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.
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.
© 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!
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!
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.
Pic of the Week 5/13/22
“The Scotland Mesas”
Location: Scotland, TX
Date taken: 4/22/22
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”.
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.
© 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
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