Pic of the Week 1/21/22 "Wintry Chasm"

January 21, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Pic of the Week 1/21/22

“Wintry Chasm”

Location: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, OK

Date taken: 1/2/22

 

Our 2022 has started off just right! A winter storm moved through our area on New Year’s Day and my lovely wife suggested we drive to the Wichita Mountains for some photography. It didn’t take much coaxing on my part, and we were out the door braving the blustering wind for the sake of a photography adventure. I had some concerns with the possibility of icy road conditions, but was very relieved to find the roads drivable. We had missed the sunrise and most of the good light, but we were still excited to be out exploring this wintry wonderland before us. As we drove farther into Oklahoma we started seeing more patches of snow along the roadways. This gave us some hope that the Wichita Mountains might still have snow in the low-lying areas. To our delight, we could see a bright Mount Scott on the hazy horizon glowing in morning sun.

We pulled into the refuge and were amazed at the transformation. Just a few inches of snow is all it took to let us see the Wichita Mountains in a totally new way. Out in the open prairies very little snow remained. Some small drifts accumulated on the roadsides, but where we found the most snow was deep in the canyon walls protected from the wind and sunlight. Armed with this knowledge, we drove to the Quetone Point overlook and hiked the short distance to an area we simply know as “the canyon”. This tributary of Little Medicine Creek has carved through the thick granite to form a gash in the landscape. The chasm is around 50 feet deep, no wider than a football field, and extends for about .3 miles. Perhaps the most interesting feature is then undulating pattern of the landscape. During the springtime the slopes and hills are covered in lush green grasses and vibrant moss. It’s what I imagine the Scottish Highlands look like. It just seems out of place for the area—but then again so does a mountain range in the middle of the prairie.

I made my way to the canyon rim passing a frozen waterfall along the route. I spent a little bit of time photographing the ice patterns before moving on closer to the edge. I inched my way closer and closer to the edge of the canyon, with each step revealing the depths of the chasm below. I reached a boulder near the end of the canyon and climbed up top to afford me an even better view of the creek. Now the sun was shining intensely on the south side of the canyon sending a dramatic sidelight over the rocky bluffs. I realized my regular lens would not do for this composition. To convey the scale, depth, and size of the canyon I needed to use my ultra-wide-angle lens. Now with the proper gear equipped, I began scanning the scene looking for the best composition. Four granite pinnacles protruded from the grassy surface just across the way each one catching some of the late morning sidelight. This strong contrast and shape really added more depth to the scene. I zoomed my lens out to around 16mm and captured this wide field of view of the “Wintry Chasm”.

 

Wintry ChasmWintry ChasmA dusting of snow settled on the exposed rocks and cliff faces of this small canyon in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. © Ben Jacobi

 

Down below pools of water and trickling waterfalls had been frozen in the frigid temperatures and with very little sunlight expected on these features they would likely stay frozen for some time. Curiosity started welling up inside of me and I began to look for the easiest path down into the canyon. It took some minor navigating and scooting on our butts at one point, but we made down into the chasm. Tall slabs of granite enclosed us on both sides as we carefully headed upstream to a frozen waterfall. I’ll stop the blog post here for now. Since we had such unique conditions, I captured several interesting photographs that I would like to share with future blog entries.

 

 

 

 


My Best (and Worst) Images of 2021

January 14, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

 

 

 

As a way of bidding 2021 adieu, I have made a video highlighting my best [and worst] images of 2021. Clink the box above to watch the full video. If you don't have time for the video keep scrolling down and you can see the images with their respective rankings. I hope you all enjoy this and I look forward to what 2022 has to offer. Thank you again for all your support!

 

-Ben
 

 

Medicine CircleMedicine CircleA rock circle sits below the summit of Little Baldy in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

#5 Worst Image: Indian Circle

 

The Secret WindowThe Secret WindowLooking through a uniquely shaped tree along the banks of Travertine Creek.

#5 Best Image: The Secret Window

 

Baldy Point SunsetBaldy Point Sunset

#4 Worst Image: Baldy Point Sunrise 

 

 

Turner Falls MorningTurner Falls MorningMorning breaks on the cliffs and bluffs surrounding Turner Falls.

#4 Best Image: Turner Falls Morning

 

Mt Roosevelt SunriseMt Roosevelt Sunrise

#3 Worst Image: Mt Roosevelt Sunrise

 

 

Coon Creek CascadesCoon Creek Cascades

#3 Best Image: Coon Creek Cascades

 

#2 Worst Image: Lightning 

Lake Texoma WatchmanLake Texoma Watchman

#2 Best Image: Lake Texoma Watchman

 

#1 Worst Image: Grand View Vista Revisited

Fall on Medicine CreekFall on Medicine CreekAutumnal foliage lines the banks of Medicine Creek. In the background the striking Medicine Bluffs reflect early morning light.

#1 Best Image: Fall on Medicine Creek


Pic of the Week 12/17/21: "Hoarfrost"

December 17, 2021  •  1 Comment

Pic of the Week 12/17/21

"Hoarfrost"

Location: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, OK. 

Date taken: 1/3/21

 

 

HoarfrostHoarfrostFrozen water vapor crystalizes on old log. The sidelight reveals fantastic swirling patterns in the wood.

 

It was a cool and crisp morning in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. I had just spent the early morning photographing a different location and now I walked back to the 4Runner for a much needed pick-me-up. I rubbed my hands together and blew on them to help warm them. I opened the back of the 4Runner and grabbed my camping stove, poured some water in the cup, and attached a small container of butane. Withing seconds I could hear the hiss of a flame heating the bottom of the cup and bringing the water inside to a steady boil. I reached in a plastic bag and pulled out a packet of Swiss Miss hot cocoa. Is there a better way to enjoy a nice cup of hot chocolate? I pondered as I looked on to the prairie and mountains in front of me.

The sun was now rising above the peaks shooting beams of golden sunlight on the prairie, and in my face. I took a sip of the warm beverage and my glasses immediately fogged over from the steam. A breathed a sigh of comfort and watched as my exhale condensed in the cold air. It wasn’t all that cold, but the air had a denseness to it that sometimes happens after a winter event. A few days ago, there was a winter storm that moved through the area and dropped about 4 inches of snow. But like most of the winter events in the southern plains, it was short-lived and gone by the next day. Temperatures were supposed to reach the low 50’s by late morning, so we would be in for some excellent hiking weather.

I sat at the end of my vehicle enjoying the morning and sipping the hot chocolate. Something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye. “Is that snow?” I thought to myself. A few dollops of snow had congregated in a hollowed out log laying off the side of the road. Curious, I walked over for a closer investigation. Sure enough it was snow. Although it was cool to look at, I didn’t think it would make much of a photograph, but since my camera was in hand, I snapped a few photos for documentation. As I walked around the dead log the sun broke through the trees around and scattered light on the log and that’s when I saw the hoarfrost. On the bare wood frozen water vapor crystals had collected in the nooks and crannies of the log. The sun backlighting the crystals which seemed to gleam in the sunlight. I quickly snapped some more images, but the lens I had was too short. I needed something to get me closer.

 

Wider shot of the hoarfrost on the dead log. It looks like there was even more potential with this subject, but the conditions were fleeting so fast I had to act quickly.

 Knowing I probably had just a few minutes before it all melted away, I swiftly changed to my macro lens and set up my tripod and found an excellent close-up image of the remarkable patterns.  Every second the light inched closer and closer into my composition, and I managed to capture three images before the light had fully smothered the scene. The grayish-white frost contrasted well against the dark bark and wood of the tree. Additionally, the wonderful complimentary color scheme of the blue ice to the yellow sunlight added even more drama and depth to the image.  For whatever reason, this image remained unedited on my hard drive all this time. Maybe it got overshadowed by the image I intentionally captured that day. Either way, it was nice to revisit this photo and share with everyone. I really love those swirling patterns of the wood. This photo feels more like a painting, and it reminds of Van Gough’s “Starry Night” painting. Coincidentally, that is one of my all-time favorite paintings.

 


Pic of the Week 11/26/21: "Honey Creek"

November 26, 2021  •  1 Comment

Pic of the Week 11/26/21

“Honey Creek”

Location: Turner Falls Davis, OK

Date taken: 11/7/21

 

Honey CreekHoney CreekTranquil waters of Honey Creek cascade over travertine rocks and sandstone boulders.

© Ben Jacobi

 

Happy Thanksgiving! Between slamming down pieces of turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie I remembered I needed to share a Pic of the Week. And for those of you who are out and about during black Friday hopefully this post will give you some peace in all that chaos. But to properly tell the story of this image we need to go back to earlier this month when Ashlee and I were in the Arbuckle Mountains of southern Oklahoma. The day before we spent with members of the Red River Photography Club, and we visited the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur. Our day started with a sunrise shoot from our camp at Mountain Lake.

After sunrise, we tore down camp and made our way back to Turner Falls, but this time we would actually hike. We were going to hike in some of the backcountry of Turner Falls and search for some fall foliage. When we reached the trailhead, the sun was already climbing in the sky. Battling the light while seeking out fall color didn’t really appeal to me, so I went on the hike with very little expectations. To save on weight I just packed my 24-70mm and 70-200mm lenses. We strapped on our hiking bags and began walking on the trail. Almost immediately we started going downhill and quickly reached a dry creek bed. I was surprised to see very little fall color change, but with lack of freezing temperatures most of the fall color was still a few weeks away.

Our hike took us along an old firebreak road and past a small juniper forest. We took a short break before continuing the trail. The trail took us to the Honey Creek day use area. We could hear the faint trickle of the creek as we followed the water downstream. Now we were at the last leg of our hike with less than a mile to go, but we would spend almost twice as long on this stretch of the hike. We were often distracted by multiple cascades and small waterfalls in the creek. In fact, I even went as far as to pull my camera out several times during this segment *gasps*! But of all the images I captured, this was the only one that stood out enough for me to process.

We had come upon a large travertine rock in the middle of the creek where several cascades were rushing through gaps and over some of the stones. I found a simple, but effective composition with mostly decent light and fired off a few frames. I like the strong curvy line of the water in the foreground, it creates a nice leading line into the travertine rock that leads the eye through the back of the photo and into the backlit forest. The light is also “spotlighting” some of the more interesting elements in the scene. This ended up being the best combination of light, water, and composition. We spent the next hour admiring the sounds and sights of the creek as we finished up our hike and returned to the parking lot.

 


Pic of the Week 11/19/21 "Fall on Medicine Creek"

November 19, 2021  •  2 Comments

Pic of the Week 11/19/21

“Fall on Medicine Creek”

Location: Medicine Bluffs Historic Site Ft Sill, OK

Date taken: 11/14/21

 

You would think that with all the hiking I do I would come back with more shareable images. But my hiking trips mostly consist of scouting out new photography locations and then returning to those locations in more photogenic or ideal conditions. Though it is a slower process, it hasn’t really let me down yet. One such location was an area we scouted just a few months ago after Ashlee and I’s bout with COVID-19. During that scouting trip, I thought we should return when the fall colors were closer to peak—so that’s exactly what we did.

Since I had the location, I now needed to know the conditions of the fall foliage to make a more informed decision. That Saturday, after work, Ashlee and I left Wichita Falls and requested access to Fort Sill in nearby Lawton, OK. Entering in the Visitor Control Center I saw a painting of U.S. Calvary men walking along the prairie of the area. Behind them the Medicine Bluffs loomed high above stretching into the cloudy sky. I appreciated the artists’ attention to detail when painting the bluffs, it seemed they included every crack and crevice of the rocky cliff face. When it was my turn, I secured our passes and we drove into Fort Sill.

 

Painting of the Calvary in front of the Medicine Bluffs.

My original idea was to see if we could actually get access to the bluffs themselves, but unfortunately those are closed off to visitors and unauthorized personnel. So we just drove back to the historic site instead. Along the way, we saw several trees in full autumn bloom. Reds, oranges, golds, browns, and even some purples were scattered all around the fort. My eyes were set on the creek scoping out the fall colors upstream. Maybe the foliage that lined the banks of the creek were in peak? We arrived to the parking area and were surprised to see quite a few people out enjoying the afternoon. We passed some hikers on the trail and ran into some lovers having a picnic near the historical marker. We even ran into some off-duty soldiers listening to music and having a campfire. It wasn’t likely they would be here when we returned early the next morning. I had found and locked in my composition and I was excited to see the fall colors along the creek were quite vibrant.

That following morning we were awoken by the alarm going off at 5:00am. We had some breakfast, gathered our gear, and were out the door by 5:40am. Our goal was to reach the Visitor Control Center before 7:00am so we would have enough time to get on location and ready for sunrise. After checking in, we made our way once again to the Medicine Bluffs Historical Site parking area. By now the sun was poised ready to break the horizon and a glorious pinkish glow fell on the landscape around us. I hurriedly grabbed my camera bag and began sprinting up the hill to get to my location. In the excitement, it appears I ran past my target and ended up having to turn around, but luckily I found it just in time.

I found my particular rock outcropping that permitted me an excellent view of the creek as it curled around Bluff No 3. I carefully placed my composition making sure as to not overlap any of the trees with near perfect reflection in the water. Oaks, elm, shaking cottonwood, hickory, gum, and ash trees in fall displays added an excellent source of color and vibrancy in the photo. Now I just needed some light on the bluffs. A few moments later, a beam of sunlight skimmed just the top of the bluffs and a small portion of the cliff face. The sky (as typical) was empty of clouds or texture, but the Belt of Venus added just a little bit of color in the uninteresting sky. Now the composition, fall colors, light, and subject were all lined up. I just had to wait for a lull in the wind.

 

Fall on Medicine CreekFall on Medicine CreekAutumnal foliage lines the banks of Medicine Creek. In the background the striking Medicine Bluffs reflect early morning light. © Ben Jacobi

For a brief moment, the wind died down to a manageable level and I was able to squeeze off a few frames before the reflection was ruined. I sat there taking a photo every fifteen seconds to make sure I hadn’t missed the best light, but after an hour it became clear that the best light was already behind us. I had captured the image that I wanted, however. I really like this shot. Something about it just screams “postcard”. The composition is simple, but the anchor points really help keep the eye moving directly to my subject. The rock in the lower left corner, the little tree with yellow leaves breaking up the dull reflection, the reflection of the bluffs in the creek, and the light on the bluffs all guide the eye through the scene. I was very pleased with how the final image came out and more importantly that my scouting paid off in a very big way.

 

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