Texas Photography: 25 Scenic Photo Ops In The Lone Star State

Texas Photography: 25 Scenic Photo Ops In The Lone Star State
Natalie Rhea Riggs

Texas ranks behind Alaska as the second largest United State. It is absolutely gigantic, roughly the size of France plus Switzerland, or twice the size of Germany. Visitors are amazed at the diversity of landscape — grasslands, deserts, prairies, coastal swamps, forests, and mountains — in addition to architectural elements, both old and new. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Lone Star State boasts some of the most spectacular views for photographs. For breathtaking photos, be sure to visit as many of these locations as you can on your next trip to Texas.

Landscapes

From the marshy wetlands of East Texas to the desserts of West Texas, you and your fellow photographers can discover a diversity of vistas to record in your albums.

Rio Grande

The Rio Grande is the largest of the 15 main rivers in Texas. Stretching from its source in Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico, it forms the southwestern border between the United States and Mexico. Sections of the river have steep limestone walls on both banks that form the remarkable Mariscal and Boquillas Canyons, where you may enjoy white-water rafting. Be sure to bring waterproof bags for your camera and equipment.

Palo Duro Canyon

The Palo Duro Canyon, in Northwest Texas, is located in an area known as the “Texas Panhandle.” It ranks as the second largest canyon in the United States behind the Grand Canyon. As an outdoor adventurer, you will enjoy horseback riding, camping, hiking, and biking on more than 30 different trails. You will find a wide range of campsites, from those with electricity and water, to more modest cabins and tents. You may bring your own horses or take a tour with guides from the stables. This Canyon offers the best of adventure photography in Texas.

Caddo Lake

Caddo Lake, located 60 miles south of Texarkana, contains more than 26,000 acres of natural lakes and wetlands. Forming the border between Texas and Louisiana, the lake showcases the largest flooded forest of cypress trees in the country. It is the natural habitat for birds, fish, otters, beavers, and alligators. It is an internationally protected wetland. As a nature lover, you will find a diversity of species to record in photos.

El Capitan

This limestone peak in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park rises almost 10,000 feet above the surrounding landscape of salt flats. There are sheer cliffs on three sides; you may bushwhack through the scrub on the accessible side. Photographers will enjoy capturing the view at sunset as the tall peak is set against an orange, pink, and purple sky. Sunsets are particularly brilliant because there is minimal light pollution from cities.

Natural Bridge Caverns

The Natural Bridge Caverns near San Antonio are a series of subterranean connected rooms under a 60-foot limestone bridge. You may enjoy a variety of different tours to extreme depths of hundreds of feet below the surface to view the stalagmites and to mine for gems and fossils. The area is also home to a large bat colony, so bring your flash and get some action shots.

Galveston Island State Park

Galveston Island is located about 50 miles from Houston. This barrier island forms a long area 3 miles wide and 27 miles long. Galveston Harbor provides the entrance to the Houston Ship Channel for large cruise ships and massive shipping tankers. You will find the sand dunes, wetlands, ponds, and beaches of Galveston Island State Park on the northwestern section of the island very picturesque. Several hurricanes over the years have destroyed the sand dunes causing the park to close for restoration projects. It is now open and an undiscovered gem.

Monahans Sandhills State Park

The sand dunes in this desert region of the Lone Star State rise up to 70 feet high. Visitors can catch photos of people sandboarding or sand surfing down the hills in the 4,000 acre state park. You are welcome to bring your horse and ride within the 800-acre equestrian zone. Despite the high temperatures in summer, a diversity of animals and plants thrive in this sandy area. 

Architecture

Buildings and architectural spaces draw photographers to showcase the past centuries of Texas history.

The Alamo

The Alamo was originally built in the early 1700s as a religious mission, but became known for its role a hundred years later during the Texas Revolution when the Texan Army fought and were defeated by the Mexicans in 1836. Today, it stands as a UNESCO World Heritage site and museum. You may tour the barracks, weapons storage, and chapel.

Sulphur Springs Old Courthouse

Located in the small town of Sulphur Springs, Hopkins County, the historic courthouse was designed in the Romanesque Revival style of architecture and built in 1895 out of pink granite and red sandstone. In 2002, an extensive renovation restored the building to its former glory. The Courthouse still functions as a county courthouse, and you may visit it in its prominent location on the town square. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Space Center Houston

The Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center is NASA’s center for training, research, and flight control. More than 100 buildings serve as the center of Space City, where NASA’s corps of astronauts are trained. The mission control center managed the famous Gemini, Apollo, and Space Shuttle flights. As a photographer, you may relive some of the most impressive moments from space history.

Prada Marfa

Prada Marfa is a modern art installation located northwest of Marfa, Texas, and modeled after a Prada store. The inaccessible building contains Prada luxury goods — shoes and handbags — that Miuccia Prada donated from the Fall/Winter 2005 collection, the year the store was constructed. People come from all over the country come to catch a glimpse of this pop up contemporary art project. Photographers flock to this quirky building.

San Antonio River Walk

The River Walk, a network of pedestrian streets on both sides of the San Antonio River, attracts visitors to local shops, restaurants, and historical buildings. Colorful barges and water taxis ferry people along the river. More than two miles of vegetation include trees, shrubs, and vines. The walkway links more than 2,020 acres of public land, making it larger than Central Park in New York City and Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

Fort Davis McDonald Observatory

The McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis offers exciting opportunities for photographs at sunset and nighttime. Twilight Parties explore the different phases of the moon, including eclipses. Star Parties highlight constellations and other celestial objects. Daytime programs include Solar Viewings with the aid of specially-designed HD cameras that provide safe observation of the sun. The observatories rise above the vast expanse of West Texas land, making its location particularly suitable for photographs without light pollution of cities.

Plants, Animals, and Natural Resources

The immense state of Texas offers some of the most impressive venues for photographers to record various plants, animals, and natural resources.

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park, named after the legendary large bend in the Rio Grande (“Big River”), forms a natural border between the United States and Mexico. The surrounding desert is dry and hot, while the mountainous region remains cooler, and the river valley preserves its fertile soil. In Santa Elena Canyon, you may capture photographs of your family kayaking, canoeing, and rafting. More than 1,200 species of plants and 600 species of mammals make the park their home. With no nearby cities, the park has one the darkest skies in the 48 contiguous states, and photographers flock there to see stars, planets, and the Milky Way.

Texas Hill Country

The Texas Hill Country, located in Central Texas near the capital city of Austin, is known for rugged hills rising high above the plains and valleys. The terrain is populated by cacti and wildflowers. Deep caverns and aquifers contribute to the drinking water supply of nearby counties. You can record hundreds of species of vegetation across the vast fields.

Longhorns

The Texas Longhorn, the official state mammal, is a hearty breed of cattle that is largely resistant to disease, can subsist on poor vegetation, and last for days with limited water. It is known for its iconic horns, which can be up to 10 feet in length. There are numerous ranches with longhorns across Texas. The Official State of Texas Longhorn Herd live in four state parks: San Angelo, Copper Breaks, Palo Duro Canyon, and Lyndon B. Johnson. You will want to put on your jeans and boots and go see these cows.

Bayou Bend Collection and Gardens

Bayou Bend is the former home of Ima Hogg, a prominent Houston resident and philanthropist. Today, the house contains an outstanding collection of decorative arts, silver, ceramics, and furniture as part of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston. The 14 acres of gardens showcase formal gardens, beautiful old trees, and colorful flowers. You will want to be sure to visit in the spring when the azaleas are in full bloom. In fact, there is an annual flower tour called the Azalea Trail to see the best plants in early March.

South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center

The small barrier island is home to some of the most beautiful beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. The Birding and Nature Center showcases a year-round butterfly garden, as well as providing a habitat for its permanent resident birds. Of particular interest is the vast variety of migratory birds who stop there during their migration routes in the fall and the spring. Texas Photographers come regularly to see the birds.

Bluebonnet Fields in Central Texas

The state flower, the bluebonnet, blooms during the spring months in massive open fields and along highways, particularly near Ennis, Texas, the home of the Official Bluebonnet Trail. Bluebonnet seeds are spread by the wind, ensuring the return of its annual bloom. You will often find red flowers called Indian Paintbrushes mixed in with fields of bluebonnets. There are some places that it is illegal to pick this beautiful wildflower, so be sure to look at the signs in your location.

High Island Audubon Sanctuary

The Houston Audubon Society has four bird designated sanctuaries on High Island east of Houston and accessible from Galveston via the Bolivar Peninsula Ferry. Peak times to watch migrating birds are in the spring from mid-March to mid-May and in the fall in late September to mid-October. You will enjoy taking photos of hundreds of birds in the massive acres woods, wetlands, fields, and ponds.

West Texas Oil Fields

The discovery of oil at Spindletop in 1901 began the Texas Oil Boom which led to the famous era of exploration and production. In the 1920s, wells and pipelines were constructed across the state to West Texas. Today, there are more than 1.5 million active oil wells in the state. Silhouettes of pump jacks are popular sights for photographers to capture against vast oil fields and skylines, particularly near the town of Midland.

Brazos Wind Ranch

Texas ranks number one in the United States for wind generation with more than 9,000 wind turbines in operation. They provide up to 10% of electricity production to almost 4 million homes. The Brazos Wind farm near Fluvanna, Texas, has 160 wind turbines located on 14,000 acres. Distributors sell the impressive amounts of wind energy to locals and to residents across the region. This sustainability initiative has made the site popular among environmentalists.

Entertainment

No list of remarkable events for photographers to shoot would be complete without these typical entertaining venues.

Friday Night Lights

High-school students and families across the state gather in football stadiums every Friday night to watch their teams face fierce competition from rivals. From small towns to big cities, the shared passion for the sport is so remarkable that a book and television series were created to document the spirit. Popular photographic shots include the marching band, the cheerleaders and drill team, and the athletes in action. Sit back, and watch the show.

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo

This annual event takes place every February. Signature events of the 20-day show include a kick-off parade and Go Texan Day, during which all Houston residents dress in western wear. You will see lots of gigantic belt buckles. The Houston Livestock Show and rodeo is the largest event of its kind in the world. You will hear some of the best Country and Western singers in the world. Past performers have included Elvis Presley, Taylor Swift, and George Strait. Bring on the tunes.

Fort Worth Stockyards Cattle Drive

Twice daily, at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., real, live, American cowboys drive a herd of 15 Texas Longhorns along Exchange Avenue through the historical district of Fort Worth. This cattle drive is the last-standing, fully functioning stockyard in the United States. The outdoor restaurants along Exchange Avenue are good venues for you to capture photos of the drivers in action. All details of the cowboys’ apparel and saddles are accurate and authentic. You may visit the steers and cowboys before and after each show. They are happy to talk to you and to pose for photos.

As you can see, the Lone Star State offers some of the best locations and events for Texas Photography. You will want to grab that map and start planning your trip.

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