Travel Texas | Photography Tips | Piers & Boats

Photographing the outdoors can be a challenge, especially if your on a limited time vacation schedule with your family in tow.

I always enjoy my precious family time on our vacations, but I do like to try & set aside a little photography time, especially at sunset or sunrise, for my own collections.

For sunrise photos, it can be a challenge to wake up early, leave your family, and haul camera equipment around in the pre-dawn darkness, especially if its cold outside.    Sometimes my family goes with me, and that adds even more great bonding time!     

Weather & Cold Fronts:
Clouds can create beautiful sunrises & sunsets, so try to go out during a cold front or just before/after a storm rolls through.  Just stay safe. I always watch the weather, and I really enjoy photographing the outdoors during mild storms, fog, and cold fronts. Weather disturbances create beautiful, moody skies. A recent light rain will help to saturate the colors in grass and leaves or street reflections.

Day 1:     Mid-afternoon scouting
Any camera with a standard zoom lens will work for for your mid-afternoon excursions and travel fun with your family.
Mid-afternoon is the worst time of the day for photography, because the sun is high in the sky, creating harsh shadows, hotspots, contrast, and its a very boring light. But its a great time to explore and scout locations.

Once a great location is found, it may take a couple trips to that same spot before Mother Nature offers any ‘magic light‘ enabling you to create a stronger image in camera …. that’s just another challenge for landscape photographers.

My family & I visited Fulton Pier at Rockport Texas during the mid-afternoon and I grabbed a hand-held snapshot (see below).  

Day 1:   Sunset
I returned to the Pier that evening with my wide angle lenses, DSLR camera, and tripod, hoping that the light would be interesting.  But the evening sky was weak & boring. There weren’t enough interesting clouds to create a dramatic sky, and a lot of people were still milling around

Some photographers would say, ‘just use photoshop and drop in a great sky!’, but I prefer to try and take good images in-camera.  It takes a lot of patience.

So I changed my plans that evening, and focused on boats at the T-heads instead. I used the boat sails, masts, & patterns to frame the shots and fill in the weak sky.  

NOTE: A polarizer filter or a graduated neutral density filter will help darken the sky and create a better balance between a bright sky and darker subjects. You can also take multiple exposures, one for the sky and another for the land or main subject, and then later merge them in photoshop during post-production.

I used a polarizer filter to help reduce glares from the metal objects.
I like how the golden sunlight is sculpting the boat in this image.


On our second morning, my youngest son and I awoke around 4:30am, and we loaded my camera gear in the car.  We arrived at the pier long before sunrise and had plenty of time to just hang out. It was so peaceful!

There were no other people, and we had the pier to ourselves! Pre-dawn clouds were rolling through with a nice breeze.  It could be a good sunrise if the sun can break through the clouds – maybe!
We set up the tripod, shutter release, and we waited.
And waited.

Finally, the first light began to peek through. The rays of light were beautiful, but the window of opportunity was cut very short.  The magic light only lasted about 1-2 minutes, because a thick wall of clouds rolled in, completely blocking the sun.  I’m so glad that we were already set up!

We managed to grab a good shot of the first light – an award winner! “Fulton Pier Sunrise” earned a PPA Print Merit award, and was exhibited at Atlanta GA.
Signed prints are available at our store.


Note: Always have a bag filled with extra goodies, such as water, duct tape and/or gaffner tape, snacks, extra batteries, memory cards, bug spray, sunscreen, etc…

So, as you travel about with your family, enjoy the moments shared together, and have fun chasing the light!   Don’t get discouraged if the light doesn’t work in your favor.  You may need to re-visit (if you can) to get a better shot in a different light.

Happy Photo Trails!

Be sure to visit Western Galleries for current available artwork.

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