Photography by Ben Jacobi: Blog https://bdjphoto.com/blog en-us (C) Ben Jacobi shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Fri, 18 Nov 2022 15:39:00 GMT Fri, 18 Nov 2022 15:39:00 GMT https://bdjphoto.com/img/s/v-12/u961975040-o578845839-50.jpg Photography by Ben Jacobi: Blog https://bdjphoto.com/blog 90 120 Pic of the Week 11/18/22 "Lone Leaf" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/11/pic-of-the-week-11/18/22 Pic of the Week 11/18/22

“Lone Leaf”

Location: Turner Falls Park Davis, OK

Date taken: 11/10/13

 

Lone LeafLone Leaf

© 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.  

 

 

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) autumn fall fall foliage landscape leaf nature Oklahoma Pic of the Week travel Turner Falls Turner Falls Park https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/11/pic-of-the-week-11/18/22 Fri, 18 Nov 2022 16:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 11/11/22: Mount Wall Sundown https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/11/pic-of-the-week-11/11/22 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!

Mount Wall SundownMount Wall SundownIn the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, the final rays of sunshine touch Mount Wall's western peaks. © Ben Jacobi

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) landscape mountain mountains nature Oklahoma Pic of the Week sky sunset travel Wichita Mountains Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/11/pic-of-the-week-11/11/22 Fri, 11 Nov 2022 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 9/30/30 "Doe in Canyon" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/9/pic-of-the-week-9/30/22 Pic of the Week 9/30/22

“Doe in Canyon”

Location: Caprock Canyons State Park, TX

Date taken: 8/12/22

 

Doe in CanyonA mule deer do finds a tranquil place for a rest in the rugged terrain of Holmes Creek Canyon.

© 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.

 

Moonlit CanyonscapeMoonlit CanyonscapeExploring the arryos and gullies of the Little Red River by moonlight in Caprock Canyons State Park © Ben Jacobi

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.  

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) canyon Caprock Canyon Caprock Canyons Caprock Canyons State Park deer landscape mule deer nature night Pic of the Week sky Texas travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/9/pic-of-the-week-9/30/22 Fri, 30 Sep 2022 15:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 9/2/22 "Holmes Creek Canyon" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/9/pic-of-the-week-9/2/22-holmes-creek-canyon 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.

 

Holmes Creek CanyonHolmes Creek CanyonHeavily erroded sandstone cliffs line the sides of Holmes Creek forming one the most striking canyons in Caprock Canyons State Park. © Ben Jacobi

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Caprock Canyons Caprock Canyons State Park cliffs Holmes Creek Holmes Creek Canyon landscape nature Pic of the Week rock Texas travel West Texas https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/9/pic-of-the-week-9/2/22-holmes-creek-canyon Fri, 02 Sep 2022 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 8/26/22 "The Sunset Watcher" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/8/pic-of-the-week-8/26/22-the-sunset-watcher Pic of the Week 8/26/22

“The Sunset Watcher”

Location: Thornberry, TX

Date taken: 8/10/22

 

Sunset WatcherSunset WatcherThe skeletal remains of a tree gaze upon a stunning sunset over open pasture. I wonder how many sunsets this tree has watched. © Ben Jacobi

 

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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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) clouds landscape nature pic of the week silhouette sky sunset texas travel tree https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/8/pic-of-the-week-8/26/22-the-sunset-watcher Fri, 26 Aug 2022 15:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 8/19/22 "Panther Canyon Overlook Panorama" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/8/pic-of-the-week-8/19/22-panther-canyon-overlook-panorama Pic of the Week 8/19/22

“Panther Canyon Overlook Panorama”

Location: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, OK

Date taken: 7/21/22

 

My mind was racing at 100 thoughts per second as I raised and positioned my tripod. No doubt, there was only a few moments left of the spectacular display of color overhead. I was mentally smacking myself on the forehead for not finding an alternative composition earlier, but I suppose I became so fixated on my other shot that it was the only thing on my mind. You should always plan and have a backup composition in mind—especially when the light starts to kick off. After completing a successful shot of Panther Canyon, I started seeking out another composition. Scrambling to find a subject, I took to higher ground at the top of the Panther Canyon Overlook. The view down the canyon was now obstructed by the top of the cliffs, but Mount Marcy could be seen on the northern horizon. The sky overhead was just starting to ignite in a fiery glow.

A small rain cloud had moved overhead and began to sprinkle small drops of precipitation on our location. It didn’t last very long, but it did block the setting sun and gave me enough time to keep searching out a foreground. Shades of orange and pink began to stretch throughout the sky. The most vibrant and brilliant of which, stopped just over the summit of Mt. Marcy. I was frantically looking for some kind of foreground element to incorporate in my shot. Would this cactus work? What about this bush? Maybe one of those dead cedar trees? Nothing seemed to align right with the sky, and I was beginning to lose hope. I did find a cluster of boulders, but they were much too close for the lens I was using. If only I had brought my ultra-wide angle, I could capture this image.

The rocks were nothing special and very typical of the area. There were some interesting textures and shapes to them with just hints of bright-colored lichen. One thing I did notice, however, was the diagonal shape and lean of the boulders. These natural leading lines could work well to bring the viewer from the foreground to the background of the image. In a last-ditch effort, I decided to capture a four-image panorama of the scene. I focused for the rocks in the foreground and snapped a frame, then tilted my camera up towards the sky, refocused, and shot another frame. I then rotated my camera to the left, captured another frame, and tilted the camera down, refocused on the rocks, and captured my last frame. It wasn’t until after I made this series of images did I fully appreciate the scene before me.

 

Panther Canyon Overlook PanoramaPanther Canyon Overlook PanoramaLarge boulders top the 100 foot cliffs that run along the southern side of Panther Canyon. In the distance Mount Marcy looms over the open prairie and guards the Special Use Area of the refuge. © Ben Jacobi

The sky had erupted into a dazzling display of pink/orange glow next to a cobalt blue clouded sky. Strips of gold and yellow were lined along the horizon bringing out the silhouette of the distant mountains. Faint reflected light was shining down into the canyon and around the canyon walls. This extra splash of light helped separate the midground from the foreground. Lastly, the foreground was almost devoid of any light whatsoever, with just the smallest inklings of light bouncing off the scrubby vegetation and brightest parts of the rocks. Although under the same light, there was still just enough variation in color, size, and shape of the boulders to portray the depth in the foreground. The natural complimentary colors of green and red in the foreground plants help break the foreground up even more adding wonderful detail and anchor points for the eyes to rest on. The converging diagonal lines created by the sunset clouds and the shape of the rocks lead the eyes through the scene and to the main center of attention quite effortlessly. Anywhere you look there is something interesting in the photograph.

Now the light and color were gone, and it was time to get back to our vehicle and call it day. Our spontaneous sunset shoot in the Wichita Mountains was complete and both Ashlee and I captured some beautiful photos. You can see her interpretation of the sunset on her website here. It just goes to show, sometimes you gamble, and it pays of in a very big way!  

 

 

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) boulder landscape mountains nature Oklahoma Pic of the Week rock sky travel Wichita Mountains Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/8/pic-of-the-week-8/19/22-panther-canyon-overlook-panorama Fri, 19 Aug 2022 16:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 8/12/22 "Panther Creek Canyon" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/8/pic-of-the-week-8/12/22 Pic of the Week 8/11/22

“Panther Creek Canyon”

Location: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, OK

Date taken: 7/21/22

 

Panther Creek CanyonPanther Creek CanyonLooking into the chasm carved by Panther Creek. These cliffs reach heights of over 100 feet above the creek. The mountains of the Northern Wilderness can be seen in the distance. © Ben Jacobi

 

Last month Ashlee and I made a spontaneous decision to drive to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge…for sunset…on a weekday! I have to say it really paid off and I am so glad we did it. From time to time, I’ll get a wild hair and the desire to explore/ photograph becomes too great so I will disregard my current obligations and just go for it! We had spent the last few weeks in the sweltering north Texas heat, so when some storms brought much needed rain and cooler temperatures we wanted to be as close to the action as possible. Plus, these weather events tend to create the most dramatic skies.

While driving home from work, I noticed the wispy clouds of orphaned thunderstorm anvils stretch over the northern horizon. Small cumulus clouds billowed on the western horizon while the south and east were all clear. The ingredients for a spectacular sunset were coming together. When I arrived at the apartment, I heard the phrase every husband in the world wants to hear. “Hey Honey, Lets go shoot the sunset. And let’s go to the Wichita Mountains!” We were out the door a few moments later. In the excitement and hurrying we forgot to eat dinner. A quick pitstop to Whataburger satiated our hunger and soon we were on I44 crossing the Red River into Oklahoma.

Arriving at the Refuge, we noticed there were very few cars out on the road—we had the whole refuge to ourselves! With no people to worry about, any location would be available. Ashlee and I discussed where we would go for sunset, and we settled on the Panther Creek Overlook. Panther Creek starts about 4 miles north from the overlook. The runoff from Moko, Cedar, and many of the unnamed peaks in the North Wilderness converge along Gray Wolf Crossing forming the creek. Gravity flows the creek southward past Greenleaf Canyon and Mount Marcy. All these areas are in the special use part of the refuge and are closed to the public, but eventually the creek crosses Highway 49 into the public use area. It is here, the creek flows into the small Burford Lake. I’ve hiked this area a few times before, and every time I’m drawn to the steep dramatic cliffs on the south side of the lake.

Just past the dam of Burford Lake, the creek drops into a deep canyon as it curls around the rocky cliffs. The creek makes a sharp 90 degree turn to the east and this is where the overlook is located. Several rock outcroppings and large boulders offer a fantastic view of the canyon from this viewpoint. Driving along the Boulder Picnic/Lost Lake road you can catch glimpses of the dramatic canyon between the oak trees. We arrived at the “secret” parking area, and I immediately started looking for the rock outcrops to find my composition. Originally, I was planning to capture the bend in the creek below the summit of Mt Marcy, but when I arrived to scout the location, I found a better scene.

I walked along the cliff edge looking for some interesting rocks to use as a foreground. Luckily, I found this blocky angular rock jutting out over the cliff. I would use this rock to balance the right side of the composition and use the creek as a natural leading line on the left. The eye jumps from these anchors and moves upstream following the creek and out to the distant mountains. The far-right distant peak is Moko mountain. Just beyond that mountain is where Panther Creek begins. I had found my composition, now I just needed to wait on the light.

The low angle sun was peering through the clouds sending beams of light across the landscape. Hints of warm glow began to “kiss” the edges of the rock and vegetation in my foreground. This created excellent separation between my foreground, midground, and background. Without that light, the whole shot falls apart. I was fortunate to capture a few images as the light on the rocks never returned. Thicker clouds smothered the sun and the canyon remained in the shadows of the clouds. The sky did come alive in an exuberant burst of color later that evening, but that’s a story for another time.  

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) boulder creek landscape light mountains nature Oklahoma Pic of the Week rocks sky sunset travel Wichita Mountains Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/8/pic-of-the-week-8/12/22 Fri, 12 Aug 2022 15:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 8/5/22 "Fixer-Upper" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/8/pic-of-the-week-8/5/22-fixer-upper Pic of the Week 8/5/22

“Fixer-Upper”

Location: Grandfield, OK

Date taken: 7/18/22

 

I guess you could say I have a fascination with old relics and the night sky. In fact, if you browse through my NIGHT gallery you’ll find quite a few images with abandoned houses, dilapidated buildings, and downtrodden churches. There is something I find compelling about photographing the night sky above a remnant of the past. There’s a dichotomy in which the structures and buildings are decaying and crumbling, but under the same sky that was there all those years ago. During the pinnacle of their existence, the same milky way galaxy hovered over their roofs providing the same wonder I feel today. I suppose there’s a comfort in that sentiment.

Several of my nighttime subjects have been preyed on by old age and weathering. They no longer stand erect and collapsed into a disheveled piles of debris and ruins. The most recent of these (and one of my personal favorites) “Slamma Rd Barn” has unfortunately met its demise. 100 years of history swept away in the gust of a thunderstorm. This helps me realize the urgency in which to document these old historic places. On a drive through Grandfield, OK I noticed one of my subjects on the verge of complete ruin and I knew I needed to capture it before the next storm season rolls in.

This old homestead has been on my radar for a few years now, but I just now got around to photographing it. I haven’t done too much astro-landscape photography this year and I knew I wanted this house in front of the milky way. Better late than never! Ashlee and I drove the short distance out to the location and arrived just in time to catch the sun setting in the western horizon. Conditions looked promising as only a few wispy clouds hanging around the south. When we pulled up, I noticed a small cable fence blocking off the entrance to the homestead. A little disappointed, but respectful of the owner’s property, I found a composition behind the fence line that framed the little home around a small planting of trees. The milky way would be rising in less than an hour, so I needed to lock in my composition soon.

The home sits on the south side of US highway 70 just southeast of the Grandfield municipal airport. This would be in our favor as the light from the airport's tower would illuminate the house during our long exposures. Since it is so proximal to the town, the area does suffer from light pollution and two radio towers poke above the house. Nothing a little Photoshop can’t take care of, however. The house itself is a modest prairie home with what appears to be gothic or tudor influences with windows underneath pitched roofs with overhanging eaves. At one time it looked like a handsome homestead, but now the winds have pushed it beyond its structural limits and it has started caving in on itself. The west wall is leaning inward bulging out the north and east sides. The whole thing is warped and twisted in a way that reminds me of Dr. Seuss illustrations. The house does have a lot of character, however, and it makes an excellent subject for nighttime images.

When the sky was dark enough, we began taking images of the milky way above the old homestead. It was a peaceful time that allowed me to imagine what this house was like in its prime. In the daytime, this looks like a rough and ugly structure, but nighttime gives these old ruins a new life as they open windows into the past. What would it have been like living here? No doubt you had to have real grit and fortitude to live in this environment. With little trees the winds would be relentless, the summers brutal, and the winters inhospitable. But someone made it their home and I bet they sat out watching the stars every night staring at the same milky way I was seeing through my camera’s viewfinder.

 

Fixer-UpperFixer-Upper

© Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) abandoned landscape milky way nature night nighttime Oklahoma Pic of the Week rural sky star stars travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/8/pic-of-the-week-8/5/22-fixer-upper Fri, 05 Aug 2022 15:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 7/15/22 "Whiteface Mountain #1" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/7/pic-of-the-week-7/15/22 Pic of the Week 7/15/22

“Whiteface Mountain #1”

Location: Wilmington, NY

Date taken: 7/14/14

 

Whiteface Mountain #1Whiteface Mountain #1 © Ben Jacobi

 

Summer has fully arrived here in North Texas. High temperatures have been reaching above 100 degrees for the past few weeks and it looks like there is little relief in sight. In fact, next week looks to be the hottest of the whole year with highs exceeding 110 F! Times like these I try to ignore the blistering heat and reminisce on much cooler weather and more interesting landscapes. It was about this time eight years ago I was sitting atop Little Whiteface Mountain staring at Whiteface Mountain summit. Patches of wildflowers were swaying in the cool mountain breeze. How cool was it you ask? The high temperature that day was on 77 F at the base—it was cooler on the summit. For comparison here’s the LOW temperature for Wichita Falls that same day, 81F. The high was closer to 100 degrees. So, it was a fantastic reprieve from the heat.

In the summer of 2014, our family was having a reunion in upstate New York. I have visited New York several times before, but this time we rented a lodge in the quaint community of Elizabethtown. We spend days spending time with family, playing games in the backyard, and watching sunsets on the back porch. On our final day in New York, we drove to Whiteface Mountain to take the gondola ride up to Little Whiteface. The gondola starts at an elevation around 1250ft and ascends to 3678ft at the top of Little Whiteface. On the car ride up we could start to make out the peaks of the nearby Sentinel range of the Adirondack mountains. Way off in the western horizon we could start to see the High Peaks Wilderness reveal itself amongst the trees.   

We reached the top of Little Whiteface and immediately before us stood the intimidating summit of Whiteface Mountain. It was another 1200ft in elevation to the summit. The large pyramid-shaped peak loomed over the flat open knob we were on. High above on the summit, I could just make out the stone tower of the Summit Weather Observatory shining in the afternoon sunlight. Later that day we would drive to the summit of Whiteface and see the tower in a much closer view. But for now, I began walking down a path in hopes of finding a nice image. I didn’t have to go very far before I found something that interested me.

Heaps of wildflowers peppered the grassy hillsides. Each one unique in color and shape like an individual spice in a recipe that makes up the ecosystem. Bees and butterflies flitted about the veritable smorgasbord of flowering plant life, almost overwhelmed by the selection of choice flora of the area. I found a composition that featured many of these different wildflowers and a clear view of Whiteface’s peak. I used the ski trails as a natural leading line up to the summit of the mountain. There were excellent sky conditions with patches of light dancing on the mountain peaks. We didn’t stay too long on Little Whiteface, and this was the only good capture I made from this view. But it is still one of my favorite captures from this trip and I would sure love to be there right now. At the time of writing the blog post the ambient temperature is 72F on Little Whiteface.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Adirondack Adirondack Mountains Whiteface Adirondacks landscape Little mountain mountains nature New York Pic of the Week sky travel Whiteface" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/7/pic-of-the-week-7/15/22 Fri, 15 Jul 2022 05:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 7/8/22 "Coreopsis Chorus" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/7/pic-of-the-week-7/8/22 Pic of the Week 7/8/22

“Coreopsis Chorus”

Location: Ray Roberts Lake, TX

Date taken: 6/5/22

 

Coreopsis ChorusCoreopsis ChorusA field of Coreopsis wildflowers in the glow of dawn on Ray Roberts Lake. © Ben Jacobi

 

It is hard to believe this time has already arrived. To quote my wonderful wife, “It feels like a lifetime and just yesterday”. It has been one year (and now month) since we were married and to celebrate, I planned us a trip to Denton, TX. Though our anniversary would not focus too much on photography, we still had an amazing time. We walked in the square, visited bookstores, restaurants, arcades, theaters, spas, and nature preserves. It was jam-packed with adventure, but very little photography. For accommodations, we rented out an Airbnb ranch house on Windmill Hill near Ray Roberts Lake in Sanger. Just a short drive to downtown Denton, but enough out of the way we could still see the stars. Our humble ranch home was just a stone’s throw away form Ray Roberts Lake. We remained hopeful we would be able to photograph the lake at sunrise or sunset. However, the first night we were there, it was pouring rain. So no sunset shoot. We remained hopeful the weather would clear by the next morning and maybe we could try to catch sunrise?

The next morning, we awoke from our Airbnb just twenty minutes before sunrise. I honestly wasn’t expecting too much so I didn’t plan accordingly, and our peaceful morning quickly turned to a hurried dash to the lake to capture the good light. One of the local farm dogs, Willie, joined us for the sunrise sprint. Despite the proximity, we missed the best light and only had time to plop down our tripods in front of some trees near the lake shore. But the consolation prize was watching Willie and Ashlee swim around in the muddy lake water. We missed the sunrise, but we were eager to explore more of the area. Perhaps we could try the sunrise shoot tomorrow morning.

We trapsed around the muddy embankment searching out potential photographs with Willie attached to our heels. A small trail led us to an open meadow between the trees. Soon our ears were vibrating from the buzzing of bees and flies darting back and forth in the meadow. Hundreds of wildflowers were scattered all through the meadow. Horsemint, primrose, fleabane, winecup, thistle, and coreopsis flowers were blanketing the ground transforming the meadow into a multi-colored sea of wildflowers. Willie began to leap and frolic through the blooms. Now that’s more like it! I began scoping out my sunrise location while Ashlee focused her attention on the insects and flora of the area. My searching brought me to the edge of a patch of bright yellow coreopsis wildflowers. My eye was drawn into the scene by the natural leading lines created by the rows of flowers. I spent several minutes refining my composition and imagining the sunrise coming up over the landscape. Finally, I settled on what I thought would be the composition to best showcase the wildflower field, lake, and sunrise. Willie looked at me with a tail-wag confirming my thoughts. Looks like I found my shot.

Now, it was time to get back and enjoy our busy day of anniversary activities. We had a nice breakfast, then went to the Denton square to check out the bookstore and a local camera store. From there we drove to our couples massage at Ashlee’s favorite spa and grabbed some lunch. The final event of the night was a stop to the Alamo Drafthouse for dinner and a movie. After coming back from town (and thoroughly exhausted) we set our alarm, this time for an hour before sunrise, and drifted off to sleep. On our final morning, we awoke to find a wonderful layer of high clouds hovering over the eastern horizon, this could prove to be a great sunrise! With enough time to spare, we found our sunrise compositions we scouted before, and patiently waited for the light to kick off. As the early morning sun climbed higher and higher to the horizon the high cirrus clouds began to reflect the brilliant orange color. This reflected light back down to the coreopsis flowers in my composition causing them to glow. They almost seemed to resonate in the early morning light. It was like the flowers were singing all at once in jovial chorus to greet the morning. I excitedly snapped my camera’s shutter documenting the scene.

This image was somewhat of a technical challenge in both the shooting method and post processing. Since I was so close to the flowers in the foreground, I needed to focus stack. I would try to capture one image focused for the flowers in the foreground and then capture another image for the focus on the background. This would ensure I had a large depth of field throughout the image. But this procedure only works when the flowers are stationary. When the wind is blowing—even just a light breeze—the shot becomes incredibly difficult to achieve. Thankfully, I was able to capture the necessary exposures during a brief lull in the wind. It wasn’t long before the sun peeked over the horizon and all the meadow was washed in golden sunlight. Satisfied with my image, I packed up my camera bag and enjoyed the morning on the lake. While I didn’t pull my camera out too much on this trip, I did make sure to capitalize on the opportunities. What a fantastic way to celebrate our anniversary!

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) clouds coreopsis denton flower flowers lake landscape nature pic of the week ray roberts lake sky sunrise texas travel wildflowers https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/7/pic-of-the-week-7/8/22 Fri, 08 Jul 2022 15:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 7/1/22 "Broken Earth" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/7/pic-of-the-week-7/1/22 Pic of the Week 7/1/22

“Broken Earth”

Location: Jefferson County, OK

Date taken: 6/1/22

 

Broken EarthBroken EarthWater and rain errode the soft dirt in this drainage. Vegetation takes root and holds the soll together creating tiny islands of brush and grass in the red dirt.

© Ben Jacobi

 

Things have been bit busy lately and I haven’t finished editing images in a timely manner, but I will have some new ones to share in the coming weeks. For this weeks Pic of the Week, we must go back to last month where Ashlee and I took a gamble, but you can ask yourself if it paid off or not. Once again, we found ourselves sitting around the apartment eager to go out and photograph something. The weather was decent, and clouds looked to be quite favorable for a nice sunset. Storms were predicted to develop into the early evening and overnight, but that only motivated us even more. I was hoping we would take the short drive to a location I have named “Broken Earth” just across the river in southern Oklahoma. It didn’t take much coaxing to Ashlee on board and soon we were loading up and driving to the location.

Its important to note that I have never been to this area before and I didn’t really know what to expect along the way. We crossed the Red River and into Oklahoma and drove east on highway 70. This drive is always pleasant. There are several small hills and gently rolling terrain along this drive. Occasionally, you can catch glimpses of the Red River in between the mesquite and wild plum brush on the tops of the hills. Our route took us past a familiar spot where a bend in the river meets up with Highway 70. I shot a milky way image here a few years back after the river had flooded. Not long after passing the landmark we got off the highway and started scooting along the backroads. Time to put the vehicle in four-wheel drive.

 Driving along the rough dirt and gravel roads of rural Oklahoma we pass by several potential astrophotography subjects including things like run down barns, old windmills, scenic high points, and stock tanks. Eventually, we reach our destination. The “Broken Earth” is larger than I expected and while it looked great on satellite, its hard to convey the depth in the scene and I turn my attention the mesa just to our north. This would serve as my background and center of attention in my composition. The clouds had started to roll in by now and it looked like our sunset chances were squandered. There were small hints of color hitting the very top of the clouds, but it was looking like we busted.

While gathering up our gear, I spotted one more composition and decided to give it a go. I put on my ultra-wide Tamron 15-30mm lens and lowered the tripod to near ground level squeezing the camera under a barbed wire fence. This brought a tuft of dirt and grass in the lower left balancing out the mesa in the top right. I also took advantage of the great leading lines left over from intermittent stream that runs after a good rain. This helps draw the eyes into the scene and back to the center of attention. When processing the photo, I used a triadic color harmony of green, blue, and red to help bring about cohesion and depth to the photo. So even though our gamble didn’t pay off for a sunset, we still got to explore a new area and I got a very pleasing shot from the experience.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) clouds dirt farm landscape mesa nature Oklahoma Pic of the Week rural sky sunset travel weather https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/7/pic-of-the-week-7/1/22 Fri, 01 Jul 2022 17:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 6/10/22 "Cumulonimbus Theater" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/6/pic-of-the-week-6/10/22 Pic of the Week 6/10/22

“Cumulonimbus Theater”

Location: Cashion Community, TX

Date taken: 5/13/22

 

 

Cumulonimbus TheaterCumulonimbus TheaterAn isolated mesquite tree stands below a towering cumulonimbus cloud catching the last light of day.

Sometimes, its nice to just stop and smell the roses…er…watch the grass grow? No, that’s not right. Its better to stop and watch a riveting performance in the heavens. A veritable meteorological theater show. The stage for this show? How about the vast southern plains sky? The cast? How about an isolated slow moving, low-precipitation supercell and a lone mesquite tree? Lighting? Yup, we got that covered too. Everything is in place, now you just need an audience. In a way, you could say the severe thunderstorm warning was the flyer to the show, and once it entered our county that was our ticket to the performance. With high hopes, we gathered our gear and waited to intercept the storm. Thankfully, there were a few to check out. We opted for the northern most storm as it made its way into Wichita County. Another photogenic southern cell was developing just west of town, and we could see it from our location. The skinny updraft was taking on a “barber shop” pole profile with several layers of helical striations. Our storm started inching closer and closer to our location. We had positioned ourselves in such a way that we had a front row seat on all the action. The show was about to begin.

The opening act started with a nice display of anticrepuscular rays emanating from the east. These gold beams of light dance delicately along the horizon. Act II started with a rumbling of thunder resonating through the open farmland. Bolts of plasma struck down from an elevated bowl-shaped base. Side light from the late afternoon sun shaped and sculpted the surging updraft as it towered into the troposphere. Not a bad way to start. While it was beautiful, I couldn’t help myself searching out more interesting subjects/characters. A quick scan of the surrounding area and I was able to locate a lone mesquite tree about 100 yards down the road.

Now things were starting to come together. I was introduced to a new character of the play, the lone mesquite tree, and I was excited to see how it would perform off the other cast members. It started out a little slow, but tension was building and as the sun sank lower in the horizon the drama started to crescendo. A dance began between the mesquite tree and the advancing supercell with the tree swaying in the wind. The storm churned, swirled, eddied, and undulated during its performance. The powerful chaotic motion was offset by the gentle trembling of the mesquite.

Finally, the piece de resistance appeared when the last gleam of light pierced the open sky and washed the updraft in a spectacular golden glow. It was such a large scene and such a short moment, that I was forced to record the photo with a handheld four image vertical panorama. Not long after I made my capture, rain began to fall and opening the final act of the performance. The storm had made its way more southward than east, and we were soon slammed with a sheet of precipitation. While I did appreciate the strong finish in the performance, I should have been more mindful of the parking situation. I sprinted on the wet asphalt back to my vehicle some 100 yards away.  Clutching my camera and tripod I ran through the rain and wind and finally arrived to the shelter of my vehicle. Ashlee was already there waiting on me. I sat in the car panting drenched in rain while the storm raged on outside. With a thunderous (see what I did there) applause, we said goodbye to the storm and made our way out of the rain. Five out of five stars. Would definitely go again!

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Cashion Community landscape nature Pic of the Week severe weather sky storm Texas thunderstorm travel weather https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/6/pic-of-the-week-6/10/22 Fri, 10 Jun 2022 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 6/3/22 "Long Mountain Sunset" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/6/pic-of-the-week-6/3/22 Pic of the Week 6/2/22

“Long Mountain Sunset”

Location: Snyder, OK

Date taken: 4/23/22

 

This is the last photo from our 4/23 photography day. I have already shared two other stories from this day. I’ll pick up right where I left off from the previous post—just after it started raining on us. Little sprinkles of water quickly turned to a drenching rain causing the red dirt roads we were driving on to become soft and mushy. Luckily, I had my 4WD and bigger tires to keep us grounded on the slippery path. The road took us east and then south as we made our way to highway 54. It wasn’t too long before we were out of the rain and looking back to the north to see Cutthroat Gap and our previous subject, Baker Peak, become engulfed in a curtain of precipitation. Bright flashes of lightning crashed to the ground signaling to us we were too close to the storm. We decided to continue north and wait for the storm to pass over the mountains.

When we reached highway 19, we turned west to the town of Roosevelt, OK. Storms were beginning to go up along the dryline and we could see some thunderheads in the distance. We still had a few hours before sunset, and we went searching for a good location for sunset shooting. We drove south on 183 through the Glen Mountains and Great Plains State Park/Tom Steed Reservoir. The pyramid shaped mountains in the distance caught our eyes a few times. Maybe we could use those in our sunset shoot? We pressed on southward watching the towers build just to our northeast. Stopping outside of Mountain Park, we found an unusual old structure to frame against the developing storms. We stayed here for a while before moving on towards Snyder.

 

Thunderheads build above an abandoned structure near Snyder, OK.

 

The storms passed and we pulled into a gas station in Snyder to plan our next move. Sunset was just under an hour away and the storms building further southwest looked to impede the good light and color. With that in mind, we tried to find a good view of the distant mountains but were unsuccessful in finding a road with a good view. A little distraught, we tried to salvage the sunset by driving near the mine on Long Mountain. But once again the roads were not in our favor, and we were met with a gated entrance. We turned around and began thinking of another plan. Then, the eastern sky exploded in a brilliant orange hue. With nowhere else to go we stopped just at the base of the mountain and gazed on the incredible light show that was going on over the distant mountains. Ashlee got out her camera to attempt to capture something from the sunset, but I already knew it was lost. I turned my attention to Long Mountain in hopes of maybe capturing some lightning over the peak.

The storms to the southwest had evolved into mature supercells and we starting to catch a glimmer of the last of the sunlight. A small window between the clouds allowed just enough light to poke through for a short duration. Slowly, the light started to get better and better. The faint pinkish hue transformed into a brilliant orange glow reflecting off the storm tops. It was so bright and vivid that the wet boulders on long mountain reflected the incredible color. I didn’t have much of a foreground, but I still had to try and capture something from this scene. I zoomed my 24-70mm lens all the way to 70mm trying to fill as much of the frame with the mountain and the storm clouds. I captured this image at the peak light—the height of the sunset. There was something almost ethereal about the scene. The way the clouds swirled above, and the grass swayed in the wind made the whole landscape appear to be alive and breathing. I stood amazed as the clouds billowed, the wind howled, the thunder boomed, and the color waned. Shortly, the entire area was under a blanket of blue as the last light faded and night settled in.

Long Mountain SunsetLong Mountain SunsetThunderstorm towers glow in the evening light behind Long Mountain in southerwestern Oklahoma.

© Ben Jacobi

 

It was the perfect end to an amazing day of photography, though the drive back home was quite eventful with storms, hail, and lightning. We were both so tired from the driving and adrenaline that we agreed to just continue to our apartment. I spent a little extra time carefully processing this one to bring out the color as accurately as my memory would allow. It truly was a fantastic day of photography!  

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) landscape mountain nature Oklahoma Pic of the Week sky storm sunset supercell thunderstorm travel weather Wichita Mountains https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/6/pic-of-the-week-6/3/22 Fri, 03 Jun 2022 15:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 5/27/22 "Imminent Storm #2" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/5/pic-of-the-week-5/27/22 Pic of the Week 5/27/22

“Imminent Storm #2”

Location: Wichita Mountains, Cooperton, OK

Date taken: 4/23/22

 

You may be wondering, from the title of this image, where exactly is Imminent Storm #1. Well, its somewhere deeply buried in an old hard drive under my desk lost to a slew of unorganized file folders and fragmented data. The image was one of my first favorite storm photos. It was right before I started to try and shoot lightning. The photo displays a developing storm in the setting sunlight on the eastern horizon. Half of the storm is lit up in bright yellow and the other half is a gloomy gray. Below the storm, four sequential houses are silhouetted against the dark sky. This helped bring scale and drama to the image. Like I said, I would share it with you, but it is somewhere in my archives. Regardless, I captured an updated “Imminent Storm” photo from our trip to the western edge of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge back in April.

Not long after I captured the photo from my previous blog entry, I captured this image. Storm clouds were beginning to build bigger and bigger and soon our sun was blotted out by a thick gray band of advancing cumulus towers. Storms began erupting just beyond the mountains and the booming of thunder boomed down the valley. We started to make our way back to the paved road as I didn’t want to be on these red dirt paths during a downpour. Though we didn’t get too far as we saw something that really caught our attention.

Thunderstorms were moving in over the mountains now and a few drops of rain landed on our windshield. We were parked on the side of the road staring at the northwestern corner of Baker Peak. Small undulating hills line this side of the peak and are abruptly interrupted with crags and boulders closer to the summit. New updraft towers were accelerating just beyond the refuge and a pocket of sunlight filtered in through the rain. A closer nearby storm began to let loose and downpour on the valley. This framed up nicely with my composition making the left edge of the shot. Turkey vultures took flight from the cliffs seeking sanctuary from the storm. The edge of the storm stretched out just above the length of Baker Peak creating a window effect to the image. As I was capturing these images, I felt the same excitement that evening I captured “Imminent Storm #1”. It just goes to show, it doesn’t matter how many times I photograph a storm its always exciting and always an adventure!  

 

Imminent Storm #2 Wichita MountainsImminent Storm #2 Wichita MountainsBillowing thunderheads rise above the northern slopes of Baker Peak. Turkey vultures circle the craggy summits while rain washes over the valley. © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/5/pic-of-the-week-5/27/22 Fri, 27 May 2022 17:51:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 5/20/22 "Baker Peak Wichita Mountains" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/5/pic-of-the-week-5/20/22 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.

 

Baker PeakBaker PeakSplashes of sunlight highlight this tranqil valley at the base of the 2400 ft elevation Baker Peak. © Ben Jacobi

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/5/pic-of-the-week-5/20/22 Fri, 20 May 2022 15:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 5/13/22 "The Scotland Mesas" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/5/pic-of-the-week-5/13/22 Pic of the Week 5/13/22

“The Scotland Mesas”

Location: Scotland, TX

Date taken: 4/22/22

 

The Scotland MesasThe Scotland MesasThe setting sun sinks below the small hills and buttes I have named "The Scotland Mesas". © Ben Jacobi

 

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”.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/5/pic-of-the-week-5/13/22 Fri, 13 May 2022 15:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 5/6/22 "On the Red River" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/5/pic-of-the-week-5/6/22-on-the-red-river 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.

 

On the Red RiverOn the Red RiverExploring the sandy shorline of the Red River near Highway 79 in Texas.

© 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

 

© Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/5/pic-of-the-week-5/6/22-on-the-red-river Fri, 06 May 2022 15:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 4/8/22 "Hollister High School Star Trails" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/4/pic-of-the-week-4/8/22 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

 

Hollister High School Star Trails

© Ben Jacobi

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/4/pic-of-the-week-4/8/22 Fri, 08 Apr 2022 16:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 4/1/22 "Sunset Tree Panorama" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/4/pic-of-the-week-4/1/22 Pic of the Week 4/1/22

“Sunset Tree Panorama”

Location: Burkburnett, TX

Date taken: 3/14/22

 

Sunset Tree PanoramaSunset Tree PanoramaPanoramic image of a beautiful sunset under our local "Sunset Tree".

© 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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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) landscape mesquite tree nature panorama Pic of the Week sky sunset Sunset Tree Texas travel tree https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/4/pic-of-the-week-4/1/22 Fri, 01 Apr 2022 15:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 3/25/22 "Mossy Morning" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/3/pic-of-the-week-3/25/22 Pic of the Week 3/25/22

“Mossy Morning”

Location: Bonham State Park, Bonham, TX

Date taken: 2/20/22

 

 

I love lines. I love straight lines, curvy lines, diagonals, converging lines, diverging lines, whatever lines I can find. Often times, this is one of the first things I look for when scoping out a composition. There’s just something about using a leading line to draw the viewer’s eye right to your subject that I find fascinating in photography. These lines can be used more than just drawing the eye to the subject. Lines can create barriers and even frames that keep the viewer’s attention on the main subject.  

While we were out exploring Bonham State Park, I noticed this grouping of stacked logs on the forest floor. The rising sun was peering through the forest illuminating just short pockets of the scene. The most interesting portions of the photo were lit with a soft early morning luminescence. The green moss glowed in the warmth and added extra depth to the scene.

In addition to lines, you can also use transitions of light or color to help draw the viewers attention. Depending on where the light is in relation to the subject, this technique can really help focus the eye to the main subject. Looking at this image you’ll notice the main subject(s) are illuminated by the sunlight. All the other parts of this photo are primarily in shadows. This creates areas for your eyes to move and rest throughout the photo.

Looking from the bottom right, my eye wants to follow the line of the log out to the next log, then stops once where the moss ends and turns to the log lit in full sunlight. It then flows to the next log (which is darker than the previous area, but lighter than the background) and then it follows that branch to the left to the next grouping of branches. It then turns back to the center and repeats the whole process. This transition from light to dark to light to dark to light to dark keeps the eye continuously moving throughout the scene. It’s a photo that your eyes just want to study.

Not only can you use physical lines and light to direct the eye. The same techniques can be implemented with color. If you look at this image you may notice the key (main) color in this is yellow-green. But what you might not see at first is there are subtle hues of red and blue in this image. This creates a triadic color harmony that groups pleasing colors next to each other. With varying levels of saturation, you eye automatically knows where to pay attention in the photograph. This color separation really makes the photo “pop” off the screen and adds great depth to the scene. Who ever knew a bundle of sticks could be so photogenic…Just for fun here's a black and white version of the photo. Enjoy!

 

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/3/pic-of-the-week-3/25/22 Fri, 25 Mar 2022 18:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 3/18/22 "Henrietta Supercell" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/3/pic-of-the-week-3/18/22 Pic of the Week 3/18/22

“Henrietta Supercell”

Date taken: 5/7/14

Location: Henrietta, TX

 

Were just a few days away from the vernal equinox and the generally agreed upon first day of spring. Although, as of lately the cold temperatures and days of winter precipitation would disagree. But for the most part we are heading towards springtime and that means one thing—thunderstorms! Yes, its that time of year again where we gather our friends and head out on the open road in search of that “Majestic Noise”. Last year, I only saw a handful of storms and barely even photographed any of them. That was mostly due to the wedding. In fact, there was the most spectacular storm on the day of our wedding. When Ashlee and I stepped outside we were chomping at the bit wanting to go storm chasing, but we knew we had more important things to do, like the cut the wedding cake. I am very much looking forward to this year’s storm season, but I am remaining cautiously optimistic for the opportunities that may come our way.

With gas prices going the way they are, I think we will be chasing even less than in previous years. At the very least, we will be much more selective about our targets. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center is predicting a La Nina pattern that will transition to an enso neutral by the end of summer. As far as storms go that usually means we will see drier and warmer conditions (think drought) throughout much of the spring/summer. To that end, I have decided to reminisce on one of past storm chases to help inspire me for the upcoming season. Here’s hoping there’s a little bit of luck this year.

 

CPC 3 Month Precipitation Outlook. https://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/

For this image, we will need to return to a muggy May afternoon in 2014. I was standing at the glass door at my place of work watching distant towers billow in the late afternoon sun. Severe weather was expected and all modes of sever weather would be possible including wind, rain, hail, and tornadoes. I watched the towers build and form into cumulonimbus clouds bringing down hazy veils of rain through the updraft bases. Lightning would burst from the upper levels and strike the ground far away from its origin. It wasn’t too long before I heard those words every storm chaser wants to hear, “You can go ahead and leave early.”

I didn’t take much for me to get my gear packed up and meet up with my friends Billy and Tyler. After they arrived, we headed off towards our target, which thankfully was close by over Lake Arrowhead. Storms had breached the cap and were erupting along the dryline, as they propagated northeast, they would move into a more unstable environment with wind fields conducive to tornado development. We intercepted the storm just east of Scotland, TX. Low hanging tendrils began to dance around the base of a bowl-shaped wall cloud. This storm looked like it was about to go tornadic.

The blaring alarm from the National Weather Service weather radio went off just above Tyler’s head giving both of a jump scare. The NWS had issued a tornado warning with radar indicated rotation being the main reason. We tried to parallel the storm as it moved through Henrietta. It was at this time we saw the infamous “red shoe” Dominator of Reed Timmer and his team parked along the side of the highway access road. Shortly, the core of the storm engulfed them and 3” hail stones fell all around them. We just barely escaped the core. We continued driving north to get in better position. Now, the sun was getting lower and we lost contrast on the storm. The only way to remedy this is to get in the shadow of the supercell. As we approached the storm, we could start to make out the telltale signs of a healthy supercell. A large inflow band wrapped around the barrel shaped mesocyclone. Dry air was cutting into the backside of the updraft base forming a clear slot. This would be the best position to watch the storm.

We pulled over off some county road near Hwy 79 and watched as the updraft churned over the pastureland. A gusty wind blew in from the southeast feeding warm unstable air into the supercell. The grasses swayed in the wind and the low booming of thunder rumbled through the ground. We stood in awe watching the stunning structure and admiring the patterns and colors of the storm. Bolts of white-hot lightning crashed down around us in a dizzying, strobe-like sequence. We didn’t have much time as the lighting was getting to close, but I did manage to stay long enough to capture this handheld image of the cycling storm. Our chase didn’t stop here, we would continue to follow the storm as it crossed the Red River into Oklahoma. We chased along side it until the last light of day not seeing any tornadoes, but still plenty happy with our successful chase day.

 

Here's a very old video from this chase day.


Henrietta SupercellHenrietta Supercell

© Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) hail landscape mesocyclone nature Pic of the Week rain severe weather sky storm storm chaser storm chasing storms supercell Texas thunderstorms travel weather wind https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/3/pic-of-the-week-3/18/22 Fri, 18 Mar 2022 15:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 3/11/22 "Prescribed Burn" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/3/pic-of-the-week-3/11/22 Pic of the Week 3/11/22

“Prescribed Burn”

Location: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Date taken: 3/5/22

 

It has been quite some time since I last changed things up. In fact, I’ve been doing the same old thing for the last five years. As the old adage goes “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But who wants to stay stagnant? Who wants to just barely unlock their potential? Some of you might be thinking I’m talking about life, but much like everything thing else in my life, I am talking about my photography. More specifically, I’m talking about my post processing and editing workflow.

Now, I won’t bore you with the changes that I have made and the new techniques I’ve adopted, but I will tell you that I am very excited for this change. So my style might be wobbly as I work this new workflow. So now that I have a new system, I’m going to need some new photographs to accompany that. Last weekend Ashlee and I made a drive to the Wichita Mountains. It was warm and windy and an unusual 80F. Ashlee was excited at the hopes of seeing wildlife, but I was disappointed in the boring blue skies.

We piddled around the refuge with no real direction or reason. One thing that was great was the visitor center is finally open again and we stopped in and said hi Ranger Randy, something we haven’t been able to do for nearly a year now. As we drove around the refuge searching for subjects to photograph, we came across an area that had recently been burned. Throughout the year the refuge does prescribed burns in certain areas of the refuge. These help restore native plants and habitat and mimic the naturally occurring wildfires that occur.

This change in the landscape made an otherwise ordinary scene much more interesting. We parked at the Burford Lake parking area and Ashlee went looking for wildlife while I scoured the burn scar for interesting compositions. I finally settled on one that featured a uniquely shaped rock surrounded by by black dirt and small boulders. In the distance the prominent Mt Marcy rose above the prairie. I found my shot and eagerly waited for sunset. The sun would be going down just off to my left bringing strong side light on the scene. Since there were no clouds to be scene, I tried to put as much emphasis on the foreground. The black dirt contrasted nicely with the harsh sunlight over the mountains and just a hint of it on the foreground. Overall, I am quite happy with this result and I can the potential that this new processing method can bring to my work.

 

Prescribed burns may leave the ground scarred, but it brings about new growth and life in the ecosytem. Often it is implemented as an invasive species control method.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/3/pic-of-the-week-3/11/22 Fri, 11 Mar 2022 20:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 3/3/22: Beaver Lodge Sunset/Sunrise https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/3/pic-of-the-week-3/3/22 Pic of the Week 3/4/22

“Beaver Lodge Sunset/Sunrise”

Location: Bonham State Park, TX

Date taken: 2/20/22

 

 

Realtors know and beavers both know it! When it comes to building a home its location, location, location! And what better place to set up and raise some beaver pups than a beautiful lakeside lodge. While out exploring the trails at Bonham state park, Ashlee and I found this beaver lodge near the shore. We had some hopes we would see Mr. and Mrs. Beaver hanging around, but they never really showed up for us. We did some more exploring, but I couldn’t find anything that would work for sunset. So, I decided to return to the beaver lodge and see if I could squeeze out a shot. Although the sky was empty, several rounds of black vultures intersected my composition and added a little bit for detail to an otherwise boring sky. I was able to find a composition that interested me. The leaflitter and grass floating on the surface of the lake created a triangular leading line out to the lodge. The backlight glow on the leaflitter really helped separate it from the darker water adding more depth to the scene. I waited until the sun had set below the horizon and the last gleam of light stretched out over the sky. Given the circumstances, I think this shot came out quite nice. But maybe I would get better conditions tomorrow morning for sunrise?

 

The next morning, we woke up early with the promise of some high clouds off to our west. High clouds generally produce more colorful sunrises/sunsets. This wispy cirrus clouds danced overhead in the soft twilight of morning. We gathered our gear and made our way back down to the beaver’s lodge. This time we found Mr. and Mrs. Beaver enjoying a morning swim around the lake. They spotted us pretty quickly and one of them slapped their tail on the water to warn the others of the human “threat”. We apologized for our encroachment and assured them we would leave as soon as the light got too harsh. I found again my composition and framed up my shot earnestly waiting for the first color of sunrise to arrive. A layer of cloud was blocking the sun near the horizon, but it did allow some sun rays to strike only the highest portions of the sky. Thankfully, the lake was still calm and would capture a nice reflection of the sunrise. For a few moments the sky burst with pinks and purples perfectly mirrored in the glass-like reflection of the lake. Though the color did not last long, I was able to get a few captures during the climax. Soon after, the sun broke above the cloud layer and warm front light began flooding the scene. That was our cue to bid adieu to the Beaver family and return to the trail searching out more subjects to photograph. Which of these two photos do you enjoy more?

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) beaver beaver lodge Bonham Bonham State Park lake landscape lodge nature Pic of the Week sky sunrise sunset Texas Texas state parks travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/3/pic-of-the-week-3/3/22 Fri, 04 Mar 2022 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 2/11/22 "Hoodoo Dreamscape" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/2/pic-of-the-week-2/11/22 Pic of the Week 2/11/22

“Hoodoo Dreamscape”

Location: Clay County, TX

Date taken: 2/4/22

 

Hoodoo DreamscapeHoodoo DreamscapeDo Hoodoos even dream? © Ben Jacobi

 

What do hoodoos dream? Do hoodoos even dream? Am I just asking frivolous questions to fill in the introduction? Some of these questions need responses, but sadly it is only up to our imagination to answer them. Maybe they hoodoos are just daydreaming…er nightdreaming? I have small collection of images that call “Dreamscapes”. These photos are just so fantastical or ethereal that they almost transcend the reality of the moment and I find myself drifting off into another world. These are the dreamscapes. There is some criteria for an image to be dreamscape, but what I have noticed is all of them are captured during the night. Maybe it has to do with my fascination of the night sky, but every time I’m out under the stars I feel transported to another world. And if you can get unique photogenic conditions (such as snow on the ground) it immerses you more into the fantasy.

At beginning of February, a potent winter storm made its way through our area bringing bouts of freezing rain, sleet, and snow. It was so bad that I was called off work both Thursday and Friday that week. Luckily, the sun came out Friday and Ashlee and I were able to get out and look for some photographs. I had the idea to visit a little hoodoo garden that’s close by—well, closer than Copper Breaks. Ever since I visited these little geological rock formations, I became intrigued with the idea of capturing an astro-landscape shot with the hoodoos. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many compositions that show the best angles of the hoodoos. This was going to need a different approach.

We made our way down the slick and icy road carefully navigating the curves and twists with caution. The constantly blowing winds built up snow drifts around the barbed wire fences. Some were over a foot deep. It took a little bit more time, but eventually we arrived on location. The sky was completely clear and perfectly still. A gentle breeze blew in from the south. The sun was starting to set and our subject was washed with warm golden light. Around the hoodoos snow had accumulated in small swells as it moved along the low rolling terrain. This encased the hoodoos in a wintry blanket and added a fantastical feel to the image. I had found my composition and I quickly grabbed my camera and planted my tripod. 

The sky transitioned from a pale blue-yellow gradient to a pastel pink and purple hue. Out in the distance, a coyote called signaling the start of evening. The temperatures began to drop rapidly, and we were poised waiting on the stars trying to distract ourselves to keep warm. Blue hour had started, and it was time to start capturing my base images. Since I had such a close and tight composition, I had to focus stack to get both hoodoos in sharp focus. Instead of having sharp stars, I chose not to adjust my focus rendering the pinpoints of distant light into large glimmering discs in my viewfinder. This made the image look even more dreamy. Now we just needed to wait for a few more stars to pop out.

Finally, the stars revealed themselves at the beginning of night. I captured my star exposures and we called it day. In the western horizon the crescent moon sank, and the orange glow from the sun extinguished. We carefully made our way back on the icy road and safely made it back home. The blending of this image took a lot of extra time and patience, but I think we can agree the end result was worth it. I combined a total of 12 images to create this final composite. The first two were the focus-stacked hoodoos at blue hour, then another single blue hour exposure just before the stars fully came out. Lastly, I took nine frames of the stars and stacked them to reduce the noise and blended all these together for the final image.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) dreamscape hoodoo hoodoos ice landscape nature night night sky nightscape Pic of the Week sky snow stars Texas travel winter https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/2/pic-of-the-week-2/11/22 Fri, 11 Feb 2022 17:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 2/4/22 "View of the Brazos https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/2/pic-of-the-week-2/4/22  

Pic of the Week 2/4/22

“View on the Brazos”

Location: Possum Kingdom Lake, Texas

Date taken: 1/30/22

 

When you think of the Brazos River certain historical names and events may come to mind such as: “Sam Huston”, “San Felipe”, “Washington on the Brazos”. Names that are endemic to Texas heritage. Tall tales of battles with native Americans, outlaws on the run, and the hardship of pioneer settlement, are among some of the stories the river holds. Being one of the largest rivers in the state of Texas there’s no doubt it plays a major role in Texas life and culture. Texas author John Graves wrote about it in his book “Goodbye to a River”. One of which, I highly recommend you check out.

After reading his book, it should be no surprise that I became interested in the seeing the Brazos River. One of the best and most accessible places to view the river is at the end of Possum Kingdom Lake just downstream of the dam. The Brazos River Authority has established a campground and picnic area under the Red Bluff mesa. You can also hike the Brazos River Nature Trail that offers several up-close views of the river. But I was more interested in capturing the entire landscape of the area and to do that I would need to get much higher.

Fortunately, the BRA’s (Brazos River Authority) main office is located on top of Red Bluff. I wanted this shot for sunrise, but Ashlee wanted to shoot wildlife. So, we made a simple decision. I would drop Ashlee off at the Brazos River Nature Trailhead so she could shoot wildlife, and I would drive up to the Possum Kingdom Dam overlook near the BRA’s main office to shoot sunrise. When I pulled into the gate I was a little upset to see a tall iron fence blocking my view from the overlook. There were just a few gaps where I could manage to fit my camera in place and have an unobstructed shot of the landscape.

From this overlook, you can take in the sights of the Morris Sheppard Dam and placid waters of Possum Kingdom Lake. Being atop Red Bluff there is a spectacular view of the Brazos River as it snakes its way eastward. Towering mesas and cliffs line the edge of the river creating some dramatic terrain and relief. After carefully scouting the overlook, I was able to find an angle on the river and landscape through the fence. It was a little sketchy, but I was able to capture a nice photo even if I was putting my equipment at risk.

With my camera poised and at the ready I waited for the sun to break the horizon. Shafts of gold light came streaming across the scene and lit up the distant cliffs and mesas. The frost from the crisp morning gleamed in the sunlight shining on the treetops and shimmering on the grasses below. I kept capturing more and more images as the sun climbed higher bringing more of the landscape into the warm glow of morning. Finally, the sun got too high, and I called the morning a success. It was an excellent start to an excellent day, and I have plenty of other photos from this adventure to share. But for now I will leave you to enjoy this morning view on the Brazos River.

 

View on the BrazosView on the BrazosLooking downstream of the Brazos river from the dam at Possum Kingdom Lake. © Ben Jacobi

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Brazos River landscape morning nature Palo Pinto Mountains Pic of the Week Possum Kingdom Possum Kingdom Lake sunrise Texas travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/2/pic-of-the-week-2/4/22 Fri, 04 Feb 2022 17:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 1/28/22 "Enchanted Pines" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/1/pic-of-the-week-1/28/22 Pic of the Week 1/28/22

“Enchanted Pines”

Location: LBJ National Grasslands, TX

Date taken: 1/23/22

 

Enchanted PinesEnchanted PinesSunlight breaks through the piney woods found in LBJ National Grasslands © Ben Jacobi

 

Ashlee and I have returned to the LBJ National Grasslands. This 20,000 acre tract of public land lies right in the heart of the Cross Timbers region of the state. Its nice to know that we have so many diverse locations we can visit in a days drive. Wanna see some dramatic canyons, sashay on down to Palo Duro or Caprock Canyons State Park. Looking for some mountain, well just head on up to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. How about some tall pine trees? That’s easy just scoot on over to…Alvord, TX? Yup. That’s right just 1.5hr drive there is a place which boasts of 1100 plant species—including pine trees.

Though this wasn’t always the case. Early settlers tried to farm and cultivate the land and decades of poor land management practices resulted in the soil eroding and the land failing. Many of these farmers abandoned their plots after the Dustbowl period of the 1930’s. The federal government purchased the land from these farmers and worked to restore the land back to its former state. Now we can go and visit the area the way it was supposed to be. I tired visiting this location last time but was blocked by the numerous hikers and campers in the area. This time I was more than happy to see we were the only ones at this portion of the grasslands.

We pulled into the parking area with a half hour to spare before sunrise. This didn’t give me much time to scout and find a good composition before the good light started. I quickly took off in the direction of some ponds I found through Google Earth in hopes that they would be a good starting point. As I walked along the trail the scent of pine and the scattering of pinecones held my attention. I needed to find a way to photograph these pine trees in the forest and not reflecting in some pond. With my attention redirected I started scoping out smaller intimate scenes of the forest. But as is usually the case with woodland photography, its so overwhelming its hard to find a simple shot. I was able to get a decent composition and a few frames captured, but nothing that really excited me.

When I started to head back to the car, I noticed the sunlight beaming through the forest and as I walked the sand kicked up sending dirt particles in the air. These particles reflected in the low angled sunlight and created shafts of light on the scene. Now I was starting to get excited. All I needed was to find an interesting composition with the sun backlighting the trees. It didn’t take long before I found my shot and armed with a handful of sand, my photo started coming together. I would throw the sand and capture multiple images as it blew through the scene. This created lots of different smaller light rays that I could blend into the final image later. Luckily, in this area almost all of the trails were made of really fine sand.

I would grab a handful run over to my shot and throw the sand just in time to trip the shutter. I repeated this process many, many times. This is the result of the better or more interesting light rays from the sand throwing. This particular photo is comprised of twelve different frames stacked and blended into this final composite. This isn’t my usual style, nor photography subject, but it was the only way I felt I could do the scene justice. And I do believe I captured that “enchanting” feeling amongst the lofty pines. No doubt the LBJ Grasslands will become another favorite photography location for us.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Cross Timbers forest grassland landscape LBJ National Grasslands light morning nature Pic of the Week pine pines sky sunrise Texas travel trees https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/1/pic-of-the-week-1/28/22 Fri, 28 Jan 2022 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 1/21/22 "Wintry Chasm" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/1/pic-of-the-week/1-21-22 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.

 

 

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) canyon creek hiking ice landscape nature Oklahoma Pic of the Week rock snow travel weather Wichita Mountains Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge winter Wintry Chasm https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/1/pic-of-the-week/1-21-22 Fri, 21 Jan 2022 16:30:00 GMT
My Best (and Worst) Images of 2021 https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/1/2021-best-worst  

 

 

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

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2022/1/2021-best-worst Fri, 14 Jan 2022 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 12/17/21: "Hoarfrost" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/12/pic-of-the-week-12/17/21 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.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) hoarfrost ice macro nature Oklahoma Pic of the Week snow travel Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge winter https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/12/pic-of-the-week-12/17/21 Fri, 17 Dec 2021 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 11/26/21: "Honey Creek" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/11/pic-of-the-week-11/26/21 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.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) arbuckle mountains cascade cascades creek honey creek landscape nature oklahoma pic of the week travel travertine turner falls waterfall waterfalls https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/11/pic-of-the-week-11/26/21 Fri, 26 Nov 2021 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 11/19/21 "Fall on Medicine Creek" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/11/pic-of-the-week-11/19/21 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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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) bluff bluffs cliff cliffs creek Fort Sill Ft. Sill landscape Lawton Medicine Bluff Historic Site Medicine Bluffs Medicine Creek nature Oklahoma Pic of the Week sky sunrise travel Wichita Mountains https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/11/pic-of-the-week-11/19/21 Fri, 19 Nov 2021 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 11/12/21 "Turner Falls Morning" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/11/pic-of-the-week-11/12/21  

Pic of the Week 11/12/21

“Turner Falls Morning”

Location: Davis, OK

Date taken: 11/6/21

 

 

Turner Falls MorningTurner Falls MorningMorning breaks on the cliffs and bluffs surrounding Turner Falls and Honey Creek in the Arbuckle mountains of southern Oklahoma.

© Ben Jacobi

 

It has been a few years since I have photographed Turner Falls successfully. There have been passing encounters and a few shutter clicks here and there, but overall I was just burning pixels. This time, I was responsible for guiding our local photography club out there. The weather was set to be perfect with temperatures nosing into the lower 70s over the weekend. Still, we haven’t seen too much colder weather which means the falls colors were not at peak just yet. Though this didn’t really excite me as much I was excited about exploring new parts of the park and camping in a location I have wanted to visit for years.

I took Saturday off so I could meet up with members of the club early Saturday morning. Since that day was free Ashlee and I decided to go up Friday night to our campsite. We arrived after dark and had just enough energy to assemble the tent and go to sleep. We awoke early the next morning and made the fifteen-minute drive to our meet up location. We would be photographing Turner Falls from the highway 77 scenic overlook. I have shot this location many times before, but it is an excellent introduction to the park and the waterfall. At 7am we were still about an hour away from sunrise. Walking out to the overlook I could hear the faint rumble of the waterfall. “Sounds like the falls has pretty good flow.” I said to Ashlee. The last time I was here my mother and I were greeted to overcast skies and peak fall colors. Now we had completely clear skies and just hints of fall color.

Around 7:20am our party arrived and we began our sunrise shoot. Slowly, pink light began illuminating the hills and mountains to our north and eventually crawled its way into the canyon. The golden light ignited the cliffs in warm sunlight while the creek and waterfall remained in the shadows. This was a stark contrast that I thought would be worth documenting. Using my 70-200mm lens I was able to bring the falls in tight in the frame zooming in around 165mm. I wanted to include the cliffs that were catching the morning glow as this helped give the scene much more depth. There was also just one little tree in prime fall display. Its brilliant red leaves gleamed in the morning sun. You can see it on the right cliff face. We would continue to shoot from this location for another 30 minutes before deciding to descend into the park itself. I have more photos to share from this trip and I look forward to telling those stories in the coming blog posts.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Arbuckle Mountains creek Honey Creek landscape nature Oklahoma Pic of the Week travel Turner Falls Turner Falls Park waterfall https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/11/pic-of-the-week-11/12/21 Fri, 12 Nov 2021 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 10/22/21 "Baldy Point Panorama" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/10/pic-of-the-week-10/22/21 Pic of the Week 10/22/21

“Baldy Point Panorama”

Location: Quartz Mountain State Park, OK

Date taken: 10/3/21

 

Since I forgot to publish this post, I thought I would just go ahead and combine the two Baldy Point images and share the story of how I captured them. Next time I’ll be more careful to make sure I actually press the “publish post” button.

 

10/8/21

Over this past weekend Ashlee and I made a photo trip to the western range of the Wichita Mountains chain. Our goal was to reach Great Plains State Park and catch sunrise over the mountains. Since I have not visited much of this state park before, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was excited at the idea of exploring new areas, however. We left the apartment early in the morning and made the 1 hour 30 minute drive to Great Plains State Park. GPSP sits on the southern shore of the Tom Steed Reservoir just north of Mountain Park, OK. And while I have been here a few times before, I haven’t spent a whole of time scouting this area. But if I had to describe the 487 acre park in a nutshell, I would say piles of boulders between pockets of prairie encompassed by a lake with a 360 degree view of mountains.

Although we arrived early enough to beat sunrise, we didn’t have much time to find a good composition. In situations like this, I tend to just shoot whatever stands out to me first. Once I get that initial photo out of the way, the pressure is off, and I can start stretching my creativity. I shot the “obvious” sunrise shot with the mountains catching a blissful pink glow, but I didn’t feel it best represented the area I was in. Mountains reflecting in the lake was only a piece of the puzzle, I wanted something that would capture the essence of the park. I knew I needed to capture a photo with some boulders to really bring the whole scene together. I spent the next several minutes boulder-hopping and scrambling to find the most photogenic boulders. It didn’t take long before I found something that caught my attention, but now all that glorious pink light was gone. Looks like I’ll have to settle for golden hour light.

 

Great Plains State Park MorningGreat Plains State Park Morning

© Ben Jacobi

We completed our sunrise shoot and began our hike along the Granite hills trail system. There is very little information out on this park and so I wasn’t sure what to expect along the hike. We spent the next few hours walking up and down the prairie stopping by every once in a while to photograph something that caught our eyes. I did, however, find an excellent composition on one of the mountain summits and I plan to return for another sunrise shoot in the wintertime. With our hike finished, we returned to our vehicle and drove around the rest of the park taking in the 360 view of mountains. From this park you can see the western edge of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and the tallest peak of the Wichita Mountains (Mt Haley), the Glen Mountain complex, the Quartz Mountains, and the Mountain Park mountains.

After driving in town and getting some delicious lunch, we decided to drive further west up to the Quartz Mountain State Park and hike the Cedar Valley area in the shadow of Baldy Point. The hike offered us excellent views of Baldy’s eastern face. The Sheer cliffs and “zebra stripe” pattern of the rock are enough to grab anyone’s attention. Though it was quite beautiful, we decided to move to the other side of Baldy in preparation for sunset. Taking the road towards the climbing area, we came across a cotton field primed for harvest. It was here I decided to set up for sunset. The leading lines of the cotton field going out the angular summit of Baldy made for a compelling composition. The wide-angle foreground seemed to make those cotton fields extend forever, but it did shrink the mountains in the background. To alleviate that problem, I shot another exposure (during the peak light) with a longer focal length and combined both images in Photoshop. This let have the best of both worlds and I captured a photo with the cotton fields and an impressive looking Baldy Point.

 

Baldy Point SunsetBaldy Point Sunset

© Ben Jacobi

With the best of the light (or so I thought) now behind us, I made my way back to the 4Runner and began packing up my gear. When I turned around to catch one more glimpse of the mountain, anticrepuscular rays came streaking across the sky as the Belt of Venus rose in the eastern horizon. Light pink clouds glided over the mountain tops making the sky that much more interesting. I reached back into my bag and pulled out my camera, but this time I attached my 70-200mm lens and I opted to shoot a high resolution panorama. It took fourteen images to stitch this panorama, but the ending result is over 12 feet in length! Ironically, this was favorite image I captured from the whole trip, but we left Quartz Mountains State Park feeling happy and satisfied.

 

Baldy Point PanoramaBaldy Point Panorama

© Ben Jacobi

 

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Baldy Point Great Plains State Park landscape nature Oklahoma panorama Pic of the Week Quartz Mountains Quartz Mountains State Park sky sunrise sunset travel Wichita Mountains https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/10/pic-of-the-week-10/22/21 Fri, 22 Oct 2021 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 10/15/21 "Texas Live Oak" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/10/pic-of-the-week-10/15/21 Pic of the Week 10/15/21

“Texas Live Oak”

Location: LBJ National Grasslands, Alvord, TX

Date taken: 10/10/21

 

We are out having adventures again and feel so good! For the past several weekends Ashlee and I have been outside hiking and getting into some nature. We have visited the Wichita Mountains, Great Plains State Park, Quartz Mountain State Park and the LBJ National Grasslands. This image was captured from our trip to the LBJ National Grasslands.

This is an area I have wanted to explore for some time now. Over 20,000 acres and 75 miles of hiking trails I’m surprised I haven’t been here sooner! Our journey to LBJ National Grasslands began like the many adventures before…convincing myself to get out of bed early enough to catch decent light at sunrise. Our location was a 1.5hr drive away, so we managed to muster up the strength to climb out of our warm bed. Outside the air was still and crisp and bright stars shone overhead. “No clouds”, I thought, “Just another boring sky sunrise”.

After meandering down the backroads of Alvord, TX, we came to our sunrise location. The Piney Woods campground was our target and I had hoped we would see some glorious sunrise light on the pine trees, but sadly when we arrived to LBJ low hanging clouds completely blotted out our skies. Not to mention, the campground was overloaded with people. So much for the “borking sky sunrise”. A little distraught we just decided to do our hike and maybe find something to photograph along the trails.

The hike was quite pleasant and overall, very easy. We had a few ups and downs in elevation which made the hike more interesting. Yet despite all the beautiful scenery around us, I found it difficult to find a subject. I piddled around with some old mushrooms I found on a log and a lone tree in a field, but nothing really interested me. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a beautiful area, but as often the case with woodland photography, its hard to see the forest through the trees.

When we finished our hike, we continued down the Forest Service Road and deeper into the park. The gravel road took us past open grassland, through oak mottes and up a mesa. From near the tallest point of the mesa, we pulled into a parking area to take in the views from up top. Along one of the camp roads we came across a fantastic campsite with this remarkable Live Oak tree. There’s something idyllic about the Texas Live Oak. Its multi-trunked base and long low-hanging branches make it the perfect tree for climbing. And who doesn’t love resting under the shady umbrella of leathery leaves and acorns in the hot summer sun?

 

Texas Live OakTexas Live Oak

© Ben Jacobi

The Live Oak really grabbed our attention, and we spent several minutes exploring the many branches and trunks of the tree. We even climbed up it for a little bit, going back in our minds to the days of childhood reminiscing of tree houses and tire swings. As I circled around the tree, I noticed a distinct long root that was above the surface. This tree root had wriggled its way through the hard ground and dove under the earth about 10 feet away from the trunk. When I noticed its unusual shape, it reminded me of a snake or a dragon and I quickly found an interesting composition.

I went back the car and pulled out my camera gear. I had already had a shot in my mind, I wanted to get as close to the root as possible with my ultra-wide-angle lens to emphasize the unusual shape and use the root as a leading line to the tree. I set my camera up near the terminus of the root and took a shot. The composition looked good, but the light was hideous. By now it was high noon and most of the clouds had been burned off in the heat of the day. How ironic is it that earlier this morning I was complaining about no clouds, then complaining about too many clouds, and now again complaining about not enough clouds? Mother Nature always loves to make me the fool.

Now I was hoping, praying, for some minute cloud cover to roll over the sun and let me capture a decent shot of this beautiful tree. My prayers were answered, and a small cloud covered the sun just long enough for me to squeeze out a shot—now I only needed that four more times! Why? Well, I was so close to the root that I would need to focus stack the image. This involves taking multiple images, at different focus distances, and combining them in post processing. This ensures the photo is tack sharp thought the image. But since I captured the first image with cloud cover, I would need to capture each subsequent image with cloud cover for consistency. I stayed on that mesa looking up at the sky waiting for the clouds to pass over the sun and capturing the photos. I bet I didn’t move for 45 minutes. Eventually, I captured all the necessary images and I was even able to capture a bonus photo with light in the background and the Live Oak still in the shadow of the cloud.

 

Ashlee climbing the Live Oak tree.

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) grassland landscape LBJ National Grasslands Live Oak nature Pic of the Week Texas Texas Live Oak travel tree https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/10/pic-of-the-week-10/15/21 Fri, 15 Oct 2021 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 10/1/21 "Medicine Bluffs Magic" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/10/pic-of-the-week-10/1/21  

Pic of the Week 10/1/21

“Medicine Bluffs Magic”

Location: Fort Sill, OK

Date taken: 9/19/21

 

Medicine Bluffs MagicMedicine Bluffs Magic

© Ben Jacobi

 

Continuing from our last photo adventure, Ashlee and I went off to hike the Burma Road Trail in the Wichita Mountains. This trail would be simple enough, but still have some elevation changes. It was the perfect trail to test our abilities post-COVID. We really enjoyed hiking beneath the shade of the post oak forest and walking next to huge boulders along the north side of Quanah Mountain. Ashlee was able to photograph a wide variety of subjects and you can check them out here on her Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/anmaddenphotography/

We finished our hike and clocked just a little over four miles, which we were quite excited about. On the way back we stopped at a newer local restaurant to grab some lunch. We enjoyed some tacos before starting towards home. Ashlee and I had a great time on this hike and truth-be-told we didn’t want to go back home. I thought about where we could go and one place that I have always wanted to visit came to mind—The Medicine Bluffs. For one mile along the banks of Medicine Creek four contiguous bluffs tower over the water and riparian woodland below. These uplifted walls of rhyolite have always intrigued me. There is only one problem—they sit on the property of Fort Sill.

Access to the Fort (if you’re not military) is limited. Especially during a pandemic. But just for fun we decided to give it a shot. It was surprising easy. All we had to do was register and we were in! I can’t believe I have waited this long to gain access to such an incredible area. Not only is this land stunning, but its rich in history. Native Americans would come to the bluffs seeking enlightenment from the Great Spirit. Some might even attempt the “Medicine Man’s Walk” (a huge crevasse separating the second and third bluff). Supposedly, it was a famous location for Indian suicides, tales of wayward lovers clasping hands and leaping to their deaths rather than be separated. One legend says that famed Indian Geronimo escaped Fort Sill and with the calvary in pursuit leaped on horseback down a deep vertical cliff never to be seen again. He later died of pneumonia in 1909. Myths and legends aside, it is very easy to see why the Native Americans considered this area sacred ground.

We parked at the Fort Sill Outdoor Fishing/Recreation parking lot and gathered our gear ready to start the hike. It was now late afternoon, and the sun was out in full force, not one cloud in the sky. This would make photography difficult, but we didn’t care. We were just excited to be out here. After leaving our car we walked down the banks of Medicine Creek. The crystal clear water shimmered in the sunlight. Here we had our first view of the bluffs. The eastern most bluff rose 150ft above the creek and was quite impressive. However, we were far more interested in the taller bluffs to the west. After walking around the picnic area, we found the main trail that would lead us to the bluffs. As we hiked along the trail, we began ascending uphill. From here we got our first look at the third and fourth bluff and we just start to make out the infamous Calvary’s Gap (aka Medicine Man’s Walk).

The trail took us westward and we stopped several times enjoying the scenic overlooks and searching out things to photograph. The tall near-vertical walls of the bluffs were in the shadows, small beams of sunlight would hit various rocks and trees revealing contrasty subjects to our cameras. Only the bravest of trees would rest on the cliffs edge their foliage gleaming in the sunlight surrounded by gray volcanic rock. I made the comment to Ashlee “Its like a miniature Yosemite Valley!” The tall vertical cliffs and gray rock reminded me of Half Dome and El Capitan rock formations of Yosemite National Park. Though these cliffs were about 10x shorter and composed of a different rock composition. We kept along the trail and eventually reached the Medicine Bluff Historical Marker. Here is what the marker says:

 

THE MEDICINE BLUFFS

A REGISTERED NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE

This unique landmark at the eastern end of the Wichita Mountains was indited, described, and explored by all early expeditions and was held in deep reverence by the Indian tribes of this area from time immemorial. The four contiguous porphyry bluffs form a picturesque crescent a mile in length on the south side of Medicine Creek, a tributary to Cache Creek and the Red River. It is evidently the result of an ancient cataclysm in which half of a rock dome was raised along a crack or fault.

When Fort Sill was established in 1869, the Indians named it “The Soldiers House at Medicine Bluffs”. The site is rich in legend and history.

You are facing the north side of bluff No. 3, which consists of a sheer cliff 310 feet high, rising abruptly from the creek. A rock cairn erected by medicine men on its summit was still standing when Fort Sill was founded. Here the sick were brought to be healed or disposed of by the Great Spirit, young braves fasted in lonely vigils seeking visions of the supernatural, and warriors presented their shields to the rising sun for power. Legends say that this was also a famous place for Indian suicides. The huge fissure between bluffs No. 2 and 3 was known as the “Medicine Man’s WalK”.

 

A trail leads down from this marker and stops at the creek. I began the short, but steep walk down the old trail. Very quickly the vegetation changes from prairie grass land to hardwood trees. Soon a canopy of various trees envelops you. As I rounded the bend in the trail, I could see the sun backlighting a grove of ash trees, their leaves glowing neon green against the dark rock wall. Instantly, I stopped and pulled out my camera. While this photo does not show the height or scale of the bluffs, I feel is perfectly captures the spirit of this location. I plan to visit the Medicine Bluffs again during the peak fall color in hopes of capturing some really unique scenes.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Fort Sill landscape Medicine Bluffs Medicine Bluffs Historic Site nature Oklahoma Pic of the Week The Medicine Bluffs travel Wichita Mountains https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/10/pic-of-the-week-10/1/21 Fri, 01 Oct 2021 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 9/24/21 "Mt Roosevelt Sunrise" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/9/pic-of-the-week-9/24/21 Pic of the Week 9/24/21

“Mt Roosevelt Sunrise”

Location: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Date taken: 9/19/21

 

Mt Roosevelt SunriseMt Roosevelt Sunrise

© Ben Jacobi

 

 

After 24 days in quarantine, I was finally able to get out in some real nature! Now, the Wichita Bluffs are nice and a great place to take a walk in town, but its just too close to the city. Too close to urban development to truly get lost. At the end of quarantine, I was more than ready to get back outside. I could feel the mountains calling for me and soon I would be breathing in their crisp cool air again. I am, of course, referring to the Wichita Mountains. Now, I would love to go visit the high peaks of Colorado and the like, but baby steps…

Ashlee and I awoke early enough to arrive at the refuge just before sunrise. Since I was a little rusty in nature photography, I opted for a simple and easy sunrise shoot. There’s an infamous old tree off Scenic Highway 115 in the refuge. Right outside the secondary entrance to the Holy City. For years people came to photograph this tree. Now the tree has succumbed to the elements and has collapsed. But this tree still has an appeal to many photographers—me included. All that remains of this tree is a tattered trunk with sprawling branches reaching towards the sky. They almost look like arms stretching out looking for assistance. As the years go on more and more of the tree will be lost.

For now, it would serve as a nice framing element to my subject, Mt Roosevelt. This is a unique mountain that has a bulbous summit. Like many of the other mountains in this area, the tree line stops midway up the mountain where the porous gabbro rock transitions to the Mount Scott Granite. This creates a nice view of the unusual summit. It also means the granite will catch the sunlight just right. My goal was to capture an image of the sunrise light reflecting off the craggy summit of Mt Roosevelt. I have always been intrigued by this mountain it stands a little over 2200ft above sea level at the north end of the Holy City. Like a centurion it stands guard occasionally obscuring Mt Sheridan and Nipple Peak. It’s a very obvious mountain.

Our temperature could not have been better that morning and the air was so clean and crisp. The sky was completed devoid of any clouds, which meant that I wasn’t going to get the best sunrise photo, but I was just happy to be outside again. When the sun broke the horizon, soft morning light gently rested on the face of Mt Roosevelt. It was an obvious composition and an obvious shot, but it been so long since I heard the click of my camera’s shutter. Naturally, I would have liked a more dramatic sky but overall, I am quite happy with the composition. I’ll likely retake this photo in the future when the conditions are more favorable.  

 

 

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) landscape Mt Roosevelt nature Oklahoma Pic of the Week travel Wichita Mountains Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/9/pic-of-the-week-9/24/21 Fri, 24 Sep 2021 05:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 9/17/21 "Aspen Trees Colorado" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/9/pic-of-the-week-9/17/21 Pic of the Week 9/17/21

"Aspen Trees Colorado"

Location: Monarch Pass Colorado

Date taken: 9/24/17

Aspen Trees ColoradoAspen Trees ColoradoRoadside Aspens showing off their fall colors.

© Ben Jacobi

 

It has been much too long since I’ve shared a Pic of the Week. There was a lull in my photography and for almost a month I didn’t even pull out my camera. On top of that, both myself and my wife ended up catching COVID and pneumonia! We’re all fine now, but we were in quarantine for 24 days. You can imagine that would plummet anyone’s moral. The one good thing about isolation is that you have so much more time. Time to clean up around the house, time to practice or hone new skills, time to just pause and reflect. That is what I did mostly. Reflect. And that brought me looking into the forgotten images from some of my past photo adventures.

Since were already halfway through September, I thought about my 2017 trip to Colorado and dug through the depths of my external hard drive to see if I could bring any new life from that time. Fall is among us, and the leaves are starting to change in the higher mountainous country of Colorado, New Mexico, and the like. While searching through my archives I found this roadside scene that had always captured my attention. Only now, have I taken the time to process this photo and although its not my favorite photo I captured while on this journey, it still stirs something within me making me want to go back there. Back to the high-altitude crisp air where the mountain sides are covered in pines and splashes of fall color are dotted throughout the forest.

***

It was our third day in Colorado, and we had spent the morning packing up camp and driving back west to try and catch Blanca Peak in glorious sunrise light. After finishing our sunrise shoot, we started north in the San Luis valley. 14,000+ft granite behemoths enclosed us on both sides. When we reached Poncha Springs we turned west on highway 50. From this road we would ascend another 3000 feet to reach Monarch Pass. The drive was relatively flat until we reached Maysville, and as we turned the corner, we caught our first glimpses of Aspen high up on the mountain. As we drove further west, we gained more elevation, and the Aspen trees became more prevalent. Flashes of gold gleaming in the sunlight really stood out against the darker green around them. They were almost like beacons signaling “Photograph me!” to any photographer who came by. We must have pulled over a dozen times to photograph these patches of Aspen.

It wasn’t long before we reached Monarch and highway 50 curls back to the south following the outline of Monarch Ridge North. At this point we are now over 10,000ft elevation and climbing higher only reveals more beautiful scenes. An abandoned gold mine caught our attention and we pulled over to photograph the old structure. While it was interesting the light was starting to get harsh, and I soon stared looking for other things to photograph. I turned around and saw small aspen trees and one fallen branch leaning diagonally across the scene. The Aspen leaves shone brightly against the dark background and the leaves almost seemed to follow the diagonal of the fallen tree branch. I raised my camera and captured several images before we climbed back into the car and continued with our journey. This image has long been forgotten, resting quietly on my hard drive buried under piles and newer work. I am glad I decided to revisit these photos and finally share this tranquil Aspen scene with you.

 

 

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/9/pic-of-the-week-9/17/21 Fri, 17 Sep 2021 15:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 7/23/21 "The Devil's Punchbowl" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/7/pic-of-the-week-7/23/21 Pic of the Week 7/23/21

“The Devil’s Punchbowl”

Location: Shades State Park, IN

Date taken: 7/22/19

 

For this week’s Pic of the Week, we are going back a couple of years to my trip to Indiana. We were having a family reunion up in the Hoosier state and with that came the opportunity to photograph and explore the local landscape. I made a journey to Shades State Park near Waveland, IN. This was a little over an hour away from Indianapolis and the airport. Today, I would by flying back to Texas, but I wasn’t leaving Indiana until after 5pm. Then I had a two-hour layover in Dallas before finally getting back to Wichita Falls. This put me arriving back at home around 11:30pm so I really wanted to enjoy the day.

The previous three days I spent checking out McCormick’s Creek State Park, Spring Mills State Park, Bluesprings Caverns, Cataract Falls and Brown Valley State Park. Unlike those days, the weather on this day was particularly nice. A light rain hung around early morning and messed up my chances for a sunrise shoot, but after saying my goodbyes to family I was on the road heading to Shades state park. I didn’t know too much about this park, but after doing some research I saw something that stirred my curiosity. A fiendish sounding landmark known as the “Devil’s Punchbowl”. With such an unusual name I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I arrived to Shades state park just after 11:00am. The skies were still overcast and a rain shower had just moved through the area. This brought the temperatures down to a pleasant 71F which was much better than the 96F from the day before. I pulled into Shades state park and noticed the parking lot was empty. Naturally, this excited me I like being alone out in nature and I don’t like having to fight people coming into my compositions. Not soon after I unloaded all my gear a brown minivan pulled up and a family of seven leaped out. It was time for me to get on the trail. The hike started like most others, flat on a wide trail with packed dirt. Thick vegetation above me blocked all the light and made it feel closer to nighttime than midday. Shades state park gets its name from the early settlers of the area. In the 1800’s this area was referred to as the “Shades of Death”. The unbroken canopy of trees and vegetation keeps almost all light from reaching the ground. Its easy to see why they though this place creepy. No sun, no wind, and a thick canopy of trees blocking everything.

The path quickly transitioned from the packed dirt to an old rickety staircase. Here I would begin my descent into the Devil’s Punchbowl. Two intermittent streams send water down the ravine forming a circular grotto undercut in the sandstone—this formation is the Devil’s Punchbowl. These high bluffs are coated in thick green moss and vines and ferns dangle from the rocky cliffs. For a moment, I forget I’m in Indiana. In my mind I was on the fictional island Isla Sorna from Jurassic Park. Sure, it wasn’t Hawaii, but the heavy canopy, fern plants, and eerie green rock made the area feel prehistoric. I might as well expected pack of Compsognathus to be hiding somewhere in the bush. Once down in the grotto, I immediately started to notice the incredible carvings on the rock. Although the area was beautiful, it was all overwhelming trying to bring a scene of chaos to some kind of order. It also didn’t help that the family of seven was now down in the Punchbowl and the kids were screaming listening to the echoes off the canyon walls.

 

The Devil's PunchbowlThe Devil's Punchbowl © Ben Jacobi

Trying to avoid the family as much as possible, I started hiking away from them and when I rounded the corner, I spotted this scene. A small shaft of light was illuminating a small portion of the cliff. I had managed to find one of the few breaks in the canopy and it was paying off. The moss-covered rock glowed in the direct sun while the rest of the are received soft reflected light. I could hear the family starting to close in on my location and I knew I didn’t have much time, so I set up a simple but effective composition and captured a few frames before moving on. This was the only light I saw all day and after finishing up at Shades state park I made the drive to Indianapolis and eventually made it back home to Texas. I wish I would’ve had more time to explore this park, but who knows maybe I’ll return to it again someday.  

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) bluff bluffs cliff creek Devil's Punchbowl forest Indiana landscape moss nature Pic of the Week rock Shades State Park steam travel tree vegetation https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/7/pic-of-the-week-7/23/21 Fri, 23 Jul 2021 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 7/16/21 "Grand View Vista Revisited https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/7/pic-of-the-week-7/16/21 Pic of the Week 7/16/21

“Grandview Vista Revisted”

Location: Rich Mountain, AR

Date taken: 6/12/21

 

Well, we have arrived to our final day of the Honeymoon Adventure and this would prove the be a very eventful one! Our morning started as it typically does for the landscape photographer, begrudgingly getting out of bed to go check the sunrise conditions. The prospect of low hanging clouds didn’t do much to motivate me to get out of bed. I looked over to see my wife soundly sleeping (and snoring) and so I pressed on into the cold morning without her. The Queen Wilhelmina State Park Lodge was now much different from the bustling busy atmosphere of yesterday evening. All the tenants were in the warm beds sleeping and I was up shuffling around the hallways looking a window with a good view to the east.

I reached the front entrance and turned my eyes toward the east. High cirrus clouds loomed overhead and were just starting to get some pink color. My body/heart/brain jumped into high gear, and I rushed back to my room to wake up my sleeping wife. It was time to get going for sunrise! After I woke Ashlee up we quickly gathered our gear and made our way to the 4Runner. Now the skies overhead had turned to a saturated reddish orange and the entire parking lot glowed in hues of purples and pinks. We could not miss this spectacular sunrise.

Driving down the Talimena Scenic Byway, I remembered a spot I used to shoot sunrise the last time I was here, Grand View Vista. Despite the fact there are incredible vistas all along this drive we could not find a vista that positioned us towards the sunrise. One thing I seem to forget about the Ouachitas is they run west to east not north to south like most other mountain ranges. Eventually we pulled into the Little Acorn vista, and we watched the sun rise just above the distant mountains before becoming shrouded in clouds. So much for our sunrise shoot.

Disappointed, we drove back to Grand View Vista hoping to capture some early morning light on the mountains. In the valley down below a thin veil of fog/mist hovered above the valley floor. Ashlee knew she wanted some tighter shots and took my Tamron 70-200 lens—the lens I was hoping to use for the sunrise photos. But I was ok with using her large 500mm lens and scope out small pieces of the much grander landscape. I used my tripod to try and stabilize the photos the best I can. At 500mm even the pulse of your thumb is enough to shake the camera.

For a brief few minutes the sun peered through a gap in the clouds. Strips of warm golden light spilled into the valley emphasizing the unique shape of the mountains. What a beautiful scene, I rushed back to the car to grab my wide-angle lens to try and capture the vista. I didn’t even have time to attach it to my tripod, so I snapped a few frames handheld. This image is not as sharp as I would have liked, but I did not have enough time to before the light faded away.

 

Grand View Vista Revisted © Ben Jacobi

 

Since I was limited with time and the light, I shot the first composition I saw. I framed up Round Mountain in the breaks of the trees standing on my tippy toes to get as high as possible. The fog/mist encircled the 2037ft peak in a semi-circle of hazy mystique. The dramatic side light on the mountain helped separate the scene into layers turning an almost flat and boring image into something far more interesting. I really wish I would have taken the time to get my tripod and do this scene justice. Not long after taking this image, the light evaporated and all the depth to the scene was lost. I went back to capturing the intimate details of the landscape.  I even combined some of them to create this triptych. There wasn’t too much color with the lack of light, so I opted for a monochrome treatment to highlight the tones and textures of the scene.

 

Ouachita Mountains Triptych © Ben Jacobi

As morning progressed, more and more clouds rolled in. We decided to get back in the car and grab some breakfast back at the lodge. Along the windy roads we came across something I never expected to see—a black bear! The bear was crossing the highway was we rounded the corner. It was quite the sight to witness as the bear hurled itself over the guardrail in an action-hero-movie-like maneuver. We were so excited and happy to see the black bear that our sunrise bust didn’t even phase us. We returned to the lodge to enjoy a wonderful pancake breakfast and watch an early morning wedding taking place on the overlook. Our time at Queen Wilhelmina State Park Lodge was finished and we checked out of our room. We were not finished with the state park, however. We did two more trails before finally saying our goodbyes to Arkansas and bringing our Honeymoon Adventure to a close.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Arkansas Grand View Vista landscape nature Ouachita Mountains Ouachitas Pic of the Week Queen Wilhelmina Queen Wilhelmina State Park sky sunrise travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/7/pic-of-the-week-7/16/21 Fri, 16 Jul 2021 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 7/2/21 "Coon Creek Cascades" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/7/pic-of-the-week-7/2/21 Pic of the Week 7/2/21

“Coon Creek Cascades”

Location: Robbers Cave State Park, OK

Date taken: 6/11/21

 

 

Coon Creek CascadesCoon Creek Cascades

© Ben Jacobi

 

The Honeymoon Adventure continues! On what was originally supposed to be our last day, Ashlee and I woke from our room at the Belle Starr View lodge. We had spent the previous day driving to the park and hiking/exploring Robbers Cave. Now we were hoping to hike a few more miles before bidding adieu to Robbers Cave State Park. Right outside our door was the trailhead to the Belle Starr Trail Loop. This trail is rated as easy, but the rocky terrain and elevation changes keep the hike interesting.

The sky that morning was crystal clear which likely meant were not going to shoot sunrise images. Regardless, we were still eager to get out on the trail and see what we could find. The trail starts out on the top of Coon Ridge and follows a path through the forest behind some of the cabins. Following the white blaze markers, you start to quickly lose elevation as the trail takes you down the ridge. Slowly and steadily, we navigated the rocky terrain keeping mindful and careful of our footing—this was ankle twisting territory!

After a short while, we reached the edge of the rock outcrop. Now it was time to get down. The path switchbacked its way down through the rock garden. Walls of conglomerate sandstone encircled us as the trail lead us downhill. This was a favorite part of both Ashlee and I. Maybe its because we’re both from north Texas, but tall rocks mesmerize the both of us. Eventually, we reached the end of the hill and the intersection of the Equestrian multi-use trail. Directly across our line of sight, the still waters of the Coon Creek reservoir reflected the unique topography in the morning stillness. We stood there admiring the mirror-like reflection before moving onwards on the equestrian trail.

Equestrian trails are usually quite a bit different from standard hiking trails. For one, they are wider to accommodate the larger modes of transportation. The also tend to be less rocky and sandier or gravely. This can be both good and bad. Good in that the trail is pretty easy to find and stay on. But bad when it rains. The path came to a junction with a closed off service road. The white (and now yellow) blazes disappeared from the trees, and I wasn’t sure where the trail was. Keeping the same direction, we came to a muddy bog with hoof prints in the mud. We looked up in the trees and saw another yellow blaze with a sign saying “CAMP” we were back on the trail.

For another half mile was walked amongst the forest listening to the birds call and running face first into spider webs! We reached another marker on the trail, this time it pointed us to the direction of the old CCC pumphouse. I could hear the spray of the water as it careened down the dam and after a bit more walking, we were able observe it with our eyesight. Although interesting for the historical context, these structures don’t really do anything for me or my photography. So, I have to say I was disappointed, I had hoped we might run into some small rapids or waterfalls.

Once we walked past the pumphouse; I could make out the sound of rushing water. Now I was much more excited and as we approached the source of the noise, I disregarded the junction to our return trail. I was focused on the creek and oblivious to the world around me.  But we did find a nice cascade on Coon Creek. Ashlee and I spent the next half hour jumping from rock to rock photographing this small waterfall. Though not as impressive as some of the others we’ve experienced, this one was entirely new, and I had no idea it was on the trail. I was glad I had a reason to pull out my camera on this hike.

Our clear skies were now being encroached by low hanging clouds to our north. This sent streaks of golden light on our waterfall. I was particularly pulled in, by this fascinating rock in the creek. I thought it would serve as a good anchor point for my composition. After playing around with the shot, I decided to try a vertical orientation and I found the comp had a much better flow. I really love the texture on that foreground rock. Its unique patterns and lines point the eye directly to the sunlit portion of the waterfall, which brings the eye to the main cascade. The color and light in this image is so subtle that it creates a stark contrast against that dark rock. Sure, it may have taken a little extra effort, and I did get my feet wet, but all in all I would say it was worth it!

 

Ashlee captured this image of me perched on a small rock trying to avoid getting wet in the creek. © Ashlee Madden-Jacobi

Our adventure is not over yet, after the waterfall we followed the equestrian trail for a short distance. Here we came across a creek crossing, but something didn’t feel right. We were not going the right direction. Thankfully, I had cell service and I discovered that we missed the trail junction…whoops. We crossed the creek again and met back up with our trail. We began our uphill ascent to return to the Belle Starr View Lodge. After another .8 miles we made it back to the lodge. Although a short 2 miles, it really was a wonderful hike and I highly recommend it if you visit Robbers Cave State Park. After reaching the lodge, we packed up our gear and luggage and got ready to check out.  

I thought this was the end of our Honeymoon Adventure, but on our way back home I saw a sign that said “Talahina 60 miles”. That got me thinking, maybe we could stay one more night on the Talimena Scenic Byway. Ashlee had never been there before, and I knew she would love it. On a whim, I called Queen Wilhelmina State Park Lodge to see if there were any vacancies. To our remarkable fortune, they had just had a cancellation a few minutes prior to my calling. Ashlee and I had a brief discussion, something like, “Wanna go?” “Uh, YES!”, and we made our reservation. We would stay one more night on our Honeymoon Adventure at the Queen Wilhelmina State Park Lodge on Rich Mountain in Arkansas and get up to hike and explore the Ouachita Forest the next morning. Basically, I’m setting the stage for next week’s Pic of the Week. There’s still one more day left from this trip.

 

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Belle Starr Trail Loop cascade cascades Coon Creek creek landscape nature Oklahoma Pic of the Week Robbers Cave Robbers Cave State Park rock travel water waterfall https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/7/pic-of-the-week-7/2/21 Fri, 02 Jul 2021 16:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 6/25/21 "Robbers Cave" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/6/pic-of-the-week-6/25/21 Pic of the Week 6/25/21

“Robbers Cave”

Location: Robbers Cave State Park, OK

Date taken: 6/10/21

 

Today brings us to day 4 of our honeymoon adventure. We had spent the previous time exploring the Lake Eufaula area and while we were saddened to leave our tree-top cabin oasis, the drive for more adventure leads us through the Sans Bois Mountain range and into the depths of Robbers Cave. Once a hideout for notorious outlaws such as Jesse James and Belle Starr, Robbers Cave is an area of Oklahoma I have always wanted to visit. Not just for the fascinating history, but the rocky terrain and thick pine forests have intrigued me for some time now.

The drive to the park was mostly uneventful as we wound our way through the forestry catching glances of some of the peaks of the mountain range. The Sans Bois mountains are part of the much larger Ouachita Mountain chain and mark the “frontal belt” of the range. I have visited the Ouachita’s in the past, and I was excited to be back in the territory. Though last time, I was much further south. After entering the park, we checked in with the main office and got the keys for our room. We would be staying one night at the Belle Starr View Lodge. I thought this would be a more peaceful and relaxing way to enjoy the park. Although now that I have visited, I would like to return for a proper camping experience.

The Belle Starr View Lodge resides high up on Coon Ridge overlooking Coon creek and the reservoir 175 feet below. The lodge is more primitive and dated, but they are working on a new one that will be open in 2022. We got to our room, unpacked our gear, and opened the window to find a male Summer Tanager tapping on the sliding glass door. This was an exciting way to be greeted to the park! Ashlee managed to capture a few nice images of the persistent bird. His bright red plumage gleamed in the afternoon sunlight. The view from our room was quite nice. Although we didn’t have expansive vistas in front of us, we could see the distant Sans Bois mountains and hills framed by the branches of loblolly pine trees. A short walk from our patio brought us to edge of a cliff where car-sized boulders collapsed and tumbled down the hill 30 feet below. Ashlee and I both felt the sense of exploration and adventure welling up inside us.

 After a quick lunch we decided to head down to the main attraction of the park—the infamous Robbers Cave. The trail here is not long (at least if you just want to visit the cave) only about .8 miles, but it looked to be quite rugged. We gather our gear and start off on the trail. The trail starts flat as small trees and rocks line the path. Very quickly we start to enter the rough terrain as we ascend the hillside traversing loose rock and stepping over tree roots. Following the trail blazes and signs we reach the pathway to Robbers Cave. We stair step our way up over a slab that slopes sharply downward into the entrance of the cave. The rock is glistening from a recent rain and the wear from hundreds of previous hiker’s boots polish the rocks surface to a smooth but slippery state. We carefully walk ourselves down the steep slope. From the mouth giant rocks, tall vertical cliffs, and lofty pine trees block out the entrance to the cave. Its easy to see why fugitives picked such a place to hide in.

The cave itself is not very large and only goes back about fifty feet, though this is quite large by Oklahoma standards. At first, we can stand when entering the cave, but the roof starts to lower the deeper we go. Now, I am forced into an uncomfortable crouching position and must remove my pack to move freely. We reach the back end of the cave where one can’t go any further. Above my head, I can see the different layered rock of the karst topography. Water intermittently drains through the rock and causes the rock to collapse in sheets forming the cave. I can hear the “plink” of a water droplet falling into a nearby puddle and I wonder when the next caving will occur—hopefully not too soon. I started scouting some possible compositions and I found one that interested me.

 From my angle the mouth of the cave has shrunk into an upside-down triangle shape. Directly in my view I see a similar upside-down triangle in a puddle on the cave floor. Another puddle reflects the trunk of a pine tree guarding the main entrance. The black wet rock envelops the rest of the scene; its smooth glossy texture only disrupted by the brilliant green moss clinging to the cave walls.  I pull out my ultra-wide-angle lens and turn my camera to a vertical orientation to capture the scene. Since I was so close to the puddle, I needed to focus stack to ensure a sharp image throughout the photo. It takes more time, however, we had the cave all to ourselves and I was able to work unhurried.

 

Robbers CaveRobbers CaveLooking through Robbers Cave to the entrance concaled by the forest. Infamous outlaws Jesse James and Belle Starr are reported to hide out here.

© Ben Jacobi

After I grabbed my shot, we headed back on the trail to complete the loop. Here the trail takes you up on the top of Robbers Cave with a great view of the park and the Sans Bois valley. Then the trail brings you through more forest before leading you back down through rocky descents that require some scrambling and bouldering before you connect back to the main trail. We left Robbers Cave feeling tired and hot. The early summer sun was just reaching its highest point as we climbed back into the luxury of our airconditioned vehicle. We decided to “beat the heat” with a dip in Lake Carlton. Then after properly cooling off, laid on the grass drying in the sun. Fully exhausted from the day’s adventure we return to the cabin for showers and dinner. Our day ends to the sounds of crickets chirping and sight of fireflies flickering into the night. There’s still plenty more stories and photos to share from our honeymoon trip.    

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) boulder cave landscape nature Oklahoma Pic of the Week Robbers Cave Robbers Cave State Park Sans Bois Mountains travel tree https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/6/pic-of-the-week-6/25/21 Fri, 25 Jun 2021 16:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 6/18/21 "Lake Eufaula Sundown" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/6/pic-of-the-week-6/18/21 Pic of the Week 6/18/21

“Lake Eufaula Sundown”

Date taken: 6/8/21

Location: Lake Eufaula State Park Arrowhead Area, OK

 

Wow oh WOW what a busy month June has been!!! I know I’ve been saying that for the past few months, but this has to be the pinnacle of all our stress, time and energy. Within the last few weeks of May into June we moved my apartment, Ashlee graduated college, our wedding venue dropped us only five days before the wedding, and we had our wedding. So yea, its been exceptionally busy. There was one thing that was keeping me motivated, however. That was our honeymoon. It remained a secret until the night of the rehearsal, but our parents got us a three-night stay at the wonderful Calico Heights cabins in eastern Oklahoma. These tree top cabins hang along the cliffs around Lake Eufaula and offer a spectacular view from the hillside. We stayed in the Green cabin at the far northern end of the property. Our cabin had everything we could need for our stay (including a jacuzzi tub!) What an incredible way to start our lives together.

 

Photo by © Carla Blanchard Photography

The journey up there was a bit rough, after all the adrenaline and nerves from the wedding calmed down, we were tired and exhausted. We left a little later than I wanted, but we arrived to cabins just after sundown. The sky was bursting with brilliant pinks and oranges on the way reminding us that everything was going to be just fine. We awoke the next morning to find thunderheads billowing over the lake. The early morning sun was just filtering through lighting the puffy clouds in a pinkish hue behind a cobalt blue sky. The occasional rumble of thunder could be head echoing through the canyons. We watched the storms through morning until they were on top of us, and we retreated back to the comfort of our cabin. Not a bad way to start our trip.

 

Our tree top cabin at Calico Heights.

The spectacular view of the lake from our terrace. We enjoyed many meals under the shade of that umbrella.

It rained a good majority of that day, but once the precip stopped we decided to take the nature trail that surrounds the property. Ashlee enjoyed this time as she found many different subjects to photograph. She shot images of mushrooms, birds, bugs, and flowers. We decided we would head into town to a nearby state park Lake Eufaula State Park Arrowhead Area. I had never been to this state park before, so I was interested in checking it out. Our drive took us through wooded hills and small ravines until we reached the flat open area outside of Canadian, OK. On our way into the park a rafter of turkeys greeted us not far from the sign. We also startled some white tail grazing near the side of the road. Ashlee was already out of the car before I had the chance to stop! I believe she really enjoyed this part of the trip.

The Arrowhead Area of Lake Eufaula State Park is different than the main area of the park which is located another 20miles north of Arrowhead Area. It is the designated equestrian area, golf course, and RV camping. So, trails were limited, and we didn’t have a lot of time before sunset. After driving around for a several minutes, we came to an old picnic area that looked like it had the potential for some photography. Ultimately, we decided for another location to shoot sunset. Not too far down the road we came across another day use area just across from the main RV campground. This provided us with a nice view to our west so we could watch the sunset of the lake. On the way into the day use area I spotted an old dead tree near the water’s edge. I kept this location in the back of my mind. We arrived on site and much to our disappointed saw a layer of low clouds moving in from the south. Our sunset looked like it was about to be snubbed.  

 

Lake Eufaula SundownSunset on the shores of Lake Eufaula at Lake Eufaula State Park Arrowhead Area. © Ben Jacobi

 

Thin beams of sunlight stretched out over the lake outlining the trees and rocks with fantastic backlight. While it was beautiful, it did not translate well into a photograph, so I moved on to my backup subject—that old dead tree. I walked closer to the tree and got more excited as I began to circle the relic taking note of any interesting shapes and compositions. Finally, I decided on the angle and managed to capture the sunset just in time. For a brief moment, the sun dipped below the clouds and just above the horizon. This painted the sky in a pastel of orange and reds which stood out nicely against the stark silhouette of the tree. The composition was simple and easy, but I feel like it captured the moment in just the right way. Something about old trees really interests me. Imagine the sunsets this tree has seen. I wonder what stories it would tell. We finished up our sunset shoot and made the short drive back to our tree top cottage excited for the next day’s adventures. Our honeymoon was an unforgettable experience and I have so many more stories to share from this trip!

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) honeymoon lake Lake Eufaula Lake Eufaula State Park Lake Eufaula State Park Arrowhead Area landscape nature Pic of the Week sky sunset travel tree https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/6/pic-of-the-week-6/18/21 Fri, 18 Jun 2021 16:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 5/28/21 "Flooded Lake Whitney" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/5/pic-of-the-week-5/28/21 Pic of the Week 5/28/21

“Flooded Lake Whitney”

Location: Lake Whitney State Park, TX

Date taken: 5/8/21

 

Let me first begin by apologizing for not posting over this past month, but I have been exceptionally busy. For starters I have moved out of my apartment and moved into a new single apartment in preparation for Ashlee to join me after we are married. It has taken a lot more time than originally expected. This was also on top of the busy week(s) I’ve been having with work and other responsibilities. But now things are starting to calm down, but we are just 8 days away from the wedding, so I anticipate things to get more hectic around that time. But I did get to go on an awesome trip with my lovely fiancé to celebrate her college graduation—oh yea I forgot to mention that. Yes, Ashlee has finally graduated summa cum laude with honors and she worked so hard over these past few years and I am ridiculously proud of her.

Graduation Jubilation!

So, to celebrate all her hard work I told her we would go on a camping trip. When I asked her where she wanted to go, she said “Somewhere with dinosaur tracks.” I knew just the place. Unfortunately, all the campsites were booked for the weekend, so we had to camp at a different location. There was one campsite open at Lake Whitney State Park and I got it. 

The plan was to drive out to Lake Whitney camp for the night and get up early to check out the trails at Meridian State Park just 40 minutes away. We would have lunch at Meridian before reaching our final stop and the main highlight of the trip, Dinosaur Valley State Park. Ashlee and I were both excited and ready to go camping again. We left Wichita Falls around 2pm and headed down to Lake Whitney. I had never been to this state park before, so my expectations were low. We arrived at Lake Whitney just after 5pm. Out front there was a sign letting visitors know the lake was 2ft above normal levels, which meant several areas of the park were closed. We took the short drive around the park to our campsite making mental notes of any good sunset locations along the way. After setting up camp we decided to go hit the only hiking trail available that day.

The Two Bridges Trail gets its name from the two wooden bridges that cross over the lake. It is a mild 1-mile loop that brings you through Post Oak forests and open prairie grassland. At one point the trail meets the lake which was a nice viewpoint. Along the trail we spotted several different birds including cardinals, blue jays, titmouse, and a white-eyed vireo. The trail was mostly flat and well maintained. In addition to the scenic viewpoints of the lake, there were large photogenic oak trees that dotted the shoreline. While this area was beautiful and scenic, the assault of mosquitoes was not very appealing. We completed the loop and had enough time to scout out a different sunset location. After scoping out some areas with little success, we made the decision to try the swim beach area, as this would give us the easiest access to the lake.

Since the lake levels were higher than normal, a lot of the swim beach had been swallowed up by the lake. The gusty winds kept bringing waves of lake water crashing into the trees and picnic tables of the area. This looked like it would be an ideal swim location under more favorable conditions, but very few people were out enjoying the beach. I spotted a tree being slammed by larger waves and thought that could make an interesting photograph. Ashlee and I made our way out to the lake edge and Ashlee quickly changed her attention to some goslings flitting about in the grass. While Ashlee shot the geese, I turned my attention to the sunset. Clear skies and not much clouds on the horizon lowered my spirits, but I was already here so I wasn’t going to come back empty handed.

 

Ashlee's photo of one of the goslings.

© Ashlee Madden

 

I had an idea to capture the approaching waves splashing through the trunks of the trees. I tried a variety of different shutter speeds to use for a possible blend later on. Something in me didn’t want to do a blend, however. Sometimes, I can get lazy with landscape photography and its easy to just “spray and pray” or rely on post processing to fix my mistakes or create something better. This time, I wanted to see if I could capture that pivotal moment in one exposure. Had I been so reliant on exposure blending that I didn't know how to time and carefully execute my shot? Could I still even capture an image I hade envisioned without the use of exposure blending? I had an idea for the shot I was going for, I wanted to catch a wave splashing through the trunks of the trees, with another wave about the crash behind it, and interesting patterns or shapes in the retreating waves in the foreground. So that meant I had to wait for one wave to crash through the trees, reach the shore, and start retreating back into the lake while simultaneously another wave crashed through the tree trunks, and other waves in the background reaching their ideal height and shape. And all of this had to happen in 1/6th of a second. It is much easier said than done, but I was able to capture a great moment with almost all the elements in place.

 

Flooded Lake Whitney

© Ben Jacobi

I would’ve liked to see a larger splash in the background (and there were some nice ones), but that secondary wave and the patterns in the foreground help draw the viewers eye into the scene. I also lucked out with some decent clouds in front of the soft pastel glow of sunset which added a little more color to the photo. It was a nice way to end our day. We stood on the shore watching the waves come in until dark. We packed up and got rested up for our new adventures coming the next day. I have plenty of new images I'll be sharing with y'all over the next few weeks. Next week I'll be getting married and the week after that I'll be on my honeymoon. We still don't know where we're going (its a surprise from our parents), but we are very excited for this adventure! 
 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) lake Lake Whitney Lake Whitney State Park landscape nature Pic of the Week sky Texas travel weather https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/5/pic-of-the-week-5/28/21 Fri, 28 May 2021 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 4/30/21 "Thundering Skies" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/4/pic-of-the-week-4/30/21-thundering-skies Pic of the Week 4/30/21

“Thundering Skies”

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.


Thundering Skies © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) dundee landscape lightning nature night Pic of the Week rain severe weather sky storms Texas thunderstorms travel weather wind https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/4/pic-of-the-week-4/30/21-thundering-skies Fri, 30 Apr 2021 05:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 4/23/21: Cotton Candy Sky on Sugar Ridge https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/4/pic-of-the-week-4/23/21  

Pic of the Week 4/23/21

“Cotton Candy Sky on Sugar Ridge”

Location: Bristol, TX

Date taken: 4/17/21


Cotton Candy Sky on Sugar RidgeCotton Candy Sky on Sugar Ridge © Ben Jacobi

 

 

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...

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) TX bluebonnet bluebonnets Bristol Ennis flower flowers landscape nature Pic of the Week sky Sugar Ridge Sugar Ridge Rd sunset Texas travel tree wildflowers https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/4/pic-of-the-week-4/23/21 Fri, 23 Apr 2021 17:45:55 GMT
Pic of the Week 4/16/21: Gorman Falls #2 https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/4/pic-of-the-week-4/16/21 Pic of the Week 4/16/21

“Gorman Falls #2”

Location: Gorman Falls, Colorado Bend State Park, TX

Date taken: 4/9/17

 

Gorman Falls #2Gorman Falls #2

© 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!

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/4/pic-of-the-week-4/16/21 Fri, 16 Apr 2021 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 4/9/21 "White Deer Monster" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/4/pic-of-the-week-4/9/21 Pic of the Week 4/9/21

“White Deer Monster”

Location: White Deer, TX

Date taken: 4/11/15

 

White Deer, TX MonsterWhite 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.

 

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) hail landscape mesocyclone nature Pic of the Week rain sky storm Storm Chasing supercell Texas Texas panhandle thunderstorm tornado White Deer wind https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/4/pic-of-the-week-4/9/21 Fri, 09 Apr 2021 15:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 2/26/21: Lake Texoma Watchman https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/2/pic-of-the-week-2/26/21 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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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Eisenhower State Park lake Lake Texoma landscape nature Pic of the Week rock Texas travel waves https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/2/pic-of-the-week-2/26/21 Fri, 26 Feb 2021 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 2/5/21: Windy Morning on Lake Texoma https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/2/pic-of-the-week-2/5/21 Pic of the Week 2/5/21

“Windy Morning on Lake Texoma”

Date taken: 1/31/21

Location: Eisenhower State Park, TX

 

Windy Morning on Lake Texoma

© Ben Jacobi

 

My eyes opened. It was now the morning. We had made it through the night—that windy, windy night. All night the wind was howling outside; screaming is more accurate. Sustained winds around 32mph and gusts as high as 45mph slammed against our campsite all night long jolting us awake in our screened shelter. I was grateful to have reserved this shelter. Tent camping in this wind would have been a nightmare! I rolled over on my side and took a quick look at my watch. The big hand was on the three and the little hand was on the seven. Looks like we overslept. Though it wasn’t all bad, the sunrise looked to be blotted out by some low clouds on the eastern horizon. The gray skies didn't do much to motivate me to get out of camp.

I had been awake for a little while now but hadn’t come out of my sleeping bag. After all, I was quite comfortable. Inside the sleeping bag it was warm. Outside it was cold and breezy. I mentally debated with myself, but the “call of nature” took precedence and I wormed my way out of my warm cocoon. Instantly the wind hit. I felt its cold sting on my cheek as I scrambled to find my boots. Now I would have to brave this wind as I walked to the restroom that was a quarter of a mile away. No campsite is ever completely perfect. When I reached the restroom I saw a yellowish glow to the east. Was the sun going to break through the clouds?

When I returned from the bathroom, I found Ashlee was no longer in the shelter and had instead decided to try and make use of this blustery weather. She had walked on a short trail to the nearby cliff face overlooking Lake Texoma. I could see some splotches of color appearing in the sky so I grabbed my camera and met up with her. Below us a strong northerly gale was whipping up waves on Lake Texoma and sending them slamming into the boulders down below. These massive conglomerate stones are the result of erosion breaking down the softer layer the denser caps rest on. Once the lower layer is weakened or removed the caps come crashing down on the lake shore. It kinda makes you nervous standing on the same material that has fallen some thirty feet below you into the lake.

Wave after wave came crashing into the boulders down below us. When the waves collided with the rock the water split into a “V” shape sending thousands of droplets into the air. The spray and intensity of the water made me think of scenes along the coasts. Sure it was no Big Sur, but nonetheless beautiful. I knew I wanted to record this rare occasion, but to get the full (as my fiancé said it) “ferocity of the waves” I would have to create a composite. There were some technical challenges with that. First, I needed a clean base image to use for a starting point. Preferably an image captured at my lens' sharpest aperture with some good light. Then, I needed a shutter speed fast enough to stop the waves midair. Which meant increasing my ISO and or opening up my aperture to allow more light in. Basically, it meant I would degrade the quality of the image in favor of capturing the splashes.  Next, timing and patience was going to be key in capturing a wide variety of waves. Though the wind was coming from the north, it didn't always send big waves on the rocks so I was going to have to wait for the best moments. 

The light did appear for just a few minutes and I was able to get my main shot. The sun had just peeked between the clouds and bathed my subject in a fantastic early morning glow. The white rocks do a great job reflecting that sunlight. This narrow strip of light created an excellent contrast to the darker water making an even more striking image. Now that I had captured my base image I could concentrate on photographing the waves. I spent the next half hour tracking and watching waves as they crashed against the rocks. I took the best 14 images to make this final composite and it really helps tell the story of that windy morning on Lake Texoma.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Eisenhower State Park lake Lake Texoma landscape nature Pic of the Week rock sky Texas travel weather wind https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/2/pic-of-the-week-2/5/21 Fri, 05 Feb 2021 16:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 1/29/21: Travertine Creek Waterfalls https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/1/pic-of-the-week-1/29/21 Pic of the Week 1/29/21

“Travertine Creek Waterfalls”

Location: Chickasaw National Recreation Area, OK

Date taken: 1/10/21

 

Are you getting tired of waterfall photos, yet? Well, if you are it might be best to disregard this post. On the one hand, I don’t like sharing similar subjects back-to-back, but on the other hand, its not often I return from a shoot with multiple images. Most of the time I only can squeeze out one good shot depending on what the light is doing. But for this shoot we had overcast skies which meant the light was more consistent. This let me capture a lot more “shareable” photographs during this trip.

The final image I am sharing with you from this trip was captured on our way out of the park. Once you pass Little Niagara and the visitor center you must loop around on a one-road. Along this road there are several pull offs that feature more smaller waterfalls along Travertine Creek. Some of these water features have official names and park signs. Others, however, are left untitled and a little harder to access. Sometimes, these extra unnamed waterfalls can be more inspiring than the marked ones. As is the case with this fall.

 

Travertine Creek WaterfallsTravertine Creek WaterfallsTranquil scene on Travertine Creek. © Ben Jacobi

Just a short walk down from the “Bear Falls” parking area another waterfall resides along the creek. This waterfall is more impressive and it caught my eye as we drove past Bear Falls. This two-tiered water feature is far more photogenic. Here's a video I shot of this photogenic little waterfall. It has much more interesting rocks, multiple cascades, and a beautiful secondary cascade. So why does Bear Falls get all the attention? Because Bear Falls features a natural pool that parkgoers use to swim in. Not something we would be doing today.

 

 

I pushed my way through the bramble and briar to reach a good vantage point of the waterfall. I noticed little eddy currents forming off the secondary cascade and watched the frothy foam swirl around the rocks creating a miniature whirlpool in the scene. I was convinced I had found my composition. As I set my camera and lined up the shot the clouds to our west began clearing. Patches of blue peered through the gray clouds sending splashes of color and light onto the water’s reflection.  Sadly, the light and color didn’t last very long and I was only able to capture just this one image. You can see the bluer tones in the lower half of the photo and if you look closely you can just make out the edge of the blue sky in the creek.

I love the natural “Z” shaped leading line in this composition. The little eddy on the bottom right adds just the right amount of opposing motion to create tension and anchor your eye to that area. Then my eye follows the creek upstream to those darker rocks in the lighter reflection as it takes my eye to the right of the image. My eye follows along the shore to the rocks in the background and across the waterfall to the upper left side. This completes the Z shape. From here I move down the shoreline and to the brighter rocks in the darker reflection, which ultimately leads me back to the starting point. This creates a loop that holds the viewers attention. Its hard to believe that something this aesthetic would be unlabeled. This concludes my images from the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and again, if you have never been I highly recommend you check it out!

 

My eye path through this photo.

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/1/pic-of-the-week-1/29/21 Fri, 29 Jan 2021 17:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 1/22/21: The Secret Window https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/1/pic-of-the-week-1/22/21 Pic of the Week 1/22/21

“The Secret Window”

Location: Chickasaw National Recreation Area, OK

Date taken: 1/10/21

 

We continue with our adventure in Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Since last week, we explored and photographed Little Niagara Falls and I captured an image with bother upper and lower falls visible in the frame. At this point on the trail the more “show-stopping” waterfalls are over, but there are still interesting cascades and streams that run through the trail system. Old wooden bridges provide excellent vantage points on some of these water features, but I prefer a more intimate view of the landscape.

I followed the trail westbound echoing the shoreline of travertine creek keeping my eyes open for anything interesting. Occasional offs chutes of the trail would lead to an overlook or an embankment for me to explore. Between these side trails, there are treasures hidden behind the thick brush, vines, and thorns. Not literal treasures, but visual treasures in the form of interesting shapes and subjects to photograph. As I walked past a side trail, I noticed a peculiar tree along the shore. This tree’s exposed roots formed an unusual shape. It almost resembled an elephant’s trunk. Sadly, it was back in the thicket and the only way to get there (or so I thought at the time) was to traverse the muddy shoreline.

I’m used to hiking off trail. Pressing forward, blazing my own path through bushwhacking and sheer willpower. After all, the obstacles can be challenge. Normally, its something like a canyon wall or massive boulders I must get through. But in this case, I had to carefully plan each footstep so I wouldn’t end up snared in the volatile cornucopia of Virginia Creeper and thorny vines guarding the area. I must admit, I felt a little overconfident and didn’t pay attention to my footing, when I lifted my leg up to take the next step a vine caught it and I stumbled forward landing my knee directly on a thorn on the vine. Ouch! The thorn had gone through my hiking pants into the fleshy part of my knee forcing obscenities and expletives to be released in the air. Its not a hike unless you bleed.

 

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

© Ben Jacobi

I made my way through the tangled maze and arrived at the old tree. As I got closer, the elephant-like shape of the root system began to disappear. I did discover however, that I could position myself in such a way to use the tree roots as a natural arch or window to frame the creek. After some finagling and making small adjustments to my position I had my shot lined up. Some “white water” fit perfectly into the arch of the tree roots and I thought this could add some more interest into the scene. Now you get the impression the creek is flowing and not stagnant.

The last thing I did before taking this shot was attach my circular polarizer. This eliminated most of the reflections off the rocks and water surface adding even more contrast to the creek. It also helps to bring to out those lovely emerald colors just below the water. Satisfied with everything, I shot off several frames to capture the best design of the water flow. I did enjoy fighting against the land to find this “Secret Window” but was a bit discouraged to learn there was a much easier and safer path to the tree. I showed Ashlee the images I captured and lead her down to the tree through the much safer and less thorny passage.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/1/pic-of-the-week-1/22/21 Fri, 22 Jan 2021 17:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 1/15/21: "Little Niagara" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/1/pic-of-the-week-1/15/21 Pic of the Week 1/15/21

“Little Niagara”

Location: Chickasaw National Recreation Area, OK

Date taken: 1/10/21

 

When it comes to good landscape photography, persistence is key. Repeatedly coming back to the same subject under different conditions will give you a greater chance of capturing that subject at its absolute best. There’s also something comforting about having a familiar location or subject to photograph. All your expectations and preconceived notions have already been tested. So, you kind of know what’s coming. Once you’re more comfortable with your subject it becomes easier to seek out more creative compositions or explore other areas your subject is in. Take for example, this shot of Little Niagara falls in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. I have photographed this waterfall several times before and each time I try to capture a different angle or perspective. Now, I have been here many times in the past, but this was Ashlee’s first time visiting and she told me she wanted to capture “moving water”. I couldn’t imagine a better candidate than Little Niagara Falls.

Little NiagaraLittle NiagaraNatural spring water cascades down the upper and lower section of Little Niagara in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

© Ben Jacobi

Early Sunday morning we were once again, loading up the SUV with our gear getting ready for another photo adventure. Though there was a chance for icy and wintry precipitation in our area, we opted to make a drive further away from the snow in the Arbuckle Mountains of southern Oklahoma. This was Ashlee’s last free day before her final semester of school started and I didn’t want to waste it on a slight chance of snow. As we left Burkburnett and crossed the Red River it became apparent that we were not going to see any sunlight today. That was ok though, overcast skies can work much better when photographing waterfalls. We arrived at Chickasaw National Recreation Area around 11am and we pulled into the Little Niagara parking area. During the spring/summer time this parking lot of full of swimmers looking to enjoy the cool water. This was not the case today, however. Only one vehicle was in the parking lot when we arrived. These are the kind of conditions I hope for.

Ashlee and I gathered our gear and I explained to her the trail system. She went downstream and I went upstream. I was going to photograph the upper falls and work my way down towards the lower section. I spent a short while exploring the upper falls and snapping multiple images. Some wide, some tight, some even more abstract. Eventually, I moseyed my way down to the lower section of the falls. As you descend the lower section, the upper falls becomes covered up. The higher up you go, the more separation between the two waterfalls. Even standing with my tripod fully extended, its hard to capture a clean view of both waterfalls. I need to be higher. Maybe just two feet higher would work. I noticed a small travertine boulder and thought that could work. I hopped up on the boulder and watched as the upper falls emerged from behind the rocks. I had found my composition.

Surprisingly, the boulder was stable enough for me to place myself and my tripod on it and capture a series of different exposures of the falls. This boulder was not there the previous times I was at Chickasaw and it would be nearly impossible to capture this image without it. It was quite the treat watching the beautiful waterfall cascade down the travertine. Nothing could be heard but the rushing waters and the cheep of nearby Yellow-Rump Warblers darting between the trees. I have more photos from this trip that I am preparing so be on the lookout for those in the coming weeks.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Chickasaw National Recreation Area creek landscape Little Niagara nature Oklahoma Pic of the Week travel water waterfall https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/1/pic-of-the-week-1/15/21 Fri, 15 Jan 2021 06:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 1/8/21: Medicine Circle https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/1/pic-of-the-week-1/8/21 Pic of the Week 1/8/21

“Medicine Circle”

Location: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Date taken: 1/3/21

 

Well, here we are. We have arrived to 2021 and despite all the ups and downs of 2020 it was still a pretty good year for me overall. I’m not really sure what to expect this year if I’m being honest, but I do hope to be able to continue to share my photographic adventures with all of you. I wanted to start 2021 out right and to do that I made a trip to one of my favorite places: the Wichita Mountains. Nothing quite like beginning the year off surrounded by nature and history.

 

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

 

Do you see these stones in the foreground of the image? How do you suspect they got there? Are they relics left over from the native American tribes that followed the bison that once roamed the prairie? Afterall, there were established camps in the area the circle was found. Perhaps this was an impromptu conference room constructed for Jesse James and outlaws alike. There are rumors of buried treasure out in the Wichitas. Maybe, this is from the WPA days and some young men would sit here on their lunch breaks. Or maybe this was part of boy scout troop setting up a circle around the campfire. Who is to say? One thing is for sure, those stones are as old as the hills that surround them. To our local hiking group this is known as the Medicine/Indian circle and that is how I will refer to it.

Ashlee and I left early that cold crisp morning with hopes of having enough time to arrive before sunrise. After a quick stop at Braums to get some breakfast-on-the-go, we were on our way to the refuge. We arrived at the parking area with about twenty minutes to spare. Luckily, I had already scouted the location a month ago and it was only 150 yards away from the car. I grabbed my camera bag and tripod and hurried to my composition. I was relieved to find the circle undisturbed, except for a few “buffalo chips” nearby there was no evidence anyone had been here. Since its close by to the trail I was worried it might be moved or vandalized. Thankfully, neither of those happened.

What I envisioned for this shot was an ultra-wide angle view of the circle with wonderful morning light falling on the face of Little Baldy. I had been waiting on an opportunity to capture this photo, so I knew exactly where and how to set up my camera. I made sure to lower my tripod almost to ground level to minimize the middle ground and bring those stones in close. What I discovered when I used my wide angle is that I got an excellent foreground. I also really liked the way the lens exaggerated the shape and size of the circle. What I did not like, however, was how small it made Little Baldy in the frame. This is the downside to ultra-wide angle lenses. Objects in the background appear smaller and farther away. To combat this parallax, I did a technique known as “focal length blending”.

Basically, I combined one photo at 15mm with the ultra-wide angle and then zoomed into 30mm on just the mountain and took another photo. I then blended those two together to create the final image. The result is a wide angle foreground with a more normal background. This keeps Little Baldy as an important element to the image. I was quite happy with how this image turned out, although I would have liked to see more clouds in the sky. Maybe, I’ll try again under more favorable conditions. But overall it was not a bad way to start out 2021.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2021/1/pic-of-the-week-1/8/21 Fri, 08 Jan 2021 18:31:18 GMT
Pic of the Week 12/11/20: 2015 Geminids Meteor Shower https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/12/pic-of-the-week-12/11/20-2015 Pic of the Week 12/11/20

"2015 Geminids Meteor Shower"

Location: Petrolia, TX

Date taken: 12/14/15

 

We’re getting to that time of year again. The time when I brave the cold, wind, and lack of sleep to shiver under a canopy of stars counting meteors whizzing by. The Geminids meteor shower is upon us and some have already been out to photograph it with success. Its been a while since I’ve captured this meteor shower. Full moons, full clouds, and full schedules kept me from shooting the shower over the past couple of years, but I am excited to report that we will be near new moon so if our skies are clear, I should be out photographing the meteor shower. The only question is where do I want to shoot it? Thankfully, I still have a few days left before peak (Dec 13-14th) to find an interesting location. The prospect of getting to document this event made me nostalgic on some of my past Geminid encounters.

This photo was captured with my friend and fellow photographer, Nick Barnes. Nick and I had gotten permission to access an old homestead just outside of Petrolia, TX. Normally this is too close to the city for light pollution free skies, but the subject was so intriguing that I didn’t mind dealing with the light pollution. We arrived on location just after sunset and I began scouting out the interior of the house. Upon entering the ramshackle homestead, a barn owl hissed and sprung from the rafters on the ceiling diving towards us, but swerved at the last second through an open window—I guess this house wasn’t abandoned after all.

After scouting out the house, I moved to the outside to examine the perimeter and look for an interesting angle. I really wanted to showcase the house and its interesting architecture. I found an angle that featured the most windows and doors that showed into or through the house. This would create the most depth to the structure. Once satisfied with my angle and composition, we moved back into the home and placed an LED lantern in the middle of the room. The light spilled out of the openings in the walls and windows giving it an eerie glow. We came back outside and did a quick light paint over the front of the house to add even more detail to the run-down structure. Now it was time to wait for meteors.

We spent the next few hours talking about life and counting meteors as they flew by overhead. Overall, there are over 30 meteors in this photo. The Geminids are known for producing long lasting and bright meteors and if you’re willing to brave the cold and late nights you could be in for a good show this year!

 

2015 Geminids Meteor Shower2015 Geminids Meteor Shower © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/12/pic-of-the-week-12/11/20-2015 Fri, 11 Dec 2020 17:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 11/13/20 "Grandview Vista Sunrise" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/11/pic-of-the-week-11/13/20 Pic of the Week 11/13/20

“Grandview Vista Sunrise”

Location: Grandview Vista-Rich Mountain, AR

Date taken: 11/9/14

 

 

 

Grandview Vista SunriseGrandview Vista Sunrise © Ben Jacobi

 

So, it has been quite a while since I last posted anything on the blog. While I haven’t been posting much, I have been out shooting pictures. I took a road trip to Lubbock, TX, Then to Copper Breaks State Park, a local hike along the Wichita Valley Rail Trail, Jim Bob Art Park and Truscott Lake, and lastly I just returned from a weekend trip to Roman Nose State Park and Red Rock Canyon Adventure Park with the Red River Photography Club. Needless to say, I have a massive backlog right now—this is in addition to processing my 2021 calendar orders. It might be a while before those images make it to my websites and social media platforms.

Now that all of that is out of the way, lets talk about this week’s Pic of the Week. This photo was captured six years ago on a road trip with my mother to the Oachita Mountains in southern Arkansas. We spent the previous day driving and exploring the Talimena Scenic Byway. My goal was to find a good sunrise location along the way, and I chose the appropriately named “Grandview Vista” as my sunrise location. I awoke that morning and drove my mother’s Volkswagen Bug up the steep mountain. I arrived just in time and watched as the early morning sun begin to rise over a layer of fog on the valley below. With my camera, tripod, and bag in my hands I reached my designated overlook and set up a composition.

The sun broke through the fog and sent rays of warm golden light across the valley. My position to the sun allowed for dramatic side light to spill over my subject. This dramatic and moody lighting made for a very dynamic composition keeping most of the foreground in the shadows and illuminating everything in the background with a soft glow. Strips of light leaked onto a few hills and spotlight some of the summits adding even more depth to the scene. Off in the distance, lake Wilhelmina was shrouded in a thick blanket of fog giving the photo a sense of mystery. Farther back even more of the Ouachita mountain range can be seen stretching all the way to the horizon, its terminus invisible.

I stood on top of Rich mountain staring down into the valley some 1700ft below as the town began to wake. Cars began entering the highway and in a single file line they all drove the same easterly direction heading towards the town of Mena, AR—likely heading to Sunday morning church. I sat on the mountain for a few hours before the sunlight became too harsh for my photography. This is still one of my favorite shots from that whole trip. It has been a while since I’ve been on a fall foliage trip maybe I’ll revisit the Ouachitas soon.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Arkansas forest landscape nature Oachita Mountains ouachita Pic of the Week sky sunrise talimena scenic byway travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/11/pic-of-the-week-11/13/20 Fri, 13 Nov 2020 18:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 10/23/20 "Dickens Spring" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/10/pic-of-the-week-10/23/20 Dickens SpringSpring water seeps from the porous rock in a sheltered canyon near Dickens, TX. © Ben Jacobi

 

Pic of the Week 10/23/20

“Dickens Spring”

Location: Dickens, TX

Date taken: 10/3/20

 

Earlier this month I had to opportunity to visit the Caprock in west Texas. Its not too often I’m out that way, so I tried to make the most of it. My boss was needing a ride to Lubbock, TX to pick up a vehicle and I agreed to drive him out there. On that Saturday, we went straight from work to Lubbock. Since we were not on a time schedule, it was quite the leisurely drive. We wanted to stop at the “Narrows” rest area outside of Benjamin, but sadly they were closed to renovation. We continued driving west but the next rest stop wouldn’t be until Silver Falls in Crosbyton, TX. I suggested we make the detour to the Dickens Springs Park in Dickens, TX.

I had heard of this place before and have driven by it a few times, but I had always wanted to stop there. After all, its called Dickens Spring, so at the very least I would expect to see some kind of water. I will say that I had very low expectations due to the minimal rain the area had received. I believe it was somewhere around the 6” mark—very, very dry. I was anticipating the springs would be dry as well. We pulled up to the park entrance and when reaching the fork in the road, we went left. The road ended with a gravel/dirt rounded parking area where a group of about twelve people were celebrating a birthday. We climbed out of the vehicle and started searching out the area. After some looking we found the entrance to the springs. A steep metal staircase installed on the cliff edge led us down to the canyon floor.

I was shocked at what I saw. The face of the canyon was blanketed in upside down ferns dangling from the sandstone. Water was seeping from the porous rock and collecting in a crystal-clear stream down below. The stream flowed down the canyon floor where more water collecting ferns clung to the rocky walls. Small waterfalls and pools formed along the stream. Tall pecan trees stretched overhead forming a protective canopy over the spring. Water dripped from the ferns making a "ploink, ploink, ploink" as it entered the stream. It was almost like nature's own xylophone. For a minute, I forgot I was in Dickens, TX. It reminded me more of a miniature Fern Cave in Caprock Canyons or a smaller Gorman Falls in the hill country. I was astounded and a little embarrassed I hadn’t checked out this location before. We spent the next hour or so exploring and admiring the natural springs, but I did not pull out my camera. Instead, Ashlee and I decided we would return to the springs the next day.

 

***

After spending some time in Yellowhouse canyon we made our way back to Dickens and to the spring. Just like before we descended the metal staircase and found ourselves face to face with spring. I had already decided where my photo was going to be. A small side canyon just off from the main stream housed a stunning moss covered rock that was dripping with natural spring water. Nearby some boulders had collapsed and fallen into the stream adding another sense of dimension to the scene. We arrived a little earlier than the previous day which gave us a some more opportunities with the light. We spent the next few hours photographing and enjoying the springs. I can’t believe all this time this beautiful natural landscape was here and I think back to all the times I ignored it assuming it wasn’t worth my time. I’ve never been more happy to be wrong.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/10/pic-of-the-week-10/23/20 Fri, 23 Oct 2020 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 10/9/20 "Johson Peak Vista https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/10/pic-of-the-week-10/9/20 Pic of the Week 10/9/20

“Johnson Peak Vista”

Location: Possum Kingdom Lake, TX

Date taken: 9/27/20

 

Johson Peak VistaSunset falls on Possum Kingdom Lake from the summit of Johnson Peak. © Ben Jacobi

 

To cap off my camping trip to the Palo Pinto Mountains, I decided I would visit Possum Kingdom Lake. It was on my way back from Strawn and no trip to the Palo Pinto Mountains area is complete without a visit to this iconic lake. Hailed as the northern extension of the hill country, the Palo Pinto Mountains start just upstream of the lake in the Brazos River valley. Here the Brazos river transitions from the salty red beds of west Texas to the wooded cross timbers region. The change is quite dramatic. The terrain quickly transforms to steep rocky canyons and juniper-topped mesas. From the tops of these mesas, you would have a commanding view of the neighboring landscape. That would be my goal for this evening’s hike.

Johnson Peak is a popular location along the Possum Kingdom Hike and Bike Trail and its easy to see why. Its one of the tallest public points to the area rising to an elevation of 1350ft. You’re 350ft above the surface of the lake and there is a 360-degree panorama view from the summit. This would be my target and my plan was to hike to the summit and stay until after sunset. I had an idea for the type of image I wanted to capture, and I suspected with the right conditions I could end up with a great photograph.

I began my hike in the later afternoon. Although, it wasn’t going to be a strenuous one, I did expect to gain elevation quickly and, at the time, it was a warm 96F. I made sure to bring plenty of water and cut down the weight of my pack as much as I could. The hike would only be around 2.7 miles round trip, but since I am a little out of practice in hiking, and I would be descending in the dark, I was going to take it easy. With my gear all packed up, I started on the trail.

About a half mile into the hike I came to the Bone Bend overlook. This was the first real view of the lake from the trail and although I was only about halfway up the peak, the view was still impressive. I could see for miles looking down the lake. Bone Bend was named for the large number of bone fragments found near an old Keechi village. I stood on the overlook pondering what other pieces of history had been inundated by the lake. This made me reflect on some of the stories from John Graves novel “Saying Goodbye to a River”. After the brief respite, I continued on the trail. Soon the trail began to aggressively switchback as I gained more and more elevation.

I came to a junction in the trail and a metal sign pointed me in the right direction. I followed the trail for another half mile and met with another trail junction. This one just simply said “To the top” with an arrow pointing up and I pressed forward. Soon the trail became more rocky and I found myself stair-stepping my way up the hill. Finally, I made it to the last leg of the hike. All I had to do now was reach the summit and there are two ways I can do this. One, is to just follow the trail, but the other way is far more exciting. I would take the latter and scramble my way through boulder splits and ducking and jumping over tree roots. At last I had made it to the summit—and with an hour and a half to spare. I explored the summit drinking in the fantastic panorama view before me. I took a short water break and had an apple on the summit with nothing but my own thoughts a couple dozen vultures to keep me company. Just the way I like it.

I finished up my break and immediately started scouting for my sunset location. I already had an idea for the shot I wanted to capture so now I just needed to fine tune my composition. I wanted to showcase the terrain and ruggedness of the area, but also wanted to include the main draw to Possum Kingdom, i.e. the lake. I found a wonderful spot where I could use a large sandstone boulder as an anchor point to my scene. This also added more depth to the photograph and broke up the monotonous trees in the middle ground. The lake made a fantastic “S” shape curve as it twisted its way around the tall cliffs and bluffs out to an area known as Hells Gate. With my composition locked in, now all I had to do was wait for the light.

I must admit, I was a little more hopeful for this image. Small cumulus clouds had started to build to my east and I anticipating them to enter my composition. Sadly, most of the fantastic clouds stayed further east and I was left with an uninteresting sky. Thankfully, my composition placed more emphasis on the foreground than the sky. The sun drew lower and lower to the horizon and began lighting the cliffs in a warm luminous glow. I was amazed at how well I could see the cliffs light up from such a long distance. I thought to myself “If only I could get a boat to drive down the lake it could make the shot better.”

My prayers were answered, as I watched a small watercraft leave the Hell’s Gate area and make its way around Gaines Bend right in front of my camera. The light was in place, my composition was interesting, and now I had another element to incorporate in the shot. This was the cherry on top and although I would’ve preferred a more photogenic sky, I still feel I represented the location. After all, what comes to mind when you think of Possum Kingdom? Answer: tall cliffs, cactus, juniper trees, Hell’s Gate, the lake, and water recreation. With success stowed securely in my memory card, I gathered up my gear and began the trek down to my vehicle, hiking by the light of my headlamp and a waxing gibbous moon.

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/10/pic-of-the-week-10/9/20 Fri, 09 Oct 2020 18:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 10/2/20 "Tucker Lake Shoreline" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/10/pic-of-the-week-10/2/20 Pic of the Week 10/2/20

“Tucker Lake Shoreline”

Location: Palo Pinto Mountains State Park, TX

Date taken: 9/26/20

 

I spent this past weekend in the Palo Pinto Mountains area of Texas. If you’re not too familiar with this area here’s the gist: hills covered in Juniper trees with big rocks and sharp cactus. Sounds inviting right? But the Palo Pinto mountains is one of my favorite landscapes in the great state of Texas. Some even go as far as to call it “the northern most part of the hill country”. In a way, there is some truth to that statement, but the Palo Pinto Mountains are more of the Cross Timbers region. In the heart of this area a new state park is being built with plans for it be completed and open to visitors in 2023.

You might be asking yourself, “If the park isn’t open until 2023, then how did he get access?” Well, I do have good news for you because there are some areas of the park that are open—mainly the picnic area at the termination of FM 2372 and the road that runs along the east side of Tucker Lake. I also discovered they allowed overnight camping in the picnic areas, and that was enough for me to get out there to go exploring.

I arrived at Strawn, TX in the late afternoon and followed FM 2372 to the picnic area. I was surprised to see a few trucks with trailers parked here. I didn’t see any people however, I assumed they were horseback riders and were out exploring the park. Then I head a familiar animal sound come from near the dam. The bleat sounded like a goat. Were there goats out here? I had no idea. Then a gentleman pulled up near my campsite and introduced himself. Turns out, they were the ones that brought the goats. The city of Strawn had asked them to help clear out some brush along the dam, so these people brought out their 150head of goats to clean up the area. Thankfully, I arrived on their last day, so I wouldn’t be dealing with bleating goats all night long.

After the goat ranchers left, I started to set up my camp and get ready for my hike. I had planned to check out a few of the mesas on the east side of Tucker Lake. I thought a high vantage point would really help bring in this vast landscape. I drove down the bumpy road to the end of the lake and started hiking up the mesa. I huffed and puffed as I climbed higher and higher up the steep hill. Once I reached the top I was a little disappointed to find the spectacular vista overlooks I had hoped existed were completely blotted out by the trunks and branches of Juniper trees. Sadly, my vast landscape view would have to wait for another day.

I returned to my vehicle and noticed a small trail that followed the lake shoreline and when I came around the bend, I found this image. The late evening sunlight was painting the Juniper trees in a pleasant warm glow. In between the trees chunks of rock and large boulders were tightly seated in the loamy soil. To my right was the lake and the waves gently lapped along the shoreline brining a soothing descant melody above the buzzing of nearby cicadas. In the distance the southern shore of the lake was covered with more Juniper, but signs of autumnal change were scattered through the woods. I enjoyed every minute of it! I climbed back into my vehicle and headed back to camp. If it weren’t for this shot, the day may have very well been lost. I was upset I couldn’t find any grand vista, but that tranquil scene made up for all my misfortune. Its amazing what a simple sunset can do for your soul.

 

Tucker Lake ShorelineTucker Lake ShorelineThe last light of sunset falls on the banks of Tucker Lake © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) landscape nature Palo Pinto Mountains Palo Pinto Mountains State Park Pic of the Week sky sunset Texas travel Tucker Lake https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/10/pic-of-the-week-10/2/20 Fri, 02 Oct 2020 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 9/25/20: "Road to Monarch Pass" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/9/pic-of-the-week-9/25/20 Pic of the Week 9/25/20

“Road to Monarch Pass”

Location: Monarch, CO

Date taken: 9/24/17

 

Well fall is officially here and that means cooler weather, leaves changing colors, and pumpkin spice whatevers as far as the eye can see. It also brings the start of my hiking season and I have several locations I am excited to explore this season. But most notably would be the leaves changing on the trees. Now down here in Texas, our leaves don’t start changing until the first week of November, but in the high mountains of Colorado, Wyoming, and New Mexico autumn is already in full swing. I saw some reports of the changing Aspen trees in New Mexico and It reminded me of one of my past fall photo adventures.

My good friend Ian Glasgow and Jaden Corbin rode with me to the mountainous regions of Colorado. We spent four days camping, hiking, and driving around the Blanco, Salida, and Colorado Springs areas. On our third day there, we left our camp at Lathrop state park, said goodbye to the Spanish Peaks and headed north to Salida. Towering mountain peaks surrounded the highway as we drove through the basin. Several 13kft peaks came into view, their fresh snow shimmering in the late morning sun. We stopped in Mears Junction for a quick bite to eat and admired the landscape around us.

After lunch, we drove north to Poncha Springs and turned west on Highway 50 to take us to Monarch Pass. I had heard of this location before and wanted to check it out. By the time we reached Monarch we had gained over 2000 feet in elevation and some of the Aspens in the higher elevations were gleaming with bright yellow and orange tones--a simple precursor to what we were about to see. The road wound its way through the canyon following the South Arkansas River and we came to a curve. As we curved around the road the bald face of Monarch Ridge North peered into view and all along the mountain side vibrant yellow aspen trees covered the sweeping hills. We stopped at a small pull off to admire the view and capture a few images. The color contrast on this scene was so wonderful. We had the dark evergreen trees speckled with the brilliant gold aspen underneath a wonderful clear blue sky.

Road to Monarch Pass © Ben Jacobi

We continued down the road passing through the small town of Monarch and stopping to check out the Monarch mine/quarry. Eventually, we made it to our destination at 11,322ft Monarch Pass. The air up here was thinner, and it took a while to acclimate, but we were greeted with a spectacular panoramic view of the surrounding mountains which made it all worth it.

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/9/pic-of-the-week-9/25/20 Fri, 25 Sep 2020 16:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 9/11/20: Cypress on the Mountain Fork River https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/9/pic-of-the-week-9/11/20 Pic of the Week 9/11/20

“Cypress on the Mountain Fork River”

Location: Beaver’s Bend State Park, OK

Date taken: 9/7/20

 

 

Cypress on the Mountain Fork RiverCypress on the Mountain Fork River

The three-day weekend is somewhat of a rarity for me, so when they come, I try to get the most out of it. This year my family, my fiancé, and myself made the long drive to the forests and mountains of southeast Oklahoma. The destination? A cabin in the piney woods of Broken Bow, OK. We would be spending Labor Day weekend hiking, shooting photos, lounging around the cabin, and just enjoying ourselves. I was also excited to get Ashlee some much needed R&R. She’s been working so hard this semester and she really needed a break. Since I was working and Ashlee still had class on Friday, we decided to head up Saturday morning to enjoy the drive.

We had a wonderful time on this trip, but I wasn’t able to do as much photography as I had planned. It all worked out though and I sacrificed my photography plans to accommodate family time, my first kayaking experience, an escape room (which we kicked butt on), and eating delicious food. But, on our last day there we got up early to shoot sunrise on the Mountain Fork River. On the drive to our sunrise location, I noticed the eastern and southern sky were covered with a layer of thin clouds. This meant we likely wouldn’t get great sunrise light, but we continued on to our location. We pulled into the Nature center parking lot and began making our way down to the river. Ashlee went upstream to photograph a Great Blue heron and I went downstream to photograph the fog on the river.

While it is always nice to have a peaceful morning to myself, I just wasn’t feeling it. Maybe it was the lack of good light, but I was haphazardly shooting off frames. Don’t get me wrong, I was still intentional with what I was shooting, I just didn’t feel inspired. Ashlee and I met back up and we drove to the next location. Our drive took us past the RV campground area and to the entrance of an old Forest Service road. Now it was a hiking/biking trail that followed the banks of the Mountain Fork River just below the old park dam. Ashlee found another subject to photograph at the dam, but I continued down the trail in hopes of finding a good composition.  My hike led me past some interesting rock formations and a couple of creek crossings. As I got farther down the trail I started to see more potential in this location. With that knowledge, I returned to my vehicle to get my hiking bag and all my photography gear.

I met back up with Ashlee and we proceeded back to my spot. All around us plants were glistening in the early morning sunlight. This contrasted nicely against the saturated soil, combined with the interesting formation of the bald cypress trees we were not short on subjects to shoot. I walked along the bank of the river and found this scene looking across to the other side. Thankfully, I brought my longer lens so I could bring it in closer. I decided to use my 10 stop neutral density filter to blur the running water of the river. A strong side light illuminated the leaves of the cypress trees across the way making them gleam in the early morning light. I also used a wider aperture to separate the closer trees (my subject) from the other trees (background). All these factors resulted in an almost “painterly” feeling to the image that really captures the dreaminess of the area. Sometimes its hard to believe this is in Oklahoma.

While I didn’t get to do much of the photography I had planned, I did manage to capture photos of our engagement announcement. Since we're both photographers, we thought we could do these images ourselves. Not too bad considering there was no one behind the camera. Aren't we just adorable!

 

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/9/pic-of-the-week-9/11/20 Fri, 11 Sep 2020 16:30:00 GMT
Past Perseid Pursuits https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/8/past-perseid-pursuits No Pic of the Week this week...well sorta. You see, I captured a nice image of the 2020 Perseid meteor shower last week and I was so eager to share it only posted it on my Facebook and not my actual website, but instead of rehashing an older story I decided to rehash...more older stories? Either way, this a post about my pursuits to capture the annual Perseids meteor shower. There's also some pretty big news at the end of this post! Enjoy!

 

2015 Perseids Meteor Shower: Palo Duro Canyon, TX2015 Perseids Meteor Shower: Palo Duro Canyon, TXThe Perseids meteor shower as viewed from the base of the Lighthouse in Palo Duro Canyon.

Although I had captured the Perseids before this image, they were mostly just spur of the moment shoots and not really anything planned. Similar to my lightning photography, once you get good at capturing the lightning you start to look for interesting things to incorporate in the composition. This is easily one of my favorite experiences shooting the Perseids. My good friend Jim Livingston got us access to Palo Duro Canyon State Park after dark and we stayed all night at the Lighthouse watching the meteor shower. The rock formation in the foreground is the famous Lighthouse rock formation--a  centerpiece of the beautiful park. 

 

 

Perseid RainPerseid Rain

The next year I didn't travel nearly as far and photographed the Perseids over St John's Chapel in Bomarton, TX. I had expected we would be the only people, but when I arrived I was shocked to see several other photographers and the property owners out shooting. They even brought a generator to light the inside of the church! This was one of my better meteor shower shoots. No moon and clear skies made almost all the meteors visible. There are over 70 meteors in this composite alone! This was also where I met fellow photographers Jon Fischer and Mike Mezeul 

 

Meteors streak across a starry sky in the ghost town of Taiban, NM.

In 2017 I once again met up with Jim Livingston and we drove from Amarillo to Taiban, NM to photograph another abandoned church in front of the meteor shower. Sadly, thick clouds and fog disrupted our plans to shoot and we didn't get to spend as much time as we wanted out under the dark rural New Mexico skies. On the plus side, I did get to meet another amazing photographer Mark Dierker

 

2020 Perseid Meteor ShowerMeteors radiate from the constellation Perseus during the 2020 Perseid meteor shower.

I haven't photographed the meteor shower for the past couple of years. Weather, work, time, stress, and other factors just seemed to get in the way. But this year I missed the peak of the shower, but went out that next evening. I revisited a location I hadn't been to in a while. This time I didn't want to travel too far, so I just drove 30 minutes from my apartment to get me to these interesting trees. Towards the end of the shoot the half-moon began to rise on the eastern horizon and I thought it should be included in my composition. The light on the tree was an accident on my part, but worked really well in light painting the subject. 

 

 

****

 

In other far more exciting news, Ashlee Madden and I are engaged! We are so happy and very excited for what the future holds for us. 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/8/past-perseid-pursuits Fri, 21 Aug 2020 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 7/31/20: NEOWISE Dreamscape https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/7/pic-of-the-week-7/31/20 Pic of the Week 7/31/20

“NEOWSIE Dreamscape”

Location: Burkburnett, TX

Date taken: 7/22/20

 

When things go bump in the night, its enough to make you heart skip. You might even let out a small gasp. Too many times have I been out in the thicket under a blanket of stars photographing the night sky and I hear a twig snap next to me causing me to jolt, jump, or jeer at whatever phantom is causing the ruckus. Usually, it’s a rat, a bug, or some other small animal. But that doesn’t keep the mind still. No, if anything, it exacerbates the situation and sends my thought into a tumble of all kinds of threats and foes. Feral hogs, a pack of wild coyotes, the Boogeyman; all plausible conclusions when your imagination is spiraling out of control. Usually after a breath or two I’ll calm down and get back to shooting. But what happens when the “bump in the night” is actually a good thing, when an unexpected startle leads to a fantasy-like image?

After successfully capturing comet C/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) just a week before, I wasn’t ready to give up on the comet yet. First, this was the comets closest distance to the earth (a mere 64 million miles away) and it just too dang cool not to keep photographing. But much like a lot of my night sky photography, the comet itself is only an interesting subject the first time you see it. Every time thereafter its old news. So, I started searching for a location to photograph comet NEOWISE above an interesting subject. This led me to Google Earth, and I began scouring the maps and street views looking for my subject. I needed the subject to line up with the path of the comet, and I needed something that would make a good silhouette against the night sky. I searched my database of cached locations, but they were all too far away for me.

I had spent the past few weeks photographing the comet and I was tired of driving home late at night. I had already been to the Wichita Mountains (twice), across the Red River, Copper Breaks State Park, and other locations in the surrounding area. My goal was to find a good location, with an interesting subject, less than 30 miles from my apartment. I knew of a few old barns and stables off Hwy 240 west of Burkburnett, so I started there. The comet was going to line up with the barn, but it wasn’t at an interesting angle and the barn wasn’t the most photogenic. That led me to search all the backroads and county roads around 240. Finally, I found my location an old barn off Slama road not far from the Burkburnett city limit. The only problem would be the light pollution, but I was far more concerned with subject and travel distance than a yellowish haze in my sky.

Weather was also a concern, low clouds decided to hang around all afternoon and I was worried the sky would be covered. After I got off work, I observed satellite, looked a weather models, and read sky charts to determine the risk of cloud cover. Since I was so close to home, I figured it would be worth the gamble. I arrived on location just before sunset. The sun was blocked by a thick wall of gray on the far western horizon. “Just stay over there.” I said to the clouds. Above me clouds had thinned to wispy strands of condensed water vapor reflecting the remaining sunlight. I stood staring at the barn admiring the skeletal remains of the roof and imagined what it looked like in its prime. The skies above it cleared and the familiar blue to pink gradient filled in around the barn. A barn owl screeched as it took flight from the barn. A lone horse grazed quietly outside the barn paying no mind to my presence.

I lined up my composition and set up my camera confirming the position and angle comet NEOWISE would be above the barn. Sometime after 11:30pm would be perfect. One thing I did not consider with this location was the traffic. For being such a small unassuming road, it was busy. There were quite a few vehicles that drove by throughout the evening and as the sky darkened their headlights blasted my scene with an unmanageable amount of light. But one thing I did notice, if I shot the exposure a few seconds earlier I could get just the edge of the headlights on the barn. This lit the barn nicely and could be used in the final image blend. I spent the next few hours watching the night sky waiting for the comet.

Around 10:40pm I began to hear a crashing and knocking in the barn. It sounded like the tin roof hitting against something, but there was no wind, so something was moving in that barn. I didn’t pay too much attention to it; I had my eyes focused on the comet. I was snapping away enjoying the silhouetted subject below the now visible tail of comet NEOWISE. I was very proud to see my composition work and I was excited to capture what I thought was a unique photo of NEOWISE. Then around 11:45pm I could hear the low rumbling of a diesel engine truck ¼ mile from my location. Just for fun, I thought I would go ahead and expose an image with the headlights of the passing truck illuminating the barn. The truck got closer and the headlights edge was just barely lighting up the barn. I heard more clanging and banging from the barn and again paid no attention to it.

 

NEOWISE DreamscapeNEOWISE DreamscapeComet c/2020 F3 NEOWISE hangs above a dilapidated barn near Burkburnett, TX.

© Ben Jacobi

The camera shutter opened, and I watched the light scoot across the barn. I was shocked to see what was hiding in the barn—that old horse that was grazing the field earlier in the evening. The exposure ended just before the truck got too close and I was left with an image that featured NEOWISE, an old dilapidated barn, and a horse poking his head out the doorway. I debated even using this image, it just seemed so farfetched and unusual. But the result was an image that looked more out of fantasy than reality. Just when I thought I had an excellent composition and subject; a happy accident provided a much more interesting scene.

 

***     

 

Below, I am attaching some of my efforts to photograph and document comet C/2020 F3 NEOWISE. It has been fun getting to see the comet almost every night and seeing what creative imagery I can make with NEOWISE. There’s still a few more days to see NEOWISE, though it won’t be nearly as bright. Once its gone you’ll have to wait around another 6800 years before the comet graces our night skies again! Enjoy.

 

My first attempt at NEOWISE started with an early morning drive out of the city to see if I could catch a glimpse of the comet. I suspected a longer focal length was needed so I used my 85mm f/1.8 lens to capture this first photo. The comet barely takes up any of the frame but it was a good frame of reference. 

7/9/20 Wide field view of comet c/2020 F3 (NEOWISE) in the pre-dawn sky. Single exposure 85mm 8sec, f/4, ISO: 400

 

After finding the comet, it was time to see if I could get some closer shots. I pulled out my 300mm f/2.8 with a 2x teleconverter and tried to line up a close up. Since the focal length was so long I had to keep my shutter speed short to capture the comet without it trailing. I fired off nine images to use for stacking and help clean up the noise in the image. 

 

7/9/20 Telelphoto shot of comet NEOWISE right before the first light of day. 9 image stacked exposure. 300mm w/ 2x teleconverter (600mm equiv) 2sec, f/11, ISO: 1000

 

Now that I knew I could capture the comet, it was time to see what else I could incorporate into the composition. I decided I would shoot one of my favorite viewpoints in the Wichita Mountains at the Quetone overlook. 

 

7/11/20 Comet NEOWISE delicately hangs above Quetone Point in the Wichita Mounains Wildlife Refuge. Single exposure. 112mm 4sec, f/5, ISO: 1000

 

Between our clouded skies and my work schedule, I decided to wait until the comet was going to visible after sunset. This was just a few days, but when I got the first relatively clear sky I thought I would try using my sky tracker to get more details of the comet. I also learned a longer focal length would be helpful for a composition I was building in my mind. 

 

7/15/20 Tracked image of comet NEOWISE in a heavily light polluted area. You can just start to make out the ion tail. Single exposure, tracked 135mm 30sec, f/4, ISO: 800

 

This trial run was a success and now I knew I could track the comet and capture more details than before. This gave me the freedom to explore many different compositions. The orientation of NEOWISE opened up even more opportunities for creative photography. I drove out to Oklahoma the next evening.

 

7/16/20 Comet C/2020 F3 aka NEOWISE dazzles the southern Oklahoma sky above scenic Twin Mountain near Snyder, OK. Tracked, stacked, and blended exposures. 35mm 30sec/20sec, f/5.6, ISO: 160/800

My shot I had envisioned came to a reality which is always a good feeling. Now I had perfected finding comet NEOWISE in the evening sky. I was also able to predict pretty accurately where the comet would end up in the composition. From here I took the Red River Photography Club to Copper Breaks State Park to enjoy NEOWISE under an unobstructed sky. 

7/18/20 Comet NEOWISE brilliant split tail as observed from the dark rural skies of Copper Breaks State Park. 6 image stack exposure. 70mm 30sec, f/3.2, ISO: 4000

 

The split tail was now more visible and under the very dark skies of Copper Breaks I was able to capture a nice photo of the comet and ion tail. Though my attention was divided and I wasn't able to create any interesting composition that night. NEOWISE was expected to be at its closest to earth on July 23rd. 

 

7/22/20 Comet c/2020 F3 NEOWISE hangs above a dilapidated barn near Burkburnett, TX. Tracked, stacked, and blended exposures. 95mm, 5sec/20sec, f/3.2/f/11, ISO:640/4000

Which brings us to the image I have shared today. I've already told this story and with that I thought I was through with comet NEOWISE. But it turned out I had one more night of shooting. This would be focusing only on the comet. 

7/24/20 A fading comet NEOWISE in the texas night sky. Tracked and stacked image. 200mm (300mm equiv), 50sec, f/2.8, ISO: 1250 Five stacked images. I set out to only capture and focus attention on the comet. I wanted a much longer exposure and more detail in the tail and nucleus. Not bad for not having a telescope though, I could have improved on the tracking. 

 

That wraps up comet NEOWISE for me. There are thousands of amazing images of this comet circulating the internet right now and while those are cool, I encourage you to get out and see the comet for yourself. Here's a link you can use to find NEOWISE in the sky. https://earthsky.org/space/how-to-see-comet-c2020-f3-neowise

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/7/pic-of-the-week-7/31/20 Fri, 31 Jul 2020 15:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 7/24/20 "NEOWISE over the Twin Peaks" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/7/pic-of-the-week-7/24/20 Pic of the Week 7/24/20

“NEOWISE over Twin Peaks”

Location: Mountain Park, OK

Date taken: 7/16/20

 

NEOWISE over Twin MountainsNEOWISE over Twin MountainsComet C/2020 F3 aka NEOWISE dazzles the southern Oklahoma sky above scenic Twin Mountains near Snyder, OK.

© Ben Jacobi

 

I am sure you have heard about comet C/2020 F3 (aka NEOWISE) and you may have even glanced out during the early morning or early evening searching for the celestial wonder. Maybe you have gotten to see it, maybe you live in the southern hemisphere and can only observe vicariously through photographers in the northern latitudes. But one thing I can assure you, it is here, and it is beautiful! Ever since I first heard about the comet, I was adamant about finding an interesting location to photograph it. After doing some research and consulting Google Earth I came to discover the comet would appear in the northwestern skies after sunset. Eventually the comet would move closer to the horizon after dark. If I timed it right, I believed I could get a photo of the comet above the summits of Twin Mountains. Last week I made the 1.5hr drive with my lovely girlfriend Ashlee and my roommate Jaden.

Our photography trio left Wichita Falls shortly after I got off work. Our goal was to arrive on location by 9:00pm. We made the drive across the Red River and into Oklahoma. It was quite windy and there was thick haze off in the western horizon. Vast open farmland encompassed us with zero clouds in the sky. One feels very small under such a big sky. Soon the terrain transitioned to rolling hills with craggy bumps of granite—the Glen Mountains of the Wichita Mountain chain started coming into view. We entered Mountain Park, a small community nestled on the foothills of the mountains and after finding our route we began driving towards our location. Typical to this area of Oklahoma, this road was windy and had sharp 90 degree turns circumventing and skirting open farmland. The road itself was also typical—barely drivable—deep potholes, gravel then dirt, then pavement, then gravel, then more potholes. But we eventually arrived at our location.

To our northwest we could see the Twin Mountains rising from the flat fields, they were approximately 2.5 miles away. Closer to us was a field of some type of crop. I think it was soybean, but I don’t have enough knowledge to confirm.  I wasn’t too concerned with the crop, as my composition was going to be tight and not really have a foreground. After some scouting and checking my compass, I was able to set up for my shot. Ashlee and Jaden set up their angles as well and we waited for the sun to set and the comet to appear. It took some time, but NEOWISE finally made an appearance high above in the northwestern horizon. This was nowhere close to my composition, but I hoped I got my alignment right. Just a little after 10pm NEOWISE showed up in my composition and I started to make some exposures. I wouldn’t have a lot of time to get the shot. But thankfully, I was prepared and started snapping off some shots.

I chose the 135mm focal length because it would make the comet the largest and still incorporate both of the mountains in the shot (after all they are called the “Twin Mountains” so both were needed in the composition).  I was using my iOptron Skytracker to get more detail out of the comet and maybe even capture the ion tail. I first shot 9 images with the tracker at 30seconds each. This gave me an excellent RAW image to use for stacking and blending. After I was satisfied with my comet exposures, I turned the tracker off and reshot my original composition with 9 untracked images at 30 seconds. This way everything would blend in seamlessly. We stood there in awe of NEOWISE and counting stray meteors that streaked across the night sky. Behind us, the galactic core of the milky way rose above our heads. Stars shimmered, coyotes called, crickets chirped, and cameras clicked. It was such a wonderful, peaceful night. We all came back with some great images and some even better memories.

 After NEOWISE sank behind the atmospheric haze, we drove around to the other side of the mountains to photograph the milky way between the Twin Peaks. Our long night of shooting had come to end, and we made our way back to Wichita Falls later that night. Compiling this image proved to be a challenge, but most astro-landscape photography is not simple. First, I stacked the 9 tracked images I made of the comet. The stacking process helps reduce noise/grain and reveals more finer details of the comet. Next, I stacked the 9 untracked images of the foreground. This was again, to reduce noise/grain but this time for the foreground. After that, I had to combine both of these stacks in an accurate and pleasing way, I spent a few days trying to get it just right so the alignment and position were as accurate as possible. This image used up a lot more time than my usual work, but the final result shows it was well worth it! I have several more NEOWISE images that will be coming next week.

If you haven’t been out to see the comet, it has reached its peak and will begin to dim over next week. I highly suggest you get out of the city, bring some binoculars, and go experience this amazing comet before it disappears. Sadly, NEOWISE won’t be seen from earth until the year 8786!!! So, you better get out while you still can.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/7/pic-of-the-week-7/24/20 Fri, 24 Jul 2020 15:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 7/17/20: The Big Spring: Roman Nose State Park https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/7/pic-of-the-week-7/17/20 Pic of the Week 7/17/20

“The Big Spring: Roman Nose State Park”

Location: Roman Nose State Park, OK

Date taken: 6/28/20

 

The Big Spring: Roman Nose State ParkThe Big Spring: Roman Nose State ParkWater gushes from a small cave creating the iconic "Big Spring" in Roman Nose State Park.

© Ben Jacobi

 

“Looks like we’re gonna get our feet wet!” I shouted to Jaden as I plunged my foot into the cool waters of the creek. Jaden was smart and decided to take the high road avoiding the water. I must admit, the initial shock of the cold green water had me contemplating the high trail as well, but I pressed on following the creek upstream with the water reaching halfway up my shins. We were on the hunt for the source of the flowing water. I had seen pictures, videos, and people’s opinions of this target, but photos, videos and words are not match for grand experience. We were making our way to the Big Spring, Jaden up on the banks and me in the water.

The hike…er walk…er wade—Wade! That’s a more accurate description—was short and I reached the creek dam. Here I came to a pool of pristine emerald water. The sunlight gleamed in the water making it sparkle like diamonds. I could hear the “RRRRRSSSSSSSHHHHHHHH” of the nearby waterfall, but I couldn’t see it. Looking up the creek the gypsum walls narrowed into a steep slot-like cut through the dirt as it wound around the creek and into the mysterious cave. Here, I decided to get out of the water and start climbing up to a higher vantage point.

Almost immediately getting out of the water, I started hiking up along the wall. Dirt crumbled beneath me with every step showing the effects of soil erosion. Trees with skeletal roots stretched down the walls. At one point, I’m sure they were deriving nutrients from the soil, but were now exposed to the sun, wind, and other elements causing them to dry and weather. I pressed on gaining a higher perspective. Now I could actually see the waterfall. Big Spring is not an impressive waterfall, maybe only 8ft tall, but it is no less photogenic. The spring has carved a significant cavity into the underlying alabaster and gypsum rock.  Not the strongest or safest rock that’s for sure.

 I exposed a few images before climbing back down closer to the creek and more eye-level with the waterfall. Again, I took my time watching my footing, and carefully reaching my desired location. Now, I had to set up my tripod in such an awkward position that I had lean back against the dirt wall to stabilize myself and keep from falling in the creek. I had a nice view of the waterfall as it poured out gallons of aqua-blue water from the brown-reddish rock. Tree roots dangled over the alcove like the tentacles of a monster guarding the cave. From here it looked like the cave goes back a far way. I could maybe see 20ft past the waterfall before it turned into blackness devoid of any signs of light. How far back does it go? There was no telling.

I shot several different images of the spring. I shot panoramas, wide, tight, vertical, horizontal all sorts of images. But due to the light I wasn’t very happy with my photos. I don’t really care for the light in this image, but I thought that it needed to be documented and I was going to work with that I was given. I will likely return in the fall and shoot a much better photograph. Regardless, this is what I came back with and there is an unexpected beauty to the area. This wraps up my western Oklahoma adventure blog posts and I have been so busy with comet NEOWISE that I haven’t had time to edit anything else. Those photos will be coming later on this month!

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/7/pic-of-the-week-7/17/20 Fri, 17 Jul 2020 17:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 7/10/20: Roman Nose Springs https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/7/pic-of-the-week-7/10/20 Pic of the Week 7/10/20

“Roman Nose Springs”

Location: Roman Nose State Park, OK

Date taken: 6/28/20

 

*Continuing from our western Oklahoma adventure*

 

Jaden and I woke from our little hours of sleep. All night the wind kept pounding the tent with only a few brief moments of peace. On the plus side, we did get to see the milky way last night and went to bed happy with our results. Now we were getting gear together for a sunrise shoot on Sunset Beach. We had some time to kill before our meetup with a local. We spent the morning digging our tripods legs in the sandy shores of Foss Lake. It was much different from yesterday with all the tourists and beach visitors, now we were sharing the beach with one fisherman and a few birds. Although the sunrise was not as expected, we still came back with some good photos. Our time was up on the beach and we were now leaving Foss State Park to meet with a friend in Cordell, OK.

Sadly, I never heard from my friend and our plans to hike a certain area fell through. I was a little upset, but luckily, I had a backup plan. We were pretty close to a location I have always wanted to visit, Roman Nose State Park. Just a little under an hour’s drive, I thought we could make in time to beat the Sunday afternoon crowds. Leaving Foss State Park, we made a small detour along the side of the road to photograph some interesting canyons and rock formations before heading to Roman Nose. The drive up there was pretty normal, a few rolling hills but mostly flat open farmland. That is, until we reached the Canadian River. Very quickly the open pastures collapsed into a wide chasm as the Canadian River snaked its way through the bottomlands. The vegetation changed here too, instead of tall grass and short grass we were seeing more riparian species. Huge Cottonwood Trees lined the banks of the river dwarfing the scrub oak, post oak, and red Cedar. It was such a dramatic change, almost like we were in a completely different part of the state.

Crossing the Canadian, we were just getting a taste of the type of landscape we were driving towards. Roman Nose State Park is one of the original 7 state parks in Oklahoma and is named after a Cheyenne Indian chief—Henry Roman Nose. After the Red River Wars Mr. Nose was allotted some land in Blaine county, OK. A land with steep gypsum canyons and three flowing springs. Mr. Nose lived here from 1892 until his passing in 1917. In 1937 as part of the New Deal the state park was created by the help of the CCC. Driving around Roman Nose State Park you can still see the original stone bridges, picnic areas, and structures made by the CCC.

When we made it to Roman Nose we stopped at the main lodge for maps and trail information. Most of the lodge was empty or closed, likely because of the coronavirus. But after checking in and getting some information we were off to springs. Roman Nose in interesting in that a lot of the park is developed. In fact, they have an 18 hole golf course on their grounds, but there are some many areas that remain completely untouched. You might find yourself in say, a well-developed picnic area but just meander down the trail and soon the surrounding forest swallows you up and all you can hear is the wind in the tress and the gentle splashing of the springs. We arrived at our trailhead and began the short hike to the springs. The sun was out now, and it was starting to heat up a little, soon the masses would be swarming this area to dip, swim, and splash in the springs.

Not long after reaching the springs, I came across this scene. Here I was up on the bank several feet above the spring looking almost eye-level with the multi-tiered waterfalls. The trunks of old cedar trees extended from the ground exiting the frame. How tall are they? Who knows, you cannot tell in this photo. The spring had a bluish-aqua tone to the water which contrasted nicely against the brownish-red rock. The soft early morning light backlit the woods creating a diffuse glow on the idyllic scene. For a moment, it was so peaceful and relaxing I forgot I was photographing and enjoyed the tranquility. I snapped a few frames before hearing the guffaw of some teenagers jumping from rock to rock as they made their way down to my shot. They decided to stick around, and we decided to leave and head on over to the Big Spring. But more on that next week…

 

Roman Nose SpringsIce-cold spring water flows down the multi-tiered rocks forming small pools and waterfalls in the idyllic Roman Nose State Park.

© Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/7/pic-of-the-week-7/10/20 Fri, 10 Jul 2020 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 7/3/20: Milky Way Over Foss Lake https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/7/pic-of-the-week-7/3/20 Pic of the Week 7/3/20

“Milky Way Over Foss Lake”

Location: Foss State Park, OK

Date taken: 6/27/20

 

 

Milky Way Over Foss LakeMilky Way Over Foss LakeQuiet night on the Foss Reservoir and Foss State Park in Oklahoma.

© Ben Jacobi

 

Oh, how long it has been since I’ve been camping? Since I’ve woken up to the cry of coyotes, slept uncomfortably for a few hours, braved the fluctuating temperatures with nothing more than a few aluminum poles and safeguard of nylon? Actually…not that long, Ashlee and I camped at Lake Mackenzie just a few months ago. Regardless, it was time to get away from city stressors and return to nature.  The original plan was to camp Saturday night and wake up early Sunday morning. I had contacted someone who had access to private land near the area. Long story short, that didn’t work out, but we made the best of it and still had a great time. My roommate Jaden got to join me on this trip. Ashlee, unfortunately, was too busy in school.

We left Wichita Falls much later than I had originally anticipated, this is typical of how most of my trips start out. After a couple of hours on the road we reached the entrance to Foss State Park. I did not know much about this park, but there seemed to be a lot of area that needed exploration. Because we arrived later than normal, we didn’t have much time to scout out all the areas of the lake. I guess that just means I have to return at another time.

Our first stop was to check out our campsite. I had reserved site OL005 which was up on a hill overlooking the lake. Since there was very little information on this site, I didn’t know what to expect. I did know that a higher elevation overlooking the lake could make for better astro-landscape images later that night. We arrived at our campsite and were greeted with a blustering wind whipping over the hills. We inspected the site for a minute before exploring the nearby cliffs. Not fifty feet from our camp we found a peculiar rock jutting up from the surface. This miniature sandstone pillar had a unique shape and appeared to line up in the path of the milky way. I thought I could take advantage of the interesting angles and use it as a good foreground for an astro-landscape photograph. I climbed up the rock to get a better view.

A dark brown haze was looming over the horizons. The Saharan dust had made its way into northwestern Oklahoma. Hopefully, this would not cause problems for my proposed night shoot. We explored a few more areas before returning to camp. I was happy with my subject and my composition, but it was much too early for night photography. We instead, drove down to Sunset Beach to photograph the lake and the palapas that were along the shore. I was convinced, if the conditions were right, I could make this beach look like a tropical paradise. We stayed past sunset watching beachgoers and families swim in the lake, while we jumped from palapa to palapa making photographs. Those photos will be shared another time.

After sunset, I was famished from the long drive and the hot and humid weather, so we went back to camp, set up the tent, and then drove to the Copperas Cove Marina to grab some dinner. Our bellies full, we returned to camp and began preparing for the night shoot. Now the sun had set, blue hour had passed, and we were in the full darkness of night. But a half moon was sinking in the western horizon behind a dense layer of clouds, dust, and haze. This did not look so good for milky way photography. Jaden pulled up the IR satellite and we could see a thunderstorm’s anvil in the Texas panhandle was spreading over our sky. From time to time thin breaks in the clouds would reveal shimmering stars through the murky haze. To help pass the time, I decided to photograph my foreground first. I set my camera up to self-timer and ran between the scene with my cell phone trying different light painting angles. That ate up some time, but the clouds and haze were still prominent. I decided to go back to the tent and rest for a while, I would come back out after 30 minutes.

Sometime around 1:00am, we finally had clear enough skies overhead to see the milky way! I rushed down to my scene making sure not to bump my camera and shift my composition. For this image to work I needed the camera to remain as still as possible. I started shooting off some exposures and realized I had left the stabilizer on my lens on the entire time! I was worried that everything I had shot before was ruined and unusable. Thankfully, there were several images that were sharp and could be used in the final image. I spent the next hour taking advantage of the clear skies above and watching planes, satellites, and meteors move across the starry night sky. Saharan dust was still hanging around and the wind had not died down. But in the middle of the gloomy dirt, the milky way shone through bright and clear. I waited for the milky way to move in position over my rock and satisfied with the shoot, returned to the tent for some much needed rest. This final image is made of 11 photos total. There are two for the light painting on the foreground and nine for the milky way stacked to reduce noise (grain) in the photo. I have plenty more images to share from this trip and next week we will be exploring a place I have wanted to visit for a long time—Roman Nose State Park.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/7/pic-of-the-week-7/3/20 Fri, 03 Jul 2020 15:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 6/26/20 "Lawtonka Sunset" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/6/pic-of-the-week-6/26/20 Pic of the Week 6/26/20

“Lawtonka Sunset”

Location: Lake Lawtonka, OK

Date taken: 6/20/20

 

Lawtonka SunsetPeaceful waves lap against the shoreline of Lake Lawtonka in southern Oklahoma. © Ben Jacobi

 

It sure has been a while since I’ve shared anything on this blog. With everything that has been going on I’ve needed photography now more than ever. But sadly, my traveling and photographic adventures have been lackluster. No camping trips, no astro photography, just the same old routine. At least now I’ve been able to get back to work. Ashlee has been having a tough time in summer school, so needless to say we both needed a photo adventure.Normally, a good long hike in the remote wilderness would be enough to fulfill my hiking desires. Unfortunately, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge has not opened some of the more isolated and exciting areas yet. That made me think we could instead take an easy-going scenic drive through the Wichita Mountains area. We left Wichita Falls Saturday afternoon to begin our scenic drive. The fastest way to the WMWR is taking I-44 to exit 49 passing through Medicine Park, this is not my favorite way to access the refuge. I prefer more of the backroads approach.

We started from Wichita Falls and after crossing the river we turned on 36 heading towards Grandfield. We continued north to Chatanooga and this is where we would turn on scenic highway 115. Following this route, the southern face of the Wichita Mountains come into view. The surrounding terrain is typical of southern Oklahoma—flat farmlands. This makes the mountains very visible from dozens of miles away. We drove along the highway reaching the refuge and continued 115. This took us to the infamous town of Meers.From Meers, this is where the drive gets good. Following 115 takes you through the northern side of the Wichita Mountains and the mountains that are not open to the public. The highway makes a series of zig-zagging switchbacks as you circumvent the surrounding mountains. To your south you can see the faces of Mt Sheridan, Mt Tarbone, Poco Mountain, and Mt Lauramac. To your west you can see the tallest peak in the Wichita Mountains Mt Haley, just barely poking up above the surrounding peaks. To the east the Limestone Hills and the Blue Canyon windfarm can bee seen on the horizon.

115 took us to Saddle Mountain a distinguishable mountain in the shape of an old saddle. There is also a settlement nearby named after the unique landmark. This is always a fun drive as the road gets you up close to the mountain. Our road intersected highway 19 and we turned east paralleling the Limestone Hills. We followed 19 for a short while before coming to the Blue Canyon Overlook. This area provided us with an excellent view of the windfarm and the hills.After exploring the overlook, we turned south on Highway 58 drove past a small spring and met up with Chief Stumbling Bear Pass. From the pull off we had an excellent view of the north face of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. If only we had a better sky, it could’ve made for an excellent sunset shot. Now tired and hungry we stopped at Anne’s Country Kitchen to order some take out and decided to shoot what was left of the sunset at Lake Lawtonka.

I’ve shot at Lake Lawtonka a few times before, and each time I’m amazed at the photographic opportunities at the lake. The eastern side of the Wichita Mountains hug up against the western shoreline of the lake and make an excellent backdrop to any photograph. We gathered our gear (and our dinner) and enjoyed a peaceful evening on the lake. Many people were taking advantage of the water and were riding boats on the lake. This sent small waves crashing into the shore and got me excited for some photography.I used a different exposure for this image. Normally, I would go for a silky smooth texture to the water, but this wouldn’t show the waves very well. So I decided to use a faster shutter speed to capture just enough detail in the waves, but long enough to still blur some of the water. This created a dreamy effect and added a nice mood to the image. Sure, I could’ve used a better sky, but I was just happy to be out shooting again. Below I’ve attached a map showing our scenic drive and a few interesting POI’s along the way. I’m looking forward to the next adventure!

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/6/pic-of-the-week-6/26/20 Fri, 26 Jun 2020 16:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 5/29/20: Lightning 5/22/20 https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/5/pic-of-the-week-5/29/20 Pic of the Week 5/29/20

“Lightning 5/22/20”

Location: Holiday, TX

Date taken: 5/22/20

 

Lightning has always been important for my photography. It is the subject that got me into severe weather and storm chasing. While I do enjoy a good lightning display, I find that I don’t see too many good photographs from them. When I first started shooting lightning, any time I caught a bolt it was a good photograph. As time went on, I improved my technical skills to a point where capturing lightning became second nature to me—now I could be artistic.

My standard for “acceptable” lightning imagery increased and the number of lightning photos I captured dwindled. But the quality of my lightning photography improved and although I didn’t have as many lightning photos, the ones I did have were at a higher quality. So now when I go out to photograph lightning, I am only usually excited under certain circumstances. 1: Light, 2: Foreground, 3: Lightning quality. So, if I have an interesting foreground or good light, I’m excited for lightning photography!

One those rare occasions when these three factors coalesce something spectacular happens. That was the case for this week’s Pic of the Week on a local storm chase I made with my wonderful and gorgeous girlfriend, Ashlee. After intercepting a tornado-warned storm just outside of Burkburnett, the sun began to set and we repositioned to the south of town to watch the approaching weather. Sunset/blue hour are my favorite times to shoot lightning. The ambient light is strong enough to bring out foreground detail, but it is also dark enough to allow for longer exposures.

While driving back north we started to see new storm cells going up to our northwest. The storm tops outlined with the soft pink light of post-sunset and the towers climbed into a stunning azure sky. We turned west on FM 2224 heading towards holiday for a closer look. Along the way, we came across a stock pond that reached to the edge of the road. This would be an awesome location for some lighting! Shortly after we pulled over, lightning started to erupt from the developing storms. Bright magenta flashes of hot plasma burst from the clouds and struck the earth, sending shockwaves reverberating through the open field. The freshly filled stock pond reflected the strike and I jumped in excitement for the potential photo.

I quickly and intentionally set up my gear and locked in a composition. It was going to be pretty straight forward, I made sure to include the curvature of the pond which added another layer of depth to the scene. Now it was time to wait for the lightning. Waiting is the longest part. But lightning did come, and in great fashion, as bolt after bolt blasted from the storm landing directly in my composition. It was my favorite time to shoot lightning, we had amazing light, I had an excellent foreground with great reflections, and the lightning was heavily branching and forking as it searched out its opposing charge. This shoot literally checked all the boxes for what I now deem a good lightning photo. Once again…the standard has been raised.

 

Lightning 5/22/20Late evening lightning from a severe warned storm outside of Holiday, TX.

© Ben Jacobi

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) clouds landscape lightning nature night pic of the week severe weather sky storm Texas https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/5/pic-of-the-week-5/29/20 Fri, 29 May 2020 15:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 5/22/20: Wichita Bluffs Sunset https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/5/pic-of-the-week-5/22/20 Pic of the Week 5/22/20

“Wichita Bluffs Sunset”

Location: Wichita Falls, TX

Date taken: 4/24/20

 

I love beautiful untouched picturesque places. I mean, I guess that is expected with me being a nature photographer, but there is something different about a natural wild landscape that I just gravitate to. There are few natural places in Texas that are public but compared to private land the number is quite small. I guess that’s why I enjoy things like state parks and nature preserves. I’m fortunate enough to have a city nature preserve in the town I live in—the Wichita Bluffs Nature Preserve. 

I have photographed this area a few times before, one I even did a blog entry over, but rarely have I come back with any exciting photography work. It’s a shame really. But the way the bluff is oriented, the number of houses on the ridgeline, and the amount of urban distractions make it very difficult for me to find an interesting composition. But due to the effects of COVID-19, many public lands have been closed and I was without a photographic outlet. While out walking with my girlfriend, I noticed how the sun was backlighting the leaves and grasses of the hills. This caught my attention and made me want to explore new compositions in the area.

The next day, I decided to head back over to the park. The forecast was very similar to the previous day which meant clear skies at sunset. This was crucial for the photo I wanted to capture. I started out just right at the southern trailhead and almost immediately found my location. I was actually quite shocked I hadn’t noticed it before, but I found a nice looking hill that gave the scene a nice sense of depth. The hill also created a natural leading line that I hoped would frame nicely in my composition.

Once I found my location it was now time to start searching for the best composition, but I was running into a problem all too familiar with this area. Houses were lined along the ridgeline across the valley and the sharp edges of roofs were poking out between tree branches while powerlines bisected the skyline. Determined to not let those get in my way, I started playing with my perspective and found that I could use the existing vegetation to minimize (and in some cases remove) these urban problems. That meant significantly less Photoshop work in the end.

Now that my composition was locked in, all I had to do was wait for the light. As the sun sank lower and lower in the sky, the trees, flowers, and grasses in my shot started to glow with a brilliant warm rim light. This made all this vegetation pop against the cooler shadowy background and even gave an almost magical look to the scene. If I concentrated hard enough, I could almost imagine this land in its virgin state with no houses on the ridgeline, no power lines cutting across the sky, no cars, no buildings, just raw unbridled nature. I stayed there after the sun went down just enjoying the nice view before the sky faded to a post-evening black.


Wichita Bluffs SunsetPleasant sunset in the Wichita Bluffs Nature Preserve. © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/5/pic-of-the-week-5/22/20 Fri, 22 May 2020 15:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 5/15/20: Wind Towers https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/5/pic-of-the-week-5/15/20-wind-towers Pic of the Week 5/15/20

“Wind Towers”

Location: Chillicothe, TX

Date taken: 5/13/20

 

I had the opportunity to photograph a beautiful thunderstorm outside of Chillicothe, TX the other day. We were expecting some severe weather to move through the area, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to reach a storm before sunset. Around 4pm I started noticing towers going up on radar near the TX/OK border. Several of my chaser friends were already out there and under some of the storms. Knowing, that I wouldn’t be able to reach those storms in time, I turned my attention farther south along the dryline hoping something would come up.

Storms began developing along the dryline and I was itching at the chance to leave and chase some storms. But first I had to finish up at work and then pick up my wonderful girlfriend Ashlee to join me on this chase. We left Wichita Falls just a little after 6:30 and targeted Quanah, TX. Along the way, we could see some of the Oklahoma storms off in the distance. Their robust updrafts and sharp anvils made me worried as our storms looked soft and mushy. Soon we were getting closer to our target and we could make out the base of our storm.

Outside of Vernon, TX we saw the lightning pick up and the storm started to increase in intensity. As we got closer to our storm, I decided to take the first route south that I could. This just happened to by FM 91 in Chillicothe. We made the detour and followed the twisting road through the open farmland. While this area used to be open fields, it has since changed into a large wind farm. Huge propellers have been erected in these open fields to harvest wind energy. I’ve never been a fan of these [no pun intended] and have always cursed them when trying to photograph the once pristine night sky near Caprock Canyons.

But there are some situations where they can prove to be useful for daytime photography. We found a dirt road that would take us close to these massive turbines. I parked the car, gathered my camera, and searched out for a composition. The storms were still 30 miles away from us, but we could start to make out some of our storm’s structure. Above our heads, a blanket of bulgy mammatus clouds stretched out beneath a strip of bright yellow where the last rays of afternoon sunlight were peeking through the storm. We sat there watching the scene before us and seeing the occasional lightning strike off on the horizon. All the while we could only hear the “whooshing” of the blades and our camera’s shutters cycling.

The storm edged closer and closer to our location, but it looked like it was going to just pass to our northeast, which meant we would be in the perfect position for sunset. Slowly but steadily, the quality of light improved on our scene. The ambers and golds of the afternoon transformed into the warm pinks and oranges of late evening, while patches of blues somersaulted and churned aloft. Then I noticed something close to the horizon, what was it? A yellow orb was eerily suspended above the ground. It took me a few seconds to finally realize what I was seeing—the epic sunset we were anticipating was about to happen.

 

Wind Towers © Ben Jacobi

I frantically began shooting images hoping to get the setting sun, good wind turbine position, and lightning all in the same frame. Sadly, the images that did incorporate lighting were before or after this wonderful sundown. The light from the low sun created a beautiful outline around the wind towers making them look almost artificially placed in the scene. The sun sank lower and lower in the sky and the colors just exploded in wonderful hues or blues, reds, oranges, yellows, pinks, and purples. I captured several frames during this time, I believe this is the best image that represents the pinnacle of the event. There is an almost ethereal feeling with the turbines just barely blurred and the glowing orange sun resting in the bottom of the frame. It sure was an excellent experience and a wonderful way to cap off the chase.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/5/pic-of-the-week-5/15/20-wind-towers Fri, 15 May 2020 15:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 5/8/20: The Eye of the Llano https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/5/pic-of-the-week-5/8/20 Pic of the Week 5/8/20

“The Eye of the Llano”

Location: Pole Canyon, TX

Date taken: 5/3/20

 

The Eye of the LlanoA beautiful sandstone arch in a remote slot canyon somewhere in west Texas. © Ben Jacobi

 

You might just glance at this photo and assume it was captured in desert state of Arizona, the red rock state of Utah, or somewhere along the Colorado Plateau, but neither of these are true. Believe it or not, this was captured on a private ranch in west Texas! This arch that some have named “The Eye of the Llano” was found in a slot canyon along the west Texas canyonlands. I think that is my favorite thing about the Texas slot canyon—you just don’t ever know what to expect.

This past Sunday Ashlee and I met up with a group of hikers at the Pole Canyon Ranch near Silverton, TX. Our goal was to reach the Eye of the Llano and another slot close by before the heat of the day. To get a good jump on the drive (and to get away for a while) Ashlee and I camped about 30 miles away on Lake Mackenzie. It was a beautiful campsite with an excellent view of the lake. The aqua-blue waters were perfect for bringing a reprieve from the hot summer sun.

We explored a little bit of the lake before finally setting up camp and sleeping under the stars. We had to wake up early to meet everybody on time the next day so no astophotography or night shooting for us, although I will absolutely be returning to stay at Lake Mackenzie. The next morning was woke up, had some breakfast, and broke camp. It was perfectly still, and the glow of the rising sun could be seen creeping over the lake. Temperatures were a chilly 54F. Once we were up on moving, we started warming up.

We made the uneventful drive to the entrance of the Pole Canyon Ranch. Somewhere around 95% of Texas land is privately owned. Most landowners choose to keep their land private and only accessible through permission, but there are some like Pole Canyon Ranch that have opened their property up to hiking, camping, and nature viewing. We reached the guesthouse and got our check in paperwork, paid our fee, and parked waiting on the others.

Around 7:45am vehicles started pulling into the ranch and soon we were exchanging greetings and gearing up for our hike. There were several of us and a dog named Dude going on this hike, but we were all diligent with keeping our social distancing—except for Dude he had to get pets from everybody! We started our hike following an old ranch road. Its hard to believe there is a vast network of canyons and ravines so close to where we are. It reminded me of the drive to Palo Duro Canyon. You are high up on the plateau and all of a sudden, the Earth gives way around you and soon you’re in a complex system of canyons and badlands.

The road led us to the junction of the North and South Pole creeks. I will not say which one we took, but I will say it was a wet and muddy hike before reaching another ranch road. Along the way, rust colored canyon walls enveloped us as we trudged through the boggy floodplain making several creek crossings and trying our best not to get muddy or wet. When we reached the road, we knew we were close to the slot. The road climbed for a short while and I could see the mouth of the slot. If I looked close enough, I could make out the top of the arch. It was larger than I expected.

We found our way down to the dry creek, and after checking out the secondary target (that was my mistake) we reached the slot. While this slot is not super deep, it was no less beautiful. Beside the arch, the smooth sandstone walls and striations proved to us the hike was well worth it. Then towards the mouth of the slot I could see the arch. Just before the arch was a keeper hole filled with smooth stones. I guess these become natural rock tumblers. I climbed down into the keeper hole and waited for the light.

Due to the proximity of the arch, I had to shoot this photo a different way. To cover the wide exposure range of the scene I had to bracket my shots, then to get the depth I wanted I needed to focus stack, and lastly to get the composition I wanted I would have to shoot a panorama. It took a total of 54 images to create this final version between the blending and the stacking, but I think it was well worth it. I love the reflected light on the underside of the arch and the warm glow on the cliffs in the background. The hike and extra post-processing work all proved to be more than worth it. Below you can see some video accounts of our hike from Bary Nusz and Steve Pemberton. I am also including a timelapse video I made of the editing process of this image. I think is all the slot canyons until the weather starts to cool down, but we will just have to wait and see. There are still plenty more slots on the Llano Estacado I have yet to see and who knows how many have yet to be discovered.

 

 

Editing timelapse of the Eye of the Llano

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eQ_GghWFds8
 

 

Bary's Eye of the Llano video

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IwmyOrf1czw
 

 

Steve's Eye of the Llano

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xY6mYE-IbdA
 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/5/pic-of-the-week-5/8/20 Fri, 08 May 2020 16:40:22 GMT
Pic of the Week 5/1/20: The Howling Winds #2 https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/5/pic-of-the-week-5/1/20 Pic of the Week 5/1/20

"The Howling Winds #2"

Location: Temple, OK

Date taken: 4/28/20

 

When does a photo become more than just a visual representation of reality? Can a photo transcend the visual world and reach our other senses? Is it a photograph then, or has it transformed into something more? When does a photograph become art?

 

The Howling Winds #2 © Ben Jacobi

 

Several years ago, I was driving down some country roads in Iowa Park. I had my drivers license and a car that allowed to extend my reach of photogenic locations. One of these locations was on some ranchland just off the main road. A lone mesquite tree stood right next to a barbed wire fence. The tree was quite interesting in shape and was completely barren all year around. This dead mesquite tree served as an excellent subject for some of my early “landscape” photography.

On one particular day, storms had moved through our area into the sunset hour. The light hit in such a way that it illuminated a cluster of mammatus clouds off to my east and new towers blowing up to my south. The top of one of the updrafts blocked light from reaching the other storms and created a nearly straight line of dark shadow separating the two storms. Directly below this shadow was my favorite dead mesquite tree. The light was exquisite, the composition was working, and the scene was magnificent. But there was something missing from that photograph, something that would tie the whole thing together and really connect the viewer to the scene.

A cold front was blasting through the area and it howled as it blew through the open prairie like some ancient monster shrieking out in the evening. While this photograph could show everything else, it couldn’t convey the sound—The Howling Winds. The only way I could do that was to title the image “The Howling Winds”. I have tried with almost all my photographs to try to reach more than just the visual senses. Sure, that is an important aspect of photography, but if the photo can make you feel more immersed in the scene, I believe that’s where the power is.

For example, go look through some of my other photographs on this website and really study them. Did you hear it? Did you feel it? Did you smell it? Taste it? Maybe you heard the trickling of a small creek, or felt the sun-scorched sand beneath your feet or smelled the ozone and rain while looking at a storm image? Doesn’t that make the photo more powerful?

A few days ago, I chased some storms with my lovely and beautiful girlfriend Ashlee and my good friend and roommate Jaden in southern, OK. Nothing particularly special about these storms, but we intercepted a mediocre severe warned storm out in the middle of some Oklahoma farmland. And as the last rays of light set below the horizon our scene exploded into a canvas of insane colors and wild shapes! I set up my camera with my ultra-wide angle lens and positioned it against the wheat field. This eliminated the horizon, so you don’t really have anything to ground you in the photo. Now I shot a 1.6sec exposure to capture details in the clouds, but also blur the foreground. Needless to say the wind was really ripping that evening. This is not like my typical storm image, but I believe it is one of the more emotional storm images I’ve captured. Can’t you just hear the rustling of the wheat or smell the rain in those nearby storms? Take it all in and immerse yourself in “The Howling Winds #2”.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/5/pic-of-the-week-5/1/20 Fri, 01 May 2020 15:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 4/23/20 "Rope Out: Goodnight, TX" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/4/pic-of-the-week-4/23/20 Pic of the Week 4/23/20

“Rope Out: Goodnight, TX”

Location: Goodnight, TX

Date taken: 4/22/10

 

There are significant moments in every young man’s life. Some examples are his first kiss, his first car, his graduation, and of course his first photogenic tornado. Ok, maybe the latter isn’t a first for most people, but it sure was a significant moment in my life. I can’t believe it has been ten years since this photo was taken! Ten years, my how the time flies by. April 22, 2010 will be a day I always remember for the rest of my life. My friend and storm chasing mentor Jason Brock picked me up from Iowa Park and we headed towards the Texas panhandle. A little after 4pm storms began to fire along the dryline and we moved further west to Goodnight, TX. Little did I know what I was about to experience…

 This was first photogenic tornado I saw. I witnessed this tornado from its spontaneous birth to its snaking rope out all in the span of 13 minutes. I’ll never forget watching it turn into a large stovepipe, being excited to get some up-close tornado shots, and being so disappointed to see the highway patrol has closed off our only route to the approaching twister. Since our path to the tornado was cut off, we decided to pull a little farther back up on hill to watch the storm. As the tornado approached closer to the highway, I noticed this interesting tree just off the road. My thought was “If the tornado crosses the road, I might be able to incorporate the tree into the composition.” The tornado started to weaken and shrivel up as it crossed the highway. I shot a series of images just before it roped out and this was the only one that was in sharp focus.

Thankfully, ended up with one useable image of this awesome scene. A beautiful Texas countryside with a delicate tree sub framing a photogenic roping tornado—I couldn’t have asked for more. And while there were several other chasers that got some incredible close shots of this twister, but no one had this view that Jason and I shared.  This was the last season I got to chase with Jason before he passed away later in 2010. If it wasn’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have the knowledge on severe weather and storm chasing I have now. I wouldn’t have some of the friendships I’ve accumulated over the last 11 years of storm chasing. And I certainly wouldn’t have some of the storm images I’ve captured over my chasing experience.

 

Rope Out: Goodnight, TXRope Out: Goodnight, TX © Ben Jacobi

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/4/pic-of-the-week-4/23/20 Thu, 23 Apr 2020 15:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 4/9/20: Pedernales Falls State Park https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/4/pic-of-the-week-4/9/20 Pic of the Week 4/9/20

“Pedernales Falls State Park”

Location: Pedernales Falls State Park, TX

Date taken: 4/9/17

 

The effects of COVID-19 have been seen all across our state. Since March 28, I myself have been at home in my apartment social distancing. There was a chance that I might get the opportunity to go out and hike or photograph, but the state of Texas has now closed all their state parks, state natural areas, and state historic sites to help curb the spread of this virus. And while part of me understands the reasoning behind this decision, it makes me sad to know that I can’t visit any of these beautiful parks. On the other hand, I have visited around 15 of our state parks so I do have some memories I can recall.

One of those memories was captured three years ago today on a trip to the Texas hill country with my mother. After spending the day at Colorado Bend State Park and Hamilton Pool our last stop of the day was Pedernales Falls State Park. Like I mentioned in a previous blog post, my research into this state park did not provide me with much photographic locations. A more obvious and common photograph was the overlook on the way down to the river access. Here, you can see the upper and lower Pedernales Falls was it tumbles down blocky limestone boulders forming enchanting pools and picturesque waterfalls.

It is so amazing in person and no matter how hard I tried I could not accurately convey the scale and size of the area. If you have not been to see it in person, I highly recommend you go. While the overlook was beautiful, it was not going to be my destination for sunset. But the scene was so nice it could not go undocumented. The only problem? People. Lots and lots of people were enjoying the tranquil waters of the river and were scattered all around my composition. Knowing I could remove them in post processing (just like I would have to for my Hamilton Pool image) I didn’t think twice about it. I made a series of exposures using my 10 stop neutral density filter to blur and smooth out the water as well as any tourists that were moving. Some, however, decided to stay still during this thirteen second duration and ended up as “distractions”—at least that was my initial reaction.

 

View of the Pedernales River from the overlook. © Ben Jacobi

After completing the edit I was quite satisfied with the dreamy look I achieved with the long exposure. It makes this beautiful area look even more magical. But again, it was so difficult to show the size and depth of this place. So, I decided to reopen the image and reprocess the photo with a select few tourists to help put the landscape in perspective. If you look closely you will see a photographer set up on the edge of a rock looking at the falls. There’s a woman with a dog lying down and soaking up the sun, another woman lying down, and a man standing watching the falls. These “distractions” really help bring in the grandeur of the location and give scale to the scene. Since we can’t enjoy this park right now I thought it would be appropriate to share an image of other people experiencing Pedernales Falls State Park. I did include them removed for those that want to just view the nature. Enjoy!  

 

View of the Pedernales River from the overlook. © Ben Jacobi

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/4/pic-of-the-week-4/9/20 Thu, 09 Apr 2020 15:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 4/2/20: Quetone Falls https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/4/pic-of-the-week-4/2/20 Pic of the Week: 4/2/20

“Quetone Falls”

Location: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, OK

Date taken: 3/22/20



Quetone FallsQuetone FallsA seasonal waterfall careens down granite rocks into a pool of emerald water. This pool reaches Medicine Creek farther downstream. © Ben Jacobi

 

I hope everyone is staying safe and calm during this difficult time. I have been off work for three days now (at the time of writing this). While I am enjoying the time off, I’ve been staying at my apartment and have been practicing my social distancing. No plans to drive and photograph or camp anywhere. We can all pray that everything gets back to normal real soon.

With that being said, we will revisit my last outside encounter at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge a few weeks ago. Like I said in a previous blog post our main goal for this day’s hike was going to be exploring some of the seasonal waterfalls around the refuge. There are two main waterfalls that majority of the public know well. One would be the waterfall in the Forty Foot Hole and the other would be Post Oak Falls in the Charon Gardens. Both falls are mostly running throughout the year and while these are excellent subjects, they were not what we were after. Believe it or not, but there are dozens of waterfalls in the refuge, but we refer to them as “seasonal” waterfalls only showing up after a heavy rainstorm or flash flood. After the previous rain we had during that week, I thought it would make for a good opportunity to explore some of those lesser known falls. My wonderful, beautiful, and amazing hiking-partner/girlfriend joined me on the adventure.

When we arrived at the refuge several of the peaks were covered in a thick layer of fog. We decided to stop and take some photographs before we began our hike. We spent an hour shooting and enjoying the scenery around us, but it was time to start seeking out some of these waterfalls. We gathered our gear and headed back east to the Mt Scott picnic area. This would be our starting point. Ashlee and I gathered our gear and started off on our trip. All around us cardinals, blue jays, chickadees were singing and searching the wet ground for a tasty morsel. Their chittering and chirping and flashes of color as they darted from tree to tree gave the refuge a less melancholy mood. One that was a nice reprieve to drizzly gray weather. Our boots squished beneath the soggy ground as we started to slog up a hill avoiding small rocks and boulders hiding in the grass. This hike was not supposed to be very long, but with the uncertain terrain, wet conditions and lack of reliable trail, it could prove to be a bit of a challenge.

We left the pavement of the road and started hiking up the hill. Immediately we were surrounded by the familiar post oak, juniper, and bois d’ arc trees this place is well known for. Soon the highway was out of sight and we were getting into the wilderness. We followed a westward direction keeping Quetone Point and Mt Scott’s Boy as our guides to navigate the area, of course we were never more than a mile from the highway, but its good to practice navigation skills. Our first stop was a rock outcropping and cliff that I believed would give us a nice view of the waterfall. I also had some hope that I would be able to photograph the falls and Quetone point in the same composition. After some minor scrambling and bushwhacking we made it to the overlook. The rushing waters of the Little Medicine Creek could be heard from our location. While this view was nice, I still thought we needed to get closer to the falls.

We hiked a bit to the north to search out a place to cross the creek. Above the main falls were several smaller waterfalls and rapids. Naturally, we stopped and photographed a few of these before finally crossing the creek. We continued south and came across another cross timber wooded area and navigated our way through the trees to the base of the falls. Carefully, we traversed the slick granite rocks and took our time making our way to the creek. The falls were roaring now and everything around us was drowned out as the water cascaded down colorful lichen-covered rocks into an emerald pool some thirty feet below. I made several exposures of Quetone Falls and this was one of my favorites. Although I would have liked a more interesting sky, it was still a great scene. We finished up at the waterfall and took a similar path back to our vehicle. Sadly, none of the other waterfalls panned out that day—this just means I need to return when there’s more rainfall. I’m looking forward to it.

 

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) creek landscape nature Oklahoma Pic of the Week Quetone Falls travel water waterfall waterfalls Wichita Mountains Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/4/pic-of-the-week-4/2/20 Thu, 02 Apr 2020 15:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 3/26/20: Summit Tree https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/3/pic-of-the-week-3/26/20 Pic of the Week 3/26/20

“Summit Tree”

Location: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, OK

Date taken: 3/22/20

 

It has been a while since I posted anything to this blog, allow me to explain. After my hike to PDC in February I was ready for another slot canyon hike that following weekend, but during the first part of the week I got sick and was sick for several days—sadly no hiking for me. After I was sick the next weekend was going to rainy for any good slot photography and now it looks like slot season is just about over. Now it appears more and more cities are being quarantined and locked down due to the spread of the virus. If that’s the case for Wichita Falls, then that means no hiking for at least a few weeks. But storm season is just around the corner which has me excited and hopeful.

Last weekend Ashlee and I practiced social distancing with Mother Nature and took a trip to the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, I had not been there since December, so I was happy to be back. With the recent rains the area has received I thought it would be a nice idea to look for and photograph some of the waterfalls in the refuge. When we arrived at the refuge low hanging clouds and fog were coming up from the south and southwest. Several of the Wichitas mountain peaks were covered by fog and others were completely invisible. This made for some great atmospheric landscape shots and we decided to set up at the Quetone overlook. This is what I believe is the quintessential view of the Wichita Mountains. On a clear day you can see Mt Scott, Mt Scott’s Boy, Hunting Horse, Hill, Quetone Point, Mt Wall, Mt Sheridan, Mt Roosevelt, Central Peak, and the Fort Sill mountains, but today we could only make out Quetone Point, Hunting Horse Hill, and Mt Wall, and Mt Scott’s Boy. The rest were shrouded in a thick layer of fog.

After exploring a few waterfalls (future blog post coming) we decided to call it day. But before we left, I proposed we go drive up Mt Scott. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t even bring it up. I’ve photographed it so many times that its hard to find anything new and with the number of tourists it attracts its hard to feel immersed in the landscape. But now there was a layer a fog and clouds just around the summit. Normally you couldn’t pay me to go up this mountain but put some fog and drama in the mix and I’ll be there! I made the familiar drive up the winding road taking in the views along the way. About ¾ of the way up our views started to become hazier and eventually we couldn’t even see the landscape 1000ft below us. I was pretty excited.

We parked our vehicle at the summit, and I was shocked at the number of visitors that were congregating in the parking lot. We took off away from the tourists and boulder hopped our way to the sw side of the summit. There I saw a distinctive old cedar tree near the cliffs edge. This tree had a lot of character and would make an excellent subject. The tree is gangly and weathered and has significantly more branches on the left side making it a unique shape. The tree looks like its stretching itself as far away from the trunk as possible. No doubt the strong winds on the summit have helped shape the tree into the gnarly form.

 

Summit TreeSummit Tree

© Ben Jacobi

Behind the tree fog began to clear and I could make out the peaks of Quetone Point, Hunting Horse Hill, Lawtonka Peak, and Mt Sheridan. This was going to be a tricky image to shoot. It only works with fog and you must have the right amount. If you don’t get enough fog the tree becomes lost in the background. If you get too much fog you don’t see the depth nor height of the location. So, I sat on a rock with my camera poised as I waited for the right amount of fog to return. Finally, I had ideal conditions and I shot off a series of exposures before the fog fully dissipated. I was really pleased with the composition of the image. I like how the white stones lead the eye to the tree and contrast nicely with the green grasses. You can make out some of the detail in the background, but its just the right amount of hazy. The tree branches don’t get lost in the background. Below I’ve attached some rejects images to show you the difference the right conditions can make.

 

There is not enough fog in this image and the tree branches get lost in the background.   This photo has too much fog and you can't see the height and depth of the scene.
 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) clouds fog landscape mountains mt scott nature oklahoma pic of the week sky travel tree wichita mountains wichita mountains wildlife refuge https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/3/pic-of-the-week-3/26/20 Thu, 26 Mar 2020 15:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 2/28/20: Lower Utah Slot https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/2/pic-of-the-week-2/28/20 Pic of the Week 2/28/20

“Lower Utah Slot”

Location: Palo Duro Canyon, TX

Date taken: 2/23/20

 

I had an incredible adventure this past weekend. I met up with my good friend and hiking buddy Steve Pemberton for an ambitious hike in the Palo Duro back country. This area is quickly becoming my favorite place in Texas. I know I haven’t been to Big Bend yet, but there is something about this canyon that keeps me coming back to discover more and more. We met up with several local hikers and all together our group was 11 hikers. Steve, Alma, Bary, Katrina, Darla, Heath, Amber, Devin, Teri, and I all met along the alternative park road 5 before beginning our ascent up Mesquite Mesa. Greg was running a little late and he met up with us closer to the top.

Our first stop was to a place I am very familiar with, the Central Utah slots. The last time I was here I photographed some nice light in the upper portion of the slot. The lower section looked to be impassible with water and mud. I was very excited to see there was virtually no water in the slot. We climbed down into upper Central Utah and I felt a sense of nostalgia as I placed my hands along the smooth sandstone walls. Hard to believe it had been almost a year since my last visit. I made my way out of upper Central Utah and ignored the amazing striations and wave-like patterns of the slot. I had my eyes set on another target. This time I was going to photograph lower Central Utah.

Between upper and lower Central Utah there is another shallow slot we call “middle”. This slot has some amazing shapes and patterns, but I have yet to find a photogenic composition of the area. I quickly bypassed middle Utah and found my way towards lower. The canyon walls started to rise as I came around the bend. Now the unmistakable “subway” feature was visible, and I followed it to the head of lower Utah slot. This slot can only be accessed (safely) by entering through the mouth (exit). This means you must traverse the sandstone and as you follow the gash in the Trujillo you can just barely see the sandy bottom of the slot. I could feel the excitement well up inside me.

After some careful navigation, I was at the mouth of lower Central Utah. The sun had already been out for almost three hours now and the sun was starting to climb over the canyon. Harsh light was hitting the cliffs off to my right high above the slot. This was the light I was hoping for. Down in the depths of the slot I started to scout out for a few compositions. I noticed the warm reflected light on the subway above the slot and how it contrasted with the cool blue shadows of the slot canyon itself. I set up my camera and tripod and took a few test shots. Though the composition was nice the light wasn’t quite where I wanted it—so I decided to sit and wait.

The light started to wrap around the serpentine curve and fall a little more on my scene, while this light was nice it was only in an isolated area of the composition and so I moved on to another photo I had scouted earlier. This time light was falling on the rock jam near the head of the slot. These rocks and cliffs were in direct sunlight and sent glorious reflected light on the walls of the slot right in front of my camera. I once again, set up my tripod, but now I was fighting to catch the light in time. I found my composition and captured a few images. I had finally photographed lower Central Utah, but I wasn’t finished there.

I zoomed in a little tighter on my current shot and found that I liked that composition was well. With the light fading quickly on the slot, I captured a series of bracketed and focus stacked images with the simpler composition. This ended up being my favorite from the lower Central Utah shoot. I love the soft warm glow of the walls in the foreground and the cool dark tones towards the mouth of the slot. High above, the subway hangs overhead and completely blocks out the sky making the slot feel even more compact. I love the mood from the lighting in this image and although it did take some extra post-processing time, I found it to be worth it.


Lower Utah SlotLower Utah SlotWarm reflected light enters the depths of a sculpted slot canyon in the Palo Duro backcountry.

© Ben Jacobi

 

The more I visit these locations the more I find myself steering away from the wide-angle shots and trying to compose a more intimate image of landscape. Sometimes you do need the wide lens, but there are times when a tighter crop simplifies the composition. I spent the next hour shooting various images of lower Utah, but nothing was quite like this photo. Being satisfied with what I photographed, I returned above the slot and waited for the rest of our hiking party to finish up their photos taking in the gorgeous canyon scenery. If you would like to hear more from this adventure keep reading, but if you just wanted to learn about this photo you can stop here.

 


 

***The adventure continues***

 


We gathered up our gear and made our way out of Central Utah slot. Two hikers from our party decided to turn back as they were interested in seeing other locations. This next leg of the hike would take me to a slot that I knew about but had never seen in person—Boulder slot. But before we could see Boulder slot we first must get down from the mesa. We followed an old ranch road for a short distance before it made a sharp curve around a tall mesa. Near the peak of the curve we started hiking down the steep 40% grade. Loose rock, dirt, and scree would crumble with each step we took. Were someone to slip and fall it would be a bumpy ride down.

 

Looking down into North Cita Canyon. You can see the steep slope I am currently on.

Cell phone image

 

Eventually we made it down the 360ft hill and reached Cita creek. Crystal clear water ran down white sandstone boulders while storm clouds began to build to our southwest and we decided to stop for lunch. The canyon was empty and peaceful. All we could hear was the wind blowing through the grass and trickling of the creek. After our lunch we began to hike to our next target. We followed the creek to the next draw. The draw forked as we climbed in the creek bed and we took the eastern one to head to the slot. We scrambled up some large boulders before reaching another steep climb. We must now go up another 300+ foot to reach the draw. Again, the rock, dirt, and scree made the climb difficult and we took our time.

After some sketchy descents we reached Boulder slot. This slot was not as photogenic as Central Utah (though few are), but it was still a fascinating slot to explore. The light was much harsher in the slot and I was thinking I might not get any good photos. I got some decent images, but after the dynamic light from Central Utah, Boulder just didn’t feel the same. We did not spend too much time in Boulder, and we gathered our party before moving along the rim of the mesa to investigate the next two draws.

Boulder SlotBoulder Slot

As we climbed over the mesa, North Cita Canyon came into view. Dappled sunlight hit the cliffs and highlighted the multicolored rocks of the canyon. Deep oranges, bright whites, blues, greens, grays, purples, and browns were speckled all around the canyon like the splattering of a paintbrush.  This scene, so spectacular, that it must be photographed. Unfortunately, I just snapped an image with my cell phone. There are a lot of things I regret not taking photos of along this hike. We followed along the rim of the canyon to the next draw. Would there be slot canyons here?

 

Spectacular canyon views of North Cita Canyon. The colors here were just remarkable.

Cell phone image

 

Nope. Instead we came to a huge narrow that curved its way down the drop off at the end of the mesa. The cliffs were at least forty feet tall and looked fairly photogenic. As we made our way closer, we discovered a mini slot with a hanging fin over the “slot”. Its hard to imagine what type of forces would carve into the stone but leave a thin bridge over the rock. Immediately across the way we could also see another “subway” feature. Although not nearly as large or long, this was still an exciting find. It seemed the deeper we get into the back country the more fascinating geology we come across.

Our hiking party continued east keeping close to the rim of the mesa. Storms were starting to fire up near Tulia, some 40 miles away. Our blue skies and sunshine started to become grayer and cloudier. While our chance for rain was low, it was not 0%. Our next target came into view and we started to head towards it. Another narrows, but this looked to have some slot-like features. We would need to get closer to investigate. We hiked around a segment of brushy mesquite and huge cactus passing between the desert plants. About halfway to the narrows I felt a raindrop hit the back of my neck. Soon after a torrential sheet of rain came pounding on our hiking party. This was the first thunderstorm we would be caught in that day.

 

Huge cactus (over 8ft tall) we found while exploring the mesa.

Cell phone image

 

I scrambled to get my rain jacket and find some cover. Three of us huddled up in a mesquite grove. It did little to keep us dry, but it did stop most of the hail. Oh yea, it started hailing. Not huge or significant hail, but enough to make you take shelter from it. After a few minutes the rain passed, and we tried to regroup. Instead of going down into the narrows I stayed up top hoping to catch a rainbow over the canyon. Conditions weren’t right for that, so I made my way to the narrows and hiking group. Due to the unexpected weather we decided to dub the area “Stormy Narrows”. Stormy Narrows did have a shallow slot that stair-stepped its way down to a series of smooth channels and drop offs. Again, I pulled out my phone and snapped a few images, but nothing with my camera. Rain on a hike can really bring down morale.

 

Sluice near the head of "Stormy Narrows". Note the mud puddle at the end of the slide. Everybody had mud on their shoes from this hike.

Cell phone image

 

Now all the slots would be muddy, slick, and even more dangerous. We finished up at Stormy Narrows and began another climb. All that dirt, loose rock, and scree was now wet and even more slippery. Once we climbed back out of the narrows Bary got cell phone reception and checked the radar. Sure enough, another larger thunderstorm was heading our way. It was long at all before we were once again seeking shelter from another storm. Some of the hikers had found a small outcropping in the rock and suggested we take shelter there. We sat around waiting on the rain to pass and when it did a brilliant rainbow spread out over the canyon. And again, I pulled out my phone and snapped a few images. I was starting to get tired.

 

Bary photographing the amazing rainbow that followed from the second thunderstorm of the day.

Cell phone image
 

Our last target for the day was the elusive Canoncita slot. No one in our hiking party had ever been to this location so we did not know what to expect. We made another climb in the dirt and mud and my legs started to burn. I knew I wasn’t going to have much energy left. We hiked for another mile before reaching an old ranch road. This would be the path that would take us to the main Canoncita slot and then we would just need to hike back out. Along the way, we decided our turn around point would be 4pm. We reached Canoncita by 4:30pm. I was tired and beat I didn’t even care too much about exploring this slot. I didn’t even take out my phone to capture any images. I was starting to check out. Instead of going back up and down Mesquite mesa we made the decision to go around it. This would add another 4 miles to our hike, but it would be on mostly flat ground. Once we got down from the mesa.

The crew finished up at Canoncita and we started to make our way down the mesa. I don’t remember too much about this other than there were a lot of tree branches we had to push through and some large boulders to scramble around once we hit the creek bed. As we hiked north towards our exit trail we came to the Landslide Lake. Somewhere between 2008 and 2012 a wall of the canyon collapsed in this area and dammed up the creek creating a 3 acre lake right in the middle of our path. We skirted the side of the lake, carefully navigating the muddy banks and trying not to fall in. Just at the end of the lake we came across a bog that had quicksand in it. We instantly searched for another path around the quicksand and thankfully, everyone made it through just fine. Although now we were less than 2 hours from sunset and we still had almost another 8 miles to hike. We quickly realized we would not be getting back before dark.

Following the dry creek we eventually met up with a game trail that took us down to Cita Creek. From Cita Creek we would need to follow it back to the east and then the north until we ran into the Prairie Dog Fork of the Red River. The sun started fading fast as we hiked along Cita Creek. My legs and my spirit were done. I was lagging behind and keeping everybody of continuing on. I had to make frequent stops as my legs were now starting to seize up. Just a few minutes rest would help me continue for another mile or so. Our goal now was to reach the creek and river confluence before nightfall. We barely made it in time passing over barbed wire fences from old ranches and sharing the trail with a couple of cows.

Bary, pointed out a feature I have longed to see Cathedral Peak, but given my fatigue and with darkness closing in. I only took a half-hearted glance at the rock. Only three more miles to go. The sky started fading into the night and soon starts were visible overhead. The wind started to pick up which prompted me to put on my jacket. Maybe under different circumstances I would have appreciated the quiet night, but I just wanted to get back to my car. After another mile I was done. I had to stop my legs started cramping and I couldn’t go on. Some of the other hiker were gracious enough to give me some of their water and a few provisions. This gave me just enough energy to get through the rest of the hike.

Hiking by the light of our headlamps, we came to our last hurdle—crossing over the river. Steep muddy banks prevented us from finding a way around. There was a very sketchy looking log that fell over that we could possibly traverse, but I knew I couldn’t do it in my condition. I went off to search a little further upstream of the river and I found the legitimate river crossing not a few hundred feet from our location. “Huge logs!” I shouted back to the group. Bary came over and confirmed this was the crossing he was searching for. Now we just needed to straddle the log and inchworm our way across the river. Everyone made it across just fine and our reward was a familiar trail and the peace of mind knowing we were less than two miles from the Equestrian parking area. The hard part of the hike was over. Now all I had to was put one foot in front of the other and just follow the leader.

We made it back to the Equestrian Trail in just under an hour. The time was now 10:30pm. We were cut up, muddy, wet, smelly, tired and hungry—at least I was. Finally, after almost 15hours I was not hiking. I lied down on the picnic table with my entire body throbbing. Bary graciously continued on from the Equestrian Trail to his vehicle and picked us up and drove us the .8 miles back to our cars. I sat there in the driver seat of my 4Runner just trying to digest everything that happened today. There were times where I thought I was going to spend the night in the canyon. But thankfully, our hiking group kept pressing everyone on. I am so grateful for their patience and understanding. Instead of making the four-hour drive back to Wichita Falls I got a hotel for the night. I got to take a nice hot bath and let my muscles soak and I got to sleep in a cozy bed. I learned quite a bit from this hike, and I gained a new respect for the Palo Duro Canyon and natives and settlers that once lived there.

 

If you would like to see more of this adventure Steve Pemberton has a couple of videos up of our hike. You can find them here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEu-SGLVMYo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTELMPn_BdI
 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) canyon Cita Canyon hike hiking landscape nature Palo Duro Canyon Palo Duro Canyon State Park Pic of the Week rainbow slot slot canyon storm storms Texas Texas panhandle travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/2/pic-of-the-week-2/28/20 Fri, 28 Feb 2020 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 2/20/20: Dance of the Juniper https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/2/pic-of-the-week-2/20/20 Pic of the Week 2/20/20

“Dance of the Juniper”

Location: Copper Breaks State Park, TX

Date taken: 2/15/20

 

Well, I have been very busy over these past few weekends. I picked up my images from Amarillo and made a day visit to Palo Duro Canyon State Park, then I hiked a little over 10 miles in the Caprock Canyon State Park landscape, and over this past weekend I made a short trip to Copper Breaks State Park for a scouting trip and some hiking as well—although this was not a 10 mile hike.

Normally, I visit Copper Breaks during the milky way season. In fact, one of my best photos/views of the milky way was captured there. But I wanted to explore new possible locations and compositions for milky way and astro-landscape photography. Scouting is considerably easier during the daytime. After work on Saturday, I gathered up my gear, my roommate, and my beautiful girlfriend and we drove down to Copper Breaks. Our goal was to inspect some campsites high up on one of the ridges. We also explored some areas around the Big Pond.

With the bulk of the work done, it was now time to enjoy a leisurely hike around Bull Canyon. We started the hike and explored more compositions and marveled at the fascinating geology the trail has to offer. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and had to make our way back to the car. Along the way we missed the sunset, but as we ascended the western rim of Bull Canyon we came to an overlook. A soft warm light reflected off the canyon rim and made the sandstone glow with a pink hue. As we walked the rim, I spotted a Juniper tree dangling on the cliff edge. The sandstone around it had eroded leaving a lot of the roots exposed. The tree was clinging to the cliff for its life and the contorted twisting shape of it made me think of a complicated dance move.

 

Dance of the JuniperDance of the JuniperA Juniper tree clings to the cliff in Bull Canyon of Copper Breaks State Park. © Ben Jacobi

 

Perhaps the must unusual thing about this image, is how I decided to capture it. I did everything the opposite of what I “normally” use for landscape photography. I used my telephoto lens instead of wide angle. This allowed me to focus in entirely on the tree and simplify the composition. I used a very wide aperture giving only the critical focus on my subject. Usually, I try to get everything in the scene in sharp focus. But the shallow depth of field really separated the tree from the busy background and gives the photo a dream-like mood. Since I was so zoomed in I shot a multi-image panorama of this scene. It would have been so much easier to shoot it wide and just crop in, but multi-image stitch gives me a much higher resolution photo. You can see all the little details in this image. My favorite detail would be the rust stain the roots have accrued from wind blow dirt.

Little things are important in scenes like this, and its very appropriate for Copper Breaks. Sure the park may not be as vast as Palo Duro Canyon or have as grand geologic formations like Caprock Canyons, but Copper Breaks does have its own subtle beauty. Its in the details, these little vignettes, that you can find scenes like this that reveal all the natural beauty of the park. I was very excited to start working on this image once I got home and I was even more excited that I captured a unique photo (at least for me) of a very unique state park.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Bull Canyon canyon cliff Copper Breaks Copper Breaks State Park hiking Juniper landscape nature Pic of the Week rock sandstone Texas travel tree https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/2/pic-of-the-week-2/20/20 Thu, 20 Feb 2020 16:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 2/14/20: Fern Slot https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/2/pic-of-the-week-2/14/20 Pic of the Week 2/14/20

"Fern Slot"

Location: Caprock Canyons State Park, TX

Date taken: 2/9/20

 

 

Fern SlotFern SlotA deep, wide, and stunning slot canyon far in the Caprock Canyons State Park backcountry.

Well, another weekend by and another slot in the Llano Estacado under my belt. Fern slot was the first of the Texas slots I had seen. I was researching locations and ideas for Caprock Canyons State Park and I came across a blog that had images of slot canyons. I was enthralled with this idea and started looking around the internet to find these hidden treasures. Fern slot was the most obvious and easily spotted through Google Earth. A yellow pin on My Places file lied dormant for a few years before I made it to the slot.

Fast forward to 2017, and my friend Jaden Corbin and I are in Caprock Canyons State Park searching out the Fern slot. Our journey took us the edge of the park looking for the canyon and after a few attempts we finally had the right path. We followed the stream to the head of the slot, and I was finally there. Unfortunately, we did not have a rope and the descent looked to be a 25ft dry waterfall. Even if we got in there how would we get back up? Sadly, we had to admire Fern slot from the rim and shoot only a few images looking into the depths of the slot. What we did see looked to be quite impressive, however.

After almost another three years I finally made it back to Fern slot and this time I was able to find a way in (though still quite hazardous). My beautiful and wonderful girlfriend Ashlee, and my now roommate Jaden joined me on this adventure. We were scheduled with an ambitious hike to inspect a feature that resembled a slot canyon. We started the day fairly early around 9:30am and we were on the trail and searching out our specific side canyon to our target. The ascent up to our target was sketchy. We were constantly on all our fours climbing up the crumbling hill sides, a feat that proves challenging with no extra weight, but we had all our camera/hiking gear with us. We made it to the “slot” and while it was deep and stair-stepped its way through the rock, it wasn’t that photogenic. After we got back on the trail, we decided to hike up Haynes Ridge and make our way to the Fern slot.

We followed the Fern Cave trail for a short while before turning off and following another game trail. As we walked along the canyon rim everything started to become more familiar and I could feel the excitement welling up inside me. Just a short distance from our deviation we could start to see the structure of the slot canyon. The depth, width, and snake-like twisting of the slot did little to curb my excitement. We eventually reached the specific side arroyo we would use to descend into the slot. It was lined with large boulders and dead trees giving us a natural staircase to take down. Just a few dozen feet away from the floor of the slot and we had to find a way to negotiate down. I won’t go into the details of how we got down, but I will say a rope is recommended. Finally, I was in Fern slot!

Super smooth sandstone walls towered 30 feet above our heads. Undulating wave-like patterns lined the walls creating pockets and cavities in the rock. It was a photographer’s paradise. So many subjects to shoot, but sadly no light. I was not going to let a trip like this go to waste, so I pulled out my camera and began searching out compositions. I came across the beautiful striated sandstone wall that narrowed and wrapped around the slot. The natural leading lines of the sandstone led the eye to the distant canyon walls that were ever so slightly being illuminated by a soft reflected light. Above us a blue sky and wispy clouds gave the scene a sense of enchantment. I shot several different compositions and different images while exploring the 400ft long canyon before it was time to head back home. Although, I could have used better light, I was more than happy that I finally got to explore Fern slot after several years of waiting. I’ll be heading back to Caprock in a couple of weeks and maybe I’ll get the golden reflected light in Fern slot.

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) canyon Caprock Canyons Caprock Canyons State Park landscape nature Pic of the Week slot canyon Texas travel west Texas https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/2/pic-of-the-week-2/14/20 Fri, 14 Feb 2020 16:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 2/7/20 https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/2/pic-of-the-week-2/7/20 Pic of the Week 2/7/20

“Gypsum Slot Canyon”

Location: Palo Duro Canyon State Park, TX

Date taken: 02/02/20

 

Wow! I have so many new images to share with everybody and I don’t anticipate that slowing down any time soon. While I haven’t been keeping my blog up to date as well as I can, I have been out taking photos and producing new work. In fact, this morning I was bracing the frigid temperatures and standing in shin-high show for photographing the results of the winter storm that moved through our area a few days ago. Those photos will come at a later time, but for now I’d like to talk about my first adventure of 2020.

In December, I had the honor and privilege to be the featured art for the I AM Route 66 gallery in Amarillo. I had sixteen images displayed until February. Which meant I needed to drive up to Amarillo to pick up the photos. No trip to Amarillo is complete without a trip to Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Ashlee and I had agreed that we wouldn’t spend too much time out in the canyon, but we did get to see some great sights. Our first target was a delicate sandstone arch about a mile up South Brushy Draw in the canyon. This hike was fairly simple, though it did involve some boulder hopping and mild scrambling.

After our hike we drove to the opposite side of the park to start out next hike. This one was going to be a bit more demanding, but we would see some nice subjects along the way. We parked at the Equestrian trail head at the end of alternative park road 5, gathered our gear, and headed out on our journey. Our goal was to reach the “Indian Rock” before turning back. The Indian Rock is a protected rock art site found on a large boulder just off the trail. They’re not exactly sure at what time the art was created, but they do think at the latest it would be around the Mackenzian raids on the Red River war.

There is a fascinating history to this canyon. Not only Native American, but geologic history too. This brings us to the subject of this week’s Pic of the Week. While hiking along the trail I noticed a sharp cut in the gypsum layer next to us. We followed the cut down the arroyo and it led us to the head of a “Q slot”. Q slot refers to the Quartermaster layer in which the slot was formed. This layer is more susceptible to erosion than the Trujillo layer most of the other slot canyons are shaped in. But there it was--a beautiful gypsum slot canyon.

 

Gypsum Slot CanyonGypsum Slot CanyonA sinuous passage carved through the soft Quartermaster sandstone in Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

© Ben Jacobi

 

We followed the passageway further down the arroyo where a makeshift arch had formed a keyhole entrance to the deepest part of the photogenic slot canyon. Squeezing our way through this opening I found a nice composition showing the multiple walls and layers of the slot. The soft glow from the afternoon sun made its way into the narrow corridor and sent beams of warm reflected light on the rocky walls, bringing out the crimson tones of the slot. I shot several images, but this was my favorite. There is a great mood in the photo that coaxes the view to explore more of this special area. Though this image was made close to the end of the slot so there wouldn’t be too much more exploring. Despite its small size, this slot proved to be the highlight (at least in my opinion) of the trip.

After we conquered the slot we moved on to the Indian Rock where we got to see and photograph the rock art. Again, every time I visit Palo Duro Canyon, I am always amazed at what sites are just dying to be witnessed. If you have not checked out this park, I highly recommend you do so soon. This really is a jewel of the Texas landscape.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) canyon gypsum landscape nature Palo Duro Canyon Palo Duro Canyon State Park Pic of the Week Q slot Quartermaster slot canyon Texas Texas panhandle travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/2/pic-of-the-week-2/7/20 Fri, 07 Feb 2020 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 1/23/20: High Falls Gorge https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/1/pic-of-the-week-1/23/20 Pic of the Week 1/23/20

“High Falls Gorge”

Location: Wilmington, NY

Date taken: 1/13/17

 

Its hard to believe that its been three years since my aunt Becky’s passing. One of my cousins shared some photos she took. An avid nature lover, she picked up photography as a hobby. In fact, I would receive photos with any birthday or Christmas cards she would send my way. I could hear the excitement in her voice as I read her messages. Three years ago she finished her battle against cancer, and we flew to upstate New York to our respects. To pay homage to this incredible woman, I revisited and photographed some of her favorite sites in the Adirondack mountains. She loved the Adirondack wilderness and she always talked about how beautiful it is in the winter. My dad joined me on this all-day trip.

One of our stops was along the Ausable River and a very popular tourist place, High Falls Gorge. The river has carved through the rock to form a deep crevice where four waterfalls cascade down the gorge. This was my dad’s first time visiting this location. We walked into the office to get tickets for the trail. After signing our waivers and putting on our Yaktrax we were on our way to the waterfall. The last time I visited High Falls Gorge it was summer and the whole area was covered with bright green moss that gleamed in the sunlight. Now, I was here in the middle of winter and I was more than excited to see all the ice formations this area was known for.

We made our way down the walkway, taking our time and trying not to slip on any of the ice. When we reached the overlook, I noticed that I forgot my tripod quick release plate for my camera. This meant I couldn’t use my tripod for a long exposure. A little disappointed, we made it back to the office and I ran out to the car to get my quick release plate. My dad decided to hang back in the office while I returned to the overlook to get my shots. Again, I carefully, but hurriedly, walked to the overlook—this time with all the right gear. Now that everything was in place I shot several exposures of this classic view of the waterfall. Unfortunately, I don’t have any of the photos I took the first summer I was there, but I certainly recognize the composition and location. It is a pretty obvious shot. The wild water from the Ausable River careens down the craggy cliffs and collects in pools down the river. The water stuck to the surrounding rock and froze in these interesting ice formations. It was a fun and somber trip for me, but I am glad that I finally got to see the Adirondacks during the winter.  

High Falls Gorge

© Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/1/pic-of-the-week-1/23/20 Thu, 23 Jan 2020 16:30:00 GMT
2019 Year in Review https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/1/2019-year-in-review 2019 Year in Review

 

Slot Canyon I visited on one of my many trips to Palo Duro Canyon State Park this year.

The year 2019 was a huge year for me and my photography. I got to visit and photograph many amazing places, met awesome people, and see my work displayed in new and exciting ways. 2019 brought many changes to my personal life as well. Towards the end of 2018 my vehicle started to crap out on me and left me immobile during the 2018 storm season, as well as my weekly hiking trips to the Wichita Mountains. At the end of 2018 I was able to purchase a different vehicle and one that was more suited to my rugged lifestyle.

Perhaps the biggest change of them all was me finding a wonderful, amazing, and beautiful woman to share in some of these adventures. I am talking, of course, of my girlfriend, Ashlee Madden. It has been quite the adventure with her, and no longer did I have to trek the wilderness alone. Not only does she love being outside, but she is a photographer too which means our hobbies overlap and we don’t have to sacrifice our time in nature for each other. It has been a blessing to find someone as passionate about nature as I am. I love her very much!

Ashlee and I sitting in thistle trying to get a couples portrait with fireflies darting around us. We may have gotten eaten alive by mosquitoes, but the photo was well worth it!

At the beginning of 2019 I set out some goals for myself to help grow myself and my photography as a brand. Some of those goals were met, some fell just short, and other’s were ones I never even could have even imagined. For 2019 I wanted to have 1,000 followers on Instagram and 2,000 page likes on Facebook. How did I do? Well, unfortunately these were some of the goals that fell short. Currently, my Facebook page is sitting at 1,839 likes. My Instagram was closer with 991 followers—so close! I wanted to be more consistent posting on my website and blog (oops). I also had a big project I really wanted to start working on, and while I dipped my toe in this new avenue, I never fully submerged myself in it. I’m hoping to make that change for 2020.

That’s enough with the missed goals of 2019, lets talk about the goals I did achieve. First, I set a goal to hike 100 miles in 2019. This goal was met, but my stats unfortunately don’t reflect that. My second to last hike was only halfway recorded. But for all intents and purposes this goal was completed. Another goal I wanted to achieve in 2019 was to get another publication. Thankfully, Texas Parks and Wildlife ran an article that featured one of my night images in December of 2019. I was so glad to have checked that particular box! I think the most significant goal was to get my printed work out more. I furnished prints for a few local businesses and was even a featured artist at a gallery opening in Amarillo. But the biggest thing would have to be the MSU murals. Three of these giant prints have been installed. The largest is around 6ft x 9ft. There will be more coming once they finish the renovations on the bottom floor. I have truly left my mark on Wichita Falls.

Perseid RainPerseid RainThis image was published in the December 2019 edition of Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine

 

 

Standing next to one of the MSU murals on the second floor of the Moffet Library.

Although, I did not travel as much as I wanted, I visited Indiana with my family, and I came back with some great images. All my other adventures this year took place in Texas and Oklahoma. I visited some incredible locations and came back with several portfolio-worthy images.

 

Canyon Falls at McCormick's Creek State Park in Spencer, IN.

So, what can you expect from me in 2020? Well, I’m setting a goal to launch my big project by March this year. I’m very excited about this and I’m hoping you will enjoy it when it is released. I am stepping up my hiking game and setting a goal for 250 miles of hiking this year. I would like to travel out of state more in 2020. Maybe New Mexico, Colorado, Arkansas? I’m also going to start exploring the idea of teaching some local workshops. With a whole year ahead, I am more than excited at the prospect of new photography adventures. Let’s see what 2020 bring us!

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2020/1/2019-year-in-review Thu, 09 Jan 2020 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 12/20/19 "Sunrise in Timber Canyon" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/12/pic-of-the-week-12/20/19 Pic of the Week 12/19/19

“Sunrise in Timber Canyon”

Location: Palo Duro Canyon State Park, TX

Date taken: 12/1/19

 

Sunrise in Timber CanyonSunrise in Timber CanyonThe first rays of light splah against the rock spires and canyon walls of Palo Duro Canyon. © Ben Jacobi

 

“I really hope they open at 7am” I whispered quietly to myself. My 4Runner was parked outside the main gate and I was having a staring contest with a numeric keypad trying to conjure up some magic code that would allow me access to the park. I desisted that action when I remembered the chilly panhandle air that was around me. Winters in the panhandle can be something else. Thankfully, this particular winter day was completely clear, and highs were expected to reach in the upper 50s. Back home in Wichita Falls highs were going to be in the 70s. It’s a pretty big swing for only 200 miles distance. But in that time, you ascend 2000+ feet as you make your way up the Caprock Escarpment, which brings me to where I am now. No trip to Amarillo is complete without a visit to Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

The clock finally turned to 7:00 am and the gates in front of me opened. I had been sitting since 6:30 waiting for access. The sunrise was going to be just after 7:30am and I generally try to arrive an hour before sunrise so I can properly scout and find a good composition. Though I was a little behind schedule, the image I had in mind would permit me about another 20 minutes of scouting time. Once down in the canyon you have to wait for the sun to rise over the rim. I filled out my park day pass and started down the winding road to descend the canyon. No matter how many times I make this drive I am still amazed every time I see the canyon.

I could start to see the familiar pre-sunrise cyan to pink color gradient to the east hanging above the canyon rim. I pulled into a small parking lot and gathered my camera and tripod. Since there were no clouds, I didn’t think bringing the filters would be necessary. I followed a worn trail for a few hundred yards before I came to some breaks in the sandstone. These shallow draws and gullies are coaxing any hiker to explore them. After some short scouting I found a composition that I was pleased with. My main subject would be the craggy Goodnight Peak (formerly known as Triassic Peak), this butte stands out from the surrounding canyon and should catch some nice sunrise light.

Goodnight Peak is a classic example of Palo Duro geology. The base is made of layers of Quartermaster sandstone and mudstone with stripes of gypsum intrusions running through the rock. This creates a wonderful and fascinating contrast with the blood-red cliffs. A little further up you have the iconic Tecovas formation this smooth and colorful layer is my personal favorite. The blend of greens, yellows, browns, and even purples are so mesmerizing to me. Just above that, we have the Trujillo layer. This is another great level of the canyon. So many incredible geologic formations come from this layer like this one. Such a diverse and picturesque subject commands attention in the composition, and with the right light should lend itself to a nice photo.

I made just slight adjustments to my composition trying different focal lengths and positions. It was a challenge to try and keep Goodnight Peak prominent, yet still showcase the full scene. I decided for a slightly wide angle around 28mm. This allowed me to include the peak, the distant cliffs of the canyon, and the juniper trees speckled the undulating landscape. I used the trees and the trail as a leading line to the peak which was now coated in beautiful golden light. Though if I’m being honest, I would have preferred some type of texture in the sky. With the sun now rising above the rim, light started to spill over the entire landscape. I concluded my sunrise shoot and meandered along the trail deeper into Timber Canyon searching for Catarina Cave. After exploring the cave I found my way back to my vehicle and from there I continued with my planned hike to get to the top of Fortress Cliff and Palo Duro Canyon. This was one of the best hikes I’ve had in the park and I highly recommend people try it. If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again…I’ve never had a bad day in Palo Duro Canyon. Plenty more photos will be shared from this panhandle adventure.

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) canyon landscape nature Palo Duro Canyon Palo Duro Canyon State Park Pic of the Week rock sky sunrise Texas Texas panhandle travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/12/pic-of-the-week-12/20/19 Fri, 20 Dec 2019 17:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 12/12/19: Sapling: Broken Bow Lake and More... https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/12/pic-of-the-week-12/12/19 I’m sure you’ve noticed, but I have not posted a Pic of the Week in almost a month. Between my calendar sales, the I AM Rt 66 show, Texas Parks and Wildlife publication, and other various local projects I’ve been very busy. This is on top of my job and my personal life. Regardless, I have decided to make up for the lack of posts by providing three of my recent images. Now that I’m starting to have some more time, I can start to address my backlog. I am very excited about the plans I have for the 2020 year. In the meantime, enjoy these images.

 

Sapling: Broken Bow LakeSapling: Broken Bow LakeA lone sapling catches the first rays of sunlight on a foggy Broken Bow Lake morning. © Ben Jacobi

 

I came across the lone sapling sticking out of the surface of Broken Bow Lake. The vibrant yellow leaves really stood out against the blue water. I kept this composition in mind while I shot the beginning of sunrise and after that shoot was finished, I moved down to this spot. The light was soaking up in the fog lifting from the mountains adding even more drama to the scene.

 

Walnut Spring Canyon PanoramaView of Walnut Spring and Walnut Spring Canyon on the Pontotoc Ridge Nature Preserve. © Ben Jacobi

 

Earlier this year I took a guided hike at the Pontotoc Ridge Nature Preserve near Tishomingo, OK. This is one the most pristine and untouched places in southern Oklahoma. When we reached the halfway point, we stopped to get some lunch at Walnut Spring. Instead of eating my lunch, I took the hour to explore and scout out a photograph or two in the canyon. I scaled the bluffs to find this composition and shot fourteen images to make this panorama of the area.

 

Dawn on Tucker LakeDawn on Tucker Lake.The still waters of Tucker Lake reflect beneath a pastel sky. Dawn is approaching in this future state park. © Ben Jacobi

Earlier in October, I attended a star party at one of Texas’ newest state parks. This park is so new its only just now in the development stage and is scheduled to open in 2024. Thankfully, they do small events like this that give the public access to see this beautiful park. After the star party I camped and prepared for the next morning. My goal was to arrive to Tucker Lake before sunrise and start to scout out a few compositions. Following the rough dirt and gravel road, I came to this scene and decided this would be a good starting point for the sunrise.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) lake landscape mountains nature Oklahoma Pic of the Week sky Texas travel tree waterfall https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/12/pic-of-the-week-12/12/19 Thu, 12 Dec 2019 16:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 11/15/19: Foggy Morning Sunrise https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/11/pic-of-the-week-11/15/19 Pic of the Week 11/15/19

“Foggy Morning Sunrise”

Location: Beavers Bend State Park, OK

Date taken: 11/10/19

 

Foggy Morning SunriseStunning sunrise from Eagle Point on Broken Bow Lake in Beavers Bend State Park. © Ben Jacobi

Wow! What a wonderful weekend I had with my girlfriend in Beavers Bend State Park! This was Ashlee’s first visit out to the southeastern OK forest, and it was a good one. Beavers Bend were having their annual Fall Festival this weekend which had me worried camping was going to be limited. I knew where I wanted to camp but was mentally preparing myself in case we couldn’t get to our site. To maximize our chance of getting a campsite, I wanted to leave work by 12:30 on Saturday. It is a 4.5hr drive to Beavers Bend.

Unfortunately, I was unable to leave at the time I wanted which delayed our departure, but it all worked out anyways. Despite being behind schedule and an unexpected stop in Gainesville, TX we reached Beavers Bend State Park. And most importantly when we arrived on site, I was shocked to see there were plenty of campsites available! The campsite I really wanted was being used, but we picked one very close by. I was ecstatic that we found a site in the area.

We set up camp and turned in for the night. Low temperatures were forecast to be around 37F that evening, so we went to bed early to try and stay warm through the night. Around 5am I awoke to sound of crickets chirping and water lapping at the shoreline. The gentle rolling waves splashed along the rocky shore. It was so peaceful, though something in that splashing awoke the “call of nature” in me and I had to excuse myself to a nearby conifer about 100 ft from the camp.

Outside some stars were visible, but a thick layer of gray fog engulfed the distant landscape. This gave me hope we would be in for a terrific sunrise. After a brief hour of sleep, it was time to get up and get ready for the sunrise. I scrambled out of the tent and got my gear together and headed towards the shore. It wasn’t long before I found my composition. Off in the distance that heavy fog layer was rolling over the lake below a cobalt blue sky. As dawn drew closer the warm glow of the sun began to break the horizon and confirmed my suspicion that we would be in for a good show.

There was a point where the fog moved over our location and I thought we would get clouded out, but thankfully we stayed put and were rewarded for our persistence. The sun began to rise and sent beams of golden/pink light throughout the landscape around us. The fog was brilliantly backlit by the morning sun and glowed with a fiery orange hue above the lake. It really was sublime. I shot several frames during the whole sunrise, but this was what I believed to be the zenith of the event. The light, fog, lake, and mood all came together wonderfully in this image.

We finished up our sunrise shoot and tore down camp before moving more into Beavers Bend State Pak. There we did a short hike exploring some of the waterfalls and rapids of the Mountain Fork River and instead of going on our second hike of the day, we decided to drive to Eisenhower state park in time for sunset. All in all it was a great trip and I have many more photos to share!

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/11/pic-of-the-week-11/15/19 Fri, 15 Nov 2019 20:32:26 GMT
2020 Calendar Announcement/Preorder https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/10/2020-calendar-announcement/preorder  

2020 Calendar2020 Calendar Its here! My 2020 Calendar is now available for pre order! I am so excited to share this product with all of y'all and I can't wait to see the final result. Currently, I am taking preorders until 10/31/19. You can order your calendar by follow this link. This calendar features some of my favorite works of 2018 and 2019. The calendar will be 8.5x11 (11x17 unfolded) and will cost $18.99 (+$7.00 shipping). I am estimating they should be arriving at your doorstep around 12/2/19. Here is some more information about the calendar and the approximate timeline and procedure. Again, I am so excited to share this with everyone and I can't wait for y'all to get them. Follow the link and reserve your calendar!

 

-Ben

 

Calendars will cost $18.99

Shipping will be a flat $7.00

Photography by Ben Jacobi 2020 calendar

24 images of subjects ranging from Nature, Landscape, Weather, and Night

Calendar size: 11x17 (open)

Saddle stitch (to include extra "Year ahead" and "notes" pages)

Signed with custom message available upon request

Individual calendars will ship in padded envelopes and large orders will be shipped in boxes via USPS flat rate Priority Mail

Major US holidays

Proof and Facebook live video reveal

 

Timeline:

10/16/19: Announcement and preorders open

10/31/19: Last day for preorder

11/4/19: Order placed with company by 11/4/19

11/7/19: Proof should arrive by 11/7/19. I will schedule a Facebook live video later that evening.

11/8/19: Proof Ok'd and production/printing begins

11/15/19: Calendars ship from printer

11/22/19: Calendars arrive to me, begin packaging

11/25/19: Customers order shipped out

12/2/19: Calendars arrive to customer.

 

2020 Calendar2020 Calendar © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) calendar illinois indiana landscape nature night oklahoma texas travel weather https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/10/2020-calendar-announcement/preorder Thu, 17 Oct 2019 16:35:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 10/3/19: The Falls https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/10/pic-of-the-week-10/3/19 Pic of the Week 10/3/19

“The Falls”

Location: Wichita Falls, TX

Date taken: 9/24/19

The FallsThe Falls © Ben Jacobi

For these past few weeks I have been attempting to document some of the local landmarks for a client. To be perfectly honest, I don’t usually shoot in town. I try to escape civilization when I go out to photograph. But at the request of the client I started shooting around locally. Probably the most important and well known attraction would be the falls on the Wichita River. Driving into town you can see the falls (if they’re running that day) from the highway. And if you follow the signs eventually you can reach the falls. While Wichita Falls does have falls in the name, the original falls were along the Wichita River and were nowhere near this size—they were only about five feet tall. The original falls collapsed after a flood in 1886. Just over 100 years later the city constructed the falls we see today. This multi-tiered 54 foot waterfall was completed in 1987 and is actually quite scenic for the area.

As you would expect, this is a tourist attraction that is very popular and there are thousands of photos of the falls. I wanted to capture something different and in doing my research I saw very little night time shots of the falls. I was intrigued with the idea of capturing something that was a little more unique. So I started to plan out my shot and I came to the idea of shooting the falls at blue hour and light paint the scene. I would drive out to the falls just before sunset and find my composition. Then, I would wait for the blue hour and start firing off my flash in various spots around the falls. I would take all these images and blend them into a final composite. Since it would be difficult for me to trigger the camera and the flash, I asked for some help to create this shot. My friend and fellow photographer John Ambrose and my wonderful girlfriend Ashlee helped me during this shoot.

After the shoot was completed it was time to being editing the photo. As I scrolled through the images, I could see how the final shot would come together in my head. It took a total of 54 combined images to create the final result. The blending process and balancing all the light was the longest part, but once the base blend was made, the rest was just normal image processing. I believe I captured something that shows the falls in a new and interesting way. And from what I can tell, there really isn’t another photo like this out there. Still, I am happy that I was able to create the photo I had originally envisioned. I also got word that the client loved the photo, which is always a good thing to hear. This shoot inspired me to start taking more photos of my town and there will be a featured album where those images can be seen and/or purchased. Thank you for your support!

 

-Ben

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/10/pic-of-the-week-10/3/19 Thu, 03 Oct 2019 15:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 9/20/19 Garden of the Gods https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/9/pic-of-the-week-9/20/19 Pic of the Week 9/20/19

“Garden of the Gods”

Location: Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO.

Date taken: 9/25/17

 

Fall time is almost here as the month of September finishes. I’ve been seeing reports of the aspen trees changing colors in the Rocky Mountains and that made me think back on one of my past fall adventures in the Rocky mountains, but I have already shared those images (at least the ones worth sharing). What I have not shared, however, are photos from our last day in Colorado. My good friends Ian Glasgow and Jaden Corbin made the journey with me to southern Colorado. We camped our first two night in Lathrop State Park outside of Walsenberg, CO. But after hiking over sand dunes, and wading through cold streams, and traversing the landscape, we were tired, so we decided to book a hotel in Colorado Springs. I was looking forward to sleeping in a warm bed that night.

The next morning, we woke up before sunrise and made the short drive to Garden of the Gods. This was my second time visiting this location. The first was my freshman year in high school. It was just when I was starting to get into photography. I had my 2.1 megapixel Kodak CX6230 digital camera. Since that time those photos have been lost to buried or disabled hard drives and all that is left are my memories. Needless to say, I was excited at the opportunity to properly document this iconic location. We pulled into the parking area and scouted around looking for compositions at the base of the fins and spires. While this led to some interesting photos, I was more interested in photographing the early morning light on the rocks. I told the guys I had a different composition in mind.

We gathered back into the vehicle and took a quick drive to my preferred sunrise location. We passed by the famed “Kissing Camels” formation along the Juniper Way Loop. As the road curved around the rocks, my composition came into view. Most people photograph this location as sunset, but I picked sunrise to avoid the crowds and hopefully capture a more unique image. We parked the car and it didn’t take much for me to lock in my composition, now I just needed to wait for the sunrise. Something that was a bit of concern due to the patchy cloud cover.

I spent the next 30min taking pre-sunrise blue hour shots, finalizing my composition, and kicking rocks on the side of the road waiting for the sun to break the horizon. Eventually, the sun rose and sent a warm glow on the tips of the sandstone rocks. It almost resembled the flame on a match, but there was very little light on the foreground. I waited around hoping the light would improve on the foreground and that the clouds would be favorable to my composition. The sun did squeeze through the lower clouds and sent beams of striking contrasty light throughout my scene. The light reflected off the fins and stretched its way around the rocks making a zebra stripe pattern of sunlight on the landscape. We captured this wonderful sunrise until the clouds blocked out all our light and we returned to our vehicle.

Garden of the GodsMorning in the Garden of the Gods © Ben Jacobi

 

This was one of my favorite captures of this location, but I was so impressed with all the other Colorado images that I disregarded this photo. Now almost two years later I have decided to share the image. Sometimes you just need to take a step back and gain some perspective, better late than never, right? There are many more adventures I have planned in the coming months; I just hope fall weather shows up soon. I’m ready to start camping/hiking again and I’m very excited for these new locations I’ll get to photograph.

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/9/pic-of-the-week-9/20/19 Fri, 20 Sep 2019 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 9/6/19: Nightfall on the North Shore https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/9/pic-of-the-week-9/6/19 Pic of the Week 9/6/19

“Nightfall on the North Shore”

Location: Quartz Mountain Nature Park, Lone Wolf, OK.

Date taken: 9/2/19

 

Picture this: You’re standing on a beach with the sand between your toes taking in the sights around you. In front of you the waves come washing in along the shore. There’s a clear blue sky hanging above a skyline of craggy granite mountains off on the horizon. Behind you sand has compacted together forming small dunes that line the beach. You might be thinking this “tropical” oasis is somewhere near the Gulf of Mexico, or maybe some where along the coasts. But you would be wrong. Believe it or not you are in Lone Wolf, Oklahoma at Quartz Mountain Nature Park just north of Altus. While it certainly is not a “tropical oasis” it does have a similar charm. Of course, instead of palm trees you have mesquite trees. Instead of the ocean you have lake Altus-Lugert. And instead of waiters bringing you daiquiris, you’re drinking water from your hydration bladder in your hiking bag. But still, you are absolutely mesmerized by this picturesque location.

This Labor Day I got to take my girlfriend and my roommate to Quartz Mountain. I have been visiting Quartz mountain for several years now and I was excited to share it with my friends. I was especially excited to share with them the Eagle Roost ATV/ORV area. Personally, I refer to it as the North Shore Sand Dunes. While we weren’t doing any off roading we were still traversing the sand by foot. Since my first visit to these sand dunes I have been fascinated with the idea of capturing a night shot of the area. Thankfully, that fantasy was brought to reality this past Monday. I had spent some of the afternoon showing and exploring areas of the park. But our main goal was to shoot sunset and possibly the milky way over the sand dunes on the North Shore.

We arrived a few hours before sunset and set up a small picnic for dinner. I always enjoy eating food on location. Nothing like a good meal with changing scenery. After dinner it was time to start scouting for sunset/night time. I walked along the dunes (trying to be careful not to step on them) looking for a composition that would frame all the aspects of the location. I wanted to get the dunes, the milky way, the lake, and the mountains in the same shot. This proved to be quite the challenge. But after much scouting and exploring I found a composition that I believed would work for the shot I had envisioned. Probably the hardest part was finding a pristine untouched dune. After all, this is an ATV/ORV area and judging by the tire tracks left in the sand, it was heavily used. I did find my dune, however, now it was time to frame up a shot. From my perspective I could see the mountains off on the southern horizon, the dune was framed as my foreground, and the milky way would be appearing right above it. I locked my composition and waited for nightfall.

After the sun went down, I thinking how I wanted to capture the image. I knew it was going to need to be a time blend stack. I could not capture the detail in the sand dunes with a single night exposure. So, I shot a series of images from blue hour to around 10pm that night. During which, the milky way dazzled in the night sky. Sometime after dark the lights from the lodge and art center turned on putting a splash of warm color in the far background. Normally, I try to remove this light pollution from my atro-landscape images, but this worked to break up the monotony of the blue color in the photo. This also adds some more depth to the image. Overall, I was quite happy with the final result and I feel I captured every important aspect that makes this location so unique. You can see the dunes, the beach, the lake, the mountains, and the milky way all in one shot. If you have never been to Quartz Mountain Nature Park and/or the North Shore Sand Dunes I highly recommend you get out there and check them out!

 

Nightfall on the North ShoreNightfall on the North ShoreThe North Shore sand dunes along Lake Altus-Lugert.

© Ben Jacobi

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) dunes landscape nature night nightscape North Shore North Shore Sand Dunes Oklahoma Pic of the Week Quartz Mountain Quartz Mountain Nature Park sand dunes sky travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/9/pic-of-the-week-9/6/19 Fri, 06 Sep 2019 05:48:57 GMT
Pic of the Week 8/16/19: Lower Cataract Falls https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/8/pic-of-the-week-8/16/19 Pic of the Week 8/16/19

"Lower Cataract Falls"

Date taken: 7/22/19

Location: Cataract Falls in Cataract, IN

 

Lower Cataract FallsLower Cataract Falls

©Ben Jacobi

 

We are back at it again with another image captured from my southern Indiana trip. This was my last day in Indiana. My family was scheduled to leave the previous morning, but rain delayed their flight letting them stay another night. Rain was my least concern when planning for this trip. Most of the weather models were holding rain off until after I was set to leave. But nature is never truly predictable, and rain did come over our area on Sunday.

The next morning, I got up early in anticipation for sunrise, but I quickly discovered there wouldn’t be one when I gazed out the window and found an overcast sky. There were occasional episodes of light rain as I went downstairs to say my goodbyes to my family. Today, despite the weather, I had made the decision to take advantage of my last full day in Indiana and do some photography.

Earlier in the week I visited Cataract Falls which was a short twenty minute drive from McCormick’s Creek. This waterfall was one of the first areas that captured my attention when doing research on nearby locations. The day I went, however, everyone seemed to have the same idea and the park was flooded with tourists and families trying to cool off in the hot summer sun. Maybe I was just cranky from heat, or maybe it was the trash that was in the creek, but I did not come back with a usable image from my first visit to Cataract Falls.

With no prospect of a good sunrise Monday morning, I made the decision to drive back to Cataract Falls in hopes the rain and gloomy weather would keep the tourists away. I pulled into the gate and, much to my appreciation, realized I was the only car in the parking lot. The recent rains had transformed Cataract Falls into a roaring waterfall and rapids. According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Cataract Falls is the largest volume of water of any waterfall in the state. So, I felt like I needed at least one useable photograph. I spent about half an hour photographing the Upper Falls before making the short drive to the Lower Falls.

At the Lower Falls I found my original composition I tried to capture earlier in the week, but now with the volume of rushing water a whirlpool had formed near the bottom of the falls. I was immediately drawn to this feature and set up my camera and tripod to try and frame the whirlpool in my composition. It wasn’t flowing very fast, so I opted to use my Lee Big Stopper 10 neutral density filter to drag my shutter and capture the swirling eddy. I exposed for 10 seconds which is about 10x slower than my “normal” waterfall exposures.

The resulting image showed the Lower Falls and that cool whirlpool in the same composition. But after I finished the edit on the photo I still wasn’t satisfied. The lack of varying colors and interesting light made me think this image wasn’t salvageable. I decided to change them image to a monochrome (black and white) photo. This brought all the emphasis to the whirlpool and texture of the water. The black and white conversion gives the image an almost ethereal feel to the image. I was finally content with what Cataract Falls had to offer. There’s still more Indiana photos coming in the later weeks if you want to see more you can follow me on Instagram at http://intagram.com/bdjphoto

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/8/pic-of-the-week-8/16/19 Fri, 16 Aug 2019 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 8/8/19: Donaldson Cave https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/8/pic-of-the-week-8/8/19 Pic of the Week 8/8/19

“Donaldson Cave”

Date taken: 7/21/19

Location: Spring Mill State Park, IN

 

Continuing with my adventures in southern Indiana we find ourselves on the second full photography day. This day was a very interesting day. I left McCormick’s Creek and headed south towards Bedford, IN. My goal was to reach Blue Spring Caverns, which is Indiana’s largest navigable river cave. This unique park offers boat tours of the cave—that’s right, tours of a cave via boat. Naturally, I jumped on the opportunity. I’ll save the images from Blue Spring Caverns for another blog entry.

After Blue Spring Caverns I made my way east to visit Spring Mill State Park. It was already starting to heat up under the hazy summer sky and I had planned a longer hike, but upon arriving I decided my time would be better spent (photographically) if I just got to my target early. This would help me avoid most of the Sunday afternoon crowds. I parked along the Trail 3/Trail 4 junction. In front of my car was a informational kiosk that mapped out the state park.

“You are here” an arrow pointed in the parking lot on the map. I followed the dashed Trail 3 line until it reached my target, Donaldson Cave. While researching for this trip I came across images and videos of Donaldson Cave. The mouth of the cave is very tall and very wide, especially when you compare it with some of the other nearby caves. A spring runs through the cave and empties into a nearby creek. This was looking to be a very interesting subject to photograph.

I started my hike along Trail 3 and immediately found myself descending a wooden stair base, switching back and forth between the karst topography of the area. Shortly after the descent, I was now at the same level as the creek. Crystal clear water streamed over rocks and old tree branches forming a series of small cascading waterfalls. The clear waters reflected the harsh late-morning sun and the droplets crashing into the rocks resembled diamonds gleaming in the sunlight. I followed the trail to the entrance of Donaldson Cave. I stopped for a moment to collect my thoughts and drink in the beautiful scenery.

There was a family of four that were enjoying the refreshing waters of Donaldson Cave by wading in the little creek. I was a little disappointed to find people here, but the wonderful scenery made it easy to just block them out. I got closer and closer to the cave entrance and that was when I discovered there were even more people in the cave! A group of adventurous hikers were climbing their way into the cave system, which would be quite challenging given the narrow footholds and slippery rocks. But I wasn’t worried, I just set my camera up and waited for them to move out of my composition.

The cave’s mouth is quite large spanning across 40 feet and around 30 feet high. There are two water channels on left and right walls of the cave. These channels meet with the main artery of the spring that cuts through the center but narrows to an almost impassible width. This forms the “Y” shape of the cave system. From the spring the cool water meets the hot humid air and condenses forming a layer of fog and mist at the mouth of the cave. The cave sent puffs of fog out of its mouth. This gave the cave an eerie feel and combined with the low rumbling of the spring water almost made it resemble some sort of sleeping dragon.

I set up my camera and found my composition and waited for the indirect sunlight to enter the cave. This would light up the incredible cave walls. You can see all the different layers that have collapsed by erosion as water would seep through cracks and pores of the rock. The calcium carbonate would dissolve the layer below it causing the whole rock to collapse forming the cave. The strata and rock formations were just incredible and mesmerizing to look at.

 

Donaldson Cave © Ben Jacobi

Eventually I started making images as people started clearing my composition. For this shot I had to shoot two images to get both the foreground and the roof of the cave. Normally, I would just shoot a wider angle, but I was already at the widest focal length of my lens (15mm). This cave entrance was quite large. I took one exposure of the foreground and then tilted my camera upwards to include the roof and made another exposure. I combined the two in PtGui to make the final panorama. I love all the textures and color in this image. The turquoise color of the water, with the fog/mist make it almost look like ice and adds an other-worldly feeling to the image. The walls were lined with lichen and moss that glowed the brightest green in the sunlight. In this shot you can see one of the water channels in the upper left. These are the walls those adventurous hikers decided to climb to reach the channel. The other one would be just over my right shoulder and is out of the frame. But the main creek is cutting through the scene from bottom left to center. The gap is the main spring and the narrow passageway that would take you through the cave. Unfortunately, that area is closed to help protect the bats from White Nose Syndrome a fungus that is responsible for killing off millions of bats in the North America. Special permits and guides are required to hike Donaldson Cave. Maybe one day I will get to fully experience the rugged beauty of this cave. But for now I am more than happy to share my experiences. There are still plenty more Indiana images coming in the next few weeks!
 

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) cave caves creek Donaldson Cave Indiana landscape nature Pic of the Week spring Spring Mill State Park stream travel water waterfall https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/8/pic-of-the-week-8/8/19 Thu, 08 Aug 2019 15:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 8/1/19 Canyon Falls McCormick's Creek State Park https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/8/pic-of-the-week-8/1/19 Pic of the Week 8/1/19

"Canyon Falls McCormick's Creek State Park"

Location: McCormick's Creek State Park Spencer, IN

Date taken: 7/19/19

 

 

Earlier this month I made a trip out to a family reunion in southern Indiana. We would be staying at the lodge in McCormick’s Creek State Park for the duration of our visit. It was great getting to see my family and spending time with them, but I also had a chance to get out and explore the local landscape of southern Indiana. This trip would take me on adventures in McCormick’s Creek State Park, Cataract Falls, Blue Spring Caverns, Spring Mill State Park, Brown County State Park, and Shades State Park to name a few. I photographed subjects ranging from impressive waterfalls to underground river caves. I have captured some interesting images this trip and I can’t wait to share them all with you. Now we will jump into the story of this week’s Pic of the Week.

 

***

I awoke around 5:30am to prepare for a sunrise shoot. Yesterday was a longer day. We flew in from Wichita Falls Regional Airport to DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth) International Airport. We were almost denied access to our flight to Indianapolis because they oversold the flight. Thankfully, we were able to board and not miss our flight. After landing in IN I hung around at the airport waiting for my sister’s flight to arrive. We had a family reunion scheduled this week and all of my siblings would able to attend, which can be a rare occurrence.

I rubbed my eyes trying to convince myself it wasn’t really this early and that I could go back to my bed. Unfortunately, both my watch and my phone confirmed the pre-dawn hour and it was time to wake up. I had set out for a very simple goal this morning: photograph Canyon Falls and hike Trail 3. Canyon Falls is probably the main attraction to McCormick’s Creek State Park. I imagine the creek and falls are flooded with locals and outsiders trying to cool off and beat the summer heat. But nobody was up at this hour—after all who would be so crazy?

I gathered my camera gear and headed down the stairs of the lodge to find the lobby empty, even the front desk had no one behind it. It was just that early, I guess. I walked out the door and through the parking lot to the trailhead. That was one great thing about the lodge, it was right next to trail that takes you to the waterfall. Trail 3 was short—even less than one mile—but it offered some great views of Canyon Falls.

I started my hike on Trail 3 and after a brief walk reached the falls overlook. This gave me a nice view looking down on the falls and creek. But I wanted to be closer, so I continued down the trail and met a concrete staircase that gave me creek access. I followed the creek upstream for around 30 yards before settling into a composition. The next hour I moved along the creek photographing the waterfall and enjoying the scenery. What I did not enjoy, however, was the heat! Even this early in the morning it was still almost 80 degrees and the humidity was hovering between 92-95%. My lens and glasses would fog as I got closer to the waterfall and I began to perspire in the dank conditions. That warm and that humid meant I wouldn’t be able to cool off, except of course for the creek below my feet.

 

Canyon Falls: McCormick's Creek State ParkCanyon Falls at McCormick's Creek State Park. © Ben Jacobi

As the sun began to rise, the humidity did start to lessen, but I was too busy focusing on capturing the waterfall and creek before me. The falls wasn’t extremely impressive (maybe about 10 feet), but it did serve as a good subject and something to focus on in the photograph. The white water broke the monotony of the green landscape around it. The tall limestone bluffs hugged along the creek where large boulders were strewn along the bank making some nice anchor points to use in my composition. I spent about an hour photographing the falls and then continued on Trail 3. There were several more areas I explored and photographed along the way, but for now I thought the waterfall would be a nice introduction to this trip. There are many more adventures from Indiana in the upcoming weeks.

 

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/8/pic-of-the-week-8/1/19 Thu, 01 Aug 2019 15:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 7/12/19: Possum Kingdom Fireworks https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/7/pic-of-the-week-7/12/19 Possum Kingdom FireworksPossum Kingdom Fireworks © Ben Jacobi

 

I hope everyone had a wonderful Independence Day, and if you were off long weekend. My girlfriend Ashlee, my roommate Jaden, and myself took a trip down to Possum Kingdom Lake for their annual fireworks show. Normally, I don't photograph the 4th of July fireworks anymore. After you've done it for so many years it gets kinda old. But this year I was planning on driving down to see the spectacular show put on by Possum Kingdom.

I had always heard about this show, but never experienced it myself. So the 4th of July came and passed, but that Saturday on the 6th was the fireworks show at Possum Kingdom Lake. They fire them off from the cliff of Hell's Gate and I thought it would make for a cool time-stack composite/blend. We arrived in time to get in line for the entrance to YMCA camp Grady Spruce located on a peninsula across from Hell's Gate. The vantage point would give us a nice clean view of the cliffs and the fireworks and maybe some reflections in the lake.

After scouting around we found what we thought was the best area to shoot the fireworks. Hopefully no boats would move right in front of our composition. We stood there on location waiting for it to get dark enough for the fireworks show. We waited and waited and waited until around 10:45pm when the first artillery shell launched off Devil's Island. The boom echoed throughout the canyon and lake causing everyone to catch their breath as they waited for the fireworks show to start. 

The show began and we watched the fireworks dazzle about the hazy night sky. The humidity was so strong and the winds so weak that the smoke from the fireworks lingered on the cliffs and illuminated in this eerie reddish glow. The bright flashes and loud booms was resembled a battlefield and really helped bring the whole experience together. The show--while very impressive--did only last for about fifteen minutes which was just enough time to get everything right and figured out in camera. 

I knew what my settings were going to be, but I was unsure about the composition. After all, this was my first time attending this show and I didn't know how high up the fireworks would be in my frame. I opted for my Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 VC lens and shot at the 30mm focal length. This gave me the option to go wider if I needed. I estimated where the fireworks would land in my frame and hoped my guess was accurate. Turns out I wasn't too far off, in fact, I had tilted my camera a little too high, but after some adjusting during the show I found the composition that worked. 

I decided to go with a time-stack blend composite to show mainly the highlights of the fireworks show. It took a total of 14 images to create the final version and it was tricky lining up all the boats in the water. But all in all I think the image came out as best as it could and now that I've had the experience I feel like I will capture it even better the next time I visit. 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/7/pic-of-the-week-7/12/19 Fri, 12 Jul 2019 16:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 6/27/19: North Prong Gateway https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/6/pic-of-the-week-6/27/19 Pic of the Week 6/27/19

“North Prong Gateway”

Date taken: 6/15/19

Location: Caprock Canyons State Park

 

North Prong GatewayNorth Prong GatewaySoft light paints the sandstone buttes and mesas along the North Prong canyon of Caprock Canyons State Park. © Ben Jacobi

Back on another adventure in west Texas. This time I was introducing my lovely girlfriend to another favorite state park of mine—Caprock Canyons State Park. Ashlee has done very little exploring in western part of the Lone Star state and its been nice sharing some of my favorite locations with her. Caprock Canyons State Park is located in the quaint town of Quitaque, TX about three hours from Wichita Falls. This state park has been a long time favorite of mine to photograph and explore red canyon territory without having to drive all the way out to Amarillo. I normally go out there to photograph the night sky, but we would have a full moon during our visit and that would damper any attempts at astro-landscape photography.

 

Originally, I was supposed to leave with the Red River Photography Club, but I was unable to get the time off. Not to let a good weekend (or so I thought) go to waste, I decided to arrive one day later. Unfortunately, all the club members had already left and were on their way back to Wichita Falls by the time we headed out. Still, its nice to get away from it all and just be in nature and there are very few places that offer the rugged canyon landscape like Caprock Canyons State Park. We arrived at the park around 6pm Saturday evening. The plan was to get in the park, find our campsite, and quickly locate a good view for sunset. There was one small factor I didn’t anticipate and that was the weather. Severe thunderstorms were rolling in and were quickly encompassing the park. We could see storms off to our north, west, and south of our location; some even developed right on top of us! This weather can sometimes bring about epic sunset light and colors. Needless to say I was excited at the prospect.

 

The storms eventually cleared out and after getting soaked with some pretty good rain we moved on into the park. Driving down the twisting and winding roads after a fresh soak was a new experience for me. I’m not sure what it is about Caprock Canyon, but every time I visit I seem to have trouble with getting good light. We pulled into our campsite and decided to go ahead and set up for sunset. There was a small mesa I had been eyeing as a potential sunset location. Normally we would shoot in the South Prong canyon, but I wanted to try something a little different. We made the short drive to the North Prong parking area and climbed up the small mesa. On top there were grasses, brush, and cacti on the rocky ledges but the mesa did present us with a nice view of the much larger mesas that guard the North Prong canyon. I like to refer to them as “The Gateway of North Prong”. Hiking this area is always a real treat with the colorful red sandstone walls and surrounding rock formations.

 

I explored the top of the mesa looking for compositions and once I found one I decided to lock it in. My hope was that the dramatic sunset light would illuminate the cliffs in bright orange glow, but sadly lower clouds came in and blocked out all the dramatic light I was anticipating. This did put me in a sour mood, but I was determined to come back with something. We watched as sunset turned to dusk and blue hour and the clouds above us took on some nice texture. There was short time where the sun indirectly shone on a cloud near the horizon. A soft yellow glow was sent across my scene, but the light was so diffuse and indirect the only thing that reflected the light was the buttes and mesas in the background. I made several exposures during the “peak” light and this was the best one I came back with. Sure, there’s not a lot of dramatic light, but the soft color palette works with the image. I did take a little creative license and boost the magenta in the upper right corner to contrast with the strong greens of the image. The result is a much more pleasing color harmony in the image. I left that shoot that evening feeling a little defeated, but once I got the images back home I could see a lot of potential with the image. We would go on the next day making up for the lack of good photography with a wonderful 10 mile hike through the canyon wilderness. Maybe when I visit during the fall and winter I will get the good light for photography.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) butte Caprock Canyon Caprock Canyons State Park mesa nature North Prong Pic of the Week sandstone Texas travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/6/pic-of-the-week-6/27/19 Thu, 27 Jun 2019 14:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 6/20/19: Candlestick Closeup https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/6/pic-of-the-week-6/20/19 Pic of the Week 6/20/19

“Candlestick Closeup”

Location: Canyonlands National Park-Moab, UT

Date taken: 6/22/16

 

This past weekend I made a trip with my amazing girlfriend to Caprock Canyons State Park. This was Ashlee’s first visit to another great Texas treasure. While it wasn’t the best photography weekend we still had an excellent time. While out scouting for a location to shoot sunset we climbed up a small mesa that gave us a commanding view of the red buttes and rock spires of the canyonlands. The crimson color of the sandstone made me reminiscent of one of my past photo adventures to Utah. And as it turns out, I am closing in on the three year anniversary of my 2016 vacation which took me to New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. In that nostalgic spirit I went digging through my hard drive to find an image that would help me reflect back on that photo expedition.

I had just gotten in to Moab, UT and turned west out of town to reach the Island in the Sky road in Canyonlands National Park. I don’t know what it was, but there was absolutely nobody on this road. Maybe the close neighbor Arches National Park was keeping all the tourists over there. Regardless, I was elated to have this unbelievable wilderness all to myself. I began exploring the park on the Island in the Sky road and couldn’t have thought of a more appropriate name. The road takes you up a mesa 1100 ft above the Colorado and Green river canyons. It is so incredible it doesn’t even look real. My jaw was never closed the entire time I was there. I just sat there drinking in the scenery awestruck.

I knew where I wanted to be for sunset and you can read about that here, but along the way I came to the Candlestick Tower overlook. And as I climbed out of my vehicle I could see the sandstone pillar down in the valley below. I shot a wide angle image of the entire scene, and although the scene was beautiful I wanted to bring more attention and focus to the Candlestick. I went back to my car and grabbed my 70-200mm lens. I zoomed in to the full 200mm and tightened up my composition. As the saying old saying goes; less is more. I framed the shot waiting for the light to improve, unfortunately (and fortunately) the sun fell behind some clouds. While this removed the dramatic side light I was hoping for, it did bring about some beautiful light rays that backlit the Candlestick and Green River canyon. The result is an image that captures the isolation and remoteness of the rugged wilderness. Its hard looking on at scenes like this and not imaging the Wild West bandits or Native American tribes that were established around here. It has been a while since I’ve shot in this area—looks like I’m a little overdue for a visit.

 

The CandlestickThe Candlestick

© Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Candlestick Tower canyon Canyonlands Canyonlands National Park landscape Moab nature Pic of the Week river travel Utah https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/6/pic-of-the-week-6/20/19 Thu, 20 Jun 2019 15:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 6/13/19: Capitol Peak Sunrise https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/6/pic-of-the-week-6/12/19 Pic of the Week 6/12/19

"Capitol Peak Sunrise"

Date taken: 5/19/19

Location: Palo Duro Canyon State Park

 

Capitol Peak SunriseCapitol Peak SunriseMorning graces the north face of Capital Peak. © Ben Jacobi

 

Last month (I know I'm just now getting around to editing some of these images) I took my girlfriend Ashlee to Palo Duro Canyon. This was her first time visiting the "Grand Canyon of Texas" We arrived late in the afternoon with just enough time to catch the sun going down behind the canyon rim. I only pulled out my camera a few times as my shots we rushed and I thought it better if I just kept the camera in the bag. Once I've had more time to properly compose and think about my shot did I pull out my camera. After that short sunset shoot it was time to set up camp and get ready for bed. I had a big photography/hiking day planned for tomorrow. We turned in for the night and got well rested for the next morning. 

I knew I wanted to photograph the sunrise somewhere from the valley. I have shot the sunrise from the canyon rim and from the Lighthouse, but I have not done much work in the valley. Before this trip, I did some scouting and marked a few potential sunrise locations on Google Earth. While this is good for an overall idea of a shot, there is a lot of information that is lost when using Google Earth. The best way to scout is by sight. But our sunset shoot ran too long and we didn't get the time to scout some of the locations I had marked. 

There was one location I had marked that I thought would make for a nice composition. Not too far from the Lighthouse trailhead there is a bridge that crosses the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River. Its hard to believe that this canyon was formed by this slow-moving, semi-arid river. But the spring has been quite wet this year and the river was much fuller than its usual status. My thought was to see if I could capture the river in front of Capitol Peak at sunrise. Golden early morning light would spill over the peak and bring it to an almost fiery state. We arrived on location and I was surprised to find the amount of vegetation along the banks of the river. I had to scoot my tripod along the bridge to find the angle that would reveal Capitol Peak and still showcase the river. Finally, I had decided on my composition and it was now time to wait for the light. 

We stood there on the bridge waiting for the sun rise above the towering Fortress Cliff behind us and as soon as the sun passed the canyon rim beautiful light began to inch its way down Capitol Peak. I told Ashlee that I would stay and shoot until the light started to hit the tops of the trees in our middleground. As soon as that happened we lost all the depth to our scene. The foreground and middleground remaining in the shadows keeps all the attention and focus on Capitol Peak and the river. This also helps give the scene more contrast and depth. Though we did not have the best sky for sunrise that jet contrail intersecting Capitol Peak does help lead the eye back to the unusual rock formation. With the right kind of light these sandstone rocks can glow like hot magma. Some of these reds rival and in some cases exceed that sandstone canyons of Utah and Arizona. After shooting the sunrise, we started off on the Lighthouse trail and enjoyed a wonderful day of hiking and photography. I hope to have more photos from this trip uploaded very soon. 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) landscape nature Pic of the Week sky Texas travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/6/pic-of-the-week-6/12/19 Wed, 12 Jun 2019 15:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 5/29/19: 5-22-19 Supercell https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/5/pic-of-the-week-5/29/19 Pic of the Week 5/29/19

"5/22/19 Supercell"

Date taken: 5/22/19

Location: Between Kamay and Electra, TX

 

The end of May is upon us and I think I have chased more photogenic storms this past month than I did all last year. Now that is not saying a lot since I barely chased last year, but it seems we’re back to a normal amount of severe weather. In fact, we’ve had a multi-day storm system setup that has seen short waves of low pressure over our area with strong winds aloft, under an unstable and moist airmass and the result has been numerous thunderstorms all around the southern plains. I had the opportunity to chase a photogenic storm not too far from home. My good friend (and now roommate) Jaden joined me on this chase.

Storms were forecast to fire up after 4pm along the dryline to our west. The HRRR was putting a fairly nice supercell over Seymour, TX right before dark. I was as usual working until 6pm that evening and had brought my camera just in case there could be a local chase. Storms began to develop after 5pm and after work I met up with Jaden at the apartment. We decided to target a close developing supercell just to our southwest. As we drove closer to the storm the low clouds and haze gave way to reveal a low-contrast supercell. I could make out the rain free base and the anvil. But that was just about it. The sun had lowered itself in the perfect spot between the sky and the storm. This greatly reduced the contrast to our storm and it wasn’t until we were almost on top of it could I make out some of the structure. 

A robust updraft was towering into the blue sky above and a dark low hanging wall cloud was hovering just above the countryside. As we tried to get in to position to intercept the storm I noticed a horizontal funnel try to extend from the occluding wall cloud. It was brief, but still impressive and due to my hands being on the steering wheel I was unable to make a capture of the vortex in question. Something that would become a theme throughout the chase. Finally, we were able to find a decent area to pull over that didn’t have powerlines or mesquite trees in the way. We decided to stop and let the storm cross highway 25 near Kamay, TX. During that time the storm moved off to our north, but not before giving us a great view of the rotating wall cloud. Little fingers circled the wall cloud calling our attention to the possibility of tornadogenises.

While I enjoyed the storm structure and the local chase, I was having a hard time finding an interesting foreground to incorporate in the composition. I noticed these weeds sprouting up from the dirt and I liked the vertical lines they made. There was also left-over rain trapped in the ruts of the plowed field these micro pools reflected the gray and blue skies giving a nice sheen to the landscape. These reflections added some more depth and dimension to the field. Then the storm started to put on a show as it made several attempts to organize its wall cloud.

 

5/22/19 Supercell © Ben Jacobi

I made this capture, but I actually had to take two images and stitch them together to get most of the storm in the frame. This led to the unusual photo ratio that only works with some compositions. Here, you can see the remnants of the old wall cloud and the newer meso forming to the northeast. The RFD is creeping up toward the backside of the storm and rays of late afternoon sunlight are shooting from the base on the left side of the storm. Towards the midlevels of the storm there is a very nice double inflow band feature and helical striations to the updraft tower. And finally—nearly above our heads—we have the white caps of the updraft that are contrasted against the keyhole of blue sky peering through the background. All in all, the photo turned out pretty well and it was a very fun chase. Despite the fact that I missed photographing a funnel as I was driving (yes, another one).  Jaden was fortunate to capture a photo, however and I’m only a little jealous.

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) landscape nature Pic of the Week severe weather sky storm chasing supercell Texas thunderstorm travel wall cloud weather https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/5/pic-of-the-week-5/29/19 Thu, 30 May 2019 14:11:46 GMT
Pic of the Week 5/9/19: Grave Danger https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/5/pic-of-the-week-5/9/19 Pic of the Week 5/9/19

“Grave Danger”

Location: Clarendon, TX

Date taken: 5/7/19

 

Grave DangerA tornado-warned supercell approaches the town of Clarendon, TX. © Ben Jacobi

 

We are now in our second week of May and I am just now getting to my first real storm chase of the year.  I actually haven’t been excited for chase this year. I guess I’m waiting on a good photogenic dryline storm in the panhandle. Regardless, if I get the opportunity, I need to go storm chasing. That is exactly what happened on Tuesday this week. I arrived to Metro Photo and almost immediately my boss asked if I was planning to take off early to chase some storms. He said if we weren’t too busy, I should be able to leave earlier. The only problem is that the initial storms were going to fire up in the Texas panhandle and quickly squall out through the evening. Either way I was excited to get back on the road and under a storm. I sent a text to my friend Jaden, my roommate Ryan, and my girlfriend Ashlee to see if they wanted to join me on this chase. Everyone quickly agreed and we were to meet up at my apartment after 3pm.

I had decided earlier if I was going to go chasing it would have to be west of Amarillo, I really didn’t want to drive out that far due to work the next day. After discussing forecasts with Jaden and some other chaser friends I decided to drive to Childress, TX as our initial target. Mature storms would likely move in to this area before dark and hopefully, by the time we arrived at our target. We reached Childress and waited around to see if any of the towers near us would turn into full storms. Sadly, none of them could beat out the cap or died off with lack of upper level support. We spent about an hour hanging around and near Childress, TX before finally deciding to head towards the tornado warned storm southwest of Clarendon, TX. This storm had started in Tulia and had a history of producing tornadoes.

When we made our way through Clarendon, I decided to turn south on Hwy 70 because I knew of an overlook off the road. I had shot another storm from a few years back at this location. The storm was quickly approaching the town of Clarendon and we were trying to find an unobstructed view with a possible foreground element. I pulled over at the St Mary’s Cemetery just off the road. The storm was now looking angrier and an eerie green glow was emanating from the core of the storm. Just above our heads stacked feeder bands were surging into the storm as the inflow increased. I had found this interesting headstone and thought I could use it as a foreground. Not long after I set up this composition the tornado sirens in town went off, its harrowing howl resonating through the cemetery. Rain started to gently fall as the approaching shelf cloud moved over our heads.

The storm was quickly approaching the Clarendon and I was trying to stay away from Clarendon to catch back up with it. I thought I could head south on 70, then turn east and back to the north to 287 and Memphis, TX. The idea was to get ahead of the storm. Jaden suggested I turn around and head back up and 70 into town and then turn on 287 to get ahead of the storm. Long story short, I spent too long trying to decide what to do and we lost our storm, but as we got back on 287 storms began to fire up south of Childress, TX. We could drive towards them and see what developed. We spent the rest of the evening driving through rain and chasing lightning. It was still a good chase despite the fact we didn’t see any tornadoes, but I’m still hopeful of a good dryline setup later on in the season.

Just a quick note: The headstone that is featured in this photograph says

JUAN RODRIGUEZ

BORN IN
SATILLO MEXICO

JAN 11, 1840

DIED IN CLARENDON

APRIL 30, 1910

AGE 70 Ys. 3 Ms. 20 Ds.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) cemetery grave headstone landscape nature Pic of the Week severe weather sky storms supercell Texas thunderstorms travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/5/pic-of-the-week-5/9/19 Thu, 09 May 2019 15:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 5/3/19 https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/5/pic-of-the-week-5/3/19 Pic of the Week 5/3/19

"Rainbow 5/1/19"

Date taken: 5/1/19

Location: Lake Arrowhead, TX

 

After a slow start to the storm season, 2019 has kicked in high gear. Just this week we had two severe weather events in town. One produced a photogenic tornado just 10 miles from my work. I did not get to chase that storm. We had our fair share of the weather with heavy rains, small hail, and crazy intense lightning. Yet despite all this, I was upset that I missed a tornado so close to home. Unfortunately, the tornado did destroy part of pecan orchard outside in Charlie, TX. Missing these type of severe weather events puts me in a funk and the only thing that will cure my SDS (Supercell Deprivation Syndrome) is a good ol' storm chase. But even if the chase is terrible and I'm able to pull out my camera and capture some pixels, it can make it all worth it. Sometimes I get a great chase with great photography. Other times the scales are leaning towards one side. But I have to keep reminding myself, I don't chase for tornadoes--I chase for storms. 

Wednesday was supposed to be another severe weather day and once again I was working and couldn't chase. There was a tornado on the ground between Seymour and Throckmorton just an hour away from Wichita Falls. Had I been able to leave I probably would've caught it. But there I was sitting at work watching live streams and staring at radar data. Once again I was put in a foul mood for missing storms, but there was some hope in sight. Storms moved through Wichita Falls once again and we got more heavy rain, small hail, and close lightning. But eventually the storms moved off and continued east with the front. The anvil of those storms stretched above our sky and mammatus clouds could be seen bulging out. To the west and below the cloud line there was a strip of blue sky. This gave me hope we would have a great sunset with mammatus clouds later that evening. After work I picked up my girlfriend Ashlee and we drove out to Lake Arrowhead with the idea to shoot some lightning over the lake.

All through the shoot I kept looking back to the west making sure the sun was going to set below the cloud line. Sure enough the sun sank below the clouds and the storms to our south and east ignited in a warm fiery glow. As the sun drew closer and closer to the horizon, a brilliant double rainbow revealed itself in the clouds. All around us bright flashes of lightning were bursting from the storms in the evening light. I thought it would be excellent to capture the rainbow and lightning in the same frame, but the foreground wasn't that interesting. The road we were next to curved along the dam of the lake and I thought I could incorporate that in my composition. I quickly walked to the middle of the road paying attention to any signs of approaching vehicles. There were times when I need to get off the road and as I lifted my camera and tripod a big burst of lightning would explode from the rainbow. 

Finally the time was right. The light was spectacular, there were no cars coming, and my settings were locked in. All I needed was some lightning. I set my camera down checked my focus and shot off several 20 second exposures praying the lightning would strike. When everything seemed like it was a wash I decided to make one last capture before the rainbow vanished. During those twenty seconds a few eruptions of lightning occurred in my composition. I was able to capture six lightning strikes in my frame below a stunning rainbow arc, in gorgeous and dynamic light, on a close to home chase, with my wonderful girlfriend beside me. Who even need's tornadoes?!?! 

 

© Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) landscape nature Pic of the Week rainbow sky Texas travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/5/pic-of-the-week-5/3/19 Fri, 03 May 2019 15:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 4/25/19: Energy https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/4/pic-of-the-week-4/25/19 Pic of the Week 4/25/19

“Energy”

Date taken: 4/26/09

Location: Iowa Park, TX

 

EnergyEnergy © Ben Jacobi

Wow. Ten years…has it really been ten years? Ten years since I captured one of my best selling and better-known photographs. Energy has been featured in many of my shows/galleries throughout the years. It has also brought me a few blue ribbons from various local photography competitions. It has to be one of my most significant and important pieces to my portfolio, but the photo has an interesting origin story. You see, this is not the original “Energy” photo.

When I was old enough to get my license and fortunate enough to have a car, I started to realize the potential in location scouting. I would drive up and down the county and farm roads outside of Iowa Park making references to anything that caught my attention. I would document stock tanks and the variety of wildlife I would see in those area. I would record locations for sunset and sunrise along the country roads. And of course, I would scout out potential shots for storm images. I loved the idea of getting away from the town and being out on the road just me, my camera, and whatever mother nature would throw in front of the lens.

One day while I was making my rounds along my usual route, I decided to go farther out of town—almost to Burkburnett. This was a big deal for someone who wasn’t familiar with the area and who’s vehicle would break down after even the slightest provocation. I remember following the farm market road watching the mesquite trees zip by in my peripheral vision when I came to a sharp curve. I slowed down making my way around the curve and noticed some oil rigs off to my north. These medal machines were too far to offer any interesting composition and as I passed them I could hear the distant whine the machines made. It was almost as if they were mocking me. Perhaps they were trying to tell me something…

I continued down the road running parallel with the white pipe fence to my north. The road started to rise as I climbed up a small hill and near the crest of the hill I saw it. An active rusty, photogenic “pumpjack” not 20ft from the road! I soared with excitement as I pulled off the road. I walked out with my camera and started looking at potential compositions. One of my thoughts was “If I could get the right storm off to the north, this would make a killer lightning photo!” I recorded the location in my scouting notes and returned home.

A year or so went by before I even had the opportunity to photograph lightning behind the pumpjack. The first photo was still impressive, but there were a lot of issues with the image. The most important one would have to be the pumpjack itself. The pumpjack was still pumping and moving. During the exposure the camera record the pumpjack in its current location, then as the lightning strike the light would create another imprint of the pumpjack, but now in a different location. The resulting image was a double pumpjack with a ghostly like blur between them. Sometimes this made for some fun creative images, but it wasn’t the photo I wanted.

Another year went by before I was able to shoot this location again, but this time everything worked more in my favor.First, the pumpjack was still active which mean I would need for the lightning to strike just at the perfect moment. Not only would it have to be when the pump was at its highest point, but it would also need to be a short and bright lightning strike. And that would have to be the only one for the duration of the exposure. Another strike while recording that photo would result in another double-ghost image.

The right storm came along, and I set up my camera just waiting to get lucky. I pressed down the shutter once the pumpjack reached its apex and just a fraction of a second later, a large burst of lightning exploded from the updraft base. I waited patiently as the camera finished the rest of its 13sec exposure. Thankfully, no other lightning occurred during that time and the final image showed the near perfect silhouette of the pumpjack. There is still a little bit of movement on the image, but it was about the best I could get with the scenario I was given.

I remember returning home and being so excited for this photo, but little did I know it would become one of my most sold and more popular storm images. After I completed the (first) edit of the photo I could only think of one title: Energy. There are two great examples of energy in this image and I think that is what makes it so compelling. I have sold this to many oil field owners, roughnecks, and workers. This image has been one of my all-time favorite photographs for a while now and who knows maybe I’ll get another crack at it one day. I do hope the pump is still going otherwise where’s the challenge in that?

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) landscape lightning nature night Pic of the Week pumpjack severe weather sky storms Texas thunderstorms travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/4/pic-of-the-week-4/25/19 Thu, 25 Apr 2019 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 4/11/19: Central Utah Slot #4 https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/4/pic-of-the-week-4/11/19 Pic of the Week 

"Central Utah Slot #4"

Date taken: 3/17/19

Location: Palo Duro Canyon, TX.

 

I had really set out to have a new and exciting Pic of the Week, but sadly nothing came across my way. It is now the second week of April and still not a single storm chase for me. Its weird, because I remember everyone talking about how this was going to be a more active season than previous years. Maybe 2019 is a late bloomer. And speaking of late bloomers, I am heading down to Ennis, TX this weekend in hopes of capturing some great bluebonnet photos. Weather looks to be a bit shaky, but we'll see what we come back with.

Regardless, I thought about looking back to one of my previous storm chases, but the lack of severe weather in my life has left me uninspired. So I started browsing through some of my older landscape adventures and still couldn't find anything I was excited to share. The only thing that I was happy with (recently) would be this photo I made from my trip to Palo Duro Canyon last month. I made such a big deal out of telling the story and challenges that went into making those images of the stunning slot canyon deep in the backcountry, that there was no way I could post another slot image. Then I decided I'm just going to go ahead and do it anyway because it does teach an important lesson in landscape photography: Always look behind you. 

You see I was so fixated on that one slot image that I wasn't paying attention to what was happening behind me. But when I turned my head around and saw the soft mid-morning light spilling into the canyon I knew I had to capture this magnificent scene. Once again, I took my time and shot horizontal and vertical compositions of the scene. It was awkward and uncomfortable in the narrow slot and there were only a few places to comfortably place your feet/hands--let alone a tripod! All that pain and patience paid off when I shot this image. This looks like something you would see in Arizona or Utah slot canyons, in fact, several people have accused me of lying about the location. I can understand their concern because I didn't believe these were in Texas the first time I heard about them. 

What's interesting about this image is that I almost didn't share it. Don't get me wrong I love the composition, light, and color, in the photo but I tend to gravitate towards the wide angle scenes and try to put the viewer in a grander place. But that wasn't the case with this narrow slot canyon and I really only have this photo that actually depicts just how narrow this slot is. And to think I could've ignored this composition or I could have just left it on my hard drive, but thankfully I looked back (on both occasions) and captured one of my favorite shots of this slot canyon. I liked it so much that I only decided to share it with a photography group on Facebook and on my personal account on Instagram. The image got a lot of attention and I figured it met my standards for putting it on my website. It really was a miraculous adventure with some good friends and excellent photography. Hopefully, I'll have some even newer work to share with y'all next week. Enjoy!

 

Central Utah Slot #4

© Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) canyon landscape nature Palo Duro Canyon Pic of the Week slot canyon Texas texas panhandle travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/4/pic-of-the-week-4/11/19 Thu, 11 Apr 2019 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 4/4/19: Mammatus Clouds: Cestos, OK https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/4/pic-of-the-week-4/4/19 Well, here I am looking over my Facebook newsfeed and seeing all these chasers that made it out to the Texas panhandle and southern Oklahoma. Congratulations to all you chasers who got on the storm it looked like there was some nice structure. I opted out of this chase due to commitments to work and not being entirely convinced there would be good storms. Mother Nature does a pretty good job of making me look like a fool. Regardless, I had nothing new to post for this week's Pic of the Week and that sent me searching through past chases and I came across this photo. I actually chased this storm almost four years ago. Its hard to believe that much time has passed since then and the truth is I've had a pretty forgettable couple of seasons since. That's just how it goes sometimes, but I have a pretty good feeling about this year--only time will tell.

 

***

Pic of the Week 4/4/19

"Mammatus Clouds: Cestos, OK"

Location: Cestos, OK

Date taken: 4/8/15

Early spring weather events are always fun to chase. Usually they're some type of dryline/triple point set up and you can get some really great storms from them. Though the problem with early spring events is the lack of sufficient dynamics to keep severe weather going. This could be in the form of moisture, upper level support, instability, and lift mechanisms. One concern for our chase was the residual cloud cover and lack of deep level moisture over our target area, but it was the first chase of the season and we were excited to get out. My friends and fellow storm chasers James Langford and Brad Neal picked me up in Wichita Falls and we headed out towards western, OK. Our target was Clinton, OK. Along the way we could make out some "turkey towers" going up along the dryline. Not long after we reached Clinton, storms started to break out on the dryline. We decided to head west to investigate. 

The storm was not that impressive (at first), but we waited in an open field enjoying the cool spring air and admiring the bubbling convection to our west. Eventually, the storm started to get its act together and quickly broke through the cap. As it towered high and higher in the sky we stayed in place letting it get closer to our position. The storm didn't move much and pretty well hugged the dryline the entire time and after a few hours of chasing we finally let it go and fade off into the setting sun. Another storm had formed out to the southwest of our position and as day turned to evening the anvil from that storm came over our heads and into our sky. This meant we had the potential for a great sunset. We were driving around looking for someplace to set up for sunset when we spotted some newly erected wind farms to our east. These thing couldn't have been up for just a few months and the near white paint made them contrast nicely against the stormy gray background. We found a nice wheat field where we pulled over waiting for the sunset light.

After 30min of waiting and enjoying the scene, the real show started to begin. The sun broke through some of the clouds and sent rays of golden sunlight striking our storm. The falling precip refracted the light i the way a small rainbow appeared in our shot. We spent so much time photographing and enjoying the rainbow until it eventually faded away. During this time the sun began to set below the horizon and the sky above us became a stunning pastel pink/orange color. The mammatus clouds above billowed and churned like orange cotton balls in the sky. The scene was quite nice and I wanted to record more than just the sky. So I lowered myself and my camera to just below the eye line of the wheat. This gave me a nice foreground element to use and it made the sky look that much more impressive. The distant wind farms created a great anchor point relieving the view of the chaos-inducing wheat field. Normally, I consider these structures eyesores of the landscape but I must admit they gave this scene depth and scale. And of course, the sky was just incredible. A sliver of blue gray near the horizon also added more depth and brought an excellent complementary color to an otherwise, analagous color palette. 

 

Mammatus Clouds: Cestos, OKMammatus Clouds: Cestos, OK

© Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) clouds landscape mammatus nature Oklahoma Pic of the Week severe weather sky storm chasing storms supercell travel weather https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/4/pic-of-the-week-4/4/19 Thu, 04 Apr 2019 16:10:45 GMT
Pic of the Week 3/22/19: Central Utah Slot https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/3/pic-of-the-week-3/22/19 Pic of the Week 3/22/19

"Central Utah Slot"

Date taken: 3/17/19

Location: Somewhere in Palo Duro Canyon, TX

Pic of the Week 3/22/19
"Central Utah Slot"
Date taken: 3/17/19
Location: Palo Duro Canyon, TX

 

Central Utah Slot #1Rushing waters carve through the Trujillio sandstone to form this stunning slot canyon somewhere deep in Palo Duro Canyon. © Ben Jacobi

 

With a heavy breath I hoisted my backpack above my head and onto the ledge a few feet above me. Silently, I commanded the bag to "stay" because I didn't want my gear to slide off the narrow cliff. After I felt it was secure, I took another deep breath and began to plan my route up. We were some 550ft above the canyon floor and about an hour into our hike. The mesa didn't look as intimidating from down there, but now coming face to face with the extreme terrain we learned to respect the mesa very quickly. You see you can't put your faith in any of the rocks at this level. With each step or grasp the rock crumbles below you and if you're not careful, you may fall down the side of the cliff. We had found what we believed to be the safest route, but there was just one more small obstacle before we were at the top of the mesa. I looked back at the rock jutting out from the cliff face and the extremely narrow foothold that I would need to walk along to reach the next level. Slowly and deliberately I made my way around the rock tentatively clinging to whatever I could grasp including the root of a tree branch, but I made my way around and collected my camera bag. Now it was Ian Glasgow and Jaden Corbin's turn. Two of my really good photographer friends joined me on this adventure deep in the Palo Duro Canyon backcountry. It took a little while, but eventually we all made it up to the top and continued finding a path upwards to the top of the mesa. I knew this hike was going to be difficult and anticipated it as such, but I overestimated my stamina for this activity. Finally, we reached the very top of the mesa somewhere near the 3400ft elevation line meaning we gained 600ft of elevation. Looking off to the north and east we could see my vehicle way out on the side of the road. It was hard to believe we were finally here--finally looking for the famed "Central Utah" slot canyons.


From a previous post you may remember Jaden and I were in Palo Duro Canyon just a few months earlier and again looking for the elusive slot canyons that can be found there. Our trip was such a success that I couldn't help to want more slots. Not to mention, the lack of light on our Sunday Slot canyon trip left a lot to be desired. But this time the air was clear, crisp, and dead still. With the sun out the temperatures started to rise above freezing and I started to shed some of my layers. The night before was cold, however. Uncomfortable too. I believe the most sleep I got was around 2hrs. By now though my excitement and adrenaline had kicked in and I dismissed my fatigue and continued on with the hike. We stood on the rim of the mesa looking off into Palo Duro Canyon. In a way it was somewhat reminiscent of my trip to the Grand Canyon in 2016. But not quite the scale and depth of the canyon. The intimidating Fortress Cliff stood tall over the northern boundary of the park. We could also see Capitol Peak way off to our northwest. Observing the park from this perspective really gives you an appreciation for Palo Duro Canyon. After a short break we started to head southwest passing though mesquite thickets, cactus, and thorn bushes. The mesa seemed to go on forever and it felt like we would never reach our next waypoint. We did however reach our next waypoint, an old farming road, and from here all the hard stuff was over. We followed the road until reaching a specific side canyon that would lead us to a creek that would lead us to the slot canyons. The descent into the side canyon was fairly easy and a small 4x4 trail had been made through the rugged canyonland. We found the specific dry creek bed to follow and when it ended into a dramatic box canyon I knew we were in the right place. We could not get down from that 50ft drop, so we continued a little further down stream before finally reaching the start of the slot. 


What a slot this was! We first walked the top of the slot to check for mud, water, and other hazards. Walking along the top we could see the incredible striations and wave-like patterns on the sandstone walls. I was in heaven! I was so excited to reach these slots after literal years of researching and planning I was finally here. We started the descent into the slot. Almost immediately it narrowed so much you would need to take your pack off to squeeze through. Down into the slot we went, getting deeper and deeper and while this isn't the deepest slot out there, it is one of the most photogenic. It had rained earlier this week and I had high hopes the slots would be dry and while they were mostly clear of water (at least the first one) they were filled with mud. And this mud was very, very slippery! We carefully made our way through the slot canyon and avoided as much of the mud as possible. We continued downstream reaching the middle and lower slots. The middle slot wasn't as deep, but it did have amazing wave-like patterns on the rock walls. The lower slot looked to be very deep, but it was flooded with what I estimated to be about a foot of water in the slot. Needless to say, we did not attempt that one. We decided to split up to cover more ground and not get in the way of each other's composition. I decided to stay in the upper slot, Jaden went to the lower slot, and Ian stayed at the mouth of the upper slot. I was there in that slot canyon for almost an hour shooting and exploring compositions. I was hoping we would catch some of the early morning reflected light, but sadly, we waited too long in the season. Generally, you want to be there around the mid-last week of January for the good light. But I still made do with what I was given. Soon it would be too warm to hike this area and I really wanted to visit it before the summer months. As the sun crept up over the canyon splashes of gold and orange fell on the canyon walls creating a great polarity between the warm colors of the sunlight and the cool colors of the shadows. The early morning light filtered more and more in the slot and the cliffs started to ignite in a radiant warm glow that resembled coals in a fire. This reflected and bounced off the canyon and sent soft warm light all through the slot revealing the incredible striations and patterns of the sandstone. Without a doubt this has been my favorite place to explore in Palo Duro Canyon. I enjoyed this hike and photos so much that I couldn't just post one so here are a few more from this wild slot canyon deep in the Palo Duro Canyon backcountry. 

Central Utah Slot #3Slot canyon deep in the backcounty of Palo Duro Canyon. © Ben Jacobi

 

Central Utah #2 PanoramaCentral Utah Slot in black and white

© Ben Jacobi

 

Self Portrait in the Central Utah Slot. © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/3/pic-of-the-week-3/22/19 Fri, 22 Mar 2019 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 2/28/19: Damsel Fly (The Blue One) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/2/pic-of-the-week-2/28/19  

Pic of the Week 2/28/19

"Damsel Fly (The Blue One)"

Date taken: 7/23/12

Location: Iowa Park, TX

 

Is anyone else sick of this cold weather? I mean spring is supposedly just around the corner, but the long range models keep suggesting winter will clench her icy grip at least for a few more weeks. I gotta admit when the Climate Prediction Center issued the El Nino watch for the spring of 2019 I was thinking we would see a few chases in February. But alas, there were no chases, actually, there wasn't really much of any weather. Mostly it was just cold and gray. So that got me thinking I would try to warm myself up by looking back on some of my spring images. Usually that means I'll post an epic storm shot. But as I was browsing through my files thinking of which image I wanted to share today, I came across this old and unusual shot. Unusual in the sense that it is not normal photography for me.

I was out and about on a warm summer's (not spring) day walking the shores of Middle Lake in Iowa Park looking for an interesting foreground to incorporate in the sunset. There is an area that I would frequently visit that had these rock boulders that would extend into the lake. I could usually find an interesting composition in this area. I waited for the sun to set and it looked like it could've been a good one, but low clouds blocked off our chance for any color in sky. I sat on the boulders with my camera in hand just in case there was a brief flash of color in the sky. As I gazed out over the nearly still lake, the tranquility and serenity were breached by the droning of a dozen or so damsel flies darting about the shoreline. Several had actually come in close contact with me and one even landed on my arm. It was like they didn't really care I was there--except the blue one. I would wave my arms around to scare them off and send them flying into the humid summer air, but the blue one was being especially territorial. It seems I was the intruder on his boulder. So he would fly closer to my face and try to intimidate me away.

I guess I admired the tenacity of the little guy and thought he deserved to be documented. Without having my macro lens I knew it was going to be difficult to get a decent shot of the little blue guy but I didn't really have anything better to do. I chased that damsel fly around with my camera until he finally landed and let me take a quick shot. After I got my picture I got off his boulder and went back to my car. I had to do some serious cropping in post to bring in the details of the small insect. Luckily my D800 had plenty of resolution to crop with and the resulting photo was a nice memory to a very territorial damsel fly. 

 

Damsel Fly (The Blue One)Damsel Fly (The Blue One) © Ben Jacobi

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/2/pic-of-the-week-2/28/19 Thu, 28 Feb 2019 18:38:41 GMT
Pic of the Week 2/15/19: Quartz Mountain Star Trails https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/2/pic-of-the-week-2/15/19 Pic of the Week 2/15/19

"Quartz Mountain Star Trails"

Location: Quartz Mountain Park near Altus, OK

2/13/16

 

Star Trails Quarz MountainStar Trails Quarz MountainStar trails as seen from the road to Cedar Valley Area. With Quartz Mountain in the background. © Ben Jacobi

 

Going to do a short blog entry today. Due to circumstances beyond my control I haven't been able to get out and shoot new photos, so I'm having to go back to previous adventures. This image was captured during my 2016 visit to Quartz Mountain Park. I had a specific shot in mind, but I was having to wait for the milky way to come out right before sunrise. While trying to kill some time I drove around looking for interesting compositions in the glow of a 3/4 moon.

Just outside the entrance I came across this view of Quartz Mountain on the way to the Cedar Valley hiking area. With the soft silvery light of the moon I could make out the details of the mountains and the dirt road in my foreground. But I found the composition was lacking energy and something to draw the viewer into the scene. Finally, I decided to concentrate more on the sky and I would shoot a star trail image. Now I don't do star trails very often for a couple of reasons. 1) It takes a long time to shoot 2) It takes a long time to process/create the final image. I also have found them to be "over done" and almost a substitute for finding a good composition. But I must admit that it did have potential for this shot.

I stood there on the side of the road capturing my single frames to use for the stars. I didn't want to stay out there too long so I only shot about 100 frames. This meant I was standing outside in the cold for about an hour--which was the most I was willing to bare for this shot. After the 100 frames I went ahead and parked my car and bundled up to go to sleep because in a few hours I would be getting up and shooting the milky way. When I got home from this trip I loaded all of my photos on my computer and wasn't sure if the star trails shoot was going to work.

It always hard to visualize these compositions that require stacking or stitching. Some times I'll shoot panoramas and find that the composition just doesn't work. Panoramas don't take too long to stitch, but star trails do take quite a bit of time to stack. While I sat there on my computer stacking the images I could start to see the final result come together and I was genuinely excited about it. But after compiling all the image layers it still felt a little "boring" to me. That was when I decided to introduce a fade on the star trails. The first ten layers of the stars are at 100% opacity then for each layer after that I decreased the opacity by 1% to create the fade. The final result made the sky almost look like it was spinning and added that extra bit of energy and movement to the scene. 

 

Enjoy! 

 

-Ben

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) landscape nature night Pic of the Week Quartz Mountain Quartz Mountain Park sky star trails stars travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/2/pic-of-the-week-2/15/19 Fri, 15 Feb 2019 16:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 1/24/19: 2019 Lunar Eclipse: Mineral Wells, TX https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/1/pic-of-the-week-1/24/19 Pic of the Week 1/24/19

"2019 Lunar Eclipse: Mineral Wells, TX"

Date taken: 1/20/19

Location: Mineral Wells, TX

 

2019 Lunar Eclipse: Mineral Wells, TX2019 Lunar Eclipse: Mineral Wells, TX © Ben Jacobi

 

Let's go ahead and address the elephant, or I guess wolf, in the room. This image is not a representation of reality, but is also not photoshopped. I'll explain more a little later. When it comes to photographing lunar eclipses it takes a lot more for me to get excited. Maybe its because I have photographed them for several years now, but those images of the blood red moon in a black void just bore me. Now don't get me wrong, there are some photographers whose work is just like this and you can see their dedication and passion for their craft in their images. But for me, its not much of a challenge any more. As a beginning photographer I thought it was so impressive that I could capture this and every beginner should try to photograph the eclipse, as it does take a lot of technical skill. But similar to my position on lightning photography, I became bored with the shots and started to expand more and challenge myself to more complicated compositions and compositing. One of my favorites is my 2015 Lunar Eclipse transition over Palo Duro Canyon which you can read about here.

So for this years lunar eclipse shot I was going to try the most technically pure and least post processed image of the eclipse. My location would be in Lake Mineral Wells state park and my composition would have me pointed in the direction of the moon. Considering the moon was going to be 65 degrees up in the sky it certainly presented its challenges. The shot I had imagined would be a photo looking up a tall elm tree in an area known as Penitentiary Hollow. This maze of conglomerated rock shelters the elm trees in the cracks and fissures between the stone. Because the rocks are fairly large the tress have had to adapt. They grow all the way past the rocks before branching out. These trees have very tall trunks and their branches spread out like an umbrella overhead. With the colder weather we've been having I knew the branches would be clear of any leaves and we would just be remained with the skeletal silhouette of the tree. My plan was to photograph the eclipse looking up through the branches of the tree to a perfectly framed blood moon. We arrived on location early and scouted out the composition. Overall, I was pretty excited for the shot and I knew it was going to be challenging to pull off. We explored the stone outcroppings and rock formations for a few hours before the sun started to set. Once the sun was down I started lining up my composition and planning my procedure for capturing the image. But mother nature seems to have a cruel sense of humor.

Clouds, thick, gray, ugly, and uninvited clouds started creeping their way over the sky. I noticed there were some clouds out earlier in the afternoon and all the weather models I looked at forecast the clouds to move out by sundown. But now they were completely blocking out the eastern horizon. I couldn't even make out the stars in the sky. Disappointed, we pack up our gear and started to head back home. As I looked off to the east I could see the faint glow of the moon behind the thick layer of clouds, above it was nothing but a dull gray sky. We decided since we were in town to go ahead and grab some dinner and catch the rest of the football game. As we were watching the game we could see out the window the moon slowly started to become more and more visible. By the time the game was over it was very clear in the upper parts of the sky. There was just one small problem, the park gates close at 10pm. We decided to abandon the original shot and instead look for ways to incorporate the iconic Baker Hotel with the eclipse. We searched for a while driving down the back roads and alleys of the town looking for a good composition and angle on the hotel. Unsatisfied with any of the options, we started to look for roads with higher elevation. Maybe one of those would give us the angle we needed. We drove up and down neighborhood roads catching glimpses of the Baker between the homes, but there was no place we could pull over and shoot. Finally we had one more road to try and we came around the very sharp corner I could see a pull off at the top of the hill with virtually no trees and a view of the Baker hotel. This would be our new location.

I pulled out my Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 VC lens and zoomed in tight bringing all the emphasis on the hotel. I had that composition lined up, but it was nowhere near the moon. The moon was hanging high above my left shoulder it was completely impossible to photograph both the Baker and the moon with this lens. "I'm going to do more of an artistic image than a realistic one" I thought to myself. I decided I didn't want to Photoshop in the eclipse because, once again, it wasn't challenging to me. So I opted for an in camera multiple exposure. If you are familiar with film, and more specifically older manual wind film cameras, then you know how easy it was to forget to wind the film before taking another exposure. So you would take a photo and then forget to wind the film reload the shutter and expose another shot--on the same frame. The result is two blended exposures on a single frame and this can create some interesting images. My particular camera will allow me to do a digital version of "double-exposing" the image. This quickly became much more challenging to me. I had to properly expose the foreground (hotel) and then tilt my camera up almost 60 more degrees and pivot to the moon. Then I would need to completely change my exposure settings to expose for the eclipse. Not only that, but I had to carefully consider the placement of the moon. Too low, too far to the right and the moon ended up directly in front of the Baker hotel. Another consideration was the time, I only had 20 minutes when the moon is passing through the Earth's umbra giving it that iconic "blood" appearance. I ran several test runs during the partial eclipse so I would have my movements and settings down in time for totality. Finally, it all came down to the moment.

Peak eclipse had been reached, it was a perfectly crystal clear sky, I just needed to make sure I didn't screw up my exposure, my focus, my moon placement, and not kick or bump my tripod during any of the exposures. I lined up my shot, exhaled a deep breath, and started shooting my 13 sec exposure for the hotel. After that finished I quickly turned my camera and attention of the lunar eclipse. I again, lined up my shot, and shortened my exposure time to 1/2 sec and opened up my f/stop and then took another deep breath and fired off the exposure. After the image was made the in-camera software had to process the image and even though it takes just a few seconds, it seems like an eternity when you're waiting to see the result. The image popped up on the back of the screen and I was perfectly happy to find a properly exposed foreground and moon in the same frame. So yes, this image is not a representation of reality, but it was done 100% in camera. Despite the fact it wasn't anything like the original shot I had planned, I was still excited for the result and the process it took to create the image. It was quite the challenge, but I'm glad I didn't "phone this one in". 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) blood moon eclipse landscape lunar eclipse Mineral Wells moon nature night Pic of the Week sky Texas travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/1/pic-of-the-week-1/24/19 Thu, 24 Jan 2019 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 1/17/18: Sunday Slot https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/1/pic-of-the-week-1/17/18 Pic of the Week 1/17/19

“Sunday Slot”

Location: Palo Duro Canyon, TX

Date taken: 1/13/19

 

Sunday SlotSunday Slot

© Ben Jacobi

 

Wow! What an amazing and exciting trip I had to Palo Duro Canyon this past weekend. My good friend and photographer Jaden Corbin joined me on this little adventure. Although nothing really went our way we still got to an unbelievable location and came back with some awesome photographs. To really understand the significance of this image I must go a few years back. I can’t tell you exactly when, but somehow, I came across this discovery on the internet. Palo Duro Canyon had incredibly photogenic slot canyons. I had been to Antelope Canyon earlier that year and understood firsthand the photogenic qualities of slot canyons. But since I don’t live close to Arizona or Utah I would have to settle with something just a day’s drive away.

After some research I came across a blog that was almost entirely dedicated to the slot canyons of the Llano Estacado (https://www.caprockcanyoneer.wordpress.com) and I was blown away by his photographs in these Palo Duro secrets. Naturally, I reached out to the Caprock Canyoneer, but he did not respond to any of my messages. After experiencing one of these places myself, I now understand why. So, I spent a few years reading his blog, checking topo maps, and cruising over satellite images looking for the elusive Palo Duro slots. I was able to locate and mark them on maps, now I just needed to visit them. It was going to take some endurance and skill as reaching these amazing canyons usually means extensive back-country hiking totaling around 10+ miles. Some are even longer distances.

When I was planning this trip I was originally going to hike some of the other slot canyons with my friend Steve (https://www.stevethenomad.com) but due to commitments to work, the uncooperative weather, and half the park being closed for a controlled hunt, we decided to postpone our hike. I had already planned to visit PDC and was planning to visit my friend Jim Livingston who lives in Amarillo (https://www.jimlivingstonart.com) so I decided to go ahead with the trip. After some coaxing, I convinced Jaden to join me. Jaden had never been to Palo Duro Canyon before, so I was excited to share it with him. We left Wichita Falls around 3pm Saturday afternoon. After a long 3 hour drive we turned on Hwy 207 heading south from Claude, TX. I wanted to reach the infamous 207 overlook by sunset and let Jaden take in the landscape. This overlook places you on the rim of the canyon and offers incredible photogenic views of the canyonlands down below. There was just one problem: we missed the sunset by ten minutes. We were so close, but just a little too late. We still managed to snap a few images during the last bit of light and the blue hour, but just before dark it was time to get settled in the for the night and get ready for tomorrow.

I introduced Jaden to Jim and we talked for a few hours before going to sleep. We were going to wake up early and be in the park by 7am. The forecast did not look favorable for the photography we wanted to capture, but we headed out anyways. Early that morning a thick layer of freezing fog moved through the area. The drive to the canyon was crazy. I could only see about 50 feet in front of me and ice accumulated on my windshield as we drove through the fog. Eventually we reached the park and the gate was open. I paid the entrance fee and we drove to our first stop—the El Coronado Lodge/Visitor Center.

 The Visitor Center sits at the top of the canyon rim and overlooks the valley below. The view here is truly astonishing, but we really couldn’t see all that much as the freezing fog was thick through the canyon. I had never seen the canyon like this and I took advantage of it and shot off several frames of the foggy scene. We finished up at the visitor center and made our way down into the canyon. As we were driving the fog started to lift and by the time we got to the trailhead parking lot we were almost entirely out of fog. The overcast clouds did still stick around, however. We gathered our gear and began our hike along one of the designated hiking trails. For the next three miles we hiked along a series of trails that took us to a dry creek bed. That was our cue to turn off trail and follow the creek bed.

It’s always fun to go off trail, but you must be familiar where you are going and have a plan. We followed the creek bed until turning north up a specific side canyon that was guarded by a field of massive sandstone boulders. We traversed the rocky surface passing amazing Quartermaster sandstone formations and walls. The boulders grew larger and larger and soon we began our ascent up the rockslide. Hopping from boulder to boulder I am familiar with from hiking in the Wichita Mountains, but the granite rock I’m used to differs from the smooth sandstone here in the canyon. Needless to say, I took my time scrambling and navigating through the boulder and choke stones. Finally, we arrived at the entrance of the slot canyon. I looked up towards the slot and saw the metal ladder that was left in there. One needs to scale a small dry waterfall to enter the slot and the water erosion has made it nearly impossible to do without a ladder or rope of some kind.

We climbed our way into the slot and it became perfectly clear just how amazing this secret canyon is. The smooth sandstone was sinuously carved by frequent rushing water and evidence of wave patterns, whirlpools, and water levels were all around the canyon walls. Strips of silica and mica were imbedded in the sandstone and shone like bright diamonds even in the dull overcast light. The slot took multiple curves following an “S” shape pattern I remembered from satellite images. In some sections we would climb or descend as much as 10 feet in the narrow passageway. The striated sandstone walls narrowed to a point that made using a tripod quite difficult. But after some exploring I found my composition and an area to set up my tripod. There was so much beauty in the slot even with the cloudy skies overhead and it was difficult to narrow down a composition that would make visual sense. Once I found it, I set up my camera and waited to see if any of the light would change. There was the occasional thinning of the cloud layers sending diffused warm sunlight through the slot. Although it is nothing like the early morning reflected light that creates unreal shades of orange, red, and purple on the sandstone walls.

We were more than happy with our shoot and I believe we came back with some great images. Though I did have to spend extra time and care post processing this photo. I had to focus stack to get the closest canyon wall and the furthest canyon wall in focus. It took a total of 4 images to get the depth of field I wanted for the shot. Each image was focused on a specific part of the canyon going from closest to farthest and then blended into a stack in Photoshop. It took a lot longer, but the result is a razor-sharp image all the way though the photo. You can almost feel the sandstone walls just looking at the image. We finished up in the slot canyon and made our way back to the creek bed and then eventually back to the main trail. All in all, we ended up hiking almost 9.5 miles for these photos and it was worth every step!

Because of the sensitive nature of this canyon it will remain a secret that only a few people know. I will not reveal any specific details about the location. While hiking through the slot we found some litter and rock carvings on the sandstone walls. The less people that know about it the more likely we are to preserve this natural wonder. Now if the desire to see this yourself is just too much, I suggest doing your research and studying up as much as you can. One more thing—slot canyons are extremely dangerous and should never be visited during or immediately following rain! If you decide to venture out to the slot, please be careful and be respectful. Pack in what you bring out and leave no trace. I am hoping to complete more PDC slots later this year maybe I will have better lighting and timing for those. Either way, it was amazing to finally visit this canyon and get a great photograph that I have longed to capture for almost two years now.

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) canyon hiking landscape nature Palo Duro Canyon Pic of the Week rock sandstone secret slot canyon Texas Texas panhandle travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/1/pic-of-the-week-1/17/18 Thu, 17 Jan 2019 16:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 1/11/19: "Lake Road Medicine Park, OK" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/1/pic-of-the-week-1/11/19 Pic of the Week 1/11/19

“Lake Road Medicine Park, OK”

Date taken: 1/5/19

Location: Medicine Park, OK

 

I really wanted to start out 2019 on a good note. And it looked like we might have had some interesting weather that first week of January. A winter storm was forecast to move through Texas and Oklahoma last Wed-Thursday. I thought I would have come back with some kind of fresh, new winter image, but sadly the timing and weather would not be in my favor. Despite the fact that one of my favorite places to photograph, the Wichita Mountains, received almost 8" of snow I did not get to experience it due to work and other factors. Its disappointing as these opportunities don't come around very often, so instead of rehashing old stories and using previously captured photos I opted to skip last week's Pic of the Week. I am very excited however for this week's Pic of the Week. This is an image I have had on the back burner for three months since I first discovered this composition.

I first came up with the idea for the image while browsing around on Google Earth. I have been using Google Earth to plan my images for a few years now and I find it helps me pre-visualize my images. Going into a shoot with an idea of what I want to capture keeps me focused and on point while out shooting. Google Earth gives me the option to scout out locations without actually being there. Through Google Earth I found a road that followed the south shore of lake Lawtonka in Medicine Park, OK. As I followed the twisting road I noticed a small hill just off the shoulder. Out of curiosity I switched to the 3D viewing mode to see what the view from the hill looked like. To my surprise I found a composition that showcased the twisting winding road as it hugged along the shoreline and almost terminated directly into Mt Scott to the west. I was hooked on the idea now I just needed to make it happen.

I sat on the image for a while waiting for the right conditions. I had an idea to increase the drama to the composition, if I could set my camera to interval timer shooting, leave the camera on the hill, and then get in my car and drive along the road several times creating light trails that further accentuate the curvature of the road. The car trails would lead the eye through the scene and to Mt Scott. But the photo needed to be clean for the composition to work which meant I needed a pristine sky and a dead calm lake. I didn’t want any distractions from a dramatic sunset or choppy water reflections in the lake.

Saturday afternoon I got off work and started to head off to Oklahoma. My good friend and fellow photographer Ashlee Madden joined me for this photo adventure. Having another person with me would come in handy. She could watch the cameras while I made the passes driving down the road. We left Wichita Falls around 3pm and began the short drive to Medicine Park. Along the way I could see where the heaviest of snow had fallen earlier in the week. Patches of snow remained on the wet dirt and mud in fields next to the road. I was actually quite surprised to see this. We had now had two days of temperatures above freezing, and today was the warmest at 54F. "Surely all the snow would’ve melted by now.", I thought to myself. But as we continued north I quickly learned my assumption was wrong. We could see evidence of the snow swath that passed through southern Oklahoma. It seems everywhere I looked there were patches of snow and ice around us. I had wondered if snow remained where we were headed.

We arrived to Medicine Park just a little after 4pm and after taking a side road I was able to get us on the Lake Road. The road is narrow and you’re either at the edge of the shore or butted up against the rocky cliff faces. We arrived to our parking area and gathered our gear for the brief hike up the hill. It wasn’t long, but it was somewhat steep. We carefully navigated the hill side trying not to slip on wet rock and areas of ice. Finally, we arrived to our destination where I realized there was a simple walking trail we could’ve gone up instead of bush whacking our way to the top of the hill. Oh well. I looked off to the west and could see Mt Scott towering above the lake and landscape. The road snaked its way around the shoreline creating a stunning reverse “S” curve leading line. I started walking along the rim of the hill searching for the best composition. I must have skittered all around that hill top before I found the best composition that showed the road, Mt Scott, and a new house that was built along a ridge to our south west. That was something I was not expecting. I locked in my composition and waited for the sun to set. 

The image I wanted to capture would have a completely clear winter sky with only the glow of the sun on the horizon leaving everything else at an almost silhouette state. Then I would capture a series of long exposures as I drove up and down Lake Road. I would then stack those exposures in Photoshop creating the amazing leading lines. After the sun set below the horizon, I left the hill and hiked back to my car. Ashlee stayed up on the hill to guard our cameras and capture some of the light trails herself. I must've driven up and down that a road a half dozen times before the sky turned too dark. As I was driving I kept seeing a distant light on the Mt Scott road. I assumed it was a hiker or biker since the road is currently closed to all motor vehicles. I didn't think the light would be bright enough to be captured on my camera, but after reviewing the images I could see it clearly on the photos. I decided to incorporate the Mt Scott lights as it bring a little more attention to the mountain and helps connect the light trails extending the "S" curve of the composition. I was very pleased with how the final result came out and I'm hoping it becomes one of my more popular Oklahoma images. 

 

Lake Road: Medicine Park, OK © Ben Jacobi

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2019/1/pic-of-the-week-1/11/19 Fri, 11 Jan 2019 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 12/20/18: Frozen https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/12/pic-of-the-week-12/20/18 Pic of the Week 12/20/18

"Frozen"

Date taken: 1/9/10

Location: Iowa Park, TX

 

FrozenFrozen

© Ben Jacobi

 

We're only five days away from Christmas and it still doesn't feel like winter! Our forecast through Christmas is as follows: 58F/59F/59F/54F/58F/and 61 on Christmas Day. This time of year I always get jealous of all my northern photographer friends. Their social media accounts are packed with images of powdery snow scapes, and crystal-like ice formations. Although I would love to photograph a true winter, I know that I wouldn't want to live like that. I need to be able to see the sun and the stars. Still, we are waiting for our first real winter storm of the year. 

Texas weather is probably the hardest thing to predict, especially winter weather. So because we don't currently have any winter weather on the horizon I started to look back on some of my past winter shoots. One image came to mind that I have not shared the story of. And its a much older image (taken back in 2010), but still one of my favorite Texas winter photographs. During Christmas week of 2009 we experienced something I thought I would never see in north Texas. A strong winter storm was expected to move through our area and early in the morning the light misting rain transitioned to sleet. By 2pm we had 9" of snow on the ground and winds were blowing above 50mph--technically we were in a blizzard. 

After Christmas another cold arctic blast made its way through the southern plains dropping our temps into the low teens. This hard freeze had a toll on the local landscape and froze my go-to sunset location, Middle Lake. The strong north gales sent water pooling up along the shores of the lake and as the temperatures dropped they slowly began to freeze. This particular point faces due north and almost always remains shaded by the surrounding trees. When I walked over to this location I was amazed at the ice formations on the twigs and branches. Ice was thick here, with some being over an inch in thickness along the rocks and trees. I couldn't find the best angle on the composition until I got off the ground and carefully walked on the frozen lake. 

Here I was able to frame up a shot of the shore with the incredible ice formations leading the eye through the scene and out to the frozen lake in the background. The lines were such a strong element I didn't want to leave them out of the composition. I had found my shot and now it was time to wait for the sunset. The sky was clear so I was not expecting much color in the sunset, but I was hoping for some good light on my scene. As the sun got lower to the horizon I could patches of light crawling across the landscape. Sometimes it would reflect off the ice causing it to gleam in the sunlight. I must have enjoyed the scene so much that I didn't move from that spot. I snapped off a few frames just as the light was starting to get good and suddenly there was a cracking beneath my feet. 

I hardly had enough time to look down and see the cracks forming in the nice before I fell through. Thankfully, the water was only knee deep, but it sure was cold enough to cause me to yell in surprise. I immediately jumped out of the lake, realizing that denim blue jeans were not the best thing to wear on a winter photo shoot, and got my camera back to dry and safe ground. I managed to make a nice image before I fell through and I still remember thinking how excited I was about it, even though the bottom half of legs had basically turned into popsicles. Still I wish the lighting would have been better, but overall it was still a nice winter image. I have some very exciting adventures coming up in January so be on the look out for those next month. 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/12/pic-of-the-week-12/20/18 Thu, 20 Dec 2018 17:40:10 GMT
Pic of the Week 12/6/18: Roaring Thunder https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/12/pic-of-the-week-12/6/18 Pic of the Week 12/6/18

"Roaring Thunder"

Date taken: 11/30/18

Location: Thornberry, TX

 

Roaring ThunderRoaring Thunder

© Ben Jacobi

 

Who here loves a good out-of-season storm chase? I know I sure do! That is exactly what happened last week as a cold front approached a moist air mass that was situated right over northern, TX. The Storm Prediction Center had highlighted this event a few days in advance and they were calling for supercells with large hail, strong wind gusts, and tornadoes possible. But for Wichita Falls, I wasn't too concerned for severe weather. First, I knew I would be working that day so storm chasing was out of the question. Second, the weather models kept us under clouds all day. This would limit daytime heating and destabilization of the atmosphere. There was the possibility of a few isolated storms along the approaching cold front, but the front was expected to overtake the dryline quickly sweeping away our chance for storms. 

That afternoon I am helping my boss move his Christmas tree and I hear rain starting to hit the tin roof of his shop. We stepped outside and sure enough a storm had developed just to the southwest of our location. The light pitter-patter of rain quickly transitioned to low roar almost like you were standing near a waterfall. After a few minutes the rain let up and the storm continued to our northeast. Bright pink flashes of lightning exploded on the backside of the storm--what I wouldn't give to be working right now. That was when I texted by buddy Jaden to see if he was free for a night time storm chase. After work I picked up Jaden at his house and we started off to my apartment to pick up my gear. Along the way another cell blew up to our west and in the faint glow of twilight, I could see the updraft tower in the distance. We reached my apartment and quickly grabbed my gear and we were on our way. 

Storms were now to the east, west, and another line developed to our south. The strongest storm was to our northeast near Waurika, OK. We decided to let that one go as we couldn't catch it once the storm system moved through. The storms to our south were closer and we were at a somewhat good angle. We opted to drive out to the northeast of Wichita Falls and position ourselves right in the middle of the storms. The storm to our west looked like it was dying. It stopped producing lightning and we thought it was through. We were concentrating on the cells to our south which had a pretty decent lightning show. About every minute there was one bright flash of lightning. Jaden had pulled out his camera to try and photograph some of it, but I kept my camera in the bag. After all, once you've photographed lightning so many times you start to look for more interesting things to incorporate in the composition. The lightning becomes for an element than the actual subject. 

I watched as the storms chugged along to our south and take on the same path as the previous storm heading to our northeast. While I was watching these storms I kept looking behind me to check on the storm to our south. The updraft was still there, but there didn't seem to be any life in it. Then suddenly flashes of lightning started erupting behind the clouds. It was as if God was using a defibrillator to resuscitate the storm. Electrical energy began to discharge from the storm and a low rumbling of thunder could be heard off in the distance. We were now in the perfect position to photograph the storm. We watched as the updraft passed directly to our north. The storm had a good amount of organization with a persistent lowering, although the rotation was quite limited. Still we enjoyed the lightning show and we were able to make some nice images. 

As the cold front began to approach the skies started to clear to our west. The front also pushed our storm to the north east revealing a starry sky behind the updraft. We stood there snapping photos and trying to capture the beauty of the scene. Although, we were in a fairly residential area and we had to deal with distractions like houses, telephone poles, and lights. When the storm was no longer in a good position we decided to pack up the gear and follow it more to the north east. Along the way, lightning was bursting from this updraft and we could make out all the details of the storm structure. But the storm was moving away from us and it was shrinking as it got farther and farther away.

I found a dirt road that took us over some pasture that gave an unimpeded view of the storm. As we traveled further down this dirt road I spotted these two dead trees that framed the storm perfectly. I already knew What my composition was going to be. We pulled over and I quickly got my tripod out and found the perfect angle to include the trees and the storm. The silhouettes of the trees were such a stark contrast against the illuminated stormy background.

I did have some challenges with this shot, however. I wanted to keep as much detail in the storm structure as possible so my shutterspeed had to be shortened. This was shot with a 5sec shutterspeed which was just long enough to capture lightning, but short enough to keep the storm relatively sharp. There was a trade off, however. By keeping my shutterspeed shorter I needed to open my lens more. I shot this at f/2.8 which is three stops brighter than the lens' "sweet spot" of f/8. This meant I could only get the storm or the trees in focus. I opted to focus on the storm and let the trees fall slightly out of focus. In the final shot, I did do one thing that made a much stronger composition. I removed a building and a barn from the background that seemed to clutter the scene. Normally I don't do this much removal. I prefer to just find a composition where those elements are not visible, but it was impossible to frame the trees and the storm without getting the buildings in the shot. Because the scene was so dramatic and interesting I decided to remove those distractions from the image. The end result is a much stronger composition and a more pleasing image. 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) landscape lightning nature night Pic of the Week severe weather sky storm storm chasing Texas thunderstorm weather https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/12/pic-of-the-week-12/6/18 Thu, 06 Dec 2018 17:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 11/8/18: Caddo Maple in Fall https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/11/pic-of-the-week-11/8/18 Pic of the Week 11/8/18

"Caddo Maple in Fall"

Date taken: 11/4/18

Location: Red Rock Canyon Adventure Park Hinton, OK

 

Caddo Maple in FallCaddo Maple in FallCaddo Maple in fall foliage

© Ben Jacobi

 

I got to spend this past weekend exploring and photographing the red rock canyons of Hinton, Oklahoma. My plan was to arrive before sunset and camp in Red Rock Canyon Adventure Park (formerly known as Red Rock Canyon State Park). I already had my shot planned out and I was going to scout during the evening and return to location before sunrise the next morning. I also got a chance to explore a private canyon not far from the park, and I also checked out Canyon Camp a few miles outside of Hinton. These red rock canyons have been important since the first Indian tribes settled there to shelter themselves from the harsh winters. It was an important landmark on the California Trail during the gold rush. And it has served as a state park since the 1950's. But Red Rock Canyon is now one of the only places to find native growing Caddo Maple trees. Earlier this year, I went to Red Rock Canyon looking for potential locations to return to during the fall. I had always heard the trees in these canyons produced amazing fall foliage. Now, I was getting the chance to see it firsthand. 

As fall started approaching I kept an eye on the local fall foliage reports waiting in anticipation for the peak to arrive. Finally, the peak arrived, the weather cooperated, and I had a new reliable vehicle ready to make the journey. There was nothing stopping me. I left work Saturday afternoon and quickly loaded my gear and made the two hour drive to Hinton, OK. Along the way I could see signs of fall changing. All along the banks of the creeks and rivers I passed patches of yellow, oranges, reds, and browns were seen among the trees. I took this as a good sign the leaves would be peaking in Red Rock Canyon. I arrived to RRCAP around 4:30pm and set up my camp for the night. There were a few large groups, maybe family reunions, in the camp. I picked the spot farthest away from everybody and set up my camp. It didn't take long as I was only interested in having a place to sleep for the night. With my camp set up I now had about an hour to scout my photograph. 

I would be returning to spot I stumbled upon in January. The brisk winds of winter had rattled all the leaves off all the trees except for this lone Caddo Maple tucked away in a sandstone outcropping. I made this image in January and now I was going to return to photograph this tree in all its autumn glory. I drove along the park road keeping watch as I passed by rock outcroppings looking for the one that harbored that maple tree. It was much harder to find now. All the trees were covered in brightly colored leaves and the excessive rainfall this year kept grasses and shrubs high. Finally, I caught a glimpse of the maple between two trees as I was driving by. I turned around and parked my car in the nearest campsite to the tree. I gathered my gear and made the short trek to the Caddo Maple.

A lot had changed since I was there only a handful of months ago. The thick foliage of the surrounding trees made it difficult to spot the Caddo Maple and the ground was saturated and soggy. It took some effort to get to the location. The recent rains had resulted in landslides sending loose debris and chunks of sandstone down the slopes. Eventually I got to my location, almost the exact spot where I photographed this same maple tree in January. But one major difference was the tree branch that collapsed just a foot from the Caddo Maple. This branch had barely missed that tree and judging by the size and weight of the branch, it would've killed that Caddo Maple. What a shame that would have been. 

After successfully scouting my location, I returned back to camp to turn in for the night and prepare for the sunrise shoot tomorrow morning. Once again I was planning to photograph this maple tree with warm sunrise right reflecting off the cliffs. The bright yellow leaves of the tree would stand out great against the crimson sandstone. I awoke about 45 minutes before sunrise (sometimes I sleep in) and quickly gathered my camera gear. The sky to our east was clear with only a few wispy clouds overhead. It was still fairly chilly around 38 defrees, but I dressed warm in anticipation of a cool morning. I got my tripod set up and found my composition. Now I just need to wait on the light. 

The sun was supposed to rise just after 7am, but we still had to wait another 20 minutes before the light would hit my background. If we waited too long the sun would wash out the background and make these harsh shadows on the rocks. There would be a small window when the light was soft enough to get an even glow on the background and I needed to be ready. I spent the next hour watching the light slowly drop down the face of the canyon. Taking photographs along the way with each one the light would improve, until I reached the climax of the light. That perfect moment where the glow was the strongest, the colors were brightest, and the wind was the calmest--I made this image.

I set out to achieve a shot I envisioned after scouting this location almost a year ago and I came back with an image I feel accomplished that goal. I don't know what to expect the next time I visit this location. Maybe another tree will collapse and crush that Caddo Maple, or maybe more maples will pop up in this same area. What I do know is that I captured a shot that highlights this quirky little tree in its best dressed fall color. I have many more photos and adventures coming in the next few weeks from this photo trip and there may be something even more special coming from this trip. Only time will tell...

 

Both winter and fall captures of the lone Caddo Maple Tree in Red Rock Canyon State/Adventure Park.
 

     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. Caddo Maple in FallCaddo Maple in FallCaddo Maple in fall foliage
© Ben Jaocbi                                                                             © Ben Jacobi
 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) autumn Caddo Maple cliff fall landscape maple nature Oklahoma Pic of the Week Red Rock Canyon Red Rock Canyon Adventure Park rock sandstone travel tree https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/11/pic-of-the-week-11/8/18 Thu, 08 Nov 2018 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 10/19/18: Milky Way over Flooded Red River https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/10/pic-of-the-week-10/18/18 Pic of the Week: 10/19/18

"Milky Way Over Flooded Red River"

Date taken: 10/11/18

Location: Highway 70 Oklahoma

The milky way shines brightly over the flooded Red River.

© Ben Jacobi

Over the past few weeks we have received significant rain. Thankfully, we aren't in dire situations like central Texas, but we have received much more rain than our monthly average. In fact, according to the AHPS we are 4-6" above our year-to-date average. On the one hand, its a good thing. After all we were starting to experience drought-like conditions. But on the other hand, gloomy gray skies and rain don't make for good landscape photography. So I haven't been able to travel, hike, or camp these past few weeks and I've only pulled my camera out of my bag a few times. But on the most recent time I got an image I've chased after for a while now. The premise is simple: shoot the milky way over the Red River.

Simple enough, right? Well there were a lot of things to consider and one of the biggest ones was location.  Most land surrounding the river is privately owned and the only public roads that cross the river are high traffic. Its kinda hard to shoot a long exposure when an 18-wheeler comes zooming past you vibrating the bridge like a mini earthquake. So locations were limited. There was one spot in particular I noticed the river came close to the highway and there was room to pull off the road. The best part, was the milky way would align with the river at this location. When I  scouted out the location a few years ago we had an average rainfall so the river level was normal, but from my perspective it was hard to see. Fast forward a few years and we are now in a flash flood watch and a flash flood warning on the Red River near Burkburnett, TX. The river was expected to reach 10.1' flood stage Friday afternoon. I knew the river would be flowing nicely and if the clouds were clear I might actually be able to get my shot.

Immediately after work, I drove to my apartment and gathered my gear before heading out to Oklahoma. The sun was beginning to set and I could see scattered clouds off to my west, but to the north was a large mass of cloud cover that would making its way here later that night. I crossed over the I-44 bridge and could see the river crashing into the side of the bridge. Ordinarily, the river is quite dry and one can see the sandy bottom below, but now it was roaring as it flowed downstream. I entered Oklahoma and it wasn't long before I reached my exit to take me east. I followed highway 70 for 12 miles getting occasional glimpses of the river from the road. Just after the sun set I made it to my location. There's a place just past the Cotton/Jefferson county line where highway 70 bumps up against the curvature of the river and Whiskey creek. A natural draw drops 20ft to the riverbed and from this high point you can see the river as it bends its way to the west. I parked my car and jumped out of my vehicle trying to set up while there was still daylight. I found a quick composition and used my Stellarium mobile app to help align the milky way in my shot. It looked like the optimal time to shoot the milky way would be between 10:30-10:45pm. I glanced at my watched and saw the time was 7:57pm. I still had 2.5 hours before the milky way would be in position.

I stood there on the embankment pressing my tripod against the barbed wire fence to get as close as possible. I watched the glow on the horizon change from a pastel orange and pink to a cobalt blue. All I could hear was the splashing of the river and the occasional call of the coyotes. It was perfect, sublime, and still. Then my natural sound soother was interrupted with the high pitched drone of the female mosquito. Swarms of mosquitoes began to surround me and I would spend the rest of my time swatting them away. I did come prepared however and wore a long sleeve shirt and long pants. My hair and beard made for a nice barrier and helped keep them away from my face and neck. I watched as the sky became darker and darker. The crescent moon peeked below the clouds off to the west and sent a silvery light bouncing off the river. This made the river appear to glow amidst the dark vegetation. Eventually, it was dark enough to make out the milky way on my camera and I waited for it to get closer to the river and in my frame.

I had an idea how the final shot was going t look, but I wasn't sure that my usual technique would produce the results. Normally when I photograph the milky way I try to fit as much of it into the frame as I can. This means using a wide angle lens, but that lens would shrink the river and defeat the purpose of the photo. So I packed a few extra lenses with me. I took my normal 20mm f/1.8 (which is what I use for my milky way photography) and I brought my 50mm f/1.4 and 85mm f/1.8 lenses. This would give me a little more range with composition choice. After a few test shots I finally settled on using my 50mm f/1.4 lens. This was roughly the equivalent of what my eye sees. But the problem was the milky way was still going to be higher up in the sky. I could have just shot a vertical image, but it wouldn't have the detail I wanted for the final result. So I shot a multi-image panorama in the horizontal position. The plan was to stitch the images together in Photoshop and have a high resolution image of the Red River and milky way. 

Finally, the time had arrived for me to start shooting. The milky way was now over the flooded Red River and I started making my shots. It wasn't long until the clouds from the northwest starting moving into my frame. The advancing cold front was surging across the TX/OK panhandles and into northern TX/southern OK. I quickly snapped off my images for the panorama taking extra care to make sure the camera stayed aligned and level. It didn't even get to 10:45 before the clouds came in and blocked my view of the milky way. I was fortunate to get the shots I captured. I managed to squeeze only one series of images before the clouds came through. Once the milky way was no longer in view I packed up all my gear and started off back home. I was very eager to start working on and editing these images. It took a little extra time and a few do overs, but I am quite pleased with the final result. After all, it may be a while before I get the opportunity to photograph the river like this again. 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) landscape milky way nature night nightscape Oklahoma Pic of the Week Red River sky Texas https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/10/pic-of-the-week-10/18/18 Fri, 19 Oct 2018 15:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 9/28/18 https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/9/pic-of-the-week-9/28/18 Pic of the Week 9/28/18

“Golden Peaks”

Location: San Luis Lake State Park, Colorado

Date taken: 9/23/17

 

“There’s gold in them there mountains.” I did that in my best creepy, old prospectors voice, but you can only really hear it in your imagination. Now that I have completely derailed this blog post let’s see if I can’t get it back on track. There are so many times I have experienced incredible light when out making photographs. Typically, this light comes before/after a storm. This was the case in Colorado last year. My good friends Ian and Jaden had joined me in a short trip across southwestern Colorado. We spent our tripped cooped up in a small Ford Focus and driving several hours to and from Colorado. In between that time, we were out hiking and photographing Colorado’s amazing landscape. Our second day there was a big one. We would start with an early morning shoot at the base of Blanca Peak and then make our way to Great Sand Dunes National Park to hike up the Tall dune. You can read more about that experience here.

After finishing the sandy traverse, we retired to the small town of San Luis just a short 15min drive from GSDNP.  We would stop there for a quick lunch and then some down time in the afternoon. Maybe we would stop and get some coffee (which we did). During lunch and the coffee, the weather made a drastic change. Rain was anticipated, but mostly on the higher elevations so we were a bit surprised to see that much rain happen that quickly. It wasn’t all bad as we had nothing else planned until sunset, but as that hour drew closer and closer I became concerned that our sunset would be a complete bust. My idea was to photograph sunset from San Luis Lake State Park overlooking the lake and sand dunes and Sagre De Cristos mountain range all bathed in stunning sunset light. For this shot to be effective, I had to have good light. Our sunrise shoot was hindered by cloud cover (here) so I really wanted to end the day on a positive note.

It’s now time to leave the café and get in position for sunset. We were tired, hungry, and much like the sky—melancholy.  But we sucked it up and made our way to San Luis Lake State Park. The rain was really coming down now and all around us was a dull gray sky. But we were in a location we probably weren’t going to see for a while and that is why we waited. We sat in the car with the heater turned up and just hoping for some kind of sign for a good sunset. As I scanned the area all around me I could just barely make out the faint silhouette of the mountains to our east. They were now shrouded in curtains of heavy rain. Back to the west, there looked to be some improvement. Gaps in the clouds revealed some of the distant mountains and filtered sunlight reflected off the snow-capped peaks. This gave me enough confidence to step out of the car and look for some shots.

Rain began to fall harder and in bigger drops, but the skies to the west were starting to clear. Crepuscular rays stretched between the cloud cover and illuminated parts of the landscape. It was quite nice, but once the clouds gave way a massive and photogenic rainbow began to take shape over the lake. The huge arc hung above the lake revealing incredible detail of the vivid colors. It was big and so close you could almost reach out and touch it. I shot several frames but had to shoot a wide panorama to capture the rainbow in its entirety. Soon the gray skies transitioned to an orange-yellow hue and we watched as the rainbow faded away unveiling its “pot of gold”.

 

Golden Peaks © Ben Jacobi

The clouds dissipated to the west and the light ignited the scene in a fiery golden glow, like a dam that couldn’t hold back the waters any longer spilling a flood of light over the mountains. Immediately, I went into “full photographer” mode and was snapping away like crazy, but there was only one problem. I didn’t have my tripod out and I had my wide angle lens. I knew that the light could only last a few moments, maybe even seconds, before it all disappeared. But I ran back to the car and grabbed my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens and my tripod and ran back as fast as I could. The light held on for just a few more minutes before the sun set behind the horizon. I made this exposure during all that chaos and decided to clean it up with a panoramic crop. Though I would have preferred to shoot a multi-image panorama, I was certain I wouldn’t have enough time to capture the fleeting perfect light. Still, this images became one of my favorites from the trip and it just goes to show if you chase the rainbow sometimes you’ll find the pot of gold. Either way I was so excited with this shot that I stood there dancing around like some crazy old prospector.

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) aspen Colorado landscape mountains nature Pic of the Week Rocky Mountains San Luis Lake State Park Sangre de Cristos sky sunset travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/9/pic-of-the-week-9/28/18 Fri, 28 Sep 2018 15:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 9/20/18: Blazing Star, Yellow Sulphur, and Mt Scott https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/9/pic-of-the-week-9/20/18 Pic of the Week

“Blazing Star, Yellow Sulphur, and Mt Scott”

Location: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, OK

Date taken: 9/16/18

 

 

 

Blazing Star, Yellow Sulfur, and Mt Scott

© Ben Jacobi

I did something this past weekend that I haven’t done in months: I hiked in the Wichita Mountains. Friend and fellow photographer, Ashlee Madden joined me for a hike and photoshoot in the Wichita Mountains. I always enjoy taking people out to these places and sharing with them my love for nature photography and the Wichita Mountains have played an important role. Now I have been there dozens if not scores of times and what keeps me coming back is the constant change in the landscape. The prairie land can be harsh and desolate, but also lush and vibrant. A recent 3” of rain had me interested in checking out Post Oak falls in the Charon Gardens. After a good rain the falls can get flowing pretty well. The weather was going to be perfect with highs in the low 80’s it was a welcomed change to the persistent summer temperatures. Ashlee had never been to the Charon Gardens or Post Oak falls and I was excited to share it with her.

Our hike started like so many of the other hikes I’ve made in the Charon Gardens we pulled into the Treasure Lake parking lot and mapped out the hike. This was Ashlee’s introduction to the Charon Gardens so my idea was to hike the Charon Gardens trail and take a short detour to the falls and boulder caves. We spent the morning hiking the trails and enjoying the sights. We scrambled up slick granite boulders and hopped across several creek crossings, but after our hike It was time to get some lunch. We left the Treasure Lake parking lot and made our way through the refuge. Along the way, we saw a small herd of elk and several bison. We made a quick stop to the visitor center so I could introduce her to Randy. Who is one of the nicest people I have ever met, by the way.

After spending some time in the visitor center, we started off towards our next destination Medicine Park, OK. But before we left the refuge, I wanted to show her the cedar plantings on the north side. This area is also referred to as the Parallel Forest. Before we reached the forest, I saw this incredible patch of Blazing Star flowers in the field along the side of the road. I urged Ashlee to stop and pull over so we might photograph it. The recent rains had caused several of these patches to sprout up in the field. Their saturated magenta/pink color contrasted nicely against the vivid green. We watched as intermittent light danced along the face of Mt Scott and the prairie below. What I was most surprised by was the amount of life in those flowers. I don’t think I have ever seen that many bugs, bees, and butterflies in the Wichita Mountains.

If you look closely you can see a few Yellow Sulphur butterflies throughout the photo. It seems every time I took a step butterflies, bees, and grasshoppers were shooting out around the flowers. We sat there waiting for the light to change on the mountains and watching all the insects dart around the flowers. I wasn’t all that happy with my composition and began to search for something a little more pleasing. I came across these tall and healthy-looking stalks with no flowers in front of them. This added a lot more depth to the photo and helped separate the flowers from the grass even more. Due to the close proximity of the flowers to my lens I had to focus stack to keep the entire scene in sharp focus. During this time, I would look for butterflies in the foreground and snap some shots, then carefully watch the light on the mountains in the background. Finally, I found the perfect balance and captured this shot. I still wish the light would have been better on the mountains, but I was still quite pleased with the result. The extra work took more time, but it was really important to see those finer details in the foreground, more specifically the yellow butterflies. It’s truly remarkable what a little bit of rain can do to the prairie. In the matter of a day you can be transported right back to Spring in this ever-changing wilderness.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) butterflies flowers landscape mountains nature Oklahoma Pic of the Week rock sky travel Wichita Mountains Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/9/pic-of-the-week-9/20/18 Thu, 20 Sep 2018 15:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 9/6/18: Tower View, Lake Murray https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/9/pic-of-the-week-9/6/18 Pic of the Week 9/6/18

"Tower View: Lake Murray"

Date taken: 9/2/18

Location: Lake Murray State Park, OK

 

 

Tower View: Lake MurrayTower View: Lake MurrayWaves crash into the rocky shore of Lake Murray in southern Oklahoma.

© Ben Jacobi

 

Over this Labor Day weekend some friends and I made a quick trip to Lake Murray State Park for some hiking and photography. Lake Murray is Oklahoma's first and largest state park. My friends Jaden Corbin and Ryan Litton joined me for this adventure. Our plan was to leave Wichita Falls in the afternoon and take the 1hr 45min drive to Lake Murray and stay there through sunset and possibly into night time. We did not plan to stay overnight, due to other commitments. But it is just a short 2hours away so we would be home at a reasonable hour. I have wanted to visit Lake Murray for some time now. There are over 30 miles of hiking trails and the lake has this stunning blue-green water which could make for interesting photography. I had scouted out some possible compositions through Google Earth and internet research and one shot that I really wanted was a view of the lake from Tucker Tower. 

Tucker Tower is a stone building constructed by the WPA boys in the 1930's. It is believed that the home was built as a retreat for Oklahoma governors, now it serves as a geological museum/nature center. The base of the tower is about 60ft above the lake level, but the tower stretches another 65ft above the patio. This 120+ft gain in elevation gives you an excellent view of the lake and landscape. I thought this would be a great spot for sunset. But I did not do my research for this location and failed to realize they close the nature center/tower at 4:30 every evening. When we arrived to the gated entrance at 4:47pm I was naturally disheartened, but I had a few back up shots I wanted to capture. 

No photography adventure would be complete without at least some hiking, but the weather was going to be in question and I decided to forgo the usual hiking amount. Also, we arrived an hour late to the lake so that cut into some hiking time as well. Regardless, I don't feel I can enjoy these locations unless I get out of the car and experience it myself. So as we turned on the Buzzard's Roost campground road I could see ridge off to our left and dead ahead was Tucker Tower. We reached a small parking lot and followed an unmarked trail to the top of the rocky ridge. The views from up here were nice, but nothing very scenic of the lake itself. Still it was fun hiking and scrambling up the rocks and bluffs. Afte our short .25mile hike we drove off in search of potential sunset locations. 

We looked at Marietta's Landing, Ski jump, Sunset Beach, and despite some of these excellent locations, we did not find a good sunset spot. I don't know if it was the number of people, or my disappointment in arriving to late for my Tucker Tower shot, but we decided to head back to Buzzard's Roost for sunset. Maybe we could photograph some nice color and/or light on Tucker Tower? The thick clouds hovering off to our west had me concerned. When we reached Buzzard's Roost again we climbed out of the car and I immediately started for the shoreline. I thought if I could get farther away from people I might be able to concentrate and find a nice shot. I led Jaden and Ryan to a rocky shore at the end of the parking lot. I watched as jet skis and Seadoos darted across the water sending waves splashing into the rocky shoreline. This gave me an idea, if I could get enough large waves to crash into the rocks I might could do a long exposure and the photography that day could be saved--at this point I hadn't pulled out my camera once. 

After I set Jaden and Ryan up, I went just a feet over from them as to not crowd them and also to find my own unique composition. There was a very small pathway between two trees that led to the shore. It was just quiet and secluded enough for me to enjoy the view and pull out my camera. We spent the next few hours watching waves and hoping for a good sunset. Though the good sunset never came, I was still able to capture the waves splashing against the rocks giving this scene a little bit more energy. The view of Tucker Tower from this point was quite nice and I included the tower in my composition as an anchoring point. Its strange, if you just glimpse at the photo you might think it was taken along Lake Michigan or somewhere along the northeast coastline. The tower does look like a lighthouse added more to the illusion. I was pretty happy with this image that I captured, but I sure wish I had more color in the sky, but I do plan to return to Lake Murray during the fall and maybe I can capture the shot I envisioned. At the very least, there should be significantly less people. Also, I'll try to be on time next time.

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) cliffs lake Lake Murray Lake Murray State Park landscape nature Oklahoma Pic of the Week rock sky tower travel Tucker Tower water waves https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/9/pic-of-the-week-9/6/18 Thu, 06 Sep 2018 15:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 8/31/18: Natural Bridge https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/8/pic-of-the-week-8/31/18 Pic of the Week 8/31/18

"Natural Bridge"

Location: Bell Smith Springs Scenic Area

Date taken: 8/4/18

 

My latest Pic of the Week takes us back to day two on my southern Illinois trip. My good friend and fellow photographer Nathan Ralston joined me on this day's adventures. We had just finished up a photo excursion to Fern Clyffe State Park to photograph a waterfall that was almost completely dry. Our next destination was Bell Smith Springs Natural Area and our next subject was less likely to be dependent on rainfall. I pulled my rental car into the parking lot of Bell Smith Springs. It was situated on top of a ridge where we had a nice overlook of Bay Creek, though the view was somewhat obstructed by the presence of beech trees along the ridge line. We gathered our gear and started to make plans for the day's hike. We wanted to reach the Natural Bridge along the Natural Bridge Trail. 

While doing my research for this trip, natural bridges (or arches), were the furthest thing from my mind. The only arches I had experienced were out in the southwest in Utah and Arizona. Still it would be interesting to photograph arches in Illinois. The Natural Bridge in the Bell Smith Springs area is 30ft tall and 125ft long so unless the bridge suddenly eroded away, I figured we could find it. We reached the trailhead and at the start was a large map of the trails. We planned our route and started off on the trail. Like most of the trails in southern Illinois it was loose dirt and packed sand with the occasional tree root or stubborn rock jutting out. These trails were very easy to follow and easy to hike on. Not long after we started we came to another overlook, this time with a better view of the creek. At the end of the overlook the trail continued down a large stone staircase. I believe Nathan counted 44 steps, and these were steep steps! We descended the stair case and came to the creek. 

The creek was running and trickling over the rocks and driftwood not very fast, just fast enough you could see movement in the water. The light trickling was complimented by the sounds of the leaves rustling and birds singing. It was still hot and humid, but it was very peaceful. And then, out of nowhere we heard a loud "Cannon baaaaallll" followed by a crash in the water. Some other visitors had come to fight the warmer temperatures by visiting the famous swimming hole. As we got closer to the creek we heard the teenagers goading each other into climbing higher and higher on the rocks before plunging into the refreshing waters. Their bellowing and crashing did disrupt the peace a bit, but we crossed the creek and followed the yellow trail markers to reach the Natural Bridge. I guess I was distracted by their noisiness because we completely missed the Natural Bridge tucked away just to our east. Luckily the trail does loop, but not until you cross the top of the bridge.

As we continued on the trail, we watched the sandstone bluffs grow taller and at one point we came across a "bridge-like" rock formation. I was thinking to myself, "This can't be the Natural Bridge. I feel like it would be much more impressive." The trail started to turn back to the south and we started to gain elevation. Soon it became apparent that we missed the Natural Bridge, but we had no idea we were hiking along the top of the arch. With each step we gained slightly more elevation and it looked like the trail ahead narrowed--we had made it to the top of the Natural Bridge. We explored all around the edge looking down into the creek bed below. From this perspective it was hard to see the scale of the bridge all I knew is that we needed to be on much lower ground. Towards the end of the bridge Nathan found the infamous metal rungs that most hikers use to climb up to the top of the bridge. We would be using them to descend. I must admit, I was not a fan of this idea. In fact I continued down the trail to see if there was a safer way down, but to no avail. We would have to complete the loop and go all the way back to the creek which would add another 2 miles to our hike. I tightened up the straps on my hiking bag, secured my tripod, and swallowed the lump in my throat before I took my first step. 

Nathan had already made it to the bottom of the makeshift ladder when I started my descent. I took my first step off the side of the bridge clinging tightly to the metal rungs with my hands. My leg stretched out and my foot made contact with the next rung. "One down and many more to go" I silently encouraged myself. After getting into the rhythm, I started to feel a bit more comfortable and before I knew it I was halfway down the ladder. Things were going fairly smoothly when I placed my foot on one the rungs and I felt it give just a little. Not enough to loosen it from the rock, but certainly more than enough to scare me. My heart started pounding wildly in chest and my legs started shaking as I continued down the ladder. All the sounds around me had dissolved and all I could hear was the panicked cadence going off in my chest. "Du-du-du-du-du-du" drowning out my friends voice and all other ambient noises. 

Before I knew it I was back safely on the ground and we were underneath the Natural Bridge. I took a few moments to collect my self and take a water break before scouting out some compositions. The light was just behind us and shinning through the trees creating an almost camouflage-like pattern of the bridge. This was interesting, but it did not make for good photography. I walked under the bridge trying to find an image and regretting I didn't pack my ultra-wide angle lens on this trip. I believed I had found a shot, but with my current set up it would mean I would have to shoot a panorama. Thankfully, I did have my tripod and a little extra time. I surveyed my shot and tried to envision the finished panorama. Would the composition even work? The sun was now peaking between the trees and sent a nice warm light over parts of the arch and foreground. There was also some nice reflected light on the underside of the arch. I set up my camera and started making my panorama. Because of the great contrast I had to shoot bracketed exposures to get all the detail in the shadows and highlights of the scene. A total of 48 images would go into making the panorama creating an almost fisheye effect on the bridge and tree in the frame.

 

Natural BridgeNatural Bridge © Ben Jacobi

After I finished up my panorama we started back towards our car. We crossed the creek and saw how we missed the Natural Bridge the first time. A little embarrassed at our lack of observation, we continued along the path and climbed back up the 44 step stone stair case before finally reaching the car. We packed up our gear and took a quick water break before moving on to our final destination of the day at Garden of the Gods Natural Area. The Natural Bridge hike turned out to be a little more than we bargained for, but I'm glad I had the experience. Needless to say, I probably won't climb down the ladder again until they secure that one rung a  little more. Also, I hope I pay attention more so I don't have to add unnecessary miles to the hike. If you want to see the embarrassing video of me climbing down the ladder you can view it on Nathan's Instagram here.

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/8/pic-of-the-week-8/31/18 Fri, 31 Aug 2018 15:35:15 GMT
Pic of the Week 8/24/18: Little Grand Canyon https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/8/pic-of-the-week-8/24/18 Pic of the Week 8/24/18

"Little Grand Canyon"

Date taken: 8/5/18

Location: Little Grand Canyon Pomona, IL

 

There were two specific locations I wanted to hike and explore when planning the southern Illinois trip. The first was Garden of the Gods Nature Area. I have been to the better-known Garden of the Gods in Colorado and wanted to see how Illinois' version compared. I talked about GOG more in my previous blog entry. The other location was the Little Grand Canyon and I really wanted to see how that compared to the real deal. Today we would be hiking the Little Grand Canyon. 

I awoke just after sunrise and started to gather my gear and luggage before heading downstairs for a breakfast meal. Today I was going to be hiking the Pomona Natural Bridge trail and the Little Grand Canyon Trail. But after that hike I would be following my good friend Nathan Ralston to his home in Columbia, IL. I met Nathan downstairs in the hotel lobby and we started off towards Pomona, IL. Somehow during the morning we got confused and Nathan thought I was forfeiting my hiking this morning. So when he saw me turn off to the left as he continued down the highway he was surprised. He called my cell phone and I explained I would be hiking the Pomona Natural Bridge and the Little Grand Canyon trails. Nathan decided it would better if he just headed on home and I would meet up with him when I finished my hiking. I was a little disappointed, but understood his desire to get back home. I was tired myself, but I wasn't going to let that stop me. 

I turned down highway 127 making my way to Pomona, IL. When I reached the quaint town of Pomona I turned on a gravel road appropriately named "Natural Bridge Road". Follow this gravel road I passed through more farmland before starting to ascend. I was a little nervous in rented Toyota Corolla, but the roads weren't too bad. I found the turn off to the Natural Bridge and was greeted by the Shawnee National Forest sign. This helped reassure me I was in the right place. I parked the car and grab my camera gear starting off to the trail. It was not going to be a long hike (only .8 miles round trip), but I should come across some nice rock formations. The most notable being the Pomona Natural Bridge which is a sandstone arch that spans 75ft above the forest floor. I photographed a few images of the bridge before getting to cross it as part of the trail loop. While it wasn't nearly as large as the natural bridge in Bell Smith Springs, it had its own unique character. I guess during my time hiking I had a brief moment of cell phone service, because when I returned to my vehicle I had a voicemail from Nathan Ralston.

He decided he wanted to hike after all and told me to meet him at the Little Grand Canyon. I was excited that he changed his mind and would be joining me on the hike. After following more twisting and gravely roads I reached the turn off to Little Grand Canyon. As I pulled into the parking lot I could see Nathan's 4Runner as well as several other vehicles. I had no idea how popular this location was. After a quick greeting we were on our way along the trail. It is a 3.3 mile loop from the parking lot and there are two routes you can take. The first is the upper route that takes you along Viney Ridge and Chalk Bluff to an overlook of the Big Muddy River. The other (and one I wanted to take) starts you off on the canyon floor and you climb your way up the bluffs. I chose this route as the sun would be behind us putting everything in front of us in good light. While it was a good idea, it was poor execution on my part. I started us off at the observation trail meaning I went the wrong way. Following the trail it took us through forest and wooded areas that didn't really give us an idea we were higher up. One thing I did notice is we were not descending. After realizing we had gone the wrong way we pressed on forward following the trail. Soon we came to the overlook. The Big Muddy River snaked its way around the bluffs and buttes in the bottomlands down below. The light was not that spectacular, but I shot off a few frames. The near white appearance of Chalk Bluff shone brightly in the morning light. "This would be a great place for sunset" I made a mental note to myself. 

We continued our trek along the trail now following the white blazes/trail markers that took us through the canyon trail. Immediately we started to descend and the terrain changed. Wooded forests were now being intersected with dried creeks and streams and lined with sandstone walls as we made our way through the canyon. During this time we practically didn't see anyone which really surprised me. We followed the markers to the head of the main creek where a wooden sign was directing our next move. The sign simply read "\DRAW/" telling us to follow the draw to continue on the trail. Right off the bat we started to rocky descent. Moss grew on everything and appeared fluorescent green when the sun shined on it. The creek was reduced to a trickle that could barely bee seen much less heard. Nathan found a composition that interested him while I continued on down the canyon. Here there was more water, more moss, and more sunlight. The rushing waters eroded out natural shelters and cavities in the sandstone. I took a short break here waiting for Nathan to catch up. Despite a few slips and bumps the hike hadn't been too bad. When one of us slipped and landed we would hear the echo through the draw followed by a "You good?" bouncing off the canyon walls. This was accompanied by a disheartened "Yeah" embarrassed by our lack of coordination. 

The canyon narrowed as we came closer to the bottom. I reached a good stopping point and observed the rock formations around me. The cliffs were coated in thick moss and ferns and shrubs grew all around the wet rock. The dripping "waterfall" was not that impressive, but the drier conditions did make for much safer hiking. I can only imagine how challenging this would be during the Spring. Here at the near bottom of the Little Grand Canyon I shot this five image panorama. I did not bring my wide angle lens on this trip because I wanted to pack a lightly as possible. That came back to haunt me as there were several instances when a wide angle would make shooting much easier. Thankfully, I did bring my tripod which makes stitching panoramas much easier. I snapped off my frames to make up this wide view. The lighting was less than ideal and I couldn't help but wonder if my should would have been better if we had taken the right trail. But the indirect sunlight reflected off the moss covered rocks and trees making them glow as if it was a neon gas sign. 

Little Grand CanyonLittle Grand Canyon © Ben Jacobi

Nathan met me farther down the draw and followed the trail out to the bottom of the canyon. Here the bluffs towered some 300ft above our heads as the sunlight stretched down on the back of our necks. It was now getting into the early afternoon and the heat was increasing. Down in the canyon the humidity would hit you in waves. Only to find relief when the cool breeze came in. Hot and muggy we continued trekking along the trail stopping only to marvel at the unique rock formations and taking a short water break. Finally we reached end of the canyon and now it was time to ascend back up. We came across a familiar looking /DRAW\ sign and began the ascent through the draw. But this was much shorter and faster. I must've took it too quickly as I slipped a few times. One bad fall was where I placed my tripod on a moss covered rock to help hoist myself up. When I pulled myself up the tripod slipped and the force sent it crashing into the creek. My hands caught the ledge of a rock and my right knee took most of the blow on the hard rock surface. I expelled a few crass words before picking my tripod up from the creek and getting back on the trail.

The rest of the hike was an uphill ascent and I had to stop to rest my burning legs. At this point I was closing in on 13miles worth of hiking for the trip and the fact I stayed up late last night playing poker probably didn't help my stamina. But finally, we made it back to the parking lot. I was surprised to find again more cars in the parking lot. I don't know if most people just picnic here or if they just hike to the observation point, but we hardly saw anyone in the canyon. It surprises me how much people miss what's right under their nose. So after hiking the Little Grand Canyon I can say that it looks nothing like the real Grand Canyon and nowhere near the Grand Canyon of Texas, but I can appreciate this little canyon for its uniqueness and actually quite fun hiking trail. I still wish I would've had better light and maybe just more water flowing in the creek. I guess that means that someday I will have to return during the spring. 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) bluffs canyon cliffs Illinois landscape Little Grand Canyon nature Pic of the Week Pomona rock Shawnee National Forest travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/8/pic-of-the-week-8/24/18 Fri, 24 Aug 2018 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 8/16/18: Stars Over the Garden https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/8/pic-of-the-week-8/16/18 Pic of the Week 8/16/18

"Stars Over the Garden"

Location: Garden of the Gods State Park Herod, IL

Date taken: 8/4/18

 

This week's Pic of the Week was captured at the end of my first full day in southern Illinois. I spent the morning hiking with my cousin James where we covered the Trillium, Stone Fort, Indian Creek, and Giant City Nature trails. After our morning excursion it was time to clean up and get ready for the family luncheon at the Giant City Lodge. Lunch started at 11:30pm and I enjoyed the conversation and family time around a delicious fried chicken meal. Afterwards, the family had some business and I was going to be meeting up with good friend and now Illinois inhabitant, Nathan Ralston. Nathan would be joining me for some hiking and photography in areas of the Shawnee National Forest. We left the hotel in Carbondale and started off towards our first destination--Fern Clyffe State Park. 

One of Fern Clyffe's greatest attractions is the Rocky Bluff Trail a mild 1 mile hike that leads to the impressive sandstone bluffs and large waterfall. Unfortunately the waterfall was dried up and only a trickle was moving in the creek. We still managed to shoot some images and the rock outcroppings made for interesting subjects. After we finished Fern Clyffe, we started off to our next stop. This time we would be heading to the Bell Smith Springs Natural Area and hiking the "Natural Arch" trail. It was supposed to be a moderate 1.5mile hike, but we ended up making it a bit longer. After finishing up at Bell Smith Springs we had just enough time to reach our next destination, Garden of the Gods. Now I know what you're thinking (and believe me, I was thinking the same thing) "Garden of the Gods is in Colorado, not Illinois." But when I started doing research for this trip I came across two places that interested me. One was the "Little Grand Canyon" and the other "Garden of the Gods Recreation Area". Being as how I have been to both of the official locations I had to check out southern Illinois' version. 

The drive to Garden of the Gods was quite easy. We cruised around the local farm lands and watched as stalks of corn and fields of soybeans zip by. We were only about an hour before sunset so we were running a little behind. As we approached closer to our destination I could see a large bluff off to our north. This bluff was the highest point in the vicinity and I guessed that was where Garden of the Gods would be. When I was researching locations for this trip I knew I wanted to be somewhere for sunset. The thing is, southern Illinois is either crop fields, lakes, or forest so finding a unique sunset location would be harder than I thought. But when I discovered GOGRA I knew this would be my sunset location. The view from the Overlook trail looked to be very impressive and easy to access. It also had a great view to the west. Just to satisfy my curiosity, I looked up the light pollution map and learned it was one of the darker skies in the area. Maybe with some clear skies I could shoot more than just sunset at GOGRA. 

We made the turn to state road 10 and quickly began gaining elevation. Soon we turned on to the Garden of the Gods road and a sign out front welcomed us to the Shawnee National Forest and warned up the park closes at 10pm. This would be just enough time to maybe shoot the milky way. We made our way up the bluff and the winding road to the trailhead. I parked the car and saw we had just a little over 30 minutes before the sunset. I knew I would need to quickly find a composition and set up for sunset. We started off towards the trail where signs out front warned up steep vertical cliffs and drop offs. From the trailhead I couldn't see much it was all mostly forest above a stone pathway. But we started to climb a little more up hill and that was when the beech, sycamore, elm, and oak trees of the forest gave way to the wild and unique rock formations that make up the Garden of the Gods. Now I can say, that these rock formations while impressive, were not like the Garden of the Gods in Colorado. But they were certainly unique and served as excellent subjects for photography. 

I made my way through the trail taking mental notes of any composition that would work for sunset. I also scouted out locations for milky way photography. The stacked sandstone formations and hoodoos reminded me of Palo Duro Canyon, although the sandstone in west Texas is much more red. I managed to find a few compositions that I felt could work for sunset and I sat there surveying the Shawnee forest and watching the sun set below the horizon. The sunset wasn't all that impressive, mostly clear skies that turned to the familiar golden-pink color. Lack of clouds did mean one good thing, however. Clear skies would be essential for the last item on the list: Photographing the milky way over Garden of the Gods. In my location scouting I found a spot near a cliff edge that gave a nice view of some of the cliffs and forest below. I carefully set up my tripod at the edge and checked my composition for any distracting tree branches. When I saw it was all clear I backed away from my camera and waited.

During our sunset shoot we met another photographer Cylde and his family who resided in nearby Paducah, KY. Clyde isn't on any social media or website, but he showed me some of his impressive work. We sat and talked for a while waiting for the skies to darken. Slowly the skies transitioned from soft pink, to cobalt blue, and then to black skies littered with thousands of stars. This was no Texas sky like I was used to, but the milky way shone overhead and I couldn't help but be reminded of back home. The clear skies really helped showcase some of the planets in the sky. Venus was hanging low on the western horizon, where as Jupiter was bright and high in the sky. Saturn was found right in the middle of the milky way, but the red-orange planet, and closest neighbor Mars was absolutely radiant. It crept its way above the tree line and entered my composition. This really helped balance the composition and serve as an excellent anchor point for the eye to rest on. I chose this vertical orientation to help bring the elements I thought were important to the scene. This allowed me to get a good portion of the milky way and enough foreground to help you see just how far those cliffs drop.

The milky way shines brilliantly over Illinois' own Garden of the Gods state park.

©Ben Jacobi

I love how the silhouettes of the forest contrast with the bright rocks of the cliffs. While I would've preferred a more interesting foreground, I made do with the time I had. Given the opportunity to spend the night out there I'm sure I could come back with more dynamic and interesting images. Still, I had a good time and came back with a shot I feel represents the area. We said our goodbyes to Clyde and his family and made our way back to the car. We would be returning to Carbondale for a late night poker game with some of my family (which I won by the way) before heading to bed and getting ready for the next adventure. Tomorrow was going to be a very busy day. 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) cliffs galaxy Garden of the Gods Illinois landscape milky way nature night nightscape Pic of the Week rock sky stars https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/8/pic-of-the-week-8/16/18 Thu, 16 Aug 2018 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 8/9/18: Sunset in Giant City https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/8/pic-of-the-week-8/9/18 Pic of the Week 8/9/18

"Sunset in Giant City" 

Location: Giant City State Park Makanda, IL

Date taken: 8/3/18

 

Earlier this week I returned from a trip to southern Illinois. The trip was for a family reunion on my mother's side and a chance to do some hiking and photography in an area I have never visited before. While I was very excited to see my family from the north, I was also excited to see one of my best friends and fellow photographer Nathan Ralston who lived just a few hours from our hotel. When I fist learned about this trip I wasn't sure what to expect. My mother told us we would be staying near Giant City. This didn't mean much to me until I did some research and learned that Giant City isn't an actual city, but a state park in the Shawnee National Forest.

Giant City gets it name from the maze of large sandstone bluffs right in the heart of the park. It is one of their best attractions and despite having 1.2 million visitors each year I couldn't find all that much information on the place. After scouting around Google Earth and researching the internet, I started to piece together a shot for the area. Pre-visualizing my images keeps my goals focused and my mind on the task. While I love visiting new locations and exploring, I try to prepare myself with at least a few locations that could result in great photographs. This way I'm not scrambling to find a composition when the moment comes. Typically, with places I have never visited I will use Google Earth, Google Maps, and other internet sources to look at photographs and try to envision the area I will be visiting. From there, I will track the suns location and note where I think the light would be most effective. While this is a long process, it helps me achieve a higher success rate with my photographs. Though I can not plan for everything, but I always try to be as prepared as possible. 

The idea for the shot I wanted to capture would include a view of the wild sandstone bluffs in warm reflected light. I didn't know exactly where I would set up, but I figured with a couple of hours of scouting time I could find a working composition. I also noted what appeared to be a gap between bluffs pointing to the west. This could be a good spot for sunset if my initial shot wasn't going to work.  Fast forward a few weeks and we are now arriving into St. Louis International Airport. After meeting up with my cousin James and getting our rental cars, we were on the road heading to Carbondale, IL. We arrived to the hotel in Carbondale and after some short greetings I was out the door and on my way to Giant City State Park. My goal was to leave by 5pm and that would give me plenty of time to find the right composition and maybe scout out more locations for sunrise the next morning. Thankfully, Giant City SP was only a short 15min drive and the trail was only 1.5 miles in length. 

I pulled into the Giant City Nature Trail parking lot and gathered up my gear. It was humid and steamy and my glasses fogged up when I stepped out of my rental car. A few quick wipes from my shirt and I was back to seeing things clearly. The temperature was around 88 degrees and the humidity was above 60% this made for some uncomfortable hiking conditions, but I put on my pack and started off down the trail. For the most part the trail cut through wooded forests with the occasional boulder interrupting the landscape, but as I made my first turn off from the trail I stated to see the sandstone bluffs and rock formations hugging the trail. The gray/brown Makanda sandstone showed signs of erosion and weathering as it took on a porous honeycomb-like formation. It was certainly unique and one couldn't help but ponder how the rock came to be. 

I continued down the trail for a short time and came to the entrance to the Giant City "streets". A single tree grew along the trail and marked the entrance to the bluffs. The wall to my left was similar to the walls I had seen on the trail, the wall to my right was the same as well. But, the wall right in front of me was very smooth and covered in a pelt of soft green moss. I followed the wooden "Nature Trail -->" sign pointing me to the center of the Giant City streets. From this angle I could see the rock cut in an almost perfect 90 degree angle. I stood in amazement at the unique rock formation and contemplated its origin. I followed the signs guiding me through the streets and back onto the trail. I passed over a balanced rock I discovered from my internet researched and went to take a photograph of it. Then I realize a made a huge mistake--I had left my tripod back at the car! The sun was setting in about an hour and I thought I would have just enough time to complete the trail, run back to my car and grab my tripod. Then head back to my sunset location and maybe catch it before the sun set behind the horizon. 

I didn't stop to marvel at the landscape and rock bluffs around me. I did take a mental note when I passed something interesting, but I kept hiking and at a much faster than normal pace. After about 25 minutes I had reached my car and I grabbed my tripod and started off back to the Giant City streets. I arrived just in time to find the sun hanging just above the sandstone bluffs and peering between the trees. The back lighting created dramatic shadows on the bluffs and made the moss gleam in the soft golden light. I set up my camera (this time with my tripod) and found my composition waiting for the sun to get just right. When the light of the sun could be seen through my viewfinder I shot off a series of bracketed exposures. Keeping my aperture nice and small created the sunstar and spikes of light that added a little more drama and magic to the photogenic scene. There's something very inviting about this photograph that makes you want to explore this sandstone maze.

 

Sunset in  Giant CitySunset in Giant CitySunset breaks through the trees from the "streets" of Giant City. © Ben Jacobi

On the way back to the car (now for the second time) I stopped and made more images of the surrounding bluffs and rocks until dusk. This was an excellent start to my southern Illinois trip. I would get to explore most of Giant City knocking out the Trillium, Stone Fort, Indian Creek, Devil's Standtable, and Giant City Nature Trail with my cousin James the next day. Over this trip I ended up hiking over 17 miles in the Shawnee National Forest and saw some pretty amazing places. I look forward to sharing these new images with y'all in the weeks to come. Enjoy! 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) cliffs Giant City Giant City State Park Illinois landscape nature Pic of the Week rock sandstone travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/8/pic-of-the-week-8/9/18 Thu, 09 Aug 2018 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 7/26/18: Milkyway Panorama: Benjamin, TX https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/7/pic-of-the-week-7/26/18 Pic of the Week: 7/26/18

"Milky Way Panorma: Benjamin, TX"

Date taken: 7/26/15

Location: Benjamin, TX

Milkyway PanoramaMilkyway PanoramaFifty-four images were shot and stitched together to capture this ultra wide view of the milkyway and stars.

© Ben Jacobi

Its a good news/bad news situation so I'll go ahead and give your the bad news first. The bad news is I don't have any new work to share with you all. The good news, however, is that next week I will be leaving for a trip to southern Illinois for a family reunion and during my down time I plan to explore the unique Shawnee Forest wilderness. I already have several locations in mind so I am very excited to be out shooting and hiking again. The weather has just been terrible for photography down here, but I'm hoping a change of scenery will get me back in a creative mode. I will leave Wednesday and be back on Monday. If the weather cooperates I should be back with some nice photographs. So now, back to the bad news.

Since I have nothing new to share I started to look back on past adventures and there is one photo in particular that has a five year anniversary coming up. My Once in a Lifetime Capture was recorded 5 years ago tomorrow. But I did revisit that image last year so I didn't want to retell old stories. So looking back on this particular date I came across a night photography shoot I did with the Red River Photography Club. In fact, we have the same shoot coming up next month. This little park/overlook I've used for several years now to photograph the night sky. Its far enough out of the way there's minimal light pollution and the skies are dark/clear enough to capture some fantastic detail in the milky way. I shot a series of fifty-four images to create this panorama. This is a full 180 degree view of the night sky out there. 

Jim Bob Art Park sits atop the northern edge of the plain just before the ground gives way to the river bottoms the locals call the "narrows" or "cedar breaks". These small but rugged canyons make for a nice foreground during sunset/sunrise photography and the higher elevation gives a fantastic view to the north and west of the park. One time I was out there and I kept seeing bright flashes off in the distance. I didn't have cell phone service, but I knew there were storms somewhere out to our north. It turns out these storms were in the extreme northern TX panhandle over 200 miles away! I've seen meteors streak overhead, watched storms develop over the breaks, and spent hours watching the starry skies. Its a place I feel is therapeutic and good for the soul. Your problems seem awfully small when you're staring up at millions of shimmering stars and all you hear is the cry of a coyote off in the distance. 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) TX Benjamin Jim Bob Art Park landscape milky way nature night photography Pic of the Week sky stars Texas travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/7/pic-of-the-week-7/26/18 Thu, 26 Jul 2018 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 7/19/18: Molas Pass Overlook https://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 https://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 https://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) https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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) https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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) https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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) https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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 https://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) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/1/pic-of-the-week-1/11/18 Thu, 11 Jan 2018 16:45:00 GMT
2017 Timelapse Video https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/1/2017-timelapse-video Well here we are we made it to the new year! 2018 I'm very excited to see what you have in store for me. 2017 was an excellent year for my photography. I got to travel a lot more than usual and captured some truly awe-inspiring scenes. I can't think of a better way to say goodbye to 2017 than by releasing my 2017 Timelapse Video. It took the whole year to shoot, edit, and render this timelapse project and I am so happy with how it turned out. Despite having a mediocre storm season I was able to come back with beautiful timelapse sequences of stunning landscapes and breath-taking night skies. I traveled to New York, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, and around Texas in 2017. I captured a little under 22,000 images to make up this final video and I'm very excited for you to see it. Be sure you watch it in 4k to get the full experience. Enjoy and bring on 2018!

 

2017 Timelapse Video (4k) from BDJPhoto on Vimeo.

 

 

 

 

 

YouTube: https://youtu.be/ObEk-vd-HFc

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) 2017 colorado landscape mexico mountains nature new night oklahoma texas timelapse travel york https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2018/1/2017-timelapse-video Thu, 04 Jan 2018 17:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 12/21/17: 2017 Geminids Meteor Shower https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/12/pic-of-the-week-12/21/17-2017 Pic of the Week 12/21/17

“2017 Geminids Meteor Shower”

Date taken: 12/15/17

Location: Great Plains State Park/Tom Steed Reservoir, OK

 

It has been two years since I last photographed the Geminids meteor shower and after the less than average Perseids shower in August, I was once again ready for hunting more meteors. This year was going to be great year for the shower. We were forecast to have clear skies and a crescent moon that would only break the horizon after 4am. The best time for the shower would be when the radiant was highest in the sky around 1am that night. This gave us over three hours of shooting and counting meteors. After the first two hours, I lost count at 250. The show was quite impressive. I was excited for the shower, but I knew I had work the next day so I needed to find a location that was under a 2-hour drive. I could have gone with my usual west TX dark skies such as Caprock Canyon or Copper Breaks, but I wanted to try a new location I hadn’t shot before. After some research, I settled on Great Plains State Park in southern Oklahoma. The main reason I did this was the park access is open 24/7 and it has relatively low light pollution. I spent a few days looking over the area on Google Earth and gathering information about the location.

I had invited a few of my photographer friends to join me, but the only one that was able to make it was Jaden Corbin. We left Wichita Falls around 9:30pm that night and started off towards Oklahoma. Along the way we spotted a few meteors zipping across the dark skies. We reached the park entrance and looked around for a little bit. I had an idea to photograph the meteor shower over the lake, but the light pollution across the lake was too strong to get any usable shots. I had been to Great Plains State Park before (though not at night time) and remembered a small overlook of some the mountains and Snyder Lake on the west end of the park. This would be my backup if the lake photos would not work out. We drove to the overlook and parked our car and stared at the starry night sky above. The constellation Orion was hovering over the mountains and shone in all its glory. You could make out the belt, arms, and bow of the great hunter. Behind us the milky way was dropping below the western horizon as Cassiopeia, Ursa Major, and Ursa Minor sparkled above. We set up our tripods and cameras and shot photos from this location for almost three hours. During this time, we watched as the skies became littered with streaking meteors radiating from Gemini and spreading all around us. We would be talking about a particular subject and be interrupted by the other person calling out the meteor count. While the skies were clear there were some thick clouds way off in the south and west and wind picked up after midnight. The air coming off the lake was frigid and I would jump in place trying to stay warm. The thought that I could be home and snuggled up in my warm bed seemed to overcome my desire to be outside in the cold air, but then a green flash would appear and a meteor would stretch through the scene and ignite the sky and my desire to photograph again.

 At the end of the I sat in my car warming up by the heater and looking over some of the photos. I had seen a few decent ones, but once I got home and looked at them on my computer screen I was ecstatic at the number of meteors I captured. Like usual, I opted for a time-stack composite image where I take all the meteors I captured and add them into a single frame. This method lets me show the entire event in just one image. Some people have their reservations on whether this is “true” photography. Personally, I think it’s the only way I can convey what we experienced and I hope it inspires people to get out and watch it themselves.

 It took a total of 55 images to create the final version and there are 53 meteors visible in the photo. I did take some “creative license” in the placement, but that was mostly to avoid intersecting meteors and help the image flow. Interestingly, I decided to use an exposure with the car lights on for the foreground. This was not my original intent or idea when I planned this composite, but I think it adds a little more depth and perspective. The reflected light also helps bring out the mountains and lake in the background. I am glad I got to photograph this meteor shower and I’m very glad the weather cooperated with us and we ended up with some nice images.

Enjoy and have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

 

© Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) geminids great plains state park meteor meteor shower meteors mountains nature night oklahoma pic of the week sky travel wichita mountains https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/12/pic-of-the-week-12/21/17-2017 Thu, 21 Dec 2017 17:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 12/7/17: Great Sand Dunes National Park: Tall Dune https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/12/pic-of-the-week-12/7/17                 Oh my, it has been over a month since my last update. I apologize for the delay. But I haven’t just been sitting around doing nothing. I have been busy with work, my calendar sales, and I’ve been working on my 2017 Timelapse project (which I hope to release towards the end of the year). Truthfully, I lapsed one week and fell out of the schedule, but I am back again and posting. I have a lot of new photos to share with everyone and I’m very excited to y’all to see them. With that said, lets get to this week’s Pic of the Week.

 

Pic of the Week 12/7/17

“Great Sand Dunes National Park: Tall Dune”

Location: Great Sand Dunes National Park, CO

Date taken: 9/23/17

 

                When it comes to sand dunes I have a love/hate relationship. There are certainly reasons to enjoy and experience these mysterious natural areas. They’re usually very photogenic and take on interesting patterns and shapes that beckon to be photographed. Sand can be quite beautiful especially during the early morning and late evening hours when the sand reflects all the sun’s light coloring them in wonderful hues of reds, oranges, and golds. But sand can also be quite difficult. Its very rough on the camera equipment, and it tends to get everywhere. It can easily ruin cameras, lenses, flashes, tripods, etc. It can also be hard to hike or trek on. You have to work much harder to get anywhere in sand. And don’t even get me started on the wind. Wind can turn a sand dune into a sand blaster and its not fun when you’re climbing up a dune and sand is being blasted in your eyes. So why go out to places like this? Well, I guess the only answer I can come up with is “to try and conquer it”.

                When I planned this trip, I knew we were going to visit Great Sand Dunes National Park and there was no doubt in my mind we would be getting in some sand. I thought I would offer up the chance to climb the Tall Dune in the park maybe as something we could do if we had the time. But when I brought it to Ian and Jaden they were both willing to try it. The Tall Dune in GSDNP towers 699ft over the basin and is a highly trafficked area. There are no trails. You reach the parking lot and start hiking towards the large dune crest immediately to your west. To reach the top of the dune you need to crisscross over ridges like delicate switchbacks and since there is no trail sometimes you have to backtrack and find the correct path.

                Now I know it sounds like all I’m doing is complaining, and while that is true it is well worth the effort. Climbing the Tall Dune gives you an incredible view of the dune field and Sangre De Cristos mountain range that hug against the dunes. Not only are the view incredible, but the sense of accomplishment you get when you reach the top makes it all worth it. I made this shot about ¾ of the way up the dune looking over the impressive landscape. The patterns in the dunes almost seem to match the patterns and crags of the mountains. It had rained that morning so some of the dunes had this beautiful striped pattern that added even more depth to the scene. Ominous storm clouds loomed over the 12,000ft elevation peaks of the range and gave the scene a very foreboding feel. This shot captures all the chaos of the area. The intricate patterns of the dunes against the rugged terrain of the mountains and the erratic changes in weather. You truly are in a wilderness here and it sure feels like it when you’re hiking in this area.

 

Great Sand Dunes National Park: Tall DuneGreat Sand Dunes National Park: Tall DuneStunning view on the way up Tall Dune in Great Sand Dunes National Park. © Ben Jacobi

                After I made this exposure we continued on eventually reaching the top and took in the marvelous view in front of us. To the west Star Dune (tallest dune in North America) could be seen. But we would have to save that challenge for another time. With the approaching rains, stronger wind gusts, and hunger/fatigue setting in it was time we made the trek back down. Which was actually quite enjoyable—you can get down much faster than climbing up. I’m looking forward to sharing more of my latest work with you all.

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) colorado dunes great sand dunes national park landscape nature pic of the week sand dunes sky travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/12/pic-of-the-week-12/7/17 Thu, 07 Dec 2017 16:00:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 10/19/17: Great Dunes and Greater Mountains https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/10/pic-of-the-week-10/19/17 Pic of the Week 10/19/17

"Great Dunes, Greater Mountains"

Date taken: 9/24/17

Location: Zapata Falls Recreation Area, CO

 

Who is ready for more Colorado photos? This weeks Pic of the Week was captured on our third day of our Colorado trip. The previous day we had shot early morning sunrise photos of Mt Blanca, hiked up the Big Dune in Great Sand Dunes National Park, and ended with a rain shower blocking out our chance for a sunset. When we started to drive back to our camp for the night clouds covered our skies and we were constantly in rain. This had me worried for sunrise and most of our shooting the next day. But we climbed up in our sleeping bags and drifted to sleep with the sound of rain drops "pit-pattering" on the tent. We awoke once again very early and I stepped out the tent to observe the skies. There was some clouds off to our west, but I could see clearing to our east. In fact, I could make out the bright constellation Orion hovering in the sky above. Everyone was woken up and we tore down our campsite and gathered our gear and drove to our sunrise location. Sunrise was nice, but nothing extravagant and after we collected all our sunrise images we continued down the road to our next stop, Zapata Falls. 


To reach Zapata Falls you turn down a small gravel road that leads you to the base of a mountain. The drive to the falls was very interesting. The gravel road quickly transitioned to a dirt/rock road and started to gain elevation. The road was only a few miles long, but it took us 30min to reach the end in our little Ford Focus we rented for the trip. Every dip and rise over the rocks had us grimacing and praying that we wouldn't pop a tire. Eventually we reached the top and the end of the road and the trailhead to Zapata Falls. There was a small overlook outside the campground that gave you a fantastic view of the San Luis Valley, Great Sand Dunes, and the Sangre de Cristos mountain range. The mountains were still covered by the clouds, so I didn't take any photos from the overlook. 


The trail to Zapata Falls was easy, but I am not used to hiking in 9000' elevation so we took our time. The trail eventually runs into a creek and you have to wade through the creek to access the falls. The falls themselves were actually quite nice and when I had them all to myself it was peaceful, but soon many more people started coming up the trail and  through the creek getting in front of my camera and ending up in my shots. But I got what I wanted and then started back towards the trail. I noticed the clouds above us had mostly cleared and I hoped it was true with the mountains. There were a few spots on the trail where we could see the tops of the mountains between the trees and I was excited to see those peaks. I might be able to capture a shot from the overlook after all. 


After our hike, I reached into the car and pulled out my Tamron 70-200mm telephoto lens and headed towards the overlook. The clouds had cleared and finally revealed the mountains to us. Not only that the rain and weather on the peaks left a fresh dusting of snow on the majestic mountains. I zoomed in tight and found a composition that worked showing the flat San Luis Valley, that transitioned to the delicate curves of the sand dunes and then met with the jagged and craggy snow-covered peaks of the Sange de Cristos. Although the lighting was less than ideal the intermittent light and shadows played on the landscape making an almost dreamy scene. I snapped several image from the overlook, but I had issues with the trees around the area getting into some of my shots. To solve this, I climbed up a stone platform that rose me just above the tree line where I was able to make my images with an unobstructed view of the wonderful landscape. This image ended up being one of my favorite photos from the trip and is another photo that will be featured in my 2018 calendar. 

 

© Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) colorado great sand dunes landscape mountains nature pic of the week sange de cristos sky travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/10/pic-of-the-week-10/19/17 Thu, 19 Oct 2017 16:57:42 GMT
Pic of the Week 10/12/17: Aspens in Mueller State Park https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/10/pic-of-the-week-10/12/17 Pic of the Week 10/12/17

“Aspens in Mueller State Park”

Date taken: 9/24/17

Location: Mueller State Park near Divide, CO

 

This week's Pic of the Week takes us to our last full day in Colorado. Earlier that morning we shot the sunrise in the San Luis valley and photographed some nice vistas near Monarch and Buena Vista, CO. Our goal was to arrive in Muller State Park a few hours before sunset to scout out locations for the sunset. When arrived at the park I went in the visitor center to talk with the park staff and get their recommendations for a good sunset location. More specifically, I wanted an area where we could see the Pikes Peak massif and capture the sunset light traveling up the mountain. Maybe even have a few aspen in the foreground, who knows? After talking with one of the rangers there she suggested we try Elk meadow. It was a great view of Pikes Peak and unobstructed by roads, buildings, and other distractions intersecting our shot—just a nice meadow and then forest. She also gave us ideas on where we could go to photograph some of the fall foliage. Her suggestion was to try the northern most trails behind the campgrounds. This area was supposed to have some aspen.

 

While it wasn't part of our plans, we had some extra time and I am always up for a hike, we reached the parking area for the trailhead and gathered our gear to get ready for a short hike. Looking at the trail maps I thought we could use trail 17 that would take us to the eastern edge of the trail and to a nice open field and hopefully find some nice compositions there. I thought we would only need to hike about .3 miles where we could grab some quick shots and be back to our sunset location. We followed trail 17 for about .25miles before there was a clearing in the forest. The open field gave us a nice view of Pikes Peak and the forest in front of it. Speckled all throughout the forest were bright yellow aspen. I captured a few nice images, but wasn't overly excited about what I had. Maybe it would be nice if the light was better, I pondered to myself. But I didn't let that thought distract me. I knew that we needed to be ready for sunset soon. Still I pressed on down the trail in hopes of finding a more interesting scene. After a brief walk I came to a curve on the trail and just before the curve there was a big field leading out into the forest and an excellent view of Pikes Peak. The best part was the light was positioned in a way that really brought out the aspens in the foreground. This was where I stopped set up my tripod and sarted shooting. The golden aspens, the red rock on Pikes Peak, and the deep blue sky made for an excellent scene just begging to be photographed.

 

© Ben Jacobi

 

Turns out we went a bit further than I had anticipated and we were now hurrying to get back in the car in time for sunset. We arrived about 20 minutes before sunset and shot some more excellent images of aspen and Pikes Peak in sunset light. After this long day, we retired to our hotel in Colorado Springs and turned in for the night. This was one of my favorite shots I captured that day. In fact, it is going to be featured in my upcoming 2018 calendar as the month of September. If you would like to preorder a calendar send me an email or a Facebook message.

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) aspen autumn colorado fall landscape mountains mueller state park nature pic of the week pikes peak sky travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/10/pic-of-the-week-10/12/17 Thu, 12 Oct 2017 15:58:14 GMT
Pic of the Week 10/5/17: Blanca Peak Sunrise https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/10/pic-of-the-week-10/5/17 Pic of the Week 10/5/17

“Blanca Peak Sunrise”

Date taken: 9/23/17

Location: Highway 160 near Blanca, CO.

 

Continuing through the wild photo adventure that was my recent trip to Colorado, we arrive pre-sunrise on the second day of the trip and it was going to be a big one. Ian, Jaden, and myself had spent the previous day cramped up in the small Ford Focus we drove to Colorado. We drove through a small portion of the Highway of Legends, photographed the sunset from the lake, and ended it with a short milky way shoot behind the mountains. Needless to say, we were pretty exhausted from the traveling and turned in early for a good nights rest. The next day was going to be a busy. We had planned a sunrise shoot, a trip to Great Sand Dunes National Park during the day, and ending it with sunset shoot at San Luis Lake State Park. I did have concerns about the weather for 9/23. Some models were suggesting extensive cloud cover and wide spread rain over the area which would prevent us from seeing a good sunrise. Only time would tell.

 

I awoke around 4:30am before the alarm on my cell phone went off. I pulled up my phone and checked the infrared satellite and radar for our area. Nothing was really conclusive with the data so I would have to rely on good ol' observation. Ourside the tent it was perfectly still, there was no wind and only the chirping of crickets could be heard. There were patches of dark sky with a few stars in between the clouds. I looked off towards the west and could see a band of clear sky, this was the direction we would be traveling today. At 5:15am my alarm went off and woke everybody up, we gathered our gear and breakfast and climbed back in the car to make the 60 mile drive to our sunrise location.

 

When I learned we were not going to the Guadalupe Mountains for this trip I decided to go to Colorado as a backup. Thankfully, I had a cache of locations and sights I wanted to see stored on Google Earth. Its good having this information at my disposal, it makes it much easier when planning shots for a trip. One location I had marked was a scenic viewpoint off highway 160 outside of Blanca, CO. The pulloff gave an excellent view of the southern most Sangre De Cristos mountains. The goal was to arrive before sunrise and scout out compostitions and wait for sunrise.

 

When we arrived on location the skies around us had pretty much cleared, but one thing I didn't take into account was the elevation of the mountains and the cloud deck. The massive peaks were completely swallowed by a dark moody cloud which may not work so well for the sunrise shot I had envisioned. We waited for almost an hour watching the clouds slowly lift around the lower parts of the mountain, but the peaks were still covered by the clouds when the sun rose. Glorious warm light spread over the landscape and lit up most of the mountains. The 14,345' (elev) top of Blanca Peak could not be seen and we waited and waited as more and more cloud cover began to dissipate. Half of the mountain was bathed in the golden sunrise light, bringing the aspen in the foothills to an almost radiant state. The other half was shrouded in the shadow of the clouds turning everything near the top to a soft murky outline, almost ghost-like in appearance. I opted to use my telephoto lens and bring everything much closer revealing all of the drama in the scene. The tight shot also shows the little nuances of the photo. For instance you can see in the transition where some of the aspen are shining bright and the just behind them the other's fade into the shadows. It was a very dramatic scene and we captured it for quite a long time.

 

Eventually the clouds began to clear exposing the photogenic Mout Lindsey and Little Bear Peak, but Blanca Peak still remained in the clouds. In fact, for the rest of the day Blanca Peak would be masked by cloud cover and we wouldn't see it until the next sunrise. I have to say I was quite impressed with the photos I captured during this shoot, though it didn't come out like I had originally planned. It was still an excellent way to start our first full day in Colorado. I am quite fortunate to have these shots. After I got back home from this trip my hard drive got corrupted and erased 140+ images from this day. Luckily, I was able to recover all but ten of them. One of the ones recovered was this shot right here. I still have many more photos and stories to share from this trip.

 

Blanca Peak SunriseBlanca Peak Sunrise © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) aspen autumn blanca peak colorado fall landscape mountains nature pic of the week sange de cristos sky sunrise travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/10/pic-of-the-week-10/5/17 Thu, 05 Oct 2017 16:50:36 GMT
Pic of the Week 9/28/17: Spanish Peaks Sunset https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/9/pic-of-the-week-9/28/17 Pic of the Week 9/28/17

"Spanish Peaks Sunset"

Date Taken: 9/22/17

Location: Lathrop State Park Walsenburg, CO

 

I have just returned from an amazing four-day trip to the beautiful state of Colorado. I was originally going to the Guadalupe Mountains in west Texas, but the weather pattern had another idea. So as I backup I suggested Colorado. My good friends Ian Glasgow and Jaden Corbin. This was Jaden’s first photo trip with us and I think he had a good time. We spent those four days seeking out the best shots for the incredible landscape that was all around us. We were about one week away from peak fall color, but we were able to get some excellent shots of the changing autumn.

We left Wichita Falls around 7:15am and arrived at Walsenburg just a little before 2:30pm (local time) and went exploring for our sunset location. I had hopes that the clouds would hold off and we would get dramatic sunrise light hitting the Spanish Peaks. The Spanish Peaks are two very prominent mountains in southern Colorado. The west peak has an elevation of 13,645’ and the eastern peak is 12,684 and an impressive 6000 feet above the surrounding landscape. Their shape and prominence made me think they would be an excellent subject to use in dramatic sunset light.

After we did some driving through the Highway of Legends (a closer look at the Spanish Peaks), we started back to Lathrop State Park to prepare for sunset. I kept an eye on the cloud cover on our western horizon and I watched as the thin clouds stretched above our heads. Maybe these would make for a good sunset after all. But they might pose a problem if we were going to shoot the milky way later that evening.

The dramatic light I was hoping for never arrived and the sun was blocked by a low layer of cloud cover, but despite this the clouds above us exploded into a fiery orange glow. I still came back with some great shots and a pretty nice timelapse of the whole thing, but the worst thing was I accidentally changed my camera settings to record In JPG and not NEF (Nikon’s RAW). This meant I would have very little control in post processing and I would need to adjust my workflow to get the result I wanted. It just goes to show you, always check your camera settings before you start shooting. This is a silly oversight that I will make sure I won’t skip over next time. Luckily, after the sunset I saw my error and changed back to NEF for the milky way shoot. Yet despite this hiccup I still came back with some excellent images and even better ones came from later in the trip. I am very excited to share these photos with you over the next few weeks. Enjoy!

 

Stunning sunset over Lathrop State Park with the Spanish Peaks on the horizon. © Ben Jacobi

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) colorado landscape lathrop state park mountains nature pic of the week sky spanish peaks sunset travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/9/pic-of-the-week-9/28/17 Thu, 28 Sep 2017 16:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 9/14/17: Sunset on the Rio Grande https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/9/pic-of-the-week-9/14/17 Pic of the Week 9/14/17

"Sunset on the Rio Grande"

Date Taken: 9/3/17

Location: Rio Grande Gorge Bridge near Taos, NM

 

"OK. I think I'm clear now." I quickly darted my head to the left and then the right looking off into the highway. There were several vehicles approaching on both sides. I maybe had 15 seconds before the vehicles made it to the bridge. One by one they crossed over and with each one came a shock wave of vibrations that caused the bridge I was standing on to resonate. The vibration forced me to grasp the handrail next to me. Maybe I'm being a little dramatic, but I don't care for heights, so standing on a shaking bridge some 700ft above the ground made me a tad nervous. But I persevered and when the shaking stopped, I once again looked back to see if more cars were coming. I would look to my right, then my left, and then look towards the sunset and back to my scene to see how the light was falling on the landscape. This was why I was here. Oh, those things we do for our photography, like stepping out of our comfort zones to capture that one superb moment.

There I was looking down below to the Rio Grande River in northern New Mexico standing on the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge waiting for the perfect light and clinging on to the hand rail for dear life when cars came driving by. Its funny, because last year on Labor Day weekend I was in the southern part of New Mexico isolating myself in White Sands National Monument and the Tularosa basin, but now I was in northern New Mexico near the heavily traffic towns of Taos and Santa Fe. This time I was accompanied by my good friend and fellow photographer Jim Livingston. I don't have three-day weekends very often, so I try to take advantage when I can and I convinced Jim (although it didn't take much) to ride with me to New Mexico. Here it was coming to the close of our first day there and I was set ready to capture my "hero" shot. My idea was to capture the Rio Grande River cutting through the gorge and leading the eye to the Sange de Cristos mountain range on the distant horizon. Sunset light would just graze the top of the gorge and spill beautifully on the mountains and maybe, if I was lucky, see some nice clouds soaking up some of the sunset color. But that was the ideal shot, Mother Nature always has her own agenda. The mountains were difficult to see due to the smoke and haze from the wildfires in the Pacific Northwest. This haze kept the contrast low on our horizon and in the mountains. There was also a thick cloud bank off to the west which concerned me. We may not even see a sunset. But I made my peace with it and headed out to the gorge anyways.

When we arrived to the bridge the sun was in between cloud cover which gave me a little more hope of capturing my "hero" shot. After some scouting, I found my composition and set up my tripod and staked my claim of the observation platform. I sat there shooting photos and turning around to check for approaching vehicles. Between the cars and the wind I was able to shoot off several bracketed exposures of the same composition. Finally, the sun became low on the horizon and just above the cloud deck to the west. This was the time to capture as close to the shot I had envisioned. The light just kissed the top of the gorge and the canyon wall and while it wasn't the crazy dramatic light I was hoping for, it was still a remarkable scene. Perhaps the best thing was the patches of clouds that absorbed all the color from sunset giving the sky some nice texture. In fact, there is so much texture in this shot. You have the texture of the river, texture of the gorge, texture in the mountains, and texture in the clouds. This gives this image great depth and dimension. It is without a doubt, my "hero" shot from this trip to New Mexico and I'm very happy with how the final image came out. I have many more NM photos coming soon! 

 

Susnet on the Rio Grande Gorge © Ben Jacobi

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) cliff gorge landscape nature new mexico pic of the week rio grande rio grande gorge rio grande gorge bridge river sky taos travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/9/pic-of-the-week-9/14/17 Thu, 14 Sep 2017 16:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 8/31/17 "New Mexico: Land of Enchantment" https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/8/pic-of-the-week-8/31/17 Pic of the Week 8/31/17

"New Mexico: Land of Enchantment"

Date Taken: 8/12/17

Location: San Jon, NM

 

Just like last week's Pic of the Week we are in New Mexico for this week. In fact, we are even on the same day. I'll just go ahead and say that 8/12/17 was an excellent photography outing. I met up with my good friend Jim Livingston at his home in Amarillo. We were going to be driving into eastern New Mexico in hopes of clear skies for the Perseids meteor shower. Around 6pm we left Jim's house and drove west on I-40 towards New Mexico. Along the way we could see isolated thunderstorms building in the hot summer air. Earlier that afternoon I had driven through 40 miles of precip so I was a little discouraged when I saw the storms building. After all, our plan was to shoot the meteor shower, a task which can be very challenging under cloudy skies.

But as we continued driving we watched as the storm began to gain strength and evolve into a massive billowing updraft. The storm itself was photogenic, but there wasn't much of a foreground interest to shoot the scene. We continued west on 40 keeping an eye on the storm. We were just a few miles outside of San Jon, NM when the Caprock Escarpment came into view. Now this would serve as an excellent foreground to the storm! We turned south out of San Jon and headed towards the caprock. Bursts of sunlight were sneaking through the clouds and lighting up isolated areas of the landscape. We couldn't wait any longer and at the first good available road we pulled up and quickly got our gear out and started shooting.

We watched as the storm brewed and churned over the caprock taking on some amazing shapes and contrast. For a few hours we sat there watching the storm and shooting still as well as timelapse images. When sunset rolled around the show really began! The storm clouds became very contrasty, some soaking up the golden sunset light and some falling into the dark shadows and core of the thunderstorm. The light was near perfect shining just slightly on the caprock in front of us highlighting the interesting parts of the caprock and reflecting some of the windmills on the top. As I was shooting, the sun reached the perfect angle to light up a rain shaft and revealed a small, but photogenic rainbow. I pulled out my Tamron 70-200mm f/2.8 lens and zoomed in on the scene. The telephoto lens compresses and brings everything in the photo tight together making the storm appear closer. This also brought the windmills up larger in the frame helping to establish a sense of scale in the scene.

I shot about 10 frames during this time before the light and rainbow vanished. It didn't last but for a few moments, but it was excellent. All you could hear was the clicks of our shutters and the gasps of our excitation. It was truly an enchanting scene. As the storm progressed further northeast it started to lose its organization and quickly dried up. New towers started to go up along the outflow of the previous thunderstorm. The light had all but disappeared except for the tops of the storm and we stayed and watched until all the light was gone. 

The New Mexico state slogan is "New Mexico: Land of Enchantment" and I couldn't think of a more appropriate title for the images I captured that evening. We continued on through the night shooting the fantastic night sky counting meteors that zipped overhead and hoping they were in our shots. It was an amazing impromptu trip that resulted in some of my favorite photos I've shot this whole year. 

 

Monsoon thunderstorm rolls in over the Caprock Escarpment south of San Jon, NM. © Ben Jacobi

 

 

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/8/pic-of-the-week-8/31/17 Thu, 31 Aug 2017 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 8/24/17: 2017 Perseids Meteor Shower: Taiban, NM https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/8/pic-of-the-week-8/24/17 It has been almost a month since my last “Pic of the Week” and without getting too much into the boring details I haven't been updating the website because I was searching for a new web hosting service. I have come to the conclusion that I will finish out the year using my current hosting provider and then will move to a new one in 2018. Now that that's out of the way lets talk about this week's Pic of the Week.

 

Pic of the Week 8/24/17

“2017 Perseids Meteor Shower Taiban, NM”

Date taken: 8/12/17

Location: Taiban, NM

 

August always brings us some great night time photo opportunities. Perhaps the most famous of these would be the annual Perseids meteor shower. This year was we would have to battle the waxing gibbous moon and possibility of cloud cover. Where I live in Wichita Falls we were expecting cloud cover all through the afternoon into the following morning so I was closely watching the satellite and trying to decide where to go. Judging by the model trends the only spot that seemed to remain clear was eastern, NM. I remember talking with my good friend Jim Livingston about possible locations and he mentioned an abandoned church in the community of Taiban, NM. I called Jim up and asked if he was still going out and if so could I tag along. He happily said I could join and after work I made the 3hr 20min drive to Amarillo, TX.

 

I arrived in Amarillo just after 5:30pm and met Jim at his home. It had been a while since we went on a photo shoot together so it was nice seeing him again. We greeted each other and began talking about the news in our lives, but then the conversation quickly changed to how we wanted to photograph the meteor shower. Jim showed me where the church was located and we planned out our route hoping we would find something else to photograph along the way. Taiban was about a 2.5hr drive from Amarillo so we wanted to get leaving pretty soon. Jim had to make a quick phone call to a friend a fellow photographer Mark Dieker who was in New Mexico and we arranged to meet at the church after dark. We gathered up all our gear, grabbed some gas, and purchased some snacks then headed down I-40 towards the Texas/New Mexico border.

 

While driving down I-40 I kept looking off in the distance at some billowing thunderheads over the caprock. I thought it would make a nice shot and Jim agreed, we turned south once we reached San Jon and met the storm face to face. We watched the storm build and boil until the sunset where the thunderheads soaked up all the sunset colors like a sponge. It was an incredible shoot, but we still needed to get to the church on time. We turned back north and continued on 40 where we reached Tucumcari and then turned south following some of the backroads to Taiban, NM. Along the way we stopped and shot some images of the milky way under an unobstructed sky. We even found a great location with three windmills on the top of a mesa, we stayed a shot there for a little while before finally reaching Taiban, NM.

 

We pulled into the “packing area” of the old Presbetyrian church and surveyed the sky above us. There was a thick low cloud from thunderstorms to our north that was blocking out the entire northern sky we did, however, have a nice clear view to our south. We approached the old church and walked inside for closer inspection. We decided to leave a flashlight inside to church to light it up. I set up my composition and started to adjust some of my camera settings when a fast green meteor whizzed overhead. I was hoping this was a sign of things to come. We stayed there for a few hours catching brief glimpses of meteors before the moonlight washed out our sky and the cloud cover set in. This is a time-stack composite made from 12 different images to show the meteor shower in one photo. If you look closely you can see 10 meteors in the shot. We would continue to shoot in NM until about 3am where the cloud cover got too thick. Although, it was noting like last year's meteor shower it was still a great time and we all came back with some excellent photos. I'm looking forward to the next adventure!

 

Meteors streak across a starry sky over the ghost town of Taiban, NM. © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) meteor meteor shower nature new mexico night pic of the week sky travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/8/pic-of-the-week-8/24/17 Thu, 24 Aug 2017 16:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week: 7/27/17: Once in a Lifetime Capture https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/7/pic-of-the-week-7/27/17 Pic of the Week 7/27/17

"Once in a Lifetime Capture"

Date taken: 7/27/14

Location: St John's Chapel Bomarton, TX

 

When I'm telling the story behind my images I'll frequently use words like "awesome", "epic", "incredible" and even "surreal". While this is true, and the general emotion I was feeling when making those captures, nothing has ever compared to my "Once in a Lifetime Capture". It doesn't seem like it has been three years since I recorded one of the wildest and surreal experiences of my life. Witnessing it, was an incredible treat from the heavens, but getting to record and share it with other's is even more exciting! Three years ago I was meeting up with some of my good friends for some night photography. We decided to use St John's chapel in the ghost town of Bomarton, TX. The first church was built in 1909, but after a fire and some structure damage the new brick church was constructed in 1936. The beautiful old chapel would serve as our anchor point as we tried to capture images of the milky way around and behind it. 

Mike was kind enough to let me ride with him to Bomarton and we met Jim Livingston at the church. Around 9pm we arrived to Bomarton and the church. We got out and exchanged greetings. This was Mike's first night shoot and first time meeting Jim. Jim has been a good friend of mine for a while now and I always enjoy shooting with him. He has a passion and drive to capture great, meaningful images and helping other's do the same. The sun started to set and we set up for some milky way photos. We spent a few hour showing Mike how to photograph the milky way and how to light paint. We captured some nice images that night including some shots of the interior of the church. After that we continued around to the south side of the church. Jim brought a spotlight to use for light painting and it was suggested that we try to capture a beam of light hitting the cross on the top of the steeple. After a few attempts we finally had the right approach and we were able to capture that image. It looked pretty nice. Jim suggested we change our position. He said " Come over here to the other side and shoot the milky way behind the church. I can still use the spotlight to paint the steeple." We agreed and moved over to the other side. This was absolutely crucial for what happened next. 

We started shooting off some frames and were enjoying the images we captured. And then something incredible happened. I shot off an exposure as did Mike and Jim began to paint the steeple. The stars and milky way in the night sky were shining brightly and the weather was quite tolerable, which is pretty rare in late July. I heard the shutter of my camera release as I stood there watching the night sky. And then out of nowhere, we saw a bright flash and the sky split and a magnificent fireball meteor came through the scene bisecting our night sky. The light from this meteor was so bright and pure you thought it was daytime. The fireball lasted for several seconds and we watched as it broke up into smaller pieces. It was so intense that you could hear the faint booms and hiss as it burned in the atmosphere. It was the most awesome, epic, incredible, and surreal experience of my life.

We were jumping around screaming like a bunch of little kids just amazed at the sight we just witnessed and then I heard the sound of my shutter closing. The click seemed to echo forever and I remember thinking to myself there was no way I captured this unbelievable moment. I thought it was way too bright for my exposure settings. I thought all I was going to get was a giant white blob that would be unrecoverable in post processing. I didn't care, though. I was just excited that we got to witness such a remarkable event. I pressed the playback button on my camera and looked on the LCD screen. I felt my heart sink into my stomach and a chill going up and down my spine when I saw the photo. I was wrong--dead wrong. What I had before me was a near perfect exposure of the event. I stood there for several seconds just trying to understand what had just happened. Then I seemed to be snapped back in reality when I heard Jim's voice shout "Did you get it?".

"I got it!" I shouted back. Mike also shouted "I got it too!". I captured the full path of the meteor almost perfectly aligned with the church. Mike was in a little bit tighter and he captured a nice close up view of teh church tower. We all huddled around each other's cameras marveling at the photographs we just captured. But then there was a sobering moment when Jim remembered where his camera was. He was facing the opposite direction and shooting a tighter shot of the steeple, unfortunately he missed it. But Jim couldn't be happier for us and I know he was excited to help us capture this once in a lifetime image. I had captured a historic church in front of the milky way, with a beam of light touching the steeple, and a fireball meteor shooting across the scene. I will likely never get to capture such a thing again and I am truly fine with that. This will forever be my Once in a Lifetime Capture. 

Once in a Lifetime CaptureOnce in a Lifetime Capture © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/7/pic-of-the-week-7/27/17 Thu, 27 Jul 2017 16:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 7/14/17: Whickham Marsh Sunrise https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/7/pic-of-the-week-7/14/17 Pic of the Week 7/14/17

"Whickham Marsh Sunrise"

Location: Whickham Marsh State Wildlife Management Area near Port Kent, NY

Date taken: 7/14/13

 

We're going back a bit for the week's Pic of the Week. It was three years ago to the day I was in upstate New York visiting for a family reunion. Its always nice to get up there and visit with my other side of the family, and it had been a while since our last reunion in Indiana. July 14 was our last full day before we departed back to Texas and it was also my big photography day. My aunt Becky would once again be leading me through the Adirondacks for nature photography.

After a busy day in Vermont eating at the Old Stowe homestead the guys returned to Aunt Becky's house to play some poker (this is a tradition among me and my cousins). After the card game and the comradery, it was time to send everyone home so I could get some rest for the next day. This was going to be a busy day we had plans to look for bald eagles on Lake Champlain and the Ausable River, then we were driving to Whiteface Mountain where a gondola ride would take us to the top of Little Whiteface afterwards, we would drive to the summit of Whiteface Mountain. So a big day was planned. 

 I woke up a little late that morning because I forgot to set the alarm on my cell phone so my sleep was interrupted by the blaring ring of an old telephone. I immediately woke up and picked up the phone it was aunt Becky and she was checking to make sure I was getting ready--I am very glad she did as I would've likely overslept. I quickly got ready and got my gear together and we got into her car and drove off to our first stop. Our first stop was somewhere along the shore of Lake Champlain watching the sunrise. While it was a very nice sunrise over the lake I couldn't really find a photograph I liked from the bunch and we continued on searching for other shots and wildlife. 

We pulled up at a parking lot in the Whickham Marsh State Wildlife Management Area and started off towards the overlook. The overlook sets you along the edge of the marsh and our idea was to stay there and see what wildlife show up. I gathered my camera bag and started walking on the foot trail. The trail was not long, maybe a quarter of a mile at most, and we were in deep dense forest most of the way. I would come across the occasional break in the treeline and would see the distant landscape lit up by the early morning sun. It was quite peaceful and serene. In a short amount of time I reached the overlook and watched as this beautiful scene unfolded before me.

I was facing almost due west and could see the gibbous moon drifting towards the horizon while early morning light reflected off the clouds giving them a nice pink glow. Looking out over the marsh I could just make out the fog that was hovering above the surface of the water and as the sun got higher and higher in the sky the fog would start to retreat. I found a composition that I really liked showing the moon, clouds, fog, and the marsh in the shot. The close proximity of the surrounding vegetation better immerses you in the landscape almost like your peeking through the dense forest and wetland. I shot off a few exposures and went with the best one to process the final image. I really enjoy the strong triad color combination of the reds, greens, and blues in the photo. It gives the image a very tranquil feeling and I can't help but feel more relaxed looking at it.

This is one of my favorite images I have taken in my visits to New York and one that I hold near my heart. This was my last photography outing with my aunt Becky, shortly after this trip she started getting sick and discovered she had cancer. This was also the last time I saw her in person. I wouldn't return to New York until her funeral. Thank you aunt Becky for waking me up in time to capture such a beautiful image. We love you and miss you very much. 

 

Whickham Marsh: New YorkWhickham Marsh: New York © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/7/pic-of-the-week-7/14/17 Fri, 14 Jul 2017 16:30:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 6/29/17: Mesa Arch Canyonlands https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/6/pic-of-the-week-6/29/17 Pic of the Week 6/29/17

“Mesa Arch Canyonlands”

Location: Canyonlands National Park, UT

Date taken: 6/22/16

 

Utah is a photographer's dream. I have always said I want to stay and live in Texas, but if I would move anywhere else it would be Utah. Around every corner you are either greeted by impressive mountains, intricate canyons, incredible arches, or interesting rock formatoins. Its very easy to find a photogenic or picturesque scene to capture. But naturally, this beauty draws crowds of tourists as well as photographers to these areas. Millions of people visit these attractions and national parks each year. In fact, Canyonlands National Park, saw 776,218 visitors in 2016 and I was one of those visitors.

Canyonlands National Park was my last stop for the day on 6/22/16. This was my second full day of traveling and photography. I had spent the day shooting Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, and Monument Valley. I wanted to arrive at Canyonlands, and more specifically the Buck Canyon overlook, before sunset. But before I made it Buck Canyon I stopped at Candlestick Tower overlook and Mesa Arch. Mesa Arch is a natural sandstone arch that spans 90ft at the edge of a cliff. This location has become very popular for photographers especially during the early morning hours. Dozens of photographers line up around the arch shooting the sunrise glow on the underside of the arch with the dramatic landscape of the Colorado river gorge/canyon down below. I was out there just before sunset and had it almost all to myself. There was a young couple that was out enjoying the view as well. I waited for them to leave before I started shooting my images.

I was scouting some locations I could use for sunrise and trying to familiarize myself with compositions I thought would work for a sunrise shoot. Spoiler alert: I didn't shoot the sunrise the next morning! Instead, I made some images from Mesa Arch at sunset. This was actually a pretty tricky shot to capture. When I arrived at the arch, late afternoon light was shining all over the arch and landscape below it and while it was amazing in reality, the still image lacked the sense of depth I wanted to capture in the photo. So I patiently waited for some of the light to be filtered out in the intermittent cloud cover. So the clouds would block the sun and a much softer light would fall on the scene, but now all the landscape was covered in the shadow of the cloud. So now there not only wasn't that sense of depth, but the colors were flat and so I waited some more.

Finally, I got the perfect combination of light falling on the distant landscape, soft light in the foreground, and some clouds in the sky adding some nice texture. The result is an almost 3D look to the photo. You can see all the layers that make up the amazing scene the arch in the foreground, the cliff edge, the rock spires and Washing Woman Arch, the canyon, and emerging from the haze an almost “ghostly” silhouette of the La Sal mountain range. Not to mention, the excellent clouds in the sky adding just a bit more dimension to the overall scene. Although, those clouds would plague my sunset shoot later in the evening.

This is one of my favorite photos of the entire trip, but its not really one that gets a lot of attention. Of course, my favorite thing was capturing a truly unique photo of Mesa Arch and the only reason I can say that is nobody was around me when I photographed it. I captured something truly special to me and ended up with one of my favorite shots of the entire vacation.

 

Mesa Arch CanyonlandsMesa Arch Canyonlands © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Canyonlands Canyonlands National Park La Sal Mountains Mesa Arch Pic of the Week Utah arch landscape mountain nature rock travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/6/pic-of-the-week-6/29/17 Thu, 29 Jun 2017 16:45:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 6/22/17: Horseshoe Bend https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/6/pic-of-the-week-6/22/17 Pic of the Week: 6/22/17

“Horseshoe Bend”

Date taken: 6/22/16

Location: Horseshoe Bend Page, AZ

 

It was exactly one year ago today I was in Page, AZ staring over the incredible overlook of Horseshoe Bend and Lake Powell. I was just starting day 3 on my vacation to explore and photograph areas of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. The previous two days I traveled from Wichita Falls and stopped my first night in Gallup, NM. The next day I drove to Grand Canyon National Park and shot both the south and north rim of the canyon. I stayed in Page, AZ that night to be ready to photograph Horseshoe Bend at sunrise the following morning.

When my alarm woke me up I sluggishly arose from bed. I had a very busy day yesterday, but this day was going to be the busiest. My plan was to hit Horseshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Monument Valley, and Canyonlands in one day. Like I said, it was going to be busy day. I sat myself upright on the bed and let out a deep sigh and tried to collect my thoughts. I was excited for today’s shoot and all the awesome places and landscapes I was going to visit. So much so that the night before I checked the sunrise time I forgot to switch my time zone and ended up an hour behind! I planned to be on location at Horseshoe Bend finding my perfect composition and staking my claim so no one would interfere with my shot.

Horseshoe Bend has become quite the photographer’s hotspot. With simple access and no entrance fee, it is easy to see why some many photographers visit this iconic landscape. So after realizing my timing error, I quickly ran over to my hotel window and pulled back the drapes. To my surprise there were some patches of clouds and a light blue sky outside. It was already blue hour and I needed to get on location. Had I followed the correct time schedule I would be finalizing my composition and getting everything ready to shoot. But sadly, I overslept and needed to get moving! I frantically gathered my gear and dressed myself, no time to shower or even brush my teeth I could do that once I got back to the hotel. Luckily, my hotel was on 2 miles away from Horseshoe Bend which made being late a little easier. I arrived at the parking lot and parked my car. I grabbed my gear and started hiking to the overlook. At first I was a little worried, all I could see was the rocky sandstone I was walking on. It looked like it stretched out for miles. “Did I miss the entrance or was I supposed to go another way?” I thought to myself. But I pressed on and eventually I could see the gap between the cliffs—I had made it to Horseshoe Bend.

I immediately picked up speed and started towards the cliff edge. Peering over my shoulder I could see the yellow glow of the sun, eager to greet the morning. I was almost at a jogging pace when I finally reached the end of the trail and the full extent of Horseshoe Bend came into view. There was no time to admire and enjoy I needed to set up and get ready fast. When I arrived there were only about a dozen other people around and the one place I wanted to be (which gave me the perfect view and composition) was already taken by another photographer. I considered sliding in next to him, but then I saw his 360 degree camera rig and thought it better etiquette to find another location myself. So I did and I just barely got my camera out in time when the sun broke the horizon and the distant Vermillion cliffs ignited in a bright fiery glow. I started shooting frames every few seconds just waiting for that perfect balance of sunrise light, color on the clouds, and soft shadows in the foreground. Then the sunrise light started to fall on the nearby cliffs surrounding Horseshoe Bend.

This time was just simply magical with such spectacular color variation and light. The red glow of the cliffs help add more depth and drama to the scene and the wonderful curvature and cool colors of Lake Powell complimented nicely to the warm sky. The only thing that could’ve made the photo better was a higher vantage point. If you look in the bottom right corner you can see a brownish rock. This was the rock I ideally wanted to be on and where the other photographer had set up. But I still came back with a winner.

I finished up the shoot and headed back to my car with a big grin on my face! On the way back I ran into another photographer and we got to talking. It turns out, he was at Horseshoe Bend the day before shooting sunset (what most photographers prefer at this location) and he claimed that it photographers were lined up all along the rim of the cliff. He estimated there were 300 photographers, imagine the madhouse that would’ve been! I was very grateful for the images I shot and even more grateful I didn’t have the same shot as 300 other photographers. And although this landscape may be “overhsot” I still believe I came back with something genuine and unique of one of the most dramatic landscapes I have ever captured.

 

Horseshoe Bend SunriseHorseshoe Bend SunriseEarly morning light hits the canyon walls and distant cliffs at Horseshoe Bend. © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Arizona Horseshoe Bend Pic of the Week Vermillion Cliffs cliffs lake landscape nature rock travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/6/pic-of-the-week-6/22/17 Thu, 22 Jun 2017 16:15:00 GMT
Pic of the Week 6/15/17: The Stars at Night... https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/6/pic-of-the-week-6/15/17 Pic of the Week 6/1/17

“The Stars at Night...”

Location: Highway 256 north of Quitaquae, TX 

Date taken: 5/27/17

 

The stars at night are big and bright (repeatedly claps hands)... deep in the heart of Texas!!!

 

No truer statement has ever been sung in that cheery folk tune. The stars under a dark Texas sky are big and bright like the stars we saw a few weeks back in one of my favorite locations for milky way photography. I am, of course, referring to Caprock Canyon State Park. This has been one of my favorite locations for a while now and I always look forward to visiting. We were there a few weeks back shooting the milky way over Holmes Creek canyon. After that successful shoot my friend Kyle and I drove on 256 to look for even darker night skies. This road takes you through the north prong of the canyon and with so many mesas and buttes to incorporate in the composition it is easily one of my favorite locations to photograph. Just before the rest area there is an old wind mill that looks like it has seen better days. Although the windmill has not been functional in what looks like a long time, it still provided us with an excellent foreground element to include in the scene. Earlier that night a cold front had passed through and the wind was really cranking at this time. The gusts would come screaming over the canyon from the northwest and become funneled in the terrain of the canyon and a strong burst of wind would hit us directly causing the blades of the delicate windmill to spin. The rattling and grinding of the old metal made me think the poor windmill was on it last leg and would topple over with a strong enough gust. But, it stayed up throughout our entire shoot and served its purpose for us. I used an LED flashlight and my cell phone to light paint the foreground and the windmill during the long exposure, this gave the foreground a little more interest and detail than a plain silhouette. And the arch of the milky way framed nicely over the windmill giving the composition a great tranquil feel. This was an absolute joy to shoot because the milky way was so bright in those dark skies that there was very little post processing needed to bring out details of the milky way. It was just an excellent way to end our already successful shoot. I'm looking forward to visiting Caprock Canyon again! 

 

The Stars at Night...The Stars at Night... © Ben Jacobi

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shutterbug2007@hotmail.com (Photography by Ben Jacobi) Caprock Canyon Caprock Canyon State Park Pic of the Week Texas West Texas landscape nature night night scene nightscape sky travel https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/6/pic-of-the-week-6/15/17 Thu, 15 Jun 2017 16:01:54 GMT
Pic of the Week: 6/1/17: Milky Way Above Holmes Creek https://bdjphoto.com/blog/2017/6/pic-of-the-week-6/1/17 Pic of the Week 6/1/17

“Milky Way Above Holmes Creek”

Location: Caprock Canyon State Park, TX

Date taken: 5/27/17

 

This Memorial Day weekend I didn’t really have any plans to do any photography. I knew there would possibly be storm chase, but I was concerned it would be in the “jungles” of southeastern Oklahoma and Arkansas. So, I was just hoping to catch up on my backlog of edits. But when my friend Kyle Gese (http://www.mykgphotography.com) wanted to go hiking and do some photography I started to think about possible shoots. As the weekend approached we changed from hiking and photography to a road trip and milky way photography. I chose this for a few reasons, but the biggest one’s were the probability of cloud cover over area, and the fact that if I’m going to hike in 90+ temperatures than I want it to be worth it. Quite frankly, I can visit the Wichita Mountains almost any weekend. So we instead started searching for a location for milky way photography. A shot that I have been planning for a while came to mind, and if I was going to teach him milky way photography then we would need to find the darkest sky in our area. And that led me to Caprock Canyon State Park.

Caprock Canyon Stat