Although I have a full plate of things to do around the home during the 2012 three-day Memorial Day weekend, I still tend to get a little stir crazy if I can’t go out and photograph something during my time off.
While I may bitch about living in southeast Texas (being a gal from the mountains, I’ll always be doing that), I readily admit that it’s rather nice to have two very interesting photographic ops right at my back door: Brazos Bend State Park, and the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge.
Right after visiting with my mother on Saturday morning, I grabbed my cameras, loaded them, tripod, and myself into the car, and drove the 20 miles south-southeast to check out the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge.
I’ve been there before, but that was back in 2007 (if I remember correctly). At that time, the road to the refuge center was only paved for maybe 2 miles, and the remainder was all gravel. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that now, in 2012, the entire road to the refuge center is paved.
For the photos you see here, I used my Canon 5D Mark II cameras and my 16-35mm and 70-200mm lenses. I carried everything in my new Lowepro Fastpack 350, which, btw, is AWESOME! I am going to Mesa Verde NP and Arches NP later this year, and wanted something that would carry a camera and long lens, as well as water, snacks, etc. Ok, sorry, I went off on a tangent. The 16-35 lens was attached to the tripod for landscape shots, and I hand held the 70-200 lens (with IS turned “on”) for the wildlife and more close-in images. I find I hand hold this lens more often as not, eschewing the tripod ring. I was pleasantly surprised upon post processing that I really only had to do a very little editing for light/brightness and a teeny bit for sharpness details on some (but not all) of the photos. The light was just right that day – very sunny but with some interesting clouds. So I kept the ISO at 200 and the aperture around 7.1. Oh, and I gotta tell ya, a long lens is a must-have for this area. Unlike Brazos Bend State Park, there are not many places to comfortably get up close and personal to the birdlife, and there is slim-to-no parking alongside the one-lane gravel road past the refuge center. My 70-200mm was ok, but what I really needed was a lens 400mm or more. But….one makes do with what one has.
Next to the refuge center is a boardwalk across Big Slough (pronounced “slew”), leading to a plowed path called Big Slough Trail. I didn’t go very far down the path because:
1) The mosquitoes were horrible (they must have been as large as egrets!) and I forgot to wear bug repellent (I was in too much of a hurry to leave the apartment and that is one of the things I forgot, although I did remember to apply sunscreen and grab a hat).
2) As far as I can tell from my walk and the map, this trail doesn’t lead down to the water’s edge, which is where you really want to be to get those bird shots.
So I did some landscape and flower photography along the boardwalk before heading out along the gravel-road auto tour.
Note: the Texas wildflower book I own is total crap and didn’t list half of the flowers I photographed. I ran some searches online and couldn’t come up with much either, so many of these flowers won’t have captions to them. If you think you know what the un-captioned flowers are, do let me know.
Unknown seed pods.
Unknown yellow flower. There were a number of “look-alikes” in my useless wildflower book, but none of them really fit this image. So I don’t know what these flowers are called.
Unknown little white flowers.
Unknown red flowers.
Basketflower (at least my wildflower book has something).
Unknown white flowers.
Unknown little purple flower.
Big Slough views from the boardwalk.
Big Slew inhabitant
Nope, I didn’t see any American alligators. It was hot already and I’m pretty sure they wanted to stay in the water to remain cool, rather than sun themselves in the growing heat.
After my visit to the refuge center boardwalk area, I climbed back into the car (followed by hoards of mosquitoes) and started along the gravel road auto tour. It’s basically one-way, although they don’t have arrows – instead they have signs with numbered stops (which means there is probably a tour guide within the center that I should have gone in get). It’s practically impossible for one car to pull over to allow a car from the opposite way to pass you….as I can attest….
Texas coastal marshland and wetlands as far as the eye can see.
Gull-billed tern taking flight.
Ibis in the water.
Red-wing blackbird. You can’t see its red markings in these photos but I did when it spread its wings out.
If any of you are interested, I just published to my Blurb Bookstore a 150-page journal titled Texas Coastal Images. Half of the journal is filled with totally awesome photos taken in such places as Brazos Bend State Park, Port Aransas, Padre Island, and the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge and the other half is nothing but blank lined pages for writing/artwork. It would make a great gift for yourself or someone who is a fan of coastal Texas landscapes, flowers, and wildlife (mainly birdlife). Click on the book link on the left side of this blog and it will take you directly to that particular book in my bookstore. You can preview the pages of this journal and see for yourself the Masterpiece that I have created.
Hey, it’s all about marketing!