Pic of the Week 5/20/22
“Baker Peak Wichita Mountains”
Location: Cooperton, OK
Date taken: 4/23/22
My eyes were focused almost stinging from the intensity of my stare. I carefully watched as patches of light traveled up the nearby hill and veered off course on the other side of the mountain. I swung my head around to get a better look at the sun. A small puffy gray cloud began creeping its way temporarily hiding the sun. I turned my head back around and fixed my gaze on the globular splash of light gliding its way up the mountain. “Almost there!” I thought to myself. I exhaled a breath and held it in to steady myself in anticipation of the light. My camera was poised, and I was ready to capture. Once again, the light deviated from the mountain summit and the breath I held in escaped my lips. I turned back to see the clouds growing thicker—there wouldn’t be too many more chances to get the shot.
After the nightmare wind that was our previous photo shoot, I was hoping to get out under more dynamic conditions. This time, I had the whole Saturday afternoon to scout and capture photos. Thunderstorms were forecast for later in the afternoon and early evening and that made me think this would be a great opportunity to capture some of my favorite type of landscape light. Patchy light, as I refer to it, are small pockets of sunlight peeking behind intermittent cloud cover. These can create great “spotlights” over certain parts of the landscape. It also happens to work very well with mountains or canyons. The mixture of dark and bright creates a lot of contrast and depth to these kinds of scenes. So after work, Ashlee and I ventured out to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge in search of the elusive “patchy light”.
Since mountains were going to be main subject, I decided to head over to the extreme far western edge of the refuge to photograph some of the more interesting peaks in the dappled sunlight. This area is unfortunately closed off as it is the protected north wilderness of the refuge, but there are some private ranch roads that bump right up to the base of the mountains. One of my favorite peaks is a conical shaped summit named Baker Peak. This infamous mountain the is location of supposed Private Baker’s stand against (up to 70) Indian warriors. The lone army scout was separated and was spotted by a group of warriors and was forced to retreat up Baker Peak and into a rock crevice to provide protection. Baker Peak also makes up the southern end of the valley known as Cutthroat Gap between Mt Haley and Baker Peak. Here an Indian massacre occurred in 1833 when Osage warriors attacked a Kiowa village filled with mostly women and children. My good buddy Steve Pemberton has some excellent videos on these stories of Baker Peak. You can check them out here and here.
Now standing in the shadow of Baker Peak, I waited for the sun to highlight the summit of the mountain. We must’ve spent a solid hour in this one location watching the light move up and down the mountain. This image is a time-stack composite showing the best of the light throughout the sequence. This is comprised of six different images stacked together to create the dynamic light I was looking for. Eventually, light did reach the summit although it was slightly diffuse and not as sharp as I wanted. Despite the light bringing out fantastic color, I knew that the final image was going to be a black and white. This image reminds me of Ansel Adams’ “Winter Sunrise Sierra Nevada” photo. Granted, his is much better, but there are some parallels. Although I don’t have a horse, I do have some cows grazing in fantastic patchy light. And sure, my mountain isn’t as impressive as the Sierra mountain range but for southern Oklahoma I think the image is just as magical. This day would prove to be quite fruitful in our photography pursuits. We intercepted a few storms and ended up with a glorious sunset, but I’ll save those for future blog entries.
Pic of the Week 5/13/22
“The Scotland Mesas”
Location: Scotland, TX
Date taken: 4/22/22
This week’s Pic of the Week was captured near the end of last month. We had gone several days without a good photography outing. Our last successful one was the Red River photo shoot I wrote about in my previous blog entry. So, I was looking forward to another photogenic opportunity. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans. Wind was our weather for the next few days. Winds would gust as high as 50mph and keep sustained at 30mph. This does not work well with landscape photography.
When the opportunity for a nice sunset arrived, Ashlee and I braved the wind in the pursuit of good landscape photography. The whole drive down 287 gusts of wind slammed against the 4Runner trying to run us off the road. We reached the quaint town of Scotland, TX and turned west on FM 172. Though it didn’t look like it now, the drive down the farm-to-market road would lead us to a surprisingly unique and photogenic scene.
We kept on following FM172 until we reached a pull off near a small corral. Now, at the top of a hill, the wind was roaring outside. With our cameras in tow, we pressed through wind and walked along the western fence line, scouting out compositions along the way. From this viewpoint we could look down into the valley where some small mesas jut up from the mesquite growth. These little buttes would serve as good anchor points and subjects to my composition.
I found a nice angle with a strong sweeping diagonal foreground to really help draw the eye through the scene. Behind the foreground one of the larger more rotund mesas would serve as a great anchor point for the eye to rest. The lines from that mesa lead the eye back to the more peculiar butte in the far midground. The taller flatter mesas appear behind the haze and dirt and add a whole other layer to the image. Finally, the tallest mesa ridges above the rest and above the distant horizon to give the image great depth. Now, If the sky would catch some color, everything would be in place.
The next hour was brutal as I tried to finalize my composition in the blustery air. Nearly every time I went to capture a photo a strong surge of wind would come up the hill and rock my tripod shaking my camera. The resulting photo would be of poor quality and shoddy focus. I also needed to increase my ISO to ensure my shutter speed would be fast enough during the lulls in the wind. This meant my overall image quality would suffer, but regardless I kept shooting.
The sun began setting behind the dust layer transforming it into an ethereal orange orb glowing in the western horizon. The dirt and haze made a natural filter to the suns intense light letting us see excellent detail and color on the sun. In fact, you can see three sunspots in this image! I waited patiently as the sun drooped closer to the horizon. Luckily, I calculated the sunset trajectory and determined it would set above the taller mesa. I began shooting, hoping, and praying, these images would come out sharp and thankfully, I was able to capture a few frames that were usable. While it was a more challenging image to capture, I was still quite happy I finally got a shot of the “Scotland Mesas”.
Pic of the Week 5/6/22
“On the Red River”
Location: Red River, Texas
Date taken: 4/10/22
It has been quite some time since my last blog entry. Things in my personal life have dampened my spirits lately and its hard to feel motivated to create new work. While I have started a new post processing method, I am still working out all the kinks. Some images I feel the need to share and others are more of experiments and practice. I am very excited for some images that I captured in April that will hopefully be making their way into the blog in the coming weeks. That being said lets go ahead and jump into this week’s Pic of the Week.
For the longest time I have wanted to visit the Red River up close and last month Ashlee and I got the chance. Along Highway 79 in the northeastern part of Clay County the Red River flows almost straight north to south as it exits the bend. This area is a designated OHV/ATV trail and access to the Red River. So we should have nice light in the morning and plenty of trails to explore. We had hopes of capturing a nice sunrise over some of the bluffs and cliffs of the area, but the sunrise didn’t really do anything photogenic. When we arrived at the river, we made our way to a spot I had scouted out via Google Earth earlier that week. From this location, the river flows underneath and around a sandbar. This creates some fantastic patterns as the river creates small inlets and exits of water around the sand.
One particular view caught my attention that featured a strong curving line of water broken up by small islands of dirt and sand. The red cliffs stretched throughout the composition underneath a pleasant sky. I had found a nice composition with excellent depth and texture. Unfortunately, the light left more to be desired. Still, I pulled out my camera and captured the scene. I really enjoy the numerous light to dark transitions that help move the eye through the photo.
© Ben Jacobi
Photographing sand can be tricky, if you walk through your composition, you’ll have to remove the footprints in post processing. With that in mind, I inched my way up the riverbank admiring the shimmering sand in the late morning light. As I followed the shore, I spotted a peculiar looking piece of driftwood. It was half-buried under the sand and the wind came through and created stunning ripple patterns along the little dune.
I began to experiment with different focal lengths and heights to find the best composition making sure not to walk too far into the scene. I really like the wavy patterns in the sand and how they lead the eye to the center of attention in the photograph. Just for fun, I processed the image in both color and black and white. Which do you prefer? Although I only captured a handful of images, I left the Red River feeling accomplished and excited to return again. Next time, however, I’ll be sure to have better light.
© Ben Jacobi
Pic of the Week 4/8/22
“Hollister High School Star Trails”
Location: Hollister, OK
Date taken: 3/26/22
A sharp glint of light reflected on the inside of my glasses’ lens. I turned my head to see what the source of the illumination was. A car was stopped at the intersection a few streets down from us. “Don’t turn left!” I pleaded to the driver in my mind. It was odd that there even was a stop sign at the intersection. I can’t imagine this area gets too much traffic. It was hard to believe that this community once held a population of 200 compared to its modern population of less than 50 (2010 census). The car made the unfortunate left turn and sent high beams of headlights across our scene and subject. The Parthenon like structure glowed with an eerie yellow hue as the card headed towards us. It made another left turn and the light dissipated on the structure. My camera’s shutter clicked, and I said out loud “Well, there’s a photo I’m going to have to blend out.” I turned my attention back to the scene in front of me keeping watch of more vehicles that could ruin my shot.
When Ashlee told me she was interested in trying star trail photography, I started thinking about potential subjects. Nothing in particular stood out (at least within an hour’s drive) and I started perusing satellite imagery from Google Earth. My search took me along the railroad and soon I discovered an unusual shadow near the northeastern corner of Hollister, OK. “That can’t be right.” I mumbled to myself. I used the Google Earth street view for a closer look and was astonished at what I saw. The remains of a large brick building with two columns and three openings stared right back at me on the computer screen. I had found our subject for the star trails shoot.
In the early 1900’s the Wichita Falls and Northwestern Railway (would eventually become the Missouri Kansas Texas Railway) were searching for an area to put a switching station between Frederick and Wichita Falls. Land was donated and the switching station established and in 1909 the town got a post office. In 1922 the local schools consolidated, and a new brick building was constructed. The Hollister school served the area until 1963. Now, all that remains of this school is the front face and foundation. This would serve as an excellent subject for our star trail image.
We drove out there and arrived just before sunset carefully scouting and searching out our compositions. Once we found it, we could not move the camera, so we had to be certain this was going to be our shot. That night, we stood by the old remnants of school and pondered what it would have been like to attend. The night was quiet and peaceful except for some longhorn grumbling in the yard next to us and a dog alerting its owner of our presence. For a couple of hours we captured images of the stars rotating around the ruins. It took 280 images to create this final time-stack composite, but all the extra time and effort is worth it! I love the stars streaming behind the ruins and peeking through the openings. It really adds a lot of depth to the scene. The twisting motion of the stars remind me of a portal. Like a time warp transporting us back to the past when Hollister was a bustling city. What a great night out under the stars and an excellent, historical, and interesting subject! And if you want to see Ashlee's shot, check it out on her website here.
© Ben Jacobi
Pic of the Week 4/1/22
“Sunset Tree Panorama”
Location: Burkburnett, TX
Date taken: 3/14/22
© Ben Jacobi
I love traveling to new photo locations. I love the opportunity to explore and photograph different areas. Sometimes, I’ll drive 5+ hours just to capture one image. After all, the adventure is the journey not the destination. But then there are times when I can’t get too far way from home. What do I do then? Well thankfully, I have a cache of extra photo locations in my Google Earth software for just such an occasion. These are subjects/locations I come across while out driving or just by browsing Google Earth. I have them for all kinds of distances, <30mi, <60mi, <90mi, <120mi, <150mi, etc. This really comes in handy on spur-of-the-moment-type photo shoots.
For example, while driving back from my in-law’s home I noticed this peculiar mesquite tree off the access road. The tree had an interesting shape could make for a good subject. When I got closer to examine the tree, I saw there was a stock tank directly behind it. The nearby ground had been dug out and pack to form an encompassing berm around the stock tank. This formed a little hill in which the tree planted itself. The gentle rolling of the berm made a much more interesting horizon line that could benefit the foreground. The background looked to be clear of any powerlines and other distractions, which meant I would have a clear view of the eastern horizon. Lastly, the tree was facing west and towards the interstate—this would make it the ideal location for sunset photography. It also didn’t hurt that is just three miles down the road from my apartment!
Ashlee and I have utilized this tree on several occasions, but this was the first time I found an interesting enough sky to compliment the silhouette of the tree. High clouds had rolled in the area earlier that evening, and since we didn’t have to drive very far, we gambled on the sunset and won! A spread of beautiful pastel colors painted the sky above the Sunset Tree. Oranges, pinks, reds, golds, cyans, and blues all mixed to create a striking color palette on the scene. It was simple as show up and wait for the color. Like I said, I do enjoy experiencing new photography locations, but watching and shooting a stunning sunset practically in my backyard is just pure bliss. The best part was I didn’t have a long drive to get back home. Five minutes later, we were back at the apartment and heating up some dinner.
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© Ben Jacobi
Recent PostsPic of the Week 5/20/22 "Baker Peak Wichita Mountains" Pic of the Week 5/13/22 "The Scotland Mesas" Pic of the Week 5/6/22 "On the Red River" Pic of the Week 4/8/22 "Hollister High School Star Trails" Pic of the Week 4/1/22 "Sunset Tree Panorama" Pic of the Week 3/25/22 "Mossy Morning" Pic of the Week 3/18/22 "Henrietta Supercell" Pic of the Week 3/11/22 "Prescribed Burn" Pic of the Week 3/3/22: Beaver Lodge Sunset/Sunrise Pic of the Week 2/11/22 "Hoodoo Dreamscape"