Late Saturday afternoon it was time for another hot mid-August hike. I headed out for the Balcones Canyonland Wildlife Refuge with my full camera backpack hoping that something would inspire me to shoot it. It has been one of the hottest summers on record and we have had very little rain this year, so the creek was dry except for a few shaded puddles and the grass was mostly a desiccated yellow-brown. I thought about trying to shoot the dry creek bed but that seemed too depressing for me, so I hiked up the ridge to the backside of the refuge.
I thought about maybe some long-exposures of the grass waving in the wind, but the grass hasn’t really gotten very tall this year and there wasn’t much of a breeze upon the ridge. So onward I trudged down the other side, hoping to see an animal or something to shoot. But the animals seemed to have been well hidden on this afternoon.
As I emerged from the junipers on the far side of the ridge, the late afternoon sun was shining kind of softly on the hillside across the refuge, so I set about trying to make a photograph out of that. I wandered around looking for some sort of foreground. I settled on some remnants of dead trees. My first shot was with a wide lens and I didn’t think this would work out all that well, but I tried it first. I misfocused on the distant hill instead of the deadwood.
I figured that using a longer lens would work better as the distant hillside will be bigger in the frame and look more interesting. The above photo is shot at 17mm and the photo below is shot at 39mm and you can see that the reduced viewing angle make the background larger in the frame. But you can see that the foreground is less dramatic in the longer focal length shot. For me, whether or not to go ultra-wide is usually dependent on how the sky looks and on this afternoon, it was blue with a few thin clouds, so I like the longer focal length shot better.
From this park, there is a high ridge to the west and the sun sets behind this ridge before sunset, so you may have to wait 10 or 15 minutes after you see the sunset before it is actually sunset. For me, I watched the sun setting behind the ridge as I was coming down the hiking trail and by the time I got down to the parking lot, the high clouds in the east were turning orange. So, I turned around and quickly took the hand-held photo below looking down the trail.
In hindsight, I might have taken my time, moved over a few steps to the left and tried to get more of the trail in the distance going down the hill.
I sure am ready for some rain.