Big Bend #VantagePoint

I often get asked about my travels through the Big Bend and where my favorite spots to shoot are. This is a tough question for me to answer. And I’m sure my attempts have been met with some frustration and eye rolling :-)

I do not have a favorite spot. Anywhere in the Big Bend region is my favorite spot. Well, just about anywhere… maybe not that lumpy, sloped and spider-infested spot that I tried to sleep on once while tent camping near Dominguez Springs.

However, I can think of one spot, a #VantagePoint that stands out and is a frequent stop for me during my travels to the Big Bend region.

Just east of the western entrance gate of Big Bend National Park along Highway 118 is a small parking lot on the north side of the road. You’ll probably not notice it as you drive past. I rarely ever see anyone parked there. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone wandering out in the desert near that little lot.

Lat. 29.2945°
Long. -103.4940°

Hike just a few yards to the north and you’ll come to a broad, open arroyo. This mini-canyon is a dry, wide opening in the Earth that is filled with interesting curves and colors. You can stroll right up to the edge of this impressive viewpoint and enjoy a quiet slice of desert. Several mountains spread across the horizon in front of you.

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You’ll be greeted with an amazing silence. Nothing is more relaxing than to NOT hear the din of man-made sounds that we’re all too used to. You’ll hear the crunch of gravel under your feet and probably the wind blowing through the tall, spindly ocotillo. But gone are leaf blowers, car horns, angry people, giant freeways, and huge commercial jets.

The smell of the desert is clean and sometimes colored lightly with fragrance from the creosote bushes all around. The refreshing dry air will remind you how much you hate humidity when you feel the lack of it.

The sights? It’s probably not the greatest view in the park. It’s certainly not one of the iconic views you see online and in publications. But it’s still an amazing spot. It’s amazing because it has all the elements of what makes the Big Bend so great and it’s super easy to get to.

Even more amazing is to wait until after dark. Look in a southerly direction from this parking lot, and depending on the time of year, the Milky Way will stretch up above the horizon.

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I have enjoyed this spot and also photographed it many times over the past 10 years with a variety of different cameras. I even take my workshop students there sometimes.

It’s a location that you can hit quickly and move on if you have to. I prefer to spend more than just five minutes there, but that’s not always possible depending on my travel companions.

It helps to have good quality and highly portable camera gear if you’re going light and moving fast. My post from the other day described some of the cameras I’ve used when trying to minimize the gear needed.

Building upon what I said and looking ahead to new options, there is a new camera out now that has the features and specs to potentially be a superb go-fast-n-light pocket-able camera: the Light L16.

I’ve yet to see any reviews from real-world users, so I’ll reserve my judgement until later. The L16 has a unique approach and technology to capturing images that could potentially put it on a level with cameras that use much larger sensors considering the quality of the images.

I look forward to seeing what the L16 can do. Based on my good experience with the 2-year old camera tech in my current cell phone, I think the L16 has a ton of potential.

And it runs on Android. THAT is exciting.

Big Bend Workshop Oct. 2012

I’m very pleased to announce my fall photography workshop in Big Bend National Park. The workshop will start at 4:30pm on Friday, October 5 and conclude at 1pm Tuesday, October 9. We will be staying at Big Bend Resort & Adventures (formerly the Big Bend Motor Inn – Route 118 at 170 in Terlingua-Study Butte, Texas). We will also hold classroom sessions in a conference room at the motel.

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Big Bend is an amazing place. I have been there almost a dozen times in the past several years. I love it. And I love to share and experience it with others. I am excited about teaching photography and leading a group around the park to my favorite places to shoot.

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The workshop will focus on night photography (stars and land-based objects) as well as classic landscape photography. We will be there at an interesting time. The sky will be moonless for a couple of hours after astronomical twilight and then the moon will rise. Shooting with moonlight provides different and interesting opportunities as compared to shooting with dark skies.

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I will bring an assortment of LED lights, including LED candles, for us to use. We will practice light painting and also using the candles as props.

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The workshop will be limited to 10 students. Tuition is $750 per participant. You can find out more details on my website:

If you are interested, please email me. Thank you!

Big Bend Workshop: Oct. 21 – 25, 2011

I’m holding a photography workshop based in Big Bend this coming October. If you are interested in attending, please contact me to register. Please see the workshop listing for detailed information.

Dates: October 21 – 25, 2011
Focus: Landscape and Night Photography
Students: 9
Tuition: $600

Click for more info about the workshop

Big Bend is my favorite place in the world. I have enjoyed exploring and photographing the area for seven years. I greatly look forward to this workshop and sharing it with other photographers!

The Field Lab

Last Friday some friends and I paid a visit to the Southwest Texas Alternative Energy And Sustainable Living Field Laboratory, otherwise known as The Field Lab. It is owned by John Wells, and he maintains a daily blog here:

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We caught up with John at the Grub Shack on Terlingua Ranch Road and visited over lunch. He then led us out to his place and gave us the grand tour.

You can read all about his work on his website and blog. Basically, he’s living off the grid and working towards a 100% self-sustainable life on his property located on Terlingua Ranch.

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His massive greenhouse project was most impressive. He has many other projects going, including a self-powered washing machine dubbed the Bike-O-Worsher. We also got to meet Benita, a longhorn cow that is a Field Lab regular and a companion, pet, and guard to John. Who needs a dog with teeth when you have a 1000 lb.-plus animal with horns like that? :-)

Many thanks to John for his hospitality and giving us the tour!

November Big Bend Gallery Complete

It is done. My gallery of photos from Big Bend National Park is ready for viewing:

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I spent nearly 10 full days in the park and surrounding areas. During that time, I attended a TME (The Mindful Eye) six day photography workshop lead by Craig Tanner and Marti Jeffers.

The shooting opportunities were slightly different during this trip. Usually, my visits to the park are on my own terms, and I focus on specific areas, mostly accessible by hiking. The workshop itinerary focused mostly on the easy-to-reach, iconic locations in the park.

In project terms, this last trip was definitely a sub-project, much like my badlands project was this past March. I had a lot of opportunity and time to shoot well-known locations, something that I had not really done before.

My goal during this last trip was to shoot the easy spots and create a sense of place. The resulting collection of photos will hopefully add some balance to my larger, on-going project.

More from Big Bend

I’m still chewing through (i.e. editing and processing) the photos I took in Big Bend last month. Here are a couple more:

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The above photo was taken in Pine Canyon at the end of the trail near the pour-off. The trees had turned lovely fall shades.

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The above photo was shot near Dugout Wells on a windy, sub-freezing morning. Finding that particular clump of cactus took a long time. Fortunately all the walking warmed me up :-)

More from Big Bend later…

Big Bend Photo Workshop

I recently attended a TME photography workshop with Craig Tanner and Marti Jeffers in Big Bend National Park. It was an amazing experience and I thank all involved, especially my family back home who tolerated my absence for 10 days.

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I have a lot of photos to sort through, process, and edit. I’m posting a couple here that I editing during the workshop for critique.

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Stay tuned for more…

Badlands Gallery Finished

I have finished processing and uploading photos from my trip to Big Bend National Park in March:

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Call me nuts, but I enjoy the long process of editing and preparing my raw images for use. As I sit for long hours in front of the computer, I relive the experiences. Memories pour into my mind of what it was like out there.

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One “con” often spoken of digital photography is the post-shoot, sit-on-your-butt processing and editing time required. Most people want to shoot and not stare at a computer screen. While I agree that shooting is more fun, I do enojy the computer work. It’s like visiting a friend and talking about old times. It also allows me to study, carefully and in-depth, my work and learn from my mistakes.

But I digress. I’m happy to present my work from the badlands mini-project :-)

Big Bend Badlands – Dawson Creek

Part 4 of 4

My last badlands target was the low escarpment just south of Dawson Creek. This area is within the park boundaries, but it’s outside (west of) the west gate of the park. You can see this area to the LEFT of Highway 118 as you drive towards Study Butte. I emphasize LEFT because typically, the “painted desert” badlands area that most people think of is seen to the RIGHT.

I’ve not found a firm definition of the Painted Desert, a somewhat official term used by the locals, but I would assume it encompasses the whole area of badlands to the north AND south of Highway 118 just outside the park’s west gate.

out west
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The shot above is looking east directly towards the west gate of the park. You can see the curves of Highway 118 as it snakes through the area.

Colored Hills
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The view from atop this escarpment is amazing. Below the rim, badlands flow north and spread out towards Dawson Creek. In some spots, it’s feasible to hike down into the soft soil areas. It’s also possible to hike down to the desert floor and out towards the creek.

Maverick Mountain
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I camped up top, just inside the rim, and enjoyed expansive views towards Study Butte and Maverick Mountain, and, of course, great views of the colored hills in the Painted Desert. This area was the most colorful out of the previous spots I’d visited and the hike was the easiest. It was interesting to be so close to civilization, yet completely alone. I saw not one person while out there.

That’s it for now. I have other photos from my badlands trip and will post those later. Eventually, I’ll update my photo website with this new content.