Snail Creek Hat Company

Walking around little Luckenbach, Texas is something you take your time doing. It’s not that big. So soak it in and look for the little hidden gems along the way. One of those gems is the Snail Creek Hat Company, located back behind the general store.

If you want to be a true Texan, this is the place to get your straw headwear. They can shape it to any size, shape or style. They’re nice folks and are guaranteed to bring a smile to your face as you make this most important decision. You’ll leave a little taller, with a bit more hattitude as you show the world you’re a true Texan. It’s a state of mind, after all.

 

Snail Creek Hat Co. in Luckenbach, Texas. Photo by Tim Stanley. 

Snail Creek Hat Co. in Luckenbach, Texas. Photo by Tim Stanley.

 

Snail Creek Hat Company. Photo by Tim Stanley.

Luckenbach

Back in high school, a popular country song came out about Luckenbach, Texas. I didn’t even know where Luckenbach was and I’m guessing many others didn’t either. So during our Texas Hill Country Tour, I was all in when David Morefield insisted that we visit the booming metropolis of Luckenbach. (David did a good synopsis of our trip here).

On most mornings, it is probably very quiet and empty, but on this fall morning, the “Harvest Classic” motorcycle convention was gearing up. We arrived at sunrise with tents and campers all around. Vintage and new motorcycles were everywhere to be found too. Since it was still very early, most folks were looking for coffee or breakfast, but we were already checking out the General Store.

This old building has quite a history and I encourage you to read more about it.  Today, the front room is where you will find most items for sale, while the old post office/bar is in the back. They don’t deliver mail there anymore and it was too early to be selling beer, but there was still plenty to look at. Below is a shot of the bar area.

Luckenbach is a short drive from Fredericksburg, TX and worth the visit. And while it’s not a large place, I hear it’s still a great place to listen to live country music in the pure Texas tradition.

 

The back room of the Luckenbach "Post Office" and General Store. Photo by Tim Stanley Photography.

Texas Longhorns

On a recent trip to the Texas Hill Country, we had a chance to ride through the Blue Ridge Ranch, in Llano to take a few photos. (Thanks Susan!)  Not having a lot of cattle experience, we weren’t sure how their longhorns would react to several guys hopping out of a pickup with cameras. Once they realized we were not there to feed them, they soon returned to their grazing.

These guys are as big as Texas and a very stately animal. According to their website, this young bull is BRR Smoke’n Mirrors. This 2.5 year old fine specimen already has great horns and just seemed to exemplify what a longhorn was to look like. Thanks again to Blue Ridge Ranch for allowing to take a visit and admire these Texas icons.

I wasn’t sure which way to process the image, so I did it with several variations, so make sure you scroll down to see all three.

 

A Texas Longhorn at the Blue Ridge Ranch in Llano, Texas. Photo by Tim Stanley Photography.

A Texas Longhorn at the Blue Ridge Ranch in Llano, Texas. Photo by Tim Stanley Photography.

A Texas Longhorn at the Blue Ridge Ranch in Llano, Texas. Photo by Tim Stanley Photography.

 

 

The Milky Way at Sprague Lake

It was a very cold, dark night, but we were determined. We had been at the crime scene earlier that day, but wanted, no needed to experience it at night. Okay, there was no crime. But it was cold and dark. Very dark.

Earlier that morning, Alex Santiago and I had experienced an incredible sunrise at Sprague Lake in the Rocky Mountain National Park. When we arrived in the dark, we saw some photographers Alex had met at the lake last year. What were the odds they would be out at the same location, on the same day and tim? Jim Doty and his friends were a great group to join up with too. As we took our sunrise images, they shared how they had been at the lake a previous night and how the conditions were perfect for shots of the Milky Way. Say no more.

However, later that evening, after a long day of shooting, I had secretly wanted us to stay in and rest, but I’m so glad we didn’t. We returned to the lake well after dark to a moonless, clear sky. The higher altitude in the mountains with no light pollution only helped. I remember getting out of the truck and immediately being able to see the Milky Way across the entire sky, and my eyes had not even adjusted to the dark yet. Wow, quite a sight to see for someone living in the suburbs!

The one downside is that it was so dark, that hardly anything would work for a foreground object.  We tried to “light paint” a few trees using flashlights with mixed success. My favorite image was this first image of the star reflections on the lake itself.

 

Milky Way at Sprague Lake. Photo by Tim Stanley

 

 

Milky Way at Sprague Lake. Photo by Tim Stanley

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Pano

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is a place like no other. When I first heard that we might stop there on our trip, I was very neutral. I figured it would be somewhere I would just check off my list of places I’ve been too. It turned out to be one of my favorites stops on our trip.

When you first view the dunes at a distance, they seem small and thin, but they quickly grow in size as you drive towards them. They appear as a mountain range of sand, lying alongside another mountain range. With heights of over 750 feet, it is a sight to behold. We arrived a few hours before sunset. When the low sun was still out, it offered great contrast and detail to the dunes. As fate would have it, the clouds got the better of the sun. The shaded light brought it’s own uniqueness to the landscape; not better or worse, just different.

We climbed to the top of one of the smaller and closer sand dunes, and just sat and soaked it all in. The quietness is what struck me as much as the serenity of it all. It makes you realize how small you really are, but in a good way.

I can truly say that I hope to return one day and take the time to hike in deeper and go “sand boarding” down a few dunes. Maybe camp the night and try some night astrophotography there too, as it is one of the darkest parks in the country.  It’s definitely on my return-trip list.

This is one of the panographs taken while there. It turned out to be 34,656 x 3,516 pixels. That is a 12 foot print at 240 dpi. The file is just too large to upload, so I split it into a 3 image series, shown below.

 

 

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Pano - Part 1

 

 

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Pano - Part 2

 

 

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve Pano - Part 3

 

Here is a “thumbnail” version of the entire pano.

Great Sand Dunes pano - lo res

Elk Alert

On my recent trip to Colorado, there were a few animals I was hoping to see. Though I didn’t see any moose or bear, I did have the opportunity to see a number of elk.

On our first day in Rocky Mountain National Park, we heard an elk bugling, then saw it from a distance. It walked out into an opening, which gave me a chance to grab these images. It would later walk behind our truck, but shooting out the window did not prove advantageous.  The following morning, we even drove pass a herd just outside of Estes Park, which apparently is the norm for this time of year. Until you see it in person though, you don’t realize how large and beautiful this animal really is.

 

An elk in Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo by Tim Stanley.

 

An elk in Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo by Tim Stanley.

 

An elk in Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo by Tim Stanley.

Golden Valley

For a guy from the flat lands of the Gulf coast, it seems like everywhere you turn in Colorado, the view is breathtaking. One of the best views is a stretch on Highway 82 between Aspen and Twin Lakes, known as Independence Pass. Our trip took us almost three hours just to drive the 20 miles to the top; not because of traffic or anything, but because we were pulling over for photo opportunities. The day we went, the clouds were clinging to the top of the mountains, like a smokey veil. While the colors may not have been as vibrant as a sunny day, it had a peaceful sense of wonder, yet mystery.

This panoramic scene was taken just leaving Aspen on a small bridge just off of 82. It was a great way to start our trip up Independence Pass.

 

Golden Valley by Tim Stanley