Big Bend – Ernst Tinaja and the Boquilla Overlook

Ernst Tinaja

After the Rio Grande overlook, our next location was Ernst Tinaja. Tinaja meaning a pocket in the rock formed by water; I don’t know who Ernst was. To get to the the parking area for this little hike we had to drive part of the way up the Old Ore Road, which might also have been named the Paint Shaker Road. It was drive-able, but very rough, dusty and bumpy. This eventually led to the Ernst Tinaja campground and the trailhead for a short hike down a dry creek bed and through some canyons until we got to the tinaja. Below is a photo looking down the creek bed to the tinaja.

Canyon at Ernst Tinaja

More plants lived along this creek bed I suppose because they get more water periodically than elsewhere nearby. I saw a prickly pear up in rocks that I thought would make a nice foreground looking down the canyon, so I made my way over to it and too the photo below. I don’t guess it’s a wall-hanger, but I like the way it turned out. I was using a polarizer in this picture though it probably wasn’t rotated to the full polarization position.

Prickly Pear at Ernst Tinaja

When we got down to the tinaja, I struggled with finding a good way to photograph it. There were cliffs on both sides and layers of rocks and I struggled to find a simple composition. I tried a variety of close-ups with reflections in the water, but I didn’t like the way any of them looked. I did climb down and sit down low to get all of the lines of the rocks in the shot. It may be a busy composition, but at least all of the lines are taking your eye around the picture. You can see the pit of water down in the lower right. This was not polarized as I wanted some reflection in the water but there is not much water from this angle anyway. This is my best picture from this location and I like it.

Ernst Tinaja – Big Bend National Park

Not far away there is almost a cave with a sky light in the top. I crawled up in there and looked around. I took the following photo with the camera pointed straight up and I realized later that i had the opening framed in the shape of a heart. I like the deep blue sky against the orange rocks.

Ernst Tinaja Trail – Big Bend National Park

You can wander down this ravine farther, climbing over boulders and cliffs, but the highlight was this water pit, or tinaja. After this, we headed back the car and went back down the dusty, bumpy road and headed for the Boquillas overlook.

Boquillas Canyon

The Boquillas Overlook is a short trail up to an overlook and then down by the river to Boquillas canyon. From the overlook I decided to try to do some long exposures to smooth out the rushing muddy river. I probably wasn’t close enough for that to have much of an effect, but it did mostly turn the river brown. I framed to get the entire river bend in the frame. You can see Mexico across the river with more of the same desert terrain. I initially tried this with a gnarly plant in the foreground, but I found that it dominated the frame too much so I went for just the river.

Boquillas Overlook of the Rio Grande – Big Bend National Park

I hiked down the trail to the canyon where I found gale force winds blasting down the river and picking up sand. I still wanted to get down low and get a shot with the river rock in the foreground looking toward the canyon. My face received a nice sand-blasting in the process and it took me about 2 hours when I got back home to disassemble my tripod and clean all of the sand out of the legs and joints. The camera and lens were protected with a polarizer and dust sealing. I am not sure if this photo was worth all of that trouble, but here it is.

Boquillas Canyon – Big Bend National Park

You may be asking what I did to the sky. I had a circular polarizer on the lens with full polarization and sun was nearly directly overhead. This has the affect of deepening the blue in the sky dramatically. Perhaps too dramatically. The river rock does form an arrowhead shape leading to the center of the canyon with the muddy river on the right. I then turned around and let the wind blow me half way back to my car.


Later in the day we went to the Terlingua cemetery and ghost town for sunset. The wind and dust had really picked up and there were no real clouds in the sky to do much with. I was mostly frustrated by this part of the expedition but I did try to take a few interesting shots. Below is a shot in the cemetery as the sun is setting. This is a merge of multiple exposures in HDR. The cemetery is weather beaten and there are some remains of some weather beaten buildings nearby. This might be a neat place for some night sky photos in the summer.

Terlingua Cemetery at Sunset in HDR

Tired of the wind and dust, I went back to my campsite to wash up and sleep. I had high hopes for sunrise at Santa Elena Canyon in the morning which will be in the next blog. Thanks for reading.

21 thoughts on “Big Bend – Ernst Tinaja and the Boquilla Overlook

  1. Wow, all these photos knock my socks off. I like the way the rock curls down into the right-hand side of the tinaja.

    That’s a nice ground’s eye view of the river, but I’ll bet you felt a little irritated, having to clean all that sand from your tripod.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, I like to think that I intended all of the flowing lines in that picture with the rocks. It is difficult to remember what I was thinking besides “don’t fall in the tinaja”.

      Part of the hazard of landscape photography, I guess, and sometimes you just have to grit your teeth.

      It was quite a process as each leg joint comes apart into 7 pieces that have to be cleaned and put back together the correct way.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wonder how many landscape photographers have fallen to their deaths. I’ve gotten a few photos myself, that left my hair standing on end. I only hope that if I die taking such a photo, everyone will agree that it was worth it.


  2. Your pictures are awesome! I feel like I could touch those rocks, you brought out the details so much!
    The heart shaped sky is my favorite! The colors are amazing. Glad you climbed into the cave and didn’t mind getting sandy and clinbing. We get to admire the rewards, while sitting safely on our couch. 🙂 I am glad you didn’t fall. I would say that your pictures were worth the effort and looking forward to the sunrise!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Another set of great landscapes. Though I do agree the circular polarizer in the shot by the river is a bit much. That said I struggle with circular polarizers as I find them valuable when photographing around water, glass or foliage. And I don’t tend to swap filters while in the thick of it.

    The heart shaped skylight is a real winner. Shooting canyons in what looks like broad daylight can be so tricky, but the contrast really helps in that shot. The sunrise also came out nicely. I appreciate that you didn’t lift the shadows anymore than you did to preserve the sky. It looks quite natural for an HDR composite.

    And as always I deeply appreciate that you break down your process! – Tobias

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I figured. I left a CP filter on my EOS R for most of my hikes in Moab and there were more than a handful of photos where one corner of the sky ended up overly polarized because I wasn’t thinking and didn’t notice. Thankfully, it’s not that difficult to correct in Lightroom.

        Liked by 1 person

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