Posted by: kerryl29 | August 24, 2020

Big Bend Day 6: The Window

My last full day at Big Bend revealed skies that would be almost totally clear from beginning to end.  This was what I had feared would be the case each day during the trip, but–fortunately–those fears proved unfounded.  Still, this one day would provide me with the opportunity to see if I could successfully deal with the Clear Sky Challenge [TM].

I drove in the pre-sunrise darkness to a spot along the main road, not far from Panther Junction, and wandered a short way into the desert.  Given the complete absence of light pollution, the starry sky was mesmerizing  It was very cold at daybreak–below freezing–and felt every bit of it.  A light breeze blew every so often and added bite to the dry air.  Though the dawn sky lacked the drama created by the clouds evident from the Mule Ears Viewpoint on Day 5, the early morning light was exquisite.

Dawn, Big Bend National Park, Texas

The earthshadow effect to the west was present, as expected on a crystal clear morning.

Earthshadow, Big Bend National Park, Texas

I crossed the road and faced the southwest where the Chisos Mountains were poised to the accept the first of the sun’s rays this day.

Dawn, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Sunrise, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Popsicle-like, I returned to the welcome warmth of the vehicle’s interior and began the drive to the Basin area.  I stopped a couple of times along the way to capture the serendipitous moonset over the Chisos Mountains.  At the first spot, a long lens landscape included faces of the rocky mountain range in deep shadow.

Chisos Mountains Moonset, Big Bend National Park, Texas

My second stop, at a pullout along the road into the Basin, produced some foreground options.  Focus stacking was required for both of the below images.

Chisos Mountains Moonset, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Chisos Mountains Moonset, Big Bend National Park, Texas

When I arrived at the Basin parking lot, my plan was to hit the Window Trail.  The hike on this trail was to be my main activity for the day.  But before I began the hike, I decided to check out the short Window View Trail, which I’d first investigated on Day 2.  The main attraction to this trail is, unsurprisingly, a view of The Window–the feature I’d be hiking to later in the day.  But on this morning, the most compelling images I found didn’t involve The Window.

Moonset, Window View Trail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Moonset, Window View Trail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Moonset, Window View Trail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

When I finished with Window View, I hit The Window Trail (the trailheads for the two are steps away from each other).  The Window Trail is a bit less than a six-mile round trip hike, with a one-way elevation change of just under 800 feet.  That doesn’t sound too bad and it really isn’t, though the first half-mile or so is steep enough to require a series of switchbacks.  The trail descends from the Basin, below the Basin Campground, into Oak Creek Canyon, which is a beautiful spot in its own right.  I did a bit of telephoto shooting in Oak Creek Canyon on the way in and waited for the wide angle work until I made my return.

Window Trail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Window Trail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

The canyon narrows as you approach the The Window itself and when I moved down into the shaded area, before the final descent to The Window, I pulled the camera back out.

Window Trail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Window Trail Intimate Black & White, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Window Trail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

The final 1/8 of a mile or so before The Window is absolutely fascinating.  This is an extensive pour-off area and is frequently wet, with small pools of water and cascades flowing over remarkably smooth gray rock.  (The rain I experienced on Day 4 certainly contributed to the conditions when I was there.)  By the time I got there this area was in patchy mixed light–direct sun and open shade–so I simply sized it up and decided to stay down at The Window long enough so that I could photograph this area in even light on the way back.  That would mean staying at The Window for a long time, but I decided to do so regardless.

This hike is one of the most popular in the park and even though I was at the park during a fairly quiet time (and on a weekday to boot), a steady stream of visitors came and went.  A youth group–with close to 20 participants–was the biggest and stayed the longest (they made this spot their lunch break), but I was in no hurry.  The Window itself was, when I arrived, in mixed light, so I simply hung out down there until the conditions improved.  By the time they did, there were few people around and part of the time I was by myself.  I was lucky enough to catch a point when an attractive group of clouds–the first I’d seen all day had drifted into position.  They wouldn’t last long, so I hastened to take advantage of them.

I shot with both the 24-70 mm and 14-24 mm lenses.  I set up very low to the ground and the images are a combination of HDR and focus stack sets.  Post-processing was a bit involved, but worth the effort, I think.

The Window, Window Trail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

The Window Black & White, Window Trail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

 

The Window, Window Trail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

The Window, Window Trail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

As mentioned above, I planned to photograph the wet area just above The Window on the way back and, fortunately, foot traffic had decreased significantly, making it much easier to do so.

Window Trail Intimate Black & White, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Window Trail Intimate, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Window Trail Intimate, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Window Trail Intimate Black & White, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Window Trail Intimate, Big Bend National Park, Texas

I re-entered Oak Creek Canyon and quickly made up for lost time.

Window Trail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Window Trail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Window Trail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Window Trail, Big Bend National Park, Texas

I was good and tired by the time I dragged my sorry behind up the switchbacks–the steepest part of the trail–and back to the Basin parking area, but there was still some daylight left.  The few clouds I had seen down at The Window had long ago disappeared; the sky was essentially completely clear.  I decided to make my way back to my go-to spot for end-of-day photography at Big Bend:  Sotol Vista.  The drive would take about 45 minutes, and I figured I’d make it there perhaps half an hour before sunset.

There weren’t many clouds in the sky, but I managed to find and take advantage of a few.

Sunset, Sotol Vsta, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Sunset, Sotol Vsta, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Sunset, Sotol Vsta, Big Bend National Park, Texas

Dusk, Sotol Vsta, Big Bend National Park, Texas

I had to head back to the Houston area the following day–a drive of roughly 600 miles–but I planned one more early morning shoot before departure…


Responses

  1. The Window Trail looks like a worthwhile adventure. The photo at the top of the pour off looking through the window with the blue sky and clouds in the background is really compelling. I really like the contrast between the smooth and craggy rocks.

    • Thanks, Ellen.

      The Window Trail is ABSOLUTELY worth doing.

  2. Love the “Window” series. I agree with the above comment about the view of the pour off being compelling. Ahem, the morning light reminds me to get my butt out of bed earlier.

    • Thanks, Jane!

  3. All the photos here are incredible. Such beauty, and you captured it all so perfectly.

    • Thanks very much!

  4. Nice

  5. […] Intro.     Day 1     Day 2     Day 3     Day 4     Day 5 Part I     Day 5 Part II     Day 6 […]


Please feel free to comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Categories

%d bloggers like this: