Looking for a great place to photograph in the brush country? The Santa Clara Ranch may just be South Texas’ finest ranch to do that very thing. Owned and operated by Dr. Beto Gutierrez, the Santa Clara is located about 9 miles West of McCook and is comprised of 300 acres of virgin habitat. By virgin habitat, I mean that this piece of South Texas has never seen the blade of a plow and that means you get to experience what South Texas was like in its earliest history.
Dr. Gutierrez is an award-winning photographer driven by a passion to develop the ranch as a premier photographic destination. I think it’s safe to say that he has more than accomplished that objective and may just have bragging rights to South Texas’ best photographic hotspot. The ranch has four sunken blinds, each overlooking its own pond, two dedicated morning blinds and two dedicated evening blinds.
Typical Blind Setup At Santa Clara Ranch
The blinds are very spacious and can fit four to five photographers comfortably. You may be able to notice in the image above that the lens is right at ground level. This produces some outstanding perspectives of the animals/birds being photographed.
Mexican Ground Squirrel
Javelina Baby Inspecting the Waterhole
Northern Bobwhite Quail
The action at the photo blinds is non-stop and you will need plenty of memory cards, particularly if you own one of the higher megapixel cameras on the market. For birds, a focal distance of 400mm on a crop-factor camera is probably a minimum focal length needed. If using a full frame camera then 500 or 600mm is ideal for birds.
You will want a zoom on a second body to photograph the larger mammals. Many photographers shoot with a fixed focal length mounted on their tripod and and then a versatile zoom such as the Canon 100-400mm or Nikon 70-300mm at the ready on a second camera. Many Nikon shooters often use the excellent 200-400/f4 lens on a crop factor camera as their primary lens and that zoom range offers excellent convenience in a one-camera setup that delivers outstanding results. If you do not own these lenses, don’t despair, my good friend Hector Astorga uses Sigma’s Bigma (50-500mm) on his Sony full-frame camera body and produces images typically exceeding the more expensive prime lenses. So, it’s not necessarily the equipment that matters as much as it is the photographer behind it.
All of the images in this post were taken with a Canon 1Ds MkII and a 500mm lens with the exception of the dueling javelinas. That image was taken handheld with a Canon 1D MkII and a 70-200/2.8 with 1.4x extender attached.
In addition to these fantastic blinds, Dr. Gutierrez has recently developed a two-tier raptor-blind so photographers have the choice of blue sky or green/brown backgrounds. The trees in the background are at a sufficient distance from the perch and this helps produce creamy-licious bokeh, making those raptors really pop in the image.
Harris' Hawk From Upper Raptor Blind
As if all of that wasn’t good enough, there is a plush four bedroom air-conditioned (a luxury you will more than welcome in the summer), two-bath home equipped with a full kitchen, washer/dryer, BBQ pit outdoors, and wi-fi so it really is a home away from home. In fact, it may be too comfortable, tempting you to stay in and relax but don’t do it, the action at the photo blinds is hotter than a South Texas summer, and that’s saying quite a lot.
Santa Clara will present you with opportunities to create unique, once-in-a-lifetime images. Whether you are visiting South Texas for the first time or are native to the area and simply looking for access to the private ranch lands, Santa Clara is a must-visit ranch.
For information on the Santa Clara Ranch you may contact Dr. Beto Gutierrez at: telephone (956)-787-6808 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, until next time, remember to spend some quality time with your kids outdoors, they’ll thank you for it someday…