Texas’ Big Bend:A Photographic Adventure

Today’s guest blogger is Mike Marvins, a fourth generation portrait photographer. His photographs, featuring the wilderness of Big Bend National Park in Texas, are currently on display on the mezzanine of HMNS. In this post, Mike discusses his experiences at Big Bend National Park.
 
Texas’ Big Bend region has been a part of my life for over 40 years. As a new Scoutmaster, just off a four year stint as an officer in the Army, I was determined that my troop in Houston get a taste of high adventure backpacking. That first trip was a real learning experience for the boys and me. With July temperatures at over one hundred degrees on the Rio Grande we began the week with a downpour the first night. A real desert storm – and we had no tents. Even with all the hardships we were all entranced with the vastness and grandeur of Big Bend. That was the first of many, many trips — both with the Scouts and then with camping buddies and family.

Being a fourth generation portrait photographer,  the two months leading up to Christmas were filled with eighteen hour workdays. Then on December 26 each year, I would go off to Big Bend for some mind-clearing solitude. That’s the one thing most people have told me they treasure most about the area. 

My photography in Big Bend started with snapshots of the people who were sharing the experience with us. Then, came many years of pictures of things that just caught my attention. These were just personal mementos, tucked away in albums. They were not made with any publication, articles or exhibits in mind. That let me be creative and make pictures that truly came from the heart. They reflect both the incredible natural history of Big Bend and its human history as well.

Several years ago, friends and clients urged me to share my pictures with “the world.” That resulted in the book “Texas’ Big Bend; A Photographic Adventure From the Pecos To The Rio Grande,” published by Bright Sky Press in 2009. It’s the first book that encompasses the (850,000 acre) Big Bend National Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park, historic towns and ranches.  The exhibit, now on display at the Houston Museum of Natural Science,  is based on photographs from the book and prints that have been acquired by major art museums.

100 Years – 100 Objects: Diplodocus

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 - meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.

This description is from Dr. Bob Bakker, the museum’s curator of paleontology. He’s chosen a selection of objects that represent the most fascinating fossils in the Museum’s collections, that we’ll be sharing here – and at 100.hmns.org/ – throughout the year.

Diplodocus
Jurassic Period
140 million years old

B13_0018She’s not the weightiest herbivore in her Jurassic world. Her close kin Apatosaurus would be twice as heavy. Her neighbor Brachiosaurus would be four times her bulk. But no other dinosaur can exceed our Diplodocus in the combination of length and delicacy of architecture.

The animal is labeled a “she” from an old tradition but, in fact, we don’t know the gender, yet.

Diplodocus is one of a trio of long-necked giants who together make up 90% or more of the large dinosaurs in the American West during the final stages of the Period. Usually, Camarasaurus is commonest. Its thin neck, of moderate length, boxy head and long front legs contrast with the attenuated neck, pointed muzzle and short forelimbs of Diplodocus and the Apatosaurs. Apatosaurus itself matches the Diplodocus proportions closely except that every bone is greater in girth.

B13_0010 The trio was unearthed in the two decades of the Great Jurassic Gold Rush, when eastern museums revealed the riches of the Jurassic fauna in Wyoming and Colorado. The first good Camarasaur skeleton was dug in 1877; the first good Apatosaur in 1879, the first good Diplodocus in 1896.

The HMNS Diplodocus was 78 feet long, 12 feet high at the hips, and probably weighed 10-15 tons.

Wander among prehistoric beasts in the Paleontology Hall, a permanent exhibition at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

You can see more images of this fascinating artifact – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the 100 Objects section at 100.hmns.org.

100 Years – 100 Objects: Egyptian Goose

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 – meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.

This description is from Dan, the museum’s curator of vertebrate zoology. He’s chosen a selection of objects that represent the most fascinating animals in the Museum’s collections, that we’ll be sharing here – and at 100.hmns.org- throughout the year.

egyptian-goose-gosling-mount-resizeThis is the oldest mount in the Vertebrate Zoology Collection that is currently on display.  It was part of the large Westheimer donation, purchased from H. P. Attwater in the early 1920’s.  The specimen is currently featured in Phase II of the Frensley-Graham Hall of African Wildlife

Phase II depicts many of the species in family or social groups, including mother-offspring associations such as the Egyptian Geese (Alopochen aegyptiacus) on display.

Range across seven biomes to explore the entire continent of Africa in the Evelyn and Herbert Frensley Hall of African Wildlife and Graham Family Presentation of Ecology and Conservation Biomes, a permanent exhibition at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

You can see more images of this fascinating exhibition – as well as the other objects we’ve posted so far this year – in the 100 Objects section at 100.hmns.org

100 Years – 100 Objects: Adamite

The Houston Museum of Natural Science was founded in 1909 - meaning that the curators of the Houston Museum of Natural Science have been collecting and preserving natural and cultural treasures for a hundred years now. For this yearlong series, our current curators have chosen one hundred exceptional objects from the Museum’s immense storehouse of specimens and artifacts—one for each year of our history. Check back here frequently to learn more about this diverse selection of behind-the-scenes curiosities—we will post the image and description of a new object every few days.

This description is from Joel, the Museum’s President and Curator of Gems and Minerals. He’s chosen spectacular objects from the Museum’s mineralogy collection, which includes some of the most rare and fascinating mineral specimens in the world, that we’ll be sharing here – and at 100.hmns.org- throughout the year.

San Judas Chimney, Level 6, Ojuela Mine, Mapimi, Durango, Mexico

adamiteAdamite comes in many colors, but the finest specimens have always come from the Ojuela mine, and by far the most sought-after color is the royal purple found in the San Judas chimney in 1981. The mineral world was galvanized by the extraordinary specimens recovered from that find. Perhaps the best of the lot is this 5.5-cm cluster on limonite matrix—making it the best known example of the species. The complexity, sharpness, perfection, color, arrangement, and luster of the semi-transparent crystals are all superb.

Marvel at the world’s most spectacular collection of natural mineral crystals in the Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals at the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

You can see more images of this fascinating artifact – as well as the others we’ve posted so far this year – in the 100 Objects section at 100.hmns.org