Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge is best known as a wildlife destination. It’s seasonal migrations of birds ranging from thousands of snow geese to flights of song birds are the real reason the Refuge exists. And for a wildlife photographer in the North Texas area, it is one of the best locations to shoot. I’ll be the first to admit that I am not much of a wildlife photographer, not that I won’t try when the opportunity comes up, but it is by far not my primary focus nor an area that I have a lot of experience with. So why, might you ask, do I make several trips a year up north of Sherman from my home in north Dallas to the Refuge? Because there is so much more than just birds and the occasional deer, bobcat or coyote to photograph.
Fields of Gold and Green – Hagerman National Wildlife Refuge
Spring Sunset at Tern Rd.
Cold Winter Morning Sunrise
As with any natural area preserved as a wildlife refuge, there are at least a few opportunities for landscape photography. With recent rains, wetland ponds along Wildlife Dr. have filled back up providing reflecting pools for both clouds and sunrise or sunsets. During my most recent trip, I found plentiful water and lots of green flooding back into the refuge after a long winter and many dry months last year.
Much of this sandy area may now be back under water as Texoma’s water level has improved recently.
With wildlife photography such a focus at the refuge, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t tried a few shots of my own. However, now with a full frame camera body and the longest lens I own being a 300mm, this is becoming more difficult than ever. Wildlife is truly a long lens game, or a very very patient man’s came. I unfortunately am often lacking in both. I suggest checking out the Friends of Hagerman website or Facebook page for details on what bird species are currently visiting the refuge and where they are most often being spotted.
Unamused Cattle Egret
All of the above wildlife photos were taken from within my vehicle. Do remember to drive carefully and watch for other traffic – or better yet, bring a friend of spouse to be your driver.
While most of the refuge is accessible by car. One needs only take a few steps outside of the car to get to most of the photo opportunities which the refuge provides, there are however a number of hiking trails – all of which I have explored have been wide double track trails with very little elevation change or difficult footing. I highly recommend seeking out some of these trails as a number of the better small ponds located along their routes and is where you’ll probably have your best bet getting pristine landscapes as well as the best subjects for macro and wildflower photos.
Along the hiking trails of Hagerman – small scale beauty
Then there are the oil wells. Or more precisely, the pumpjacks. In addition to being a wildlife refuge, Hagerman is also an active oil field. Yes, the two can go hand-in-hand, and it seems those charged with the task at Hagerman have found a way to make it work very well. Being Texas, who wouldn’t want to get a few photos of the iconic pumpjack? It might not be with a wide open west Texas sky behind it, but with a little creativity one can find some very unique and compelling compositions. Do take care to respect the fence and other boundaries set around the oil installations. I’m not sure what the penalty is for failing to do so, but I for one am not eager to find out.
Hagerman Pumpjack Long Exposure – 90sec exposure time
Pumpjack in Action – 40sec exposure time
Both of the above to photos were taken with a 10-stop ND filter by B+W