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.
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.