Pic of the Week 11/18/22
Location: Turner Falls Park Davis, OK
Date taken: 11/10/13
© Ben Jacobi
Autumn is among us, and Ashlee and I just returned from a wonderful camping trip to McGee Creek State Park in eastern Oklahoma to photograph the changing fall colors. Those photos will have to wait for now, so instead I’ll be sharing one my all-time favorite fall/autumn images I’ve captured. For this, we must go back to a windy overcast morning back in 2013. My mother and I had just arrived in time to catch the nonexistent sunrise over the Turner Falls Overlook. This would be my first time visiting Turner Falls, but it certainly would not be my last.
Since the skies were overcast, our chances of capturing dramatic light on the waterfall for nil and therefore, we decided to head down into the park to seek out the peak fall foliage. We were fortunate to actually get into the park, as a film crew had set up and was filming a video for the Chickasha nation at this time. Their floodlights were still scattered around various parts of the park as well as thick power cable zigzagging across the parking lot. One of my friends tried to visit Turner Falls just the day before and it was closed due to the filming.
When we made it into the park and up close to the waterfall, we started to notice most of the fall color had already fallen. The leaves beneath our feet crunched as we walked along the path taking in the scenic waterfall. After an hour or so, we decided to look for more interesting scenes along one of the trails. We took the Beaver Pond nature trail following the natural springs that feed Honey Creek.
Along the hike, I spotted a composition that caught my attention. A lone maple leaf had fallen and landed at the confluence of two streams. The bright vibrant orange contrasted nicely against the dark blues of the creek. Interjections of green moss and yellow lichen added more color to the triadic color harmony. I positioned my camera down to capture the scene.
At the time, I didn’t think much of the shot. I knew the composition was decent and it was relatively interesting, but this is still one of my favorite autumn themed photographs I’ve made. Something about the simplicity of the photo holds my attention stronger than the more complex or widespread compositions I record during the fall. To this day, anytime I’m out hiking around creeks with fallen leaves I seek out another “Lone Leaf” image, but nothing I’ve captured has matched up to this photo.
Pic of the Week 11/11/22
"Mount Wall Sundown"
Location: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Reduge, OK
Date taken: 10/29/22
It has been over a month since my last Pic of the Week and I know I say this a lot, but I have been exceptionally busy this past month. Allow me to explain. Since April of this year Ashlee and I have started our photography business Jacobi Creations, LLC. Our goal is to inspire others to go outdoors, educate the next generation of nature photographers, and conserve the natural spaces we all enjoy. Through this company we plan to host photography workshops and offer the sale of original photographic artwork to businesses and individual collectors. We are proud of this website, and it is worth checking out Jacobi Creations
With all the prep-work that went into establishing the website and online art store, photography (and this website) got put on the backburner. Another reason I stayed busy is we were preparing for our largest art show of the year in Denton. We spent three days at the 2022 Denton Arts and Jazz Festival sharing our work with a new audience and growing our new business. Now, things are finally getting to a point where I can catch up on this site. More importantly, we’re getting into hiking season, and I am so excited for the opportunities this fall/winter will bring. P.S. if you missed the 2023 Jacobi Creations Calendar pre-order, I still have some available just in time for the holiday season.
I have had this location reserved in my back pocket for several months now. On a mildly warm summer afternoon Ashlee and I decided to drive up to the Wichita Mountains to scout out some new photography locations for the upcoming cooler months. Although we only hiked a few miles on this one, we did manage to uncover four locations. Three of which were viable, and we will revisit another time. The one location I was most excited about was the unique view of the summits of Mount Wall in front of an interesting pattern of trees. Mt Wall is a long cigar shaped mountain that rests on the northern side of the refuge. It is an especially challenging mountain to photograph due to its long and narrow shape. You must approach it from a specific angle to any sense of depth.
One possible image, I scouted using Google Earth. But I needed to see it in person to confirm it would work as a composition. We pulled into an unmarked parking area along hwy 115 just south of the Parallel Forest. I knew the general direction we needed to travel but wasn’t sure how we would get across Cedar creek. We perused the bank until we found a suitable crossing of scattered boulders, luckily the drought left the creek level lower. A quick scramble up the rocky hillside and we were on our way east looking for the Mount Wall view in the canyon. The hike to the location was typical of the lower grasslands and basins in the Wichita mountains. Scattered prickly pear, barrel, and thistle cactus pepper a blanket of tall prairie grasses only to be interrupted by the occasional cobble stone rock and the more common buffalo chip.
When we reached the canyon, I could see my shot lining up. Now with all the time in the world, I was able to carefully place and record my favorite composition of the image. The sun angle was harsh, the wind was blowing, and the sky was completely void of any texture, but the natural reverse “Z” pattern of the trees leading up the hillside and the juxtaposition of the foreground rock and two peaks in the background created a pleasantly balanced shot.
I would have to return at a better time with more ideal conditions. It took another five months and three more attempts before I captured a shot that I liked. After all, this shot would only work with good clouds in the sky. Just a few weeks ago, Rusty Lee (a friend and fellow photographer) and I met up for a hike in the Wichita Mountains. We scouted out some more excellent photography locations that afternoon and for sunset I decided to try the Mt Wall canyon shot again. This time it paid off! We had a wonderfully textured sky, gorgeous and dramatic side light on the mountains, and even some soft reflected light in the foreground. The combination of light and atmosphere created a fantastic color palette of yellow-orange, greens, and bluish purples. Without that light and sky, the whole shot falls apart. It is amazing what happens when a photo location you scout works out and you capture something truly memorable. We watched as the eastern sky burned all the way through sunset and fizzled out to a cold steely blue. The elk were bugling, and coyotes were calling signaling to us the end of the day. I have many more photographic locations I’m scouting this year and hopefully I will have many more excellent images to share with you all. Thanks as always and enjoy!
Pic of the Week 9/30/22
“Doe in Canyon”
Location: Caprock Canyons State Park, TX
Date taken: 8/12/22
© Ben Jacobi
I spy with my eye something brown. Do you see it? It took me a minute to find it myself. Ashlee on the other hand, had been tracking and following this deer for quite some time. During our sunset shoot in Holmes Creek Canyon, Ashlee veered off to the south in pursuit of wildlife to photograph. While I concentrated on the landscape, she was getting to know a few of the locals with her camera. It wasn’t until well after sundown, did I meet back up with her. Her attention seemed to be focused on one of the canyon mesas. I thought she was just photographing the rock spire jutting up from the mesa.
I asked her what she was shooting now that the sun had set, and she said a deer. Ashlee showed me the back of her camera and I asked her where the deer was. It took a minute but eventually I saw the doe lying down on a flat surface on the canyon wall. There was very little light left on the scene, so I was only able to capture a few frames in the soft reflected light. But this scene was so cool, I just couldn’t pass it up. The doe gives the scene so much more scale and you really get an idea of just how big these rock formations really are.
The zig-zag leading lines help draw the eye throughout the scene and the white gypsum intrusions in the red rock create an excellent contrast. We photographed this doe until the light in the canyon was completely gone, and we started off towards the car. The clear skies and cooler temperature was a nice shift from the heat of the day and soon we were at our campsite winding down for the night. After a nice dinner of tuna fish and spinach wraps, nightfall started to descend on the canyon. The milky way galaxy began to shimmer in the southern sky. We made a few shots at camp before the moon rose above the canyon rim. Silver light flooded the canyon walls and revealed all the canyon details. With the extra illumination, I thought we could try a few moonlit landscapes near our camp.
There was an area that looked like it would provide a nice view of the Little Red River and the canyon walls in South Prong. We carefully, hiked along scattered game trails behind the campsites and eventually we found the viewpoint. This view let us look down into the dry riverbed creating a natural leading line through the photo. A stripe of gypsum lined the farthest canyon wall giving the scene even more contrast. The foreground remained in the shadows with only hints of reflected moonlight lighting the small details. In the upper right you can see some park visitors who made camp. Looks like they selected a nice location. Most of the campsites in the area offer views like this.
After our moonlit shoot, we returned to camp but were stopped along the way by our neighbors. These were some hiking friends of ours and we spent the next few hours swapping stories, talking about future trips, and enjoying the camaraderie in the light of the moon. Finally, we returned to our tent and tried to fall asleep. From all the excitement of the day, it was difficult to go to sleep. Somewhere between watching the night sky above our heads and listening to the coyotes call in the canyon I drifted off to slumber satisfied with the images I captured that day.
Pic of the Week 9/2/22
“Holmes Creek Canyon”
Location: Caprock Canyons State Park, TX
Date taken: 8/12/22
Oh, it has been WAAAAYYY too long since my last camping trip. During the summer months, I rarely do any camping…at least in Texas that is. But since I haven’t gone anywhere colder, there has been very little camping done this summer. If I am going to go out and brave the heat, it needs to be in a area that will result in good photography or hiking. Someplace a little farther away. Maybe a home away from home, where the official Texas state bison herd roam? I am talking of one of my favorite weekend getaway sites in west Texas, Caprock Canyons State Park.
I have had numerous visits to Caprock Canyons over the years, but almost always I have not timed it right with conditions. I’m either greeted to open empty skies or blotted out by thick low-lying clouds. For whatever reason, I just can’t seem to get good light while out there. This trip was no exception, but this lack of photogenic conditions in a photogenic area makes it more of a challenge to find a good photograph. Thankfully, there is plenty to explore at the park.
Ashlee and I would be camping along the bluffs of the Little Red River. I don’t need to tell you we were both excited to get out of Wichita Falls and into the rugged west Texas canyonlands. When we arrived on site, we first decided to scope out our shooting location for sunset. I would be targeting the cliffs along Holmes Creek Canyon. I have visited this area before and shot a unique photo of the milky way galaxy rising above the horseshoe-shaped bend in the creek. With a full moon expected shortly after sunset, I didn’t have any definite plans to shoot the milky way. I was, however, interested in capturing some close ups of the canyon at sunset.
The hike to the canyon overlook isn’t far from the parking area. After we parked at the Honey Flat Campground parking lot, we started looking for the Canyon Spur Trail. This sandy trail connects to the Canyon Rim Loop and would lead us to the overlook. From the overlook we would look down into Holmes Creek and look across to the fascinating canyon formations. Since we arrived on location early, I had plenty of time to scout out multiple compositions. The only problem was deciding which to shoot first. My attention was on the pyramid-shaped rocks hugging the creek across the canyon. Previous floods and rains have carved through the soft sandstone to form the deltoid and triangular cliffs of the canyon. I turned back to the west to see no clouds on the horizon. Looks like I’d be breaking out the telephoto lens.
"No sky is better than a bad sky." I’ve said this many times before and after inspecting my subject, I chose to exclude the sky from my image. Instead, I would focus on the shapes and textures of the canyon. Walking along the rim, I could see dead cottonwood trees in the creek bed below. Their bleached trunks and branches were gleaming in the late afternoon sun. I found an attractive set of these dead trees to use as anchor points and leading lines in my shot. Once the sun sank below the top of the canyon, the trees would be covered in the shadows. Their bright scraggly bodies would really stand out against the darker rock of the canyon. I had locked in my composition and now it was time to get ready for sunset.
Shadows began to slowly creep into the canyon as the sun started to fall. The cottonwood trees remained poised and stoic as the shadows overcame them. The last rays of sunlight blasted the tops of the cliffs in a beautiful orange glow. Hues of gold, orange, vermillion, scarlet, and magenta spilled across the east rim of the canyon. It reminded me of a sunset I captured on the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park several years ago. I tried to time it just right, so the light lined up with one of the geologic layer edges of the cliffs. This made their transition even more apparent. As you follow the cliffs down to the creek you go farther and farther back in geological time.
The pointy summits of the cliffs began to fan out into the ribbon, curtain, and skirt formations so associated with west Texas canyons. Each of these cliffs create lines that lead the eye through the photo down into the creek and back up the cliff tops. I made sure to carefully compose the photo taking note of the live cottonwood in the bottom left and the far right. This creates a really nice bookend to the whole image and balances the composition as a whole. Although, I didn’t get any spectacular clouds in the image, but I still think I captured the peak of sunset in one of my favorite places to shoot. There are a few more images from this trip that I will be sharing in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, I’ll keep watching the weather models and hoping the autumn temperatures come real soon.
Pic of the Week 8/26/22
“The Sunset Watcher”
Location: Thornberry, TX
Date taken: 8/10/22
There is just nothing quite like a good ol’ Texas sunset! I have always had a fascination with the Texas sky. Some people may think this area is boring and flat, and while that is true, the skies always come alive over here. Sure, we don’t have mountains, or canyons, or waterfalls, or old growth forests, but there is something majestic about a stunning sunset over an open prairie. With the frequency of sunset we see, you would think we get tired of them—but that couldn’t be farther from the truth! And when great sunset opportunities arise, I will almost go out looking for something to put in front of it.
A few weeks ago, we had some weather roll in that brought a small trough of low pressure. This was a nice change to the blazing 100F days we were experiencing, but it also brought clouds. Clouds are what makes a sunset so great. Now don’t get me wrong, you can still have nice sunsets without clouds, but the clouds act like a sponge and soak up every drop of color the sky has to offer. Not to mention, they add another layer to the atmosphere creating more depth in the scene. We were expecting nice conditions for sunsets all throughout the week and we ended up going out three times. The first two were unsuccessful, too much cloud cover, but on the last day we were greeted with a spectacular sunset not too far from home.
It stated out like any other sunset shoot. Get home, grab camera gear, and go looking for compositions around our area. Thunderstorms and rain showers were bringing fascinating cloud formations from Oklahoma where they would begin to fizzle out once they crossed the Red River. These orphan anvils and remnants of the storms would stretch and thin as they encountered the more stable air giving them an almost fibrous appearance. These high-altitude clouds are perfect for sunset photography, that is if low thick clouds don’t blot out the sun. After driving the backroads near Wichita Falls, we started north towards Thornberry. There are a few interesting trees and barns in the area, and I thought those could work well for our subject.
We arrived on location to a quirky tree trunk placed just off the main road. This tree has a lot of character and every time I drive past it, I think to myself, “This would make a great silhouette.” The skeletal remains of the tree create an interesting shape as the gnarled branches reach skyward. I don’t know how the tree ended up this way. Judging by the split in the trunk, I assume it was the victim of a lightning strike. Somewhere after 2008 the tree is died (according to Google satellite imagery). Either way, it served as a great subject to shoot.
While we were waiting for the peak color of sunset, a flock of scissor-tailed flycatchers danced on and off the branches of the tree. Instead of complaining and jeering at the birds, I incorporated them into my composition and utilized their iconic silhouette to add more interest to the image. Look closely and you can see the bird in the branches. The flycatcher hung around for a few minutes and then was off to fight in other territorial spats. We stayed and watch the sunset enjoying the cooler temperatures, clouds cover, and rain-cooled breeze throughout the evening. The sun continued to burn into the clouds well after sunset. Even on our way home hints of reflected light shone on the underside of the high clouds eventually dying off in the blackness of the night.
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© Ben Jacobi
Recent PostsPic of the Week 11/18/22 "Lone Leaf" Pic of the Week 11/11/22: Mount Wall Sundown Pic of the Week 9/30/30 "Doe in Canyon" Pic of the Week 9/2/22 "Holmes Creek Canyon" Pic of the Week 8/26/22 "The Sunset Watcher" Pic of the Week 8/19/22 "Panther Canyon Overlook Panorama" Pic of the Week 8/12/22 "Panther Creek Canyon" Pic of the Week 8/5/22 "Fixer-Upper" Pic of the Week 7/15/22 "Whiteface Mountain #1" Pic of the Week 7/8/22 "Coreopsis Chorus"