While in Texas recently, I had a chance to get away for a day to see if that state had anything to offer this nature photographer. I have been to the Guadalupe Mountains in the far western portion of the state, but much of what I’ve seen has been flat and unphotogenic. My previous most favorable impression of Texas has been the best night sky viewing I’ve seen anywhere.
I had heard about the hill country near Austin and San Antonio, so that’s where I was determined to explore. A cold front blew through the day before, with tornadic activity in the northern part of the state, but I was left with blue skies for the day. Although I prefer clouds and softer light for my photos, I wasn’t going to complain with temperatures that barely hit 70, and almost no humidity.
I tried to research places to check out, but really didn’t see any photos that made stop and say, “Wow, I have to visit there”! I was really disappointed that many of these places didn’t open until 8am. With a sunrise at 6:30, that meant I was going to miss the best light of the morning. My first stop was Guadalupe River State Park. It really wasn’t a planned stop, but the sign said 3 miles, so it seemed a waste not to visit. The river is wider than I expected in this mostly arid environment, with a beautiful green hue to the water. Mostly I was charmed with the older trees along the banks and their beautiful exposed root system. The tiniest of clouds passed briefly in front of the sun, showing me a glimpse of how this place would photograph under softer conditions. That was just a tease, and I did manage a couple photos before realizing it was time to move on.
My next stop was Cave Without A Name. This was a planned stop. There are other caves in the region, but the remoteness made me think I would have a little quieter visit. There were just 5 of us in our little tour, and the staff was very friendly. I expected the usual stalagmites and stalactites that are common to caves, but there were features called “bacon strips” that seemed pretty unusual, and my favorite “the alien”.
I spent more time there than I had anticipated, but given the fact that above ground was midday lighting conditions, that didn’t seem to matter. I was definitely glad with this choice for a visit. Upon my drive out I saw a sign for a local county park. Kreutzberg Canyon Natural Area is on the Guadalupe River, and seemed like a nice place for a picnic, but given the fact that I had stopped previously along this river, and the sun was now too high, I kept my visit brief. I was planning to stop next at Enchanted Rock, but the people at the cave told me it was a popular area and might be closed due to crowd size already. The fact that they didn’t stay open until sunset just reinforced my feeling that this would have to wait for another trip.
After a late lunch stop, I was headed off to my last scouted location, Pedernales Falls State Park. Although none of the photos I had seen had a wow factor, the staff at Cave Without A Name said I would enjoy this place. They were absolutely correct. As I was driving through hill country, I realized I was at the tail end of the spring flower season, but there were still a few left, including these within the park.
My biggest surprise was the overall size of the place and volume of water. These are not tremendous falls, but a series of cascades all distinct from each other.
As I said, the volume of water was not what I expected after the photos I had seen online, and this river has perhaps the best infinity pools I have ever seen. This is the moment I was really wishing for clouds.
There were still a few people around at this point, but not too many. I think this allowed the wildlife to feel at ease returning to the water. The park’s website lists heron and vultures as part of the permanent inhabitants. Even with the telephoto lens, the vultures I saw were too far away to really recognize, but this heron put itself in the most perfect spot to be photographed. The bird was aware of my presence, so I kept my distance until I had many shots that I liked. When I took a couple steps closer, I was able to capture its takeoff.
With that, I was just waiting for the sun to get to the horizon for the soft light I needed for my favorite part of the falls.