Airstream Photography by Brett Scarola

A few days ago, one of our sales pros, Brian Mallory, walked up to me with a gorgeous, vintage airstream photo in his hand. The image was created by Austin photographer Brett Scarola and the magic of the iconic Airstream and mood of the moment was all captured there on the print.

Photo Copyright Brett Scarola. All Rights Reserved.

Photo Copyright Brett Scarola. All Rights Reserved.

Jealous, I promptly went online to Brett Scarola’s Etsy Store and found a treasure trove of photos rendered with a vintage look. The store features classic Central Texas images such as Guero’s Taco Bar on South Congress, the famous dance hall in Gruene, fields of bluebonnets, and Hamilton Pool. My favorites, of course, are those that showcase the Airstreams in all their silver glory.

At Camper Clinic II, we’re lucky to meet lots of creative adventurers (and always take time to sit back and admire their Airstreams). If you’re adding a taste of Texas to your décor – or if you’re in the mood for something customized just for you – check out Brett Scarola.

–Elaine Acker

Enter the 2014 Texas Parks and Wildlife Photo Contest

If you love being behind the camera, there’s still time for you to pull your camper trailer to a state park and take photos for this year’s Texas Parks and Wildlife Photo Contest.

Photo Credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife

Photo Credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife

Between March 1 – April 15, 2014 enter photos of your most playful moments in a Texas State Park. Winning photos will be published in Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine and three will receive a $300 high-performance video camera – the HERO3+ Silver Edition GoPro®.

Contest categories are: Photos by Kids 17 and under; photos by Adults 18+, and Instagram photos.

For all the details, visit Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Photo Contest Page.

And if you’re looking for a new travel trailer, fifth wheel, or toy hauler that will bring you even more family fun, visit Camper Clinic in Rockport, or Camper Clinic II in Buda. Both offer a LIFETIME WARRANTY on every new rv!

Nature Tourism in Texas: Best places to watch and photograph wildlife

This month, we’re highlighting Texas Parks and Wildlife. And for every new “like” on Facebook, we’re donating $1 to help save Texas’ State Parks.  Please “like” our page on Facebook and share links to our campaign with your friends and fans!

Coyote

Photo by Mike Sloat

Wildlife means big bucks. Not just the whitetail variety, but real revenue for Texas cities that promote nature tourism. From butterflies in Mission to prairie dogs in Muleshoe, the wildlife programs promoted by Texas Parks and Wildlife offer opportunities for RV travelers to connect with nature in a personal way, and help promote conservation and sustainable development statewide.

If you want to discover the amazing diversity of wildlife in Texas, you can start by checking out the Texas Parks and Wildlife’s website. On the left side of the webpage you’ll find links to Birding and Nature Festivals, Great Texas Wildlife Trails, and Texas Paddling Trails – plenty of ideas to help you plan your next camping trip!

Here’s more info about three nature tourism events planned for October.

National Wildlife Refuge Week – October 9-15
Since Theodore Roosevelt established the first national wildlife refuge in 1903, the Refuge System has become the world’s premier habitat conservation system, encompassing 553 refuges and 38 wetland management districts. Special programs are planned for several of Texas’s 17 refuges over the next few weeks.

Texas Butterfly Festival – Mission, Texas
The Lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas is the most biologically diverse region in the United States with 300 species of butterflies and 512 species of birds. The Butterfly Festival is scheduled for October 25-28.

Wild in Willacy – Raymondville & Port Mansfield, Texas
The 13th annual Wild in Willacy celebration is planned from October 30 through November 3rd and includes music, ranch tours, and cook offs. Tours offer nature lovers the opportunity to “get up close and personal” with many species of wildlife in what organizers describe as one of the wildest places in Texas.

And if you go, don’t forget your camera! Texas photographer Mike Sloat offered a few tips on getting great wildlife shots.

“Photographing animals is a little different,” said Mike. “You need to know what animals you might run into, and how you might expect them to behave. There’s a ton of information on the Internet to help you plan ahead. Remember that you never want to corner an animal. Stay back, and use a telephoto lens when you can.”

Whooping Crane

Mike understands whooping crane behavior, and was ready when this one landed. Why? There were three other whooping cranes just to the right of this image and he’d already noted that this particular crane was aggressively territorial and knew he’d come back in for a landing. (Photo copyright Mike Sloat)

Mike is a frequent nature tourist, and shared a couple of his photos along with information about how he got the shot. “I use different lenses, depending on the animal I’m photographing,” he said. “For example, with whooping cranes along the coast, I’m using a 200-400mm lens, or even a 600mm lens. I also shoot wildlife in Aperture mode.  If your camera offers this setting, it will allow the camera to set the shutter speed and let you concentrate on your subject.”

Mike suggests “panning” or moving your lens with the animal before clicking the shutter.  If your camera allows you to shoot multiple frames per second, you can often capture all of the action in several images – one of which may be that special shot you’re hoping for.

Gator

When he got this shot, Mike had his Nikon camera set on “Continuous High” setting, shooting multiple frames per second. There were 35 images before this shot and 6 after. This one was the “money” shot. (Photo copyright Mike Sloat)

Experienced nature tourism guides will help you stay safe while you’re exploring nature as well. Mike’s encounter with a 14-foot gator was a great reminder to always be alert. “The gator was near a photo blind, and when we entered, the gator charged, unannounced,” he said. “Always have a way out.”  Mike described the situation as “unhealthy.” Judging from the photo, I’d guess that’s an understatement, but like any great photographer, Mike took advantage of the opportunity and got the shot.

Be sure to send us YOUR wildlife and camping photos this month! When you do, you’ll be entered to win a free one-year Texas State Parks pass!

~G. Elaine Acker

Meet Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Chief Photographer, Earl Nottingham

Earl NottinghamThis week, I talked to Earl Nottingham, chief photographer at Texas Parks and Wildlife. He shared a few thoughts on his favorite places to shoot photographs. He also offered a quick photo tip for our readers.

“If I have one favorite place to shoot in Texas, it’s the Big Bend region,” says Earl. “Specifically, Big Bend Ranch State Park. This is photographer’s country and there is everything to shoot here from grand landscapes to wildlife to flowers. I find it is a very addictive country in that it keeps drawing you back.”

I have to agree with Earl on Big Bend. I find myself hitching up the travel trailer and heading back there time after time. I’ve written articles for Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine about four-wheel drive trips with my sisters, hiking the South Rim, and rafting on the Rio Grande, and I never get tired of it. You could literally spend a lifetime there and never see it all.

Earl also reminded me that we’re approaching prime time for the fall bird migration. “If you’re a bird photographer, the Texas coast is the place to be during migration,” he said. “From the smallest hummingbird to the graceful whooping crane, the variety of birds along the Texas coast draws birders from around the world.”

Whooping CranesTo learn more about all the birding hot spots and activities at the parks, check out Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine’s article written by the agency’s Nature Tourism Manager Shelly Plante. The article includes guided bird walks, talks, bird banding and much more.

Whether you’re a serious birder adding species to your life list, or simply enjoy exploring the colorful diversity of birds in Texas (a whopping 638 species!) There are plenty of great places to take your camper and hang out along the coast.

Earl’s photo tip of the day

“The three most important things that make a good photograph are light, light and light,” says Earl. “To be more specific, regardless of your subject, the quality of light is what makes a beautiful photograph. Typically, shooting during early morning or later evening hours produces a more eloquent light. Also, days with unique atmospheric conditions such as fog or even rain adds interest to a photograph. Try to avoid harsh noonday light, which is typically the time most photos are shot.”

Don’t forget to email us YOUR photos from the parks, or photos you’ve taken of wildlife! You’ll be entered to win a one-year Texas parks pass!

What’s YOUR favorite Texas State Park?

This week, Camper Clinic II kicked off its campaign to raise money for Texas’ state parks, which are facing an unprecedented budget shortfall.  Camper Clinic II fans can help by doing two things: 1) Go to the Camper Clinic II Facebook page and clicking “Like.” For every like up to $1,500, Camper Clinic II will donate another dollar to the parks. 2) Share the campaign with friends. It’s important to raise money for the parks, but it’s also important to raise awareness about the challenges being faced by these Texas treasures!

From now through the end of October, we’ll use this blog to explore the parks, discover the wildlife, and remember our outdoor heritage. Be sure to join us on this journey!

~G. Elaine Acker

 

Wade Fishing along the Texas Coast

If you’re camping anywhere along the Texas coast this Labor Day weekend, you may be interested in trying a little wade fishing.

I found this helpful video from Texas Parks and Wildlife, which explores some popular fishing spots, and I talked to my photographer buddy, Mike Sloat, who owns Texas and Southwest Outdoor Photography, for a few tips.

Surf fishing photo

Surf fishing on Mustang Beach. Photo copyright Micheal Sloat.

“When I was around 8 years old, my Dad took me wade fishing and surf fishing along the coast,” said Mike. “We used to fish the flats of Keller’s Bay, Red Fish lake, Swan Lake, Carancahua Bay and Menefee Lake.” Like many anglers, Mike and his dad always wore blue jeans and tennis shoes, but with the water quality somewhat iffy these days, a good pair of waders can be a good idea.

And when they caught a keeper, Mike added it to his long stringer, which he clipped to his belt and pulled behind him.  It’s not common for sharks to come and feed from your stringer, but it’s not unheard of, either. The further away from you the fish on the stringer are, the better.

You’ll also want to learn the “stingray shuffle.” “Be sure to slide your feet along the bottom to bump stringrays,” Mike added. “It’s hard to enjoy a holiday weekend with a stingray barb in your leg.”

Kayak photo

Sometimes a kayak can get you to that perfect fishing spot. If you’re taking pictures, be aware that the reflections off the water can fool your camera into thinking the scene is much brighter than it really is. Photo copyright Micheal Sloat.

I asked Mike about tips for photography in and around the water. “I recommend a waterproof camera, or at least a water tight housing,” he said. “You can get away without one for a short time, but if you’re using a expensive camera, one day it’ll happen: there’ll be a large wave, you’ll step off in a hole, or you’ll just drop it.”

When you’re taking pictures, also be aware that water reflects a tremendous amount of light. Double check your settings and be sure your camera is properly metering on your subject. Then, play with reflections on the water, try for that perfect sunset shot, or freeze the action as your kids splash in the water and chase away every fish in the vicinity.

Holiday camp outs and fishing trips are about family fun! When you take your travel trailer to the coast, even when you leave the water without a fish, those photos and memories  last a lifetime!

Care to share your fish stories??? And, if you take photos this weekend, be sure to send us one!

~ G. Elaine Acker

Photo Tips from the Pros

What can I do if the light’s not right?

For 36 years, my husband, photographer and photo editor Bill Reaves, shared the stories of Texas in the pages of Texas Parks and Wildlife and Texas Highways magazines. I’ve browsed through his photo files, and I’m convinced he personally set foot in every single nook and cranny in the state.

Add his experience to that of the dozens of talented freelance photographers he worked with over the years, and there’s a wealth of photo knowledge out there that I’ll just bet they’re willing to share.

One of the great things about traveling in an RV, is that you have an opportunity to take as much photo gear as you’d like on your road trip. Or, you can just use your pocket camera and take better photos with a few tips from the pros.

I’ll be publishing lots of photos and tips over the coming months, so if you’re enjoying the blog, subscribe and keep in touch! (And send us photos from your RV road trips!)

Today, Bill and I talked about being flexible when trying to get “the shot.”

Photo Tip: Think outside the portrait

Cowboy

Note the harsh shadows across the cowboy’s face. You may need to rethink your shot when the lighting just doesn’t cooperate.

You may want the perfect portrait shot, but find that the light is just too harsh. In the photo of the cowboy, you’ll see that the sunlight is almost directly overhead, and the brim of the cowboy hat casts a dark shadow over the subject’s face.

Chaps

This tight photo of the worn leather says a lot about the cowboy and his way of life.

There are a couple of solutions here. You can push the hat back from the face and add a little flash fill, or, you can be flexible, and look for another shot. I found that a tight shot of the worn boots, spurs and chaps, said as much about the ranch and its people as the portrait would have. Maybe more.  ~Bill Reaves

Remember, we’d love to see your photos, too!

~ Elaine Acker, Airstream Writer