. The gusts would come screaming over the canyon from the northwest and become funneled in the terrain of the canyon and a strong burst of wind would hit us directly causing the blades of the delicate windmill to spin. The rattling and grinding of the old metal made me think the poor windmill was on it last leg and would topple over with a strong enough gust. But, it stayed up throughout our entire shoot and served its purpose for us. I used an LED flashlight and my cell phone to light paint the foreground and the windmill during the long exposure, this gave the foreground a little more interest and detail than a plain silhouette. And the arch of the milky way framed nicely over the windmill giving the composition a great tranquil feel. This was an absolute joy to shoot because the milky way was so bright in those dark skies that there was very little post processing needed to bring out details of the milky way. It was just an excellent way to end our already successful shoot. I'm looking forward to visiting Caprock Canyon again! 

 

The Stars at Night...The Stars at Night... © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Caprock Canyon Caprock Canyon State Park Pic of the Week Texas West Texas landscape nature night night scene nightscape sky travel http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/6/pic-of-the-week-6/15/17 Thu, 15 Jun 2017 16:01:54 GMT
Pic of the Week: 6/1/17: Milky Way Above Holmes Creek http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/6/pic-of-the-week-6/1/17 Pic of the Week 6/1/17

“Milky Way Above Holmes Creek”

Location: Caprock Canyon State Park, TX

Date taken: 5/27/17

 

This Memorial Day weekend I didn’t really have any plans to do any photography. I knew there would possibly be storm chase, but I was concerned it would be in the “jungles” of southeastern Oklahoma and Arkansas. So, I was just hoping to catch up on my backlog of edits. But when my friend Kyle Gese (http://www.mykgphotography.com) wanted to go hiking and do some photography I started to think about possible shoots. As the weekend approached we changed from hiking and photography to a road trip and milky way photography. I chose this for a few reasons, but the biggest one’s were the probability of cloud cover over area, and the fact that if I’m going to hike in 90+ temperatures than I want it to be worth it. Quite frankly, I can visit the Wichita Mountains almost any weekend. So we instead started searching for a location for milky way photography. A shot that I have been planning for a while came to mind, and if I was going to teach him milky way photography then we would need to find the darkest sky in our area. And that led me to Caprock Canyon State Park.

Caprock Canyon State Park is located just north of Quitaquae in west Texas. It is about a 3hr drive from Wichita Falls. The park is a whopping 15,314 acres in size making it the third largest state park in Texas. Ancient waters carved through the landscape creating the amazing canyons and bluffs in the park. Looking over the canyon and observing the majestic red quartermaster speckled by patches of scrub oak and juniper trees it’s hard to believe this is in Texas. Caprock Canyon is also home to the official Texas State Bison Herd. Per the TPWD this herd was one of the five foundation herds that saved this animal from extinction. Though they are acclimated to people they can be unpredictable and dangerous (Kyle learned this on the trip). Aside from the rugged natural beauty and the majestic Texas bison herd, there is something else that draws a lot of tourists, especially photographers, each year. Caprock Canyon is isolated and remote enough that it offers some of darkest night skies in the region. This would be the reason we made the drive to the park.

The idea was to explore areas around the Honey Flat Campground. Looking through Google Earth I could find a bend in Holmes Creek that almost looked like a small version of the infamous Horseshoe Bend in Arizona. While I had never been to this part of the park before, I have had this shot in the works for a little over a year. The milky way would be rising in the SE horizon just after 11pm and if we could find a composition that would work with the bend in the creek I thought it would result in an interesting image. We arrived at Caprock Canyon just before 6:30pm which gave us 2hrs of sunlight to scout out our location and maybe shoot the sunset. We pulled into the Honey Flat campground and were greeted to tourists enjoying the park in their tents and RV’s. We followed the Canyon Rim trail and then turned off on a game trail that led us to edge of the cliffs. Peering over the cliffs was intimidating, it was a straight vertical drop about 120ft to the dry creek bed below. Not as scary as the 1000ft drop of Horseshoe Bend, but we would be doing this in complete darkness. After some searching and backtracking we finally found the overlook that gave us a great view of the bend in the creek and to my surprise it actually looked similar to Horseshoe Bend. I was sold on the location, but I knew it was going to be a tricky composition. We would need to have the cameras close to the cliff edge to get the angle of the creek below. My approach was to do a series of horizontal images and stitch that into a vertical panorama. Once Kyle and I were happy with our location we started back to the car.

Here is where things got interesting. After passing through a campsite we turned to look for our vehicle by the road and were met with a large old bull. The bison was trotting along the roadway and tourists were taking photos of him and I guess he got spooked and started to take off towards us. Now, I have had some experience with bison from the Wichita Mountains, but I have never had one charge me. I backed away slowly and warned Kyle not to run. The buffalo started moving closer and I stepped behind a trailer in the campsite. Kyle was ahead of me and couldn’t get behind the trailer, so he decided to go through the camp and try to lose the bull. I saw Kyle turn behind a bush and bison follow and then I saw Kyle take off. The bison started chasing after him and Kyle darted through the trees and the bison continued after him. I lost sight of Kyle and the bull for a few seconds, but then Kyle emerged from the brush unscathed. The bull had lost interest and stopped following him. I guess he just needed to let us know he was in charge.

After that adrenaline rush we drove off to find a nice spot for sunset and we spent an hour shooting the golden light hitting the canyon. This was just to pass the time until blue hour, but we still found some nice compositions and interesting shots. It’s hard to not find something to take a photo of there. We gathered our gear back in the car and returned the Honey Flat campground to set up before dark—keeping an extra eye out for buffalo. We once again reached the bend in Holmes Creek and began preparing for the shot. We sat up our cameras and carefully backed away from the cliff’s edge. We spent the next few hours watching the sky grow darker and more and more stars becoming visible. The creek bed below became enveloped in darkness that was only interrupted by the gleam of fireflies hovering above the creek. In fact, you can see some in the shot if you look close enough.

As we reached 11:00pm the milky way broke above the horizon. At first, it was dim and hazy, but as it rose higher in the sky it began to shine in all its splendor! This must be one of the best views I have ever seen with my naked eye. I have never seen the milky way that thick before and watching it stretch across the horizon I was entranced, and Kyle was even more amazed. We ended up shooting the milky way until 12:30am and then moved on to a few more locations. We finally called it an end around 3am and arrived back home in Wichita Falls around 5:45am. It was a long haul, but it was well worth it! I captured a photo I have been wanting over a year now, and got to share my knowledge and help my friend get some amazing milky way photos. I am planning to be doing more milky way trips this year. I hope I captured the wonderment and mystery of this amazing Texas park, though I could’ve done without the light pollution. Regardless, I left with several images I am proud of and Kyle said he had a great time and that’s all anyone can really hope for.

 

© Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Caprock Canyon Caprock Canyon State Park Pic of the Week Texas creek milky way nature night nightscape rock sky stars travel http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/6/pic-of-the-week-6/1/17 Thu, 01 Jun 2017 15:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 5/26/17: Lightning Show http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/5/pic-of-the-week-5/26/17 Pic of the Week 5/26/17

"Lightning Show"

Date taken: 5/18/17

Location: Between Henrietta and Ringgold, TX on US 82. 

 

I'll be very short with this update on the blog and just let the photo speak for itself. I've had some success this month with storm chasing and I hope to get around to editing more in the weeks to come. In the mean time enjoy this "Lightning Show" image I captured from one of my chases last week. Thank you for the support! 

 

-Ben

 

© Ben Jacobi

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Pic of the Week Texas landscape lightning nature night severe weather sky supercell weather http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/5/pic-of-the-week-5/26/17 Fri, 26 May 2017 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 5/18/17: 5/16/17 Supercell Panorama http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/5/pic-of-the-week-5/18/17 Pic of the Week 5/18/17

"5/16/17 Supercell Panorama"

Date taken: 5/16/17

Location: Highway 6 near Red River

 

Due to the possibility of a storm chase the next few days I will be posting a short write up on the blog today. Earlier this week I took some friends on mine storm chasing and we intercepted an isolated supercell in northern, TX and followed in into southern, OK. This was the first real view we had of the storm and I opted to shoot a wide format panorama to record the scene. I shot and stitched 7 images to make this panorama. It was really quite a tranquil scene with the sunlight behind the updraft and flanking tower of the storm. We watched the crepuscular rays dance around the top of the towers behind a nice blue sky. The hay bales off in the distance added more dimension and depth of the scene and helped scale in the mountainous updraft tower surging into the sky. More storm chasing today and tomorrow so maybe I'll have some more pics next week. Enjoy! 

 

© Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Pic of the Week Texas clouds nature rural severe weather sky storm storm chasing thunderstorms weather http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/5/pic-of-the-week-5/18/17 Thu, 18 May 2017 16:01:09 GMT
Pic of the Week 5/12/17: Untitled 5/10/17 http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/5/pic-of-the-week-5/12/17 Pic of the Week: 5/12/17

“Untitled 5-10-17”

Location: Crowell, TX

Date taken: 5/10/17

 

                Here we are in the second week of May and I have been sitting by patiently waiting for my first successful chase of 2017. There have been some nice (unfortunately fatal) tornadoes within a day’s drive, but I was either working or had other responsibilities. I kept saying to myself “Not to worry, it’s just March, it’s just April.” But once it came down to May I was starting to feel concerned. I have not had a successful storm chase all season long which can leave you with a real sour stomach. But on Wednesday this week I got to chase my first real storm of the year and not only that we successfully intercepted a brief tornado. Sadly, I was driving at the time and could not take photos as the tornado was very brief. Still it was great to just get to go out on the chase and actually pull out the camera!

                Our chase started around 5pm where I left from Metro Photo and headed towards storms that were developing near Paducah, TX. My good friend Tyler drove up from Prosper, TX to chase this day so expectations were high. We drive west on 287 reaching Vernon and dropping south and west on Highway 70 to Crowell, TX. When we reached Crowell, we turned back to the north on highway 6 to be position of the storm. About 5 miles on highway 6 we pulled over at a historical marker and we had a nice view of our developing supercell. We could see the updraft tower surging into the blue sky above and a low blocky lowering in the storms base. This did not look like it was rotating at this time, but it did show promise. We crept closer and closer to the storm until it stated to cross Highway 6. I knew this could be a problem on this road. There are no east options that would keep us in position of the storm until we reached Quanah, TX and highway 287. The problem with this road is that it would put us behind the storm and not in front of it.

                As our storm crossed Highway 6 we noticed it starting to intensify. The returns on radar grew larger, the storms wall cloud started getting lower and larger and was showing signs of rotation we pulled over and watch it pass the highway right in front of us. At one point the storm’s rear flank downdraft came around the updraft base tightening up the wall cloud and increasing the rotation. The RFD carved a nice shape to the wall cloud and updraft base which I found to be very photogenic above the empty two lane highway. I walked out to the middle of the road (checking the traffic first) and dropped to a knee to get this shot. It’s a very classic “storm chase” photo. In fact, I have a few in some of my other galleries. But still it was great being under the updraft of a picturesque storm once again and getting to storm chase.

© Ben Jacobi

                We would continue following this storm into southern Oklahoma until evening time. While trying to get into position on the storm a tornadic circulation spun up directly to our west just .3 miles away! I slammed on the breaks and pulled off the road pointing and shouting to Tyler “TORNADO! TORNADO ON THE GROUND!” Not a few seconds after that I pulled out my camera to record a video of the brief spin up. But the RFD quickly caught up to it and we were blindsided by rain and wind. I confirmed with other chasers and storm reports that we did in fact see a tornadic circulation under a rotating base. There was no real visible funnel which is why it took by surprise. It was a great chase and it felt nice to get another tornado under my belt, even if it was short-lived one. Next week is looking to be an active weather pattern so I hope to have more storm photos to share with y’all!

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Pic of the Week clouds nature road rural severe weather sky storm storm chasing weather http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/5/pic-of-the-week-5/12/17 Fri, 12 May 2017 16:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 5/5/17: Milky Way in Moonlight http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/5/pic-of-the-week-5/5/17 Pic of the Week 5/5/17

“Milky Way in Moonlight”

Location: Highway 256 near Caprock Canyon

Date Taken: 5/2/17

 

Guys it’s here! The milky way season is finally here! This past Tuesday I was able to capture my first milky way photo of the year. What made this milky way photo so different was I had no intention of shooting some night time photography that day. You see, I was instead looking for a nice storm chase after work. 

Earlier that morning some of the weather models were hinting at the possibility of storms going up along a pseudo triple point that was setting up along the Red River. My target was Childress, TX, but depending on where the front ended up we may drift into Oklahoma. I asked my friend Ryan Litton to join me on this chase. Ryan, is starting out in photography and storm chasing and what better teacher than experience. Sadly, though we’re experiencing everything and that includes chase busts. The SPC issued a mesoscale discussion in the early evening. This is an area the SPC highlights for the potential of severe weather and is the step before they issue a watch. I had some reservations about our target, however. I was concerned the front would drift too far north and we wouldn’t be able to catch the storms before sunset. There was also the possibility that the cap could hold preventing thunderstorm development. This is exactly what happened and we drove to our target. We saw some towers attempt to develop into storms, but they just couldn’t beat the cap. While in Childress we decided to grab some dinner, and decide if we wanted to call it a chase.

I said that if we didn’t get storms, maybe we would get a good sunset, but that too did not happen. It wasn’t looking good for us so I suggested we drive another 1.5hrs to Caprock Canyon and shoot the night sky. Ryan agreed with me knowing it was going to be a long night. When we reached Esteline, TX we came to the Highway 86 junction which takes us to Caprock Canyons State Park. The sun was now below the horizon and we could start to see some stars in the sky. Turning onto 86 you immediately notice the difference in the amount of traffic on this lonely road. There are no street lights like you will sometimes see on 287 and the area is abundant with wildlife. In fact, not five miles into 86 we saw a coyote cross the highway just in front of us. This is where the Texas wilderness reigns.

Following 86 we eventually reached Turkey, TX and continued down 86 towards Quitiquae. This is the entrance to Caprock Canyon State Park, but we were not actually going to the park. One reason is the park closes around 10pm to all outside visitors, so instead we turned on state road 256. This road heads east towards the north prong of Caprock Canyon. I have been down this road before and I remembered a rest stop that overlooked the canyon to the north. We arrived at the rest stop around 11pm and I quickly got out and scouted the area for locations. The waxing gibbous moon was interrupted by intermittent cloud cover and threw some excellent soft light on the landscape. This would be a good opportunity for a timelapse. We watched as the clouds covered up the shimmering stars and casted shadows on the rugged canyon. It was quite peaceful as we were the only ones out there.

I knew the milky way would be coming up around 1am and that I wanted to photograph the milky way looking down into the canyon. We continued heading east on 256 descending in elevation. We came to a pull off with a fantastic view of the canyon across the road. One of the best things about this location was the lack of trees at the top ledge. This gave us an excellent unobstructed view of the canyon and made finding a pleasing composition even easier. After scouting around, I found the composition I wanted and set up for the shoot. My camera was positioned so I had 2/3 of the starry sky and 1/3 of the canyon. I also used the natural leading lines of the canyon to draw the eye to a small peak of the canyon wall in the distance. This work great to lead the eye through the canyon, to that peak, and above where the galactic center of the milky way is gently resting in the sky. I shot a timelapse sequence of the milky way rising here that I am so excited about.

Somewhere around 1:30am the wind started to pick up—and not just a small gust. Winds were sustaining about 30mph and gusting as high was 45-50mph. During this time we climbed back into the vehicle and watched my camera and the milky way from the shelter of my car. I decided to call it a night around 2:30am. I had work the next morning and Ryan had class as well. We drove back to Wichita Falls and made it back to my apartment just before 5:30am. It was a long journey with an unplanned nighttime photo shoot, but it was well worth it. Shooting Caprock Canyon lit by moonlight below the milky way is not a bad first night photo of the year. I have many more milky trips planned for later in the year and I hope I stumble across more impromptu milky way shoots during the season.  

Milky Way in MoonlightMilky Way in MoonlightThe milky way rises as moonlight graces the cliffs and walls of Caprock Canyon. © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Caprock Canyon Caprock Canyon State Park Pic of the Week Texas landscape milky way nature night night scene nightscape sky stars http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/5/pic-of-the-week-5/5/17 Fri, 05 May 2017 15:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 4/27/17: Hamilton Pool http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/4/pic-of-the-week-4/27/17 Pic of the Week 4/27/17

“Hamilton Pool”

Location: Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve near Dripping Springs, TX

Date taken: 4/9/17

 I remember the very first time I saw a photo of Hamilton Pool. It was on a “Only in Your State” website with some cheesy click-bait headline like “The Most Unbelievable Swimming Hole in Texas” or something to that effect. I must admit that their click-bait title tactic worked because I clicked on the link and opened the article. An image of the waterfall was placed as a banner at the top of the article and in big blue letters the title read “Hamilton Pool”. I scrolled down ignoring the article and went straight to looking through some of the pictures. I was in awe. I remember one shot in particular, was a straight on view of the falls. The photographer used a long exposure that turned the trickling falls into beautiful curtains of water that fell into a stunning emerald reflecting pool below. It was a morning shot and some nice light was hitting the grotto on the left side revealing all the ferns and vegetation growing on the underside of the crazy rock formation. It was mesmerizing, the beauty of it all. I thought to myself and learning about this location (I finally read the article) “I’m going to photograph that soon.” That has been about five years ago and as the years went by I started to see more and more photos of Hamilton Pool. Some of my photographer friends I follow on Instagram and Facebook would post their photos of the waterfall making want to visit even more. It wasn’t until earlier this month I got to visit and photograph this natural wonder of the Texas hill country. And I must say, if you live in Texas you need to go visit this spot!!! 

When we started planning this trip I knew I was going to include Hamilton Pool, but I just wasn’t sure when to photograph it. I knew due to its popularity we wouldn’t want to be out during the afternoon so the idea I had in mind was to photograph in the morning and arrive early and be the first person in line. So the plan was to photograph it Monday morning that way we could sleep in a little and hopefully most of the weekend crowd would be gone. That is not what happened though. On Sunday morning, my mother and I drove to Colorado Bend State Park to photograph Gorman Falls. That was actually the Pic of the Week last week (http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/4/pic-of-the-week-4/20/17).  After our trip to Colorado Bend State Park we got some lunch and headed toward our next stop. We were trying to get to an area known as West Cave which was just west of Hamilton Pool. It is also a nature preserve and the cave/grotto is only available through guided tours they only do on weekends. Our plan was to get there in time for the 4pm tour which was the last tour of the day. This was also the only tour we would be able to do during this trip. We arrived to the entrance of West Cave and the parking lot was packed. People were running about getting to the visitor center and checking in for tours. Mom let me out of the car so I could make our reservation while she parked. I went in to the visitor center and talked with someone behind the tour registration desk. She gave some some disheartening news: ALL TOURS WERE BOOKED SOLID! I was understandably upset, but not that surprised judging by the number of people there were. Mom thankfully couldn’t find a parking space and as I walked out she was driving back around. I told her that we couldn’t get on the tour and we should just move on to our final stop of the day Pedernales Falls.

I had mentioned to mom that Hamilton Pool was close by and that we would be going there tomorrow morning. Mom thought since we were close we might as well just try to get in to Hamilton Pool. I remember thinking to myself “If we can’t get into West Cave how in the world would we get into Hamilton Pool?” I had heard stories of people waiting in line for hours to get access to the trail. I really didn’t want to do that I was concerned we would miss the sunset at Pedernales Falls, but mom convinced me and we drove a few miles to the entrance of Hamilton Pool.

There was a sign outside the gate that read “CAPACITY LIMIT REACHED” and we could see a line of cars stalled outside the park entrance. I was starting to get worried. I didn’t want to be stuck here waiting in line and missing my sunset shot at Pedernales River (which was the Pic of the Week two weeks ago http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/4/pic-of-the-week-4/13/17). We got in line and waited after a few minutes the line started to move and I could see around the corner of the road it was the trail parking area. Maybe we wouldn’t have to wait as long I thought. The line slowly crept forward and a member of the park staff came up to our vehicle and explained some of the rates and rules to us. Several car lengths later we were at the entrance gate. The park staff told us we just needed to wait for a car to exit and then we could park. We paid our entrance fee and waited for a few minutes before pulling into our parking spot. All together we didn’t wait 15 minutes, which was a whole lot less than I was expecting.

We parked the car and I hurriedly got my gear out and we started off on the trail. People from all countries and cultures were walking on this pathway some heading back up and others going down. Although I was beyond excited that we were getting to photograph Hamilton Pool, I was worried about all these other tourists and how they might affect my shots. After all we had just spent the morning isolated and surrounded by bliss at Gorman Falls, but this was looking rushed and chaotic. The trail was mostly easy; there was a steep descent along some rock stairs before leveling out at the creek. Then a short pathway to a metal stair case down to the waterfall and pool. While the trails were simple the congestion and traffic made it go a little slower, but we eventually made it to the waterfall.

It was now 4pm and I was behind the waterfall and just starting to get under the grotto I had an cool shot close up of the falls and the beach in the background, but tourists were hopping on a rock directly underneath the waterfall and getting in my shot. They did this despite the park staff’s warnings about “high bacteria content in the water” which actually closed the pool to swimming. This is how the rest of the trip would go for me. I would set up a shot and wait for tourists to pass by and move out of the frame. On several occasions, I moved off the trail and on some rocks to get away from the tourists and then they would walk right in front of my camera while I was taking a shot! I was frustrated by this, but sure beauty that was in front of me helped block everyone else out. I was patient, calm, but annoyed. I pressed on and was able to get some excellent shots, but I knew I would be spending a lot of time in photoshop removing all the tourists. I reached a point along the trail where I stopped dead in my steps and found the “winning” composition and shot I wanted. Once again I had to wait for the tourists, but the scene was just perfect. I had just the right angle to see the full waterfall unobstructed by the grotto. The grotto itself made an incredibly leading line for the waterfall and the moss-covered stalactites made an excellent anchor point in the frame. Below the grotto was the stunning reflecting pool in all its turquoise/green splendor, the waters were not perfectly still and the rocks around the shore created turbulence in water. Using a long exposure I was able to exaggerate some of the movement of the water forming an almost whirlpool effect to the surface. This added even more energy to the photo and mirrored the curvature of the grotto above. We finished out the trail and returned back to the parking lot just before they closed at 5:30. We continued on to our last stop of the day Pedernales Falls State Park. Despite the crazy tourist traffic I left Hamilton Pool feeling recharged and ready to make more awesome photographs. 

While Hamilton Pool was not my favorite stop on the trip (it was because of all the tourists if I had it to myself I’m sure it would’ve been my favorite) it was still one the most beautiful places I have ever photographed in Texas and with a little post processing magic, all those annoying tourists were no longer an issue and I ended up with a shot that I feel captured the mystery and tranquility of this iconic hill country destination. Thank you Mom for convincing me to go there!

                Hamilton PoolHamilton PoolHamilton Pool Nature Preserve © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Hamilton Pool Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve Pic of the Week Texas Texas hill country cave creek grotto landscape nature pool travel tree water waterfall http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/4/pic-of-the-week-4/27/17 Thu, 27 Apr 2017 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 4/20/17: Gorman Falls http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/4/pic-of-the-week-4/20/17 Pic of the Week 4/20/17: Gorman Falls

Location: Gorman Falls Colorado Bend State Park, Bend, TX

Date taken: 4/9/17

I awoke in bed in the hotel bedroom and stared at the ceiling for a few moments before turning my head over to look at the clock. "4:14" it read. "About an hour too early" I thought to myself and proceeded to get up. I shuffled over to my laptop that I had left charging overnight. There was a chance for early morning precip and cloud cover, so I needed to check the weather before the day's activities. I yawned as I opened up the laptop and started to search for weather data. It was a long drive yesterday, but I was now in Marble Falls, TX waking up an hour early, and getting ready for the big day we had ahead of us. My mother, who has accompanied me on numerous photo adventures, was still asleep. I checked the satellite and clear sky charts and it looked like we were going to be overcast throughout most of the day. This was not what I wanted to hear. Overcast skies rarely make for good landscape photos. I was interrupted when Mom's cell phone alarm went off at 5:00am, it was time to get up.

We got up and proceeded to get our gear together and get down to the car. Our first stop was Colorado Bend State Park about 65 miles away. Our goal was to get to Gorman Falls by sunrise and hopefully capture some light rays stretching across the waterfall. I had never been to this location before, but I had heard good things about this particular location. In fact, about three days before we made the trip the area received some significant rain and the Colorado Bend Facebook page posted a nice video showing the falls flowing in all their glory. This instilled some more confidence in our first stop and now we just had to hope the clouds would break through before sunrise. 

The drive up to the park was quite interesting. We followed 281 north to Lampassas where we would turn off on FM 580 driving west towards Bend, TX. I always enjoy driving on these farm market roads. They're usually clear of traffic and it gives you a chance to experience some of the landscape of the area. FM 580 was mostly a straight shot west, but there were a lot of twists and turns as we got closer to some of hills. Deer were huddled together on the side of the road grazing and the edges were lined with a plethora of wildflowers that grew in patches for miles down the road. When we reached Bend, TX we needed to turn off 580 and start driving on county Rd 442. After reaching the junction we came to the low water crossing of the Cherokee Creek The road narrowed down to a single lane as you crossed the bridge. Luckily there were no other vehicles coming by and we took our time admiring the limestone rocks scattered around the creek below. This is the only way to access the park and if the creek gets too high they close off the park entirely.

We crossed the creek and continued east getting closer and closer to the park. Some miles later we came to another junction and we turned onto County Rd 446. This road would lead us to the park entrance. We reached the park entrance and found the kiosk to pay your entrance fee. I made the mistake of suggesting we go to the headquarters to pay our entrance fee, which was not open at the time. After realizing the headquarters was not open at this hour we turned around and headed back to the kiosk and made our payment. Now we were ready to head to the Gorman Falls trail head. Following Co Rd 446 we came to a turn off pointing to Gorman Falls on the left. The road quickly changed from a decent paved road to gravel/dirt road which in my mother's Volkwagen Bug was probably not the smoothest ride. But we made it to the trail and I was eager to get out to the falls. 

According to the TPWD website the hike to Gorman Falls is 1.3 miles and is rated as "Challenging", but I had high hopes that it was all going to be worth it. I've hiked for longer distances with more gear before so I wasn't particularly concerned. It was 8:00am when we started the hike. The trails themselves were marked well and easy to follow. There was the occasional bench that encouraged weary hikers to rest and take in the surrounding scenery. Mom and I happily accepted the invitation. We hiked about 1 mile until reaching a cross road in the trail that intersected with the Gorman Springs trail. This was a sign that we were close to the falls and after passing through a small grove of trees you could just barely hear the sound of running water. 

Following the trail markers we continued down the path now starting to descend. Large limestone rocks and boulders were strewn about between the trees and grasslands. We came to the last part of the trail, and the most challenging, we would now need to descend down a makeshift staircase made from the native limestone. Looking straight ahead I could see the top of Gorman Falls through the trees. We climbed down scores of steps sometimes holding on to the ropes they installed to help with our balance, but we finally reached the bottom. Here the waterfall became even more audible and all sounds except the birds were drowned out over the running water. I reached the overlook platform and drank in the scenery around me. We were the first ones there and enjoyed it all to ourselves. The area around the falls was off limits and a small wire was placed with a sign stating "SENSITIVE AREA DO NOT GO BEYOND THIS POINT". I set up my tripod and found a composition that I thought would work, but there was only one problem. The sun never broke through the clouds. Regardless, I kept on shooting.

I watched as the water cascade down the rock and crash into streams converging to a pool that drained into the Colorado River. The water originates from Gorman Spring and travels along Gorman Creek before falling an impressive 65ft to form Gorman Falls. Along the way the water breaks up the limestone rock and deposits calcite. This combines with the mineral-rich water to form a sensitive and delicate rock known as travertine. The park calls Gorman Falls a "living waterfall" because it keeps growing. Gorman creek deposited travertine in a formation approximately 650 feet wide and 60 feet thick to make this impressive waterfall and it keeps growing to this day. Although it likely took centuries for this formation. 

The waterfall is tucked away surrounded by trees and lush vegetation which can make it difficult to photograph. But I found a spot that let me see as much as the waterfall as possible. I wanted to convey the seclusion and isolation of the waterfall and I believe the surrounding vegetation did that. You truly feel like you're in a tropical or rain forest setting when standing here. It was so beautiful and peaceful. I had to use my wide angle to get as much of the falls in the shot. I also chose to limit the amount of sky in the photo due to its overcast and uninteresting nature. I did have a point where just a little bit of light peeked through the clouds cover and softly landed on some of the moss covered rock giving the scene a nice sense of depth. Once we finished up our shoot, hikers and tourists started coming in and we started back up the trail. This was just our first stop for a very busy day of shooting and we saw some amazing sights on this trip, but Gorman Falls is my favorite. The fact that we were the only ones there unimpeded by tourists makes it even more special. 

 

Gorman FallsGorman FallsThe stunning 65ft Gorman Falls in Colorado Bend State Park. © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Colorado Bend State Park Gorman Creek Gorman Falls Pic of the Week Texas Texas Hill Country creek landscape nature river travel water waterfall http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/4/pic-of-the-week-4/20/17 Thu, 20 Apr 2017 17:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 4/13/17: Sunset on the Pedernales http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/4/pic-of-the-week-4/13/17 Oh, where do i begin?... Earlier this week I returned from a three day trip photographing some of the stunning landscape and natural wonders of the Texas hill country. I had never really been to this part of Texas before, but I've always been intrigued by the area. Needless to say, it was incredible! The rolling hills, impressive waterways bisecting the landscape, and wondrous fields of wildflowers really tugged at my heartstrings. Not to sound too dramatic, but it was one of the most beautiful places I've been to in Texas. My mother Marcia Jacobi accompanied me on this photo adventure. It has been almost three years since our last photo trip (Arkansas 2014). So it was nice to get to share these experiences with my mom. She was a real trooper too, we hiked a little over 7.5 miles throughout the hill country. We stayed in a hotel in Marble Falls, TX just across the Colorado River. Marble Falls was a good location because it was centered around all of our destinations. We arrived just after sunset Saturday evening to our hotel in Marble Falls and got some good rest in for the next day. Sunday was going to be a busy, busy day. 

 

Our plan was to leave around 6:00am and drive 1hr 15min to Bend, TX where we would turn down some backcountry roads and stop at Colorado Bend State Park. Not to get too much into those details, but we hiked to Gorman Falls which was absolutely breathtaking and after playing around near the Colorado River and Spicewood Springs we left Colorado Bend State Park. The next stop was an area I didn't know that much about, but some research on the internet led me to this destination. Westcave was our next stop. We drove back through Marble Falls and headed east going towards Austin, TX. When we reached Westcave I was upset to learn all the tours were booked up for the day and that meant we would not be able to get to photograph this area on this trip. They only do guided tours on Saturdays and Sundays. A little distraught, we left the Westcave parking lot and started to our next destination Hamilton Pool. It was close enough by, but I was worried we were going to have to wait in line for hours and we would miss sunset at Pedernales Falls (our next stop). Thankfully, the wait was on 15min and we were in and out by 5:30pm. Hamilton pool was spectacular, but being such a unique and beautiful setting it is overwhelmed with tourists. I know I'm going to be spending a lot of time photoshopping people out of my shots at Hamilton Pool. We got back in our vehicle and started off to our last stop of the day Pedernales Falls State Park which was about 35 minutes away. 

 

If I'm being perfectly honest, I didn't know what to expect with Pedernales Falls. I had done some internet research and it seems everyone enjoys it there, but they do more recreational activities such as swimming and fishing, not photography. I had seen some images of the falls overlook, but it didn't really impress me. I don't know if it was the lighting, the photographer, or whatever, but the images I saw left a lot to be desired. We arrived to the entrance of Pedernales Falls and followed the narrow park road for a few miles before coming across the parking lot to the falls overlook. After a brief hike we reached the overlook and I was shocked at how beautiful the river and waterfalls were. The Pedernales River was cuts through the ancient limestone rocks and drops 50ft over a length of 3000ft down river. This creates a beautiful flowing river with two main waterfalls. The higher being Upper Falls and the lesser Lower falls just below. Upper Falls cascades down about 20ft and Lowerfalls only drops around 10ft. While these heights aren't as impressive as the seventy foot Gorman Falls or as dramatic as the 50ft waterfall at Hamilton Pool, they are no less beautiful. After shooting some images of the overlook I wanted to get a closer look at the falls. Following a stone stair case I descended down to the shores of the Pedernales River. I quickly ran up to photograph the falls, but I really wanted to find my shot for sunset. The sun would be setting in about an hour and I wanted to be ready in case the clouds broke and expose some nice sunset light. Thanks to some earlier research I found a spot on Google Earth that looked like some rapids or a whirlpool just to the east of the falls. I could see this feature from the overlook and watching the water surge through the narrow pass I thought it would make for a nice long exposure photograph. I started heading to to east along the edge of the river and clambered up some rocks and did some boulder hopping before arriving to the area. It turns out I could've taken an easy footpath down the other side of the overlook and end up in the same spot, oh well. I did a little bit of exploring and I came across the wash. I watched as the river came rushing through at a fairly high speed. This made an audible roar that rivaled Upper Falls and I knew I had found my location for sunset. Now it was time to find the right composition and play the waiting game.

 

I set my camera and tripod up and took some test exposures to get a feel for the composition I had chosen. There was now some breaking up of the clouds to the west and southwest so I settled on my lens choice, angle, and horizon placement. Now I just needed to wait for the light. There were times when it looked like we weren't going to get any color in the sky and maybe not even see the sun, but I remained hopeful and right before the sun fell behind the horizon a brief gap in cloud cover sent a ray of golden sunset light shooting all across the river and directly onto my scene. The light reflected off the limestone rocks and the rushing waters of the river and the golden yellow contrasted nicely against the green turquoise color of the water. I shot off several exposures during this time taking advantage and trying to soak up as much of the light that I could. It was remarkable and I knew this was going to be the first real image I shared from this trip. So many times I was impressed and surprised at the beauty of the hill country, but I really don't think anything compares to the emotional feeling I got during this shoot at Pedernales Falls. I have many more photos that I will be processing in the weeks to come and I'm excited to share these all these exciting images with y'all. You will be hearing from me soon! 

 

-Ben

 

Sunset on the PedernalesSunset on the PedernalesSunset on the Pedernales River in the Texas hill country. © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Pedernales Falls Pedernales Falls State Park Pedernales River Pic of the Week Texas Texas hill country landscape nature river sky sunset travel water http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/4/pic-of-the-week-4/13/17 Thu, 13 Apr 2017 17:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 3/23/17: Crab Eyes http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/3/pic-of-the-week-3/23/17 Pic of the Week 3/23/17: Crab Eyes

Location: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, OK

Date taken: 3/19/17

 

                I can’t believe it has been a month since my last Pic of the Week. I am very disappointed in myself to be honest. The reason I haven’t posted anything is because I wasn’t motivated and the photos that I did capture in this gap I felt weren’t worthy of sharing on this blog. You see, nearly every weekend during the month of March has been rainy or cloudy. It has literally robbed me of photographing sunrise/sunsets and the night sky. And I had some cool photo adventures planned too! I tried I truly tried to get some new photos but nothing resonated with me. Nothing inspired me. So much so that when I looked back on my old work I didn’t want to write or tell the story behind the photos. If you know me, you know that I’m passionate about my work and I love sharing these stories with everyone. But the overcast clouds and dreary weather left a bad taste in my mouth for almost a month. I needed a palette cleanser. Luckily there was some light at the end of the tunnel. This past weekend (3/19) was one of the first weekends we’ve had with clear skies and I was eager to take advantage. I needed an escape and I needed to get away from the stressors of life. So, I planned a hike in the Charon Gardens Wilderness Area of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

                Charon Gardens is one of my favorite locations on the refuge. It is one of the most untouched and remote regions of the public use area and it offers so many things to nature enthusiasts. One of the most popular hiking destinations is to a unique rock formation referred to as “Crab Eyes”. Crab Eyes (aka Twin Rocks) gets its name from the delicate balancing rocks atop two sixty-foot-tall pillars of granite. Crab Eyes rests on a hill strewn with broken and mangled boulders. Years of erosion has shaped the mountains into dilapidated mounds of rock. This rugged terrain is what makes Charon Gardens so desirable to hikers and climbers wanting to scale these ancient monoliths. Crab Eyes can be accessed through a moderate two-mile hike along the Charon Gardens Trail. I arrived early to make sure I had Crab Eyes all to myself.

                I parked my car at the Sunset Picnic Area. I was just at the same parking lot last month hiking to the summit of Elk Mountain (the tallest peak in the Charon Gardens). Now I was going to capture Crab Eyes. I gathered all my gear and started off towards the trail. There were no other people or vehicles in the area and I could hear the sounds of nature all around me. I would listen to the crows calling, or hear the trickle of the creek, and the rustling of the leaves when the wind blew. It was so peaceful. Starting the hike, you walk through a wooded area before coming to an open meadow about a mile into the trail. The views of Elk mountain and the craggy granite domes are quite impressive. A quick glance of the southern horizon and you will see the famous Crab Eyes from a distance. It’s difficult to really get the size of this landmark from this perspective, but if you follow the trail it will eventually take you right up the base of the pillars that prop up the balancing rocks of Crab Eyes.

                This photo was made when I first reached the meadow and Crab Eyes came into view. A wonderfully clear blue sky made a nice backdrop to Crab Eyes. The light was a little after sunrise (sadly, I had miscalculated the sunrise time) and was throwing a soft golden light on Crab Eyes. The direct sunlight was enough to bring out the yellow, green, and pink colors of the rock. I believe this to be lichen, but I honestly do not know. But they are so bright and vibrant In the sunlight it is hard to miss. I pulled my camera out and attached my 70-200mm lens. I zoomed in tightly on the rock compressing the scene and bringing everything closer with my camera. The result is a tight composition with Crab Eyes dominating most of the frame. This close up also help bring out the details of the craggy ridges and boulders scattered throughout the area. It also shows just how precarious of a position those balance rocks are.

                I ended up hiking 4.4 miles that day exploring and climbing near Crab Eyes. I did not get to the top, however. The route up there is quite technical and involved and since I was the only one out there I climbed as high as I felt comfortable. Still it was a great time and a much needed escape to rejuvenate and inspire my artistic spirit. I have some exciting new photo trips planned soon and I can’t wait to see what images I come back with. Not to mention, storm season is just around the corner.

 

Crab EyesCrab EyesEarly morning light strikes the unique rock formation known as Crab Eyes in the Charon Gardens Wilderness Area of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Charon Gardens Crab Eyes Oklahoma Pic of the Week Wichita Mountains Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge hiking landscape nature travel http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/3/pic-of-the-week-3/23/17 Thu, 23 Mar 2017 17:00:00 GMT