Mule Ears of Big Bend

One of my thoughts going out to Big Bend was catching sunrise over the Mule Ears. I didn’t really have a great plan for a vantage point though. There is an overlook at the Mule Ears trailhead, but I figured that the sun would rise too far south in the sky from this point. While driving around the previous day, I came around a curve in the road and saw what I thought was a nice viewpoint. So I made it back to this point before sunrise.

The view from the pull-out was OK. Below is a photo taken well before sunrise with the mountains mostly silhouettes against the predawn sky.

Across the road I saw that there was a hill that looked climbable by me in the predawn light, so up I went nearly falling a couple of times but I made it to the top and waited. I eventually got a photo as the sun was peeking over the distant horizon. You can see the road curving out of sight to the left below.

As you can see, the sun was still quite south even from this vantage point. Perhaps in the summer half of the year I could get the sun rising more toward the ears. Also, the sky is completely clear so there wasn’t much predawn color to see.

One problem that I had with this image is the large amount of lens flare. If you compare the Mule Ears sunrise shot above to the sunrise that I got on the previous morning near Balanced Rock (see below), you can see the difference between the 14-24mm f/2.8 pro lens I used there versus the 24-200mm kit lens I used at the Mule Ears above. Under such challenging conditions, the kit lens flares and gets a lot of color aberration across the image which I toned down by strategically de-saturating certain parts of the image. The 14-24mm f/2.8 lens used below is one of the best lenses of this type on the market and has all the elements and coatings and other trickery such that it renders the sunlight beautifully without any issue. But I wanted a longer focal length for the Mule Ears shot (67mm) so I used the kit lens. The 24-200mm kit lens is a really good lens, but the above shot showed its weakness. It does have the advantage of being lighter and more versatile and less than half the price of the pro grade lenses.

It was a disappointing sunrise for many reasons and instead of contemplating spending lots of money on a pro 24-70 f/2.8 lens, I stumbled back down the hill to the car and quickly headed up the road to an overlook to see what the morning golden hour would bring.

I think I would have been better served by planning out a good golden hour location rather than waiting around by the Mule Ears. I feel like I was in a hurry to make some sort of image before the sun got too high in the sky. My images aren’t bad, but I think with some better planning they could have been a lot better.

Below there is one image facing south and another facing north. The shadows give a lot of shape and depth to the hills and mountains. I did struggle a bit for foreground elements and some cohesive lines, so they are basically snap-shot grade photos.

I did have an idea about hiking out to The Chimneys for some sunrise and morning photos, but as I drove down the highway and looked off at The Chimneys, I could see that they were completely in the shadow of a mountain. So, I am lucky I didn’t try that out.

Later I hiked up to the Burro Mesa Pour-Off as I had never been up this trail and yes they did tend to name a lot of stuff after pack animals here. The trail is a 1 mile hike to a canyon with a steep face where water pours down during a flood. It wasn’t the most photogenic place, but it was something to see. The below image was shot ultra-wide to take in the entire thing so it is difficult to judge scale. Standing at the bottom, I could just reach the horizontal ridges near the bottom.

You can take another trail that leads to the top and I saw a couple of people way up there. I wouldn’t want to be here in a flood.

That was my Big Bend trip this November. My daughter and I had a good time, but we had to leave at about lunch time and make the long drive back. Thanks for reading.

17 thoughts on “Mule Ears of Big Bend

  1. These are spectacular Jason. But don’t be disappointed with the sunrise, they are always beautiful no matter where you take the picture. Sounds like a great trip to Big Bend, glad you had a good time. Hope your Thanksgiving was a great one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. I am never sorry that I went to Big Bend. I would really like to have a good week at a time out there at some point. It is hard to plan a couple of days in such a big place.
      My Thanksgiving was good. I flew to Oklahoma City to see my brother and other fam. That went well. Now just have to deal with that awkward period of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
      Hope your job search goes well.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Did you happen to see Jack or Jenny?
    I loved the Burro Mesa picture it really stood out to me. And even if not the most colorful sky, I still like the sunrise picture. Just the reflection of the sun’s rays and the mule’s ears make it cool
    Looks like a great place to hike at. I can see why you like going to Big Bend so much. Even the pictures you take that you call OK, show that it is a beautiful place with many unique sights. Someday we may get there!

    Liked by 2 people

        1. On this visit I actually saw a big horn sheep run across the road, a couple of coyotes, lots of lizards, and some deer I think (as well as the creepy-crawlies). There are bears in the basin but I have never been lucky enough to see one.

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Well now big horn sheep, deer and lizards sound a lot better than those other little critters. Seeing a bear 🐻 sometime would be cool as well. Long as you are a safe distance away from them.
            We stayed at a cabin one weekend. I had found it online and it looked nice, so my in-laws and us went for a little getaway when the kids were little. The note in our cabin was a little worrisome. “Bears have been seen on the back porch, make sure you don’t leave any food out!”
            I didn’t exactly want to see a bear that up close!

            Liked by 1 person

  3. Somehow this post didn’t show up in my reader. Dang you, WP!

    The Big Bend area always looks beautiful in your photos. But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Big Bend photo with a cloud in the sky. Must be frustrating for you, trying to get a spectacular sunrise or sunset picture.

    I like the 4th photo best. I like how the shadows give such thick texture to the hills. It seems to be the same spot where you took the moonlight photo in a prior post.

    Liked by 2 people

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