Friday morning it was off to the Rio Grande overlook for sunrise. This is down near the Rio Grande as you might have guessed and has the Sierra Del Carmen mountains in the distance for the sun to rise above. In the portion of the park map below, the blue arrow indicated where we were shooting from and you can see that the mountain range is to the east crossing the US-Mexico border.
While waiting for the sun, I made some attempts at panoramas looking down the mountain range to the east. I did this by holding the camera in portrait mode and shooting about 12 photos at 200mm focal length. I did all of this handheld, so maybe there is a small amount of motion blur if you look closely. I stitched it all together in Lightroom and cropped it as you see below. The stitching process takes about five minutes on my computer, so that is a good time to get a cup of coffee. I was going for the depth created by the layering of hills and cliffs in the haze.
There is a collection of buildings in the lower left and I think that this is Boquillas del Carmen on the Mexico side of the river. There is a border crossing for this town, so that you can walk down to the river and pay someone to row you across to go visit Boquillas and then passport your way back into the US. The border crossing was closed at this time because of the pandemic situation, which is sad for the town’s folk there who live on tourism revenue. They do sell little souvenirs at the overlooks on the honor-system and I purchased a little souvenir that way.
You can also see that we weren’t greeted with any clouds in the sky for a pretty sunrise, which was a little disappointing as clouds can make for a beautiful sunrise. I framed up on some desert plants and patiently waited for the sun to crest the distant mountains. I used a wide, 20mm, focal length to make the plants large in the frame and made an HDR merge that I think turned out well enough. There were just the thinnest little wavy clouds high in the sky that almost look like noise in the picture.
The sun did eventually come over the high cliffs and I stopped down to f/14 to try to get some sun-burst in the photo. I was also experimenting with this odd lonely sotol in the foreground that just seems out of place to me now. All of the warm sunlight really brings out the red of the prickly pear needles as well. This is another HDR merge to capture all of the light. When shooting into the sun, you will likely get lens flare in the shot, but I don’t mind it in this image.
There is a highway tunnel right next to the turn-out for this overlook. One of the people holding the workshop suggested that a view from in the tunnel might be interesting, so I gathered my gear and drove up and parked near the entrance to the tunnel. There was almost no traffic on this road and I could hear the vehicles long before I could see them so the risk was minimal. I walked along the side of the tunnel until I got about where I wanted to be and then got out in the center of the highway for a few quick shots. I had the tripod low to exaggerate the size of the road stripes leading off into the distance.
I noticed that from this vantage point that I could also see the road going through the hills in the distance. So, I got a longer lens and tried to get the opening of the cave and the distant road through the hills. It is partially obscured by an ocatillo, but it still looks nice. The longer focal length helps fill more of the picture with the distant mountains. The above photo is shot at 27mm and the below photo is shot at 70mm focal length.
I probably could have changed my position a bit if I had thought about it and changed the alignment between the ocatillo and the road in the distance. Also, in hindsight, I would like to have tried this from farther back up the tunnel shooting at 200mm to more fill the tunnel opening with the distant cliffs.
I would say that the tunnel pictures were among my favorite from this location and this was a lot of fun to shoot. Hopefully on a future trip to Big Bend the clouds will be available for sunrise and I can return to this spot. Thanks for reading.