The Beauty of Big Bend

The Big Bend National Park area was as beautiful in late March as ever. Five photographers and I spent three busy days traveling about the vastness that is Big Bend. Most of our photography was done at sunrise, sunset and after dark in iconic locations like Santa Elena Canyon, Boquillas Rim, Rio Grande Village, The Window at Chisos Mountains, Terlingua cemetery and the Rio Grande in Big Bend Ranch State Park. Unlike recent years, we saw only a handful of wildflowers and blooming yucca, but there was plenty to photograph.

I still want to go back and kayak or float the river gorge, but I got plenty of exercise hiking to Balanced Rock and scaling down a rock slide in the Rio Grande canyon at Big Bend Ranch State Park. The journey from south Texas to the park takes a FULL day, but the reward is great. For those of us living in the city, the west Texas night skies are reward enough for the effort. Come along with me on a brief photo trip to the Big Bend.

Click on a photo to enlarge and sharpen it for viewing. 

Black Hawk in Cottonwood, Big Bend National Park.

A beautiful pair of black hawks are nesting in a cottonwood at Rio Grande Village in Big Bend National Park.  After many visits over the years, I was finally able to see and photograph them from the road.  The nesting area is closed to visitors.  Canon 7D mark II, 100-400 mm lens, hand held.

Chisos Mountains and Rio Grande at Big Bend Natl. Park, Texas.

That same afternoon, we journeyed on to the campgrounds at the east end of the village and climbed the hill for a view of the sun setting behind the Chisos Mountains  in the west and the glowing pinks of Boquillas rim to the east.

Boquillas rim at sunset, Big Bend National Park.
Pebbles in the Rio Grande surrounded by 1500′ walls of rock. Mexico on left, Texas on right in Big Bend National Park.

The walls stay the same but the river is ever changing.  I’d like to return in summer and catch the sun setting down the canyon at Santa Elena.

Photographing the Rio Grande near Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend National Park, Texas.

After leaving the canyon shortly after dawn, we stopped downstream to look back at the big picture…miles of cliffs towering above the river.  I used HDR toning on this image to jazz up the look of it.

Verbina and Chisos Basin, Big Bend NP.

Evening in the Chisos Basin provides many angles and subjects.  These verbinas were about the only cluster of wildflower I spotted that week.

Oak and sotol in the Chisos Mountains, Big Bend National Park at sunset.

I like to work on foreground subjects near the Window near Big Bend NP Lodge and Restaurant.

Sotol in “The Window” of Chisos Mountains, Big Bend National Park at sunset.

The photo group got many nice images of The Window with clouds at sunset.

Sunset on Casa Grande with piñyon pines.


Sunrise on the Rio Grande canyon east of Presidio, Texas in Big Bend Ranch State Park.


Looking west, Presidio, Texas is upriver and out of sight by a few miles from this point in the canyon.   A well timed sunset visit would make me very happy.  I’ll have to plan for that one on the next trip.

Ocotillo and prickly pear catch the first light in this canyon.
Canoeing the Rio Grande at Big Bend  Ranch State Park, Texas.


Just downstream toward Lajitas, there is a take out for these canoes and a really cool roadside park with tepees shading the picnic tables.

Ocotillo in bloom near Tepee Roadside Park on the Rio Grande, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas, hwy. 170 to Presidio.
Robert Halbrook chasing Gambel’s quail through binoculars just after the birds flushed to the Mexican side of the Rio Grande from Big Bend State Park, Texas.
Robert Halbrooks, Dr. Pat Faubian, Sherry Halbrook, and Mike Faubian on the Rio Grande in Big Bend State Park, Texas.

This is the first group I’ve had with so many naturalist/birders.  Everyone had to get in on the act of seeing Gambel’s quail drinking at the Rio Grande.

Balanced Rock at sunrise, Big Bend National Park, Texas.

We walked and climbed to Balanced Rock in the Grapevine Hills at Big Bend National Park one morning.  I could see His glory in every direction.

Looking south from Balanced Rock in the Grapevine Hills at Big Bend National Park, sunrise.
Terlingua historic cemetery, Terlingua, Texas
Terlingua historic cemetery, Terlingua, Texas

Subtle differences in the amount of light painted onto these sepulchers make a huge difference in where the eye is drawn.  In the latter, I see the stars first.  A warm and slightly weak flashlight was used for both.

Ocotillo with blooms after sunset at Study Butte, Texas.

In spite of some stormy weather at the start of our week, this Big Bend IPT was one of the best I can remember.



March at Laguna Seca

Jumping from January into March, I found myself back at Laguna Seca Photo Ranch.  These trips sandwiched many days of working on photo files and shooting magazine assignments.  Winter just slipped by while I was housebound.

Anyway, the following shots reflect a day of wonderful  photography, mostly from the regular blinds.  I kept only one photo from the raptor blind shoot in the morning.  About mid-afternoon, a batch of wild turkeys began coming and going from the pond at my afternoon blind.  The flock included several large gobblers who were strutting and gobbling for about two hours.

Crested Caracara juvenile in flight.

I really like the curled primary feathers on the landing bird.

Golden-fronted Woodpecker landing on prickly pear.
Northern Cardinal, male, bathing, s. Texas.
Orange-crowned Warbler bathing.
Strutting turkey gobbler.
Strutting wild turkey gobbler and reflection.
Wild turkey gobblers on the alert.
Wild turkey gobbling.

It takes some skill to work a box call and then grab the camera to capture the gobbler’s reply.  In this case, I handed the call to another photographer and asked him to give it one squawk.  I was ready.

These turkeys were a total surprise for me.  It’s the first time I’ve seen gobblers at Laguna Seca Ranch, but hopefully not the last.


Catching Up on Winter and Spring

It’s been so long since I put together a newsletter, I almost forgot my password.  But, here we are, so lets review.  Way back in January, I spent a day at Laguna Seca Photo Ranch and got some nice shots early.  We were hoping the white-tailed hawks would make an appearance; that didn’t happen.  A plethora of caracaras came to the bait, so we had fun while that lasted.

Black Vulture landing as crested caracara flies away.
Crested Caracara coming in for a landing at photo blind.
juvenile Crested Caracara grooming adult.
Caracara display.
Crested Caracara displaying.
Juvenile crested caracara landing.

This young bird is coming back for more even though it obviously got a crop full on an earlier visit.

Crested Caracara turning in flight.
Crested Caracara and black vultures on deer carcass, s. Texas.
Eastern Meadowlark in grassland, s. Texas.
Heavily cropped image of adult white-tailed hawk that never came close to the photo blind.

Most of these flight shots were done with the Canon 100-400 lens while the ground shots were made with the 500 mm lens.



Reasons For You To Photograph This Spring at Transition Ranch

Here are 17 reasons you should get ready to pack your bags and head out past Uvalde to Transition Ranch with me this spring.  The food is great, the rooms are nice (they come with a pool and hot tub), the country is beautiful and…

Woodhouse’s Scrub Jay
Painted Bunting male
Blue Grosbeak
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
Cactus Wren at photo blind
Gulf Fritillary by creek
Hooded Oriole male
Lazuli Bunting male
Northern Bobwhite, hen
orchard oriole, male
Scott’s Oriole male
Summer Tanager female
Vermilion Flycatcher male in front of our afternoon blind at Transition Ranch.
Yellow-breasted Chat perched over pond at photo blind.

This is only a handful of the species we photographed.  The ranch also has golden-cheeked warblers and black-capped vireos as well as many other species we photographed that aren’t shown here.

So what are you waiting for?  Sign up today by contacting me at  We have 2 spots available.



Lucifer Hummingbirds with Multiple Flashes

There isn’t much time left to sign up for the Lucifer Hummingbird Instructional Photo Tour at the Christmas Mountains Oasis, Texas.  The dates are May 8-10 and two slots are available.  Our small group will photograph these incredibly beautiful hummers at a multi-flash setup and with natural light.  You will also see scaled quail, various songbirds and other hummingbird species, too.

We will have it all to ourselves for three days.  Check out the trip description on this website and contact me at: to register.  Click on the photos below for a view of the birds.  When you click on an image, it will open in a larger, sharper format for best viewing.

Lucifer Hummingbird, male
Lucifer Hummingbird, male
Lucifer Hummingbird, male
male Lucifer hummingbird

Lucifer Hummingbirds and most other species of west Texas will be in peak plumage during the workshop period.

Hoping you can sign up,


Wanted: Big Bend National Park Photographers

Two spaces are available for photographers who want to join me on the Big Bend National Park Instructional Photo Tour from March 29-31.  We will photograph landscapes, wildflowers, stars and some wildlife.  If you are interested, check this website for more details at the Photo Tour section and contact me by email: to register.

Here are some images to give you a look at the variety of sights we will photograph.  If you click on a photo, it will enlarge and sharpen for better viewing.

Big Bend sunrise


Big Bend wildflowers


Terlingua Cemetery west of Big Bend NP


Santa Elena Canyon through an adobe dwelling window.


Moon setting in the  Chisos Mountains “Window”, Big Bend National Park

Join me if you can,


Your Opportunity To Photograph the Iconic Big Bend National Park

In two months, I will be in Big Bend National Park photographing some of the most beautiful landscapes and wildlife in the Southwest.  There is plenty of time for you to sign up and share 3 days with me and a small group of photographers in this iconic landscape.  You must be tired of the photos some other lucky photographer captured in the Big Bend.  This spring, it can be you looking into the viewfinder at an orange sunset or the crystal clear night sky at Big Bend of Texas.  Go ahead, send me an email note now and I’ll get you signed up:  I’ll get back to you quickly and furnish the information you’ll need to make this trip a reality.  Check out the information and photos on my website in the Instructional Photo Tour Schedule.


Here are a few more shots to give you an idea of the types of photography we will get in this far corner of the state.

Big Bend NP, “The Window” in the Chisos Mountains Basin.
Ocotillo in bloom, Big Bend National Park.
Boquillas Rim and Strawberry Cactus blooms, Big Bend.
Santa Elena Canyon on the Rio Grande, Big Bend National Park

We will photograph the incredible high walls that surround the Rio Grande in Big Bend, and we’ll do it at sunrise when the morning sun lights up Santa Elena Canyon.

Rio Grande at Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend a few minutes after sunup.
Casa Grande and moon rise in the Chisos Mountains at Big Bend National Park.
Cactus Wren singing, Big Bend NP
Historic cemetery in Terlingua, Texas just west of the park.

We will also head a little way west of the park to visit the historic village of Terlingua and photograph the old cemetery and nearby sights.

On a trip like this, you can learn a lot about photographing nature, both landscapes and wildlife.  It will be an adventure you won’t forget.  I look forward to hearing from you soon.


Shots from Around the Valley

It’s about time to start the winter/spring photo tour season.  In 13 more days, I will be leading a whooping crane “shoot” on the mid-Texas coast.  The last slot filled today.  Meanwhile, I’ve just been getting out for short trips to photograph local birds and deer.

It was so warm this winter, I really didn’t get much done outdoors.  It would be fantastic if the weather cooled just a little and we could see more ducks pushing south along the coast.

Here is a small sample of recent photos.  Don’t forget to click on a photo to make it enlarge and sharpen for viewing.

The plugin that controls the photo presentation in these newsletters is not functioning correctly (glitch in the latest update from WordPress).  We are working on it and hope to have things back to normal soon.

White-tailed Deer, buck in rut


The last glow of a setting sun coloring a big buck’s antlers.


Feral hog (sow) feeding in south Texas brush country.


Snow Geese and sandhill cranes roosting at the salt lakes on Lower Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge.


Gadwall in flight, winter


This duck took off at close range and I managed to clip its left wing, so some rebuilding was required for this one.

Is there room for one more. Northern shovelers and teal share a loafing log.


Male vermilion flycatcher landing in a 25 mph wind.


Northern Cardinal in flight.

Some of these bird shots were taken on overcast days with heavy winds.  But, we take what we can get, especially when it’s been days between periods of sunlight.



One Spot Open for Whooping Crane Photo Tour

Click on photo to enlarge and sharpen for viewing.

Whooping Crane headed to roost at sunset, Aransas NWR
Whooping Crane headed to roost at sunset, Aransas NWR.

It could be you photographing endangered whooping cranes near the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge next month.  I have one slot open my annual Whooping Crane Instructional Photo Tour for a lucky photographer.  Contact me quickly at this website or a if you want to join the small group at Rockport, Texas on February 7-9.


After the Fog Burned Off

I left home at 5:45 AM on Wednesday past in route to South Padre Island’s World Birding Center boardwalk and the Laguna Madre waterfront for some early morning bird photography.  The fog was lifting as I arrived at sunrise and, in a few minutes, it was broken enough to allow shafts of sunlight to penetrate.  Dozens of brown pelicans were roosting on pilings at one of the  marinas, so I parked and photographed several birds.

About 45 minutes later, I moved up the street to the birding center boardwalk wherea good number of ducks were landing to bathe and drink near the boardwalk.  The shooting (photography) was good until about 10:00 AM when the clouds and fog had completely cleared and the sun was turning white and hot.  Here is a sample of what I got over that two and a half hour stretch:

When you click on an image, it will enlarge and sharpen for better viewing.

Brown Pelican preening
Brown Pelican preening.
Brown Pelicans removing the droplets of fog from their feathers.
Brown Pelicans removing the droplets of fog from their feathers.
Mottled Duck pair loafing in mangrove thicket.
Mottled Duck pair loafing in mangrove thicket.

That’s the female talking and the male with the yellow bill.

Green Heron posing on a boardwalk perch.
Green Heron posing on a boardwalk perch.
American Wigeon drake in flight.
American Wigeon drake in flight.
Northern Pintail drake at takeoff.
Northern Pintail drake at takeoff.
Northern Pintail drake over colored water.
Northern Pintail drake over colored water.

When I’m photographing over or near the water, I try to get positioned where my subjects, usually birds, will swim through or fly over patches of water that are reflecting shoreline color (from trees or even manmade structures with colorful paint like the South Padre Island Convention Center) rather than sky.  As you can see from the last image above, this pintail flew above just such a stretch of colored water.

Osprey on the hunt for fish.
Osprey on the hunt for fish.
Osprey making a right turn.
Osprey making a right turn.

When photographing birds in flight, I find that their most photogenic  position will be during a turn with their back toward the camera as in the shot above.

Ospreys in flight
Ospreys in flight.

This pair of ospreys caught me by surprise while I was using the 500 mm lens.  There was no time to put it down and grab a second camera with the 100-400 mm lens.  Hence, I lost a great opportunity for several good shots with the birds together.  From now on, I’ll follow my own advice and keep the second camera with smaller lens slung over my shoulder for a quick switch when needed.