Of Alligators, Ducks, and a Sunset

Brazos Bend State Park is roughly an hour southwest of Houston, Texas. In this park are many alligators, which is surprising to many people. After all, this is Texas, home of cowboys and The Alamo…

Actually, there are alligators all along the Texas coast, from Louisiana to Corpus Christi, but this State Park may have the largest population per acre in the state. They’re in the lakes and swamps, and they love to lie in the warm sun on the trails.

Gayle looks forward more to photographing the alligators than the birds in the park – and this is one of the best places I’ve seen for birds!

On this trip, we had just arrived, and as soon as we were settled, we headed out to the trail around Elm Lake. Gray clouds filled the sky, and although not dark, they weren’t the kind you wanted to have behind your subject. As we walked the trail, I saw several Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks in a dead tree not too far away. I stopped and took some photos, trying to silhouette the ducks against the gray clouds.

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks in a dead tree, silhouetted against gray clouds, Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

Gayle had kept going down the trail, but she was within my sight. After I took a few photos, I headed her way. When I was close enough, I could see she was set up near an alligator…

Gayle, photographing an alligator, Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

She got some pretty good images, including this one.

Brazos Bend Alligator

Alligator at Brazos Bend State Park, by Gayle Millican

After photographing the gator for a while, I saw that the clouds were beginning to break up. I dragged Gayle away from the alligator, telling her that we were about to be blessed with a great sunset. We headed back to the spot where I had photographed the ducks earlier.

Sure enough, after we had barely set up our tripods, the sun began to make its appearance.

Gayle’s first photo of the sunset, her zoom lens set to about 200 mm

We each took about 20 photographs, then it was over…

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks at sunset, Brazos Bend State Park, Texas

Lessons learned: Keep your eye on the sky, and always be ready, for anything!

Cameras used were Sony Alpha, with Tamron lenses.

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About “Pastoral Morning”

The destination that morning was the Cossatot River State Park and Natural Area.  The Cossatot River is well known for its scenery and challenges to floaters, canoeists, and kayakers alike.  I was anxious to be there, but as I drove by a pasture in a valley along US Highway 71, I saw this scene.

An ordinary morning for many farms, cattle gathered near a pond with misty fog surrounding the area, and backlit by the sun.  I drove past it, thinking how nice a little picture it was. Then, about two miles down the road, at the highway 23 junction rest area, I turned around and went back…

Fortunately, there was enough shoulder on the road that I could park the car safely, get my camera and trusty old Minolta 70-210 lens, and look for a vantage point to create a photograph that captured some of the magic of the moment.  I shot verticals; I shot horizontals.  I moved up and down the road; I moved closer.  I set exposure, with the idea of showing the light in the fog, and letting the cows become shadowy silhouettes.  The image shown here is actually a horizontal crop from one of the verticals shot.

Tech stuff:  Sony Alpha 77, Minolta 70-210 f/4 lens, ISO 200, 1/1500 sec, f/11, focal length 105mm.  The date was March 29, 2012 – check back for more photos from that day; I did eventually make it to the Cossatot.  🙂