Friday, April 23, 2010

Texas Wildflowers 2010, Part 4

Continuing with the wildflower theme...

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All of these were taken on the equestrian trail in Bear Creek Pioneers Park. The creek pictured in the photos is Bear Creek.

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I think I've identified the flowers now. The smaller, lower yellow flowers found along the trail and in the woods are prairie buttercups. The taller flowers that line the creek banks are golden ragwort (also called golden groundsel or butterweed).

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I visited the this area 5 times to shoot the flowers. When I started, the flowers were peaking and I noticed slight deterioration in my subsequent outings. The area flooded last weekend and now the flowers are in poor shape (the ones that are still left).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

AR 2 - Ferns, Trees, and Snakes

It has been almost three weeks since my last photo-walk. I didn't intend to take such a long break :-) I did a lot of shooting elsewhere in the reservoir during the "break", and I'll post about that later.

There is a fallen tree alongside the trail that has ferns growing out of the trunk. It is incredibly beautiful, and I had intended to photograph it when I started this project last month. But on my first outing, I found all the ferns brown and dried up.

Yesterday, I discovered that the fern has come back. It's not returned to the full, bright green that it was before, but it's definitely alive.

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The trail comes to several large, open fields along the section that I walk, and there is a lone tree out there next to the trail. I was quite surprised to find a cloud that was the same shape as the tree.

I'd like to keep these posts to just one photo, but this was too good to pass up. Plus I was too excited to see the fern come back.

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As it gets warmer, the snakes appear more often along the trail. They like to sit on the asphalt and warm up. This water moccasin (cottonmouth) stayed very still as I passed by. I couldn't resist posting this either.

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On the photo/creative side of things, I thought about opportunities. How often have we passed up something and not had the chance to come back later? And if we did come back, the conditions were not the same? And we smack our heads because we missed the great scene and knew that we should have stopped for that photo the first time.

The ferns are a good example. I should have photographed them more than a month ago when they were tall and vibrant. When I finally got around to hauling a camera out there, the ferns were dead (or dormant, rather - I just didn't know at the time).

I almost stopped to photograph that tree (the one above with the clouds) as I walked the first two miles (recall that my walking route is 2 miles out and two miles back on the same trail). The clouds were multiple, small puff-balls that made an excellent background to the tree. I passed it up and decided to stop on my way back if the clouds were still good.

In hindsight, I shouldn't have. But when I did stop on my way back, I found something extraordinary - a big cloud that was identical in shape to the tree! And I only discovered this cloud because I actually stopped and looked back towards the tree (the scene that I shot was behind me on my walk back). If I had stopped earlier on my first encounter with the tree, then I would have ignored the tree on my return walk and probably not have noticed that great cloud.

It's funny how things work out sometimes. Regardless, the thing to remember, I think, is to photograph those opportunities when you can. When you come along something interesting but have a notion to pass it up, listen to that little voice that's telling you to stop. And when you have multiple opportunities, take them all!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Texas Wildflowers 2010, Part 3

For several weeks now, I've been noticing a huge crop of yellow wildflowers growing in the woods in Bear Creek Pioneers Park (in the Addicks Reservoir). I see this area on my commute to work. Last week, I stopped after work and spent some time there with my camera.

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The flowers are thick. A beautiful yellow blanket covers most of the equestrian trail in the park and the surrounding woods. They are particularly thick along Bear Creek (the photo above).

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I stalked around in the woods, wading in knee-high flowers, to explore along the creek. Then I hit the muddy trail and found a near-continuous road of yellow.

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I'm not sure when these peak, but I think it's about now. I'm planning on going back this week.

BTW, I've also attempted to identify these flowers and I believe they are golden groundsel.

Union Pacific 844 Steam Locomotive

The Union Pacific Railroad frequently runs steam engines on special excursions (see their steam website). This past weekend, the 844 engine came through town.

The 844 in Magnolia, Texas
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My family and I drove out to Magnolia, about an hour north of Houston, to see the train. It stopped for just a bit and allowed us enough time to walk the kids up to it and check things out.

Last night, I printed this photo 18x12" and put it up on the wall of my older son's bedroom. He was thrilled. He's only 5, but I hope he remembers his first look at a real, working steam locomotive :-)

Texas Wildflowers 2010, Part 2

My family and I spent three nights camping in Pedernales Falls State Park in the Texas Hill Country just after Easter weekend.

Along Hwy. 3232
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The wildflowers were great all the way from Houston to the park. Inside the park, however, there weren't too many. But I did find a nice patch of yellow near the banks of the Pedernales River.

Near Pedernales River
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I have other photos of the Pedernales River and also Bee Creek (a tributary) sans wildflowers. I'll get these up in a few days.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Texas Wildflowers 2010, Part 1

The spring wildflowers are peaking here in the coastal plains of Texas. This is the first post of several (hopefully) covering my outings to shoot the flowers.

Last week Jeff and I spent a late afternoon and evening messing around the Brenham area.

Along New Wehdem Rd., Austin County
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The skies were excellent for a while, but it was quite windy. It clouded-up just before sunset.

Old Baylor Park, Independence
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The flowers are great this year in some spots. You just have to get out and explore the backroads :-)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

AR 1 - Water, Trees, and New Growth

On the east end of the trail, right at mile marker 3.25, there is a swampy, wooded area that usually stays wet during the winter and spring months. The small, slender trees sit in calm water, and the near-perfect reflections are almost disorienting for a moment as your mind tries to interpret where the break between reflected tree and real tree exists.

Things are greening-up as new growth is finally emerging this spring. This includes these lush lily-like plants that have sprouted out of the water.

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On the photo-side of things, I discovered something interesting. Yesterday was my first official photo-walk and the start of this project. But I've walked twice before this week.

On the previous two walks, I thought out and planned this project as I exercised. I also practiced a seeing-exercise: basically looking for interesting subjects, as I walked along, and then pre-visualizing a photo.

On these previous walks, it seemed so easy to identify things that I wanted to shoot. I was able to spot all sorts of interesting plants, trees, bugs, etc.

But on the walk yesterday, my first walk with a camera, a bit of anxiety hit me. Suddenly I felt a rush to start shooting... something, anything. And I realized something.

That anxiety is exactly what I feel when I first get out into the field for some serious photography (in Big Bend, for example). Usually, those "serious sessions" start after not having photographed for some time. It then takes me a day or so to get back into the photographic swing of things and start feeling creative and productive.

This anxiety bugged me and hampered my creative thoughts for about two miles, but by the end of the first two miles I fixated on it and was able to finally get my creative thoughts flowing again. The simple act of identifying the anxiety and gaining a perspective on it allowed me to quiet my thoughts.

In the last 2 miles, I was able to slip back into the creative thought process that I'd experienced on the previous walks I'd done this week without a camera in hand, and I was again seeing interesting subjects one after the other.

The Addicks Reservoir Photo Project

For about a decade, I have frequently visited a nearby area within the Addicks Reservoir to exercise. There is a 3.25 mile long paved trail in the reservoir (which is mostly dry except after very heavy rains), and it's a nice area of wilderness in this mega-metro area where I live.

I have walked this trail countless times. In the past year and a half, because I now work fairly close by, I stop on my way home in the afternoon and walk part of this trail.

Overall map of the reservoir.
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The section of trail I frequently walk is between mile markers 3.25 and 1.25 (2 miles one-way, 4 miles round trip). It usually takes me just under an hour to walk the 4 miles.

Close up map of the trail.
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Along this trail is mostly undeveloped land consisting of wooded areas, grassy fields, swamps, and bayous. The photos that follow were taken yesterday along my normal 2-mile stretch.

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I wanted to document the typical views that people see while they exercise there and to also set the setting for what comes next.

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The Photo Project

The Addicks Reservoir Photo Project is basically an exercise for me to practice photography. The idea is that while I'm out for my normal 4-mile walk, I will carry a camera with me and look for things to photograph.

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As I walk, I will look for interesting subjects. If I see one, I will stop and spend a bit of time photographing it. However, I will limit my number of stops to just one or two during any given walk.

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The outlet of this project will be one photo, per walk, posted here with a bit of a description.

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The purpose of this project, as stated before, is for me to practice photography. It's a way for me to spend time looking for things that interest me and to work on photographing them. Since I don't practice photography full time, i.e. it's not my day job, my skills need to be maintained. And I'm hoping that this project will also help me better my skills as a photographer.

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One thing I'm very sure of, it will be an excellent tool for helping me see things and then to quickly work with them to create photographs that represent the visualizations in my mind. This is the process that quickly gets rusty when not used, and I hope to keep it running smoothly as this project progresses.

It will also, hopefully, motivate me to exercise more :-)