Mule Ears and Sunset

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.

The Mule Ears Hiking Trail at Big Bend
The Mule Ears Hiking Trail at Big Bend

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.

Yucca on the Mule Ears Trail at Big Bend
Yucca on the Mule Ears Trail at Big Bend

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.

Moon Rising Over Mountains at Big Bend
Moon Rising Over Mountains at Big Bend

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.

Sunset from Sotol Vista in Big Bend
Sunset from Sotol Vista in Big Bend

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.

Sunset from Sotol Vista in Big Bend
Sunset from Sotol Vista in Big Bend

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.

Sunset from Sotol Vista in Big Bend
Sunset from Sotol Vista in Big Bend

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.

18 thoughts on “Mule Ears and Sunset

  1. It can be difficult and frustrating to find clouds in the desert. But you still got a lot of nice orange in that sunset sky. And it figures you’d get a shot of some mule’s ears. Seems everywhere one goes, there’s always a jackass around.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Cool picture of the moon, glad that your daughter pointed it out to you. Just curious, do your daughter’s like photography too?
    The 2nd sunset picture is my favorite and i bet some of the other Yucca flower pictures you have turned out nicely too! đŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My oldest daughter likes photography, but she always wants to shoot pictures of people. I see enough people without making digital recordings of them. I patiently wait until there are no people around the thing that I want to photograph.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I don’t like people getting in my photos either, but I do enjoy taking spontaneous picfures of my family. When they don’t know I am taking a picture. Looks more natural, especially with my son. My daughter loves posing for pics but not my son!

        Like

    2. I put that second sunset picture on Flickr and I am getting more faves than usual so maybe it is OK. I debated about whether to even put it there as I thought it kind of mediocre.

      I have been trying out a bit of a new style with my editing by adjusting the clarity to make it look slightly more dreamy maybe. I find that it works well with the warm desert colors.

      Thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. They were mostly in daylight sun which tends to produce harsh looking photos. The yucca picture that I have above has been quite manipulated to make it look a bit warmer and softer.

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            1. Oh, I was shooting with a polarizer when I shot the yucca. It was the middle of the day and the polarizer cuts down on harsh reflections (like polarized sunglasses), and it also makes the sky darker in certain directions. I have made a mess of photos with a polarizer though, so you have to be careful.

              Liked by 1 person

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