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The Nature of the Texas Hill Country - A nature photography workshop field report

In the distance, a thunderstorm creeps across the hardscrabble of the northern Texas Hill Country.  With each flash of lightning, the storm’s stratospheric dome bursts with the warm, hot light of nature, completing an electrical circuit via the bolts she spits to the ground.  There’s something magical about watching a thunderstorm in the distance.  It’s mesmerizing.


Where we stand, the air is thick with humidity pumping from the Gulf of Mexico, but above us, stars seemingly pop into the sky as dark envelopes us.  In the foreground is an Aermotor (pronounced AIR-motor) windmill, a testament to the past.  This windmill, a relic from the 1880s, was designed to harness wind energy and draw water for livestock, a crucial innovation in its time.  


The Nature of the Texas Hill Country - A Hackberry Farm Photo School nature photography workshop field report
The stars at night... Star trails and Aermotor Windmill in the Texas Hill Country.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” I think as I look up at the windmill.  The air is still,  so the windmill fan doesn’t budge.  Behind us, a half-moon floats amongst the stars.  From a purist standpoint, this is not technically the ideal night for stars and star trail photography. Still, since Mother Nature waits for no one, we proceed.


The Nature of the Texas Hill Country - A Hackberry Farm Photo School nature photography workshop field report
Black-chinned hummingbird and prickly pear cactus.

Shooting star trails wasn’t part of the original plan for the Nature of the Texas Hill Country Photography Workshop, but the night was too beautiful to stay in.  As the line of cameras click in near syncopation, we retreat to the porch to talk.  On all the workshops I do, it’s the “in-between” time that people seem to remember the most.  That time we spend talking about our families, or what we do, or where we live:  you know, things that connect us all as humans.  Don’t get me wrong, the photography is important, but the connections we all make are what folks really remember about an experience.


The Nature of the Texas Hill Country - A Hackberry Farm Photo School nature photography workshop field report
Enchanted Rock

For the past couple of days, we’ve been running around the Texas Hill Country in search of photographic opportunities.  We’ve sat in blinds and waited for the elusive yet beautiful migrant recognized as one of the most stunning birds in the South - the painted bunting.  


The Nature of the Texas Hill Country - A Hackberry Farm Photo School nature photography workshop field report
Painted bunting amongst the wildflowers.

Aside from the buntings, we see plenty of other migrants and local birds who make up the tapestry of the highly biodiverse Texas Hill Country.  Each morning and each evening excursion is punctuated by beautiful weather and steady photographic opportunities.  Delicious meals bookend the entire experience, and the hospitality, oh the hospitality, would make any Texan proud.  Between the blind sits, we visit places of local lore and cultural importance.  Enchanted Rock is always fantastic, and Luckenbach is a place that compels you to sit, relax, have a beer (or not), and listen to live and local musicians play underneath immense live oak trees that are too old to imagine.  


The Nature of the Texas Hill Country - A Hackberry Farm Photo School nature photography workshop field report
The tangled limbs of an old live oak tree.

Each photography outing and each experience are designed to build upon each other in terms of immersion and educational benefit.  I’ve always thought it essential to not only teach photography but also teach about the people and places that make an area unique.  Doing that provides an all-around valuable experience.  One our guests won’t soon forget.


The Nature of the Texas Hill Country - A Hackberry Farm Photo School nature photography workshop field report
Luckenbach, Texas post office.

The Nature of the Texas Hill Country - A Hackberry Farm Photo School nature photography workshop field report
Mexican hat

 The Nature of the Texas Hill Country - A Hackberry Farm Photo School nature photography workshop field report
Abandoned railroad bridge.

The Nature of the Texas Hill Country - A Hackberry Farm Photo School nature photography workshop field report
Yellow goldfinch

The Nature of the Texas Hill Country - A Hackberry Farm Photo School nature photography workshop field report
Ladder-backed woodpecker.

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