Big Bend Camping Trip – Day 2

“Hot Springs” Big Bend, 2023

Our one full day in Big Bend was a busy one! After a quick breakfast and camp breakdown, we headed over to the Hot Springs. The water was clear and warm, and we took advantage of the cool river to alternate between hot and cold. The healing waters of the Rio Grande felt so good!

Next up was a hop over the border at the Boquillas Crossing for lunch at Jose Falcon’s. My chile relleno and beer was great. It was very different from the kind we get in Austin.

Photo info: Apple iPhone 12 mini, 1.55mm, f/2.4, 1/1800 sec, ISO25
“Rio Grande” Boquillas, 2023
Photo info: Apple iPhone 12 mini, 4.2mm, f/1.6, 1/750 sec, ISO32
“Chile Relleno” Boquillas, 2023

Fuelled up on Mexican food, it was time to burn those calories on the trail. We’ve never hiked The Window Trail in the Chisos Basin, so that was our destination. It was such a cool trail when ends at a viewpoint which is the actual Window. Such a great view, and we chatted with a few other hikers who arrived at the same time. Very cool vibe with the cool air flowing into the canyon, and Mexican Jays joining us.

“The Window” Big Bend, 2023
Photo info: Apple iPhone 12 mini, 1.55mm, f/2.4, 1/290 sec, ISO25
“The Window Selfie” Big Bend, 2023

Our campsite for the evening was Robbers Roost, a backcountry site that you need a high-clearance vehicle to reach. Because it so remote, the sky is super-dark and it’s perfect for astrophotography. Unfortunately, the winds were very strong this weekend, so there was a lot of dust and haze in the air. That made shooting the Milky Way (which was just over the horizon) difficult. But the dust did make for nice sunset colors!

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/3.6, 1/250 sec, ISO320
“Dusk” Big Bend, 2023

And guess what? The Lyrid meteor shower was just starting up, so we got treated to a nice show!

It’s nice that my friend and I like photography. Dark skies in Big Bend are a highlight of the trip for sure, and we stayed up until 3 am taking photos. So fun, and nice way to end an awesome day.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/2.8, 10 sec, ISO3200
“Shooting Stars” Big Bend, 2023
Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 21mm, f/1, 15 sec, ISO6400
“Shooting Stars” Big Bend, 2023
“Star Trails” Big Bend, 2023

Guadalupe Mountains National Park – Day 1

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 21mm, f/1, 25 sec, ISO3200
“Nightlife” Salt Flat, 2021

Today my friend and I drove out to Guadalupe Mountains National Park to begin a long weekend of camping and hiking. It was the first time to the park for both of us so we were excited to explore the new park, and the ~8-hour journey seemed to go by quickly.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 20.5mm, f/7.1, 1/1500 sec, ISO640
“Park Sign” Salt Flat, 2021

We reserved a campsite at the Pine Springs Campground online and when we arrived we immediately set up our tents and got the site in order with our camp kitchen, lanterns, and food. The sun goes down quickly these days! By the way, I highly recommend site #18. It’s set back a ways from the road and has some nice views of the mountains and is great for watching the sunrise.

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/4.5, 1/220 sec, ISO640
“Campsite 18” Salt Flat, 2021

For dinner we splurged with some Japanese Miyazaki steaks which were amazing on the grill, and cold beer and refreshing whiskey sodas made for some tasty beverages!

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/2.8, 1/90 sec, ISO3200
“Steak Dinner” Salt Flat, 2021

After cleaning up, we set up our tripods and camera gear to capture the amazing night skies. We got lucky with the weather as the skies were clear and our timing was nice because of the new moon and as a bonus, the Geminid Meteor Shower was just beginning. The coolest thing I saw was a line of light moving across the sky. While it was dark on the ground, a plane’s contrail up at 30,000 feet was lit up, but disappeared only a short distance behind it. The effect looked like a train moving across the sky, or even like a white dragon. One of the neatest things I have ever seen! I don’t have video of it, but in the photo below, just imagine that line moving slowly across the sky from left to right, with the line not changing size. Incredible!

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 21mm, f/1, 20 sec, ISO3200
“Dragon’s Flight” Salt Flat, 2021

Tomorrow we have a long hike to Guadalupe Peak, which is the highest peak in Texas… it’s going to be fun!

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 21mm, f/1, 25 sec, ISO3200
“Star Trails” Salt Flat, 2021

Milky Way Photos and Hiking Out of the Chisos Mountains

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/2.8, 25 sec, ISO3200
“Milky Way” Big Bend, 2021

This morning I woke up at 5 am and right outside my tent was the Milky Way. It was awesome! I got out my Fujifilm X-E4 with 18-55 mm lens, put it on the Ultrapod and took a few shots. There were only a few clouds in the sky so the shots looked pretty good, and I even captured a few shooting stars. In fact, with the 30-second exposure, almost every shot had at least one shooting star in it. It was so cool!

Photo info: Apple iPhone 12 mini, 1.55mm, f/2.4, 1/1000 sec, ISO25
“Sunrise” Big Bend, 2021

Soon, the sun made its way into the day, and after a sunrise photo and some coffee, it was time to hit the trail. We hiked Laguna Meadows Trail all the way down to the Chisos Basin, seeing one large bear along the way. It was digging a hole near the trail so we had to scoot past pretty quickly, bear-spray at the ready. Very exciting!

At the end of the hike, I splurged on a Topo Chico and mango ice cream bar before we hit the road. After a couple of hours we arrived at Fort Stockton and had lunch at Pepito’s, where I had a huge burger. It was a good way to satisfy my hiker hunger!

Photo info: Apple iPhone 12 mini, 1.55mm, f/2.4, 1/1250 sec, ISO25
“Refreshments” Big Bend, 2021

Here are a few more photos and the Strava track from the last day of our Big Bend trip. Enjoy!

Photo info: Apple iPhone 12 mini, 1.55mm, f/2.4, 1/480 sec, ISO25
“Switchback” Big Bend, 2021
Photo info: Apple iPhone 12 mini, 1.55mm, f/2.4, 1/950 sec, ISO25
“Laguna Meadows Trail” Big Bend, 2021
Photo info: Apple iPhone 12 mini, 1.55mm, f/2.4, 1/5300 sec, ISO25
“Casa Grande” Big Bend, 2021
Photo info: Apple iPhone 12 mini, 4.2mm, f/1.6, 1/60 sec, ISO500
“Pepito’s Burger” Fort Stockton, 2021
Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/2.8, 20 sec, ISO3200
“Triple Shooting Stars” Big Bend, 2021

Astro-Photography from the Rest Stop

Photo info: FUJIFILM X-E4, 18mm, f/2.8, 13 sec, ISO1600
“Stars Above” Deming, 2021

I woke up early from my highway rest stop accommodations, and while packing up, I decided to put the Fujifilm X-E4 on the tripod and point it up at the Milky Way. I am pretty happy with the result that the XF 18-55mm “kit” lens produced (with some editing in Adobe Lightroom). 🌃

ISS Fly-By

Photo info: FUJIFILM X100T, 19mm, f/2, 10 sec, ISO800
“ISS Fly-By” Cedar Park, 2020

Tonight the International Space Station (ISS) was very bright as it passed over Texas, and I had my camera and tripod set up to capture it. I didn’t really know what kind of settings to use, so I just went with a typical exposure that I normally do. Unfortunately there were a lot of clouds obscuring the view, but I think the photo turned out okay.

I made a series of 10-second exposures, then stacked them in Photoshop to create the composite image above. You might notice that there appear to be double stars. This is because I hid a few layers in the Photoshop stack when the ISS was passing behind the clouds so the overall cloud coverage would be reduced, and this resulted in the star trails having a gap in them.

FYI, this website is a fantastic resource to see when satellites will be flying overhead. It uses Google Street View to show you exactly where to look from your viewpoint! Just make sure that your watch is synchronized to the atomic clock so you know when to look up.