West Of Here: Chasing The Perseids Across Big Bend National Park

A meteor during the Perseids meteor shower viewed from Big Bend National Park near the Burro Mesa pouroff on August 12, 2016 around 4 a.m. Heavy clouds, part of a storm system from Mexico, made viewing difficult. However, at about 2 a.m., the skies cleared and debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet soared into the earth’s atmosphere. ©2016 Robert W. Hart

A meteor during the Perseids meteor shower viewed from Big Bend National Park near the Burro Mesa pouroff on August 12, 2016 around 4 a.m. Heavy clouds, part of a storm system from Mexico, made viewing difficult. However, at about 2 a.m., the skies cleared and debris from the Swift-Tuttle comet soared into the earth’s atmosphere. ©2016 Robert W. Hart


I sped out to Big Bend National Park, a mere nine hours west, on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2016, last week with two goals in mind. One: Photograph the Perseids Meteor shower in one of the darkest skies in North America and two: Photograph the desert storms that develop in and around the park in August. A pair of Mexican storm systems almost thwarted my meteorite plans by stalling directly over the park and surrounding area Thursday night. Fortunately, on Friday morning, the peak time for viewing the Perseids, the clouds cleared at about 2 a.m. and I was able to shoot till dawn.

Unfortunately, the wall of moisture-filled clouds up from Mexico threw a wrench in my plans for storm shooting but one does not despair when faced with the prospect of two full days working in BBNP. I made for Terlingua to stay at Villa Terlingua, the beautiful guesthouse owned by my friend Cynta De Narvaez. It’s my favorite place to stay when I’m not in a tent in the park. It’s in the ghost town but far enough away from the store and the Starlight to be quiet, even during the chili cookoffs. I shot the Perseids image with the Nikon D810 and an f/2.8 17-35mm lens at ISO 2000 and a 20-second exposure.

Villa Terlingua in Terlingua  Ghost Town: My favorite place to stay in the Big Bend.

Villa Terlingua in Terlingua Ghost Town: My favorite place to stay in the Big Bend.

West of Here: Santa Elena Canyon After Dark

Santa Elena Canyon on the Rio Bravo in Big Bend National Park is one of the park’s most popular spots. I shot this at 2 a.m., more or less, on December 30, 2015 in sub-freezing weather alongside my friend and fellow photographer Matt Larseingue on a photo/camping trip. ©2015 Robert W. Hart

Santa Elena Canyon on the Rio Bravo in Big Bend National Park is one of the park’s most popular spots. I shot this at 2 a.m., more or less, on December 30, 2015 in sub-freezing weather alongside my friend and fellow photographer Matt Larseingue on a photo/camping trip. ©2015 Robert W. Hart

West of Here: Twilight In Oil Patch

Inactive drilling rigs sit in an Odessa, Texas oil field service yard. Odessa sits squarely in the Permian Basin where, despite being an oil-rich region, drilling decreased by 60 percent in 2015. ©2015 Robert W. Hart

Inactive drilling rigs sit in an Odessa, Texas oil field service yard. Odessa sits squarely in the Permian Basin where, despite being an oil-rich region, drilling decreased by 60 percent in 2015.

Running With The Bulls, Hanging With El Alcalde

Men running with, and from, the bulls of Pamplona, Spain during the Festival of San Fermin on July 10, 2015. ©2015 Robert W. Hart

Men running with, and from, the bulls of Pamplona, Spain during the Festival of San Fermin on July 10, 2015. ©2015 Robert W. Hart

Occasionally, fate reaches in and takes a hand.

I took to the streets of Pamplona yesterday afternoon despite having only slept four of the past 72 hours. Turns out jet lag is a real thing!

I left my quarters in the Pamplona Cathedral Hotel in search of San Fermin revelers. Their voices and music were constant outside my hotel window, so I knew I wouldn’t have to go far. Two blocks from the hotel, at Calle del Carmen thousands of festival faithful were parading, singing, chanting and drinking. Clearly, San Fermin is fueled by alcohol, fun and sleep deprivation.

Pamplona Alcalde Joseba Asirón, left,  prepares to watch the running of the bulls from the city hall building in Pamplona, Spain on Friday July 10, 2015.

Pamplona Alcalde Joseba Asirón, left, prepares to watch the running of the bulls from the city hall building in Pamplona, Spain on Friday July 10, 2015. ©2015 Robert W. Hart

The evening light in the narrow streets was perfect and I was gathering both video and still images. A gracious local couple, willing to tolerate my weak spanish, pointed out the mayor of Pamplona, Joseba Asirón, and took me over to meet him. I introduced myself and told him I was a Fort Worth-based photojournalist, his face lit up and he invited me to photograph the running of the bulls from a private balcony at city hall. One of his companions handed me a pass and told me to be there at 6:30 a.m. I assured her I’d be the first one there.

I continued shooting along Calle del Carmen till 1:30 a.m. then headed back to my hotel to download images/video, charge batteries and prep for the next morning’s shoot. Three very brief hours later my alarm sounded and I was out the door.

Pamplona’s city hall is only four medium blocks from my hotel, so I was there in time to see city workers assemble the massive wooden barriers that separate the bulls and the runners from the sane folk. Each morning during the festival, the workers erect the barriers and minutes after the running, take them down again. Pamplona has this San Fermin thing down to an art.

At 7:30 I and a small group of celebrants were shown to our balconies. I shared mine with a Pamplona family of four who were, as all Pamplonans seem to be, very gracious and polite.

Two canon blasts signaled the start of the run and I saw the first of six bulls round the corner headed our way. Within 30 seconds the bulls and runners had come and gone. The alcalde came and fetched me and escorted me to a hallway where a live feed of the run was being shown. It appeared to me that there were no gorings, so chalk one up for the deranged.

I thanked alcalde Asirón in my pitiful spanish and headed over to the Cafe Iruna for breakfast. The spirit of Papa is alive and well in Pamplona, but more about Ernest later.

Tracks in the Moonlight

Critter tracks, 5:30 a.m. this morning in my snowy pasture.

Critter tracks, 5:30 a.m. this morning in my snowy pasture.

West of Here: Chisos Mountains at Dawn

Chisos Dawn

Chisos Dawn

In mid-November I spent five days in the Chihuahuan desert at Villa de las Minas and this was the dawn view looking mostly east, southeast outside my adobe. Night temperatures were in the low to mid-40s which made porch sleeping mighty pleasant.

Daytime temps hit the low 80s, so day hikes in the national park were a breeze. For the first time, I saw Cattail Falls with water actually falling. The falls don’t run year round but there’d been sufficient recent rainfall and that allowed me to make the photo below.

Geophysicist Cedric Snyder at Cattail Falls in Big Bend National Park on November 16, 2014.

Geophysicist Cedric Snyder at Cattail Falls in Big Bend National Park on November 16, 2014.

Doug Wright at Theater Three

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, Doug Wright on the set of his play "Hands On A Hardbody" at Theater Three in Dallas, Texas on September 27, 2014. ©2014 Robert W. Hart

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Doug Wright on the set of his play “Hands On A Hardbody” at Theater Three in Dallas, Texas on September 27, 2014. ©2014 Robert W. Hart

Doug Wright grew up in Dallas and is home for Theater Three’s production of his play “Hands On A Hardbody.” Doug won the Pulitzer Prize in drama in 2004 for “I Am My Own Wife,” which deals with the life of german transvestite Charlotte von Mahlsdorf who survived both the Nazis and the communists.

Waiting In The Rain

A young woman waits in the rain for an outdoor concert to begin in Fort Worth, Texas. ©2014 Robert W. Hart

A young woman waits in the rain for an outdoor concert to begin in Fort Worth, Texas. ©2014 Robert W. Hart

Rain.

We miss it here in north Texas. We’ve had far too little for far too long.

I shot this photo as part of a DallasNews.com slideshow at the Most Good Music Festival in Fort Worth on September 6, 2014. Nobody, even devout concert-goers, was complaining about the rain. Jack Ingram and Stoney LaRue headlined and although several bands were rained out in the afternoon, Ingram and LaRue went on to perform in a constant drizzle.

I heard no whining.

Jemez Falls By Night

Jemez Falls, in the Santa Fe National Forest, New Mexico, on August 31, 2014. ©2014 Robert W. Hart

Jemez Falls, in the Santa Fe National Forest, New Mexico, on August 31, 2014. ©2014 Robert W. Hart

This shot of Jemez Falls came from a small workshop I taught on night photography this past Labor Day weekend on the Jemez River in northwestern New Mexico. We all enjoyed the respite from the 100-degree Texas temperatures and the four days with no cell phone or Internet reception. Even the small town of Jemez Springs has no cellular service.

The waxing gibbous moon wasn’t a factor in these shots and the Milky Way provided more than enough light for our group. A blue-filtered flashlight provided the color.

We saw elk and mule deer from our camp at 7,800 feet. Our return home featured a Sunday morning breakfast at Cafe Pasqual‘s in Santa Fe and a tour of the Monroe Gallery where legendary photojournalist Steve Schapiro‘s work is featured.

The Monroe Gallery is, in my opinion, the finest gallery for photojournalism on earth and I never miss the opportunity to spend an hour there looking at the work of my photographic heroes and, increasingly, my photographic contemporaries.

Speaking of contemporaries, John Filo’s Pulitzer Prize-winning shot from the Kent State Massacre is available for purchase in a limited edition of 50 signed prints.

Soon, my friend and teacher Joe McNally’s work will go up at Monroe Gallery through Nov. 26 and I’m looking forward to making a return trip to Santa Fe to see Joe’s first one-man show in that fabulous gallery space.

From the NYT:

Writer Jay Root's  TexasTribune.org/NYT story on Jeff Miller, the man behind Texas Gov. Rick Perry's  new image.

Writer Jay Root’s TexasTribune.org/NYT story on Jeff Miller, the man behind Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s new image.

I frequently shoot for TexasTribune.org and was delighted to have the opportunity to illustrate writer Jay Root‘s story on Jeff Miller, the California political consultant behind Texas Governor Rick Perry’s new image.