Tag Archives: Drought

Six Months for a Bradford Pear Tree


Something very unusual is happening in Austin lately. Yesterday, nearly 4 inches (10cm) of rain fell in downtown Austin, and the weatherman said that it would all be gone by sundown. When we awoke this morning, it was raining gently, and continued to do so for over the next 3 hours. We are so grateful for the rain, that we don’t even mind that it’s during the weekend!

Anyway, I spent the morning getting all caught up on post-processing my photos. I had some unfinished work still from several months ago. As I was going back through the last several months of photos, I noticed that I had several photos of the Bradford Pear tree in our backyard. I decided to show some of them here. I’m going to keep the words to a minimum, but I will mention the date that each of the photos was taken.

The photo above was taken on December 1, 2012. I took the photo to show the beginning of the fall colors. If you look into the shadows underneath the tree, I hope that you can see all 4 of the deer that were staring at me while I took the photo.

It wasn’t until February 3, 2013 before I find another photo of this tree.


Several varieties of trees in Austin keep their leaves all year long.

I took this next photo on the morning of February 21st, to capture the clouds as a weather front passed by our house.


Just two days later, on Feb. 23, I took these next three photos, because the Bradford Pear tree was showing signs of budding out new leaves.


Let’s get a little closer to see what’s happening here.


And let’s get even closer…


Three days later, on Feb. 26, I went out to see how things were progressing along.


Five days later, on March 03, the tree was finally starting to blossom.


Five days after that, on a drizzly March 8, it had lots of leaves, but not as many white blossoms as in a normal year. I think that is because we are about 2 and a half years into a severe draught in Texas.


Since New Year’s we have had a normal amount of rainfall for our area, but the two years of draught prior to that have left Lake Travis about 52 feet (16m) below its full level, and many of the plants have been negatively affected as well.

Two days later, on March 10, I took these next three photos.


It’s nice to see the clear blue sky again! Note that the old Cedar Elm tree that I use to frame the Bradford Pear tree hasn’t started to leaf out yet.


On a few of the lower branches, there were a few blossoms.


During most years, the entire tree is covered with these brilliant white blossoms – but not this year.

Ok, so fast forward about 4 weeks to April 7th. Spring has finally sprung!


The yard is greening-up, and even the old Cedar Elm tree has leafed-out.

I went underneath the Bradford Pear tree and took this photo looking up into its branches.


A week later, on April 13, not much has changed.


But now fast forward until just 2 days ago on May 23rd.


It’s amazing what a little yard fertilizer, a little rain, a weekly watering from the sprinkler system, and the mild temperatures that we’ve had this spring can do for a yard. That is the greenest that our yard has been in at least three years. And that photo was taken before the 4 inches (10cm) of rainfall that we’ve had in the last 24 hours!

I know that this blog post is quite a bit different than my normal posts. I didn’t really need to say anything. It would have been interesting to see what sort of comments people would have left, if I had simply shown the date underneath each photo – and not said anything else in this post…

Thank you for visiting my blog!

CowParade Austin Calendar – July – Udderly Austin

August 27th, 2011 was the 2nd hottest day, of the hottest year ever on record here in Austin. We were also smack-dab in the middle of one of the very worst droughts ever experienced in Central Texas.

Dad and I still had to hunt down a few dozen of the 72 CowParade Austin cows.  The weather reports told us that is was going to be very hot, so we got started early that Saturday morning, and we were photographing our first cow by 9:00 AM.

This is a short story about our encounter with our 10th cow we photographed that morning. “Udderly Austin” was painted by Patti Schermerhorn, and was sponsored by Schlotzsky’s. Patti has a very nice web page showing the art projects that she has done for charities. She even has a photo of Jay Leno auctioning off Udderly Austin. [here]

Even though we had moved quickly and photographed 9 cows in just over two hours, we were already starting to suffer, as the temperature was already well over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m not going to go into great detail in creating a story about just how brutal it was, but I was genuinely concerned about Dad’s ability to deal with this kind of heat – because I was also suffering from the stress of being out on the streets and sidewalks that were too hot to touch.

Udderly Austin was on the northeast corner of the Schlotzsky’s at the corner of South Lamar Blvd. and Toomey Road. This is adjacent to Zachary Scott Theater, just south of the Colorado River in downtown Austin.

As you can see by the shadow underneath this very colorful cow, the sun was almost directly over us at 11:15 AM that morning.

The scene painted onto this side of the cow is the view of downtown Austin that you would have if you simply walked a block to the northeast of where we were standing. That’s the Texas State Capitol Building on the face of Udderly Austin.

It was hot. Very hot. The sun was blazing. The heat radiating off of the sidewalk was cooking my sneakers. This was going to be done quickly, or someone was going to be taken to the hospital. I was going to circle this cow once, take a few photos, and get the hell out of there.

This was the photo that I used in my CowParade Austin calendar.

As I finished photographing the left side of Udderly Austin, I noticed that Dad had taken shelter in the shade of a nearby tree – and he didn’t look good.

I went around to the other side of the cow. This is the view that those inside of the Schlotzsky’s restaurant had of the cow. To me, it looked like a completely different cow than I had seen from the other side. Also, this side was in the shade, and background was nothing but blinding glare from the sidewalk street, and concrete pad that the cow was standing on. I popped my flash unit on top of my Canon 5D Mark II, and took this one photo.

You can see the reflections of the flash, and I knew that under different circumstances that I could have done much better. I also knew that we quickly needed to seek shelter somewhere, so there wasn’t time to dilly-dally. I walked up next to the cow and took a photo of the plaque underneath her.

It was too dang hot to even think about walking across Lamar Blvd. and the half block to our car. I suggested that we go inside of Schlotzky’s and get a iced soft drink. Dad would rarely ever go for such a suggestion, but this time he quickly agreed.

We spent nearly 30 minutes inside the air conditioned restaurant, and had nearly finished our second iced soft drink, before our body temperature returned to something near normal.  We had come dangerously close to heat exhaustion.

After we walked back to the car, we turned on the radio, where we learned that it was already 108 degrees (at only 12:00 PM). Now we have lived in Austin for 40 years, and we have seen our share of hot weather, but rarely does it ever got THAT hot here. I’m sure that we could count the number of times that it has been 108 or hotter on one single hand….

We did stop and photograph 3 more cows before we returned home, but I was able to park the car within 50 feet (16 meters) of each one, and the car’s air conditioner did its best to attempt to blow cool air on us between each stop. By the time that we got home, the temperature had reached 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

The record highest temperature ever recorded in Austin, TX is 112 degees. It has reached that mark twice. The 1st time was Sept. 5, 2000. The 2nd time it did so was the day after we photographed Udderly Austin (July 28, 2011).

I associate this cow with the incredible summertime heat. That is why she appears as “Miss July” in my CowParade Austin 2012 calendar.

Lake Travis in a Historic Central Texas Drought

Last week’s Project 52 assignment was to pretend that a major online magazine wants you to shoot the photos for a lead story on the impact of weather in your area.  The historic drought in central Texas immediately came to my mind, and specifically how it has affected LakeTravis. We have been hearing on the local TV weather that Lake Travis was down more than 50 feet (15m), but we have not been out there to see it ourselves. Seemed like a great way to make my Project 52 assignment!

So last Saturday, Feb. 11, 2012 on a chilly 40 degree morning, Dad and I headed out to see LakeTravis. The sky was clear and a beautiful shade of blue! While on RR 620, just past Comanche Trail, but still about 2 miles east of Mansfield Dam, we pulled into the parking lot of St. Luke’s on the Lake Episcopal Church. This is normally a very scenic overlook of the beautiful waters of LakeTravis. Using my Canon 5D Mark II camera, I put a circular polarizer filter on the 70-200mm lens, mounted it all on my sturdy Gitzo tripod, zoomed the lens to 140mm and took the photo of the lake you see above.

(Note: you can see a larger version of each photo by simply clicking on the photo – just be sure to press the “Back” button on your web browser to return to my story.)

In a normal year, nothing that appears “sandy brown” would be visible – it would be under water.  Land being visible in the middle of this lake is such an uncommon occurrence that when it does “come to the surface”, the exposed land is referred to as “The Sometimes Islands”.  Right now they are peninsulas that have lots of vegetation growing on them. The small clump of trees on the far right are on Windy Point.

We moved on to Mansfield Dam Park. With all of the stark, barren exposed rock, the bright blue sky, and surrounded by water, I knew that the circular polarizer was really going to help by reducing glare. I changed my lens to the 24-105mm (with the circular polarizer), and we got out of the CR-V to walk around. It was very windy, and with the temperature still very close to 40 degrees F, we were quite cold.

This is looking east towards The Sometimes Islands, and yes, that is the Oasis restaurant on the cliff just to the left of the tree.

The boat ramp was closed. This was the last of all the boat ramps into Lake Travis to close, and currently there are not any boat ramps open to get a boat into our out of Lake Travis. In the photo above, it doesn’t appear to be such a great distance down to the water, but the next photo changes that perspective.

It wasn’t windy on this north shore, so I decided to spend more time investigating this area.

From here, it still appeared to me that there was no reason to close the boat ramp. What would stop anyone from simply removing the orange pylons and backing their boat into the lake for a care-free afternoon of cruising around the lake? Well, maybe this would prevent that:

But even if that didn’t stop them, this certainly would.

We decided to move on and head out and see how things appeared over by the popular lake-side restaurant named Carlos ‘n Charlie’s. We turned right onto Hudson Bend Road, and then a left onto Highline Road.

If your boat is already in the water, and docked at a marina, you are OK, as long as the marina is floating and can be moved further from the shore as the lake levels drop.  That appeared to be case at Emerald Point Marina, which pretty much surrounds Carlos ‘n Charlie’s.

Of course this doesn’t look anything like the photo that you see on Emerald Point Marina’s web site, but then I exaggerated the appearance of the distance by using a wide-angle view by zooming my lens in to only 24mm. But even so, it really is quite a way out from where it would be in a normal year.

We then decided to head back over across Highline Road to see what it looked like on the other side of Carlos ‘n Charlie’s restaurant.

If you’ve ever been there when the lake is up at its normal level, you know that the water line isn’t very far below the tops of the cylindrical concrete supports – and you can see the stains on them showing just how high the water should be! This was looking towards the northeast, and by turning to my left, and looking towards the northwest, you could get a sense of the fabulous view that the current customers were experiencing.

Although this photo doesn’t show it as well as I had hoped, the water level is at least 20 feet below the ledge. The ledge is higher than anything on the few boats remaining in this shallow part of the marina.

I thought it was would make an interesting photo to zoom my lens out to 105mm and get as much of a close-up as I could of the beached floating boat dock that was in the previous photo.

It was getting close to 1 o’clock. We were getting hungry, and the Longhorns were about to play Kansas State in basketball, so we packed up our photography equipment into the CR-V and headed home. We didn’t have much conversation on the way home. I’m sure it was because were were somewhat in a state of shock over what we had just seen. The only hard thing left for me to do was to choose which 3 photos to submit for my Project 52 assignment.