Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Texan Ernesto Santos celebrates the return of the beautiful wildflowers his state is known for

Nature and travel photographer Ernest Santos sends us an encouraging report from his home state of Texas. "The historic year of drought and wildfires that gripped our state in 2011 was devastating. I'm pleased to report that 2012 is bringing a promise of renewal to Texas. While many areas are still well below rainfall averages, and there are many with burn bans still in effect, most of the state enjoyed a wet and warm winter. Rains continue into the early spring and people are optimistic. Since I did not see many wildflowers last year, I was eager to spend the week of spring break traveling the southeastern part of the state in search of pastures filled with color.

"I started my trip in the historic Texas town of Goliad where we found the old Fort Presidio La Bahia with a colorful pasture of Cowpen Daisies and Paintbrush In the foreground. This historic fort was relocated in Goliad in 1749 from its original location on Garcitas Creek. Today it is one of the oldest forts in the United States and the oldest and most complete structure remaining from the Spanish era. You can see the chapel behind the huge fort walls.

"For this image, I used my Singh-Ray LB ColorCombo and the 3-stop soft-step ND Grad to enhance the scene. The soft step is so gradual that I can easily set the filter to control the sky while not affecting the important elements of the image. By placing the filter at a slight diagonal on a line where the greenery ends, I covered the sky and the buildings. I then slightly lightened the fort in post processing to bring back the details. This gives me a much more desirable final image than if I were to try and cover only the sky with the filter.

"As we headed down the road the next morning, we hit paydirt when we found this huge pasture of Blue Bonnets between the towns of Cuero and Gonzales. In ths image, I simply used my 3-stop hard-step ND Grad to hold back the sky. With such a lovely scene as this, there really isn’t much I felt I could add to nature’s statement.

"On our final day, we left San Antonio and headed south back to our home in the Rio Grande Valley. As we drove past the town of Pleasanton, we came upon more fields of incredible color. Here is a stand of Magenta Phlox with Yellow Bladderpods in the middle ground. In order to bring a little warmth to an overcast sky I used a Singh-Ray LB Warming Polarizer to boost the yellows and greens.

"When shooting wild flowers, I have learned to never neglect the close-up macro opportunities. I always make it a point to bring along my Nikkor 105mm Micro lens on these trips. To capture the images of this Magenta Phlox and the Texas Thistle at the top of this story, I used my LB ColorCombo to reduce the glare that is always present on these small flowers. The filter also helped to gently boost the color while not exaggerating the saturation levels. Since the LB ColorCombo is a 'lighter brighter' filter, I lost very little light on a day when the wind was blowing rather hard and I needed to maintain a fast shutter speed.

"When I arrived back home, I had a feeling of small relief that my beautiful state is slowly coming back from what we now know as 'the year the whole state was on fire.' By the time it was all over, the Texas fires consumed over 3.5 million acres with a loss of over 45,000 homes and other structures. As long as we continue to get a little rain here and there, I think we are going to recover. At least the Texas wildflowers of 2012 are indicating we will."

Ernesto is eagerly looking forward to traveling to Scotland and Ireland in July. You'll find a wide variety of landscape subjects featured in his website gallery.

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