• Alyce Bender

Summer Photography in the Texas Hill Country


An adult monarch butterfly sits on a blooming tropical milkweed plant | A. Bender Photography LLC
Nikon D500 | Tamron 90mm Macro | 1/800 | f/8 | ISO 800

Summer is a slower time of year for my photography. Here in the Texas Hill Country, it is hot, humid, and prone to mosquitoes that will practically carry you off. That being said, there is no reason to let your camera sit and collect dust for the season.


This year has been exceptionally rainy in these parts. That means that the San Antonio Botanical Gardens are bursting with color, even after the horrible toll this winter's snowstorm took on them. The opening image is of a monarch butterfly was taken in the specialty garden filled with plants that help provide preferred food, shelter, and life cycle development locations. Milkweed (the flowers of which this one is drinking from) is essential to the monarch life cycle and migration. Currently, there is a growing movement to have people plant milkweed in order to give monarchs more habitat as their populations have been dramatically declining and they are now a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act.


A pink flower in bloom close up of petals | A Bender Photography LLC
Nikon D500 | Tamron 90mm Macro | 1/800 | f/7.1 | ISO 800

The blooming flowers present numerous opportunities to practice and play with my Tamron 90mm Macro. For those local to the area, I hosted a mini macro meetup one Saturday morning and look forward to doing it again sometime. I will also put together a weekend long Macro Workshop next year as well, so be on the lookout for that event to open for registration if you are interested in learning more on this subject with hands-on instruction in the field.


Pink flower with yellow interior bloom close up | A Bender Photography LLC
Nikon D500 | Tamron 90mm Macro | 1/800 | f/4.2 | ISO 800

Bright colors pop under overcast skies and the Botanical Garden is always great for a wide variety of blooms that I would not otherwise have since my yard is only native plants.


bloom of the Texas thistle | A Bender Photography LLC
Nikon D500 | Tamron 90mm Macro | 1/1000 | f/4 | ISO 800

The gardens aren't the only place to work with macro subjects. This time of year, the wild Texas thistle is going strong in fields and yards alike. Growing upwards of five feet tall, this plant is both a friend and foe. The spines on the thistle can be a nuisance for us, domestic livestock, and pets. On the flip side, it provides wonderful quantities of nutrients to insects while it blooms, and after the bloom, birds like the lesser goldfinch (pictured below) harvest the seeds as the blooms die.


A lesser goldfinch collects thistle down seeds | A Bender Photography LLC
Nikon D500 | Tamron 150-600mm G2 | 1/1250 | f/7.1 | ISO 800

Warm temperatures bring out the insects of all walks of life. While hiking around the Hill Country State Natural Area for a few hours, I was able to photograph a series of insect portraits, a sample of which are below.


Two small white butterflies mating on a cone flower in Texas Hill Country | A Bender Photography LLC
Nikon D500 | Tamron 90mm Macro | 1/1600 | f/9 | ISO 800
A native bee on a wild cone flower in Texas Hill Country | A Bender Photography LLC
Nikon D500 | Tamron 90mm Macro | 1/2000 | f/5.6 | ISO 400
A black and yellow beetle in Texas Hill Country | A Bender Photography LLC
Nikon D500 | Tamron 90mm Macro | 1/2500 | f/6.3 | ISO 1600

Summer is also a time when we are typically drawn to water, such as lakes, rivers, springs - basically anything that can act as a swimming hole in order to help keep us cool from the sweltering heat. A classic location in Hill Country has long been Hamilton Pool - home to a 50-foot waterfall and large clear blue swimming hole. This summer, the pool has been closed for swimming due to the extreme winter temperatures causing the over hanging rock ledge, which is the remainder of the cavern ceiling that collapsed thousands of years ago to create the pool, to deteriorate at a rapid rate and drop boulders into the pool without warning. Visitors are still allowed in to view the site with the exception of walking behind the falls or really anywhere close to the area that has overhanging geology (about 80% of the pool rim) making the site hard to photograph and kind of a let down for the admission price.


Still, a natural waterfall of this size in this part of the country is something rather unique and was worth the look...once.


Hamilton Pools Waterfall Texas Hill country | A Bender Photography LLC
Nikon D500 | Tamron 18-400mm | 2 sec | f/22 | ISO 50 | Benro Tripod | CPL & ND6 filter
Micro waterfalls at Hamilton Pools Texas Hill Country | A Bender Photography LLC
Nikon D500 | Tamron 18-400mm | 2.5 sec | f/22 | ISO 50 | Benro Tripod | CPL

Overall, it has been a slow month, and that is ok. Sometimes we just need to take a breather and focus energies in other areas of our lives. Do you have a season that is usually slower for you than others when it comes to photography or creative flow? Join me on Twitter (@abenderphoto) and let's discuss!


Until next time, cheers!


Female Black chin hummingbird sits on a stick in Texas Hill Country | A Bender Photography LLC
Nikon D500 | Tamron 150-600mm G2 | 1/1000 | f/6.3 | ISO 1000


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