I just returned from my first Texas Hill Country wildflower outing and did I have a blast. The timing of my trip would have normally been perfect but given the rains and mild winter, the 2012 blooms were peaking earlier than usual. For my outing, there were still plenty of good flowers and thanks to a few email exchanges with two of my friends (Bill Caskey, Jeannie Lewis) that live in the Austin area, I had a pretty good idea where I should visit. I also read people’s wildflower sightings online so between that and my trusted advice, I decided to begin my adventure from the city of Fredericksburg. From there I would photograph along Hwy 16 toward Willow City Loop, then up to the city of Llano. At Llano, I would take Hwy 71 to Kingsland, Ranch Roads 307/1431 up toward Buchanan Lake, then Hwy 29 back to Llano. Finally, I would make my way back to Fredericksburg, then go East to Lyndon B. Johnson state park to photograph the historic cabins among the wildflowers.
All of this, I would try to do in a single day. Yes, only one day. Could I do it? I would need cloud cover to photograph in the middle of the day and fortunately, I had it for a short while. So why only one day? Quite simply, that’s all the time I had as Sunday was Easter and a day I wanted to spend with my family. It was either now or next year and one day is better than nothing so in the spirit of Willie Nelson…I was “On The Road Again.”
I had three primary photographic objectives on this trip: 1) Big open bluebonnet fields with large hills/trees in the background, 2) Intimate pictures showing the wildflowers amidst their surroundings (natural and man-made), and 3) Macro shots of individual flowers. I also had three secondary objectives: A) Scout the countryside for future photographic adventures, B) Capitalize on any serendipitous discoveries, and C) Avoid getting bit by a rattlesnake. Now, some of you may be wondering why “C” is not a primary objective and it essentially is, but it was not a primary photographic objective…semantics. 🙂 I was wearing my snake boots so I did take some precautions and for the record, I did not see any snakes on this trip. So how did I do on all of these objectives? Well, below is only a small sample of what I photographed so you tell me.
To capture Objective 1, I was trying to layer the photograph from foreground to background, i.e. having interesting subjects from front to back, creating depth in the picture. I was able to do some of that but in many places, either the background was uninteresting or the foreground flowers were sparse.
Objective 2: I was not finding many massive fields but still, the flowers were very nice so I turned my attention to more intimate images of the flowers in their surroundings (around plants, other flowers, trees, and man-made structures).
At mid-day, I used the cloud cover to focus on macro images of the flowers (Objective 3), adding a little fill flash to bring out some of the colors.
I ended the day at LBJ State Park near Johnson City. I knew they had these historic buildings on the premises and a phone call prior to the drive assured me that the flowers were great. I’m not sure what that ranger called great but the flowers were way past their prime here and the grass was way too tall. Oh well, I made the most of it but I’ll be back next year.
So how about the secondary objectives? Well, the fact that I’m sharing this blog post is a testament that I avoided the snakes. Throughout the drive I took note of places I’d like to go back and visit. As for the serendipitous moments, there were several. The fragrance of the bluebonnets was amazing and something that you’ll just have to experience for yourself. I met a really nice ranch owner, and his son, and he pointed me toward a really good place for a great photo. I enjoyed the historic town-square building in Llano. While I was photographing that building, I could hear violin music, which is when I noticed that a “Fiddle Festival” was underway. Well what’s a guy to do? I popped in for about 30 minutes and enjoyed the festivities…and the A/C wasn’t bad either. Connecting with my country roots, I found a fantastic BBQ spot that served up a mean Peach Pie Ala Mode. What a day I was having! Oh I almost forgot, I saw two full-moons at mid-morning…but that’s another story. 😉
If you’ve never been to the Texas Hill Country when the wildflowers are blooming, you owe yourself a drive. Until next time, keep shooting. –KEVIN