Pic of the Week 4/30/21
Location: Dundee, TX
Date taken: 4/23/21
Storm season is here! Already there have been several supercells within an hours drive from Wichita Falls. You’d think I’d have more to show from it, but unfortunately, I have been busy with work and getting ready for a wedding a little over a month away. One the one hand, I am so disappointed I missed the incredible tornado outside of Vernon, but on the other, I am so used to missing big events now it barely phases me. It has been a long time since I personally have had a good storm chase season.
All this negative talk you’d think I’d given up on storm chasing and while its true I’ve been busy, I still was glued to the radar and kept watching the skies as the storms rolled in. Sure, I missed an incredibly photogenic supercell that put down several tornadoes an hour from my house…I can’t remember where I was going with that argument. Truth be told, it still stings, and it never gets any easier.
One thing that helped ease the pain was I got to meet up with my good friends and fellow storm chasers James, Zach, David, and Ted. I hadn’t seen these guys in years, so I was excited to meet up with them again. When I got off work, I decide to drive west in hopes of catching the last bit of storms for the day. As I drove closer and closer, I could get peeks of the updraft in between the murky hazy cloud coverage. It still looked quite impressive and photogenic., but I couldn’t get a good view before the sun went down. Thankfully, however, I met up with my friends just after sunset.
I turned north out of Dundee and met up with everyone. We exchanged greetings and they regaled their epic storm chase from the afternoon. They really ended up with some incredible photographs. We stood there under the undulating skies and feeling the cool breeze of the outflow. The storm was pretty much done (as far as tornadoes) and we decided to hang around and capture some lightning images. The storm moved just off to our northeast and at one point, we had a fantastic view of the updraft. Hints of silver moonlight were reflecting off the bubbly convection and bursts of hot plasma burst from the base creating an awe-inspiring scene. Sadly for me, my camera settings weren’t exactly right and all of those images were out of focus.
Luckily, I got my setting better for the next series of shots as new storms began building to our north. Again, we stood and watched along the roadside and I was able to capture this image of the lightning striking from the clouds. Although it is not the most impressive lightning shot I’ve captured, it is the first storm photo of my 2021 season. Honesty, I’m not sure how many more storm photos I’m going to capture this season. Regardless, I’d say getting married to the love of my life trumps a tornado chase.
Pic of the Week 4/23/21
“Cotton Candy Sky on Sugar Ridge”
Location: Bristol, TX
Date taken: 4/17/21
Upon first looking at this photo’s title, you might think this was an excerpt from the boardgame Candyland. And much like the boardgame, I hopped on the road towards delectable treasures. Not ones that are consumable by mouth, but ones that are a feast for the eyes. While I stood there enjoying the scenery around me, I thought of myself as a “kid in the candy store.” With every click of the shutter, I got more and more excited for the image’s final result. After all, I was in an excellent location, I had an interesting subject, and the lighting was working in my favor. Bon Apetit!
This image comes from my recent trip to Ennis, TX to photograph the peak bluebonnet season. I had been to Ennis once before and while the flowers were spectacular, I only came back with mediocre photographs. So I was anxious to get back out there and come home with some interesting images. Members of the Red River Photography Club were going to meet up with me on Sunday morning. I decided to head out on Saturday to scout out potential locations and do some camping.
The drive down to Ennis was excellent. All along the roadsides were blotches of colorful wildflowers. Indian paintbrush, Indian blanket, primrose, goldenrod, buttercups, and of course the Texas state flower, bluebonnets lined the culverts and ditches beside the highway. This gave me hope that Ennis was going to be in even better condition. Ennis is known as the “official bluebonnet city of Texas” and thousands of people come and visit the fields every season. Our trip happened to coincide with their annual bluebonnet festival which meant traffic was going to be exceptionally heavy.
I arrived at my campsite just after 3:30pm, which gave me plenty of time to explore the 40miles of trails that follow these bluebonnets. I quickly headed out on the trail making mental notes of the best shooting locations for group’s arrival. After spending three hours scouring the roads and seeking the best blooms, I finally reached the pinnacle of the journey—Sugar Ridge road. This area is famous for families coming to photograph themselves in bluebonnets (it’s a Texas thing) and the views from the ridge are quite nice so it can become crowded very quickly.
Much to my disappointment, I arrived to find roughly 30 vehicles parked on either side of the road and hordes of families, couples, and wannabe Instagram models trapsing in the bluebonnet fields and serving as distractions to my potential compositions. Finally, I found a place to park and I made my way back up the hill towards what I thought was going to be my primary composition. Sadly, this area didn’t have nearly as many blooms as last time and I was upset the shot wasn’t worth capturing.
I hung around for about an hour when I got a call from one of the photo club members, Tracy. Tracy and her husband Russ had decided to come up a day early and stay the night in Waxahachie nearby. They wanted to meet up and I told them where I was and how to get there. Shortly thereafter, I see their Jeep Cherokee “Grendel” drive down Sugar Ridge Road. We exchanged greetings and then grabbed our gear in hopes for a nice sunset. I told Tracy and Russ that I wanted to check out a patch of flowers just down the hill and see if maybe there was something to shoot there. I would be back up shortly and we could continue down the trail. Well…that didn’t happen. Instead, I found a nice subject with a pleasing composition and set up my camera. What was probably the most amazing thing about this area, almost nobody else was around! I was able to work in peace and silence which is always difficult to do along the Ennis bluebonnet trail.
After lining up my composition, I thought about how I could make this photo more unique and interesting. I got the idea to use my Lee Big Stopper 10 stop neutral density filter to elongate my exposure and capture the clouds streaking across my composition. This added a little extra flair to the image and gave it a more magical look. Now this image was not without its challenges, however. Both in shooting and post-processing I had to take extra photos and extra steps to complete this final image.
I first shot an exposure for the foreground and the tree. This would ensure I had sharp images and details in the important parts of the photo. After that, I took a series of longer exposures ranging from 30 seconds all the way up to 7 minutes. The image I settled on was a 4min 22sec exposure that I felt complimented the subject and lighting on the foreground. The clouds took on some soft pastel colors as they moved across the scene. The colorful wildflowers in the foreground gave the scene a little more depth helping the viewers eyes to fall into the photo.
The rush from capturing these photos matched that of a child hopped up on sugar from delicious candy treats. And what a treat it was! The sun sank below the horizon, stuffed to the brim with sweet, savory, images on my memory card, I returned to my car and drove back to my campsite to prepare for the next days activities. I probably shouldn’t write any more of these blog posts while I’m hungry. If you’ll excuse me I have to go find some candy now...
Pic of the Week 4/16/21
“Gorman Falls #2”
Location: Gorman Falls, Colorado Bend State Park, TX
Date taken: 4/9/17
© Ben Jacobi
In keeping with the theme of the previous blog entry, I am once again looking back on photo adventure due to the lack of recent work. Though I am hoping for an exciting weekend hunting bluebonnets. If everything goes well, I should have some new and exciting images to share with everyone in time for the next Pic of the Week. Today’s image was one that had remained undeveloped on my hard drive dating back to 2017.
My mother and I made an awesome visit to the Texas hill country and among all the amazing locations we saw, nothing compared to Gorman Falls in Colorado Bend State Park. I have written about this location before and while I was quite happy with main shot I captured, I was always drawn to this composition. The only problem was the amount of distracting tree branches that protruded from the bottom parts of the image. The other day when I was looking at these images I once again found myself staring back at this photo. “There is a better shot in here” I thought to myself as I examined the photo. I don’t know why it took me this long to see it, but within all that chaos a simple, pleasing composition revealed itself in the scene. All it took was my changing the crop from rectangle to a square and voila—the image appeared!
The natural archway of the tree branch perfectly frames the moss and lichen-covered rock in nice early morning sunlight, bringing even more attention to the unusual travertine formation. Slivers of silver rain down from the top of the photo in long strips of smooth water and showcase the main attraction of the park, Gorman Falls. Surrounded by all the lush greenery and vegetation its hard to believe I was just 4 hours away from my home. To quote myself from my previous blog entry of Gorman Falls, “You truly feel like you're in a tropical or rain forest setting when standing here. It was so beautiful and peaceful.” Although I am a little saddened I haven’t been producing much new work, I was glad to renew my creative spirit by looking through some more inspirational locations. I hope to return to Gorman Falls again real soon!
Pic of the Week 4/9/21
“White Deer Monster”
Location: White Deer, TX
Date taken: 4/11/15
White Deer, TX Monster © Ben Jacobi
I have to apologize for the lackadaisical approach I have been taking towards my blog lately. I started out the year with high hopes of keeping consistent with my blog entries, but sadly things always seem to get in the way. Wedding planning and preparations and other obligations have kept me remarkably busy over the past several weekends. I’ve discovered that if I’m not getting out, I’m not gonna be inspired and things are going to slip through the cracks. There was brief optimism with the approach a few storm systems, but nothing came from it which was disheartening. Now the blog has been ignored for over a month and for that I am sorry. I wish I had new images to share with you all, but right now things are tight and I’m asking you to bear with me. Soon I should have some new photos to share with you.
This week’s Pic of the Week was from one of my better storm chase years, 2015. During this year I had 20+ storm events and even got to photograph two tornadoes. One of those I have already talked about in a previous blog post. The other one was murky, and I didn’t really get a “website worthy” shot of it. But this chase did provide with the opportunity to photograph a stunning supercell in the remote areas of the Texas panhandle, which in my opinion is always a good day.
I left work at 2:30pm and drove towards Amarillo. It is almost a 4hr drive from Wichita Falls and I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it before the storms started firing. While driving to the target area, I made the decision to move just a little bit further north towards Fritch, TX. When I reached the outskirts of Lake Meredith a supercell had formed and was now tornado warned. I watched as the turnoff sign for the “Alibates Flint National Monument and Historic Site” whizz by my driver side window. This is an area I have always wanted to visit, but I would have to save it for another time.
The next few hours I did all the typical storm chasing stuff: driving, navigating frustrating road networks, hopping out of the vehicle to capture a few photos/videos, more driving, avoid hitting native wildlife, circumventing hail cores, contemplating the whole reason I was even out there, waiting for the good light, and of course more driving. Eventually, I reached the edge of White Deer, TX. The storm had now evolved into a monstrous high-precipitation supercell with a surging southeasterly inflow wind. I found an empty field to pull into and watch as the storm approached. In the distance I could see wind farms being devoured by the core of this storm. I had the updraft/mesocyclone in full view, and it took a very wide-angle lens (about 18mm) to capture the whole storm in the image. I spent the next few hours watching the storm churn and trudge its way through town before I had to let it go and begin the drive back home. If you want to see more on this chase I have a video on my YouTube channel here. And speaking of severe weather, I did an interview with our local news station about my experience chasing and photographing storms. You can find that on their website.
Pic of the Week 2/26/21
“Lake Texoma Watchman”
Location: Eisenhower State Park, TX
Date taken: 1/31/21
My latest Pic of the Week continues from my previous blog post. After a nice visit to the nearby Haggerman Wildlife Refuge, Ashlee and I returned to Eisenhower State Park to shoot sunset. This time we would be getting closer to the lake and exploring the swim beach. This area was closed the last time due to flood damage but had since reopened so we were excited to go exploring. Our walk down to the beach took us along a steep rocky staircase that brought us down the lake level. The wind was still ripping out of the northwest sending swells and waves crashing into the rocky shores. I had a shot in mind I wanted to capture. Along the banks a few small caves have been carved out of the soft rock. I had envisioned capturing a photo from inside the cave looking out to the banks. If I could time it right, I might be able to capture the sun setting beneath the rim of the cave. But before we made the trek to the caves, I wanted to scout out a good sunset location.
Another idea I had, was to photograph some of the fossils at sunset. This proved to be a lot more challenging than I expected. Any fossils we came across were just too small or too vague to use as a good foreground element. Though it was a lot of fun exploring those cliffs. We abandon our search for fossils and instead move on to the caves. The hike to the caves was not long, but it did have its challenges. We had to climb over large boulders and traverse slippery rocks to reach the cave. Once inside I captured my photograph and while I was excited about the composition, the light and uninteresting sky left more to be desired.
Cave along the cliffs at Lake Texoma. © Ben Jacobi
While I spent time in the caves, Ashlee was out along the shore searching out more fossils and interesting subjects. I finished in the cave and went to meet up with Ashlee. I found her near the shore watching the waves coming in. She had found an odd weather-battered rock as a subject. The wind-driven water of Lake Texoma smashed into the unusual boulder sending a spray of water around the rocks. These are excellent conditions for long exposure photography.
Lake Texoma Watchman © Ben Jacobi
Unlike last time, I wanted a softer effect on the water. Instead of capturing thousands of tiny precise water droplets, I was more focused on creating interesting patterns and shapes in the waves. I set my shutter speed to around ¼ seconds, this left just the right amount of texture in the waves and splashes. The water began to take on shapes that resembled tendrils or veins branching and forking upon impact on the rocky shore. I spent the next 15 minutes waiting and watching the waves come in. I opted to create this eight-image stacked composite to showcase some of the more impressive sprays and whitecaps. My subject stood there taking blow after blow as the waves barraged against the boulder. Its shape almost reminded me of a dragon or sea monster. How many centuries did it take for the wind, water, and sun to sculpt that dinosaur-like form into the boulder?
I reflected on this thought while my camera clicked away. The sun was now getting lower in the sky and warm evening light began to illuminate the shore. Not long after shooting the last exposure, a large wave careened into some rocks and sent a splash of water over me and my camera. Drops of lake water flooded my lens’ front element signaling the end of the shoot. We watched the last strips of light fall on the rocks before packing up and heading back towards the vehicle. Our journey to Eisenhower State park was done and we were ready to get back home.
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Recent PostsPic of the Week 4/30/21 "Thundering Skies" Pic of the Week 4/23/21: Cotton Candy Sky on Sugar Ridge Pic of the Week 4/16/21: Gorman Falls #2 Pic of the Week 4/9/21 "White Deer Monster" Pic of the Week 2/26/21: Lake Texoma Watchman Pic of the Week 2/5/21: Windy Morning on Lake Texoma Pic of the Week 1/29/21: Travertine Creek Waterfalls Pic of the Week 1/22/21: The Secret Window Pic of the Week 1/15/21: "Little Niagara" Pic of the Week 1/8/21: Medicine Circle