Enchanted Rock is an enormous, 640-acre pink granite dome located between Llano and Fredericksburg in the Hill Country of central Texas, about 90 miles north of San Antonio. It's part of the Llano Uplift, a large region of granite bedrock that rises out of the surrounding limestone. Over the last several million years, erosion has exposed this 425-foot-high, billion-year-old dome and its smaller sister domes. It's some of the oldest exposed rock in the world and is a prime destination for hikers, photographers and rock climbers. However, Enchanted Rock is much more than just a giant boulder. It and the surrounding park present an incredibly varied ecosystem in a relatively small, 1,640-acre area, leading to numerous varied photo opportunities.
The saying in Texas is, "If you don't like the weather, wait 15 minutes and it will change." With this caveat in mind, central Texas summers are generally hot and dry, with highs in the upper 90s. Winters are usually mild, with lows typically in the upper 30s. Snow is infrequent, but sleet and freezing rain do occur each winter. Spring and fall are usually very pleasant. The Enchanted Rock area receives an average of 28 inches of precipitation a year, mostly in the fall and spring months.
Enchanted Rock presents a diverse environment, from the solid granite of the main rock to the damp, mossy creek beds along its base. In a single afternoon, one can photograph lush, moss-covered live oaks, wildflowers, white-tailed deer, gigantic lichen-covered boulders and a vast expanse of rock, where the lines are echoed in the wisps of clouds above.
There are two main trails. The steep and heavily traveled Summit Trail leads directly to the summit of the main rock, while the Loop Trail makes a four-mile trek around the entire complex of domes. The Loop Trail presents a completely different aspect of the park. It runs beneath and among the eroded and lichen-encrusted rock formations along the base of the rock, where visitors are likely to encounter deer and other wildlife. The trail crosses Sandy Creek and follows a runoff area near the base of the rock. Check out the "scenic overlook," a knoll slightly off the trail that provides a striking panoramic view in the late afternoon.
Spring usually brings a profusion of wildflowers and relatively mild temperatures. Bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush peak in mid-April, followed by coreopsis, Indian blankets and Mexican hats. Fall often sees overcast skies and beautiful, even light for macrophotography. The best times of day for photography are early morning and late afternoon, when the low sunlight can bathe the rock in a beautiful golden-red glow that complements the pink granite.
Contact: Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, (325) 247-3903 (headquarters/entry station), (512) 389-8900 (reservations), www.tpwd.state.tx.us/park/enchantd/enchantd.htm.
Telephoto zooms can be used just as effectively as wide-angle optics for landscape images. Lenses such as the Tamron SP AF 200-500mm ƒ/5.6-6.3 zoom compress the foreground and background to create striking images, and are ideal for capturing shy wildlife subjects. List Price: $1,454.95. Contact: Tamron, (631) 858-8400, www.tamron.com.