Sunset through Grass on the Burton Ranch

I was walking along the Burton Ranch with the sun setting and lighting up the tips of the grass – it was the magical part of the day. I took a few shots at a higher, standing angle that emphasized the grass field top surface but decided to go low to get the grass base and tops. I thought about getting into the middle of the field but I could hear some rustling in there and was afraid I would go in and hear the familiar rattle of a not-very-friendly snake. It has happened before.

These images are made from three images and enfused together into one. I made a conscience decision to nearly silhouette the oak trees in back. The most important part of this image is not the sunset or the grass stalks; it is the oak shadow area. This dark area is what gives the sunset and grass the base to shine. One thing I do not try to do often is have all of the image elements in visual detail with no dark shadows. That is very easy to do when bracketing images and processing via HDR workflows.

Oak Trees on the Burton Ranch

I almost always have a music playing while I edit photos.  And if it is not literally playing then it is playing in my head. While editing this image I could hear Rush… The Trees… with the struggle between the Maples and the Oaks.  “…and the trees shall be kept equal by hatchet, axe and saw.”

Oak Trees on the Burton Ranch
Oak Trees on the Burton Ranch at Sunset

This image was actually a three image composite I was shooting to capture the deep shadows and the sunset sky.  While not tone mapped with HDR software per se, the three images were blended using an enfusing plugin in Lightroom.  I was never happy with the color version but did like the monochrome version enough to post it here.


I was glancing through my “public” images – that is images I deemed good enough to share on flickr/smugmug/500px – and I noticed a common reoccurence. I have gravitated to images that have a theme of singleness or aloneness. Here are some good examples and are favorites. I think any of us who struggle with photography as art or any artistic endeavor might have this bent within. This aloneness is a battle that both fuels and haunts us.

Impression: Grassland and Wildflowers

Our cameras love to measure time and light in fractions of a second. But often I do not. Walking through our field there is always motion. Even in the stillest of winds, the hoppers fly and bees buzz around me. Usually there is breeze that waves our grassland and wildflowers into one sea of flowing color and moving highlights.

Impression – Grassland

When you give control to the camera it aims for clarity and thus it tries to slow time down to the point of stopping motion. When I walk our land or hike in our forests nothing seems still and frozen. Everything is moving, constant change, the wheel never stops. It is a bigger illusion to believe we have stopped time in clear print than the illusions and abstractions I present in these images.


All of this is not new. The Impressionistic painters in the 1800’s and JMW Turner before them, departed from the tradition of painting clearly. A new way to communicate the beauty and majesty of this world was born.

My first introduction to this way of approaching photography was found in William Neill’s Impressions of Light.  Check out his ebook on capturing nature’s beauty in this manner.

A Field of Purple, Orange, Yellow and Green

All these images were created utilizing long exposures with camera movement. To gain long exposures times I had to use a Lee Big Stopper filter which adds 10 stops of light reduction. The only edits were performed in Lightroom for color, clarity, and “lengthening the histogram”.

More Whirls and Swirls on the Pedernales

In my previous post I quoted Lewis Fry Richardson’s poem regarding atmospheric turbulence. Richardson was a mathematician and meteorologist who pioneered modern mathematical techniques of weather forecasting in the 1920’s. He saw that behind the mechanics of the planet’s weather there was mathematical models via differential equations. We still use this method today for weather forecasting.

When I look at images such as these swirls in the river’s current I can certainly see mathematics but there is so much more there as well. We usually only see this world’s surface. But when we sit still enough and move deeper into nature then we know there is so much more behind this curtain. It seems to be like an onion with many layers. I view the mathematics layer actually close to the surface. It gets fuzzier and more poetic the deeper you can peel it.

“Big whirls have little whirls…”

“Big whirls have little whirls,
That feed on their velocity;
And little whirls have lesser whirls,
And so on to viscosity.”
~ Lewis Fry Richardson

Pedernales Falls State Park – my favorite local hiking spot!

Some days are magical and this was one such day hike. With the recent rain I knew the Pedernales River at Pedernales Falls State Park would be high but just how high I was not not sure. If it was too high I would not be able to hike into this area for this picture. Too low and the falls would not be be flowing enough for a good image. This has been the case for the last few years – never catching the river at good point to get this image. But this day was damn near perfect. I had to jump across a few shallow, thin river flows across rocks to get to this point. If the river was just one foot higher I probably could not have gotten out here to get this shot. If you want waterfall shots in central Texas this is has to be one of the top spots.

Shot with a Lee Seven5 filter system on the OM-D E-M5.

How Many More Spring Nature Images… Compulsories

In many elite sports such as figure skating, body building, gymnastics there is the practice of compulsories during competition – basic maneuvers that have to be proficiently completed. There seems to be an unwritten code that there are compulsory image types to complete if you practice nature photography. You have to have the one flower with a blown-out bokeh background. Your have to master the basic composition rules, and then break them. Then there is the field shot and the wet flowers after a rain with drops on them. Flowers with a sunrise background, sunset direct light, sunset back light, etc. And you get big bonus points if you can work in any baby animals into your nature shots!

If you look at the prevailing photo sharing sites it seems that the swing is to more dramatic light/dark range. Check out the most popular on 500px and there will be many ultra-dramatic nature images. A few years ago it was HDR. Speaking of HDR, here is graph of a photographer’s artistic progression from five or so years ago (link location). It was popular back then simply because of its accuracy and universality. I have certainly progressed that path – a couple of times unfortunately. I do not learn my lessons very well!

So where does this leave creativity? True creativity that matches an internal vision of how you connect to the world? That is for another post and a few drinks. But until then, there are few more compulsories to post. More Spring 2015 nature images from our land follows. But this is it for the compulsories.