The Mirage

It's been tough to find motivation to get outside and take photos this summer. These parts of Texas have been experiencing the worst heat wave and drought I can remember. While the sun is in the sky, it just sucks to be outside. It's like walking into a blast furnace. Generally, I like to shoot my images in the evening, catching the last light of the day. Temperatures have been running 105-108 degrees in the time that I'd like to be walking to a location and setting up a shot. When the sun goes down, things cool down to a tolerable, but still quite balmy temperature in the upper 90's. It's been like that for 70 days in a row as I write this. It's a new record in Austin since they have kept track of such things. It's not over. Forecasts are predicting that current conditions will continue well into September. Another 3-4 weeks of hellish weather…joy. Rain is a distant memory and the earth looks rather scorched. Still, I can't just let the summer creep by while I hide in the air conditioning. I really wanted to get out and shoot the streets of Austin this summer so I've tried to get out and get a shot of something at least once a week.

Those who follow my work know I've been doing a lot of portrait work this summer, a good deal of which have been taken on location in Austin in the evening hours. While I do enjoy that sort of thing, I have been longing to do some urban landscape shots. The shot I'm sharing today is one that I had been wanting to capture for a while. It was inspired by a shot taken by my friend Van, a talented Austin photog. I had never been to this location before and I just had to find and shoot from this great spot. The heat be damned, I finally made the trip into downtown after work one night last month to get my shot.

I knew I wanted to capture the view of downtown Austin right around sunset, in that brief transition from day to night when the sky is colored with a deep blue hue, before it fades to black. I arrived downtown at Zilker Park in plenty of time to walk to this spot, known as Lou Neff Point. The path to the point is shaded, but there wasn't much of a breeze that evening. It was quite warm and I had broken a good sweat by the time I got there. "Should have warn a hat," I muttered to myself as sweat dripped from my brow onto my camera as I got things setup.

I set my tripod down low on the shoreline and waited until sunset. A few people passed by in the water, paddling their canoes. A couple of ducks swam by. A turtle poked its head out of the water briefly. The lake was otherwise quieter than it should have been this time of year. There was a lot of muck and debris in the water. I wondered if that was due to the lack of flow during the drought. The water here is Lady Bird Lake, which is not really a lake at all. This is a dammed up section of the Colorado River running through Austin. The water level is kept fairly constant. Lake Travis, upstream of this water, told a different story. It looked like a half empty bath tub.

The sun reflecting off of the tall buildings downtown was almost blinding when I arrived. As the sun retreated, the buildings started to take on their own glow as their lights came on. Some clouds drifted by as I framed up my shot. Some were dark , giving the impression that a thundershower might develop. No, these clouds wouldn't be dropping any water on the city. The high pressure system that has lingered all summer over these parts has an iron grip on the clouds. There will be no real rain until the system is pushed south, hopefully soon.

A deep blue sky started to reveal itself as the sun shined its final light, striking the windows of one of the buildings as if landing a final blow for the day. The calming blue sky moved in and the city appeared quiet, serene, even cool. I know there is a certain deception to the image I created, having been there as it was captured. It is like a mirage.

I had gotten the shot I was wanting that night. Ordinarily, I'd want to linger in downtown and take a few more night shots. No, it was too hot and I had my mind set on a cold drink in the air conditioning somewhere. I had long finished up the water I had brought with me and I was dripping with sweat. I headed back to my car, satisfied at least that my efforts were worthwhile. The weather hadn't broken my vision and resolve.