Cloudland Cabin Cam, June 30th, 6:21am - "cool" and breezy at first light


(May Journal Part B)

June 2011 Print Of The Month

Updated June 29 - COMPLETED!!!

06/01/11. To me June 1st is the beginning of summer, and the landscape up here in the High Ozarks has taken on its monotone green coat. Days are long and hot and muggy and buggy, and there are lots of weeds. But early or late in the day can be pure magic - the air has a special sweetness to it that comes during no other season. It takes a little extra effort to be comfortable outdoors here in the summertime, but holy cow it is always worth it to me!

FAT BOY UPDATE. It was a year ago that I began my quest to lose weight and get into fighting shape for my difficult physical trip to Iceland. My target weight was 170 pounds, and after a couple of months of getting up early and hiking up to 12 miles a day before breakfast, I dropped from 193 pounds all the way down to 167, yippie! And I did find in Iceland. I kept the weight off during the hectic fall program season - when nearly all of my meals are via drive-thru window. And I even did OK through the holiday eating season - in fact I did great! But when I had surgery I laid around for 2-3 months and did pretty much nothing, and I inched on back up to about 175 pounds. My hectic schedule chasing waterfalls this spring has not helped shed much, and so I'm starting again to get back into shape and trim a few pounds this month.

Yesterday was my first day, and my lovely bride drove me down into Boxley and kicked me out at the bottom of the hill. It was early and the air was cool and sweet, and filled with the sounds of morning bugs and lots of cicadas. When I first started hiking I had a trio of cow elk at my side - they followed me along for about a hundred yards and then headed for greener pastures - they knew I was about to climb one of the steepest mountains in the Ozarks and wanted no part of that!

But that first mile up the steep hill went well and soon I was striding along the top of Cave Mountain. In fact the next six miles after that went pretty easy too. My legs were in great shape, but it would take a month of doing this fast hiking early in the day to trim down to where I wanted to be. Just before I reached our cabin I came upon a doe deer about 40 feet out into a meadow - the hay was so tall it was actually over her head. But I had a good look at her and was kind of surprised that I was able to walk right up on here like that. I stood there kind of hiding behind a row of trees and watched for several minutes as she pruned and stretched.

And then a Cloudland Moment happened. I realized that she was actually cleaning off a newborn FAWN at her feet! Wow, life had just begun - I could just barely see the little guy tucked away deep at the bottom of all that hay. Mom was taking really good care of him, and I did not want to disturb either, so I quietly moved on - refreshed by not only the hike, but of the beginning of life - YIPPIE!

Later in the day as I was driving the mail out to the mailbox I came upon the newborn fawn - right out in the middle of the road. The next 30 seconds were so FUNNY, and beautiful, and the little guy tried his best to kick up his heels and get the heck out of there, only he just pranced right on down the road for 100 feet or so before finally leaping into the thick brush. Mom just stood there with a smirk on her face. It was just delightful!

Much later in the day my lovely bride and I headed out in search of a photograph - I did not know exactly what I wanted or where I was going to go, but I knew I needed to find something. Before long we found ourselves strolling along the shores of the Buffalo River upstream from the Steele Creek Campground. The recent floods had washed up mounds of freshly-polished sandstone pebbles of all colors in the rainbow and all sizes too. You might know what happened next - I ran and got the camera gear! We found a batch of stones that were still in the creek with the water moving through them and keeping them wet and colorful. Folks wonder how my polished stones pictures can be so colorful - it is because the rocks are WET and they are much more colorful then! Normally I will either shoot while it is raining, or will wet the rocks down to keep them wet. But today all I had to so was set up the tripod and camera and crop in close - the river kept the stones wet and colorful. And so of course this image had to become the new Print Of The Month.


On the way back home we stopped to admire a pair of bull elk in velvet that were grazing in a meadow next to the road. Pam got out here camera and started taking pictures, and not to be outdone I dug mine out as well. The sun was getting low in the western sky and backlighting the elk and the meadow - it was beautiful light and a gorgeous scene. A third bull elk joined the group, and finally a BIG BOY appeared from behind the hill. The four of them fed through the meadow for the next 30 minutes while both of us took pictures. Pam got some of the best poses, but since I had a really large telephoto lens (600mm), I was able to reach out and follow them closely as they fed along. It had been a great road trip, and I look forward to many more as the new summer advances...


06/04/11 There is a cool sweetness to the air early this morning that is just delightful - especially after the heat and humidity of the past couple of days. Few moments are as wonderful as early morning up here in the High Ozarks. As I sat out on the back deck sipping a half cup of java there was a symphony going on spread out in front of me. Right out at tree level and hidden in the branches somewhere was a mighty little bird calling out with a lonely sound, looking for a mate - no one ever answered. There was a pair of mourning doves with their hushed coos - they had found happiness in each other. Have you noticed how you almost always see doves in pairs? Farther beyond was a layer of swifts darting back and forth in the airspace just above the meadow - snatching up hundreds of tiny bugs - we love those little birds! And then a final layer of sound far off in the distance came the drumming of a woodpecker as he probed a dead tree for breakfast - and also the hushed lullaby of the river far below drifted up. And then just about the end of my cup of java a TINY bird jumped up on the rail not ten feet away from me and started BLASTING his notes to the world - so small and yet so loud! The girls found a catch of tiny eggs up in Amber's for the other day, no doubt this little guy was boasting about how large his family was going to be.


I saw a small RED bird fly by and could not figure out what it was - not a goldfinch - too small for a tanager or cardinal. But when it flew into a shaded spot and landed all the red disappeared. Turned out all the color was from the rising sun casting a bright red glow on the little bird!

We got home late last night from a big program in Harrison (my first in six months), and after spending several hours in the company of a large crowd I wandered out onto the lower back deck to just breathe in some fresh, quiet air and be with my thoughts for a little while. It was one of those coal-black nights when the air was quite clear and a zillion stars above twinkled as if they all were winking at me. I was joined by a chorus of coyotes across the canyon, probably hanging out at the base of the big bluff over there. They sang and sang and sang into the dark night. It seemed to be a happy tune, not one of loneliness as they normally do.

Speaking of that program, my goodness we got to spend the evening with an auditorium filled with delightful folks from all over Arkansas - the state Master Gardeners convention. They had originally cut off registration at 400 people. Then eventually kept raising that number until there were more than 500 folks packed into the Durand Center. I LOVE giving these programs, especially to large groups, and it was great fun being there last night.

Speaking of doing things I had not done in a long time, there is this recipe for chicken or shrimp k-bobs that I developed 35 years ago that I used to use for backpacking trips with my young Ozark Highlands Trail Association. We would pack in whole pineapples and fresh veggies, plus the magic bag filled with cutup meat/shrimp that had been marinating for more than a day, and then spread everything out on a campfire that had been burning for a while until the coals were just right. Undoubtably some of the very best food I've ever tasted. For some reason I have never fixed this for my lovely bride, even though we are going on almost eleven years now of cooking together. Anyway, TODAY will be the day! It will be another hot day in the Ozarks we we'll fire up the grill this afternoon and see if the flavor of this dish can match what I remember from my "youth" - gosh after all this buildup it had better be good, ey?

06/06/11 I was up and out the door again today soon after 4am - headed to Baker Prairie in Harrison to try and photograph one of the most amazing displays of coneflowers I've ever seen. Driving by on the road you don't really see much - you must park and go hike the short loop trail on the school side of the road.

Yesterday morning my plans to arrive at the prairie for sunrise got sidetracked when I stopped at the overlook on Gaither Mountain to take pictures of the sunrise - a flat red ball with dozens of tree lines and bits of fog sitting around here and there in the valley. By the time I parked at the prairie the sun had fully risen and the light on the flowers was not very good. But I hiked on around a little bit and took about a hundred photos. It was one of those times when there were SO MANY things going on all around that it was difficult to pick just one to focus on (pun intended). Even with the bad light it was quite an amazing show as there were (are) tens of thousands of coneflowers in bloom and covering the hillside on both sides of the trail. There are other wildflowers in there as well, but they are dwarfed by all the coneflowers.



So today I left the cabin sooner and did not stop at the overlook and I arrived at the prairie before the sun did. There was a bit of fog hanging low on the prairie and looked really nice and I was hopeful of finding something great to point my cameras at. But just as I was hiking into the heart of the wildflowers, that darn old RED ball appeared on the horizon - and I could see it through a line of trees rising right next to a BARN! Coneflowers would have to wait as I sprinted across the meadow towards what I had hoped was an open view of the barn, but after a frantic ten minute jog around the neighborhood I could not find a good spot - and the red turned to yellow. But I did find one spot that worked OK, but not great, and so I stopped and took a few photos. Then sprinted back to the prairie, where the fog had already lifted.

I spent the next hour lost in the maze of wildflowers and spent some time taking pictures of several different groups of flowers. Everything was soaked from the heavy fog, and so was I. As I was getting ready to leave I noticed a tiny green bug on one of the flowers, and so that was my final shot - you should see this little guy zoomed way in on a large monitor!

I stopped to talk with Kennie Woods back on Cave Mountain - he was mowing the yard at the Faddis Cabin. While I was talking with him I noticed some movement down near the pond - a momma deer brought out her twin fawns for us to see. I ran and grabbed the camera but the light was so bad I didn't get anything worth showing (other than just to record them, below). It was great to see the trio though - and this makes the third set of deer with fawns in the immediate area I've seen in the past several days. We are in the middle of a huge birth of fawns this year!







Above is another batch of smooth sandstone pebbles along the banks of the Buffalo River

06/08/11 There is a cool breeze blowing though this evening - although "cool" is a relative term these days. But it really IS cool, and it feels great to be outside. We have entered the time of year when I tend to shy away from traveling outside in the dark without a flashlight like I used to in my "youth" here at Cloudland - don't want to wake up a snake. It is mostly dark outside save for the half-moon that is directly above and sending down very soft light through layers of thin clouds. The only sounds out there are those of a whippoorwill calling out. 'Tis a sore subject around here right now - I guess after I left early this morning one of the noisy birds landed on a tree limb just outside Pam and Amber's windows and began an hour-long non-stop YELLFEST. The girls were not amused.

I continue my quest for beautiful early morning long vistas at dawn and predawn, although we're getting less and less ground fog each day and so the scene is not quite as dramatic - but still it is the very best time to be up and about, especially at this time of year, so I rather enjoy it, even if I come home empty handed.


But really, sometimes what I capture is not with the camera - a great memory can be equally rewarding, although usually not as profitable. Yesterday morning I was standing at the edge of what is touted as the "deepest canyon in the Ozarks" at the gift shop and tower just south of Jasper, waiting for a red ball sun to appear in the distance. I had already taken a number of photos, including the wide pano that is posted above, and so I was already a happy camper even if I never saw the sun. It was just one of those great moments of not only pure visual joy, but of great personal satisfaction for me since I knew I had a great photo. And then I HEARD it. Really? Yes, really. A wolf cried out, and his howl stretched across the entire landscape and nearly knocked me over. His music was a wild and pure as the Buffalo River itself, and it was just wonderful! Someone nearby has a captive wolf or two, and, well, if I were not a photographer I probably would go sit at the great scenic overlook at sunrise just to hear the wolf howl. Chills and a broad smile. The same thing happened again this morning - the scene was not quite as spectacular - but the wolf howl was great!


I am sort of caught in the middle right now between two different picture book projects. I need to finish shooting and get to work on the design, layout, image selection and processing, writing, and final production of my next book, Arkansas Portfolio III. But I don't quite feel that I'm done taking pictures for it yet, and so each day I try to figure out something to go shoot. But a lot of the stuff I've been thinking about and finding lately really fit more into my next picture book after that one (it will be published in the fall os 2012). I've already started working on the photos for that book as well, and sometimes I shoot a scene and don't know for sure which one it will end up in, if either. I guess the issue is that as long as I keep telling myself I'm still shooting for the first book then I CAN KEEP SHOOTING - once I finish that shooting I must lock myself into the computer room for a month to get all the production work done on that book. THEN I can go back out and start taking pictures again - but I want to keep taking pictures now, ha, ha!

A dozen folks walked out of the woods and came to the front door of the cabin this afternoon - I don't think they had brought any water with them and none had any hiking gear at all, not even a little fanny pack. Like so many others they had hiked down to Hawksbill Crag - without a guidebook - and got lost. I passed out bottled water and sent them off in the right direction for a quick hike back to their motorcycles that were parked at the trailhead. Water and a guidebook - two essentials this time of the year, or at ANY time of the year!

Amber discovered the little wren's nest the other day up in her fort out in front of the cabin. I took a snapshot of the small eggs today - I worry that even a tiny bird like this wren might crush the eggs since they are so small!

When I'm out taking pictures I normally never see another soul. In fact I don't think I've seen anyone in months, other than my own workshop folks. It is very rare for me to ever see anyone in the places and at the times when I'm working - that is one reason why my photos don't look like the ones other people take. It is also one reason why my photos seldom have people in them - I'm interested in the land and the trees and the waterfalls and the rocks, not people. I find it rather amusing, and kind of sad, that someone who is supposed to be an "award-winning" critic for the Boston Globe could be so dense as to criticize a major photography print exhibit about national parks because they don't have people in them! Huh? I quote from my friend Guy Tal's online blog today - "In his critique of a recent National Park photography exhibit, Boston Globe Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Mark Feeney decries the absence of human presence in the works presented, suggesting that such deliberate oversight renders the photographer’s interpretation 'highly limited, and effectively superficial.'" This critic obviously prefers hoards of people when he goes to visit a national park. I prefer the park itself for subject material!

Water. WATER. Take plenty of water with you when you head out for a hike. And a guidebook...


06/10/11 Today is the first morning I've been here all week and it is just lovely outside, with lots of wildlife on the move. There is a young buck in the front yard - shhhh, don't tell Pam, but I think he is after her flowers - tons of birds everywhere singing the praises of the new day, and there is a pack of coyotes romping and playing down along the river. (It took me a while to see the slim, hairy bumps ont he top of the deer's head - he will probably be a forked-horn this fall, too small to be hunted until next year or the year after.) The sun is up, I think (we don't have a direct view to the northeast at this time of the year), but the light is so soft and subtle that the landscape remains in slumber and is not lit up yet. The river far below is silent, perhaps until late fall or early winter when substantial rains come to wake it up.

Yesterday morning I left at 4-something a.m. in search of another sunrise, and I found one right along the highway at the north end of Jasper. I just love layers of hazy hills with a red or yellow ball rising behind them - a total of about one minute and that colorful ball got too "hot" to be recorded by the camera so it was then time to move on to my second stop.


When I arrived at the "Crow Hole" down along the Buffalo River I found the gravel bar lined with canoes and tents - guess it must be summertime! I tried to be quiet as I snuck around behind all of them to reach a spot upstream where I spent the next 30 minutes photographing the sill waters and reflection of the beautiful bluff line that enters the water on a slant. Many folks remark that they feel like they are paddling upstream when I go by.


Back home for a few hours of work, including packing all the mail into a backpack and hiking out to the mailbox with the dogs. It was hot and sultry but the hike did us all good (Pam had already made the hike in the morning with Lucy, so she did the trip twice!). At one point while we were making our way across a meadow that was grown up with lush hay, a tiny fawn went bounding by in front of us - neigher dog saw him. A few seconds later the fawn came right back towards us again - I'm not sure if he ever saw us - the dogs and I all just stood there watching to see what this little guy would do next. Pam has named him "squirt" and he is one of several newborn fawns we've seen this week.

Later in the day my lovely bride and I headed out again to visit some historical old cabins (did I really have to say "old"?). We wound up over at Tyler Bend in the middle part of the Buffalo River and spent a couple of hours inside and out of the Collier Homestead, a great log cabin that is easy to get to and has been well preserved by the park service - and I especially enjoyed the fact that it has been swept clean and is without junk and dirt all over the place (the only item left behind was an old battered bowl in the kitchen). When we first arrived the light was quite harsh for my wants, but it was perfect for Pam's needs - she might start painting once again and was looking for some suitable subjects - I am told that painters need SHADOWS, while I often seek out the softest light with no shadows. As the day grew longer and the sun dropped towards the horizon the light did indeed get really nice and the inside of the cabin just glowed. I was a happy camper, and came away with a couple of photographs that I'm happy with.



It was nearly 10pm when we arrived back at the cabin - 4am to 10pm - a typical day at the office for me!

06/12/11 Tweedy birds are singing extra loud and happy early this morning - probably due to a little bit of moisture that we got here last night, and cooler temps. The air is sweet and still, and I can hear bird sounds from a long distance away. There is a sea of clouds covering the canyon floor far below, and they have already begun to move around and drift upward - probably will end up as clouds over your area later today - just a little present from us to you!

My lovely bride spotted an owl sitting in a tree directly above us yesterday while we were hiking out to deliver the mail. A beautiful barred owl that just stood there and watched us intently as we passed. A while later we heard the owl hooting to find a mate, and then heard a potential mate answer - love in the afternoon at Cloudland, yippie! There has been a lot of loving going on this spring - seems to be many more newborn fawns around that I recall seeing in a long time.

I'll be staying put here the next few weeks as I have begun work on the new picture book - started the selection process yesterday and expect that will take most of the coming week. I'll be picking all new images that have never been published in one of my picture books before, although small versions of many of them have been posted here. I already found one jewel that I did not realize I even had - a photo of a barn reflection that I took while on my way to Amber's graduation last month. It will be great fun to go back and re-live all those photo trips. I expect it will take me until the end of this month to complete the book project with delivery of the books in October, just in time for program season!

06/14/11 I've been spending most of my time over in the print room, pouring through three years of photographs trying to pick my favorite 120 for the new picture book. I'm happy to report that I finally made it through many tens of thousands of images and narrowed it down to about 300 selections (none have ever been published in one of my picture books). Late yesterday I went through the batch and picked out ones that were automatic "five star" picks, meaning they HAD to go into the book. And also I picked all of the two-page spreads, which take a special sort of photo. I ended up picking a total of 80 images that went into the almost-final cut pile. That left more than 200 others - I'll have to cull them down to about 40 more - how do you throw away 160 of your favorite children?

Early yesterday morning I left for a fitness walk and got to see a beautiful red-ball sunrise after I had hiked about four miles. I LOVE early mornings here in the summer - the air is so sweet and heavy and easy to take deep into your lungs. But my world was shattered just as I was about to get back to the cabin - I came face top face with a critter that is tops on my list of most feared. In fact it was literally just the evening before as my lovely bride and I were watching the last episode of the Shania Twain series, when Pam asked me what I was afraid of. He was small and meant me no harm, but I was in his way and wild critters are unpredictable. So when I looked up and realized I was hiking directly at this guy my heart skipped a beat and a shiver ran down my spine - a SKUNK!!! Few things in the woods terrify me more. Luckily the skunk was just a shocked to see me and seemed to be about as scared - he tightened himself up and just stared at me as I carefully skirted right on around him, being careful to keep away from that TAIL! I left him behind in the woods with no ill effects for either of us, whew, that was a close one!

06/15/11 'Tis the very same full moon that rises each month, although the one this evening had some color in it (kind of like last month), and it rose in a different spot. But basically the same moon. Yet pretty much every time I see one beginning to happen I run and grab my camera and try to find a location where I can take a picture of it. I'm very lunar - always have been. In fact if I had a native American name it probably would be Moon Shadow - not after Cat Stevens, but after the fact that I am drawn to the moon, and love to wander around in the moonlight in search of, well, in search of nothing most of the time - just soaking up some moon rays!


There is a spot along our drive in between the cabin and the warehouse up on the will where this time of the year you can often see the late afternoon sun beaming through the trees directly into your eyes. Sometimes it is so bright that the dogs think it is car headlights coming and they both run up the lane barking. I've not noticed the bright light much lately since it has been so hazy. But the big storms that rolled through last night (we didn't get a drop of rain, but lots of thunder boomers and we had to scramble at 1am to run around and turn off and unplug all of our computer equipment), cleared out all the haze and it was a crystalline day all day long. Every time I came into the cabin I was taken by how close Beagle Point looked through the windows - clear air. And so this evening as I hiked up to the warehouse to get some book business done I was stuck by how pure and brilliant and beautiful the sunshine was that beamed through the forest. It was pure gold.

I normally don't do this but figured I might as well. I usually know what the cover of a new picture book is going to be long before production begins. In fact sometimes I know what the cover is going to be the instant that I take the photo. But I've not had a clue what the cover was going to be for this new picture book - and that caused an issue. I have a hard time laying out the book - any of the book - until I know what the front cover is going to be. I had printed out about 150 of the best selects this afternoon, cut them all up, and spread them out all over Bubba, the 4' x 8' work table in the print room. Then I went through them all again and pulled three or four that seemed like they might work for a cover. One by one I processed the file and made a mock up with the cover text. One by one I would run over to the cabin and load the mock-up onto the computer and call out to my lovely bride to come look. One by one she looked and smiled, but did not jump up and down with glee. One by one I want back to the drawing board. And then I found THE RIGHT PHOTO. And I made the mock up and ran it over to the cabin and Pam squealed. So I think we'll use this one below. When I returned to the print room it was an easy task to start with page 1 and lay out the entire picture book in pairs - all the way to page 144. YIPPIE COYOTE! There is still a ton of work to do and there will be tweaks and changes, but at least now I have gotten past the first major hurdle. And so I present the new book cover for you to see.


June 15th - we have lost a great man. One of our great friends and frequent guests at Cloudland, Carl "The Wildman" Ownbey, died this morning. He was the most prolific backpacker Arkansas has ever known, and he didn't even get started until he was in his 60's. Carl was at the very first Ozark Highlands Trail Association meeting in 1981, and his boots seldom landed for long after that. He was a true OHTA pioneer, and built and maintained quite a bit of the Ozark Highlands Trail. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for all that he has meant to hiking in Arkansas. He hiked the entire length of the AT, CDT, and much of the PCT - the big three long-distance backpacking trails in the United States. You could never forget time spent with Carl - he lived more than anyone I've ever known and got the most out of every moment - and he shared his love of life with everyone around him. He was an original for sure, and will be missed. We will be following his boot prints on the OHT and many other trails for the rest of our lives. A salute to THE WILDMAN! And thanks for being a part of it all...


The Wildman wanted to let us know that he made it! (these clouds moved over us just a few minutes after we learned of Carl's death this morning)

06/20/11 We have high winds early this morning that are whipping the trees around quite a bit. We lost the big cedar tree down in Mom's meadow the other day when the worst winds hit - amazing that it lasted so long, and that other trees did not break off as well. Also amazing how strong trees are in general - that they can hold up and remain planted in the earth when the big winds roll through. It takes a lot of wind to bring one down.

The cicadas have now mostly gone, but there are lots of tree frogs taking their place in the evening symphony around the cabin. So MUCH volume from these tiny critters! Lightning bugs are really coming on strong in the past couple of days - I think they may be building to a peak like we've not seen here in a long time - many thousands of them cruising all over the place. You can always tell how fast these bugs are flying by how long the light streak is - mostly they most slowly and the bit of light you see is mostly a spot. When they move around a bit they produce a dash of light. But lately around here some of those dashes have been several feet long! I wonder where they are going in such a hurry? I also wonder why they don't make any sounds that we can hear - can you imagine how much volume they would produce if they were frogs or cicadas - yikes!

I'm still neck-deep in book production and am about 3/4's of the way through the final selection and design process for the new picture book. At first it seemed like a monumental job and I was slow to get much work done - I was looking at the entire job and hesitant to get started with such a giant task. But then I began to bite off small chunks - just the first few pages I would tell myself. And then the next few. And the next. And before long I was half way done! Seems like this is the way to attack everyday life as well - when measured as a whole it is an impossible task, but everything we do really must begin with a single step, and as long as we keep working at it the job will eventually get done. I worked long into the night last night and only quit because I knew my eyes were beginning to bug out and getting blurry from having to focus on the computer screen for so long. I laid awake half the night just chomping at the bit to get up early and run back over to the gallery so that I could get back to work - a very exciting time for me, and I just can't wait!

We've been spending a lot of time on the road lately and oh so little time in the woods. Both Pam and I are driving into Fayetteville twice a week now for physical rehab - for her back and for my shoulder. And we made the trip in on Saturday for The Wildman's memorial service. While Carl's death was so sad, it was great to be part of such an uplifting service that was a celebration of his LIFE! These things are also often a reunion of sorts where folks from many generations come together that may have not seen each other in a long time. The only thing that was a bit "off" about all of this is seeing so many people in fancy dress that you have never seen in anything but jeans or hiking shorts and boots before. I really just have to laugh (I don't own either a suit or a tie). On the way back my lovely bride and I started to discuss our own memorial service plans for the day when that will eventually come to pass - kind of creepy really but that is something folks should think about out loud with their loved ones from time to time.

OK, I can't stand it any longer - I need to get back to WORK! I just realized it is MONDAY, always my most favorite day of the week - and I hope it is a great one for you!

06/22/11 The high winds of the past two days finally blew out and it is still and calm and quiet early this morning (except for the birds that are still trying to keep up with the sound of yesterday's wind and screaming as loud as they can!). Along with the stillness came beautiful soft pastel pinks and blues in the sky - not a loud sunrise with intense colors, but a soft and relaxing one. Of course I had to run and get my camera so that I could show it all to you.

And so I must confess - I'm addicted, an addict, I just can't stop. And often it gets in the way of life. In fact it rules my life and sometimes the lives of those around me. Two examples. I was taking a short break from the book business last night and just enjoying a moment with Aspen when he let me know that something was up. I went outside and discovered that the western sky was on fire - an incredible sunset was taking place - WOW!!! So I ran to grab my camera as I knew the intense color would not last long. In particular was a giant thunderhead that billowed tens of thousands of feet into the sky, and it was all lit up with brilliant warm colors, all backed by deep blue sky. I needed my long lens to capture the strength and beauty of this thunderhead.

But my camera was no where to be found. I searched in the cabin where it WAS supposed to be. I ran out and looked in the car. The light on the thunderhead was peaking and I HAD to get a photo of it, NOW!!! My lovely bride and my dogs ducked for cover as I ran through the cabin swearing, tossing things aside and I searched for the camera. FINALLY I found it - in the exact spot where it was supposed to be - somehow I had overlooked in my haste to find it the first time. I put the big lens on and ran outside - but the light was gone, and the electricity of the moment had faded with the color.

I could have, I should have, simply sat on the back deck with my lovely bride and enjoyed this event, but no, I HAD to photograph it, capture the great beauty to show off to you. Instead I missed it completely. This happens to me all the time, and even when I am able to capture the moment with the camera I often miss the "event" as I struggle to focus on getting it right. To make matters worse, literally as I was walking back into the cabin from my humiliating defeat, the computer sounded an incoming e-mail - it was from a fellow photographer who wrote -WOW, did you see that sunset? I bet you got a great photo!!! That really hurt...

And hour later we were making final plans with a group of friends for an extended trip this fall to visit some of the great scenic locations in the United States. Half of the group will be photographers, the other half not. When you go somewhere like this for photography everyone else in the group suffers, and since this is not meant to be a photography trip - but rather a week with great friends in beautiful country - I have declared that is will NOT be a photo trip. Yet I know it will haunt me to be there and not be in photo mode! I am cursed, and may not enjoy the trip nearly as much as a result. The crux of the problem is that I know for any given location the best light and beautiful scenes will happen at the times when normal people simply will not be there - they will be in bed or dining or doing other tourist things. And so when you play the regular tourist role you miss a great deal of what you went there to see. I know you laugh and roll your eyes, but generally when you look at one of my photographs that has beautiful light and color and say "it did not look like that when you I was there" you are correct - it DOES NOT generally look like that when people are normally there. It takes a lot of work to get to locations at the most scenic times, and most folks simply don't want to make the effort - good thing for me, since I can get the pictures when others do not, ha, ha! But it is a tough balancing act when you are not there to take pictures - you want to see the best beauty but also have a normal schedule. And for an addict like me that is tough to do. I will just have to suffer through somehow.

OK, I hear yawns and violin music - it is time for me to post this and get back to work!

06/27/11 High winds here early this morning that are no doubt caused by the excessive heat - 'tis 80 degrees before sunrise, which is perhaps a record by a long shot as the warmest morning ever at Cloudland. The molecules in the air are trying to run away from this heat, which is what is producing the wind! Actually it is not too bad outside because of the wind, and the trees sure do like it since they seem to be dancing all over the place.

We continue to be mostly cabin bound working on the new picture book project, but I am happy to report that we'll be done with it this week, yippie! Of course, what that means is that we'll jump head-first into the next book project that we must complete in the first half of July, so there will be no rest for the weary. (next one will be the new Arkansas Waterfalls guidebook)

We seem to have an explosion of fawns going on right now - we see lots of singles and many twins during our trips into town for rehab. It is so funny to watch the little guys run and romp and thrash about. They are supposed to be trying to escape from our gaze, but really I think they are just playing, and seeing us is an excuse for them to run wild, just like little guys are supposed to do. There will need to be a large crop of acorns this fall to feed everyone, so I'm hoping the oaks have had a good spring.

A CD of violin music arrived - sent by our friends for me to listen to during our trip this fall. I think I will survive - they want to go chase the best light too, so I think we'll all be OK! I might even have to take my camera now...

06/29/11 The airwaves are filled with HAPPY critters singing early this morning, and that air is moist and sweet and COOL thanks to a round of thunderstorms that brought much-needed rain. Baby clouds have been rising up from the canyon floor since yesterday, and continue on the move today. Sometimes I will just sit on the deck and lock onto one of the new clouds, and spend the next several minutes watching it grow and expand and change shape and sometimes even color, and then follow it as the little puff builds into a real cloud and moves up through the canyon and above until finally drifting on off to parts unknown up into the blue sky. These little guys don't seem to follow any set pattern - one will move upstream and then to the east; the next one will drift downstream; another will ease on up into Whitaker Creek before changing course and ending up back over the Buffalo again. Some just sit in place and grow and grow and then shrink and eventually disappear into thin air right where they were born. Hum, sounds just like people!

Yesterday was my big image file processing day for the new picture book. About every hour or so my eyes would get so blurry from the concentrated visual work that I would have to stop and walk away from the computer and go outside (over to the cabin for a snack!). During several of those breaks it was raining and felt oh so GREAT to just be out and getting wet - the rain was downright COLD coming down! In fact the temp would drop quite a bit when a storm rolled through - probably 15-20 degrees - then the heat would return for a little while until the next rain shower moved through. I got to spend a good bit of time out on the back deck letting my eyes refocus on the world, and watching the baby clouds being born below.

One time I sensed that I was being watched. Living out here in the middle of nowhere when you seldom ever see another soul your senses get keener sometimes. And sure enough, I looked around slowly and found a young buck standing not 50 feet away, staring directly at me. He kind of reminded me of a pretty-boy model, squeaky clean and trim with a beautiful coat of golden brown. Skinny as a rail too. In fact if not for the pair of velvet antlers growing between his ears I would swear he was a large fawn - a yearling no doubt. In the "olden" days when I used to deer hunt for several months each year for food a buck like this would be a prime target come October 1st - he'll probably be a four or six-point buck when the antlers get finished growing. But these days we have so many deer in Arkansas that a little buck like this would not be legal until the next season, so he will survive and get to play with the does this fall and then hang out as a big buck all winter - but then he had better watch out in 2012! Even though he was well aware of me sitting there and watching him he never did bolt or run off. He just sort of sauntered around, sniffing Pam's flowers, and eventually wandered off into the woods. The dogs were both fast asleep inside the cabin and never saw him.

I am HAPPY to report that the new picture book is now completed - YIPPIE COYOTE! I had to replace a couple of photos that I could not get to reproduce well in the color space that is needed for the book printing, but otherwise everything worked well and the final book looks just great. It will take me most of today to get match prints made on the big printer that will go along with the book files so the printer knows exactly what the final product is supposed to look like, then we'll deliver everything to our print broker in town tomorrow and we'll be done - DOUBLE yippie coyote! The oldest image in this new book is about four years old, the newest is less than a week old. Most were taken within the last year. None have ever been published in a picture book of mine before. The new book will be available in October and I'll let you know when...

The sun is just now beginning to flood the canyons below with brilliant beautiful light and the new day is on the move. I'll be chasing light like this for the next solid year working to produce yet another new picture book (my 13th) - I had better grab my camera and get going!

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