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Texas Wildflowers Nature Photography Workshop - A Field Report

I was tired when I woke up, but the possibilities abounded, so I crawled out of bed despite every urge not to. The day before, I'd hosted nearly 30 people for an epic, once-in-a-lifetime photography workshop where a total solar eclipse passed over my home here at Hackberry Farm and, for three and a half minutes, created a scene that was surreal and mesmerizing.


Texas Wildflowers Nature Photography Workshop - A Field Report
Blebonnets and Hackberry Tree

Overnight, however, five inches of rain fell. For hours, storms trained across North Texas. As such, the creeks flooded and began to rise. For the first time ever, floods threatened the launch of our trip.


"I'll see you if the good Lord's willing and the creeks don't rise," is a common saying amongst rural Southerners, and it's one I thought about the opening morning of the Texas Wildflower workshop. While the creeks did swell, and there was some road flooding, all was good for our departure.


While the rain does occasionally cause some damage, the ample winter rains that fell over Texas this past season created the perfect conditions for an incredible bloom in the spring.


Texas Wildflowers Nature Photography Workshop - A Field Report
Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrush

We start our travels near Ennis, Texas.   Also known as Bluebonnet City, Ennis has multiple trails that wind through the countryside where the flowers are at their peak. In the green fields, bluebonnets mix with Indian Paintbrush, creating a kaleidoscope of color that enriches under the overcast skies and portends more rain.


Supper at a local eatery was lively and enjoyable, and the following day, we returned to photographing flowers. The Texas Bluebonnet is the star of the show, and it well should be. Named the Texas State Flower in 1901, the Texas Bluebonnet is one of four leguminous lupines growing in Texas. However, Lupinus subcarnosus is the only one recognized by the Texas legislature as the state flower. It's been called el Conejo, wolf flower, and buffalo clover, but bluebonnet is the name that stuck. As such, it's a beloved flower that's too short-lived in the spring.


Texas Wildflowers Nature Photography Workshop - A Field Report
Bluebonnets are the Texas state flower.

As we explore the area, we find vast patches of all sorts of wildflowers. The colors are astounding. We even see a few white bonnets - a genetic mutation where a bluebonnet turns white. The mutation isn't necessarily rare, but it's not really common either. To see one is a treat - especially when you find a whitebonnet in a sea of blues. Texas Yellow Star, prairie verbena, paintbrush, and bluebonnets carpet the rolling hillside before us. There are plenty of subjects.


Texas Wildflowers Nature Photography Workshop - A Field Report
A bluebonnet and a white bonnet with a genetic mutation.

After a late breakfast, we are back on the road to the Texas Hill Country. Technically, the region is the Edwards Plateau, and it's characterized by Rolling Hills covered in ashe juniper and broad valleys interspersed with mesquite trees and prickly pear. Historically, the area hasn't been a good place to farm due to its poor soils. However, poor soils are exactly what the wildflowers love, and in the spring, they grow in abundance.


Most of the land in Texas is privately held, so a no-trespassing ethic must be upheld. We visit public parks when available, but some of the jewels we find are on private land throughout the hills around Fredericksburg. Throughout the workshop, we eat at quaint local eateries and explore wildflowers.


Texas Wildflowers Nature Photography Workshop - A Field Report
Enchanted Rock

The entire workshop allows us to practice the craft with wide-angle lenses, telephoto lenses with and without extension tubes, macro lenses of all sorts, slow shutter speed zooms, intentional camera movement, and a host of other techniques.


Texas Wildflowers Nature Photography Workshop - A Field Report
The old Luckenbach post office and general store.

One morning, we watch the sunrise over Enchanted Rock and photograph the varied and abundant flowers along decomposed granite-lined creeks. We explore old schools and wonder what life would have been like when this area was wilder and life was less complicated. We trek to century-old abandoned railroad bridges where bluebonnets cover the tracks, visit places of local cultural importance, and laugh a lot.


Texas Wildflowers Nature Photography Workshop - A Field Report
Old school house in the Texas Hill Country

Texas Wildflowers Nature Photography Workshop - A Field Report
Bluebonnets and Railroad Bridge


In all, we probably photographed two dozen different species of wildflowers and the fields they carpeted. We covered a lot of miles and saw some beautiful sites. In the end, we got to explore Texas in one of the most beautiful seasons of the year.


I can't wait until next spring.


Texas Wildflowers Nature Photography Workshop - A Field Report
Stone House in the Texas Hill Country


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We are building something special here at Hackberry Farm Photo School. If you want to be a part of an educational organization that puts hospitality and your photographic education at the forefront, I hope you'll join one of our workshops.

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