Picture This: 5 for Fall
State parks offer autumn photographic opportunities beyond foliage.
By Earl Nottingham
As the days shorten and temperatures cool in autumn, Mother Nature puts on her show of fall color, making it prime time for photographers to get outside and capture the palettes of yellows, oranges and reds. However, in a state as broad and ecologically diverse as Texas, those pockets of vibrant foliage can range from glorious to sparse, depending on the weather patterns that particular season. Luckily, we have other photographic options available for this time of the year, many of which can be found in our state parks. Here are a few prime locations for you to consider for fall photography. Helpful hint: Plan your visit during midweek when visitorship is typically lower.
Big Bend Ranch State Park
The Chihuahuan Desert of West Texas isn’t exactly the first thing that comes to most photographers’ minds when thinking of fall images. However, late September into October can produce spectacular color because of the predictable monsoonal rains that arrive around that time. In fact, it’s been called the “fifth season,” and it produces a verdant desert with its own variety of colorful wildflowers not seen in springtime. Along creeks and washes, lines of massive cottonwood trees change from chartreuse to a brilliant yellow. Photogenic skies are a given as afternoon thunderheads build and dissipate around sundown, revealing the clearest skies and brightest stars in the state as the result of minimum light pollution.
Daingerfield State Park
For quintessential fall foliage color, it’s hard to beat the hardwood forests of East Texas — and Daingerfield State Park is in the heart of it all. The park comes alive with yellows, oranges and reds from a variety of trees and plants, including oak, elm, hickory, sweetgum and sumac. What makes this park especially inviting for the photographer is scenic Little Pine Lake nestled at its center. On a chilly morning, the lake produces a delicate fog that comes alive at sunrise.
Estero Llano Grande State Park
For the wildlife photographer, the Rio Grande Valley of Texas is one of the state's top destinations. It is a crossroads for a large variety of species thanks to its semitropical climate. The fall migration of many bird species and the large variety of resident wildlife make for a subject-rich environment. Waterfowl, including ducks and shorebirds, are abundant and can be easily photographed from the banks or boardwalks around the park’s wetland areas, as well as from the back deck of the visitors center. Smaller birds can be photographed from blinds set up around water features.
Sea Rim State Park
On Texas’ upper coast, Sea Rim State Park provides great landscape and nature photo opportunities during the cooler months. Migrating wildlife as well as scenic landscapes can be photographed along its Gulf of Mexico shoreline or from rented canoes or kayaks on paddling trails that traverse much of the 4,100-acre inner wetland area. Primitive campsites on the beach make it easy to catch the morning sunrise. Other camping options include vehicle pads with electricity.
Sauer-Beckmann Farm at LBJ State Park
Rivaling any Currier and Ives painting, the nostalgic trappings of early-1900s Texas Hill Country farm life at the Sauer-Beckmann farmstead provide a wealth of photogenic opportunities, especially in autumn when the rusty colors of nature blend with the farm’s rustic surroundings. Park interpreters dressed in period clothing and friendly livestock are more than willing to “model” as they go about their daily routines.
Please send questions and comments to Earl at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more tips on outdoor photography, visit the magazine’s photography page at www.tpwmagazine.com/photography.
» Like this story? If you enjoy reading articles like this, subscribe to Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine.
For more on TP&W magazine photography, go to our Photography page