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Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Birds

Although I spend a fair amount of time photographing nature, it’s not very often I encounter wildlife, especially birds that are close enough to photograph.

While in Calgary, Canada, I encountered many geese with their young goslings in late spring along the Bow River (above).

Last summer, I ventured into the forests of Oregon.  I think I got a little too close to the nest of this guy, as he became quite vocal.

bird, tree, Oregon, Steve Bruno

During one of my trips to Seattle, I met this beggar.

bird, gull, Seattle, Pacific Ocean, Steve Bruno

No tree is an island, but this one came close, and provided a nice resting spot for these white birds near Hilo, Hawaii.

birds, Hawaii, gottatakemorepix

While in Texas last spring, I was able to witness this beautiful heron at the end of the day.

heron, Texas, gottatakemorepix

In the unlikeliest of places, on several visits, I have seen ducks in this side canyon of a major hiking trail in Red Rock Canyon, Nevada.  The water stays year round, but the largest pool is not that big, and the canyon walls are not tall enough to provide constant shade in the 100 degree temps of summer.

ducks, Red Rock Canyon, Nevada, Steve Bruno

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: On The Way to Houston

I’ve flown enough out of McCarran Airport to know the flight patterns towards every corner of the US, and earlier this month on my flight to Houston, we definitely started off course.  I figured the pilot would make an adjustment, but we seemed to stay further south than all the previous flights to the southeast. I was enjoying the slight change of scenery, and one of the first things to get my attention was patterns of the Mojave Desert (above).  As we approached Flagstaff, I knew we were still on a southern course because the San Francisco Peaks were visible out the left side windows.  They had just received a late spring coating of snow.  The Arizona Snowbowl looked as though they could still have been skiing, but I’m sure it was past season. San Francisco Peaks The next feature to come into view was Meteor Crater.  It’s really hard to grasp the scale of the crater from the air, but perhaps the tiny roads will help. meteor crater There wasn’t much to see after that, until descending into Houston.  The brownness of west Texas gave way to the patchwork of agricultural land and the greenery and waterways of the much more humid environment we were about to touch down upon. meandering river Then something very red appeared on the horizon.  Amidst all that green, it was hard to miss.  After zooming in on the computer screen, I can see that it is a manufacturing facility for heavy equipment. red square And then, finally, welcome to Houston. houston panorama In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “On the Way.”

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