An inspiring and challenging week in the Big Bend

Last week was inspiring and challenging from a photographic point of view.

Inspiration and photo opportunities abounded from the never ending vistas and quirkiness presented to my senses in west Texas. Inspiration also hit after spending several hours visiting the Marathon, Texas based galleries of two talented guys who have been shooting in Big Bend for many years, James Evans and E. Dan Klepper.

James Evans Gallery – Marathon, Texas

James wasn’t around the day we rolled into Marathon, but I did get a chance to view a bunch of his work and saw several of his lovely panoramics at his gallery. Plenty to learn from this talented fellow.

Lucky for us Dan Evans was in residence at his gallery just around the corner from James’ place, and we had a lovely time visiting with him and checking out his space. I was impressed by the uniqueness, authenticity and range of his work.  He had stacks of his new book on offer titled “why the raven calls the canyon” that is chock full of photographs and stories about off-the-grid living in west Texas. He’s also the author of 100 Classic Hikes in Texas.  I drew a lot of inspiration from our chance meeting with him.

One challenge of the week came from having to hobble around on my left leg.  Seems like I have a pinched nerve or sciatica in my left leg. The sometimes on/sometimes off pain prevented from me venturing too far away from our car on most days.  Forget any hiking. That wasn’t going to happen.  Of course there will always be a next time, but still a bummer not having the ability to get out on the gorgeous off-road hiking trails.

Despite my leg issues we experienced quite a show from Mother Nature. July and August bring the Monsoon Season to the Big Bend Country, which consists of the Chihuahuan Desert and isolated mountain ranges such as the Chisos Mountains, contained entirely within the Big Bend National Park.

Fork lightning in the middle of the day and at night, along with thunder that reverberated for miles through the canyons and mountains. The area is so vast we could do a 360 and observe several entire storms through maturity. This presents somewhat of a challenge during the day. If you want to get on high ground for a pic you don’t want to be on the wrong side of the lightning!

The other challenge was flash flooding. What look like dusty dry gulleys and creeks can become raging torrents within minutes—even if the storm bringing the water is miles away. This happened to us one day on one relatively lonely state highway in the area that straddles the border between the USA and Mexico west of Terlingua, Texas. We ended up stuck and waiting for a good hour or so as the other nearby low water crossings on the road were also blocked by floods in three places.

Flooding on Highway 170 west of Terlingua [July 2017]
It wasn’t all that rough though. I did manage to snap a few keepers during the week. No matter the weather or other challenges, west Texas and the Big Bend area always serves up some juicy prime scenes to be photographed!