Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Maroon and grey hill

with 27 comments

Maroon and Gray Hill in Big Bend 9979

How about this two-tiered maroon and gray hill on the western side of Big Bend National Park as it looked with a bright blue sky and wispy clouds on November 22nd?

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 10, 2015 at 4:14 AM

27 Responses

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  1. Big Bend’s stark geology is very interesting. Much of the park, especially the western side, is volcanic, and this shot shows (I think) tuff, which is basically volcanic ash. Or it might just be shale. Maybe one of your subscribers is a geologist and can confirm.


    December 10, 2015 at 7:37 AM

    • I’m not aware of any geologist subscribers, but if one is out there I’d be grateful if he’d speak up. In reading the the article at


      just now I found that there are varying kinds of tuff (and yes, it’s tough for me to tell whether this picture matches any of those kinds of tuff). This mound was a few minutes’ walk north from the formation that looks like a kneeling camel on the north side of the road coming into the park from Terlingua.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2015 at 9:22 AM

  2. After seeing this, and reading this, I’m ready to pack my bags and head west. It’s fascinating that what appears immutable in your photo is, in fact, part of one of the most geologically active areas in the country. Those piles of eroded material at the base of the rocks are an important part of the picture, too.

    I can’t quite get my mind around the fact that Big Bend is geologically related both to the Rocky Mountains and to the Ouachita.


    December 10, 2015 at 7:41 AM

    • You’d find a bags-packed western trip worthwhile, no doubt about it. That geological link is a good one. Even aside from conspicuous formations, I was quickly convinced that if I stopped almost anywhere and started walking around I’d readily find interesting things to photograph, whether geological or botanical.

      A young couple had hiked up to the top of the formation shown here, then partially retreated. When they started heading back toward the top I signaled to them and they moved away again so I could take pictures. They’d also left a dark backpack down below (a little to the left of what’s shown in this photograph), which I ended up including in a couple of my pictures anyhow because I figured I could Photoshop it out if I decided to use those images.

      I noticed the reference to the Ouachita Mountains in the article. How different the surface reality is from what underlies it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2015 at 9:37 AM

    • I had the same thoughts when I looked at this.

      Melissa Pierson

      December 12, 2015 at 8:17 AM

      • If that includes the part about packing your bags and heading west, make sure you pass through Austin on the way.

        Steve Schwartzman

        December 12, 2015 at 9:29 AM

  3. In a way, I seem to be able to see a face in this mountain. I like the shot a lot.
    Have a great day,


    December 10, 2015 at 8:17 AM

    • You’re imaginatively ahead of me on this one. Now that you’ve mentioned a face, though, I think I can make out a wide one in the gray area at the top of the mound. Thanks for your suggestion.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 10, 2015 at 9:43 AM

  4. I’m not used to seeing maroon and grey rock against a blue sky like this. The two tiers with the lines flowing downwards are very interesting. Wonderful composition with the wispy cloud and white foreground. It makes me think of outer space somehow, except I wouldn’t expect a blue sky. Strangely, it makes me think of a crater that has been inverted -sucked outwards. Very alien-like but beautiful. P.S. I may have been watching some space docs lately… 😉


    December 10, 2015 at 11:19 PM

    • Nor am I used to seeing maroon and grey rock against a blue sky like this. I’d walked in a little from the road to photograph a different-looking mound but I got excited when I saw this hill beyond it. The colors and textures called out to me and I walked farther about 5 minutes farther into the desert to get to it.

      Your notion of a crater that has been sucked outward reminds me of the years when I used to make 3-D pairs of photographs. Occasionally I’d reverse the two halves of a pair (usually by accident, sometimes out of curiosity) and the effect was as if reality had been partly turned inside out. Your description of alien could well apply.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 11, 2015 at 7:20 AM

  5. Very cool – looks like it was taken in a galaxy far, far away


    December 11, 2015 at 7:40 AM

    • As far as Austin is concerned, Trans-Pecos Texas is a galaxy far, far away. That was (and will remain) its appeal.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 11, 2015 at 7:45 AM

  6. I love the maroon colours .. Texture and the blue of the sky


    December 11, 2015 at 1:48 PM

    • I don’t recall ever seeing anything else quite like this, and the uniqueness added to the intrinsic appeal.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 11, 2015 at 2:02 PM

  7. Nice!


    December 11, 2015 at 7:41 PM

  8. Fascinating structure. It’s so hard to concentrate on any one scientific pursuit, but geology is such an interesting subject. Amazing, too, the colors held within solid stone. We tend to initially expect stone and rock to be gray, but it really is rarely the case.

    Steve Gingold

    December 12, 2015 at 6:16 PM

    • One of my difficulties has always been getting pulled in different directions because of widespread interests. I wish now that I’d had at least introductory courses in geology and botany in college.

      The maroon color is what especially intrigued me about this hill, along with its surface. I know it would have beckoned you, too.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 12, 2015 at 7:14 PM

      • I feel the same. Geology, botany, ecology, chemistry, environmental science, astronomy, insect ecology, fungal ecology, forest ecology…It’s a long list.

        Steve Gingold

        December 13, 2015 at 3:17 AM

        • I don’t go nearly so far into natural science, but I’d add courses in history. I’ve often thought I missed my calling as a historian.

          Steve Schwartzman

          December 13, 2015 at 8:41 AM

  9. We’re headed out to BBNP soon. Looking forward to seeing what the kids think of it! Hubs and I haven’t been there in 15 years. There’s a lot of very interesting geology going on in that park, should be fun.


    December 19, 2015 at 10:00 AM

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