I got an e-mail a few days ago from the Texas State Park folks letting me know that a number of parks were opening back up to the public starting Monday the 20th and I rushed to make a reservation. I checked the weather first. The app predicted that today would be a beautiful Spring morning in central Texas. Coolish temperatures and low humidity, and not a rain cloud in the sky. My reservation was for Pedernales State Park which is about 45 minutes due West of Austin. I stuffed sunscreen, a couple water bottles and some roasted almonds into my little leather backpack and grabbed a Lumix S1R with the Leica 90mm on it. I tossed a Zeiss 50mm into the pack, just in case the 90mm became too claustrophobic. Oh, and I invited Belinda to come along with me.
We hit the park around 9 a.m. and picked up our "no contact" windshield sticker from a board outside the park office and then we headed for the falls. The Park officials have some rules: First, all reservations must be made online and in advance. Second, the entrance to the park is staggered by time slots. We had the 8-11 a.m. slot. We're allowed to be in the park all day until 10 p.m. but we had to be in by 11 a.m. latest. Third, face masks are to be worn at all times. Fourth, everybody has to practice proscribed social distancing. With thousands of acres of fun land to explore, and only about 18 cars per time slot allowed in, the park was a much different place than what we experienced a year ago. We saw very few people and intersected with almost no one. Everyone followed the rules to the letter.
The 90mm Elmarit R lens is wonderful. Very well behaved and as sharp as a macro lens. While I post my images here at 2800 pixels on the long side I can assure you that at the full resolution of the S1R raw files, and with f-stops set to 5.6 or 8.0, the amount of detail you get in a file is just stunning. The color is neutral and the nano-acuity is off the charts. The lens was just as I remembered it and now I'm keeping an eye open to see what I can pick up in the used markets. I'd like to pick up a 50mm R Summilux (f1.4) and also the 80mm Summilux but I fear the cat is out of the bag among Panasonic S users and the prices are starting to surge up again. Not the worst outcome for me; I can always at least try to practice some financial restraint from time to time....
I didn't bring a tripod or an ND filter so all my water in the shots flows in real time. But that's okay; I was getting a bit bored with the clichéd, smooth water I see in EVERY landscape shot that includes moving water.
We hiked until one p.m. and figured we'd soaked up enough vitamin D, nature and sunlight. I'd shot some test shots to play with and it was starting to heat up going into the afternoon (it's supposed to hit 98 degrees (Fahrenheit) tomorrow afternoon --- not looking forward to that). We exited the park and went to look for lunch.
When we were younger adults, with meager budgets, we always loved finding a What-a-burger hamburger stand out in the Texas countryside. They started as a Texas chain and we trained ourselves to love their griddled burgers and mustard based condiment philosophy. It was, and probably still is, the only fast food, burger chain where you can order Jalapeño slices as an addition to your burger. We found one just outside of Dripping Springs, Texas today but as it was lunch time and they were only doing drive through, the line of cars was outrageous. We skipped What-a-burger and headed towards home.
There is a McDonald's just a few miles from our house and when we drove by on the main road we saw that there were only a few cars in line so we stopped there to grab a lunch and take it home. We probably haven't done that in a decade but it was a carefree day and we were enjoying the nostalgia of it all. The food was...okay. But the adventure was fun and relaxing. Next week we may hit Enchanted Rock State Park, if we can get a reservation and the weather is nice.
And I'll probably bring the 90mm R along in tow.
Signs everywhere telling you two things:
"Practice Social Distancing."
"Keep an eye out for Diamond Back Rattlesnakes."