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WPC: Out Of This World

I think flying over the desert provides the best out of this world perspectives, and I wrote about that previously.  For this week’s challenge, I couldn’t help but think of my muse, Valley Of Fire State Park.  I love to explore here for all its intricate, often other-worldy details.

The wall of caves (above) would be mildly interesting, but then there’s all those smaller holes worn in behind them.  Then you have the layers of sandstone with all those colors bleeding through, all combining to make this a very strange place.  I call this one “psychedelic sandstone”.

Valley Of Fire, Nevada, cave, red rock

In some of the caves you can crawl inside, where textures and patterns all come to life when the sunlight comes bouncing in.

Valley Of Fire, Nevada, red rock, sandstone, gottatakemorepix

One of the most unique features I’ve ever seen here is this rib of sandstone, appearing as a leg with a pointed shoe.  For obvious reasons, I call this one “walking sandstone”.

WPC: Structure

My final stop on last week’s long day trip was Cathedral Gorge State Park.  It has been a couple years since my last visit, and I wanted to see if my newer photography equipment could provide the results I wasn’t able to achieve previously in the higher contrast sunlight.  Occasional passing clouds provided the softer light which was optimum for some of the shooting situations.

Once an ancient lake, Cathedral Gorge is made up of mostly bentonite clay.  It is not a very large park, but its structure is quite photogenic with a multitude of opportunities.  Where the waters have cut deeper into the clay mesa, there are some very unique slot canyons, which the park labels “canyon caves”.  These are not for the claustrophobic individuals.  They do not travel far, but in many places are less than 2 feet wide, which requires some awkward stepping.

Much of the clay appears very solid and smoothly worn, but in one of these canyon caves, I found the texture to resemble dripping wax.  I patted the clay with my hand in several spots, returning a very hollow sound.  In this section, apparently, it was layer upon layer of “dripping wax”.

looking up from canyon in Cathedral Gorge, Nevada

abstract, detail, erosion, texture

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

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