The
Tones
of
Texas

A visual essay by Theresa Dimenno

From her
earliest
years
taking
pictures

as a kid in Houston, Theresa DiMenno was fascinated by the everyday sights around her. She trained her Kodak Instamatic on subjects that caught her attention—her fifth-grade teacher on the last day of school, cloud formations over the ocean on family trips to Galveston, and the sun setting over the Katy Prairie. After high school, DiMenno worked an office job before heading west for a three-month trip to California. The experience was transformative. She returned home with a newfound interest in photography, awakened by a fresh perspective on her home state and the way the light danced over open spaces and horizons.

“Light informs color and mood,” says DiMenno, who now lives in Austin. “It’s the heart of my passion and chosen career path of photography. Subtle shifts of light can create dramatic differences in angles or contrast, evoking different responses.”

DiMenno has explored these themes for over 40 years as a freelance photographer, shooting subjects ranging from Johnny Cash and Johnny Depp for People magazine to monarch butterflies and their migration to Mexico for her 2015 exhibition at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, Delicate Balance: Metamorphosis of the Monarch Butterfly. Since 2009, her wildflower photos have adorned the walls of patient rooms and hallway corridors throughout Houston Methodist Hospital.

Recently, while organizing her work, DiMenno leaned into her interest in light and the depth it conveys, a mixture she describes as tone. It’s a concept that comes up repeatedly as she travels around Texas in pursuit of fleeting conditions. She points to her picture of the Guadalupe River as an example.

“I was driving along the river road in Hunt, and it was getting close to sunset,” she recalls. “I was frustrated because private property kept me from accessing the river. Then, just up ahead, I could see a golden light emanating from a stand of trees. When I reached the light, there was a bridge where I could pull over. In one serendipitous moment, the most beautiful scene unfolded. I went from frustration to sheer joy and gratitude. It’s the light that inspires me, that conveys the story living in every image.”

Bright red poppies with green stems and flowers in a field
Red poppies at Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg

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Red Tones

“In dawn’s sweet rise, the colors glow, shining brilliant on the fields below. Inspired by a call to action, red springs alert with bold reaction.” —Theresa Dimenno

Golden sun touches the tops of bright red wildflowers
Last light over April wildflowers in Johnson City.

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Green Tones

“Sapped of energy from a phase of my career gone gray, I shot abstracts of plants in my home garden. Their tones of green were my salvation, serving as a creative outlet that led me here.”

A black, white and brown caterpillar walks along a bright green leaf
A monarch caterpillar munching on milkweed in DiMenno’s backyard when she lived in Houston
Golden light passes behind the green leaves of a plant
A close-up of a schefflera plant
Light streams through a dark green tree on bright green grass
Sunrise at Terry Hershey Park in Houston
A small blue butterfly in tall, tan grass
A cyna blue butterfly in Austin

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Cool Tones

“Blue protects, calms, supports. It makes me think of times spent along the Gulf Coast. Blue is the color of a clear sky. The blues are also what we feel when we’re melancholy. That’s the paradox of blue.”

Bright white and gray clouds dump rain onto a desert landscape. A rainbow forms in the background.
A summer rainstorm near Snyder
A person and a dog walk along wet sand as purple and pink light illuminate the morning sky along the sea
A morning walk at Galveston Island State Park.
A swarm of orange and black butterflies cover a bright green tree
Monarch butterflies rest in Eldorado on their October migration southward

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Warm Tones

“Warm tones dwell in the golden hours of daybreak and nightfall. They awaken and inspire; they settle and soothe. Warm tones are autumn tones. During Autumn, I love to photograph the rivers Of the Hill Country.”

Golden trees and bright green grass reflect on clear blue water
A November golden hour shot of the Guadalupe River in Hunt
A bright purple flower on a golden background
A winecup opens its flowers on a May morning in Austin

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Purple Tones

“Golden light bathes the delicate phlox, illuminating its edges, highlighting the magic and mystery it inspires. Purple’s greatness lies in its complexity, its sense of enlightening with compassion.”

Bright purple flowers with green leaves on a golden sun background
March phlox blossoms in New Berlin
A small bee perched on a purple flower
A bee rests on a passion flower in Houston

From the April 2021 issue
The February 2021 cover of Texas Highways Magazine, The Return of Car Culture


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