Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Divine Light: The Azaleas of Turtle Creek

Shooting during the right light is a matter of timing, there are certain times of the day where the light is so flat you can't help but capture a flat washed out image. There are other times when we just need to work that much harder with diffusing, isolating or seeking the right angle.

Today I drove down to the Turtle Creek area in Dallas. It's a very special place for me because my oldest son and I used to visit and take what he called travels; he was 5 or 6 years old.

It's nice to see some things stay the same as the old dirt roads are being developed and urban sprawl replaces wild prairies, it's nice to see the green places that have lasted and continue. It is something I think we need, nature is an essential element for our soul's wellbeing.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Going Back in Time: The Spectacle of Bluebonnets

When I first came to Texas the landscape was an adventure as everything was new. I remember long roads, barbed wire fences, longhorns and scissortailed flycatchers as I used to drive back and forth from Waco to Dallas for school.

I worked at a lumber yard where I learned about scorpions and the texas heat. I was always trying barbecue places and drinking soda pop, usually with rum in a go cup, they were different times.

Today I went back to Ennis, as I did last year, for the bluebonnet trails. I went a bit later this year than last year and they were more amazing than last year.

The whole ride I thought back to the days of jumping up into a truck for a delivery to Ferris or Ovilla and I remember how much excitement everything seemed to have back than.

The Bluebonnets are still the same and the roads are unchanged, sometimes we just need to stop and appreciate the landscape that surrounds us instead of seeking new places.

Walking through the rich blue fields where others took portraits of children, families and animals, I sought something else. I wanted to find a view that no one else was shooting.

At first I was looking for the change in pattern: I wanted a rich blue field with a few Indian Paintbrushes. The light wasn't wonderful but the clouds created a bit of a diffused look to the spectacle of blue that surrounded me.

I must admit as much I liked the way some of the images came out, I still haven't found that play of light that separates a nice photograph from something more dramatic. It remains a work in progress and will probably be back one more time.

For now, enjoy the spectacle that is the bluebonnet trails in Ennis, Texas.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

East Texas Zoo & Gator Park: An Wonderful Menagerie

My idea of a great road trip is discovering what you might not have expected. So many billboards of zoos and gator farms that I've passed by, there is never enough time. I love being alone and having that freedom to go and explore just about anything; I've never been disappointed yet.

I finally decided to visit East Texas Botanical Gardens but got sidetracked. I noticed a sign on the highway for East Texas Zoo and Gator Park and I was on my way.

Out in the middle of nowhere is a small oasis with a huge collection of diverse animals. It's one of those places you just don't know what you're going to see.

The people were friendly, the cost was low and I was excited to explore a hidden gem. They have many gators and some of them quite large. I was able to listen to bullfrogs singing in the ponds near the gators, a sound I have really missed.

Do you know what a Cape Barren Goose is? I found out the hard way that they are quite aggressive. All the animals are in their own yard and you walk along tall fences-it really is a great little maize with something different around each bend. The Cape Barren Goose wasn't taking visitors-he threatened and attacked the fence at every change he got. I wasn't paying attention for a moment while photographing and it put it's head through the fence trying to nip at me. I survived.

I saw a sloth bear and baboons who were very curious of its presence. There were zebras and deer-all familiar animals but some I couldn't name. There were also lemurs and monkeys and a couple of very large tortoise that I believe acted as tour guides.

If you ever get to Grand Saline, ignore the groans of the family, "there's not enough time." Go check out the East Texas Zoo and Gator Park, it was quite an enjoyable experience-just beware of the goose.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Seeking Spring 2: In the Pink

Still a little early to catch the spring color. I plan on going down to Palestine for the Dogwood Festival this weekend but I never made it on this trip. I did get a few shots of the redbuds in bloom.

For the last week, I have been burned out on writing and photography. As spring gets closer I have more hope of inspiration but at the moment, I'm feeling a bit aimless.

I planned on getting out to Daingerfield and than it was Palestine but I ended up stopping in Grand Salene. As you can see, I'm still a bit distracted and unable to really write, wish me luck on the next post, enjoy the pix for now.

I'm excited about spring coming.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Seeking Spring 1: First Color

Out of the gray winter landscape, spring brings us fragrant fields of yellows, golds and blues. It's been a comparatively mild winter and yet I find myself eager for the fleeting sounds and colors of spring.

I drove out to East Texas today. I've learned that it's best to have at very least a target to go see. I have found myself too often wandering aimlessly with too many nondescript destinations in mind. Today I decided on Palestine but I never made it there.

This wasn't one of those planned days. I found several fields of yellow flowers and a few white but nothing too dramatic. It's probably a week or so early and I plan on getting out on a longer trip in mid April.

I drove out 205, not much to see, a few redbuds here and there but nothing too dramatic. I looked to Daingerfield, a favorite lake of mine but it was farther than I planned on going. I decided on Canton and all places nearby.

I found a great field that seemed like I was in the middle of a pristine prairie. The more I started shooting the more subjects I found. As I headed toward my final destination: East Texas Botanical Gardens, I discovered another out of the way place.

So many trips I've taken with the family and the idea is always get ther fast. I've driven past so many gator farms and small zoos, finally I discovered the East Texas zoo and Gator, I changed my destination.

Just before I got to my new destination I discovered some wonderful fields of yellows and a great stream to shoot. I plan on getting out in mid-April so stay tuned.

Next post the East Texas Zoo and Gator Farm. It was really worth the trip and made a day of aimless driving worthwhile. For now enjoy the first of spring.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Sunset on Mount Scott: A Scramble in Fading Light

My intentions were to capture the super moon on Wednesday morning. I arrived at Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge a bit later than I had hoped the night before. I wasn't able to use a tripod and had to scramble to capture the  atmosphere before I lost all light.

I was just one of three other cars up on the mountain which was a wonderful feeling of desolation and solitude. Th steep grade  to the top of Mount Scott is lined with giant granite boulders adorned with rich yellow lichen. On my last visit I don't remember the color of the lichen being so vivid.

I saw a small animal crossing the road and what I thought was a raccoon turned out to be a porcupine. I've only seen one in the wild before and it was a treat to watch him disappear into the dense scrub.

As I came around the bend there it was in all its glory, the full moon rising above the edge of Mount Scott. Pinks and mauves in velvety waves of clouds surrounded it as it rose into the darkening sky. Below I could see Lake Lawtonka as it snaked through the valley. As the sun set, it warmed all the colors to a reddish brown complementing the blue of the water.

All the lights of the cities nearby had begun to twinkle as the wind blew hard across the mountain. The road winds around the mountain with many views of the valleys and buttes below.  As darkness set in, the rich warm reds gave way to purples and blues that faded into the sunset, a violent flame of color across the horizon.

I reached the top as the light was quickly fading. Photographing was difficult because it was really cold and the wind gusts were constant. The valley below was fading into deep blues and purples and the lights of distant cities set the dark horizons ablaze.

Tomorrow would be the super moon, a grand image of the blood moon, little did I know was that the camera would malfunction and I would be forced to shoot with my Iphone. What followed was a day of peace and calm in a beautiful ancient landscape that I will definitely visit again.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Day at the Zoo: Taking time to enjoy individual exhibits allows for a more intimate portrait

I enjoyed taking some closeups in the herpetarium in at the Dallas Zoo. Usually there are too many people crowded into the space, it was a weekday and I enjoyed observing all of the reptiles and amphibians.

This I thought was very odd. A Poison Dart Frog that found its perch on a bushmaster. I liked the way the golden green stood out against the bushmasters' dull browns and beiges. I took many photos just to get one that had them both in focus.

A Komodo Dragon took a bit of notice of me as he dug a hole. He stared through the glass and I was able to get a close up of his prehistoric face. It's closer than I ever want to be to such a formidable predator.

I loved how intense the green of the mamba was, it must have been feeding time because it seemed like it was searching for something.

Prehistoric is the best I can describe this iguana. I was able to get several sharp close-ups of this monster. He was very calm and relaxed.

This was a family of chimps that groomed each other and enjoyed some time in the warm sun. A baby played in the bushes and I wasn't able to get any shots of him. Suddenly they all picked up what they were doing and they were off. I liked how the light side lit her muscular form.

This is the closest I've ever gotten to a cheetah. It was on the other side of a window watching as the kids were tapping on the window. I loved the look in its eyes.

I liked the abstract ribbing in the trunk and how the light eventuated the folds of its skin. I enjoyed listening to the zookeeper about the elephants in the wilds of Africa. 

I enjoyed watching the gorillas, I was able to sit and watch them for a while. Again, the zookeeper told me about their personalities. I liked the blue lighting and the personality in their eyes.

I photographed several giraffe as they were fed. They have beautiful textures and their eyes have much feeling in them. 

This lion sat and watched the people, I think it was hungry. The eyes still had that wild look and I was attracted to the shadows.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Parkhill Prairie: A Place to Disappear

I got lost in the long flowing stalks of bluestem grasses, the great blue sky looming above where hawks dance in slow spirals. I sat on the cold, moist ground and listened to what it might have been like when bison and Indians roamed the backland  prairie.

The clouds drifted with a calm indifference, the wind breathed and than exhaled followed by a ritual silence. Meadowlarks flew in patterns from fences and crows called out breaking the stillness, it is like going back in time.

I guess the fact that the winter chill that settled in my spine and slapped my exposed skin with pins and needles would be a good incentive not to go to the prairie. I assume that's why both times I've gone there has been no one there but I consider it my oasis of silence.

I am comfortable sitting on the cold ground. My breath is still, my senses charged with the sounds as I try not to miss anything. I can hear cattle in the background and even a truck in the far distance but for the most part all is consumed with the rush of the wind through the grasses.

All that moves is the grasses, swaying back and forth as if haunted and the clouds marching passively across the plane, I am in awe of the silence and calm.

I have been dwarfed by mountains, the ocean but never by a huge open field. I have images of our history and it's inhabitants that made a life out here and imagine the distant cows that cry out now were probably the sounds of wagon trains and troops of coyotes, maybe even the bison.

The coyotes are still here, I see their tracks and scat but the bison are long gone. There hawks of all kinds, the red tail, the kestrels and the prairie falcon, their mood is pensive with a mission. They rise and fall in the golden field as it should be.

I learned about this place from a trail guide at the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center and I have been back twice. Yet another great place I learned about from the Blackland Prairie Raptor center, great people and wonderful birds with lots of knowledge, if you haven't gotten a chance to go on the first Saturday of the month, I would highly suggest going.

There is also a pond on the property and again, no one around but an occasional Blue Heron that keeps out of range of my camera. There are also picnic benches and a pavilion, I can't imagine people in this park though, it is so quiet and beautiful, I think I might just be a winter visitor.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Blackland Prairie Revisited: Protecting Birds and the Environment while Educating the Public

Great Horned Owl from the Blackland Prairie Center Photo by Artbygordon

Protecting wildlife starts with saving habitat, maintaining native plants and fauna and protecting animals that have become injured or can not compete in their natural world. These animals become ambassadors to show our future stewards of the environment why they are so important and what makes them special.
Barn Owl hissing. from the Blackland Prairie Center Photo by Artbygordon

Blackland Prairie Raptor Center is doing all of these important aspects of wildlife preservation. I visited their first Saturday of the month, it's the only time they're open to the public and they show the birds that pass through their center. 

They keep the birds as wild as they can be, even the imprinted birds that haven't learned to live in the wild are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. It is quite an impressive operation and much of what I have learned about the Blackland Prairie is from talking with the naturalists there.

Barred Owl from the Blackland Prairie Center Photo by Artbygordon

They take the time to show you each bird they have and explain their unique situations. I was impressed with how much the children knew about the birds and the difference between nocturnal and diurnal.

Every time I go to the center I learn something I didn't know. Here is a list of some more things I've learned from my visit today.

Red Tailed Hawk from the Blackland Prairie Center Photo by Artbygordon

1. A flock of Kites is a kettle. The mississippi kite is expanding its range southward. With age comes the more grey plumage and it feeds on mostly insects.

2. I've never heard a barn owl hiss up close. They also shriek and it can be quite piercing to the ear.

3. The tuffs of feathers on the head of the owls break up their round shape and make them harder to see in the wild.

4. A barn owls ears are so intense they can hear a heartbeat and they can actually attack a mouse under the snow without even seeing them.

5. Owls have tubular eyes that are more fixed than other animals and therefore they need to swivel their heads to see.

Preregrine Falcon from the Blackland Prairie Center Photo by Artbygordon

After the bird show we took a hike on the trails and we learned about blue stem grasses, native grass and invasive non-native species. I learned about another place I had never heard of before today and I very much enjoyed my visit, the park is the Parkhill Prairie near Blue Ridge and it was an amazing visit where I saw hawks and vultures flying in their environment. 

It was a wonderful day.

Red Shouldered Hawk from the Blackland Prairie Center Photo by Artbygordon

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