Part A - April 1-17th


Cloudland remote Cabin Cam, April 17 - a BRILLIANT day that began at the Hedges Pouroff overlook

Journal updated Tuesday morning...


April 2012 Print Of The Month

04/01/12 Oh such a soft and delicate and beautiful beginning to April this morning! The air is cool and sweet, the light muted and mellow, the landscape draped with pastels, and there are whispers in the wilderness from the soft cooing of the dove and other distant voices. There are smiles all around.

I left the cabin early - it was still pretty dim outside - and headed to an overlook where I hoped to catch the sky above the earth glowing before the sun awoke. Some clouds gathered and the glow did not appear. I wandered around a bit, sat and watched and listened and felt the wilderness come to life. But the color was not to be. This would turn out to be a classic lesson in how NOT to set out to take a picture! I left the cabin with tunnel vision - I only had one scene in my mind, which was to catch the early glow on the horizon. When that did not happen I turned around and drove back to the cabin - no doubt missing a lot of lovely other images that I passed along the way. And then I do believe old Momma Nature wanted to send a message to me - three minutes after I had left the scene, a rare and quite remarkable blood-red ball of sun appeared on the horizon - it would have made the original scene I had envisioned even better, a lot better. But that rare quality in the sun ball only lasted for less than a minute before the hot gasses grew way to brilliant and the photo opportunity had vanished. So I returned home with nothing - nothing that is but the time I spent in the predawn wilderness, which was quite nice, but I can't pay the power company with that, ham, ha! Moral of the store - it is OK to have tunnel vision now and then, but the tunnel needs to have holes in it so that you can see out in other directions!

Our gallery open house yesterday was a magnitude or two larger than we had ever anticipated. In fact once the first guests arrived I did not see the light of day for six hours, and most of that time was spent back in the corner of the print room or processing images for our special "print on demand" black mat service. It was GO GREAT to see so many new faces and friends, and THANKS to EVERYONE who made the long trip to Cloudland to see us!

One highlight of the day was to meet and spend time with a group of lovely ladies who just recently discovered they were all direct descents of the original homestead family who settled at Steele Creek just a few miles downstream on the Buffalo River from us. (that is the correct family spelling - with the E on the end - and is the way I have always listed it in my guidebooks) The group was led by the great, great granddaughter of the man who settled there - although all the ladies were "great" and we hope they make a visit to Cloudland an annual event for them!

On the not-so-great side of the day I had to bid farewell with one of the most amazing prints I've ever seen - the large metal print of Twin Falls in the fall that had been on display at the gallery since last fall. I've never seen a print with so much LIGHT coming from within before - due in large part to the very special (and expensive) process where the lab in California infuses the image dyes into a highly-polished sheet of white aluminum. Of course I ordered this print to sell, but sometimes it gets to be like an old friend that you never want to say goodbye to! Oh well, I know it will live in a nice place and be enjoyed by lots of other folks.

These open houses always totally exhaust my lovely bride and I - both mentally and physically - and afterwards we pretty much are useless for anything until the next day. But yesterday was different. We both collapsed as usual as the last car drove away. But then a little bundle of excitement arrived at the front door and changed everything - Amber came home from being fishing all day with her boyfriend - she had not caught a thing. We all jumped up and headed for the door - we could go Cave Mountain fishing as a family! And so we did, and it was delightful!

I use a fly rod - something you don't normally see on an Ozark farm pond - and caught a fish on the very first cast. The girls and the dogs were energized - in fact I had a tough time keeping Aspen from eating the fish before I had even landed it! We spent the next couple of hours 'round the pond, fishing, talking, laughing, and enjoying each other and a fine spring day. Did we catch a lot of fish? All I will say is that we had grilled fish for dinner! (of course it was tuna, but that's another story)

We seem to have a bluebird problem at the cabin right now. There are a bunch of them here this year, and they all want to come INSIDE the cabin! None have slammed into a window hard enough to give them a headache, but they've been charging the windows and sitting on furniture, just hanging out and looking in. It is great to get to see them so up close and personal, but they really should be out building nests and digging worms. We have ample housing around for them, and I have a feeling we'll be seeing a lot of bluebirds here this summer.

04/02/12 Our air conditioning in the cabin has not worked this year and so it has been a tad warm in the cabin lately. We've been unable to open the windows to let the cool breezes cool us down due to all the smoke in the air. But very early this morning when I awoke, I opened up the doors and windows and flushed out the cabin - the windy night had blown away all the smoke and left behind the sweet smell of SPRINGTIME!

I met up with friends Jay and Jez before sunrise and we spent the next several hours taking pictures along Falling Water Creek. (both the Falling Water Road and Richland Creek Campground are now open after being closed for several years) The light and color before sunrise melted together to paint the landscape in hues we don't normally see during the harsh light of daytime. And once the sun rose, a bit of fog gathered and hung low in the valley were we were and split the brilliant sunshine into dozens of pastel colors, creating a mix of soft color on the creek and waterfalls. Each of us worked different parts of each area where we stopped, working our cameras and soaking up the light and the color and the mood and the beautiful day. It was great to be out, and to be with such good friends.

We dined at the Cliff House for lunch, then spent the afternoon back at our gallery looking through our images. Jay and Jez captured the essence of the wild waters and the remarkable light - in fact after looking at their images I hated to even peek at mine!

As they were driving away, the forest around the cabin filled with the aroma of a little bit of roasted pig and sweet 'taters.

I did finally have a look at my pictures and realized that I need to GET AWAY from this computer and get out into the woods more often to shoot! And so I will - April will find my cameras pointed into the wilderness a lot.


Falling Water Falls from below (above), and from above (below)


04/03/12 Pioneers (left to right) Dotson and Mildred Collins, along with Susie Collins Atchley and her husband Glenn visited Cloudland today. The Collins family grew up "below the rim" along the Buffalo River at the foot of our hill, and upstream. It was a great pleasure to have them visit! Dotson and Mildred will celebrate 62 YEARS together next week - way to go Dotson!


04/04/12 Yips and howls from a pack of coyotes echo through the canyons below; an almost-full moon shines brightly and lights up the wilderness; and on the horizon - bolts of lightning! It is an odd evening, but with a fresh sweet coolness to the air that makes you reach for a flannel shirt and put your arm around the young lady next to you - good thing it is my lovely bride!

I was out early this morning and spent nearly three hours trying to hunt up a picture to take. First I needed clear skies and it was cloudy, then I needed cloudy skies and it was clear, then I needed clear skies again and of course it was cloudy. And so I sat and waited, and waited, and waited. I sat on a rock at the top of a tall bluff for nearly two hours and waited for the sun to break through the clouds again, but it never happened. Every few minutes it looked like the light had changed just a little bit, and not wanting to miss anything I stood up and took a series of pictures. A few minutes later I did the same thing, zooming in and out, changing the exposure just a little bit, turning my polarizing filter to make sure I had the best position for it. In the end I believe the light did actually get a little bit better the longer I waited, and so I'm glad I did - getting a single picture in a day is much better than no picture at all!


There were a lot of buzzards out flying around this morning - or really they weren't flying so much as just hanging around and riding the wind currents. All it took was the twitch of a wing and off they would go in another direction - effortless, fluid, precise. I swear I could see smiles on their faces whenever they got close to me. I believe that birds and deer and foxes and other animals play as much as they can.

Dogwoods and most other blooming trees are nearing the end of their run for the year, and many of the hills are covered with the yellow-green of early spring. I'm seeing lots of spiderwort wildflowers, both the rare Ozark spiderwort (pale color, sometimes white), and the more normal blue and purple variety. We'll have lots of colorful wildflowers dotting the forest floors and fields in the weeks and months ahead. Oh and Mayapple flowers are opening up - the smallest I've ever seen it seems - an inch or less across. I don't know if they will grow up or stay that small - I'll consider it my personal obligation to spend a lot of time on my hands and knees in the forest this next few weeks to follow their progress!

We did not get much rain out of the big storm that blew up from Texas yesterday (sorry to hear of all the damage in the Dallas area where we have many long-time Journal readers). Although my lovely bride and I did spend a while last night watching the light show as the front moved towards us - it seemed to just split up and die away once it hit the Ozarks north of the Arkansas River. It did finally start to rain a little bit later, and we got about a half inch of rainfall. Temps may be down in the upper 30's by next weekend - perhaps winter is not done with us yet!

04/05-11/12 We had a bit of thunder and rain overnight and it is beautiful, magical, and mystical outside early this morning as the wilderness comes back to life after a very dark and stormy night.

OK, back to the natural world. I've been on the road for much of the past week, trying to capture a bit of beautiful springtime down south, east, and west. My travels took me to one of the lowest points in the state on the eastern border of our great state (near where the Arkansas River empties into the Mississippi), up to one of the highest points on the western edge (up on Rich Mountain near the Oklahoma border) - and this all in THE SAME DAY! There were a lot of miscues on my part, a lot of missed opportunities, and a LOT of driving. But I did manage to meet my goal of two really good images per day. There was some incredible and rare light, and a lot of really bad light - you can't do anything about the bad light, you can only continue to seek out great light elsewhere, or wait it out.

I started off early one morning way before sunrise in hopes of finding some of that great light as dawn broke somewhere down in the Arkansas River Valley along the foothills of the Ozarks. I found myself standing knee-deep in water at the edge of a lake trying to find a great composition when that first bit of light arrived. There was a pier that jutted out into the water that became engulfed in heavy fog just after sunrise. It was one of those magical scenes that you can't predict, nor create - it just happens - and the only way to photograph it is if you happen to be standing there at the right time (the result, of course, of pre-planning and getting out of bed in the middle of the night!). The fog and wonderful light lasted nearly 20 minutes, and my trip was off to a great start.

As I made my way towards the southwest part of Arkansas I stopped at a couple of locations and did some scouting for future trips - the light was harsh and horrible all day and with only one exception I could not take any good pictures, but that gave me plenty of time to put the miles in and seek out some good evening light.

The only exception was a spot I could not pass by - a large group of spider lilies that were growing right next to the highway. I had seen small groups of these striking wildflowers before, but never in a group like this - they were really screaming at me to STOP, and so I did. Problem was twofold - first, as noted the light was just terrible, but it was late enough in the day that I could get a good picture if I tried hard enough; and then there was the wind - it was blowing at probably 30-40 mph, which is not good for taking a picture of a wildflowers out in an open field! But the background was great for this - a blue sky filled with puffy clouds. I put on a super-wide angle lens and got in really close to the blowing flowers - the front of the lens was only a few inches away from the first flowers. And then I shot with a very fast shutter speed to freeze the motion - waiting until the wind died down for a second or two first, which helped.

One goal of this trip was to photograph the wonderful swamps in the southeast, but I soon found out that many of my favorite shooting locations were flooded with roads underwater, so that part of the trip had to be aborted. But while I was there I found another great flower image - a field that was perhaps 60 acres or more of glowing yellow flowers stretching as far as you could see - needless to say I spent a good bit of time with this scene - one of those scenes that I found hard to believe was really there.

As the sun began to drop the light started to get pretty good, and I scrambled to find a suitable composition. I spent some time at Arkansas Post National Monument just as the "magical" hour light happened, and I stood there in awe at the scene as the landscape lit up and then a nearly-full moon rose in the background. But there was more light to happen elsewhere, so I sped away and continued on, eventually finding my way down to the banks of the Arkansas River, where I found a small opening in the brush where I could get to the water's edge and set up my tripod to photograph the afterglow of sunset with the Hwy. 1 bridge silhouetted, and the river before me coming alive with color. I shot and shot until it was almost dark and I had trouble getting back to the vehicle since I could not see too well - and I was a little worried about SNAKES!

I hunted around a bit for something to do with that beautiful moon and the glowing river - there was good access downstream towards and below a lock and dam - but I never found anything I really liked, and so I packed it all in and found a spot to camp for the night around 11pm. I had been on the move since 4am, so a 19 hour work day to begin my trip! I managed to get at least a couple of really good photographs, perhaps a couple more.

I was up and out again early the next morning to try and photograph the moonset in one direction and sunrise in the other, but no matter how many places I visited I did not get anything I liked, and the light was changing really fast. I was able to finally find a neat composition that while not being my normal subject matter, was indeed a beautiful "landscape" image with a great quality of light present and graphical character - a newly-planted field.

I left the southwest east behind and made a quick trip to the Hastings bookstore in Conway to restock them with guidebook (they have everything in stock now again), then headed south again, this time towards the southwest corner of the state. I wanted to visit some of my old haunts in the Ouachitas where I always find great light and beauty.

After many hours and long - very long miles at times - I spent some time on the Little Missouri River as the sunshine played hide and seek with clouds and bathed the landscape with soft and brilliant evening light. There were spring greens everywhere, with blue and gold reflections in the water. It was colorful and refreshing and glorious all at the same time - SPRING!

I also photographed one scene that overlooks the edge of the Caney Creek Wilderness Area that showed I bet 20 different shades of green - I really LOVE the Ouachitas in the spring since the mix of evergreens and all the other trees produce so many GREENS! Then it was on to the top of the world.

There was still light left and so I climbed up the Talimena Scenic Drive just as the sun was setting in one direction and a full moon was rising in the other. This drive is a unique place where you can witness both events pretty close together, although you do have to drive a few miles. And while each event was quite wonderful, I managed to miss getting a good photograph of either - oh well, it had been a long and full day and I got some other great-light images so I was a happy camper - which I finally did at Queen Wilhelmina State Park after a few moonlight shots of "wizard" trees. (Note - the LODGE is closed there for a least a year for renovations, but everything else remains open.)

I ALWAYS get up at least by 5am, usually at 4, and so almost never use an alarm clock. Oops, not a good idea. The two long days had already taken a toll on my aging body I guess and when my eyes opened I could see the setting full moon and WAY TOO MUCH light around me! I had overslept, and while it was still before daylight, I was in trouble - trouble because when I turned the other direction I discovered the eastern sky filled with some of the most spectacular light and clouds and color that I'd ever seen - HOLY CLOUDS! I was awake in time to see this wonder, but I was NOT anyplace where I could actually photograph it - I needed an open viewpoint facing to the east, and I knew the closest one was at the far end of the mountain - so I sped away (never exceeding the speed limit - the winding road there is kind of self-limiting).

I had to shake my head and laugh at my predicament as I drove along - I could see this amazing moonset scene off to my right - and passed several open viewpoints - but it was the eastern sky I wanted to photograph - again, it was quite amazing! But there were NO open viewpoints, so I drove on. It was a terrible dilemma, since I knew I probably would not be able to get a good pre-dawn show with all that color, yet the moonset was right there next to me. I choose to stay the course and head for the sunrise. And as luck would have it, while I did get there in time to photograph the actual sunrise, I missed the once-in-a-year or longer color display before sunrise. Live and learn - SET THE ALARM! I did get an interesting photo of the scenic drive with many twists and turns though.

I spent the rest of the day, part of the night, and early the next morning working for a single shot that I wanted to take inside the Caney Creek Wilderness Area, the very first such area in Arkansas to be set aside by Congress nearly 50 years ago. I spent some time hiking the Buckeye Mountain Trail (in fact I made three trips in) to try and capture sun/moon rise/set, but the light and clouds did not cooperate too well. This is easily one of the most scenic trails in all of Arkansas - it is like it traverses the spine of the Ouachitas, although in miniature form since it is only a few miles. There are amazing views all along the way, but also the forest floor was covered at times with colorful wildflowers that all seemed to be dancing with delight.

One funny side note about an unplanned side trip along this trail. At one point the trail got pretty bad, in fact really bad, so bad in fact that I came to a complete stop and sat down on the very steep hillside and wondered what the heck was going on - there really was no trail, but there were plenty of bootprints and other hikers had obviously crossed this hillside before. As I was sitting there trying to figure out what was going on, a pair of backpackers appeared out of no where, coming from the opposite direction - they were lost too! I discovered later that we had all made a wrong turn back up on the top of the ridge (the trail is unmarked or blazed in any way, but is pretty easy to follow). So many people had made the same mistake that the wrong turn was really well defined while the actual trail was almost hidden. I spent some time doing a bit of trail rehab work so that others won't make the same mistake.

I spent several hours the next afternoon being totally consumed by the unique rock formations at Cossatot Falls - most folks just come for all the whitewater, but it is the unique and varied rocks that really fascinate me - and I could not seem to stop taking pictures of them! With overcast skies and a light mist it was perfect shooting conditions. And I was wearing shots and water shoes so I could go anywhere I wanted, at least up until the water started to get my photo vest wet. I could have easily stayed there all day but I heard a rumor that my lovely bride was headed out to come down and meet me at Petit Jean State Park, so I filled all my memory cards at the Cossatot and then turned north just in time to embrace my bride on the banks of a lake at sunset.

I was up and out early the next morning to try and capture something at sunrise, but conditions were not really good for that, but I did finally get to photograph some great lichens on a flat rock face - as you can see below it is quite a colorful combination!

And then something weird happened - I got to spend a few hours with my lovely bride doing absolutely nothing at all - YIPPIE! Actually I did so something - I sat in a lawn chair at the edge of the lake while Pam caught a bundle of fish, and got to watch Aspen have the time of his life in the water. This old guy is not long for this world but he was acting like a teenager and having a blast! The only problem with Aspen is that he has learned to watch Pam's bobber, and when it goes under, he makes a charge since he knows there is a fish on the way! And one time he could not stand it any longer and swan right on out to grab the bobber himself before a fish got on the line, and you guess it - Pam hooked a springer spaniel! Aspen came swimming in with the worm and hook hanging from the corner of his mouth!

My mind was totally de-focused on chasing pictures for a few hours, and while I LOVE chasing great light, it is a major mental and physical strain and it was great to let go for a little while.

I spent a bit of time after sunset trying to capture a very special tree that I found while out wandering in the brush - I've never seen so many different types and sizes of vines on the same tree before! If I have posted a photo below it will just be a quick snapshot of the tree - it will take some work later in the darkroom to really bring out how well each of the vines were glowing.

Later I shot several scenes, including one of a teepee glowing along the bank of the lake with stars above. And I was out again early the next morning hunting a sunrise that never happened, and then it was time to head home. I shot many hundreds of photographs this past week but I won't really get to look at them closely until I get to work putting the new picture book together, which will happen in late May or early June. But in the meantime, there are a few snapshots from the trip below. We have switched to WORKSHOP mode now, with four photo workshops in as many weeks, including a four-day workshop starting TOMORROW. (Note: the first three workshops are full but we do still have space for May 5th).














04/15/12 It is Sunday afternoon and we just got about 15 minutes of wonderful RAIN here - YIPPIE! First rain we've had in a while. It is getting loud outside again and every now and then I can see the windows shaking from a thunder clap - perhaps more rain on the rain, although there is not too much on the radar screen.

We had another wonderful nature photography workshop this past four days - my longest workshop ever. It continues to amaze me how folks from so many different backgrounds and skill levels can all come together and produce super-quality work in such a short time. We got to spend time splashing through creeks to photograph waterfalls, bluffs, and reflections; wander large fields of wildflowers looking for the perfect composition; spend time going back in time to visit and explore a historic homestead from the 1800's; and had conversations with beautiful yellow ladies that were growing in a lush forest!

There was also a great deal of work to be done - learning a quick and efficient digital workflow, what equipment to choose and how to set it up correctly, and some things to do or not to do that would produce the very best images of our natural world from whatever equipment the students were using. Oh yes, and we all did quite a bit of eating too! By the end of the workshop everyone had produced a stunning color print of their work to take home (and gained a pound or two). We also had great weather - beautiful cloudy skies that were just PERFECT for our type of photos! And only three drops of rain. We have several more workshops this spring - check the workshops page for dates. (I'll post info on some fall one-day workshops in a few weeks.)




04/17/12 We had a really CLEAR night here early this morning with a ZILLION stars, AND the MILKY WAY for the first time this year - YIPPIE! I spent some time early this morning shooting the stars above the cabin, mostly just testing a new camera that I got yesterday from Bedford's Camera in Fayetteville (the E version of the new Nikon d800 - I sold my regular d800). This will be my "star" camera and I hope to get to work with it a lot in the months to come.


I also spent some time standing on the top of the big bluff at Hedges Pouroff overlook at the far end of Cave Mountain as the sun rose into a brilliant blue sky. The sea of clouds that covered the canyon floor far below woke up and started to move around a bit when the sun began to kiss them. With all the spring greens in the landscape it was quite a color show for sure! I also stopped on the way home and shot the wide landscape below.


I was up and out early yesterday morning to revisit one of the Villines homesteads along the Buffalo River that I had taken my workshop students to over the weekend. I normally don't take too many pictures myself during the workshops but wanted to return and shoot one scene that I really liked - and the light right now is perfect for - the bedroom scene. I was there right before dawn when it was peaceful and quiet, and it was great just to stand there and try to imagine what it must have been like 150 years ago when the cabin was built - I could almost smell a bit of fresh bacon in the frying pan!


The national park service has done a great job of protecting and in some cases restoring the old pioneer buildings like this one (located near the Ponca low water bridge). The national park is not just for the scenery, or the recreation, but also is a place where we can discover and learn about our past and where we came from, and to reach out and touch what life was all about in the early days.

We are on the road again for a couple of days and we are scrambling this morning to get orders processed and everything packed and to get Joseph setup with a few chores to do while we are gone. It is SO NICE to be able to drive away and know we don't have to worry about the cabin! We are headed to the northcentral/east part of Arkansas but there is no telling where we may end up. It is just a quick trip though since we have a workshop this weekend - and ONE SPACE had just opened up so let me know if you want to sign up!

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