TEXAS PARKS & WILDLIFE FOUNDATION – FOCUS ON THE WILD – June Contest

The subject of the June 2016 Texas Parks and Wildlife Foundation Focus on the Wild photography contest is “Texas views from the hiking trail.”  I live near Palo Duro Canyon State Park, so I figured I’d enter three of my favorite Palo Duro Canyon photographs — all of which were literally taken from hiking trails.  Check out my three entries!

The following photograph was taken from the Givens, Spicer, & Lowry Running Trail.  It’s one of my favorite trails because it’s incredibly scenic and it doesn’t have nearly as many people on it as the Lighthouse Trail.  There are quite a few places to do some off-trail exploring, too.

The following photograph of a dry creek bed and storm clouds was taken from the Lighthouse Trail.  The combination of scenery and stormy weather in this photograph always makes me pause to take a closer look.

There have been a few new trails created at Palo Duro Canyon State Park since I moved to the Texas Panhandle eight years ago.  This photograph was take while I was hiking one of them — the Rock Garden Trail.  The Rock Garden Trail directs hikers through an area that fell victim to a rock slide many moons ago.  There are quite a few interesting rock formations along the trail.  I love that you can see the Spanish skirts in the background of this photo (top right-hand quadrant).

Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundation – Focus on the Wild

I just came across an advertisement for the Texas Parks & Wildlife Foundations April 2016 Focus on the Wild photo contest.  The April subject is “Texas wildflowers in bloom.”  I immediately knew exactly which photographs I wanted to enter.  Sometimes it’s discouraging to enter photo contests and not win, but what I like most about contests like these is getting my photographs in front of a much wider audience than normal.  Here are my three entries.

Each spring, “the old cemetery” in Rockport is taken over by wildflowers.  Though tickseed is the most common (it’s the golden yellow one seen here), there are also bluebonnets and winecups (among other flowers).  There are many old statues and tombstones throughout the cemetery that make for picturesque photographs.

Virgin Mary & Tickseed at Old Rockport Cemetery

I was on the way home from a dear friend’s wedding when I passed this scene — the perfect fence & bluebonnet shot.  This photo was high up on my “photo bucket list,” so I turned around to take a few shots.  I debated long and hard on whether or not to include the Indian paintbrush in my photograph.  In the end I decided to leave it — it adds some visual interest without cluttering-up the photograph.  Aside from that, I think we all feel a little out of place, just like this Indian paintbrush, from time-to-time.

Rustic Fence, Bluebonnets, & Lone Indian Paintbrush

I was driving from Austin to Borger when I passed this scene.  I was kicking myself for not stopping (mostly because I don’t think it gets much better than cows grazing in a field of bluebonnets) and several miles later made the decision to turn around and go back to get a few shots.  There was a nice, big caliche driveway leading up to an entrance for this field, so I went ahead and pulled in to the side of it.  I was able to get quite a few shots (I’m always willing to stay some place a bit longer when I don’t feel like I’m in danger), but this one is my favorite.  I like the sense of movement from the longhorns’ tails, the hillcountry in the background, and the bluebonnets in the foreground.

Longhorns, Texas Hillcountry, & Bluebonnets

Monochrome Monday – Cotton Bolls

Fields of defoliated cotton always call out to me, but before taking this photo, I had never stopped to get a closer look.  There’s something appealing about the fluffy, white bolls — contrasting starkly against the brown, dead stems.  That contrast is what drove me to convert this to a black and white photo (good black and white photos have both black and white in them…not just shades of gray).  If memory serves me correctly, this particular cotton field was just outside of Abilene.

High CottonBlack & White Cotton Bolls

The following picture is of the same field, taken at the same time.  The stories that old house could tell!

22828590304_9507465e6e_oAbandoned Farmhouse

I figured that this would be as good a place as any to go ahead and share the following photo, as well.  I was with my parents (driving somewhere I don’t remember), and we drove past a cotton field in bloom.  It dawned on me that I had never seen a cotton blossom up close, so Dad pulled over for me to get a closer look.  The flowers looked pretty…in a strange sort of way.  I never would have guessed that they were pink.

Oh, the things we miss when we’re zooming by in our cars.

Cotton FlowerCotton Blossom

“That was where my dream began to take hold, of not havin’ to pick cotton and
potatoes, and not havin’ to be uncomfortable, too hot or too cold.That
in itself had driven me to try to find some better way of life.” 
-Buck Owens

Flower Friday – Bluebonnets & An Indian Paintbrush

On April 13, 2014, I was given the opportunity to take the bluebonnet photograph of my dreams.  Seriously — I’d wanted to take a photograph of bluebonnets with a fence behind them for YEARS.  This shot could not have matched what I had envisioned in my head any better.

Quintessential Bluebonnet PhotoPerfect Fence & Bluebonnets & A Lone Indian Paintbrush
taken somewhere in Texas…

“28 And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!” – Matthew 6:28-30

Wildlife Wednesday – Horned Toad

I moved to the Texas Panhandle during summer 2008.  At the top of my list of “things to photograph now that I’m living in the Panhandle” was the horned toad (a.k.a. horny toad, horned lizard, and horned frog).  While growing up my dad saw them on occasion, and he’d come home and tell us about them; however, I had never seen one for myself.  I thought that I’d have to wait awhile to fulfill my “goal.”  Never in a million years would I have bet money on seeing a horned toad during my first trip to Palo Duro Canyon State Park.  But I did — and it was nothing short of awesome — almost like God put this little horned toad on the trail just for me to see!  In the nearly-eight-years that I’ve lived here, I’ve only seen horned toads two other times.

In 1993, the Texas Horned Lizard was declared the state reptile of Texas.  Three types of horned toads call Texas “home;” they vary in length from 3 to 6 inches.  Horned toads are listed as a threatened species in the state of Texas because their population has declined sharply over its historical geographical range.  If you see one, please leave it alone!

Other pictures that I’ve taken at Palo Duro Canyon can be seen on my Flickr page.

Horned Toad

Wildlife Wednesday – Osprey

Normally photographs are accompanied with stories about whatever the picture is of; however, my treasured osprey photographs are accompanied with a story about how the picture was taken.

Dad, Mom, and I were bird watching at Indian Point Pier near Portland, Texas during March 2008.  The bird watching there is fantastic, especially if you’re interested in coastal birds.  When I take bird pictures, I always take my first picture the moment I see the bird.  Then I move a few steps closer and take another picture….which eventually results in the bird flying away.  Since Mom and Dad were with me this time, I decided to use them as my assistants.  I got about as close as I thought I could get without making the osprey I was photographing fly away.  Then Mom and Dad strategically walked towards the bird (who was perched high on a powerline-pole…probably keeping an eye out for a fish to eat).  I stood still — focused on the osprey — ready and waiting to get my shot the moment it started to fly.  Our plan worked, and I was able to get a couple of decent shots of the osprey.  Eight years later these are still two of my favorite bird photographs!

Osprey Pre-Flight

Osprey Taking Off