CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - JUNE 2012 Journal Archives
Cloudland Cabin View June 30, 5:43am - blue and pink before dawn
Updated Friday morning - June is for lovers
2012 Holiday open houses schedule
2013 photo workshop schedule
June Print Of The Month - Swan Lake Sunset
06/01/12 Blue jeans and a flannel shirt are just right for sitting out on the back deck this evening. The air is cool and crisp and easy to fill your lungs - feels like an October day in the mountains instead of June in Arkansas. Lucy and I have been enjoying it all as the light of day slips away into the dark gray clouds left behind by a passing storm. It also feels quite "beary" this evening, a fact that has Lucy more than a little concerned. She has been sitting at attention at the edge of the deck sniffing the air - she knows there is a large critter out there somewhere - we saw the fresh bear scat about 100 yards from the cabin just a little while ago.
Yesterday evening I was in another great bear area, in fact the home of the very last native black bears in Arkansas - the White River National Wildlife Refuge, which is located along the lower White River. I was hoping for cool temps and a little bit of rain to settle the dusty roads, and I found both just right. I had waded in about thigh-deep into a forest of cypress knees, and was surrounded by tall giant cypress trees with a few tupelos sprinkled in as well (Goose Lake is on page 162 of the Arkansas Nature Lover's Guidebook). The air was still, the light soft, but the swamp was alive with critters of all sorts - many of them in the water with splashing going on all around me - but also up in the trees too as owls were hooting and other evening bugs and frogs were singing. Come to think of it, this swamp was a rather noisy place! Oh yes, and there were a few mosquitoes too, although I was fully covered from head to toe including long pants and a special bug-proof hooded top that my lovely bride got me - even my face was covered, so I had no mosquito worries.
And then all of a sudden, all the critter noise ceased, and a wilderness lullaby quite unlike any other I'd experienced began. It sounded like a waterfall, a very, very soft waterfall, and it surrounded me like music in a symphony hall - it had begun to rain softly. At that moment I looked all around me and tried to soak up the scene and the music and the feel of the air - and realized that I was standing in perhaps not only one of the most beautiful spots in Arkansas, but indeed on the planet. I was, in fact, moved to tears. It was just one of THOSE moments. I took pictures, but there was just no comparison to being there.
A little while later it had become quite dim - nearly dark - as I made my way back to the shore. I so love wandering through a cypress-knee forest like this since I get to use the tops of the knees as kind of permanent walking sticks - you see the muddy bottom can be tricky to navigate, especially when it grabs each foot and holds on tight! All the while there were "things" moving and splashing in the water - no doubt many of them were bullfrogs, which added to the symphony. But I'm sure a lot of them were fish. And at one point in shallow water I came face-to-face with a long gar - about as long as my leg - Pam would have loved all the fish!
Back at the car I tried to scrape off all the mud and muck and clean myself and my clothes and equipment up as best I could, then spent some time draining my tall tripod - its legs had filled with swamp water. Then I drove to the far end of the little lake where I had been wading, but just before I got to the end I could not believe my eyes - the sky had opened up and it was GLOWING, as were several of the cypress trees at the edge of the lake. Holy cow, I had left the swamp TOO SOON! I scrambled to find a suitable composition along the lakeshore, and did find one nice group of cypress trees that were glowing, but within a minute or two the sky returned to gray and the glow was gone. Oh well, it had already been a GREAT trip since I got rained on while standing in the swamp - a first for me!
As I headed for another part of the refuge to find a campsite for the night, the darn sky opened up again and I could see more great color on cypress trees - on a small lake that I had JUST PASSED! So I parked my car, grabbed my camera and tripod, and RAN through the woods to the edge of the lake - but I was too late, and the color had already mostly faded - I had missed it for the second time! But in my haste I took one last step towards the water - and sunk into about a foot of really nasty MUCK! In fact both of my slippers got sucked up by the muck, and I ended up having to reach down and dig them out. This would turn out to be a good thing.
Not wanting to get back into the car as filthy as I was, I hiked on down the road a ways to a spot where they launched boats from, and figured it would have a solid bottom where I could wash up. I was able to get out into the clear water (well, at least as "clear" as swamp water can get) and scrub myself and my slippers clean. And then it happened - the sky once again, and for the third time that evening, opened up and started to GLOW. And not only was I standing at the edge of a lake with some nice cypress trees in front of me and with a good view of the sky, but I had my camera with me!
The light only last a minute or two at the most, and was changing rapidly. I had to make some quick decisions as to exposure and how to shoot the picture - my exposures were going to be pretty long and that light was going fast. The scene in front of me needed a really wide-angle lens to capture - wide than I had in fact - so I decided to shoot a series of pictures and stitch them together later - this would allow me to take three or four pictures wide, which would cover most of what I wanted to show. And so I did. And by the time I completed the first set of pictures, the color had begun to drain from the sky for the last time - so I only got one picture, but I think it will work. (This photo of Swan Lake has been selected as the new June 2012 Print Of The Month)
I drove on through the night and parked next to another lake that I had been to many years before - I had also been to this lake many times since, but it had always been flooded (as recent as several weeks ago this year). I have a six-hour sleeping pill that I took at 10pm, so I was up and ready to wander long before sunrise. And wander I did - I roamed around quite a bit and never could find a composition that I liked, and I felt like I was wasting some quality light that only happens once a day - that golden hour before sunrise. I found nothing.
As I turned to head back to the car the sun finally arrived on the scene, and it lit up a group of cypress trees just across the way that was quite brilliant. It stopped me in my tracks and I spent the next 20 minutes recording the scene. Had I slept until sunrise and not hunted for an hour I would have never found that scene until it was too late. Even though I spent the night with a zillion hungry mosquitoes buzzing around me, I was a happy camper and ready to head back home!
Sunday morning clouds, just after the big lightning stirke (above)
06/04/12 We had an odd day here yesterday. It began in the week hours of the night with a giant bolt of lightning and loud BOOM. No rain, just the light and sound show. That knocked out all our communications here, including the telephone and dsl lines. A few hours later the phones started to work again, sort of. There was a dial tone, but we could not call out, and the phone rang there was no one there. A while later the phones got better, but it was nearly impossible to talk with someone on the other end of the phone conversation. Gradually the phone signal improved, until by early evening we were actually able to speak with folks. The internet remained out all day - too much noise on the line I guess. My verizon phone signal was no strong enough in the cabin to sync up with our wireless network, although it was strong enough over in the print room to do so. So eventually I was able to get online some and check e-mail, etc., but could not upload anything to the web page (like this Journal). Finally, late last night the phones and internet started working again all of a sudden - YIPPIE!
We did NOT get any of the rainfall storms yesterday - they seemed to just keep going around us and it remained pretty dry. When we did see some bad clouds approaching with lightning, at first we kept running into the cabin to start unplugging the internet, but then realized it was on since it wasn't working anyway, but we still unplugged all the computers in both building everytime we saw flashes. We do have lots of fancy self-protection stuff, but really, they don't work.
My lovely bride took the pups and I out for a hike, and I took the opportunity to try out a new backpack that I've had stored for more than two years (seems like it has been that long since I've had all four limbs working correctly). I'm WAY behind on my training schedule for a trip this fall to the arctic circle. I loaded up the special backpack with jugs of water - not too much at first - and managed to keep up with Pam and the dogs and made it back home without any pain or soreness whatsoever. This is one of those packs that allows you to carry as much weight in the front as you do in the back - which is one of the major drawbacks to a traditional backpack design - all the wait is on your back, and even though it gets transferred to your hips if you are wearing a hipbelt properly, you still wind up having to lean forward to counter-balance all the weight. This backpack makes all of that a thing of the past, and makes is MUCH MORE comfortable to pack with a heavy load - YIPPIE! I'm not in shape yet, but I'm a happy camper with the new backpack (by Aarn).
Late last night both Lucy and I could feel and SMELL a bear outside somewhere close wandering around. We've still not seen one at the cabin yet this year, but have found their scat nearby recently. I walked around a bit outside but could not find something - I'm sure the guy was sitting under a tree just out of sight texting to his buddies about how funny it was that I could not see him even though he was right there! Feeling a bear around is one thing, smelling one is quite another.
Bright flashes woke me up at 3-something this morning. I immediately went outside and set up not one, but two cameras and pointed them in different directions off the deck and set them up to record 30-second exposures - I was hoping to capture some lightning shots. It was kind of weird out there - pitch black, yet when a bolt of lightning stuck somewhere the entire scene lit up almost like daylight. Some of the strikes were orange, and so that was the color of the light that illuminated everything. Our back deck is rather crowded with enough tables and chairs for our workshops to have lunch on, plus other assorted things like the grill and stuff. It is kind of tough to move around in the dark, and I don't like to have any lights on while I doing this sort of shooting.
Anyway, at one point I was standing at the far end of the deck when a lightning bolt lit things up. Our of the corner of my eye I saw what looked like a bear - right on THE DECK! It was one of those lightning bolts that flickered, so I got to turn my head and get a better look, although it was kind of like a very fast strobe light and I did not get a constantly-lit look. It was still only minutes from just having been sound asleep and my eyes were still a little blurry, and so I was not really sure if that was a bear or not that was sulking on the deck and perhaps headed towards me. The milliseconds clicked off SLOWLY as I waited for another flash of light to confirm what I had seen, and to get an update on the bear's location. I did not know exactly what to do, so I just stood there and waited, and waited, and waited. It probably was no more than a few seconds later, although it seemed like ten minutes, but finally another bolt of lightning fired off and lit up the deck - no bear. So either I had imagined him, or he simply wandered off the deck in between lightning strikes. No matter, for the remainder of the night while I was out on the deck, I would always turn and look that direction everytime lightning stuck!
RAIN, we finally got some RAIN - yippie COYOTE, HURRAY!!! This is the first actual rain we've had here in quite a while - everything else has missed us. And it continues to rain now nearly an hour after sunrise (which never happened) - it remains pretty dark, with lots and lots of baby clouds being born in the canyons below. "Rainy Days And Mondays" is one of my most fav songs, but I've always disagreed with Karen (or actually Burt, who wrote the song - Karen just made it famous) - since I LOVE BOTH! Give me a rainy day on a Monday every week! I hope yours is wonderful too - and thanks for the rain dance!
06/11/12 An acorn hit the metal roof about three feet away from my heard early this morning with a BANG - it was telling me to get up and get to work! While sitting on the back deck sipping a bit of java to help clear my blurry eyes, a flash of BRIGHT red flew by and landed on a tall flower stem down in Mom's meadow just below the cabin. It was a scarlet tanager, and oh my was he SCARLET! Always look so striking with the contrasty pure-black wings. He sat there and sang a while, then flew off to another spot nearby and continued his music. Sunrise soon followed, and instead of the normal white-hot blob that appears, there was a lot of color in the sun and it cast a soft glow across the wilderness. A half-moon stood high in the blue sky.
My feet were soon moving and before long I was a couple miles away at the little Cave Mountain Church. I'm trying to put in a few miles wearing a backpack before the heat of the day sets in, plus I just love to be outside hiking early in the morning - the air is so much sweeter then. Not many other critters stirring this morning, although I did see TWO red squirrels up near the Faddis meadow - squirrels left Cave Mountain a couple of years ago and any sightings are rare, especially RED squirrels. Guess red is the color of the day. Seems like most critters are hunkered down until we get some rain. What little rain we had last week simply soaked into the parched crust. Rivers and creeks are really dry, and while I continue to get almost daily requests for waterfall locations - sorry guys, but we normally don't have waterfalls in the summertime anyway, but we are in the middle of a major drought right now so please don't expect to find any wild waterfalls for a while in Arkansas! It is nice to dream about them though, and also most waterfall locations also happen to be interesting and scenic spots even when dry - in fact some of those places look so different when they are dry it might be work a look just for that.
As I was getting back to the cabin I met my lovely bride and the pups - they were heading out for their own fitness hike - Lucy in the lead, Aspen bringing up the rear, and Pam trying to adjust her speed to keep both pups happy!
We had a great photo workshop on Saturday, spending our time on the Buffalo River around Roark Bluff - the river is actually still flowing there a little but, and the pool at the base of the bluff is wide and long and has some terrific reflections. We also visited one of the historic homesites nearby and the students had some beautiful light to work with - I just can't get enough of these old cabins!
The other day all three of us were working on projects in different parts of the cabin when I spotted some movement outside. That same buck deer that was here a week or two ago had returned and was right outside the cabin window browsing on some weeds. We all gathered to watch him, and to CHEER him on to keep eating the weeds! Deer have beautiful coats right now, rich brown color. And his antlers had grown quite a bit in just the last week - seems like you could almost stand and watch them grow. Right now they are soft and covered with hair, and the inside is filled with blood that is busy building new bone.
We later saw another buck that was also in velvet, but his antlers were much smaller. I think there are going to be a lot of bucks this year.
Several folks have asked about are caretaker, Joseph. He went back home just before we left for our trip out west last month and has not come back yet. We'll have him move back in the next time we get ready to head out for a few days - I think he likes it here! We'll probably keep him around at least until Christmas since we'll be on the road so much during the holidays with our slide program schedule. Amber is spending the summer here at the cabin and taking 12 credit hours of college courses online - it is GREAT that she is able to live here while doing so, which saves a lot of money. The courses are pretty tough and she has a LOT of homework, which she is very good at - better her than ME!
Looks to be a bit of storm activity in the works for this week in Arkansas - I hope we get some of it to help settle the dust. I'll be locked away over in the print room most of the next several of weeks putting together the new book and calendar projects. But I will be out pounding the roads and trails with my backpack on doing training hikes, and will let you know if I find anything interesting. Summer is still a great time to get out and enjoy Arkansas, but I highly recommend EARLY in the day - or if you can find a deep swimming hole that might be nice too...
06/18/12 I've been in book mode this past week which requires tunnel vision and I've not been able to do much else. Making the final picture selections and then designing the actual layout took a great deal of time, well, almost. After days and days of wrangling with it all - which included printing out small versions of each picture that was under consideration (a couple hundred of them) and going through the stacks many times - the dam finally broke. Not sure what hit me - perhaps it was the music - I have all the Beatles albums on the computer and I selected that folder and hit "random." But all of a sudden inspiration kicked in and in a single 30-minute span I selected, paired up facing pages, and laid out the entire book from start to finish. It was a magical and very rewarding experience - at least that last 30 minutes!
After many more long hours of work tweaking and then placing each digital photo file into the book text file on the computer, I produced the first electronic draft of the book and delivered it to my lovely bride's computer to have a look. I sat in the background as she went through the pages - this was the very first time I had actually see the pictures presented this way - I design my books the way you look at them - two pages at a time - and take great care to select pictures that compliment each other. I was quite pleased with what I saw on the screen - WHEW that was a big relief!
My next step was to begin writing captions for all the photos, then eventually write a few paragraphs about the lead photo in each section, finally I'll do a little writeup about nature photography and techniques, and finally, the introduction - I always save the intro for last so that I know exactly what the book is going to be about. Once I get all of the text written, those pages will go to my editors for corrections. While that is going on I will go through each photograph and make final tweaks, with the final step being to make the critical conversion from the normal color space into the proper color space that is required for the actual books to be printed. Then I will spend a day making a match print of each page to go along with the digital files that the printer will work from. All of this will take me another week, and then the book will be done, YIPPIE COYOTE! Then I will get to work on the 2013 Arkansas calendar. We expect both products to be available by late October.
I got to see the first real SNAKE of the season a couple of days ago. I was sitting on the back deck taking a break and trying to get my eyes back into focus (long hours at the computer screen looking at fine detail is not good for them), when I heard a hawk screaming. It wasn't hard to find out where he was - he floated by the cabin right out in front of me.
There was a snake of some sort in his talons, and I could tell the hawk was a happy camper - he was a large and soon-to-be-fat redtailed hawk. When I looked close with the binocs I could see that he was towing one of those advertising banners - it read "FREE SCENIC FLIGHTS - complementary meal included." Of course, the meal would be had by the hawk at the end of the flight!
We've been seeing a LOT of deer lately - all wearing very lush and beautiful coats. But I still have only seen one fawn - normally I would be seeing dozens of them. So here is my theory. The fawns are just as numerous as normal, however this particular group of fawns are smarter since they already know how to remain hidden and away from people. I suspect these fawns will be smarter too when they grow up and become big bucks. So I conclude that the deer season of 2015-16 will be poor season for hunters - that is when this crop of fawns will come into their prime and be sought after by hunters.
A few minutes ago I was outside wandering around in the dark with Aspen. I realized that in low light I have trouble with depth perception, which slows me down to a crawl sometimes. I guess that part of our brains don't work too well in the dark. I spent the night on top of a big bluff a couple of nights ago and realized the same thing - I was a little bit uneasy as I tried to hike along using only starlight as my guide - a flashlight would have destroyed my night vision, and I don't like to use those red lights - not sure if they really help or not. So I had to reduce my speed and inch along - probably a good thing since I was only a few feet from a 100-foot dropoff.
I was standing on the top of that bluff when the crescent moon rose in the northeast. It was kind of hazy over there, and at first the landscape spread out before me didn't seem to light up at all. But then gradually as the moon lifted higher into the starry sky the tips of the ridges began to shine a little bit and shadows started to form in the canyons. A few minutes later I realized that the entire wilderness was bathed in moonlight - a surreal scene with a zillion twinkling stars above. That was my ninth trip to that very same bluffline in the past couple of months to take pictures - at least one of them will be included in the new book, perhaps two.
The other day Lucy and I got to experience a big summer thunderstorm that rolled through. When the first CRACK of thunder happened we had sunshine and blue skies above. But the giant lightning bolt just to the south of us came from a solid dark sky - I could see it land in between the ridges in front of me. Lucy noticed it too, and she was not a happy camper at all. I had a quick look at the computer radar and then shut everything down - a very large red blob was headed right at us - it would be fun, and perhaps a little rain!
We never did get much rain, but we did get quite a light and sound show. Lucy and I sat on the top step outside and watched as the black clouds and lightning moved through the wilderness, but just to the west of us. We could see sheets of rain filling up the canyons, one by one, and heading our way. High winds were about to rip trees out of the ground. Lucy ended up in my lap (a rare location for her). We could hear the rain as it approached close, and smell it too. Another loud CLAP and then the wind stopped and a gentle rain began. I closed my eyes and leaned back onto the deck and soaked up every drop - it was cold, but quite refreshing! It was so relaxing that I actually fell sound asleep while being rained on. Another clap of thunder work me up probably just a few minutes later, but it was a distant clap and the rain had stopped. We got just enough to settle the dust, but that was much better than nothing.
And then I heard some yelling coming across the canyon - must have been someone on Hawksbill Crag (we can't see it from our cabin, nor can you see our cabin from the Crag). I realized that they might be screaming with joy at a RAINBOW. So I jumped in the car and drove out to someplace where I could see, and sure enough there was an incredible rainbow in the east. I raced on to find a good photo composition that included the rainbow, but by the time I found one the rainbow had all but disappeared. Maybe next time - I do enjoy chasing rainbows and will continue to do so.
OK, time to get back to work on the book. I think it is Monday, my most favorite day of the week - I hope you have a GRAND ONE!
Moonrise through the pines at Sams Throne
06/19/12 It is quite dark outside and the landscape is either quite angry or really excited early this morning. The trees all around the cabin are being tossed all over the place - or dancing to some pretty rockin' music! The air is cool and the wind feels great, and the music of the night is quite refreshing. I don't see stars so it must be cloudy.
I spent most of yesterday on the road doing car stuff in town, but I did see SQUIRRELS on my way out and then back in again - that makes three or four sightings out here in the past couple of weeks, all in different areas. Seems like the squirrels are moving back in finally, although I don't know what they will find to drink.
Speaking of drink, we've been getting a few reports from hikers on the Ozark Highlands Trail. Conditions seem to actually be about what I would expect - they are finding WATER at most named streams, although the water is not flowing much but rather pooled up. I mention this in the guidebook - summer is obviously the dry season here, and so you typically won't find waterfalls or a lot of flowing water. But most named creeks will have water around somewhere. Trails are grown up, but that happens every summer. I recommend that you wear LONG PANTS, carry a bug headnet, begin hiking EARLY in the morning - long before sunrise - and let someone taller than you go first to collect any spider webs! Spending the night in the cool forest and being in the middle of all that sweetness of nighttime and early morning is a special treat - especially if you live and work in the asphalt jungle.
I'll be headed out for a few miles myself this morning, trying to get some exercise in before the sun arrives. (I'm just waiting on Aspen to wake up!) Then I'll lock myself in the print room and write captions for the new picture book - TODAY is my deadline for getting that done, yikes!
My lovely bride will be heading in Fayetteville this morning to gather up some fresh fruit and veggies at the Farmer's Market before doing other chores. Amber is neck-deep in school work - which means glued to her computer most of the time. Although later this week a new science project will get her outside and to the river to construct a homemade measuring device to monitor water quality conditions. There ARE still lots of great places along the Buffalo River that are beautiful spots to be during this dry spell - I wish I was not computer bound myself or I would love to go with her!
I hear Aspen stirring upstairs so that means my hike is about to happen...
06/22/12 A couple of bird notes this morning. The waterfall and small creek here at the cabin has been dry for quite a while, and we've been trying to get it fixed for a couple of months but it seems our waterfall guy is missing in action. I did manage to get it up and running again the other day myself, but it has some issues so we don't run it all the time. But when the waters appeared it was like a door opened in the forest - birds of all shapes, colors, sizes, and attitudes descended on the little creek and started to drink and play and generally have a grand old time. At one point there were two guys facing each other in the stream - both BRILLIANTLY colored - a blue Indigo bunting and a scarlet tanager. I'm assuming that birds see color, and I wondered what they thought of each other?
Towards the end of the day it seemed like a flock of wrens appeared, although there were only two adults - about five or six young 'ins that were just learning to fly. My lovely bride did her best to keep the cats away, and all chicks survived. Just before dark two of the baby birds started to roost on a branch, but the branch was only about a foot off the ground! I kept a careful eye on them on into the night, and when I was up in the middle of the night and in the wee hours of the morning I checked on them as well. At the break of day they were both still there, totally oblivious to the impending danger of a cat lurking nearby that could have easily had a snack.
There was a hawk soaring above the canyon all day yesterday, screaming like crazy. I've heard them scream a time or two before, but never for such a long time. But this guy just kept soaring around and screaming, at times getting a mile or more away and still we could hear his screams. Pam's dad was working in the front yard and told us that hawks use screaming as a way to flush out prey below - the critter will either turn to look at the sound, or start to run away - the hawks keen eyesight spots the movement and darts down for lunch. Now I know what all the screaming is about!
I was up and out the door very early this morning, well before sunrise. It was cool with a slight breeze and quite delightful as I hiked through the forest. I continue to be impressed with the new-style backpack I've been using - it puts half the weight in front of you, and so far I've not had any soreness in my shoulders, hips, or knees - amazing for an old guy like me! Anyway, just as I was coming tot he edge of a clearing I saw a deer up ahead that had not seen me yet - rare. I stopped next to a tree and just watched him for a few minutes. It was a little buck with thick velvet antlers - he'll probably be a six-pointer later this summer. I know it was early and I was not quite wide awake yet, but I swear this buck was dancing! He would spring nearly straight up in the air, turn around in a circle, prance a little bit, then jump up again. Sometimes he would paw the ground, then jump up and spin around. Perhaps he was practicing for the fall mating ritual, although it normally involves body fluids insted of impressive dancing.
As I was nearing the cabin I was hiking through a tunnel of forest green when I noticed my shadow appear on the ground in front of me. The shadow had been made by, and was surrounded by, golden light. Must be sunrise, right? Only problem was that sunrise was till 20 minutes away! And I was also hiking east so there would have been no shadow in front of me. I stopped and turned around to see what the beautiful but strange light was - high above there was a puffy cloud glowing brilliant orange, and that light was being bounced back to earth from behind me and casting my shadow. Since clouds are high above the earth they will get the rays of the sun before earth does - this is why as a photographer I often photograph the best color BEFORE sunrise.
Late last night I FINISHED the new picture book, YIPPIE COYOTE! Well actually I completed all the writing and image selection and placement, and finished making all the editorial changes. It was a moment I'd been working on for a long time and there was a rush of satisfaction. I will spend all of today doing the final steps to prepare the files to send off to the printers, and then tomorrow I will deliver everything to my print broker in Fayetteville for shipment to the printing house. My glee will be short-lived though, since I then have to get to work on the 2013 Arkansas calendar - I must get it all completed by MONDAY!
When I first started working on the new book several weeks ago I was not optimistic about how good it would be - especially after spending time looking at the work of several masters - gosh there are so many great photographers on the planet! I always worry how I could create enough premium-quality images in the single year that I give myself to shoot for each book project - enough variety of locations and light and compositions. But the more I got into looking at my pictures closely, the more I realized that my biggest problem would be narrowing it down to just 120 of my favorites! Many times this past year I have spent time out working and only looked at one or two of the images I shot. I've been digging deep into everything I shot this past year and found a lot of really terrific images. And when that time came the other day when everything fell into place and order, I was a happy camper.
Something else I realized when I started writing the "Photography Notes" at the end of the book. It seems like these days the very first question everyone asks is "What camera did you use?" I've seen it written online that "I could take the same pictures as Ernst if I just had his $10,000 camera." Oh how I wish it was that easy! I think we have become so caught up in the electronic mania, that the equipment has become the driving force behind the art of photography - and that is simply NOT TRUE! I have been using the very best and most expensive camera gear available, and do try to keep up with the latest electronics - I used at least eight different cameras for this book project, up to an 80-megapixel system that cost $60,000. But I have morphed a little bit this past year and I realized that more than half the photos I selected for the new book were taken with not the latest fancy or expensive equipment, but rather using a set of old camera lenses that were made 30 years ago for film cameras - and I bought them all used. I'm not sure if it is the camera sensor or the lenses, but it seems that particular system draws the light in such a way that gives the images more character - at least the type of character that I like. That's the camera I've been using for the past eight months for nearly everything except for the nighttime photos.
I also found that I did not do extensive post processing to the images. All digital images taken by EVERY digital camera require processing by software at some point - either in the camera or later in Photoshop. But I continue to see so many OVER-processed photos published these days with really bizarre colors, and I want to stay as far away from that sort of thing as I can. So I guess I'm taking a giant step backwards in my approach - old manual lenses and minimal processing. You will still see rich and vivid colors in my images - and a little bit of the magic that I felt when I was there - but that is the result of my endless quest to find and capture spectacular light with special glass rather than being digitally induced. Fancy equipment and digital enhancements can be great, but they will never replace the artist behind the camera.
06/24/12 I was up at 3 yesterday morning and while checking over the front yard with a spotlight (we are having critter issues - digging up or eating all of my lovely bride's flowers), I had to go make a rescue when I saw one of our cats battling a snake. I pulled the cat off and took her back to the cabin - I didn't want her to kill the snake! Most folks might think that was weird, but I kind of like snakes, especially king snakes. This one was a beautiful spotted king snake, and was actually the first one I'd seen on the ground here this summer.
A little later on I sat on the back deck and listened to a long and colorful conversation between what sounded like two different owls - one for sure was a barred owl, but I'm not sure about the other one. The barred owl with is classic "Who Cooks For You" etc. was upstream on the main Buffalo River probably a half mile - his calls were so loud that they echoed off the canyon walls and I'm sure turned and went on up into Whitaker Creek. And that is where the other owl was located - probably over near Hawksbill Crag but on the opposite hillside. Sometimes one owl would wait and answer the other owl, but often the second owl would begin their reply even before the first owl was done. As far as I could tell, neither owl ever moved. Frequently what happens is that one of the owls will come closer - in fact a person making the calls can sometimes call an owl in close enough for viewing - that is what "owl prowls" do when they get lucky, and we've done it here also. Anyway, the conversation went on for a good long while and it was a treat to just get to sit and listen to the music of the wilderness.
I got up at 2-something this morning and took a picture off the back deck of the Milky Way standing nearly straight up above Beagle Point. It is kind of surprising how clear the night sky is right now considering how warm and humid it is. As you probably have figured by now I've been shooting star photos for the past couple of months to include in the new picture book. Four or five of those photos made it into the book, and I'll post some of them eventually. It has been great being out under the stars and seeing all the glory in the heavens.
Speaking of that, the book has been sent off to the printers and I'm now working on the 2013 Arkansas Calendar. I'm going through all of the same steps as in the book production, only I have narrow the selections down to a total of 13 instead of 124 like for the book. Also these images have to look good as a square, which is the format of our calendar. Sometimes a really nice images is completely destroyed when the ends are cropped off to make it square, and sometimes the image becomes magical with that format - those are the ones I'm looking for!
The Milky Way over Beagle Point
06/27/12 Sometime yesterday evening - just as I was crossing our compound with the completed 2013 calendar files and match print under my arm (YIPPIE COYOTE, I'M DONE!!!) - I crossed through the heat barrier for the first time in a while. The temp dropped about 10 degrees instantly, along with the humidity. I was a bit euphoric. at getting the calendar completed, and of course for the temp drop. I got up at 2 this morning and the temp has been going down and is in the upper 60's now.
Early yesterday morning when I stepped out of my car (after driving for a couple of hours) to photograph some prairie wildflowers in the Arkansas River Valley it was already 87 degrees and the heat and humidity hit me like a solid wall. It was still beautiful out there wandering around in the colorful prairie so I was a happy camper. I had already put the new calendar to bed and was sending Pam into town to deliver the files, but I loved the field of blazing star wildflowers so much that I decided to replace one of the calendar photos - so I had to go back and do it all over again. I'm satisfied now that the calendar is complete.
When the sun popped up over the horizon I was pretty much done shooting the flowers, and headed back across the meadow to my car. But something caused me to stop, pull out a different camera and ultra-wide lens, and lay down on my belly in the tall grass/weeds/flowers and resume shooting. I really like one of the photos looking up towards the rising sun, and may replace one of the pictures in the new picture book with it. I also put on a special little lens and ran around for another ten minutes shooting silly pictures of the wildflowers - I have another book project in mind perhaps for those pictures.
Seems like we have a new and slightly odd romantic couple out here at the cabin. The RED scarlet tanager and BLUE Indigo bunting males are always seen together, never far apart. And oh boy to they add to the COLOR of the landscape!
When I got up to drive away at 3am a couple of days ago I discovered not one, but TWO flat tires on my car. I'm hard on tires, although these have lasted for nearly an entire year - they are Hankook ATV tires with special tread to "eject" gravel. And they seem to work since these are the first flats I've had on those tires, probably a record for out here. I never found the issue with one of the tires, but on the other one I found a tiny rock had lodged into not the normal tread, but rather one of those little slits in between the normal tread. While I was never able to remove the stone completely, I was able to break it up enough to be able to get a plug in there and stop the leak. Little bits of gravel can be really sharp and work their way deep into the tire. (Note - American-made Cooper tires have now come out with an almost-identical tread, and so that is what I'll be replacing my tires with.)
I'm headed into town early this morning to deliver the final calendar stuff to our print broker, then I'm headed to the farm supply shop in Jasper for new tires! My pool old car really needs them. The Milky Way is bright and standing tall right now and looking quite beautiful. I continue to be surprised to hear that so many people have never seen the Milky Way - like it is some sort of ghost that only comes out a few times a year. It is just outside the cabin this morning like it is most every clear night - in fact I can see it through the window from where I am typing this. It is one of those things that I can stop and stare at for ours, and even though it really doesn't change much from year to year, I still stop and stare at it!
So the new book and calendar projects are now done - YIPPIE!!! (available in October, but we'll be posting some pre-order info before then, along with galleries of the pictures that were included, which can be ordered as prints at any time).
06/29/12 It was in the upper 50's when I pulled into the water-filling station in St. Paul early yesterday morning. Man it was SO COOL! It got pretty warm during the daytime, but we had high winds out here all day and that keep things almost pleasant outside. In fact, I took the dogs outside and just sat on a bench in our little circle drive in front of the cabin for more than an hour, sipping on a cool drink and enjoying the breezes. Aspen played in the stream, and Lucy sat and watched birds in the branches above. I would normally never go out in the heat of the day and just sit to ENJOY, but it was just quite nice in the shade for some reason.
Today when I took off for a short hike with my backpack just before dawn, it felt more like 90 degrees, although it was really in the mid-70's - it was very humid this morning and I was soaked before I reached the top of the first rise. It felt great to be out exercising - especially now that all my limbs continue to function correctly for the first time in a long while. I've been gradually adding weight to my backpack, and then making a longer hike every few days to help get myself back into condition. I have already lost four or five pounds, and feel much better than I did even a month ago.
It appears that this month of June has been for lovers - at least for birds anyway. I found a bird's nest in a small tree up near the warehouse yesterday and the nest was full of eggs. And just now I saw a pair of bluebirds building a nest in the martin nest in Mom's meadow just below the cabin. I saw the scarlet tanager and Indigo bunting together yesterday as well. Deer fawns are beginning to lose their spots already - good grief, that is early! And I saw a pair of really monster bull elk on the far end of Cave Mountain, and it looked like their velvet antlers had almost completed the growing cycle - at least a month early. Does all this mean that Christmas will come in November?
Here is a sneak peak at the new 2013 calendar, or at least the back cover of it. There will be another picture on the front cover of course, and also NEW this year I have included a bonus 14th picture inside the calendar - I'll post that one later. We have started taking pre-orders for the calendars now, although they won't be available until October. We will post our Holiday Special package soon, so if you are interested in getting both the calendar and the new picture book it would be better to wait until that package is listed - there is always something free that comes with it!