On Saturday I did a little hiking on the Mule Ears trail in Big Bend National Park. I had never been on this trail before, but it seemed interesting. It is basically a hilly hike through the desert in the general vicinity of the Mule Ears, which is a jagged cliff that I suppose looks a bit like a mule’s ear. The image below shows a view down the hiking trail with the mule ears in the distance.
It was a clear sunny March day, but not particularly hot so it was a nice hike through the desert. There were actually quite a lot of people on the trail on this day. I am not used to seeing this many people around when I am at Big Bend, but spring must be the busy season. Later, when we went to Santa Elena Canyon, I had to park down the road as the parking lot at the trailhead was full. So, I suppose it is nice that so many people are enjoying the park, but I do prefer a little solitude.
Below is a flowering Yucca, one of many that I saw along the trail. I just kind of liked the way it looked against the cliffs in the background. I was shooting with a polarizer so the sky is extra blue.
I ended up taking a lot of photos of Yuccas, but I don’t think that they are very publishable.
Saturday evening I planned to take sunset photos at Sotol Vista in Big Bend Naitonal Park. Sotol Vista is a high overlook just off the scenic Castolon Road and there is a clear view west over the desert. As I arrived at the vista, my daughter noticed that the moon was just making it up over the mountains so I quickly grabbed my long lens and took a few shots.
You can see how clear the sky is in the above photo and it was just as clear in the other direction for sunset. But before sunset I shot to the south to get the light and shadows across the hills and mountains in the distance. The image below was shot at 16mm focal length and down low close the plants. The air was much cleaner on this evening and you can see all the way to Mexico in the distance.
The sun set over the desert without much drama and the sky started to fade from orange to blue to black. The image below is an HDR merge and shot at 35mm focal length. You can see the curve of the scenic highway off to the left as it winds down the hills. It does go along some rather steep drop-offs so don’t look down if you are driving.
I moved up a little close to the edge of the hill because I wanted to focus on the line of hills leading off to the west without the distracting plants in the foreground. I was one of the few people left looking at the sunset by now.
The sunset pictures are all HDR merges. I have tried working this up from a single exposure, but to get sky exposed properly, the landscape is almost completely dark and when you bring that data up you lose some color and detail. So, I prefer the merger of about 5 images at varying exposure so that I can have all that landscape detail. Some photographers treat HDR like it is a bad word because I guess they see it used to make images cartoonish sometimes. I try not to do that with my images.
That’s my second cloudless desert sunset. Tell me what you think in the comments.