Tag Archives: spring
Strawberry Pitaya Cactus Bloom
One of the reasons I traveled so far to visit Big Bend National Park, Texas, in late April, was to view and photograph the blooming cacti. I don’t know what it is about being so excited to see these lovely flowers as opposed to any other spring wildflower. Perhaps it’s because I am always so amazed to see something so prickly and painful produce something so colorful and delicate.
Englemanns (?) Prickly Pear Cactus Bloom
Eagle Claw Cactus Blooms
Pollen-Laden Bee and Prickly Pear Cactus Bloom
Claret Cup Bloom
Strawberry Pitaya Cactus
Tree Cholla Bloom
Bee and Cholla Bloom
Two Bees in a Prickly Pear Bloom
Prickly Pear Bloom
Bird’s Nest in a Blooming Cholla
I used several different methods for achieving these blooming cacti shots – all without the use of a dedicated macro lens:
- Canon 70-200 or Canon 100-400 telephoto lens zoomed in at their longest focal length
- Canon 40mm “pancake” lens with a close-up filter attached
- Pentax WG-3 point & shoot using its macro mode
- Canon 24-70mm at the 70mm focal length with the image ultimately cropped
Blooming Prickly Pear and Chihuahuan Desert Scenery in Big Bend National Park
Being on vacation, I’d totally forgotten that my latest photography article has been published in the National Parks Traveler website. It deals with photography in the spring. Go on over and check it out!
Yesterday, I drove out toward Texas hill country to capture some images of the bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, and other wildflowers – like this field of gold wildflowers (whose name I need to look up). It was a beautiful day and I managed to get some great shots, more of which will be in a future post.
If you are currently in the southeast/central part of Texas, drive Hwy 290 over to Chappell Hill and then take 1155 from there toward Washington-on-the-Brazos state park to see some lovely carpets of blue, red, and yellow covering the fields as well as much smaller spots of scenery.
The last time I visited the Skagit Valley tulip fields was back in 2005. And I left in a huff after capturing some really cool photos because I (and a number of other people, photographers and non-), were yelled at by what I assume was the foreman of the tulip pickers. We’d parked before they opened and our bodies were in the way of the pickers (they weren’t, I’m here to tell you). We all understood the deal and that obnoxious cretin didn’t have to yell – all he had to do was simply ask us to please move our cars because the parking area was not yet open. That would have done it and none of us (read: me) would have been bent out of shape. I vowed never to return and I wrote a letter of complaint to the organizers of the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. There was no sign, no nuthin’ telling us the area was not open. And apparently none of the tulip field owners or the tulip festival organizers were photographers, else they would have known that sunrise and sunset shots of the fields are the best, so there should be at least one field allowing people (who might buy their bulbs or their cut tulip bouquets) to come and set up their tripods.
Fast forward to 2012. I decided – now that I understood most parking areas were not going to be open at sunrise-thirty AM – this year would be a good time to break my promise never to return, and actually go back to the tulip fields.
Although I try to have no expectations, I guess for the tulip fields, I had way too many. I do admit to being tired on the day of my arrival, having driven a little over 3 hours from Mt. Rainier National Park up to the Mt. Vernon area (about 60-70 miles north of Seattle). I did capture some really nice images (I think). But….well….it just wasn’t what I thought it would be. When I lived in Seattle some 17 years ago, I remember there being more than just 3 fields, which is the number of tulip fields I found that day of my arrival (Ok, I didn’t look too hard, I’m sure there must have been more). Only one of those fields was open and available to the public: Tulip Town.
Quite the little enterprise, is Tulip Town. For $5, you can park your car, enter and walk through a huge tent full of cut tulip bouquets, a couple of food stalls, a couple of art gallery-type stalls, a few tables and chairs, and then find yourself out among a couple of small tulip fields. Although walking between the rows was prohibited, people were allowed to get as close as possible to the flowers. They even had a tractor trailer to ferry people around (for a fee, I believe).
It’s been a very cool spring up there (ironic, since it’s been an exceedingly warm spring here in SE Texas), so the majority of the tulips were not in bloom or only just beginning to open up.
The red and yellow tulips were in full bloom, so I have a lot of red and yellow tulip photos.
The day was sort of ho-hum, but I could discern a little bit of detail in the uniformly-spread cloud cover, so with my Lightroom 4 gradient tool, I managed to get that slight detail/drama to show through in some shots.
For these images, I used a 70-200mm lens and my trusty 24-105mm lens (for the close ups). I don’t have a macro (next on my “to buy” list) at this point in time, so no really close close ups.
I left satisfied with my image captures. No dramatic sunrise or sunset with the mountains and foothills in the background. No barns surrounded by tulips. That was ok, though. I got photos of my favorite flowers and I was content.
I wrote a post awhile back about Brazos Bend State Park in the winter. This post is about Brazos Bend State Park in the spring – well, almost spring – I visited 3 days prior to the official first day of spring (March 20). I wanted to see if anything had changed since my winter visit. Plus, I didn’t have to return the Canon 100-400mm rental lens for two more days.
First thing I noticed: water. More of it. In all the places that had been high and dry before. In case you were not aware, Texas has been experiencing a horrendous drought. Everything that should be wet and swampy, instead was dull brown dirt covered over with clumps of green dry slime that reminded me of nori (seaweed). For this visit, everything looked as it should look in a swampland.
I saw more spring flowers, like these primroses,
and this herbertia,
and these spider lilies,
and this sweet little purple flower which I can’t identify (I’m not very good with wildflower identification, even with two Texas wildflower books in my possession). Anybody know what this flower is? The photo at the very beginning of this post is a wider-angle shot.
I saw Indian paintbrush, blowing in the wind.
And these yellow flowers (which I can’t identify, either), in the swamp waters.
There were more alligators. I overheard one set of walkers tell another set of walkers that during the mating season in April, the alligators get quite aggressive and can sometimes be seen clamped to each other’s necks, rolling over and over in the water or even along the pathway. Now that would be a photograph! All I saw were alligators lounging in the still, reflective swamp waters, posing for the tourists and looking menacing; it really doesn’t take much for an alligator to look menacing, and woe betide the person who so close as to elicit a low, rumbling growl from deep within, as the alligator’s jaws gape open to warn the hapless visitor to back off.
I saw lots more birds. It’s ironic that my photos of the alligators turned out better than my photos of the birds, since the birds were the main reason I drove to the park that day (0f course, alligators don’t’ move much, while birds move a lot). I saw three different little blue herons (you can tell they are the little blues by their brilliant blue beak),
Taking the plunge.
Crawfish catch of the day:
I saw a number of snowy egrets,
roseate spoonbills (way off in the distance, so it’s not exactly a stellar image),
one moorhen in its breeding plumage (none of my photos turned out very well), and a number of other little birds that I could not identify nor could I photograph very well (they just won’t stand still for me, dammit!).
The next time I visit will be later in the summer. We’ll see what other changes (if any) have occurred during that season.