Pic of the Week 2/5/21: Windy Morning on Lake Texoma

February 05, 2021  •  1 Comment

Pic of the Week 2/5/21

“Windy Morning on Lake Texoma”

Date taken: 1/31/21

Location: Eisenhower State Park, TX

 

Windy Morning on Lake Texoma

© Ben Jacobi

 

My eyes opened. It was now the morning. We had made it through the night—that windy, windy night. All night the wind was howling outside; screaming is more accurate. Sustained winds around 32mph and gusts as high as 45mph slammed against our campsite all night long jolting us awake in our screened shelter. I was grateful to have reserved this shelter. Tent camping in this wind would have been a nightmare! I rolled over on my side and took a quick look at my watch. The big hand was on the three and the little hand was on the seven. Looks like we overslept. Though it wasn’t all bad, the sunrise looked to be blotted out by some low clouds on the eastern horizon. The gray skies didn't do much to motivate me to get out of camp.

I had been awake for a little while now but hadn’t come out of my sleeping bag. After all, I was quite comfortable. Inside the sleeping bag it was warm. Outside it was cold and breezy. I mentally debated with myself, but the “call of nature” took precedence and I wormed my way out of my warm cocoon. Instantly the wind hit. I felt its cold sting on my cheek as I scrambled to find my boots. Now I would have to brave this wind as I walked to the restroom that was a quarter of a mile away. No campsite is ever completely perfect. When I reached the restroom I saw a yellowish glow to the east. Was the sun going to break through the clouds?

When I returned from the bathroom, I found Ashlee was no longer in the shelter and had instead decided to try and make use of this blustery weather. She had walked on a short trail to the nearby cliff face overlooking Lake Texoma. I could see some splotches of color appearing in the sky so I grabbed my camera and met up with her. Below us a strong northerly gale was whipping up waves on Lake Texoma and sending them slamming into the boulders down below. These massive conglomerate stones are the result of erosion breaking down the softer layer the denser caps rest on. Once the lower layer is weakened or removed the caps come crashing down on the lake shore. It kinda makes you nervous standing on the same material that has fallen some thirty feet below you into the lake.

Wave after wave came crashing into the boulders down below us. When the waves collided with the rock the water split into a “V” shape sending thousands of droplets into the air. The spray and intensity of the water made me think of scenes along the coasts. Sure it was no Big Sur, but nonetheless beautiful. I knew I wanted to record this rare occasion, but to get the full (as my fiancé said it) “ferocity of the waves” I would have to create a composite. There were some technical challenges with that. First, I needed a clean base image to use for a starting point. Preferably an image captured at my lens' sharpest aperture with some good light. Then, I needed a shutter speed fast enough to stop the waves midair. Which meant increasing my ISO and or opening up my aperture to allow more light in. Basically, it meant I would degrade the quality of the image in favor of capturing the splashes.  Next, timing and patience was going to be key in capturing a wide variety of waves. Though the wind was coming from the north, it didn't always send big waves on the rocks so I was going to have to wait for the best moments. 

The light did appear for just a few minutes and I was able to get my main shot. The sun had just peeked between the clouds and bathed my subject in a fantastic early morning glow. The white rocks do a great job reflecting that sunlight. This narrow strip of light created an excellent contrast to the darker water making an even more striking image. Now that I had captured my base image I could concentrate on photographing the waves. I spent the next half hour tracking and watching waves as they crashed against the rocks. I took the best 14 images to make this final composite and it really helps tell the story of that windy morning on Lake Texoma.

 


Pic of the Week 1/29/21: Travertine Creek Waterfalls

January 29, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Pic of the Week 1/29/21

“Travertine Creek Waterfalls”

Location: Chickasaw National Recreation Area, OK

Date taken: 1/10/21

 

Are you getting tired of waterfall photos, yet? Well, if you are it might be best to disregard this post. On the one hand, I don’t like sharing similar subjects back-to-back, but on the other hand, its not often I return from a shoot with multiple images. Most of the time I only can squeeze out one good shot depending on what the light is doing. But for this shoot we had overcast skies which meant the light was more consistent. This let me capture a lot more “shareable” photographs during this trip.

The final image I am sharing with you from this trip was captured on our way out of the park. Once you pass Little Niagara and the visitor center you must loop around on a one-road. Along this road there are several pull offs that feature more smaller waterfalls along Travertine Creek. Some of these water features have official names and park signs. Others, however, are left untitled and a little harder to access. Sometimes, these extra unnamed waterfalls can be more inspiring than the marked ones. As is the case with this fall.

 

Travertine Creek WaterfallsTravertine Creek WaterfallsTranquil scene on Travertine Creek. © Ben Jacobi

Just a short walk down from the “Bear Falls” parking area another waterfall resides along the creek. This waterfall is more impressive and it caught my eye as we drove past Bear Falls. This two-tiered water feature is far more photogenic. Here's a video I shot of this photogenic little waterfall. It has much more interesting rocks, multiple cascades, and a beautiful secondary cascade. So why does Bear Falls get all the attention? Because Bear Falls features a natural pool that parkgoers use to swim in. Not something we would be doing today.

 

 

I pushed my way through the bramble and briar to reach a good vantage point of the waterfall. I noticed little eddy currents forming off the secondary cascade and watched the frothy foam swirl around the rocks creating a miniature whirlpool in the scene. I was convinced I had found my composition. As I set my camera and lined up the shot the clouds to our west began clearing. Patches of blue peered through the gray clouds sending splashes of color and light onto the water’s reflection.  Sadly, the light and color didn’t last very long and I was only able to capture just this one image. You can see the bluer tones in the lower half of the photo and if you look closely you can just make out the edge of the blue sky in the creek.

I love the natural “Z” shaped leading line in this composition. The little eddy on the bottom right adds just the right amount of opposing motion to create tension and anchor your eye to that area. Then my eye follows the creek upstream to those darker rocks in the lighter reflection as it takes my eye to the right of the image. My eye follows along the shore to the rocks in the background and across the waterfall to the upper left side. This completes the Z shape. From here I move down the shoreline and to the brighter rocks in the darker reflection, which ultimately leads me back to the starting point. This creates a loop that holds the viewers attention. Its hard to believe that something this aesthetic would be unlabeled. This concludes my images from the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and again, if you have never been I highly recommend you check it out!

 

My eye path through this photo.

 

 


Pic of the Week 1/22/21: The Secret Window

January 22, 2021  •  1 Comment

Pic of the Week 1/22/21

“The Secret Window”

Location: Chickasaw National Recreation Area, OK

Date taken: 1/10/21

 

We continue with our adventure in Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Since last week, we explored and photographed Little Niagara Falls and I captured an image with bother upper and lower falls visible in the frame. At this point on the trail the more “show-stopping” waterfalls are over, but there are still interesting cascades and streams that run through the trail system. Old wooden bridges provide excellent vantage points on some of these water features, but I prefer a more intimate view of the landscape.

I followed the trail westbound echoing the shoreline of travertine creek keeping my eyes open for anything interesting. Occasional offs chutes of the trail would lead to an overlook or an embankment for me to explore. Between these side trails, there are treasures hidden behind the thick brush, vines, and thorns. Not literal treasures, but visual treasures in the form of interesting shapes and subjects to photograph. As I walked past a side trail, I noticed a peculiar tree along the shore. This tree’s exposed roots formed an unusual shape. It almost resembled an elephant’s trunk. Sadly, it was back in the thicket and the only way to get there (or so I thought at the time) was to traverse the muddy shoreline.

I’m used to hiking off trail. Pressing forward, blazing my own path through bushwhacking and sheer willpower. After all, the obstacles can be challenge. Normally, its something like a canyon wall or massive boulders I must get through. But in this case, I had to carefully plan each footstep so I wouldn’t end up snared in the volatile cornucopia of Virginia Creeper and thorny vines guarding the area. I must admit, I felt a little overconfident and didn’t pay attention to my footing, when I lifted my leg up to take the next step a vine caught it and I stumbled forward landing my knee directly on a thorn on the vine. Ouch! The thorn had gone through my hiking pants into the fleshy part of my knee forcing obscenities and expletives to be released in the air. Its not a hike unless you bleed.

 

The Secret WindowThe Secret WindowLooking through a uniquely shaped tree along the banks of Travertine Creek.

© Ben Jacobi

I made my way through the tangled maze and arrived at the old tree. As I got closer, the elephant-like shape of the root system began to disappear. I did discover however, that I could position myself in such a way to use the tree roots as a natural arch or window to frame the creek. After some finagling and making small adjustments to my position I had my shot lined up. Some “white water” fit perfectly into the arch of the tree roots and I thought this could add some more interest into the scene. Now you get the impression the creek is flowing and not stagnant.

The last thing I did before taking this shot was attach my circular polarizer. This eliminated most of the reflections off the rocks and water surface adding even more contrast to the creek. It also helps to bring to out those lovely emerald colors just below the water. Satisfied with everything, I shot off several frames to capture the best design of the water flow. I did enjoy fighting against the land to find this “Secret Window” but was a bit discouraged to learn there was a much easier and safer path to the tree. I showed Ashlee the images I captured and lead her down to the tree through the much safer and less thorny passage.

 


Pic of the Week 1/15/21: "Little Niagara"

January 14, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Pic of the Week 1/15/21

“Little Niagara”

Location: Chickasaw National Recreation Area, OK

Date taken: 1/10/21

 

When it comes to good landscape photography, persistence is key. Repeatedly coming back to the same subject under different conditions will give you a greater chance of capturing that subject at its absolute best. There’s also something comforting about having a familiar location or subject to photograph. All your expectations and preconceived notions have already been tested. So, you kind of know what’s coming. Once you’re more comfortable with your subject it becomes easier to seek out more creative compositions or explore other areas your subject is in. Take for example, this shot of Little Niagara falls in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area. I have photographed this waterfall several times before and each time I try to capture a different angle or perspective. Now, I have been here many times in the past, but this was Ashlee’s first time visiting and she told me she wanted to capture “moving water”. I couldn’t imagine a better candidate than Little Niagara Falls.

Little NiagaraLittle NiagaraNatural spring water cascades down the upper and lower section of Little Niagara in the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

© Ben Jacobi

Early Sunday morning we were once again, loading up the SUV with our gear getting ready for another photo adventure. Though there was a chance for icy and wintry precipitation in our area, we opted to make a drive further away from the snow in the Arbuckle Mountains of southern Oklahoma. This was Ashlee’s last free day before her final semester of school started and I didn’t want to waste it on a slight chance of snow. As we left Burkburnett and crossed the Red River it became apparent that we were not going to see any sunlight today. That was ok though, overcast skies can work much better when photographing waterfalls. We arrived at Chickasaw National Recreation Area around 11am and we pulled into the Little Niagara parking area. During the spring/summer time this parking lot of full of swimmers looking to enjoy the cool water. This was not the case today, however. Only one vehicle was in the parking lot when we arrived. These are the kind of conditions I hope for.

Ashlee and I gathered our gear and I explained to her the trail system. She went downstream and I went upstream. I was going to photograph the upper falls and work my way down towards the lower section. I spent a short while exploring the upper falls and snapping multiple images. Some wide, some tight, some even more abstract. Eventually, I moseyed my way down to the lower section of the falls. As you descend the lower section, the upper falls becomes covered up. The higher up you go, the more separation between the two waterfalls. Even standing with my tripod fully extended, its hard to capture a clean view of both waterfalls. I need to be higher. Maybe just two feet higher would work. I noticed a small travertine boulder and thought that could work. I hopped up on the boulder and watched as the upper falls emerged from behind the rocks. I had found my composition.

Surprisingly, the boulder was stable enough for me to place myself and my tripod on it and capture a series of different exposures of the falls. This boulder was not there the previous times I was at Chickasaw and it would be nearly impossible to capture this image without it. It was quite the treat watching the beautiful waterfall cascade down the travertine. Nothing could be heard but the rushing waters and the cheep of nearby Yellow-Rump Warblers darting between the trees. I have more photos from this trip that I am preparing so be on the lookout for those in the coming weeks.

 


Pic of the Week 1/8/21: Medicine Circle

January 08, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Pic of the Week 1/8/21

“Medicine Circle”

Location: Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge

Date taken: 1/3/21

 

Well, here we are. We have arrived to 2021 and despite all the ups and downs of 2020 it was still a pretty good year for me overall. I’m not really sure what to expect this year if I’m being honest, but I do hope to be able to continue to share my photographic adventures with all of you. I wanted to start 2021 out right and to do that I made a trip to one of my favorite places: the Wichita Mountains. Nothing quite like beginning the year off surrounded by nature and history.

 

Medicine CircleMedicine CircleA rock circle sits below the summit of Little Baldy in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. © Ben Jacobi

 

Do you see these stones in the foreground of the image? How do you suspect they got there? Are they relics left over from the native American tribes that followed the bison that once roamed the prairie? Afterall, there were established camps in the area the circle was found. Perhaps this was an impromptu conference room constructed for Jesse James and outlaws alike. There are rumors of buried treasure out in the Wichitas. Maybe, this is from the WPA days and some young men would sit here on their lunch breaks. Or maybe this was part of boy scout troop setting up a circle around the campfire. Who is to say? One thing is for sure, those stones are as old as the hills that surround them. To our local hiking group this is known as the Medicine/Indian circle and that is how I will refer to it.

Ashlee and I left early that cold crisp morning with hopes of having enough time to arrive before sunrise. After a quick stop at Braums to get some breakfast-on-the-go, we were on our way to the refuge. We arrived at the parking area with about twenty minutes to spare. Luckily, I had already scouted the location a month ago and it was only 150 yards away from the car. I grabbed my camera bag and tripod and hurried to my composition. I was relieved to find the circle undisturbed, except for a few “buffalo chips” nearby there was no evidence anyone had been here. Since its close by to the trail I was worried it might be moved or vandalized. Thankfully, neither of those happened.

What I envisioned for this shot was an ultra-wide angle view of the circle with wonderful morning light falling on the face of Little Baldy. I had been waiting on an opportunity to capture this photo, so I knew exactly where and how to set up my camera. I made sure to lower my tripod almost to ground level to minimize the middle ground and bring those stones in close. What I discovered when I used my wide angle is that I got an excellent foreground. I also really liked the way the lens exaggerated the shape and size of the circle. What I did not like, however, was how small it made Little Baldy in the frame. This is the downside to ultra-wide angle lenses. Objects in the background appear smaller and farther away. To combat this parallax, I did a technique known as “focal length blending”.

Basically, I combined one photo at 15mm with the ultra-wide angle and then zoomed into 30mm on just the mountain and took another photo. I then blended those two together to create the final image. The result is a wide angle foreground with a more normal background. This keeps Little Baldy as an important element to the image. I was quite happy with how this image turned out, although I would have liked to see more clouds in the sky. Maybe, I’ll try again under more favorable conditions. But overall it was not a bad way to start out 2021.

 

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