Pic of the Week 1/6/23: Tumbling Down Cache Creek
Pic of the Week: 1/6/23
"Tumbling Down Cache Creek"
Location: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, OK
Date taken: 12/31/22
On the eve of 2023, Ashlee and I decided to celebrate in grand fashion. While others were gathering with their friends and families, awaiting the big ball to drop and bring in the new year, we were boulder hopping and trying not to get our feet wet in Cache Creek. With the end of the year came a bout of unseasonably pleasant weather. Temperatures were forecast to rise into the upper 60s. I thought this would be fantastic camping weather, but unfortunately, we were not able to go camping this time. Not to be deterred, we decided to spend the day in nature.
This time our route took us along the west side of Fort Sill and the southwestern border of the Wichita Mountains. Along the drive, Ashlee spotted a harrier, a red-tailed hawk, and several other birds. Ashlee and I decided to part ways so she could go photograph the wildlife off the side of the road and I would drive up to the Indiahoma Gate parking lot. This wasn’t too far from her location, and it allowed me to start scouting out some compositions for this evening’s sunset.
I was interested in photographing an area we call "The Badlands." I assume this is a dry creek bed, but I honestly have no idea what formed this location. I do believe water was a major factor since most of the rocks have smooth, striated patterns to them. Regardless, I scoured the desolate landscape and searched out some comps. What fascinates me most about this area is all the different textures and patterns found in the rock. It is almost like a miniature White Pocket, and it is so fun to look for photographs. However, it is incredibly difficult to find a pleasing and interesting composition. After a few hours of scouting, we were ready to move on to see what else we could photograph before sunset.
Clouds started filling the sky, and it looked like our chances of seeing the sunset were slipping away. We took advantage of the overcast skies and drove to another photogenic area of the refuge—the Narrows. The Narrows, located in the refuge's south central region, is a popular hiking and rock climbing destination. Years of flowing water have carved a deep canyon through the mountain in this area. Many people, including us, are attracted to the emerald-green waters and high canyon walls.
We pulled into the parking lot next to the Boulder Picnic Area, quickly gathered our gear, and got on the trail. The official trail of the Narrows stops at an overlook in the middle of Cache Creek, but there are several off-trail chutes that will take you to the banks of the creek. We explored some areas around here, and it wasn’t long before I found a composition that grabbed my attention. Along the creek, there are a number of small cascades and waterfalls, and I found a nice collection of water and rocks. Water was tumbling down the creek and diverging as it crashed into small boulders. This created a natural "S" pattern that I would use to lead the eye throughout the image.
After capturing several shots of varying compositions, I placed my camera closer and lower to the falls to change the perspective. I also rotated my camera in a vertical orientation to include more of the foreground in the frame. Since I was so close to the foreground and my subject, I would need to focus stack the image to ensure sharpness throughout the entire photo. Four images were captured at different points of focus to cover the wide depth of field. Then I would line them up and blend them accordingly in Photoshop. It was a little extra effort, but I think it pays off in the end. We would spend the remainder of the afternoon and evening in the Narrows, and although our sunset didn’t turn out as expected, we still managed to bag a few good shots. I’ll share those stories later next week.
Tumbling Down Cache CreekWater from high in the mountains tumbles into West Cache Creek in a photogenic area known as The Narrows.
© Ben Jacobi
Pic of the Week 12/16/22 "Boggy Spring Branch Panorama"
Pic of the Week 12/16/22
"Boggy Spring Branch Panorama"
Location: McGee Creek Natural Scenic State Recreation Area, OK
Date taken: 11/13/22
Bog Spring Branch PanoramaTranquil pools of water, large boulders, and a full canopy of trees make the McGee Creek State Natural Scenic Area a nature lover's paradise. © Ben Jacobi
This is the final story from our McGree Creek State Park trip we made back in November. Up to this point, all of our activities have taken place in the state park. Now, it was time to go 10 miles up the road to explore the McGee Creek Natural Scenic State Recreation Area. We packed up our gear and had a quick lunch before making our way out of the state park. After leaving the park, we returned to Hwy 3 and looked for S Center Point Rd. The road was tricky to find, but an unassuming brown sign pointed us left and got us on the right path. The road was fairly level and well paved for the first few miles, but as we worked our way deeper into the forest, the pavement turned to gravel and the road began to deteriorate. Deep, wide potholes would jostle our vehicle, causing us to sharply inhale through our teeth. Ashlee’s poor Honda Civic wasn’t designed to handle these rough roads.
Carefully navigating around the potholes, we followed the road for a few more miles. Eventually, we reached the ranger station. This part of the state park is designated as a "Natural Scenic State Recreation Area," and because of that, there is a permit system. The permits don’t cost anything, but they do like to keep track of everybody that comes through the area. Most people use these trails for horseback riding or backpacking, but we would just be day hiking. With over 25 miles of trails, it would be difficult to get a good sense of the place by hiking only a few miles. We got our permit and pulled into the scenic overlook parking lot at the end of the road. From here, visitors can access the remote parts of the scenic recreation area. After gathering our backpacks and camera gear, we set off on our hike. With no specific plan, we decided to play it by ear and stick to a general path. Our hike first took us along the Carnsaw Nature Trail to the "scenic overlook." The scenic overlook sets on top of a rocky outcropping on a ridge, and while there isn’t a vista, it was a nice overlook into the forest and the cliffs of the area.
Next, we traveled northward along the Rocky Point Trail, and we were quickly met with a steep descent down the ridge and to the Bog Spring Branch creek. We dropped 200 feet in elevation before reaching the creek. I had some hopes that there would be flowing water and small waterfalls along the creek, but most of it was just barely trickling. Still, we were in a beautiful scenic area, and there were plenty of compositions to unearth. The terrain narrowed to a shallow canyon with large, spotted boulders lining both sides. It would require us to boulder-hop and scramble to reach places upstream, but we didn’t mind the extra work. While exploring, I found a tranquil pool of emerald-colored water that was littered with fallen oak leaves. The green water and red leaves made for excellent color contrast in the scene. Further back, the late afternoon sun was beaming through the trees, backlighting the gorgeous fall foliage. The leaves almost glowed in the sunlight beneath a stoic blue sky. It looks like I found my color harmony; now I just need an interesting composition
With so much going on in the scene, it can be hard to capture the essence of the area. After all, how would you convey a scene that has so many parts and layers to it? My solution was to create a multi-image panorama. The wider field of view brings all the elements of the image together. The fallen tree limbs, the bulbous boulders, the scattered leaf litter, and the glowing foliage in the background all balance off one another in the composition. The reflection is also a nice addition to the image, adding another layer and dimensionality to the photo. It took nine images to complete this panorama, but the extra work was well worth it. Satisfied with my pano and ready to return, we made the trudge back up the ridge and to our vehicle. Weary from the hike back up, we took a short break before loading the car up and starting off towards home. Our journey to McGee Creek State Park was an exciting and productive one. Not only did we come back with great photos, but we also explored a new part of Oklahoma and had an excellent camping experience. Overall, it was one of the best photo adventures we have been on in a long time.
Pic of the Week 12/9/22 "Misty McGee Morning"
Pic of the Week 12/9/22
"Misty McGee Morning"
Location: McGee Creek State Park, OK
Date taken: 11/13/22
Picking up from last week, I had just finished up shooting my first composition of the morning. As I was reviewing my images, I noticed some fog churning over the waters of McGee Creek Reservoir. The light was catching the fog in such a way it backlit it in a soft golden glow. My attention was immediately drawn to the grove of trees across the peninsula on the other side of the lake. A smattering of fall color was peeking through the evergreen snatching up rays of sunlight and producing a wonderful color contrast to the scene. I changed out my lenses and began fine-tuning a new composition.
Since my subject was on the other side of the lake, I switched out to my 70-200mm f/2.8 telephoto lens. This allowed me to bring the subject closer to the environment and compress the whole scene. As I zoomed closer and closer, the distance between trees shrank, and I was able to compose the rocky shoreline, the swirling fog, the trees in autumn foliage, and the pine forest all in one shot. When focusing in on the little details, its amazing what images can be created. I stood on the rocks, taking photos while watching the fog roll over the lake.
Misty McGee MorningFog rolls over McGee Creek Reservoir on a misty autumn morning. © Ben Jacobi
I really liked this composition and thought it could make for an interesting shot. The strong diagonal of the rocky shore is balanced by another strong opposing diagonal in the illuminated treetops. The rocks trend in an upward fashion, while the trees slope in a downward direction. This creates tension and draws the eye through the photo, although it does seem to keep my attention more focused on the left side than the right. But having a brighter right side draws the eye back, and the cycle repeats itself. The side and backlight also help give the image great depth.
There are several layers in this photo. The lake and fog are one layer and are stopped at the shoreline, which divides the image just under hallway up the vertical. Since the rocks are not being hit with direct light, they create a nice light to dark transition as the eye leaves the bright fog into the shadowy boulders. The next layer is the illuminated trees and grasses. These are filled with areas of micro contrast and detail and color. Behind that layer we have the final layer of dense pine forest not yet in the sun. Again, this makes another light to dark transition and keeps the eye moving through the whole image.
I was only able to capture a handful of exposures before the morning sun began to burn off the fog on the lake. Though I was quite happy with what I had captured so far on this morning, soon the sun would be rising above the forest, and images with good light were going to be scarce. I packed up my camera gear and decided to continue the trail, revisiting some of the locations I scouted the day before. While I did find some interesting shots, nothing really matched up to what I captured early in the morning. For now, I would return to camp and get a hot breakfast after a successful sunrise shoot. We would be breaking camp and heading to our next destination—McGee Creek State Natural Scenic Recreation Area. But that’s a story for another week.
Pic of the Week 12/2/22 "McGee Creek Reservoir"
McGee Creek ReservoirMorning sunlight filters throiugh the forest along the shores of McGee Creek State Park.
© Ben Jacobi
Pic of the Week 12/2/22
"McGee Creek Reservoir"
Location: McGee Creek State Park, OK
Date taken: 11/13/22
I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving and holiday time. I know that there are many things for which I am thankful. I am especially grateful to be able to travel, hike, camp, and of course, shoot photos! Last month, Ashlee and I traveled to McGee Creek State Park in southern Oklahoma in pursuit of autumnal foliage. We had heard this relatively unknown state park had good bursts of color throughout its forest. It had also been quite some time since we’ve been camping. With the more popular state parks expected to gather larger crowds, we decided to seek out a place that was a little more isolated.
We arrived at our campsite just before 3pm. We got our tent set up and prepared for the colder weather we would be facing through the night. At this time, it was forecast to be the coldest night of the year (so far). Temperatures were forecast to drop into the low 30’s overnight, and we wanted to make sure we were gonna stay warm. We brought with us plenty of sleeping layers/blankets/extra clothes to keep us toasty through the night. I also planned for us to have a hot meal over a campfire just before bed. With our shelter in place, we headed off down the Potapo Hill Trail, which was just across the road from our campsite. Our goal was to use this time to scout out locations for sunrise the next day and see if we could find any fall colors.
After starting on the trail, the woods slowly closed in around us. Soon we found ourselves enshrouded in a canopy of loblolly pine, hickory, oak, and elm trees. The hickory leaves had started changing to a nice golden-yellow, and we could find small bursts of color on some of the oaks, but mostly there wasn’t too much fall foliage. That meant we would have to scope our compositions carefully and only seek out the best autumn colors. Our path took us past large rock outcroppings and scattered boulders. I found a few potential photos that piqued my interest, and I made a mental note to come back tomorrow. Walking on the soft fallen pine needles and crunchy leaves, the trail led us to the lakeshore, where we got an up close view of the McGee Creek Reservoir. I decided this was going to be my sunrise location for tomorrow morning. I scoped a few compositions before we decided to head back to camp and have some dinner.
Our dinner was fire-roasted hot dogs, with toasted buns, red onion, spicy brown mustard, and relish. I always enjoy dining by the fireside. Soon the sun set, and the night began to fall. One of the most impressive things about McGee State Park was the night sky. For being relatively close to a nearby town, the light pollution was minimal. We stared up at the shimmering stars, counting meteors and enjoying the peaceful night. Temperatures were starting to drop, and it was time to get into the tent while we were still warm.
We awoke from our tents the next morning with just enough time to eat a quick breakfast before heading back out on the trail.I had a rough idea of where I was going to shoot sunrise, but I remained hopeful that we might get some fog on the water. Once again, we were walking in the woods, passing by multiple locations of interest. Ashlee decided she would head back to the west and look for wildlife, but I continued north towards the lake. My determination paid off as when I arrived, I could see a thin sheet of mist hovering over the water. Knowing the fog would burn off as the sun rose, I immediately got my camera out and started searching for a photo.
I hiked to a small rock outcropping I scouted out the day before to search out an interesting foreground for the composition. I liked the idea of using the boulders as a leading line through the image and catching the silhouette of the trees against a brightly lit background. I arrived just in time to secure this composition. Little beams of light filtered through the trees and splashed against the rocks, adding some light and color to the foreground. This also helped break up and separate the layers in the scene. Some of the light spilled over onto the swirling fog on the water and separated the background even more. I had a nice reflection on the left side, fog and good light on the right, and an interesting foreground to lead the eye through the scene. Overall, I think this image is a great representation of that morning at McGee Creek State Park, and I have several more from this trip that I will share real soon.
Pic of the Week 11/18/22 "Lone Leaf"
Pic of the Week 11/18/22
Location: Turner Falls Park Davis, OK
Date taken: 11/10/13
© 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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© Ben Jacobi
Recent PostsPic of the Week 3/10/23 "The Alignment of the Gods of Love and Sky" Pic of the Week 2/3/23 "Snowfall on the Bluffs" Pic of the Week 1/27/23 "Palo Duro Rim to Rim" Pic of the Week 1/20/23 "Atop the Throne of Erosion" Pic of the Week 1/13/22: Around the Bend Pic of the Week 1/6/23: Tumbling Down Cache Creek Pic of the Week 12/16/22 "Boggy Spring Branch Panorama" Pic of the Week 12/9/22 "Misty McGee Morning" Pic of the Week 12/2/22 "McGee Creek Reservoir" Pic of the Week 11/18/22 "Lone Leaf"
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