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
Pic of the Week 4/8/22
“Hollister High School Star Trails”
Location: Hollister, OK
Date taken: 3/26/22
A sharp glint of light reflected on the inside of my glasses’ lens. I turned my head to see what the source of the illumination was. A car was stopped at the intersection a few streets down from us. “Don’t turn left!” I pleaded to the driver in my mind. It was odd that there even was a stop sign at the intersection. I can’t imagine this area gets too much traffic. It was hard to believe that this community once held a population of 200 compared to its modern population of less than 50 (2010 census). The car made the unfortunate left turn and sent high beams of headlights across our scene and subject. The Parthenon like structure glowed with an eerie yellow hue as the card headed towards us. It made another left turn and the light dissipated on the structure. My camera’s shutter clicked, and I said out loud “Well, there’s a photo I’m going to have to blend out.” I turned my attention back to the scene in front of me keeping watch of more vehicles that could ruin my shot.
When Ashlee told me she was interested in trying star trail photography, I started thinking about potential subjects. Nothing in particular stood out (at least within an hour’s drive) and I started perusing satellite imagery from Google Earth. My search took me along the railroad and soon I discovered an unusual shadow near the northeastern corner of Hollister, OK. “That can’t be right.” I mumbled to myself. I used the Google Earth street view for a closer look and was astonished at what I saw. The remains of a large brick building with two columns and three openings stared right back at me on the computer screen. I had found our subject for the star trails shoot.
In the early 1900’s the Wichita Falls and Northwestern Railway (would eventually become the Missouri Kansas Texas Railway) were searching for an area to put a switching station between Frederick and Wichita Falls. Land was donated and the switching station established and in 1909 the town got a post office. In 1922 the local schools consolidated, and a new brick building was constructed. The Hollister school served the area until 1963. Now, all that remains of this school is the front face and foundation. This would serve as an excellent subject for our star trail image.
We drove out there and arrived just before sunset carefully scouting and searching out our compositions. Once we found it, we could not move the camera, so we had to be certain this was going to be our shot. That night, we stood by the old remnants of school and pondered what it would have been like to attend. The night was quiet and peaceful except for some longhorn grumbling in the yard next to us and a dog alerting its owner of our presence. For a couple of hours we captured images of the stars rotating around the ruins. It took 280 images to create this final time-stack composite, but all the extra time and effort is worth it! I love the stars streaming behind the ruins and peeking through the openings. It really adds a lot of depth to the scene. The twisting motion of the stars remind me of a portal. Like a time warp transporting us back to the past when Hollister was a bustling city. What a great night out under the stars and an excellent, historical, and interesting subject! And if you want to see Ashlee's shot, check it out on her website here.
© Ben Jacobi
Pic of the Week 4/1/22
“Sunset Tree Panorama”
Location: Burkburnett, TX
Date taken: 3/14/22
© Ben Jacobi
I love traveling to new photo locations. I love the opportunity to explore and photograph different areas. Sometimes, I’ll drive 5+ hours just to capture one image. After all, the adventure is the journey not the destination. But then there are times when I can’t get too far way from home. What do I do then? Well thankfully, I have a cache of extra photo locations in my Google Earth software for just such an occasion. These are subjects/locations I come across while out driving or just by browsing Google Earth. I have them for all kinds of distances, <30mi, <60mi, <90mi, <120mi, <150mi, etc. This really comes in handy on spur-of-the-moment-type photo shoots.
For example, while driving back from my in-law’s home I noticed this peculiar mesquite tree off the access road. The tree had an interesting shape could make for a good subject. When I got closer to examine the tree, I saw there was a stock tank directly behind it. The nearby ground had been dug out and pack to form an encompassing berm around the stock tank. This formed a little hill in which the tree planted itself. The gentle rolling of the berm made a much more interesting horizon line that could benefit the foreground. The background looked to be clear of any powerlines and other distractions, which meant I would have a clear view of the eastern horizon. Lastly, the tree was facing west and towards the interstate—this would make it the ideal location for sunset photography. It also didn’t hurt that is just three miles down the road from my apartment!
Ashlee and I have utilized this tree on several occasions, but this was the first time I found an interesting enough sky to compliment the silhouette of the tree. High clouds had rolled in the area earlier that evening, and since we didn’t have to drive very far, we gambled on the sunset and won! A spread of beautiful pastel colors painted the sky above the Sunset Tree. Oranges, pinks, reds, golds, cyans, and blues all mixed to create a striking color palette on the scene. It was simple as show up and wait for the color. Like I said, I do enjoy experiencing new photography locations, but watching and shooting a stunning sunset practically in my backyard is just pure bliss. The best part was I didn’t have a long drive to get back home. Five minutes later, we were back at the apartment and heating up some dinner.
Pic of the Week 3/25/22
Location: Bonham State Park, Bonham, TX
Date taken: 2/20/22
I love lines. I love straight lines, curvy lines, diagonals, converging lines, diverging lines, whatever lines I can find. Often times, this is one of the first things I look for when scoping out a composition. There’s just something about using a leading line to draw the viewer’s eye right to your subject that I find fascinating in photography. These lines can be used more than just drawing the eye to the subject. Lines can create barriers and even frames that keep the viewer’s attention on the main subject.
While we were out exploring Bonham State Park, I noticed this grouping of stacked logs on the forest floor. The rising sun was peering through the forest illuminating just short pockets of the scene. The most interesting portions of the photo were lit with a soft early morning luminescence. The green moss glowed in the warmth and added extra depth to the scene.
In addition to lines, you can also use transitions of light or color to help draw the viewers attention. Depending on where the light is in relation to the subject, this technique can really help focus the eye to the main subject. Looking at this image you’ll notice the main subject(s) are illuminated by the sunlight. All the other parts of this photo are primarily in shadows. This creates areas for your eyes to move and rest throughout the photo.
Looking from the bottom right, my eye wants to follow the line of the log out to the next log, then stops once where the moss ends and turns to the log lit in full sunlight. It then flows to the next log (which is darker than the previous area, but lighter than the background) and then it follows that branch to the left to the next grouping of branches. It then turns back to the center and repeats the whole process. This transition from light to dark to light to dark to light to dark keeps the eye continuously moving throughout the scene. It’s a photo that your eyes just want to study.
Not only can you use physical lines and light to direct the eye. The same techniques can be implemented with color. If you look at this image you may notice the key (main) color in this is yellow-green. But what you might not see at first is there are subtle hues of red and blue in this image. This creates a triadic color harmony that groups pleasing colors next to each other. With varying levels of saturation, you eye automatically knows where to pay attention in the photograph. This color separation really makes the photo “pop” off the screen and adds great depth to the scene. Who ever knew a bundle of sticks could be so photogenic…Just for fun here's a black and white version of the photo. Enjoy!
Pic of the Week 3/18/22
Date taken: 5/7/14
Location: Henrietta, TX
Were just a few days away from the vernal equinox and the generally agreed upon first day of spring. Although, as of lately the cold temperatures and days of winter precipitation would disagree. But for the most part we are heading towards springtime and that means one thing—thunderstorms! Yes, its that time of year again where we gather our friends and head out on the open road in search of that “Majestic Noise”. Last year, I only saw a handful of storms and barely even photographed any of them. That was mostly due to the wedding. In fact, there was the most spectacular storm on the day of our wedding. When Ashlee and I stepped outside we were chomping at the bit wanting to go storm chasing, but we knew we had more important things to do, like the cut the wedding cake. I am very much looking forward to this year’s storm season, but I am remaining cautiously optimistic for the opportunities that may come our way.
With gas prices going the way they are, I think we will be chasing even less than in previous years. At the very least, we will be much more selective about our targets. The NOAA Climate Prediction Center is predicting a La Nina pattern that will transition to an enso neutral by the end of summer. As far as storms go that usually means we will see drier and warmer conditions (think drought) throughout much of the spring/summer. To that end, I have decided to reminisce on one of past storm chases to help inspire me for the upcoming season. Here’s hoping there’s a little bit of luck this year.
For this image, we will need to return to a muggy May afternoon in 2014. I was standing at the glass door at my place of work watching distant towers billow in the late afternoon sun. Severe weather was expected and all modes of sever weather would be possible including wind, rain, hail, and tornadoes. I watched the towers build and form into cumulonimbus clouds bringing down hazy veils of rain through the updraft bases. Lightning would burst from the upper levels and strike the ground far away from its origin. It wasn’t too long before I heard those words every storm chaser wants to hear, “You can go ahead and leave early.”
I didn’t take much for me to get my gear packed up and meet up with my friends Billy and Tyler. After they arrived, we headed off towards our target, which thankfully was close by over Lake Arrowhead. Storms had breached the cap and were erupting along the dryline, as they propagated northeast, they would move into a more unstable environment with wind fields conducive to tornado development. We intercepted the storm just east of Scotland, TX. Low hanging tendrils began to dance around the base of a bowl-shaped wall cloud. This storm looked like it was about to go tornadic.
The blaring alarm from the National Weather Service weather radio went off just above Tyler’s head giving both of a jump scare. The NWS had issued a tornado warning with radar indicated rotation being the main reason. We tried to parallel the storm as it moved through Henrietta. It was at this time we saw the infamous “red shoe” Dominator of Reed Timmer and his team parked along the side of the highway access road. Shortly, the core of the storm engulfed them and 3” hail stones fell all around them. We just barely escaped the core. We continued driving north to get in better position. Now, the sun was getting lower and we lost contrast on the storm. The only way to remedy this is to get in the shadow of the supercell. As we approached the storm, we could start to make out the telltale signs of a healthy supercell. A large inflow band wrapped around the barrel shaped mesocyclone. Dry air was cutting into the backside of the updraft base forming a clear slot. This would be the best position to watch the storm.
We pulled over off some county road near Hwy 79 and watched as the updraft churned over the pastureland. A gusty wind blew in from the southeast feeding warm unstable air into the supercell. The grasses swayed in the wind and the low booming of thunder rumbled through the ground. We stood in awe watching the stunning structure and admiring the patterns and colors of the storm. Bolts of white-hot lightning crashed down around us in a dizzying, strobe-like sequence. We didn’t have much time as the lighting was getting to close, but I did manage to stay long enough to capture this handheld image of the cycling storm. Our chase didn’t stop here, we would continue to follow the storm as it crossed the Red River into Oklahoma. We chased along side it until the last light of day not seeing any tornadoes, but still plenty happy with our successful chase day.
© Ben Jacobi
Recent PostsPic of the Week 7/1/22 "Broken Earth" Pic of the Week 6/10/22 "Cumulonimbus Theater" Pic of the Week 6/3/22 "Long Mountain Sunset" Pic of the Week 5/27/22 "Imminent Storm #2" Pic of the Week 5/20/22 "Baker Peak Wichita Mountains" Pic of the Week 5/13/22 "The Scotland Mesas" Pic of the Week 5/6/22 "On the Red River" Pic of the Week 4/8/22 "Hollister High School Star Trails" Pic of the Week 4/1/22 "Sunset Tree Panorama" Pic of the Week 3/25/22 "Mossy Morning"