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?
© 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.