Clouds, the Moon, and a Snake

I returned to Balcones Canyonlands on Friday afternoon to go hiking, but mostly to get out of the house. It was a very cloudy day and I wanted to see what the long grasses up on top of the ridge looked like anyway. So, I hiked up the trail and found the long grasses fading from yellow to brown.

I have an idea about these grasses and maybe this idea isn’t really any good, but I want to capture them on a windy, sunny afternoon just before sunset. My idea is that the grasses will blur into a sea of gold and the boulders or pieces of wood or whatever will look surreal among the grass. So far, I have either had the wind or the sunlight but not really both. Friday afternoon there was wind so I took some practice shots but I didn’t spend a lot of time worrying about a foreground subject.

Long Grasses at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

The above is a 20 second exposure using an ND filter. The grass does get a lot of motion blur and I didn’t adjust the colors in the above photo even though it looks like I did. Maybe it is the overcast sky, but I am not really getting anything close to what I imagine. The grass mostly looks brown in this light instead of gold. I will probably try this again if I can find a sunny afternoon with a strong wind. What do you think? Am I wasting my time with a crazy idea?

At least I got to hike around and enjoy the warm, muggy mid-December afternoon. I talked to another photographer for a bit and then continued my hike back to the parking lot ready to head home. As I got down to the creek crossing, there were some rather serious looking clouds in the western sky, so I decided to see what kind of moody shots I could get.

I decided that to get the shot I had to go set up in the middle of the creek looking back at the crossing. The creek had about 2 inches of water in it and my waterproof hiking boots held. I am also happy to report that I did not slip and fall on the hard stone creek bed. The high winds were really pushing the clouds around and I didn’t have very much time to get my moody shot.

Stepping Stone Path at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

In editing I reduced the color saturation quite a bit and increased the micro-contrast to enhance the mood. I found that the green in those trees really overwhelmed the original image and I had to desaturate it a lot.

According to the time information in the above photo, the sun had set about 9 minutes earlier behind all of those clouds. Turning around, I found the full moon rising in the east. It is really difficult to capture the moon above a landscape as it appears very small in the image. But I found that all the thin clouds were picking up the moonlight and the effect was pleasing so I took some photos.

The image below looks back from the other side of the stepping stone path and also features a small waterfall. I positioned my tripod as far to the right as possible to get the moonlight reflected across the water in the creek in front of the stepping stones.

Moonlight Over the Creek at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

I have two edits of this photo. My first edit was more heavily saturated than what you see above and I think it looks good, but I think that scenes lit by moonlight look good with muted colors so I created a copy and produced this alternate edit and I think I like it better. This was about 20 minutes after sunset so there was still light in the sky from the sun as well.

It was getting dark and I was ready to go, but then I noticed a large water snake down in the water just hanging out. I actually couldn’t see it very well in the dark and wasn’t sure whether it was a harmless water snake or a venomous water moccasin. I put a longer lens on the camera, shined my phone light on it to get some light, and took a long exposure to see if I could get a decent photo of it. Below is an 8 second exposure lit mostly by the moon. The snake was kind enough to remain still.

Water Snake on the Bottom of the Creek

This was shot through about one and a half feet of water and the water was moving, but it is clear enough and I think that this is probably a harmless diamond-backed water snake, which I see all the time around here. It wasn’t interested in coming out of the water either way.

That was it for this evening. Thanks for reading.

10 thoughts on “Clouds, the Moon, and a Snake

  1. A close tie between the clouds and the moon but the moon gets the prize. Great job.
    Keep trying with your “fields of gold” Sometimes crazy ideas have surprising results! 🙂
    Have to admit that the snake in the clear water does look cool. Glad it held still for you and didn’t come out of the water, just in case you would have been wrong about it being the harmless kind.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love that photo of the water snake. It looks surreal, and kind of creepy. I think you’re going to have a hard time getting the gold grass effect you’re looking for. But maybe under low light conditions, with a relatively fast lens, you could get a grainy shot that might look like some kind of golden, impressionist painting.

    Liked by 1 person

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