I had to do a lot of driving last weekend and I ended up spending a lot of time on US-71 between Austin and Columbus Texas. So I tried to find a few things to do along the way to make the trip more interesting. I was hoping that I could find a thing or two to photograph.
Bastrop State Park
In the late afternoon on Saturday I stopped at Bastrop State Park to check out some of the hiking trails. The state park is known for its ‘lost pines’, which are not very common this far west in Texas. A couple of wild fires over the past ten years have done a lot of damage to the pines and this is quite noticeable from the highway. But I figured that even with this recent destruction, there would still be beauty and enjoyment along the hiking trails.
I only spent a couple of hours in the park and didn’t take an exhaustive tour of the hiking trails. The one that I was on was sandy and involved climbing over a few fallen trees. There were some neat looking lizards moving quickly along the trail that almost slithered while they ran. I tried several times to shoot pictures of these guys, but they were too fast for me.
I came across a lot of charred tree stumps along the trails, but also a lot of new growth as the trees recover from the fires. Below is a new pine sapling growing next to the burned out stump of the previous generation set against the background of fire ravaged trees. I thought that it was a nice hopeful composition from the side of a hiking trail.
Eventually the trail that I was on climbed to an overlook with a stone gazebo. I experimented with shooting the gazebo from down low using some stones in the foreground. I thought that the mossy stones leading to the gazebo might look nice. Perhaps I needed a better sky.
The above photo was shot from a crouching position at 30mm focal length as the sun peaked around the gray clouds. There was a third stone behind me that I tried to work in, but it was right next to a tree that I couldn’t work around. I hope that the two stones provide enough of a leading line for this photo. I like all of the earthy colors in this photo.
Along US-71 near the Austin airport was a large freshly baled field of hay. On Saturday afternoon it was very cloudy when I got to this field. I really wanted the late afternoon sun shining directly on the hay to give it some warm color so I didn’t stop. On Sunday afternoon I had better luck and the sun was out. So, I found a place to park and walked around with my camera.
This pasture was bordered on the east with a highway and some power lines and the airport to the west. So, I was trying to shoot around evidence of the city so it would have a rural feel. With the photo below, I was trying to get a repeating pattern of hay bales, keeping separation between the bales.
I shot the above photo at 120mm focal length in an attempt to minimize compression of the hay bales in the distance. I was also shooting very close to west and the sky is increasingly washed out toward the right side. Shooting more to the left was not really option with the large power lines.
The next photo was taken at a much wider focal length. I found a lot of leading lines in the pasture and tried to incorporate this into a composition. My thoughts were to have a large bale close to the camera with many lines leading across the pasture.
At such a wide focal length, the distant horizon is compressed down such that the towers are not very noticeable. The allowed me to shoot against a much nicer sky with the lines of the field converging in the distance. This is probably my favorite hay photo.
I tried to edit these images to be soft and slightly saturated to give them a bucolic mood. There is a lot of texture in the hay and grass and I felt it needed some softening so that they hay wouldn’t look so crunchy. I did this by dropping the clarity in LightRoom. I also warmed up the white balance on the hay and grass.
Along the edge of the field was a tractor and thought that it would look nice with the hay in the background. The tractor was actually well positioned to get the late afternoon side lighting as well. Below are a couple of photos I tried with a 20mm lens.
In hindsight, stepping back and using a longer focal length may have resulted in a better photo as the hay wouldn’t be so compressed in the background. I was also shooting from down low hoping to hide some of the highway with the tractor.
I have wanted to attempt some hay photos for quite a while. I don’t know what it is about hay that attracted me; perhaps it is because my grandparents were ranchers.
20mm f/1.8 Lens
In other news, I was able to buy a used Nikon Nikkor 20mm f/1.8 lens. I had been wanting this lens for a while with the primary purpose being Milky Way photography. I have a 14mm f/2.4 Rokinon prime lens, which is fine for this task, but it is a bit wide. I am hoping that with the 20mm the night sky won’t be too compressed, but I will still get plenty of the galaxy. The 20mm lens also supports auto-focus which is nice for daytime shots.
This lens is ordinarily about $800 new and it is on sale for about $717 recently. When I went down to the camera store to check it out, they had a used lens in ‘like new’ condition for quite a bit less. So, I took a chance on the used lens and saved a couple of hundred dollars.
So far I have not had a problem with the lens. The wide photos of the hay above were taken with this lens as well as the sunset photos in my previous blog post from Balcones Canyonlands NWR. I hope to put it to work soon shooting the Milky Way provided I can get a clear night sky.
Thanks for reading and leave a comment below if you like.