Ten great photo locations in Big Bend National Park

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There are amazing photography compositions in the park.  This image includes the Rio Grande River and the Sierra del Carmen, located in Mexico.
There are amazing photography compositions in the park.  This image includes the Rio Grande River and the Sierra del Carmen, located in Mexico.
There are amazing photography compositions in the park. This image includes the Rio Grande River and the Sierra del Carmen, located in Mexico.

Big Bend National Park vacation

Encompassing more than 800,000 acres of land, Big Bend National Park presents the nature photographer endless possibilities for great photography. It is an isolated area, so the wise photographer will carry plenty of water, along with basic emergency and first aid gear. Cell phone service can be non-existent on a good day and poor on a great day, so the buddy system is highly recommended when venturing any distance from your vehicle.

Because of the vastness and wide open space, you’ll spend some time driving from one location to the next. Subject matter is as varied as a leaf on the ground to vast panoramas, making for challenging and exciting attempts at landscape photography.

Leggings are recommended for any ventures away from pavement. Sunscreen, protective headgear, and long sleeves are recommended for this stunning desert landscape. Preparation, common sense, and basic survival skills can prevent your vacation from turning into a disaster in a hostile environment.


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Sunsets over the Chisos Mountains can be spectacular from along the Rio Grande River.
Sunsets over the Chisos Mountains can be spectacular from along the Rio Grande River.
Sunsets over the Chisos Mountains can be spectacular from along the Rio Grande River.
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The Window Trail in the Chisos Mountains basin is a great day hike and offers several photographic opportunities.
The Window Trail in the Chisos Mountains basin is a great day hike and offers several photographic opportunities.
The Window Trail in the Chisos Mountains basin is a great day hike and offers several photographic opportunities.

Photographic light

This list of ten great photo locations within the park comes from many visits to the region. Chances are good that you may come home with several images worthy of being classified as beautiful photography. Chances are even better that you will spend hours and hours in your attempts at compiling those images.


Perhaps the greatest obstacle of all will be the weather. This factor, more than any other, will determine the photographic light quality. Big Bend is a destination, not one of those places you discover as you’re driving by. Plan your trip according to seasons and you will increase the poor odds of having optimum weather conditions in your favor.


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The Chihuahuan Desert provides many opportunities for good photography.  Use care when hiking off trail or off road.
The Chihuahuan Desert provides many opportunities for good photography.  Use care when hiking off trail or off road.
The Chihuahuan Desert provides many opportunities for good photography. Use care when hiking off trail or off road.
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For the adventurous, there are several hikes originating in the Chisos Mountains.  Plan on at least two days in this area while attempting beautiful photography.
For the adventurous, there are several hikes originating in the Chisos Mountains.  Plan on at least two days in this area while attempting beautiful photography.
For the adventurous, there are several hikes originating in the Chisos Mountains. Plan on at least two days in this area while attempting beautiful photography.

Photography landscapes

1 - The area along the Hot Springs trail can provide several opportunities to capture the dramatic Sierra del Carmen across the river, providing for spectacular mountain photography in a desert environment.

2 - Rock photography is the name of the game at the opposite end of the park along Grapevine Hills Road. Window Rock is great subject matter and worth the effort to get to it.

3 - The desert floor is vast and offers countless opportunities for great landscapes with the Chisos Mountains as your focal point. Having a couple of photographic lenses for your digital camera will increase the chances of bagging a great image or two.

4 - For a break from the desert environment, plan on spending several days in the Chisos Mountains. At least one of your day hikes will involve some time along the Window Trail. It’s downhill all the way, which means it’s uphill all the way back to the car. Plan on plenty of water.

5 - While you’re in the basin, another day hike along the Lost Mine Trail is highly recommended in that search for great photographs. Several vantage points offer great views of Elephant Tusk. On a clear day, this trail provides one of the more dramatic views in the entire park. It’s uphill all the way to the top, and downhill all the way back out. Every muscle in your body will enjoy this great workout.


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The Lost Mine Trail provides several superb views of the countryside far below, with Elephant Tusk rising in the background.
The Lost Mine Trail provides several superb views of the countryside far below, with Elephant Tusk rising in the background.
The Lost Mine Trail provides several superb views of the countryside far below, with Elephant Tusk rising in the background.
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Clouds dance over Mexico as the Rio Grande river winds it way through the Big Bend.
Clouds dance over Mexico as the Rio Grande river winds it way through the Big Bend.
Clouds dance over Mexico as the Rio Grande river winds it way through the Big Bend.

Rio Grande River, tinajas, and rock photography

6 - If the Chisos Mountains are the heart of Big Bend, the Rio Grande River is its soul. Numerous opportunities abound for those who are adventurous enough to do a bit of hiking. Areas near the Rio Grande Village can provide great photography ideas.

7 - No trip to this historic park is complete without a visit to Boquillas Canyon.

8 - For another attempt at rock photography, consider the Mule Ears viewpoint. While rattlesnakes are prevalent throughout this region, they tend to have annual conventions near the Mule Ears. Dates and times vary, so plan accordingly.

9 - Santa Elena Canyon on west end of the park is another of those must visit locations. Several great photographers have spent some time there perfecting their craft.

10 - Rounding out this Top Ten list of locations is Ernst Tinaja. Tinajas are small pools of water, generally associated with rock formations, that may sometimes hold water for a couple of months. Early explorers were dependent on these tinajas for their survival. Ernst Tinaja is one of the better known in the park and provides some great abstract rock photography.

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Great rock photography can be found along the Grapevine Hills road in Big Bend National Park.
Great rock photography can be found along the Grapevine Hills road in Big Bend National Park.
Great rock photography can be found along the Grapevine Hills road in Big Bend National Park.

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Comments 6 comments

paulgc 7 years ago

Some really nice images here well done. As a photographer myself i can appreciate the time and effort that you have put into your craft, resulting in some splendid pictures.

I can see on your profile picture that you are using a large format system, are all the pictures in this hub from the large format camera?

I use a digital camera but i have always wanted to use the large format film equipment as i believe that the quality obtainable from such as sytem cannot be bettered.

Nice hub, thanks, paul


blue dog profile image

blue dog 7 years ago from texas hill country Author

hi paul,

thanks for stopping in! sorry for the delay, have been away from the computer for the holiday. the third, fourth, and last image were shot on 4x5, the others were shot on medium format.

i love working with a large format camera. am a firm believer in their ability to help you see, thanks to the slow conditions it forces you to work under, very methodical. you're right, the quality from large format is phenomenal.

however, i too have begun using a digital setup. all of the photos in my patagonia/chile hubs were shot with digital.

thanks for the kind words.


Torunn profile image

Torunn 6 years ago from Norway

Nice hub, I love the rock picture, it's like to trolls hugging :-)

Torunn


blue dog profile image

blue dog 6 years ago from texas hill country Author

ha!

yeah, the trolls are everywhere these days.

thanks for stopping by. glad you enjoyed it!


LillyGrillzit profile image

LillyGrillzit 5 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

Love this photography, and your style of writing. :0)


traveleze profile image

traveleze 22 months ago from Preston

Great Hub,

Lovely photos and great writing

Thanks for sharing

Lee

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