Austin had a population of about 115,000 when photographer Neal Douglass took this picture of Congress Avenue looking north to the Texas State Capitol on New Year’s Day 1947. The streetscape has changed over the past 71 years, and Austin has grown 10-fold to about 1 million people. But the electric Paramount Theatre sign, which was replaced in 2015, and the State Capitol building, which was completed in 1888, still anchor the storied strip.
Scarlet possumhaw berries and the bright plumage of the male northern cardinal add a splash of warmth to an otherwise cold winter day. While possumhaw is found in Central and East Texas—sprouting berries in fall and winter—northern cardinals can be spotted year-round through most of Texas. Like this iconic winter bird, other songbirds, gamebirds, opossums, and raccoons all dine on the possumhaw’s conspicuous berries.
After U-turns on the edges of grapefruit groves, repeated pullovers to study our Rio Grande Valley street guide, and a precarious three-point turn on the narrow levee road where a border patrol truck blocks our path, we are really lost. Like so many wanderers before us, we are searching for La Lomita Mission, which a local history buff named Frank told me about at an Edinburg bar the night before. “Just travel the Old Military Highway that goes along the Rio Grande,” Frank said. What Frank didn’t say was that Military Highway, much like the river it runs along, is a trickster that stops, starts, and twists in unexpected ways.
A mile or two into my hike to the top of Mount Livermore in the Davis Mountains, I stepped to the side of the trail as two speedsters overtook me on the uphill slope. “I guess that’s where we’re headed,” I said, nodding to a rocky outcrop on the horizon far above. “Nope,” one of them responded. “Baldy Peak is beyond that—you can’t see it yet.”
Rising from the Chihuahuan Desert north of Van Horn, the Guadalupe Mountains crest at the four highest elevations in the state—Guadalupe Peak, Bush Mountain, Shumard Peak, and Bartlett Peak. Though slightly shorter, El Capitan stands out as a distinctive limestone cliff towering some 3,000 feet above the road—making it a popular stop for photographers. The range contains some spectacular geological features, including part of the fossilized Capitan Reef, much of which can be seen within Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
Perched on a dusty ridge overlooking the Rio Grande, the tiny town of Langtry lies in the thick of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands, about 60 miles west of Del Rio. Langtry sprang up in 1882 as a railroad camp during the construction of the Southern Pacific line. Among the profiteers following the railroad was Roy Bean, a tent-saloon operator who became Langtry’s justice of the peace.
Texas’ Historic County Courthouses shine with grandiosity and ambition. Often politically controversial because of their expense, courthouse projects in the 19th and early 20th centuries lasted years as counties selected architects and builders, quarried and imported materials, then painstakingly assembled the larger-than-life landmarks in the middle of town. It’s not hard to imagine a farmer stopping by a courthouse construction site to take in the scene, scratching his head at the columns, parapets, and towers rising from the prairie.
Austin photographer Kenny Braun’s first book was a sumptuous portrait of surfer culture on the Texas coast. Published in 2014, it was aptly titled Surf Texas. So when Braun decided his next project would travel farther inland to explore the spectacular scenery of the state—from Big Bend to Caddo Lake and high-plains panoramas then back to his beloved ocean horizons—he figured the book could be called Turf Texas.
In planning the holiday-themed photo feature that appears in the December 2016 issue, Texas Highways Photography Editor Brandon Jakobeit challenged some of our most creative photographers to interpret the season’s spirit with landscapes and lights.
From a distance, West Texas’ Davis Mountains float above the Chihuahuan Desert like a smoky mirage.