Gallery of Images from Hamilton Pool Reserve
30 miles west of Austin near the communities of Dripping Springs
and Bee Cave, Hamilton Pool Reserve is a 232 acre preserve owned
and operated by Travis County. The dominant feature of the park
is the swimming hole and waterfall located in a collapsed grotto.
However the canyon and surrounding areas are equally as beautiful
and offer many outstanding photographic opportunities. Hamilton
Pool is part of the Balcones Cayonlands Preserve and is a protected
environment. Pets, glass, fishing, and biking are prohibited, and
visitors are asked to not leave the well marked trails. During the
summer the pool is extremely popular as a swimming hole while the
crowds dwindle to a handful during the winter (great for taking
photos!). Admission is $8 per car and gates are open from 9am-6pm.
Take Highway 71 west of Austin through Bee Cave and turn left onto
FM 3238 (Hamilton Pool Road). Travel 13 miles to the reserve entrance
on the right.
trip to Hamilton Pool Reserve started badly when I misread the directions
and took US 290 instead of Highway 71. After what turned out to
be a pleasant drive through the Texas Hill Country I discovered
my mistake and finally ended up at my destination. When I arrived
I noticed the admission had increased from $5/car to $8/car in October
2003. After paying for my day pass I was given a small map of the
preserve and a set of instructions: no pets, no glass, stay on the
path, don't leave trash, don't damage the rocks, animals, or plants,
and have a nice day!
To my pleasant
surprise I was only the 2nd car in the parking lot and I was looking
forward to taking some people-free landscapes. I had just received
my Sigma 15-30mm and this was to be a test run of the new lens.
Assuming I wouldn't be using any other lenses, I mounted my camera
with wide angle lens on my tripod and left the rest of the gear
in the car. Next up - visiting the collapsed grotto.
On the hike
down the canyon (1/4 of a mile and 80 vertical feet) I thought about
the history of this land. The brosure said that cultural remains
date back over 8000 years, but during the past 50 years the land's
popularity as a swimming hole soared and the ecosystem suffered.
In 1985 Travis county purchased the swimming hole and the canyon
on either side of Hamilton Creek leading down to the Pedernales
River. Now the land is making a comeback under a land management
program and remains open for public use.
at the grotto I was immediately impressed by the pool of clear water
under the lip of the collapsed grotto. I set up my tripod and started
taking photos and quickly realized that there was a huge range of
light in the scenes ranging from the bright sky to the dark undersides
of the rock ledge. To compensate I bracketed every shot and later
combined the images in photoshop. Based on the exposure range required
I estimated that the range of light was double the exposure latitude
of my camera - a challenging scene, but one easily solved with a
tripod and Photoshop. I shot nearly everything at ISO 100, f/11,
exposure bracketed, mirror lock-up with a 2-second delay.
was able to photograph several angles while traveling along the
back side of the pool. One interesting shot was of the ceiling of
the grotto with its wild mixture of colors and patterns (see right).
Note: Use caution
at the metal steps and watch out for dripping water! The path also
has a tight squeeze which can be challenge when carrying a tripod
with camera attached, but the view is worth it!
Just as I finished
photographing the pool, several other visitors arrived to enjoy
the site. Wanting to get my full $8 worth, I decided to head down
the canyon to visit Pedernales River.
4/5 of a mile down Hamilton Creek actually takes a while to hike
as the path meanders along the creek as well as up and down the
canyon wall. As I hiked the trail I wondered how much, if any, of
the canyon was actually an old collapsed cave. There were huge boulders
and rock formations that looked like they were part of a larger
natural structure at some point.
Finally I arrived
at the river and found a perfect spot to take a picture of Hamilton
creek with its canopy of Cypress trees emptying into the river.
Unfortunately I needed a longer lens than 30mm - and I had elected
to leave my extra gear in the car. Oh well. After enjoying the sun
and the sound of trickling water I headed back up the creek and
returned to my car.
in Austin's back yard, Hamilton Pool Reserve offers outstanding
photographic opportunities. The park is nearly empty during the
winter, though the vegetation is dormant. Unfortunately the warmer
months means large crowds for swimming, though a visit early in
the morning on an cool spring day may provide the prime time for
photography. Admission is $8/car and is the park is open year-round.
For more information see the Hamilton
Pool Reserve website.