Year In Photos

Ask any longtime Texas Highways readerwhat they enjoy most about the magazine, and the photography will undoubtedly come up. Captivating images that showcase the state’s diversity have long been a hallmark of our publication. Whether capturing iconic landscapes, noteworthy Texans, or outdoor adventures, our photos reflect the bounty of Texas.

Texas Highways photography is timeless, narrative, evocative, and grounded in authenticity,” photo editor Brandon Jakobeit says. “We are constantly seeking out the beauty, the people, and the faraway places.”

Jakobeit works with a stable of about a dozen photographers who are in continuous motion across the state. Their images favor the natural over the manufactured, artistic expressions over orchestrated scenes. They present Texas as you see it in real life.

“A good photograph is one that makes me stop and think about the larger world around me and my place in it,” Jakobeit says. “I look for images that elicit an emotional response, have a great sense of composition and light, and can tell a story.”

Here we present 15 photographs from 2023 that represent the best of another year of exploring Texas, from a Grammy-winning mariachi violinist whose music pays tribute to Uvalde, to a Panhandle junkyard that attracts worldwide collectors, to a classic West Texas sunrise over quintessentially rugged terrain. There’s always something new to discover.

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A snake is seen slithering across a bright green lily pad. The photograph is backlit leaving a green leaf and silhouette of a snake.

“Lighting a subject from behind can add drama and poetry. This backlit silhouette highlights the curving shape of the glossy swampsnake I encountered late one night in Brazos Bend State Park. I put a small LED light under the leaf and took the image from above. The gentle little snake did the rest.”—Sean Fitzgerald

A person scales the side of a large rock face.

“I love images that show a metaphoric journey from the darkness into the light. As the climber made his way out of the shadows, I tried to get the exact moment when the sun rays lit his body. I kept as much of the southwestern face of Enchanted Rock in the frame as possible to show how far he still had to go.” —S.F.

Clear 'bubble' style lodging dots a desert hillside under blue sky

“Space Cowboys in Terlingua offers travelers a stay in tents or stargazing domes. The silver domes against the rugged West Texas landscape is a striking contrast. Some might appreciate the unique blend of human-made structures with the natural environment, while others could feel unsettled by the development, as it disturbs the pristine wilderness of the region.” —Jessica Lutz

A bartender stands back as a large column of fire and sparks shoots up from a cocktail

“For the final touch on a drink called 'The Painkiller', bartender Miguel Gaona of Elk Store Winery & Distillery in Fredericksburg lit a bit of liquor on top of the ice. He then peppered the small flame with cinnamon powder, which is highly flammable, triggering a short-lived but very dramatic 3-foot-high column of fire and sparks.” —Eric W. Pohl

A man in a white button-down shirt and cowboy hat leans against a brightly-colored mural

“Musician Hayden Pedigo’s failed bid for Amarillo City Council in 2018 started off tongue-in-cheek but gained momentum. Now, he is the face of a new movement of inclusivity in his hometown. In this image of the Two Coyotes mural at Palace Coffee, I visualize the new paradigm of public art and an infusion of a new generation of leadership.” —Tiffany Hofeldt

A lone tree stands on a reddish-colored rock beneath the moonlight

“I found this beautifully shaped old oak tree on the Little Dome escarpment. It sat close enough to the edge to let me keep Enchanted Rock in the frame, while also highlighting the straw-colored grasses that give the scene a little warmth. Including the moon and the tiny silhouettes of people makes it a very different view of Enchanted Rock.” —S.F.

Row upon row of classic cars in different stages of being dismantled in the effort to save other cars in their restoration process.

“Rows of classic American-made cars line Owens Salvage in the Panhandle town of Wellington. Owner Bob Owens has a Doberman pinscher named Roxie who chased after a rabbit in front of my camera as I was making this one-minute exposure and about took me out. I used a long exposure to blur the clouds and create an ethereal look.” -Dave Shafer

Row upon row of classic cars in different stages of being dismantled in the effort to save other cars in their restoration process.

“I wanted to take an image that reduced the Canadian River to its bare elements—the water and sky. I kept studying my topographic maps and exploring up and down the river in my 4x4 truck for days. I found this high bluff at the Lake Meredith National Recreation Area, where I could see the river wind its way through my frame. This image in the last light of dusk is the one I dreamed about.” -S.F.

Bags of bright orange-red fruit sit in a mesh bag

“Rio red grapefruit is one of many citrus fruits available at Thompson Farms Market in the Rio Grande Valley. All I could think of while taking this photo was eating an egg and chorizo burrito with a glass of OJ. The orange screams repetition, and the mesh bag against the grapefruit gives the image the feel of a screenprint. It’s pop art.” -Christ Chávez

A man in a traditional Mariachi uniform stands in front of a bright pink wall

“Juan Ortiz of Mariachi Campanas de America helped compose the music for ‘El corrido de los ángeles de Uvalde’ in honor of the Uvalde tragedy. I had to convince Ortiz to let me take a quick photo outside of Taco Cabana in San Antonio because it was 99 degrees that evening. His warm smile, camera presence, and classic mariachi outfit make the portrait timeless.” -C.C.

A bright red rock formation

“The Lighthouse is an iconic rock formation at Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Canyon. I was on assignment for our ‘Parks After Dark’ story and wanted to capture the lighthouse under a full moon. The experience of hiking back to my car in the middle of the night was amazing, with coyotes howling, rattlesnakes rattling, and owls swooping over my head.” -Kenny Braun

A person walks in front of a grey concrete building with a brightly-colored mural reading 'Waxahachie Gingerbread City' on the front

“I asked my model to walk through the scene, right off the town square in Waxahachie, but it was very windy and she lost her hat on the first couple of tries. I liked the way the mural has those flowing ribbons that echo the model’s windblown sweater. Murals can be very boring and clichéd in photographs, but sometimes with the right elements they work.” -K.B.

Bright pink flowers adorn a green plant in front of a bright blue background

“I was super excited to round a curve on the outskirts of Fort Davis and witness four or five large desert willow trees in full bloom. I love the graceful arc of the delicate flowers and branches. I’ve been photographing spring in Texas since 2009, most of the time focusing on wildflowers. This assignment on blooming trees was expansive and uplifting.” -Theresa DiMenno

A firey-orange sunrise illuminates greyish-blue mountains in the distance of a desert scene

“I’d probably rank this as the most beautiful sunrise I’ve had the privilege of shooting. I remember standing in Fresno Canyon Overlook in Big Bend Ranch State Park and at one point putting down my camera just to take in the scene. The colors glowed like burning coals in a furnace above El Solitario, and the sky’s brilliance still lingers in my memory.” -Rob Greebon

A group of RVs line up along still flat clear water in an RV park

“Camp Margaritaville in Crystal Beach is one of a couple RV resorts and parks thriving along the Texas coast, but it’s the only one that’s affiliated with Jimmy Buffet. I was drawn to the repeating shapes of the campers and palm trees creating a mirror image in the lake. It’s hard to tell in the photo but the mosquitos were absolutely vicious.” -K.B.

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