Photography by Ben Jacobi: Blog http://bdjphoto.com/blog en-us (C) Ben Jacobi shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Thu, 19 Jul 2018 15:29:00 GMT Thu, 19 Jul 2018 15:29:00 GMT http://bdjphoto.com/img/s/v-5/u961975040-o578845839-50.jpg Photography by Ben Jacobi: Blog http://bdjphoto.com/blog 90 120 Pic of the Week 7/19/18: Molas Pass Overlook http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/7/pic-of-the-week-7/19/18 Pic of the Week 7/19/18

"Molas Pass Overlook"

Location: Molas Pass near Silverton, CO

Date taken: 6/23/16

 

It is so hot right now here in Texas. In fact, as I am typing this the National Weather Service has just updated their weekly forecast. Let me share with you some of the expected temperatures. Today high of 109 and a low of 81, 110/80, 110/80, 108/81. There are several Excessive Heat warnings out right now due to the warmer temperatures and high humidity. It is so dangerous to be out in these conditions that the Forest Service has closed the hiking trails to the Wichita Mountains. No hiking is allowed after 10am and considering some of the gates don't open until 9am, you can tell just how serious they are. So to summarize its just too hot to do anything outside! 

 

When the weather gets like this I have nowhere else to look but back and usually at a place with cooler temperatures. I think about this particular photo quite often. I have a large print of it hanging up in my office at work and each time I look at it I can smell the freshly fallen rain and feel the mountain air. I keep it as a reminder of a great trip and if I close my eyes I can transport myself there. This was an image I captured from my 2016 road trip on the final day of my vacation. Earlier the previous evening I found my shot of the Buck Canyon overlook [Link] to be blocked out by an approaching storm and clouds. When I left Utah driving to Colorado early that next morning it was still raining. It rained until I reached the UT/CO border where the precip finally let up.

 

Along the way I passed vibrant grass fields and gentle rolling hills of the Colorado plain. But that terrain quickly gave way to towering cliffs and distant mountains. One of my first views of the majestic rocky mountains was near Dallas Divide, CO. I captured a wide panoramic view of this incredible scene.[Link] Before long I was turning onto Highway 550 the "Million Dollar Highway" one of the most scenic drives I've even taken. Around each curve and climb of this snaky one-lane road I would come face to face with massive photogenic mountains. I guess I was so enamored with the scenery I failed to check my radar. 

 

Just before I reached Silverton, CO I could see a dark cloud top moving over one the large peaks to my west. And as I continued down the road it started to lightly rain. I didn't think much of it, but as I got closer and closer to Silverton more and more rain began to fall. When I arrived to Silverton rain was pouring down and I could only see the roads and buildings in front of me. The mountains that encompass this old mining town were shrouded by thick curtains of rain with just the slightest hint of a silhouette visible. The rain kept coming for what seemed like an eternity and lightning began striking all around me. The ambient temperature dropped to a chilly 46 degrees F and I decided to press on instead of stopping in Silverton. 

 

I made my way farther south along 550, but this time keeping an eye on the clouds to my southwest and watching for further storm development. After a short while I reached Molas Pass the highest point of Hwy 550 and a 10920ft elevation the view of the mountain range was just incredible. I knew I didn't have much time before the storm came, but I couldn't pass up this photogenic scene. I quickly got my camera out and shot a 4 image panorama of the range. I never actually did anything with the panorama, but one of the shots caught my attention and I liked the composition so much that I kept it as a single photograph. In my foreground you can see Molas Pond that leads your eye to Molas Lake in the background before reaching the awesome mountain range in the distance. There's even just a hint of blue sky in the upper left of the photo. But the more dramatic feature would be the storm clouds hovering above the mountain peaks. This was the storm I had just driven through and it was now making its way out of Silverton.

 

Molas Pass OverlookMolas Pass OverlookView from the Molas Pass Overlook. Looking at Molas Lake and Molas Pond as summer thunderstorms roll in over the rocky mountains. © Ben Jacobi

 

The intermittent light on the mountains made for an interesting contrast. Here you can see the foreground is in light, but just a few miles away Molas Lake is in the shadows and the far distant mountain range (left) is now exposed to sunlight. I sat here for several minutes just enjoying the wonderful vista and pleasant temperatures. I bet I wasn't there for a total of ten minutes before a raindrop hit the back of my neck. Seconds later a low rumbling of thunder echoed through the mountains. I don't know if you've ever been on a mountain during a thunderstorm, but the way the sound bounces off the mountains makes it sound much more menacing. It was as if I had awaken a great beast from its slumber and soon it would be near to wreak havoc on my photography. Its kind of ironic, me a storm chaser, complaining about storms. I will say one thing, I would do anything to be back here right now. Sitting on the grass taking in the wonderful landscape and just enjoying the cool mountain air. If I close my eyes... I can just almost picture it. 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Colorado Highway 550 landscape Million Dollar Highway mountains nature Pic of the Week rock Rocky Mountains sky travel weather http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/7/pic-of-the-week-7/19/18 Thu, 19 Jul 2018 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 6/28/18: Caprock Magic http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/6/pic-of-the-week-6/28/18 Pic of the Week 6/28/18

"Caprock Magic"

Location: Caprock Canyon State Park

Date taken: 6/24/18

 

There are several terms I like to throw around while storm chasing, but one that I haven't said in quite a long time is "Caprock Magic". Caprock Magic refers to supercells that form along the Caprock Escarpment in west Texas. In my experience, these tend to be slow-moving and very photogenic storms. In fact, when I first started chasing I would almost always drive towards the caprock and many times I was rewarded with some beautiful structure and great photography. I haven't done a lot of research in this, but I believe that the Llano Estacado has an effect on the weather. The Llano Estacado or "stacked plain" takes up 37,452 square miles from west Texas to New Mexico. Its hard to imagine this doesn't affect the weather in some way. My old chase partner used to say he believed the Caprock Escarpment created a way for the low level moisture to pack up against the caprock and become a focus area for thunderstorm development. I've seen it enough times to believe it to be true. In fact some of my best storms have been along the Caprock. I'm sure there's more studying and research that could be done, but for now I'll just refer to phenomenon as "magic."

But unfortunately, I haven't seen any Caprock magic in several years. Although, the Carey, TX supercell was a the best I have seen in a long time. Regardless, there's something quite enchanting about that "Island in the Sky" as some call it. The low plains of Texas start to rise in dramatic fashion right about the Clarendon, Turkey, Matador, Dickens, line and the elevation jumps from 1000ft at Wichita Falls, to 1995ft in Childress (some 100 miles away), and towers to 3655ft in Amarillo (another 100 miles). The constant southeasterly wind erosion has worn the eastern side of the Caprock revealing the stunning red rock underneath and the carving of wonderful canyonlands from the Red River makes it one of my favorite locations in all of Texas. And while this place is stunning and amazing, it was not my intention to visit Caprock Canyon last Sunday. A friend of mine said he was interested in storm chasing and I thought we had a good opportunity for severe weather along the Caprock. I was looking for the Caprock magic. 

We left Wichita Falls around 3:30pm, before that I was glued to my laptop going over surface charts and doing analysis on the chase potential. There was one very large and significant problem, however. An overnight Mescoscale Convective System had bulldozed its way through Kansas and Oklahoma. This sinking air could have a major effect on our storm chances later on in the afternoon, but my friend was eager to go so we headed out of town. Along the way I could see the potential for thunder storms as we drove under a fairly large are of cumulus clouds. Our base city would be Childress, TX and when arrived to Childress I could start to see that cumulus field dry up. Looks like that storm in Oklahoma was going to affect our chase after all. I made a decision that if we didn't see any signs of the atmosphere improving we would call the chase. Not wanting to leave empty handed I suggested we make a trip to nearby Caprock Canyon State Park. And after hours of waiting we decided to call it a chase and head towards Caprock Canyon. 

My friend had never been there before and I'm always excited to show people this small state park. We drove past Childress and to Esteline where we turned on Highway 86 heading towards Turkey, TX. This road has nothing but ranch land on both sides of the road and you really understand why everyone believes west Texas is flat and empty. But after reaching Turkey, TX we followed 86 west and reached Quitiaque the gateway to CCSP. Off in the distance we could see the mesas and edge of the Caprock that make up CCSP and after paying our entry fee we were off to explore. There is very little to drive in CCSP one main road starts from the visitor center and ends at the South Prong Camping area. But along the way you really get a good idea of how rugged and unique the terrain is here. Several steep grades and winding roads keep you on edge as you zigzag through the canyonlands. You might have to stop and let some of the local fauna cross the road such as prairie dogs, snakes, and even bison. These 1400lb nomads of the plains remind this is their land by standing in the middle of the road and daring you to just try and tempt them. I introduced my friend to some of the geographic features and landmarks in the area and after some exploring we knew where to set up for sunset. 

I had found this amazing gyspum wall at a dry creek crossing on the Upper Canyon trail where a massive column of rust colored sandstone towered over the dry creek bed. My idea was to photograph the sunset light hitting the edge of the column and using the dramatic gypsum walls as a foreground. We spent about an hour shooting different compositions of the wild rock formations here, but my friend wanted to go back to the start of the trail and the South Prong Overlook to shoot sunset. We made the very short hike back to the trail and found an excellent spot to set up and waited for the sun to sink. As evening drew closer small cumulus clouds started to accumulate to our west. This gave me some high hopes for a nice dramatic sunset. I watched the sun dip behind the jagged canyon walls and edge of the caprock escarpment and I made this exposure. The sun just barely peeked above the top of the canyon sending light spilling onto that sandstone structure and the canyon floor. All these elements came together in such a way that could only be described as Caprock Magic. Sure there were no storms, but an adventure out here always leaves my spirit renewed and my mind refreshed and if I can come home with some great images then nothing else matters. I have several amazing hikes planned for CCSP once the weather cools down. I can't wait to see what other magic I find exploring the area. 

 

Caprock MagicCaprock MagicLooking into the setting sun at the South Prong campground in Caprock Canyon State Park. © Ben Jacobi

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/6/pic-of-the-week-6/28/18 Thu, 28 Jun 2018 23:51:43 GMT
Pic of the Week 6/21/18: Mighty Colorado River http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/6/pic-of-the-week-6/21/18 Pic of the Week 6/21/18

"Mighty Colorado River"

Location: Grand Canyon National Park, AZ

Date taken: 6/21/16

 

It was two years ago today that I was making my way through the state of Arizona. I had just spent the night in a hotel in Gallup, NM some 20 miles from the NM/AZ border. The previous day was spent mostly in the car driving the nine hours to the western edge of New Mexico. Today would involve a lot of driving, but it was more of a scenic drive, which meant there would be much more photography. I was also setting out to photograph the largest subject I could think of--The Grand Canyon. I had never been to the Grand Canyon, but had always wanted to visit. Needless to say, I was pretty excited for the drive. I bounded out of bed, got my gear together and checked out of the hotel. It was around 5:00am so the sun wasn't expected to rise for another hour and a half. I climbed in my rental car and started off west on I-40 heading towards Arizona.

There were a few places I wanted to stop along the way. One, was at the request of my brother-in-law to stop at the Petrified Forest National Park. I pulled into the entrance to the park to find the gate closed and securely locked. A large brown sign was outside the fence stating the park didn't open until 7:00am. I didn't want to wait that long to see the forest so I decided to save the Petrified Forest for another day and continued west. Along the way something caught my eye. As I drove down the highway I kept seeing signs for "Meteor Crater, AZ" and after a long detour I reached the entrance to Meteor Crater. Again, I was outside the fence, but I was much closer to their opening time at 7:00am only 15 minutes away. I sat in my car parked at the gate waiting for them to open and around 6:55 the gates opened. I was the first one through the gate and into the visitor center. Meteor Crater was very impressive, but something like that is just difficult to photograph. Probably the only shot I would be happy with would be an aerial photo. Though, I still enjoyed the crater. 

After meteor crater it was time to get back on schedule and to the Grand Canyon. Around late morning I reached the boundary of the Wutpaki National Forest and about 15 miles from Flagstaff, AZ. As I drove through the forest I saw signs to watch for "cougar crossing road". "What kind of country am I in?" I thought to myself. And when I reached Flagstaff I turned northwest on 180 heading for highway 64. I followed 64 to the outside of Grand Canyon Village on the south rim of the canyon. From time to time I could make out faint features of the canyon between the trees, but everything I saw after would exceed my wildest imagination. I entered into the park and made it to the first overlook Mather point. The view from this was just incredible. The Grand Canyon is whole other level of canyon. I had been to the second largest canyon in the US (Palo Duro Canyon), but nothing even comes close the Grand Canyon. I stood in awe taking in all the scenery around me marveling at the colorful rocks and depth of the canyon. Although I couldn't see the Colorado River from this perspective. I followed a short trail along the rim of the canyon drinking in the wonderful scenery and trying to accurately depict its splendor on camera. The sun was getting higher into the sky and the light started to become flat, but the intermittent clouds cast shadows on the rugged landscape making for more interesting light. 

I traveled along 64 and the south rim stopping and photographing at each overlook and even doing a little exploring. It wasn't until I reached Lipan Point was I able to see the Colorado River. Way off in the distance I could see the sunlight reflect off the turquoise water to the west. Although I took some nice shots here, I was worried I wasn't going to get a good one of the river. It was afterall what created the massive canyon system before me. I left Lipan point and continued to Navajo Point. This was the view I was looking for! When I climbed out of the vehicle I could see the massive canyon walls down below me and cutting right through the heart of it all was the mighty Colorado River. I pulled out my 80-200mm telephoto lens to zoom in close to the river. I could just make out some of the rapids in the turbulent waters below. From up here everything looked pretty calm, but when zooming in to the landscape I could see the intense flowing of the river. It reminded me of a blood flowing through a vein, like an artery deep in the earth. I found a composition that worked wonderfully for a telephoto shot and I feel accurately depicts the scale and sheer force it took to form these canyons. I seriously considered staying here all the way through sunset, but I new I wanted to photograph sunset on the north rim which was 3 hours away. This image is still one of my favorite photos I've captured of the Grand Canyon and maybe someday soon I'll revisit and rediscover the grandeur of this majestic natural wonder. 

 

Mighty Colorado RiverMighty Colorado River © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) arizona canyon grand canyon grand canyon national park landscape nature navajo point pic of the week south rim travel http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/6/pic-of-the-week-6/21/18 Thu, 21 Jun 2018 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 6/14/18: 6/7/18 Storm http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/6/pic-of-the-week-6/14/18 Pic of the Week 6/14/18 

"6/7/18 Storm"

Date taken: 6/7/18 

Location: outside of Throckmorton, TX

 

© Ben Jacobi

 

Its my birthday today and I didn't want to have to write up a long story for the Pic of the Week. This is an image I captured on my first bust of the 2018 season. When we arrived on location the storms really lost their organization and quickly gusted out. But it did put on a nice lightning show for us to enjoy. This is a single exposure shot over 8 second shutter speed and I captured all 4 lightning strikes in the same image. We continued chasing the storm well after dark battling torrential rains and high wind gusts in Archer City. We finished up early and got back to the apartment around 10pm and then lost power for a few hours after midnight. All in all it wasn't a bad photo shoot, but the dying storms and chase strategy made me feel like we busted. Either way, I still came back with a nice image and that's all I could really ask for. 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) hail landscape lightning nature pic of the week rain severe weather sky storm chasing storms texas thunderstorm wind http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/6/pic-of-the-week-6/14/18 Thu, 14 Jun 2018 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 5/31/18 http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/5/pic-of-the-week-5/31/18 Pic of the Week 5/31/18

"Untitled" 

Location: Dundee, TX

Date taken: 5/25/18

 

© Ben Jacobi

 

I forgot to write up a blog post for this Pic of the Week, but here is capture I made on one of my recent storm chases a few weeks back. I went chasing with my friends Jaden and Ryan and we watched this magnificent shelf cloud roll over our heads. While the storm was not that impressive, the light hitting the underside of the storm was spectacular--in fact it was one of the most picturesque sunsets I've seen in a while. I set my Nikon D4 and Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC lens to timelapse the whole sequence. This is a still image from the almost 1000 image timelapse sequence that I wll release in my 2018 Timelapse video later this year. The lightning during this time was incredible, several bright pink bolts would jump out ahead of the downdraft and flash intensely in the colorful sunset. Great photography was made by everyone and although we didn't get in the best position for storms, we did get in the best position for photography. 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/5/pic-of-the-week-5/31/18 Thu, 31 May 2018 16:54:18 GMT
Pic of the Week 5/24/18: Harold, TX Supercell http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/5/pic-of-the-week-5/24/18 Pic of the Week 5/24/18

"Harold, TX Supercell"

Date taken: 5/19/18

Location: FM 1763 west of Harold, TX

 

Harold, TX SupercellSuperell with great structure and low rotating wall cloud near Harold, TX. © Ben Jacobi

 

After a few decent days of storm chasing this year it looks like the spring 2018 season is done for. While I barely chased this season, I have had some success with each chase. At the very least, I intercepted storms and came back with some nice images. No extraordinary storms or tornadoes this year, but there is always hope during the fall season. The storms I did shoot had some of the better structure I've seen in a while and those can make more interesting photographs. There are times, however, when the foreground is less interesting and devoid of any anchor points in the photo. While this is great for visibility, it makes finding a composition/subject a little more difficult. This is why photogenic storms can be helpful--as they become the subject. On this chase we got to a little late start. We weren't late per se, but the storms were just early. Regardless, I met up with Jaden at my apartment and we headed to areas west of Vernon, TX to intercept developing storms. While driving to our target I got a call from my good friend James Langford telling me about the exciting photographs/timelapses he was shooting on our storm encouraging me to get there ASAP! When we reached Vernon we shifted our direction of travel a little more to the southwest towards a line of developing storms near Crowell, TX. Along the way we could barely make out the shape of the distant rain-free base and the occasional glint of lightning. As we approached closer and closer we were greeted to a quite beautiful outlow dominant storm. We pulled over on a small side road just outside of Thalia, TX and watched the storm get closer. 


As the storm advanced we could start to make out some of the structure and it appeared to have an embedded mesocyclone in all the mess. We watched as plumes of dust shot out infront of the downdraft and spin up into brief gustnadoes that twirled across the open farm land. Then shortly after the cool air came and it was time to reatreat and get back ahead of the storm. While driving trying to stay ahead of the encroaching outflow, we came across a large plume of dirt that covered the road. We slowed down and carefully drove through the small dust storm. The dirt was so thick at time we could barely make out the hood of truck. I estimated some 50mph wind gusts at this time and was later confirmed by radar and storm reports. After clearing all the dirt we had to make a strategic decision we could either head south on 283 or continue east on 287. The storm was to our southwest and looked like it might be turning right. My suggestion was to continue east on 287 and let the storm come to us. If we went south the storm would pass over the highway and  we wouldn't have another east/west option until Seymour, TX which was about 30 miles away. 


We opted for the east option and it actually really paid off. As we drove down 287 I watched the updraft behind us and looked for signs of storm intensification. Somewhere near Vernon a brief gustnado spun up near the highway and crossed just before we could reach it. I did manage to record some brief video, but nothing too impressive. We continued down 287 until we reached Harold, TX. The storm appeared to be growing and looked good on radar. Once we reached Harold, TX we turned on FM 1763 which took us to the southwest through some ranch land. We found a nice hill with a good turn off to pull over and watch the storm come to us. 


Initially, the storm did not look much more like the storms we encountered earlier that afternoon, but as it approached we started to notice the base getting lower and more signs of rotation in the updraft. The storm was forming a mesocyclone. It was almost as if someone turned a switch on in the storm, the storm really began to ramp up and intensify. A large beaver tail inflow band was extending from the spinning updraft and low, rotating was cloud was looming over the distant horizon. We watched in excitement thinking the storm would put something down, but very quickly it lost the balance and became outflow dominant once again and we had to bail back east. The storm pretty much lost all organization after that and we let it pass in Wichita Falls. But before we called it, we met up with my good friends James Langford and Justin Terveen. It's been at least a couple of years since I've seen these guys and its always great to see friends on chases. Maybe I'll get to chase with them again in the fall. 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) landscape mesocyclone nature pic of the week severe weather sky storm storm chasing supercell texas thunderstorm wall cloud http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/5/pic-of-the-week-5/24/18 Thu, 24 May 2018 15:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 5/17/18: Carey, TX Supercell http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/5/pic-of-the-week-5/17/18 Carey, TX Supercell A supercell churns over the open prairie land near Carey, TX © Ben Jacobi

 

Pic of the Week 5/17/18

"Carey, TX Supercell"

Location: Carey, TX

Date taken: 5/13/18

 

This past weekend my good friend Jaden Corbin and I drove out to west Texas in search of supercells to chase and photograph. Since the first time Jaden brought this day to my attention I had been against going. While there certainly was enough instability and moisture being forecast, we were really lacking in shear and low level winds. This had concerned about driving that far out there and ending up with multi-cell messes, or worse, no storms at all. But when it came to the day before the event (Saturday) the short range models started to give me extra hope for a chase. The NAM/WRF were picking up on an outflow boundary situating itself in West, TX. My initial target was Childress, TX where the outflow boundary was expected to stall. These things are near impossible to forecast, so you have to rely on good ol' observation and real time analysis. I went to bed early in preparation for the upcoming chase. 

It is now Sunday, Mother's Day, to be exact and when I wake up I start pulling up as much data on the weather as I can. I'm trying to track down and accurately identify the outflow boundary. If a storm could latch onto the boundary it would increase the low level shear and helicity which might get the storm to spin. After a few hours of data analysis I had to choose between two targets. The first was the original target near Childress, TX. I assumed everyone would be on that storm. The other and hopefully more isolated target was near Guthrie, TX about 30miles south. The HRRR model run kept placing a beefy supercell around the 6pm timeframe. That would give us plenty of time to get to our target. Models are computer simulations of what the atmosphere MIGHT do, they sometimes don't show the real-world conditions so its important to do your own analysis and asses the atmosphere yourself. Models also don't give you real time information. For that you need to be out in the field. 

We arrived to Guthrie around 5pm and found a place to pull over near the high school that gave us a view of the towers developing to our west. We watched these towers try to make a storm for almost an hour, but to no avail. The cap was just a little too strong in this area right now. This is what I'm talking about with model data vs. real time observational data. Storm were going up to our north just west of Childress, TX and only 30 miles away after some more waiting we finally decided to abandon those storms. On the way to Childress we started to plan our route to intercept the most intense looking storm that was near Turkey, TX. Funny, we were just in that area a few months ago camping in Caprock Canyon State Park. As we drew closer to the storm the sunny skies became smothered by thick anvil clouds putting the surrounding area in a ghastly state. Bright flashes of pink lightning were seen bursting from the midlevels of the storm. 

When we reached Childress, TX we turned west (north) on 287 and started towards Esteline. Storms started to develop all around us and we were afraid of getting caught in the core of one of the storms. But we carefully made our way to Esteline. A large hail core had just come through the area dumped 2" hail all over the town square. A few cars had their windshields busted out and broken tree limbs and bits of debris poked out against the scattered hail stones. We stopped for a brief moment to pick up and photograph some of the hail stones. After that short break we continued down State road 86 getting closer to the storm. It was a little confusing and disorienting chasing these storms as more and more kept popping up and we were right in the middle of all of them. In fact, we pulled over to observe a storm to our north unaware of what was developing back to our west. We cold not see the westward storm at this time. I stepped out to take a quick shot of the storm to our north, but only to retreat back to the safety of Jaden's truck when a stray bolt of lightning struck close by. My eyes were now focused on the approaching storm to our west. The core of the storm was just crossing the highway and we could start to make out an updraft base. 

Low scud clouds were feeding into the storm and a significant cut was made by the intense downdraft. We watched as the scud tried to organize showing some nice horizontal rotation and vorticity. I wasn't convinced on our current location and I wondered what would happen if the storm decided to turn right. That core would slam right into us and we could possibly lose our windshield. Since I didn't want that to happen I suggested we head back to Esteline and get a little bit more ahead of the storm. But we pulled over for just a minute to photograph the developing wall cloud that was now just a few miles to our west. I noticed the rain curtains starting to get pulled around the updraft area and I feared the storm was turning right and heading directly to us. I told Jaden we needed to go and get ahead of this storm, but it was starting to look like it was organizing. We turned back east on 86 and then south on 287 to get our ahead of the storm. Jaden was driving and I was tasked with keeping a close eye on the developing wall cloud that was now starting to rotate. 

When we got outside of Esteline, TX we pulled over off the highway to watch the storm. It was slowly making its way towards the highway, but it was only moving at 20mph. We watched as the storm started to suck in more moist unstable air and condense into a lower blockier shaped wall cloud. The whole storm was rotating now and we had an isolated supercell on our hands. The updraft got closer, but it seemed to lose of its low level rotation, but the midlevels had some excellent striated structure. Getting a few miles ahead of the storm really helped us appreciate its shape and behavior on a more grand scale. We found an excellent pull off near the municipal airport in Carey, TX and watched as the storm "turned and churned" over the flat prairie land. I got my D4 out to photograph a timelapse of this magnificent scene. But I needed a high resolution still image of this incredible storm so I decided to shoot a 6 image panorama to capture the entire updraft and mesocyclone in my composition. It took a little bit extra post processing work and time, but it was for sure worth it!

We followed this storm well into the overnight hours where it continued to give us more opportunities for photographs including some excellent lightning images. This storm had some of the best structure I have seen in almost three years, it really made me remember what storm chasing was all about and how I have missed it so. It was nice to get a real storm chase in and even better visiting west, TX. Something I haven't done (at least for storm chasing) in quite a few years. Models don't look to be favorable for severe weather in the weeks to come, but if there's one thing I've learned from this is that you can't trust model data over real observation. So I guess only time will tell. 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) hail. landscape mesocyclone nature pic of the week rain severe weather sky storm chasing supercell texas thunderstorm weather wind http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/5/pic-of-the-week-5/17/18 Thu, 17 May 2018 15:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 5/11/18: Tillman/Cotton County Supercell http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/5/pic-of-the-week-5/11/18 Pic of the Week 5/11/18

“Tillman/Cotton County Supercell”

Date taken: 5/2/18

Location: Tillman/Cotton county line near Devol, OK

 

It has finally happened. After months and months of waiting, studying weather charts, and praying I at last have the first chase of the season under my belt. This is always a reassuring thing. It is kind of like having butterflies in your stomach before a performance or presentation, but once you get up there that nervousness goes away. I had sat all the way to May without encountering a chaseable storm (though I did photograph some lightning in late April). A good storm chase was long overdue. The ingredients for supercell thunderstorms were coming in over the southern plains during the first few days of May. I had my eye set on May 2nd. The obvious and probably preferred target was the triple point in NW OK and SW KS, but due to working and lack of reliable transportation I was focusing on the dryline play farther south. There was also slightly better wind shear in the southern target, but our greatest concern was the storm mode, lack of cap, and approaching cold front. But it was much better than anything I had seen all year.

I'll spare you the details during the work day, but I wanted to leave early and couldn't due to how busy we were. My original plan was to leave work around 4pm and get to my target (Altus, OK) by 5:30 when storms were expected to fire. I spent that morning and early afternoon finishing up my projects and completing the deadlines and watching weather data in between. Fast forward a few hours and storms are starting to develop out on the dryline. As I watched the radar blips change from bright green to orange indicating a growing storm I began to mentally plan my route to reach my target. Things appeared to be in my favor to leave on schedule and then it happened. Wave after wave of customers came in to the store. We were busy for a while and when I looked back on the radar the storms had already developed into full mature supercells and a brief tornado was confirmed near Lone Wolf, OK a few miles north east of Altus, OK. The time was now 4:30pm and I knew I couldn’t catch the storms out there. Thankfully, there was some hope as more towers developed farther south along the dryline and even closer to Wichita Falls. I stayed a work until our closing time 6pm and between customers I was glued to the radar watching and planning my route. Just before we closed I was watching a supercell north of Vernon, TX. This storm didn’t seem to be moving the same direction and speed as the others. As I played back the radar loop I noticed a particular storm behavior chasers call “turning right”. This storm was slowing down and turning more to the east. I knew it wouldn’t be long before it was tornado warned.

After work I blasted my way back to my apartment and rushed inside to grab my gear and head back out the door. I took a brief glimpse at the radar and the storm now had a tornado warning on it. Though it was not moving very fast the advancing cold front was hot on its heels! When the front slammed into that storm the chase would essentially be over and I would need to wait out the squall line. I considered just staying at my apartment and letting the storm pass. After all, I did not have the most reliable vehicle, the storm would start moving fast soon, and I wasn’t even sure if I could make it across the river in time. And then I ignored those thoughts and got in my car and headed towards Grandfield, OK. Along the way I could see the approaching line off on the horizon, but couldn’t really make out any of the details to my storm. I crossed the Red River and into Oklahoma and immediately took the highway 36 west exit towards Grandfield. I reached Devol, OK right on the Tillman/Cotton county line and my storm started to come into view. An eerie green color was cast across the sky and I could see the line approaching—even closer now. I pulled over on a small dirt road and waited for the storm to make itself visible. I bet I wasn’t there for a few seconds before I felt a surge of warm air come sweeping across the prairie from the southeast. The storm was ingesting warm unstable air and the added directional shear might get it spinning.

I pulled out my camera and set up a simple composition hoping I could timelapse the storm as it moved through. The storm structure itself was a little murky and updraft was covered in a thick sheet of rain and hail, but the midlevels showed some nice striations and detail. Ahead of the storm bright pink flashes of lightning burst in front of the updraft base. I managed to capture a very brief timelapse of the storm and a few even caught some lightning strikes. The storm began to take on a more linear shape and I became concerned that line was coming too soon. But I still sat there watching the evolution and motion on the storm. It had been a while since I’ve seen a good supercell. The wind calmed for a moment and then it picked up again, but this time coming from the w/nw. This was outflow and rain cooled air from the squall line off to my west.

Tillman/Cotton County SupercellTillman/Cotton County SupercellA tornado warned supercell encroaches on the Tillman/Cotton county line in southern Oklahoma.

© Ben Jacobi

 

I felt a rain drop hit my cheek and it was on that note I packed up my gear and started to retreat back east. The chase was just about over now. My plan was to get back to Wichita Falls and hunker down and let the storm pass before heading back out to capture lightning shots. But there was a problem, the squall line was racing to the east, in fact the NWS estimated the storm moving at 70mph! I watched the dark ominous clouds roll overhead from my rear-view mirror—I was quickly becoming engulfed by the storm. I blasted east speeding to try and stay ahead of it, but when I reached I-44 to head south and back into Wichita Falls the storm intercepted me. I didn’t want to cross the river through that core. I was concerned about the wind and who knows what else was lurking behind that wall of rain. The rain became heavy and I started to lose visibility, but I could still make out the lights of the vehicles crossing the river from Texas so I thought I had time. I did not. The rain came in full force pounding the side of my vehicle and reducing my vision to less than the hood of my car. I really didn’t want to drive on the river bridge through that. So, I stopped where I was and put on my hazard lights. Then the wind came and as it whipped around my vehicle and I felt it rocking so I pointed my car into the wind as a safety measure. I watched as debris from nearby trees emerge from the gray void and the lightning was so close I could feel the shockwaves reverberate in my chest. I estimated the winds to be somewhere between 50-60mph and after a few moments the wind and rain returned to a more manageable state. I drove across the bridge and back into the Texas state line my heart still pounding from the event I just experienced.

I made my way to Burkburnett just across the river and pulled into their local Braum’s parking lot for dinner. When I went to step out of my vehicle a huge bolt of lightning exploded behind me causing me to quickly retreat to the safety of my vehicle. I stayed in that parking lot for fifteen minutes before the lightning had finally moved off. It was quite the first chase of the season for me. After the storms passed I went on to photograph a beautiful rainbow and more lightning through sunset. Then after sunset I photographed the lightning show off to our south and east. It felt so good to be back on the road again and chasing storms and photographing this powerful weather phenomena. Though no chases look to be on the immediate horizon, maybe we will see a few more local chases before we transition to the blistering heat of summer. Regardless, I’m just glad to finally have a chase for the 2018 season. Also, side note, at the time this image was captured storm spotters and chasers were reporting a brief tornado near Loveland about 12 miles to the north west of my location.

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) landscape nature oklahoma pic of the week sky storm chasing storms supercell thunderstorm weather http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/5/pic-of-the-week-5/11/18 Fri, 11 May 2018 15:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 4/26/18: Bluebonnet Symphony http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/4/pic-of-the-week-4/26/18 Pic of the Week 4/26/18

"Bluebonnet Symphony"

Date taken: 4/24/18

Location: Friberg, TX

 

UPDATE: 5/7/18 "Bluebonnet Symphony" is the winning title for the image. 

 

Bluebonnet SymphonyBluebonnet SymphonyLightning strikes behind the historic Friberg-Cooper United Methodist Church. Bluebonnets grow on the hill where the church stands outside of Wichita Falls, TX. © Ben Jacobi

 

Today's Pic of the Week will be a short write up. I didn't have much time before the Thursday deadline. In fact, I stayed up well after 2:00am working on the image. I had it in a "rough draft" state from earlier, but after careful examination I realized it didn't meet my personal standards of quality. So I reprocessed the entire image from scratch and ended with a much more pleasing result. This image is made of multiple photos of the scene. I made three different exposures with three different focal points, focusing for the foreground, middleground, and background. These images were blended so that all the bluebonnets to the horizon line was sharp and in focus. Then I blended in the lightning in the original there is only one lightning strike. The storm that rolled through that night were non severe, and they put on a decent lightning show. It was an ambitious photo for my first storm image of 2018. I knew that I needed to document the bluebonnets before they disappeared for another year and the largest closer that was closest to me was on the hill at the Friberg-Cooper United Methodist Church. I drove out to on Monday to scout out some potential compositions and look for interesting photos. When I saw the storms begin to fire up to our south, I drove down to the church and picked the best composition that would point the camera in the direction of the lightning and have a good foreground filled with bluebonnets. I spent only an hour out there before the storms weakened and I had only captured a hand full of lightning strikes. Because of the distance from the storm and my choice of lens, the strikes were small and served as more of a distraction than an element to the composition. I opted to create a time-stack blended composite (similar to my meteor images) showing the progression of the storm as it moved behind the church. Overall, I was quite happy with the final result. The eye starts towards the bottom of the frame and follows the natural leading line of the bluebonnet patch. Then it zigzags from the church to the hill on the horizon where it meets with the lightning display before trailing off in the clouds. There's a lot going on in this shot and I appreciate the complexity of it all. One thing I failed to do was to come up with a good title for the photo. So I'm asking for your help. Comment or suggest a title for this image and I'll put you in a drawing for a free 11x17 print of this photo! Looking forward to reading your titles. Thanks for the support! 

 

-Ben

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) bluebonnets church landscape lightning nature night pic of the week sky texas thunderstorm travel http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/4/pic-of-the-week-4/26/18 Thu, 26 Apr 2018 16:34:57 GMT
Pic of the Week 4/19/18: Typical Texas Spring http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/4/pic-of-the-week-4/19/18 Pic of the Week
"Typical Texas Spring"
Date taken: 4/18/15
Location: Palo Pinto, TX

 

This is the longest I have gone into the storm season without a single chase. And the opportunity for a chase this weekend has basically dissolved. We will see storms and there is the potential for some small hail, but nothing chase worthy. That said, I'll still probably set up somewhere Friday night and capture the storm coming in. Maybe I'll even photograph some lightning--really anything to satisfy my storm photography desire. Though I am expecting a light season for me anyways. My vehicle has been giving me problems lately and I'm not too confident in taking it out for long distances. So the chasing I will do will be me riding along with friends when they come through the area. The lack of severe weather in my life made me nostalgic and I looked over a few of my past chases. It is spring here and the bluebonnets are popping up along the roads and that got me thinking "Nothing better illustrates a Texas spring than thunderstorms and blue bonnets." As I thought about this, I remembered a photo I captured back in 2015.


 I had just made my way to an advancing line of storms outside of Palo Pinto, TX. As I arrived into town I could see the menacing core off to my southwest and some structure of the supercell. It wasn't that impressive of a storm and as it drew closer to the town it became more linear and merged with nearby cells. This took out any real photogenic property of the storm and I decided to get farther ahead of it. Maybe from a greater distance the storm would be more photogenic. I made my way down a farm market road that turned to the north and along the way I spotted this fantastic patch of blue bonnets and an old wood post fence. I quickly pulled over and grabbed my camera and snapped a few images of the approaching storm behind the wildflowers. 

Typical Texas SpringTypical Texas Spring ©Ben Jacobi


The storm was  approaching so fast that I didn't have time to get out and setup my tripod. It was literally pull over, grab camera, snap 5 frames, rain hits, runs back to car, drives north to find east option and out of the storm. The most time I spent there was just a few moments before the rain came in. It was still a nice scene with the vibrant blue of the flowers against the almost fluorescent greens and yellows of the grass. The cool tones of the foreboding clouds in the background transitioned well with the foreground and made for an almost analagous color harmony. I don't normally try for this kind of color in my images. Often, I'm looking for color opposites to introduce tension and interest in the scene, but something about the similar colors makes the elements of the image a whole. Like they are all part of the same. I also wanted the focus to be on the blue bonnets, so I crouched down in the grass and brought the flowers closer to my lens. The grass fades into the storm directly and there's practically no middle ground. Which keeps the eye focused on the storm or the blue bonnets. Maybe I'll get another chance to photograph some storms in front of blue bonnets later this month, although judging by the models I don't think that will happen anytime soon. Regardless, its still nice to reflect on past chasing adventures and the stories behind the images. 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) blue bonnets clouds flowers grass landscape nature pic of the week sky texas thunderstorm travel http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/4/pic-of-the-week-4/19/18 Thu, 19 Apr 2018 15:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 4/6/18: Sunrise atop Haynes Ridge http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/4/pic-of-the-week-4/6/18 Pic of the Week 4/6/18

“Sunrise atop Haynes Ridge”

Date taken: 3/25/18

Location: Caprock Canyons State Park, TX

 

Oh man, I’m not exactly sure how, but I forgot to post my Pic of the Week on Thursday. This week has just gotten away from me, I guess. Now, where were we? Ah yes, we had just watched the milky way rise above the canyon walls and were starting to get into the blue hour. Jaden and I had discussed the night before if there was going to be good sunrise potential we wanted to shoot the sunrise from Haynes Ridge. Since before planning this trip I have wanted to shoot sunrise on Haynes Ridge. Looking at the location from Google Earth and other various photos from the internet I knew I could make some interesting compositions with the wild geological formations. The question was would there be a good sunrise or not. What appeared to be thin clouds off to our east gave me some hope in catching a nice colorful sky, but had me concerned about the quality of light hitting the landscape below. With the right kind of light, the sandstone and quartermaster rocks would ignite in a beautiful warm glow. Like hot coals in the bottom of a campfire. But first we needed to reach the top of the ridge.

We gathered all our gear together and left the campsite about an hour before sunrise. I had suspected if we kept a faster pace we would reach the overlook just as the sun was starting to go up. As we trekked down the dirt trail I could smell the rain that accumulated on the plants near us. A scent that became even stronger when coupled with the pungent aroma of the sage and juniper trees. After about a half mile we reached a junction in the trail. The trail turned off to our right and there was what looked to be an old trail sign and a bench at the trailhead. The trail cut through thick patches of sage brush, juniper, and mesquite. The dirt trail quickly deteriorated and turned into a rocky ascent. Our eyes followed the trail up along the ridge and scanned our destination. It’s a little more than a 500ft ascent over .6miles of hiking. Not too bad, and not anything I’m not used to from hiking in the Wichita Mountains. We started to climb along the ridge taking the switchbacks and follow the trail markers, with each step higher our views got better and better. We could even see our campsite from up here.

Halfway up and we were level with the ridges and buttes off to our east. From the ground those buttes and mesas seemed to tower above. Now they were being dwarfed by our change in altitude and shrinking with every step we took. We followed a few more switchbacks and trail markers before finally reaching the top. We didn’t have time to stop and celebrate since the sun started to rise and the skies off to our east started to filter a yellow-gold light through the clouds. We reached our destination the Haynes Ridge overlook. The view was quite spectacular. We were staring down into the North Prong of the canyon taking in the landscape before us. The flats were speckled with tiny green brushes and trees that were interrupted by the protruding red mesas and buttes. Looking out farther to the north and east we could see the edge of the caprock escarpment on the horizon. Its funny how a higher perspective can enhance the grandeur of the landscape. I’ve looked over 1000ft drops in the Canyonlands National Park and I still had the same reaction when I looked down into the North Prong of Caprock Canyon. I drank in the scenery before setting down my bag and pulling out my breakfast. Cliffside dining always proves to be a unique experience.

I finished up my breakfast and got my camera gear out and ready for sunrise. We did have one slight problem, however. The sky didn’t look like it was going to cooperate for us. Thicker and wider spread clouds over took the eastern horizon. We could see the sun light reflecting off the top of the clouds, but no direct light on the landscape. There was a small gap in the cloud cover and it appeared the sun may just make its way there so we decided to wait it out for sunrise. We watched the cloud-filtered sunlight softly light up the landscape down below us. After I made a few exposures and finalized my composition I was ready for the light. The sun did make its way to the gap, but thin clouds came over at just the last minute. What we got was a diffused directional light on the landscape. The red rock absorbed the warm light and although it wasn’t a “fiery” glow, it was still great color. I scooted my camera closer to the ledge of the cliff I was sitting on. I couldn’t quite get it out of the composition with my wide-angle lens, so I decided to leave it in the photo. I have mixed feelings about incorporating it in the photo. It does make a little bit of a distraction, but the rock being in the shadows does keep it subdued. The edge of the rock also makes it appear the viewer is peering over the ledge and looking down into the canyon. This added sense of dimension really helps put you in that scene. I didn’t want to get any closer to the edge for fear of the rock collapsing and most importantly my camera taking a tumble down the 300ft cliff face.

 

Sunrise atop Haynes RidgeSunrise atop Haynes RidgeA pleasant sunrise from the Haynes Ridge overlook. © Ben Jacobi

We spent a good while watching the sunrise and shooting the directional light (that finally came) in the canyon. It was a successful venture and hike to Haynes Ridge, but now were going to follow the ridge and look for the entrance to a slot canyon above Fern Cave some 2.3 miles away. Sunrise on Haynes Ridge was just the start to a long, but rewarding hike that day. We got to visit and capture some pretty amazing things and I can’t wait for another trip back to Caprock Canyon. Next week we bring our trip to Caprock to a close with one of the more interesting images I captured during the trip. Hopefully after this week I’ll have new and exciting photos for y’all to see—who knows maybe even a storm chase! We will just have to wait and see.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) canyon caprock canyon caprock canyon state park cliffs haynes ridge landscape nature pic of the week rock sky sunrise texas travel http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/4/pic-of-the-week-4/6/18 Fri, 06 Apr 2018 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 3/29/18: Caprock Dreamscape http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/3/pic-of-the-week-3/29/18 Pic of the Week 3/29/18
"Caprock Dreamscape"
Date taken: 3/25/18
Location: Caprock Canyons State Park, TX

It has been a while since I've gone on an overnight trip. The last one was my trip to Red Rock Canyon State Park in January ealier this year. So I was excited to plan another trip, maybe even to a new location. Unfortunately, all my plans kept falling through and I've had to delay the trip. Regardless, it was time to get back into nature and away from the stressors of life. This past weekend I was in Caprock Canyons State Park in west Texas. While I have visited this park on numerous occasions I have never spent the night there--at least at a campsite. But we were going to do it right this weekend. My good friend Jaden Corbin joined me on this photo adventure. Our goal was to explore some of the secret landscape of the area including looking for photogenic slot canyons through the park. We wanted to get an early start Sunday morning, as we had a lot of potential ground to cover, so we opted for an overnight camping trip. Apparently, a lot of people had the same idea and when I made the reservations the only campsites available was the North Prong Primitive area. At least we wouldn't have the hassle of a bunch of college kids pledging to their fraternity (like in the South Prong). 


We arrived to Caprock Canyons just before sunset and much to our dismay lower clouds came through and squandered our chance of sunset (or so we thought). We pulled into the parking area and gathered our gear for camp. As we hiked out I could see the clouds started to absorb the sunlight, and while it was quite beautiful, I didn't stop to take any photos. I was really trying to reach and set up our camp before dark. Along the way we walked through walls of sandstone and gypsum marveling at the unusual rock formations. We reached our camping area and found a nice plot with soft ground and protection from the wind. After getting camp set up we walked around looking for a composition for the milky way. I pulled out my cell phone and used the Stellarium mobile app to precisely line the milky way up with my composition. The time to shoot the milky way was 4:00am. I liked this composition it kinda reminded me of the photos of The Window in Big Bend National Park. Two large mesas framed a lone angular peak of quartermaster sandstone. If I could get the milky way to line up above the peak, I believed I would have a nice photograph. 


Satisfied with our milky way location, we returned to camp to eat some dinner and get some rest. Tomorrow was going to be a big day. There was a slight chance for rain overnight, but I wasn't too concerned about it. If there was significant rain, however, we wouldn't be able to explore any of the slot canyons the next day. Around 11:30pm I was awoken by the sound of rain hitting the rain fly on our tent. I was a little disappointed with the rain as I was hoping to photograph the milky way tonight. But not too long after the rain subsided and the wind picked up. Jaden (who was awake all this time) stepped out of the tent and called out in the darkness "I think I'm seeing a rainbow." I sluggishly got out of the tent and looked off to our east and sure enough there was a faint "moonbow". That's right, a moon rainbow. I scrambled to get my camera, tripod, and lens set up, but by the time I made my first photograph most of the moonbow had faded. I still captured a few shots, but nothing more than documentation photographs. 


We played around in the moonlight shooting off a few images before retreating back in the tent as another round of showers came by. Through the night I was woken up by rain, wildlife, and temperature changes. But eventually I fell asleep and stayed asleep. Sometime near 4:00am I woke up needing to use the restroom, I stepped outside and I could see a lot of stars to our south, north, and west. I woke Jaden up from his sleep and we gathered our cameras and made the short walk to our milky way location. Much of the milky way could not be seen due to the intermitent cloud cover. The thick clouds apperead to be black voids moving across the starry night sky. 


We would spend the next few hours shooting and timelapsing the milky way as it rose above the canyon walls. I made this final exposure just before the start of blue hour. Despite the increasing ambient light, the milky way still showed up nicely on our cameras and the stronger light helped bring out details in the foreground. When the whole milky way was clear from cloud cover I made my shot and reflected on past adventures here in CCSP. Every time I come out here I am always amazed at the night skies this place has to offer. Even with the popularity in wind farms growing CCSP stil has some of the darkest skies in the area and I hope it continues to stay this way. Our adventure in Caprock Canyons State Park continues next week when we hike up Haynes Ridge for an early morning sunrise shoot. 

Caprock DreamscapeCaprock DreamscapeThe milky way shines through a dark night sky in Caprock Canyons State Park. © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) canyon canyons caprock canyon caprock canyons state park landscape milky way nature night night sky nightscape sky stars texas travel http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/3/pic-of-the-week-3/29/18 Thu, 29 Mar 2018 17:06:13 GMT
Pic of the Week 3/15/18: LP Supercell Crowell, TX http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/3/pic-of-the-week-3/15/18 Pic of the Week: 3/15/18

“LP Suprecell Crowell, TX”

Date taken: 3/18/12

Location: Highway 70 near Crowell, TX

 

With the spring equinox just around the corner, its this time of year that I start a transition in my photography. Now that winter is (mostly) finished the days start to get longer and the temperatures start to warm up. Spring time is an excellent time for any photography, but its my favorite time of the year—storm chase season! Although, if I'm being perfectly honest, the past several years have not been such good storm seasons for me. Commitments to work and other responsibilities keep me from chasing all that I want and now my vehicle is starting to get older and has been giving me problems since passing the 200,000 mile mark. So I expect that I won't travel too much this season. So here's hoping for some nice local chases.

For this weeks featured photo I looked back on some of my past chases and noticed a pretty disturbing trend. After 2012 I haven't had a storm photo worth sharing during the month of March. March 15th marks the first “offical” day of the chase season, but for the past six years I have not captured a useable storm photo in March. I remember when I first started storm chasing and would be out as early as the first week of February. Maybe I'm just used to earlier setups, or maybe this is how it normally is. Regardless, my last sucessful March intercept was all the way back in 2012. And it was an interesting chase day.

I had driven out to Childress, TX in the early afternoon. After carefully going over surface charts, satellite/radar images, and weather models I decided on my target. Sitting at a gas station in the middle of town I could see puffy cotton-ball like cumulus clouds developing overhead and a warm southeasterly gust would blow through now and then. Within a few hours I was making my way to the west side of town and following a rapidly accelerating tower. “This storm might bust through the cap” I thought to myself. As I scanned the horizon I could also see more towers going up along the dryline stretching from west to southwest of my location. I felt pretty good about my target and when the storm broke through the cap and started to explode. I was in a good position keeping an eye on the storms updraft. I followed and chased the storm for a few hours before it took off to the northeast and blew itself out.

The storm, while beautiful, never really seemed to get going and I was so entranced with my storm that I failed to notice the beast of a cell forming to my south/southwest. I looked over on the radar and saw a classic hook echo and “screaming eagle” shape to the storm. “I bet it goes tor-...” I was cut off in my thinking when a warning alarm came in over my radio and a bright pink polygon appeared around the storm. The storm was now tornado warned and I was on 35 miles away. I finally gave up on my storm and started making my way south keeping track of the storm on radar along the way. About 20 miles from the storm, I could start to make out the updraft base. It was a thick barrel shape with a low blocky wall cloud protruding from the base. I was too far away to see any rotation so I wanted to get closer to investigate.

About 10 miles away from the storm I was able to take in its photogenic structure in the late afternoon light. A strip of golden yellow light was hovering above the horizon behind the dark and foreboding storm clouds. I watched this storm move off to my north east, but as it did so I noticed it starting to dry up. The thick barrel shaped updraft began to shrivel and shrink into a skinnier fluffier structure, and the low blocky wall cloud dissipated up. The updraft base started to become more elevated as the sun began to set. The storm had transitioned from a healthy, classic supercell to a low precipitation supercell. I decided to pull over and watch the storm go off into the sunset. I found a big open field where stopped and got my camera out. To try and add some foreground interest I incorporated the stalks of some weeds and framed the storm's updraft between them to make a somewhat interesting composition.

I sat on the hood of my car watching the storm try one last push of the updraft before finally succumbing to the lack of energy and moisture. The scene was quite nice and there was nobody else around which made it even more special. The storm eventually starved and died out and I turned back to the east and headed back to Wichita Falls. So while it wasn't the most exciting chase, it was still a chase in March. I'm hoping for a great storm season, but I'm remaining realistic in my optimism. Only time will tell. Once thing is for sure, the month of March isn't over yet.

 

LP Supercell Crowell, TXLP Supercell Crowell, TX © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/3/pic-of-the-week-3/15/18 Thu, 15 Mar 2018 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 3/9/18: Sunset on the Bluffs http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/3/pic-of-the-week-3/9/18 Pic of the Week 3/9/18

“Sunset on the Bluffs”

Location: Wichita Falls, TX

Date Taken: 3/8/18

 

Truthfully, I had not planned to post a Pic of the Week this week. I really hate that, I don’t like having anything new to share or any stories to tell. Sometimes I’m just lazy, other times I’m busy, but this time was different. I actually had a legitimate excuse. Since Sunday morning I have been sick with whatever cold that is going around. I woke up with a sore throat and discovered that my voice was all but gone. It stayed that way until yesterday (Wednesday) evening when my voice finally started to come back. I was excited to speak again and I was more excited that I was doing better. I had made an appointment to see the doctor Thursday morning and I even considered cancelling it. Around 2:30am I was awoken by a huge gasp of air I tried to take in. I had fallen asleep on my side and one my nostrils was stopped up and the other was covered by my pillow—I couldn’t breathe! I don’t mind having a sore throat and I don’t mind that I lost my voice, but I cannot stand being congested!!! If I can’t breathe well I feel like all my energy is being zapped from me. Simple tasks become so much harder when you are only breathing through one of your sinuses. So that night I tossed and turned and hardly got any rest and I knew I was going to keep my appointment tomorrow morning.

I woke up early and went to the clinic and got checked out. The doctor informed me that I had caught whatever it was that was going around. She wrote me a couple of prescriptions and I was on my way. As the day drew on I became more and more congested and stopped up, but now there was sinus pressure building in my ears and head. This is the stuff I really, REALLY, hate and it puts me in a sour mood quite frankly. Now I know what you’re thinking, “Why are you telling us this?” mostly its to let you know I have a good excuse for the delayed Pic of the Week. “So, what about the photography?” I assume you’re thinking. I’ll go ahead and get on with that. While I am sick, I still went in to work today, in fact I’ve been in everyday this week (its not fun to help customers with no voice). But today, I had a shoot to do and I brought my camera. So, as I’m getting ready to leave from work I look outside and I see the sky. There are some broken lines of alto-cumulus clouds and a small strip of clear sky near the horizon. I wondered if there might be a decent sunset. I got into my car and considered driving out to the Wichita Bluffs Nature Area and see if I could catch a sunset over some of the bluffs. So instead of driving home and curling up in my bed I decided to drive to the Wichita Bluffs. Along the way my head was pounding, I was coughing, and my nose was running EEEWWWW! But I kept looking at my rearview mirror watching the sky. Just a few miles down the road and I was the entrance to the Wichita Bluffs Nature Area.

Now I have visited the bluffs once before on a short walk. I was impressed with the trail and even the way they tried to preserve the natural landscape. Its nice having these little escapes into nature close to home. I got my camera and my tripod together and began to walk on the trail. Now, the sun was starting to get closer to the horizon and I knew the location I wanted to be. But as I said earlier, when you can’t breathe even simple things can be difficult. I continued on the path with the pressure in my head increasing. With each step I would hear a small pop like I was taking off in a commercial airliner. I looked behind me and saw the sky was showing more promise and I continued on the trail. There was a point where my legs were just too tired, my breath was too shallow, and the sun was getting too low. So, I opted for the first side trail I could find. From this view I could see the bluff I actually wanted to be at, but I also noticed that there were some compositions right where I was. I set up my camera pointing towards the bluff and watched the clouds float across the sky. I noticed something when I was shooting some of the photos, I could breathe—through both nostrils!

I was ecstatic. No amount of medicine would take away or alleviate my symptoms, but you get me behind the camera and into some nature and all those distractions just melted away. I knew this was only going to be temporary euphoria, but I was going to hold on to every bit of it. During my spirited state, I found a nice composition of some native grass, the jungle of mesquite trees in the valley, and the bluff I was using as my subject. I played around with some angles and focal lengths and found the one I liked most. Not but a few seconds later, the sun fell below the clouds and sent a soft warm glow of light on the bluffs and the grass in my foreground. A small strip of pink color creeped in on the left side of the sky helping to unify the warm and cool color tones. There is a tranquil feel and a subtle beauty to this image that I feel reflects the Wichita Bluffs Nature Area quite well. This isn’t a super dramatic landscape or vista, but there’s a simple, subtle beauty to the scene. The foreground grass contrasts nicely against the dark wood of the mesquite and cottonwood trees in the background. Even the light itself is delicately falling on the landscape bringing about a subdued beauty to the scene. I stayed in that spot until just after sunset and began the walk back to my car. The adrenaline and excitement from the photography started to wear off and I could feel my symptoms returning. But I was happy that I came back with a nice image and actually got to breathe for a short time. If you live in Wichita Falls and you haven’t checked out the Wichita Bluffs Nature Area I highly recommend you visit. The trail is a one mile one way walk on a paved path that leads on top of the bluffs and to an overlook of the Wichita River. I’ll try to be on schedule with my Pic of the Week next week, hopefully I’ll be back to my normal self by then. Enjoy!

 

-Ben

 

Sunset on the BluffsSunset on the BluffsTranquil sunset overlooking the bluffs at the Wichita Bluff Nature Area © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) bluffs grass landscape mesas nature pic of the week rock sky texas trees wichita bluffs nature area wichita falls http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/3/pic-of-the-week-3/9/18 Fri, 09 Mar 2018 17:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 3/1/18: Spider Split http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/3/pic-of-the-week-3/1/18 Pic of the Week 3/1/18
"Spider Split"
Location: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge
Date taken: 2/25/18

I really enjoy hiking. I like getting outside and experiencing nature first hand. While I almost always hike with camera, photography is not the main goal. But during the hike I like to take note of locations and potential photographs in the area. Then I will return under better shooting conditions. Sometimes this means hiking for long distances, sometimes it means I might need traverse a high ridge or mountain, and sometimes it means I need to return to the location again and again to get it right. Spider Split was one of those times. I had searched for Spider Split a couple of times before. The first time I went all around Bat Cave Peak looking for the fissure and after a couple of hours I gave up and returned back to my vehicle. The second time I took a friend and fellow photographer (Chris Martin) out with me and tried to find it together, but with no luck. Thankfully however, we ran into some hikers (thanks Kim and Michelle) who were able to show us the entrance to split. I was amazed at how close I was the first time. It just proves that you need to know where you're going to find it. It can easily be overlooked and passed right by--believe me I've done it, twice! I am happy to report that this past weekend I had no problems finding the entrance. Third times a charm I guess...


This time my good friend and fellow photographer Elizabeth Hawley came along. She had never been to this part of the refuge before. I am always excited when I get to introduce people to Charon Gardens and see their faces light up when looking on the massive boulders, tall cliffs, and unusual rock formations. It reminds me of how I first felt when I experienced the area and realized there was more to the Wichita Mountains than Mt Scott and Quanah Parker Lake. We left Wichita Falls around 6:00am and started off towards the refuge. Along the way we passed through blankets of thick fog near the Red River. It was a fairly chilly morning as a cold front had moved through the area earlier in the week. The temperature was just around 30 degrees and the dewpoint was near 30 as well. The wind was calm and the sky was clear. As we drove on the interstate the fog gave way and I could start to see the mountains in the distance, but the grass on the side of the road was covered in a light frost making the dew sparkle like diamonds in the early morning light. This had me concerned, with the recent rain the rocks were likely saturated and frozen by the cold temperatures, but we pressed on. We reached the refuge and after a quick stop near the prairie dog town to photograph Mt Lincoln in the warm sunlight, we continued on towards the Exfoliation Dome parking area and Bat Cave Mountain. It was now a little after sunrise and we gathered our gear and started off in the westward direction towards Monolith boulder. I have been to this area before and its very easy to get to. In fact you can see the boulder from the parking area. 


We began the steep climb up the smooth granite slab and followed along the rocky ridge. We could see a small arch to our south known as the "Window of the Wichitas" while photogenic from this angle we did not have time to deviate from our route if we wanted to reach Spider Split in time. We crossed a few streams and wet rocks and I took a small slip on the slick granite but returned to my feet unscathed. We continued our westerly heading passing through rock and brush and eventually came toe to toe with Monolith Boulder. We had a short break at the boulder and took in the wonderful vista before us. If you really want to experience the Wichita Mountains than you need to get higher. From the boulder we could see the smaller Lobo (French) mountain, Mt Scott, Mt Wall, Quetone Point, Mt Roosevelt, Mt Sheridan, and Mt Marcy to our east and north east. To our immediate north we could see Mt Lincoln and the eastern face of Elk Mountain. After the short break we continued up towards blocky summit of Bat Cave Peak and after some minor bushwhacking we made it to the entrance to Spider Split. The entrance doesn't look like it goes anywhere, but after entering and turning to the left the fissure opens up and you're tucked between twenty foot tall granite walls. We walked through the split taking a quick peek through a small archway in the rock and exploring the area before we set up our shots.


 I knew what shot I wanted to capture and what composition I wanted to use. I decided for a vertical orientation to accentuate the height of the granite walls and use the sky and surrounding rock walls to frame my subject. The composition is from a very low perspective making the rock spires appear to tower over your head. We sat in the split waiting for the light to become just right and after an hour the sun reached a point where golden light spilled into the fissure igniting some of the walls in a glow that resembled hot embers from a fire. The light reflected and bounced off the cliffs giving us nice reflected light on the rocks. 

 

Spider Split

© Ben Jacobi


After the fantastic reflected light dissipated we were still not done yet. The sun made an appearance through one of the cracks and sent a small shaft of light through the split. This reminded me of a smaller version of Antelope Canyon and getting to photograph it was a real treat. We finished up in Spider Split and made our way back to our vehicles. We would continue to explore more of the Charon Gardens and also made it Post Oak and Little Post Oak Falls. The recent rains kept all the creeks alive and flowing with fresh rain water down the mountains and cliffs. We ended up spending a little over four and a half hours exploring and shooting the area before heading to nearby Medicine Park for a well earned lunch. I was very grateful to share one my favorite places of the Wichita Mountains with an excellent photographer and a great friend.
 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) bat cave peak cliff granite landscape mountains nature oklahoma pic of the week rock spider split travel wichita mountains wichita mountains wildlife refuge http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/3/pic-of-the-week-3/1/18 Thu, 01 Mar 2018 17:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 2/22/18: Ancient Cedar http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/2/pic-of-the-week-2/22/18 Pic of the Week 2/22/18

“Ancient Cedar”

Location: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, OK

Date taken: 2/18/18

I photographed this magnificent old tree on my recent hike in the Wichita Mountains. When I go hiking I always take my camera just in case I find something worth shooting, but when I’m hiking my goal is not photography—at least not my main goal. My main goal is to scout potential locations and look for interesting scenes that could be photographed under more photogenic conditions. So, while I have been taking my camera on these hikes, I haven’t really pulled it out much. But this hike was going to be different. I had planned a more ambitious hike; a hike in the backcountry. If you have followed me for a while you know I enjoy spending time in the Charon Gardens Wilderness Area of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. It is so isolated and generally untouched by human hands that you really are in a wilderness. While I have been through some areas of the Charon Gardens, there is so much I have not explored and a lot of these places require off trail hiking. I am not that experienced in off trail hiking as I generally hike alone and I try to stay in areas people travel. However, I have been getting more and more into off trail hiking and bushwhacking, but nothing with the length and intensity of this planned hike.

I had spent a good few weeks planning out my route for this hike studying topographic maps and using Google Earth for locating key waypoints and landmarks. The original plan was to start near the western boundary of the park by the Indiahoma Rd gate entrance. I was going to try to reach the Badlands, the big quartz crystal, the Big Cedar, Spanish Cave, and Ison’s canyon. The 6.5 mile loop would take me through the heart of the Charon Gardens Wilderness Area. I knew for a fact I wanted to make it to the big quartz crystal and the Big Cedar, but I wasn’t sure if I had the stamina to reach Spanish Cave and Ison’s canyon. So, to make a long story short, I did reach the big quartz crystal and the Big Cedar, but after backtracking, climbing over and squeezing my way through massive boulders I decided to try Spanish Cave and Ison’s Canyon another day. I will say that I was not disappointed in this decision, because I did reach the goal I had set out for and that was to photograph the majestic Big Cedar.

I first caught a glimpse of the Big Cedar from a local hiking group on Facebook. I saw images of people standing next to this massive, gnarled cedar tree what they appropriately titled “The Big Cedar”. It had caught my attention and I knew I wanted to photograph and document it. Thanks to the help of one of the members, I was able to see a map with the exact location of the cedar. Now that I knew where to find it I could plan my route. And after a few weeks of research I had the hike planned. Things don’t always go as we hope though. For instance, my good friend Kyle was going to join me, but got sick the day before. Not only that, but when I drove out to the refuge that morning the entire area was covered under dense fog. I knew I couldn’t find my way if I couldn’t see and identify the mountains and landmarks on my route. But something inside of me kept urging me to press on and as I drove over the cattle guards and entered the refuge I made a promise to myself. The promise was if I could see Granite mountain, Charon Gardens Mountain, and Mount Mitchell from the parking lot than I would go ahead with the hike. I pulled up to the Indiahoma Rd gate and sure enough I could see the tall peak of Granite mountain directly in front of me. Off to the north I could see the distant peak of Mt Mitchell and to the west Charon Gardens Mountain and I knew I could reach my destination—provided it didn’t start raining. Thankfully the rain never came and I was able to reach the big quartz crystal and the Big Cedar. But reaching the cedar was no easy task. Once I got to a waypoint where I would begin my climb I could see near vertical cliffs of Twin Rocks Mountain and the steep ascent I would need to make. Towards the top I could make out my marker rock and just to the right of it was a crevice, that was my entrance to the Big Cedar hike. When I reached the crevice, I found I had to do a little bit of scrambling and climbing over smooth granite boulders to get access. After some determination and careful foot placement I had made it through the crevice and as I came over the top of the rocks I could see the top of the Big Cedar.

Honestly, it didn’t impress me that much it looked much smaller from where I was. But as I made the tricky descent to the base of cedar the actual size of this monster became apparent. I placed my hand on the trunk of this old cedar tree and it was instantly dwarfed by the size, texture, and depth of the bark. I read on the facebook group that they measured the trunk to be thirteen feet in circumference and saw images where it took three people to wrap their arms around the entire base. It is a very large tree. Photographing it was going to be a challenge and I knew I wouldn’t be coming back anytime soon to the tree so I needed to get some shots of it. Due to the overcast conditions and texture of the tree I wanted to shoot for a black and white image. I carefully scanned up and down the tree marveling at its unique shape and patterns and found a tight composition that would work for a black and white image. I was mesmerized by this one branch (?) that seemed to coil and curve like a snake slithering up the tree. The curvature of the branch interrupting the straight vertical lines of the trunk created a lot of tension in the scene, but at the same time the delicate placement of the curves and moss resting on the bark made it also look tranquil. It was balanced in perfect harmony.

Ancient CedarAncient Cedar

© Ben Jacobi

 This image is not my typical style, but the subject was not my typical subject and I feel it needed a unique perspective for a tree with such character. I almost approached it more like I would a portrait. What story did this tree want to tell me? What wisdom was locked away in those knots and twists in the bark? There’s no telling what things this tree has seen, the storms it has weathered, the droughts faced, and yet, here it is still standing hidden away in its own oasis resting in the canyon on a mountain. Seldom seeing any visitors, but to those that are willing enough to reach the ancient cedar, perhaps they can find peace and renewal in the experience. Its these isolated areas and relatively unknown places that I’m drawn to. Throughout my hike in the Charon Gardens I did not see another person. All I saw was the flora and fauna of the wilderness and that was good enough company for me.

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/2/pic-of-the-week-2/22/18 Thu, 22 Feb 2018 17:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 2/15/18: King Mountain http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/2/pic-of-the-week-2/15/18 Pic of the Week 2/15/18

"King Mountain"

Location: Quartz Mountain State Park, OK

Date taken: 2/13/16

 

Well, I wish I had a new Pic of the Week to share with y'all, but unfortunately I have had to postpone a camping trip I planned for three weeks now. The weather has just not been favorable. So I am going back a few years during much more photogenic conditions. It was a typical mid February afternoon and I had spent a good portion of it driving up to Quartz Mountain State Park in Oklahoma. I had arrived just in time to do some scouting and explore some compositions. As the day drew on sunset became imminent and I needed to be ready for it. I had decided earlier I would be shooting the sunset at the beach towards the southern end of Lake Altus-Lugert. My hope was high level clouds would enter the scene and soak up all the brilliant sunset color. I walked along the sandy shores of the beach looking for potential photos.

As I gazed across the lake I would see King Mountain towering over the surrounding prairie. At 2,411ft (elev) King Mountain is only the sixth tallest peak in the Wichita Mountains range, but its 800ft prominence from the lake made it the most dominant feature of the landscape. That would be my subject. While out exploring, I found a rocky shoreline that I thought could make an interesting composition. I watched as the waves of Lake Altus-Lugert came over the rocks and splashed against the shore, sending hundreds of droplets airborne that sparkled like diamonds in the late afternoon sun. Its hard to believe that even just a few years ago (2014) the lake was at a critical level due to the persistent drought. From 19% to 95% in a matter of a few months, the rain was a godsend not just for necessity, but aesthetic quality too.

I had lined up my shot and thought it would benefit from a longer exposure. This also gave me an opportunity to try out my newly acquired Lee Big Stopper 10-stop neutral density filter. The sun sank lower behind Quartz mountain and the sky started to light up with hues of pinks and golds. I did a quick check on my focus and set my camera to bulb exposure. This meant I was responsible for how long the shutter would stay open. I attached the filter and attached my cable release as to not disturb the camera during the long exposure. I pressed down the cable release and began counting in my head. After 125 seconds I closed the shutter. I anxiously checked the image on the LCD. I knew if I didn't get the exposure or the timing right I wouldn't be able to redo the shot. The light on the clouds was changing so quickly I wouldn't have time to make another two minute exposure.

When I looked at the image on the LCD I was quite satisfied. Basically, everything I had envisioned for the shot came to be. The rocks in the foreground were framed in a way to mimic the shape of the mountains and the long exposure turned the water to an almost glass-like appearance.  Above the horizon the high altitude winds were bringing the clouds farther north and the long exposure smeared the clouds into a wonderful cohesion of pastel colors. Andthere near the center frame was the monumental King Mountain looming over the lake. Soft golden light had reflected of the north face revealing even the smallest of details on the rocky peak.

I really love the contrast of the hard and soft areas of the image. My eye tends to start towards the bottom following the natural leading line of the rocks that melt into the perfect softness of Lake Altus-Lugert. As they continue upward they are confronted with the rocky face of King Mountain, then rest gently into the softness of the colorful clouds above the peak. This was one of my favorite captures from the trip and after this shot was taken I started to pack up, but then the post sunset sky exploded into bright reds and purples in the sky. What a way to end an already perfect sunset.

 

King Mountain: Altus, OKKing Mountain: Altus, OK © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) king mountain landscape mountain nature oklahoma pic of the week quartz mountain state park sky travel wichita mountains http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/2/pic-of-the-week-2/15/18 Thu, 15 Feb 2018 17:58:08 GMT
Pic of the Week 1/25/18: Caddo Maple http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/1/pic-of-the-week-1/25/18 Pic of the Week 1/25/18
"Caddo Maple"
Location: Red Rock Canyon State Park, Hinton, OK
Date taken: 1/21/18

I returned from my first overnight camping/photography trip of 2018. The destination was a small state park in central Oklahoma. It is a park that I have been wanting to visit for quite some time, but could never get it to work with my schedule. I am talking of Red Rock Canyon State Park. Not to be confused with Red Rock Canyon State Park in CA and NV, but the state park in central Oklahoma. While the park is small, its is no less impressive. The park is nestled in a one mile long canyon surrounded by stunning red rock cliffs. Many people go there to ride motorcycles, camp and hike, and rappell down the cliff walls. But before it was a park the Native Americans would use the canyon as a winter shelter. The canyon was also an important landmark of the California Trail and for those seeking wealth and prosperity during the California gold rush. In fact, in the park there are areas you can see wagon ruts carved through the red rock. I was there to camp, hike, and of course shoot some photography. The unseasonably warm temperatures beckoned me to get outside and explore with my camera. 


I left work Saturday afternoon around 2pm and headed north towards Oklahoma. There is no one single road that takes you to the park. Throughout the drive I would change highways, and zigzag on different roads as I drove through the open prairie. The drive was fairly short and only took a couple of hours, but when I started to get closer to Hinton, OK I started to notice a little bit of a change in the landscape. Eventually, I reached the entrance to Red Rock Canyon State Park and made the steep, winding descent into the canyon. At first look I could see the red rock walls the park was named after. They rivaled and in cases exceeded the red rock of Palo Duro Canyon and southern, UT. It was hard to believe I was still in Oklahoma. The park road lies at the floor of the canyon and follows it for a little less than a mile to the end of the canyon. I pulled into the Canyon camping area and found a nice spot beside some of the Red Rock. I got my camp set up and went to explore the park before sunset. It was starting to get late and I knew I only had about a half hour before the sunset so I went to a balance rock near the entrance to photograph it in sunset light. These images came out alright, but what I was really looking forward to was the next day. I was wanting to capture the sunrise light reflecting off the canyon walls. 


After the sunset shoot I walked back to my campsite and started to plan out the next morning. My goal was to photograph some of the sunrise and then hit the trail early. I had a 6 mile hike planned that would take me throughout the California Road trail, then connect me with the Canyon Rim trail where I would descend the canyon and continue to the Rough Horsetail trail and then back to my vehicle. All together I ended up hiking 6.3 miles through the morning. I was the only one out on the trails and I had it all to myself, which I thorough enjoyed. But before I started hiking I woke up at 7:30am and got my gear together to see what kind of images I could make that morning. The sky had clouded up and I could see a few breaks in the cloud cover, but I was not too optimistic about my sunrise chances. I was one of the few people up this early and was undisturbed while I looked for potential photographs as I drove to the trailhead. I cam across a section of the canyon with an interesting overhang in the rock as I explored this area I found a lone Caddo Maple sapling with its leaves still attached. This caught my eye and I decided I would shoot the sunrise at this location. 


This type of photography is not normally something that I do, usually I try to go for a wide angle to incorporate the whole scene, but there are times where I deviate from my comfort zone and start isolating scenes and looking at smaller details. The almost brown leaves stood out just enough against the red canyon wall and I thought if I could find the right angle I might have a shot here. I played around with different focal lengths, but this was the one I found most striking. The pattern of the canyon wall would reflect the sunrise light in a unique way and if I zoomed in you could not tell where the photo was taken. You can't tell how tall these rock cliffs are, in fact it almost looks like something you might capture in Zion National Park! It just goes to show if you can focus in on more isolated areas you can find unique photographs. I had my camera set up and now it was time to just wait for the light but the lingering clouds left me a little worried. There was a brief period where the sun broke through and sunrise light splashed against the ciffs turning them to an almost glowing state. But as the sun came out the wind also picked up and my shutter speed was too slow to stop the motion of the leaves blowing in the wind. I decided to use my camera's built in timer release to shoot off multiple frames and maybe, just maybe, the wind would die down during one of those times. I photographed about 15 images before the could swallowed up all the sunlight and I packed up my gear. As I looked on my camera's LCD I was saddened by the lack of sharpness on all the photos until I got the second to last image. This photo was sharp! And not only that it was during the peak of the light reflecting off the canyon walls! Even the little lone leaf towards the top was sharp! I came back with a winner of a style I don't typically shoot, in an area I had never visited, during less than ideal conditions. Now that's a win in my book! 

 

UntitledFleeting Caddo MapleRed Rock Canyon State Park makes the perfect environment and shelter for Caddo Maple trees. This sapling clings to its last remaining leaves in front of the stunning red rock.

© Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) caddo maple canyon maple nature oklahoma pic of the week red rock canyon red rock canyon state park rock rock wall travel http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/1/pic-of-the-week-1/25/18 Thu, 25 Jan 2018 18:47:06 GMT
Pic of the Week 1/18/18: Red River Aerial http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/1/pic-of-the-week-1/18/18 Pic of the Week 1/18/18
"Red River"
Location: Red River on the TX/OK border
Date taken: 1/26/14

    I love photography and I really love meeting other passionate photographers. We photographers can get together and "talk shop" for hours on end. One of the better things about meeting and connecting with other photographers is the chance for networking. Through my job I have met some really great people and photographers and I have made some incredible friendships along the way. One of those connections brought a unique opportunity to me, my friend and fellow photographer Elizabeth invited me to shoot some aerial photos. For those of you who don't know I have a fear of heights, so you would understand my hesitation and confusion by the offer. But, I thought about what kind of interesting photos I could capture from a higher perspective and the fear was replaced with curiosity and wonderment. We set a date and I decided on a subject to photograph--the Red River. The Red River is 1,360 miles long and starts in the Texas panhandle and flows southeast to Louisiana and eventually meets with the Atchafalaya River, and then flows into the Gulf of Mexico. The Red River also serves as the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma. I thought a shot of the sun rising over the red would make for a nice scene and that's what I decided on.


    I awoke to the sound of my alarm going off. I got up and checked the weather data hoping for clear skies and no wind. After browsing through the data and grabbing a quick breakfast I was off to the airport to meet with Elizabeth and my pilot Gary. I arrived to the airport and found Gary and Elizabeth going over the pre-flight checklist. It was a brisk morning and brought enough layers to handle the cold and the wind. While they were doing the inspection, I was going through my bag deciding how I wanted to shoot the images. I settled on using my 24-85mm lens on my Nikon D700. This would give me a wide enough range to photograph wide field and maybe some up close aerial photos. The time came where we were ready for take off and I hopped into the co-pilots seat. Elizabeth gave me some instruction on how to use the headset to communicate with Gary and we were going through the takeoff checklist. After the checklist Gary started the engine up. We heard it sputter and then nothing. Gary tried again, but to no avail. It was decided (by the pilots, not by myself) that the battery needed to be charged more. And I sat and watched as they loaded the chopper on the trailer and drove it to the hangar. 


Behind me the sun was just starting to greet the chilly Sunday morning and the sky began to take on the familiar red/pink hues of an early morning winter. Thin cirrus clouds whispped through the morning sky soaking up the brilliant colors. I was a little disheartened that I wasn't over the river shooting the sunrise, but I did snap a few images from the ground level view. After about a half hour they were ready to try starting the engine again. This time the engine came on and after the checklist we were ready to get airborne. As we lifted off I watched as the airport got smaller and farther away and with the gain of altitude I could really see just how flat our area is. Way off in the distance I could see the peaks of the Wichita Mountains some 60miles away. The sun was just now rising above the cirrus clouds and I was ready to start shooting. It was a short 10 minute flight to the river, but along the way we landed so Gary could remove my door. Now I had the freedom to shoot anything out my window. 


We spent the next few hours flying around the Red River and photographing various scenes of the landscape down below. This was back in 2014 and still in the height of the drought so the river was low and sandbars down below made for interesting compositions. There was one area that I seemed to think would work well for a shot. I got on the headset and let Gary know where I wanted to be asked him to fly a little bit lower. As we moved over the scene the roar of our engine startled the wildlife down below causing a flock of ducks to scatter and fly over the river. This encouraged a Great Blue heron to relocate, as well. When the birds started flying I began pressing the shutter tracking them through my camera and silently praying these shots would be in focus. The final image that I chose featured the birds mid flight over the river and the white feather of their wings contrasted nicely against the darker river. The heron's bright blue plumage stood out well against the red and rust color of the sand. I came back with some cool shots that day, but this was one of my favorites. The birds add a little extra depth, energy, and scale to the photo making easy to determine how high up we really were. I haven't done any more aerial photography since then, maybe I will need to do some this year. 

 

Red RiverRed River Aerial © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) aerial birds flying landscape nature pic of the week red river river sand texas water http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/1/pic-of-the-week-1/18/18 Thu, 18 Jan 2018 17:36:54 GMT
Pic of the Week 1/11/18: Highway 160 Panorama http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/1/pic-of-the-week-1/11/18 © Ben Jacobi

 

Where am I going? What adventures lie ahead? What setbacks will I experience? How will my photography career grow? Did I forget to lock my front door this morning? These are questions I ask myself this time of year. I usually slow down in January and it gives me time to reminisce and plan for future photo shoots. So where do you think I should go in 2018? Leave a comment below and let me know what areas you think I should visit. I'm looking forward to see what 2018 has for me and my photography. 

 

Enjoy! 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) http://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/1/pic-of-the-week-1/11/18 Thu, 11 Jan 2018 16:45:00 GMT