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Midweek Monochrome 8-21-19

As summer drags into its last month (in theory), we here in the desert are looking forward to a change.  Normally the seasonal monsoon rains have their rhythm going by now, and lowered the fire danger and temperatures (ever so minimally).  Even if the rains are few and far between, the clouds offer some relief as well as photogenic backdrops.  On the occasions we have had clouds and rain, the storms started early, and were finished early.

This time of year, it’s nice to get away to the mountains for some relief.  A lot of other people have the same idea, so when I go, I usually find some rough, isolated road to get further from the crowds.  Because the fire danger throughout the west remains high, and most fires are human caused, I no longer feel comfortable doing this.  I never make campfires wherever I go for environmental reasons, and I don’t understand why anyone would need a fire when it doesn’t get below 50 degrees.  I think this was a tradition started by people in old western movies that needs to go away.

For now, my photo trips have been limited in number and almost exclusively on paved roads.  These photos are from late spring in the desert of western Arizona.  The yuccas are the last thing to flower in the desert, with the blooms taking place over an extended period, depending on the right conditions for each plant.  As I approached the plants below, there was a definite buzz in the air.  The bottom photo is a crop of the one above it, so you should be able to see the bees more clearly.  Ive photographed these plants in spring before, and never remember encountering a single bee.  About 100 feet away was a similar plant with fresher blooms, but no bees.  I guess this is what happy hour looks like if you’re a bee!

desert, yucca, Arizona, flowers

bees, flowers, desert

Day Trip Through Hill Country

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.

River 02

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”.

Cave 05

Cave 04

Cave 01

Cave 03

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.

Pollination

Flowers

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.

Falls 01

Falls 02

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.

Infinity Pools

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.

Crane

Falls 03

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.

Falls 08

Falls 05

WPC: Connected

For this week’s challenge, bridges seemed like an obvious choice to visualize connections.  Burro Creek bridge, above, spans a pretty deep canyon, but you’d never know it by this shot.  Winter morning fog was the remnant of a significant storm from the previous days, and made for a great morning photoshoot.

A place renowned for its fog, San Francisco, is where you’ll find the Bay Bridge connecting that city to Oakland and points beyond.  I had clear skies on my last visit there, allowing me to capture this panorama of the Bay Bridge.

the Bay Bridge, San Francisco, California, photo by Steve Bruno
the Bay Bridge, San Francisco, California, photo by Steve Bruno

Another piece of architecture, the downtown Seattle library, looks as though it is three separate structures connected together.

Downtown Seattle Library Building, photo by Steve Bruno
Downtown Seattle Library Building, photo by Steve Bruno

In nature, I came across these hanging flowers in a botanical garden in Hawaii.  They appear to be connected by a long red rope.

hanging flowers in botanical gardens in Hawaii, photo by Steve Bruno
hanging flowers in botanical gardens in Hawaii, photo by Steve Bruno

Also in nature, I visited Chiricahua National Monument in southern Arizona, home of the Pinnacle Balanced Rock.  It’s a pretty amazing sight to see something of that size and weight connected to its base on that tiny spot.

Pinnacle Balanced Rock, Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona. Photo by Steve Bruno
Pinnacle Balanced Rock, Chiricahua National Monument, Arizona. Photo by Steve Bruno

Lastly, the strongest connections you will ever encounter are the human kind.  Emotional bonds are the source of many decisions we make in life, and not always for the best.

For an example of a physical connection, I have chosen this pair of ballroom dancers.  In any type of partner dancing, nothing works if there is not a connection.

Competitive ballroom dancers, photo by Steve Bruno
Competitive ballroom dancers, photo by Steve Bruno

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Connected.”

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