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 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...