Cloudland Cabin Cam November 30, 7:41am - brisk and windy outside - feels a little like early winter


SLIDE SHOWS this week - Friday in Springfield; Saturday in Bentonville; Sunday in Little Rock; Tuesday in Clarksville...


TIM'S 25 PRINTS OF CHRISTMAS begins December 1st - click here for info


November Print Of The Month - Hawksbill Crag God Beams (only a few days left to order this amazing scene at the special low price - the poster-prints are sold out, however we do have some canvas prints - up to FIVE FEET wide!)

JOURNAL UPDATED on Wednesday the 24th

11/01/12 We got home very late last night from a three-day trip down into the swamps of southeastern Arkansas, in the White River National Wildlife Refuge. Many of the spots we visited are detailed in our Arkansas Nature Lover's Guidebook - all are easy to get to, some right next to the road. We spent a good bit of our time working along a stretch of the refuge that closes on November 1st, and we found some of the most incredible swamp scenes I've ever seen. Actually they were so amazing because they were dry, not swampy at all! This was a rare chance to experience and photograph them in this condition, and let me tell ya, it was like being in another world!

One of the dry areas was at the end of a small lake, and was a forest of fantasy cypress trees, about 35 of them. Each had a giant bottom, or buttress, with interesting giant veins all twisting and coming together to form a smaller tree trunk at the top above our heads. All along the base of these giants was a smooth dry lake bed that was covered with soft cypress leaves that had fallen, and entire floor was glowing rusty-orange. The trees towered overhead and reached for the sunny blue sky. Many of the trees were crowded together, as if they were dancing partners. Other areas were void of any trees at all, just a carpet of smooth glowing cypress leaves. As the wife of a creative book writer remarked (he and his wife were with us part of one day, as were Pam's parents) - it was the perfect place for a dance! One special part of this particular visit was being able to wander among the amazing trees and listen to the writer wax poetic about the experience - it was like being right inside one of his books! This area is closed now to all entry, on foot or by auto, until March. And it will probably be flooded then, so who knows when we'll be able to see it again.

Another spot along this road was a dry lake bed that had just a couple of cypress trees right out in the middle, plus a small pool of water - this pool was all that was left of the large lake - everything else had dried up! Standing there on the dry lake bed and looking across at the lonely cypress trees and the watering hole, it looked just like a scene from the Serengeti plane, and we expected to see a herd of elephants, or a giraffe step out of the forest at any moment. It was indeed a magical place, and mostly a place of nothing, of "negative" space as painters call it.

Oh but when we looked close at that negative space it was FULL of interesting things to see! I spent an hour there one day just pointing my camera straight down - the dry lake bed had cracked, producing those amazing graphical patterns you see in dried mud sometimes. Only before it cracked parts were covered with bright green fresh grass or lichens, or both. And there were many bright leaves that had drifted on the wind and come to rest on the cracked lake bed - there was a special scene literally everywhere I looked down!


I spent another good bit of time just before sunset pointing the camera at the watering hole and the empty lake bed beyond, with a row of cypress trees that lined the opposite "shore" all lit up by the evening sunshine. While I was shooting something kept disturbing the surface of the shallow pool, and I realized there were FISH in there - in fact all the fish left from the big lake were not concentrated in this pool, oh my goodness! Later on we saw a raccoon playing in the water - I guess it was like shooting fish in a barrel to him, although I think many of these fish were too large for his tiny paws!

There are many "campgrounds" throughout the refuge, which are mostly just spots along the road next to a lake to park. Some have picnic tables, but there are no facilities of any kind - and we didn't need any. We camped at a couple different lakes, each having its own distinct personality.

Yesterday we got up really early and drove over to Frazier Lake (no camping there, but I wanted to get a photo before sunrise - access to this lake also closes on November 1st, so yesterday was my last chance to work there this fall). It was still really dark when I set out into the dim-lit forest and made my way along one side of the lake. I wanted to hike about half-way and then wade out into the middle of the lake in hopes of shooting some pre-dawn color. The lake was still there, but probably only two feet deep or less, and filled with cypress trees.

The hiking was easy 100 yards away from the lake shore, but the closer I got to the shore the thicker the brush got - in fact that last 25-50 feet or more along the shore was so thick with brush that I literally could not hike through it standing up - I had to get down on my hands and knees and crawl through. Mind you, I had no idea exactly where I was going, since I had never been to this particular spot before, I was just hoping to find a good spot for a photos. I found it was nearly impossible to tell where I was going through the main woods, but when I turned the flashlight off, I was able to just barely see a bit of moonlight on the lake out through the thick brush, and so I knew I was still near the lake. I went over and crawled to the lake shore twice before I found a spot I liked.

Once I got to the lake, I shined my flashlight around to get my bearing, and son of a gun, about 100 feet away there was a single RED eye shining right back at me! I could not see anything but the eye, and it was only there for a moment, then it disappeared. Hum.

It was too early to start shooting - still an hour or more before sunrise and it was pretty dark. So I backed off into the thick brush and set my camera bag down - the ground was dry there and not "swampy." As I stood there and waited, I got to looking around above me. I was completely surrounded by bushes that were about 10-15 feet tall, and their branches arched over the top of my and formed a kind of roof. As the sky above started to lighten up a bit, I would begin to see detail in the bare branches of the bushes, and in some cases their small leaves. I have been studying great landscape painters lately, and one thing they have all done was/is to closely study their subjects and other surroundings, and so I started to look closely at the natural structure that had engulfed me. There was so much detail - the branches that formed other branches, that formed other branches, and criss-crossed other branches, each inch along the way unique! And if you really look close, tree and bush branches are not straight, or always gracefully curved - there are a lot of erratic lines and shapes as they grow and form their world.

And then, all of a sudden, there was a single spot of pink. TIME TO GET TO WORK!

I gathered up my camera and tripod, and waded out into the shallow lake - holy cow it was COLD!!! (air temp was about 40 degrees, but that water felt more like wintertime water). I was able to wade as far out as I wanted to, but I soon realized the simple fact of me being in the water could run any reflection picture - even the slightest movement on my part would send ripples across the lake and back again. I did manage to find a tiny island of sorts - actually just the base of a cypress tree that had enough room for me to stand on its edge out of the water, with my tripod legs sunk keep into the mud below.

I spent the next hour attached to that single cypress tree - the light and cloud patterns changed constantly during that time, and I kept shooting and shooting. It was one of those times when you hold your breath and speak in hushed tones because you are afraid of messing up the scene somehow - it was quite beautiful! Needless to say, by the time the beautiful light had come and gone I was exhausted! But I also had a lot of pictures - mission accomplished!

My lovely bride was with me much of the time while I was tromping around in the swamps shooting, but she also took off on her own adventures with camera and sketch pad in hand, working on scenes that might one day become a Pam Ernst oil painting. She was also doing research work for our scenic campgrounds guidebook. I seem to get so much more accomplished when she is around for some reason!

We also paid a visit to the largest living thing in Arkansas, the Champion bald cypress tree. I've been there a dozen times (including documenting its location and route for the Arkansas Nature Lover's Guidebook - back then there was no trail or marker, and only a handful of folks even knew it existed or where it was). This is one of the most amazing spots in all of Arkansas. And it seems that each visit brings new discoveries. We found several different spots along the base of the monster that were actually BLOW HOLES - there was air pouring out of them from inside the tree! I know that caves can breathe - depending on the outside temperature the air will go in or out - but I had no idea a TREE can breathe! The holes were really just folds in the base of the tree that went deep inside the tree. One of them had a tiny plant growing on the outside, and that plant was in constant motion, even though there was no wind. Upon closer inspection we found there was a wind blowing from within the tree, and when we reached inside the tree, that wind was COLD! How weird!

The cypress trees are not peaking color wise, and may not this year at all. In a perfect year they will turn a brilliant ORANGE, but it looks like this year is more normal, with the cypress turning rust colors. You can find some beautiful color though if you happen to find great light - that's what it is all about. For me though, our amazing swamps offer so much more than just fall color, and I always find them attractive and interesting and I hope to make many more trips down south in the years to come.

I will post a few swamp photos later in the week as I get some processed. Just a note for those who ask about equipment - I am working mostly with little point-and-shoot cameras these days, and the photos you see posted here will have been shot with them. One of my next coffee table picture books will be shot entirely with point-and-shoot cameras - these days they are all that a photographer really needs for this type of work. I am able to make canvas prints up to 30" x 40" and perhaps even larger if I am very careful when shooting and use the best techniques. We have entered the age of photography where the equipment that you use has little to do with the quality of the photo - join one of my workshops to learn how to make incredible photos with just about any camera! (Note: sorry, but I am not able recommend specific camera models - there are hundreds of them!)

Here are a few snapshots from the swamps:







We will begin today to move into hyper mode around here with slide program and open house season fast approaching - oh my goodness, our first slide show is NEXT FRIDAY in Hot Springs! Then Mountain Home on Saturday (10th), Springdale on Sunday (11th), etc. We've got a TON of work to do between now and then to get ready - in fact I have to sit down and create the slide program that will be shown at all of our shows this fall - Pam has been previewing potential music for months - that is always the toughest part.

Since we will be on the road so much in the coming months, our trusted friend, Joseph, will be moving into our guest quarters here at the cabin to watch over things while we are gone. He lived here last year and did a great job. We feel so much better leaving the cabin in such good hands. When we take trips at other time of the year we have the famous "Bullet Bob" Robinson cabin sitting, but this stretch of time is too long for him - he has a lot of other places to travel to himself! But Joseph is a perfect match for extended stay. And just a note for any folks who with to visit our canvas gallery - Joseph will not have the keys to get in! The gallery will be open for four holiday open houses in November and December, but otherwise is by appointment only when we are here - send an e-mail if you are interested - although do note that the gallery will not be set up for viewing until November 17th.

Looks like the break of day on a brand new month is upon us - and I can see a bit of color still here at the cabin. I'll take a picture to post at the top here in a few minutes when sunshine arrives.

EVENING UPDATE. It is late tonight and I have been working on the new slide program over in the gallery. During a break I stepped outside to soak in some nighttime air, and oh my gosh, I was hit with the most pleasant aroma ever - 'tis the fragrance of fall! Each season has its own, and I cherish them all. But autumn will always fill my heart - especially at night. Seems like the air comes to life at night - it doesn't have to compete with all that sunshine getting in the way. But tonight we do have a light show as well - the 3/4 moon has just risen above the far ridge to the east, and is glowing orange-yellow. There is a peacefulness to the entire wilderness tonight that is creeping into my bones. I guess part of that comes from the fact that I have just completed the first song in the slide show - matching up all the photos, with their movement and colors and graphic detail - with the rhythm of the music. Remember this night when you come to see the show later this month or next - it was born on a still fall evening, as a barred owl perched in a tall tree nearby, watching the very same moon...

11/03/12 There are stars hugging the horizon tonight - it is crispy cool and clear, and the Milky Way is shining bright overhead. I've been working inside these past few days, but every time I stick my head out the door during the day I am amazed at HOW MUCH incredible COLOR we still have right now. Oh my goodness, it seems like fall is just going on and on, with some trees getting more colorful every day. We've got red oaks and white oaks surrounding the cabin that are the most colorful I've ever seen oaks. Lots of great maples too, and some of these late bloomers are pure yellow. I hear that a lot of the Ozarks are blazing away, as well as other parts of Arkansas - also plenty of bare trees, which always makes for an interesting combination.

I've had a couple of Cloudland Moments this weekend. After getting started with the slide program the other night, I worked through most of the night and came to a point where I burned a complete copy of the show, with images, music, and "movement" in place - a first draft for sure, but if the computer plug were pulled I would have a copy to show to everyone for our programs. I had no idea what time that was, but when I pulled the jump drive copy from the computer and headed out the door towards the cabin to file a secure copy away, I was simply blown away by the scene that met me. It was about 20 minutes before sunrise, but it looked like the entire place was on fire - on fire with ORANGE AND YELLOW from not only all the trees blazing around me, but the predawn-sky was equally as brilliant - and it suddenly hit me - that I had finished the slide program, a full week early, which is certainly a record for me! And the special joy I felt from the scene before me was matched by the power of the program I had just completed. It had been more than a year in the making, and it finally all came together in a way that I was able to sit back and enjoy. I would make several revisions to the program during the weekend, and I believe I have it just about ready to show - FRIDAY will be our first program of the year - in Hot Springs Village. Then onto Mountain Home on Saturday, Springdale on Sunday, Conway next Tuesday, and North Little Rock next Thursday. I CAN'T WAIT to show this program to you!

I spent the rest of the weekend working on making prints for our holiday open houses. Part of the job is deciding what images to print, how large, and which media to use (canvas, black mat print, metal, or framed print?). There are standard images we always reprint and keep in stock - those are easy choices. Any new image is a tough call because not all images look great on canvas (and the only way to find out is to print it), plus it takes a lot of time and money investment to create a canvas print - preparing the file for the special gallery wrap that I do; extra time printing and hanging to cure (sometimes a spot on the canvas or bad thread ruins the entire print); then I have to spray the canvas with several coats of a special clear varnish for protection; then we have to build the frames and finally stretch them - the entire process takes several days for each image since they have to sure in between stewps. Some images from the new book jump out - like the front and back covers - and I've been printing many of those from inside the new book. And then now and then I come across an image quite by accident - but really by design.

Late this afternoon I was digging through a folder of pictures from a recent trip and as soon as I opened the folder I saw THE image. The same thing happened as I was driving one of dozens of back roads this past month, searching for fresh compositions and seeking magical light. I came to a screeching halt at one corner - literally ran from the car with my camera to get the picture before the light changed. As luck would have it, the wind started to blow as soon as I got my camera and tripod set up. I stood there patiently waiting, and waiting, and waiting. The scene was a tangle of trees and color, color, and more color, from deep green to bright red. There was so much detail in all those leaves that I just had to have complete calm. 35 minutes later the wind died down and I got about a dozen photos before the breezes picked up again - but I GOT THE SHOT! When the five-foot-tall canvas print of that image came off the printer today, all my work from this fall seemed worth it - WOW, it is one gorgeous print!!! The final stage of the journey that I begin every time I pick up a camera will be to know that someone will hang this wonderful scene on their wall to enjoy for a long time. Look for it at our open houses. (I also made a large canvas print of the God Beams At Hawksbill Crag - double WOW! - and of both the other God Beams images I posted last month. Still a lot more printing to do. We need a larger gallery...)

11/06/12 We've been down in the swamps for a couple of days - one last photo trip of the year. The weather has been just about perfect - some sunshine, some clouds, and even a little bit of rainfall. While the cypress trees don't seem to be peaking this year, there is so much wonderful stuff to see and do in the swamps right now I consider the very long drive to reach my favorite swamps as time well spent.


I got to spent the last hour of the day in the middle of a cypress knees forest - a spot that is normally a couple of feet deep with water, but not is mostly dry. The knees themselves are such a delight to the eye, especially when they are "naked" like they are now and fully visible. Plus the towering cypress and tupelo trees above have been dropping their leaves and so the ground around the knees is carpeted with this golden furry glow. It was magical just being there. And to top it off, I could see out into the small lake where the knees live, which is lined with cypress trees all glowing in the evening light and reflecting on the calm lake waters. I know most folks consider "swamps" to be a dreadful and frightening place, but I find them quite beautiful and serene - and, well, I'll say it again - magical. A fairyland of color and shapes and emotion. And while summertime is probably not the best time to visit a swamp, I find fall to be a perfect time - things just seem to slow down and smiles come easy.


I must make a confession about yesterday morning. I had planned to get up early and hike into a lake one of the foresters at the White River National Wildlife Refuge had told me about. It was not a long hike, but I had never been there before and did not know what to expect, so I was going to leave at least an hour before sunrise. I was up and wide awake at 2:30am, but figured that might be a little too early to pack up and head out, so I laid back down. The next thing I knew it was 5:30 and the break of dawn was happening - oh my goodness! I realized that I would not have time to hike to the new lake area and catch the best light, so I just said what the heck, and grabbed my camera gear and started to hike along the shores of the lake we were camped at (Buck Lake).

The first color in the sky began to appear just a few minutes later, and I picked up the pace. But I didn't have to do far until I found a nice big cypress just standing in the water and ready to pose. The sky color advanced with each breath that I took, and two minutes later I started taking pictures. By 6am the color had come and gone and I was left with a gray day - still a half hour before sunrise. But since it was mostly cloudy, there would not really be a sunrise.


I packed a little more gear and headed on over to the new lake I had been told about. It was easy hiking across flat forest areas, the ground soft and quiet, the air still and fresh. When I reached the lake I found it lined with cypress trees of all shapes and colors. I spent the next couple of hours just wondering around the outside of the lake along the shoreline and found so many neat and unique individual trees that I could hardly count them all. There were many hollow ones that I could stand up inside of - one had a base of what seemed like 20 feet wide.

The forest along one side of the new lake was wide open with little underbrush - just lots and lots of trees. The other side was quite different, with a tangle of vines and brush and cypress knees everywhere - much slower going - but I got to spend more time looking at the details of the forest, and there were a lot of nice things to see. I eventually wandered away to a slough that was mostly dried up but had some really great cypress trees growing in the middle.

The light continued to be pretty bad so I didn't take many pictures, but I must tell ya it was one of the most pleasant hikes I'd ever taken in the swamps before - I could have spent all day wandering around.



When I got back to the van I set up my camera to shoot a scene just across the lake that had a couple of bright yellow maple trees in it - along with a couple of large cypress trees too. We had started seeing some maples mixed into the forest, and I don't recall seeing them here before - probably because I had always been here too early in the season for the maples to be peak color. They really added a nice splash of color and design to the swamp scene.

Then I came across the "beaver trapper" for the refuge. He is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet, and he is one of those guys that you could tell really loves his job. (Come to think of it, everyone I've met on this refuge has been wonderful, like they really enjoy working there - says a lot for the place.) Seems that the beaver population is getting pretty high, and they become a threat to the cypress trees. They normally don't actually cut down cypress trees - although we saw a couple trees that had been killed and knocked over by them. But he explained that beavers will damn up and flood some areas to the extent that the cypress knees are kept underwater, which then robs the trees of much-needed oxygen that the knees provide the conduit for. When the knees are underwater all the time, the trees die.

There is a great deal of science that goes into beaver management in a huge area like this refuge, and I can't imagine the size of job he has. What I found most interesting though, was the fact that this lifelong resident of the bayous along the Mississippi River had spent much of his younger days on the Buffalo River, in fact his family was good friends with and frequently stayed with Granny Henderson near Big Bluff. Later in life he started at the lower end of the Buffalo River and worked his way upstream to Ponca and then back down again - a trip that lasted six weeks! Oh my goodness I bet he has miles and miles of stories! It is so refreshing to meet such a genuine person - he's the sort of guy you want to seek out whenever you can and just listen.

Later in the day it began to rain, which can turn a gray day into a beautiful day in the swamps - at least on either end of the rain - when it first begins and after it ends - the middle part with heavy rain coming down is time to go take a nap!
It will probably be next spring before we make it back down to the swamps, but I hope we get to spend many more days there in the years to come, and perhaps we'll get to run into the beaver trapper again!



11/07/12 It is crispy-cool early this morning and feels GREAT outside! But it is a bit noisy. As I walked through the dim moonlight over to the gallery at 4-ish this morning all I could hear was crunch, crunch, CRUNCH! We've had a pile of leaves falling this past week, and with low humidity levels they are pretty dry and crunchy.

While my lovely bride was working away at her computer yesterday she felt a tug on her pant leg. It was Aspen, and with these puppy-dog-eyes he looked up at her and said he wanted to go on a hike in the warm afternoon sunshine. It remains day-by-day with him, but sometimes he just wakes up and is ready to go take on the world. So she came and got me out of the spray booth in the gallery and we took a leisurely stroll through the still-spectacular colors of the forest, Aspen grinning all the way. We had to prop him up a time or two when his rear end hit the ground, or he could not get over a small limb in the way, but just seeing him outside was a real treat, especially when that knobby tail of his got to wagging back and forth.

As we turned the corner of the loop trail that we always hike and started back towards the cabin, we spotted a bit of color that was out of place - it was a pair of aster wildflowers, clinging to each other and just beaming happiness in the evening glow. Wildflowers in the late autumn forest? In Arkansas, you bet! I've said it before that fall is just like another springtime here, with each tree producing thousands of beautiful "blooms." And wildflowers too! It was a magical moment for all of us to being the forest for perhaps the last time together. Just a simple boy and his trusted dog, and his lifemate by his side...


I was up at 4 again this morning and just completed the first batch of black mat prints that we'll have at all of our programs this fall, and also at our four open houses. Since we normally only include one print of any given scene at a program, your best selection is always going to be to arrive early to look through them. OR if you know of a particular image that you want, you can let me know ahead of time and I'll get it printed and ready for you to pick up at the show. The SPECIAL SALE PRICE for these stunning black mat prints at shows and our open houses will be $50 plus sales tax - and amazing deal!

The world premiere of our new program will be Friday in Hot Springs Village, Saturday at Mountain Home, Sunday at Springdale, and Tuesday in Conway - hope to see ya there, early!

11/12/12 We've had a fun beginning to our marathon slide program schedule - our most aggressive ever! Hot Springs Village was first last Friday, but it was after 11pm before we finally got things put away for the day. We were up early Saturday and made a run to a packed house in Mountain Home, and another late night back home. Yesterday we had another terrific group of folks at the Shiloh Museum in Springdale, and we finally got to shut everything down at a good hour by 8pm last night. I'm due in Fayetteville early this morning to do a TV interview, then I'll be back home this afternoon to catch up on all the print order from the past few days. My lovely bride has been trying to keep up with everything but will have a very long day today processing orders and getting ready for our next show tomorrow in Conway.

We have transformed our cargo van into "the bookmobile" - it can hold up to 3,000 pounds of books and program equipment, and we've been able to take a lot more stuff with us to each program as a result - hopefully we won't ever run out of any book during a program! We also use the van for meals and coffee, and for a 5-minute break for me to just sit there and do absolutely nothing before a program begins. And yesterday morning we awoke to discover NO WATER at the cabin, so we had to use the van to take showers before our program in Springdale - yea BOOKMOBILE!

Pam's parents have been coming with us to each program and they are worth their weight in gold - it is so GREAT to have such reliable help! (AND we've had some VERY SPECIAL surprise guests at two of our shows - THANKS for making the effort and driving long distances to get there!)

We're headed to the Conway library tomorrow (Tuesday), and here is a tip for anyone who wants to buy books at our special discounted sale prices at the programs - GET THERE EARLY! We are always set up at least 30 minutes before the program begins, and that is when there may not be a line at all - I'm always happy to autograph any books and personalize them - bring your Christmas list! And if you need to purchase a quantity of either books or the new 2013 Arkansas calender, let us know in advance and we can have them all boxed up and ready for you - there is no limit to how many you can get at our special price ($20 each book, which includes sales tax!).

OK, 'nuff program talk. We have been had huge winds these last few days, and our house sitter, Joseph, has reported hearing the old log cabin moaning and groaning under the strain - and seeing deck furniture fly by the window a time or two! Joseph has been another great asset for us this year - he will be living at the cabin for a while and taking care of things while we are gone. But sometimes he just sits on the back deck and soaks in all the beauty of the place, and that is fine with us - probably keeps the deck from blowing away!

I took Aspen out for a late-night hike a couple of days ago and the wind knocked him down flat on the ground several times - that's how hard the wind has been blowing! And, of course, along with the wind has come leaves glowing - billions of still-colorful leaves have been taking flight and piling up all over the place - it has been a leaf fall of epic proportions. And this morning as I went out and hiked over to the gallery, the thick piles of leaves were frozen and it was really noisy! The wind has died down somewhat so perhaps the big blow is over for now.

Speaking of the gallery, we're in the last stretches of canvas print making this week, and our first of four holiday open houses will be this coming Saturday from 10-4pm All of our CANVAS prints will be on SALE FOR HALF PRICE! Plus we will have a large selection of our black mat prints for $50 each (all items plus sales tax), and of course we'll have all of our books and calendars at the special program prices too. Oh yes, and we'll have GRANNY'S HOMEMADE COOKIES - YIPPIE! More info on that later.

So I'm off to town and then back here to spend the rest of the day in the print room. Our two programs in central Arkansas this week will be some of the largest of the season, so we're hopeful you will be able to join us for one or even both of them - 'tis Monday, my favorite day of the week, and I hope you have a GRAND WEEK!

11/13/12 When I first stepped outside this morning at 3-something the cold air literally took my breath away. But then a few steps later I found myself pausing to breathe that wonderful air deep into my lungs. The crispness energized me in a way I don't think you can get any other way. It is pure air - everything else has been frozen out of it!

And the cool temps (in the upper 20s) make clear air, and so the bare trees all around me show up so much better, all silhouetted against a sparkling black sky filled with a zillion stars. Where is the moon? I think it is hiding just on the edge of earth enjoying the very same show as I!

Crunch, crunch, crunch. I don't know why frozen leaves seem so FRESH to me. It is like leaves have nine lives. They first come to life in the early spring when they first emerge with that brilliant green that can only come with newborn leaves. Later in the summer they become a rich, pure, deep green that likes to dance with the heavy fog that often engulfs them. Then in the fall they become filled with pure hues of orange and yellow and red, and they beam life and color. And when the wind blows, at first they paint the landscape with so many millions brush strokes of color in motion; and when they finally break free of their limbs, they take part in one of the most spectacular events in all of nature - leaf fall. Eventually they all join hands and carpet the forest floor, creating another stunning landscape. And now, they lay silent on that same forest floor, rimmed with pure white frost. And I pass by, bringing them back to life one last time. But wait, there is still MORE! As each leaf matures fully during the winter they break down organically and melt right into the earth, creating soil, their final destination. And then a worm comes along and passes parts of the leaf through their system - oh what a life a leaf has!

We're loading up the book mobile here in a few hours and headed to Conway for our big slide program there tonight at 7pm (public library). We'll put up the big screen so everyone can see our 124 new images shown 12 feet wide. If you are coming and want to buy books, the best time is before the show begins - like at 6:30. All books will be on sale, along with our calendars, and the largest selection of Black Mat Prints we've ever taken to a show before. We're hoping to fill the seats, so if you know someone in the Conway area, tell them about us - as always it is FREE and open to the public! We'll do it all again at Windsong Church in North Little Rock at 6:30pm Thursday night - show up at 6 for the best book sale in the state!

Oh, and I must tell you a little secret. Late last night while trying to figure out what to print for our upcoming open houses (the first one is this coming Saturday - 10am - 4pm), I went a little crazy and started to make prints that are not normal for me - including several where I took a narrow slice out of the middle of a horizontal image and made it a tall, skinny vertical. I do believe that once we are done with all the print making, spraying, frame building, and canvas stretching (which won't happen until about 9:55am on Saturday), you will find a colorful wonderland of big and beautiful canvas prints to wander through during the open house. And the best part - they will all be on sale at HALF PRICE! (Pam's mom is bringing a large selection of her famous homemade cookies too!)

It is nearly 5am now and I will wander on over to the print room and get back to work. With all those stars still up and shining so nicely to light my way, I think I'll take a little detour and visit a few more trees. Crunch, crunch, crunch...

11/14/12 It is crisp and cool and just beautiful outside tonight! I just spent about 30 minutes inching my way through the forest, and I think I only went 100 yards. But it was 100 yards well spent. The trees are mostly naked now, and are standing tall and stately against that coal black sky that is filled with a zillion BRIGHT, twinkling stars. The only light for travel is starlight. Starlight is good, soft and gentle, and there is just enough of it to make out the trees, the rocks, a log across my path, and the hillside. I sat down up against one of those big logs I came upon, settled my rump down into the soft bed of leaves alongside it, and huddled up for warmth. I saw a shooting star through the trees above. Then two. And three. When the sky is so crisp and clear like tonight you can just sit back and see lots of shooting stars. Although I didn't have much to wish about - I already have more than I ever wanted or deserved, much more. I came to a very large tree, and wrapped my arms around it and the tree was so large that I didn't even make it half way around. The thick bark on this giant of a tree was soft and crumbled when I grabbed at it. This is the sort of tree that squirrels love to scamper up I bet since their tiny claws could dig in and get a good grip. Squirrels are slowly returning to the High Ozarks - my lovely bride saw one on our deck yesterday.

I highly recommend spending time in the woods at night - turn off your flashlight and just sit there for a while and let the landscape come to life around you as your eyes adjust. It really isn't dark - it is just too bright inside. Bring along a friend and sit back-to-back and just listen. You will come to know the earth a little bit better each time...

11/19/12 There is a slow, soaking, cold rain coming down early this morning - the crunch-crunch-crunch steps through the forest are now hushed, and all you can hear are gentle pitter-patter of raindrops. The landscape is liking the rain, and as daylight slowly creeps in I can tell there is a wide grin out here. Soon we will get more raindrops, and they will join together and flow over the land and produce waterfalls - the best waterfall season of all is just around the corner! I can see a few baby clouds being born in the canyons below - while the trees are going dormant, the landscape will come to life with motion.

We've been on the road a LOT this past week, and a special thanks to our cabin guest who is here for the winter again this year - our cousin Joseph. He LOVES it here, and is great to have around to tend to the pups and cats while we are away, and just to look after the place in general. The other night when we got home real late from a program and it was cold, he even had a fire going in the fireplace for us!

We're headed to Ft. Smith today for a program at 7pm, then we'll have our 2nd open house at the gallery here on Saturday, then a program in Fayetteville the following day on Sunday the 25th, then down to Benton on the 26th. Our "bookmobile" van has been just wonderful, and allows us to carry more books to the programs and makes loading and unloading easier - as does Pam's dad, who does most of the heavy lifting for us!

We had our family Thanksgiving at granny's house yesterday since we'll mostly be here working for the rest of this week. I know everyone looks forward to the big spread at a feast like this, but all I really want is the turkey, smashed 'taters, and CHOCOLATE pie! And I filled up yesterday on all of those enough to last quite a while (was it OK that I had four pieces of pie?).

I LOVE to give these slide programs - especially when there are a lot of questions to answer. But sometimes it is tough to drive by great scenes that we pass along the way to and from. My favorite mode of travel is by foot, through the forests, meadows, and swamps. And this time of the year is so great for hiking and just bushwhacking around - no bugs or snakes or other hikers, plus we'll have lots of great waterfalls flowing soon. And we are entering the best season for sky color before sunrise and after sunset as well - I'm not sure what it is about the quality of the sky in the winter, but Arkansas skies are among the best in the country - you just have to get up early or stay out late enough to experience them.

It is getting lighter now and I need to begin the process of loading up the bookmobile for the show in Ft. Smith tonight. For those who will be attending, note that we will have a large selection of our special Black Mat Prints on hand with new lighting so you can see them well - and they are all priced at the very low program price of only $50 each - one of the best deals you can find on a fine art print!

11/21/12 The alarm was set to go off at 4 this morning but I was up and around before then and just came inside a moment ago from doing a short walk-around the cabin outside - it is a GLORIOUS early morning in the mountains today, with the dark sky filled with bright stars! I was up late last night working up in the warehouse on a large order for the Bedfords camera stores, and the forest scene was quite different.

Conditions were what I consider perfect for a nighttime ramble in the woods last night - the moon was fully half full and the sky quite clear. I find it much easier to see with a half moon than with a full moon because the contrasts between the shadows and moonlit spots are closer to the same brightness. Although it was the shadows that kept me in the woods longer - I took the long way up to the warehouse and back to the cabin again a couple of hours later. Tree shadows. Oh my goodness they were just amazing! The trees are fully undressed for winter now and they cast sharp shadow silhouettes in the moonlight. I found myself with head pointed down and following the shadows of individual trees from base all the way out to the tips of the highest branches. Sometimes trees mingled and it was tough to figure out which tree was which by their shadows, or indeed even how many trees there were sharing the same shadow. And I discovered it was sometimes quite interesting to study the shadow first, then look up and see the actual tree - they always matched of course, but sometimes the slope of the hillside caused the shadow - or the tree - to be much different from each other!

How many folks do you know that spend their nighttime hours out in the middle of the wilderness at night studying tree shadows? Thank goodness that my lovely bride understands (?) and accepts my weirdness!

Pam will be taking this order into Bedfords this morning so they will be distributing the new books and calendars to all of their stores this week, along with our other picture books and some guidebooks too. I don't believe I ever give a camera recommendation without the word "Bedfords" in the same breath - they are the biggest and best camera store in the region, and is where I go to shop.

Speaking of late nights, we didn't get home and unpacked from our Ft. Smith program until 1am yesterday morning. It was a great crowd there as usual, and we enjoyed seeing old friends and meeting new ones (I heard there were 200 folks there). In a most unusual move for me, we arrived in Ft. Smith a wee bit early and I fed my lovely bride some Whole Hog BBQ, which is located right across the highway from Grace Community Church. We normally only have time for a quick snack at a drive-thru when on the road like this, so it was a welcome change. On our way home from the Ft. Smith show, we stopped at the Hastings store in Ft. Smith and restocked their shelves with the new books and calendars as well, so you can now go to Hastings and find everything on your Christmas shopping list! We will be back in Ft. Smith for two more slide shows this year as well - if you missed the first one, we hope to see ya at either the Huckabee Nature Center or the library.

And speaking of libraries, we'll be at the Fayetteville library this coming SUNDAY at 2pm, and then at the Saline County Library the very next day in Benton at 6:30. We'll be set up early for both programs with all of our books and calendars and Black Mat Prints on sale.

By the way, I keep hearing from folks after these shows that they really wanted to hoop or holler about one particular photo or another but were afraid to disturb the mood with a vocal outburst. Usually if one person has a feeling like that - others around them do to - and I assure you that everyone enjoys the show a lot more if folks feel free to express themselves while the photos are moving across the screen - so GO AHEAD AND HOOP AND HOLLER if you want to during the show! It really does give the program more meaning. Boos and hisses are welcome too.

Yesterday we had very warm temps here, and while I spent most of the day over in the print room printing and spraying canvas prints for our upcoming open house this Saturday, I did get to spend a couple of hours outside - and up on the roof of the cabin. It was quite warm in fact for a late November day, and really felt great. Our caretaker and I did a bit of rewiring of our security system here to make it fully solar powered in case of power failure. We don't really have anything of value inside the cabin for someone to steal, but at least now everything would be documented day or night if something were to happen. Joseph seemed to really like the view from high up on the roof - it is the best of all here - and know we know where to find him if he turns up missing - napping up on the roof of the cabin!

I also got to take the pups on an unexpected but wonderful hike around the loop trail - and met up with my lovely bride who was hiking out to get the mail (a three-mile round-trip). I always enjoy the edges of the seasons like what is going on right now - the deep leaves in the forest are so fresh and crispy, and meadow grasses have gone to seed and are sending out billions of tiny seeds on the winds to repopulate the earth. It is amazing how a field of brown grasses turns nearly white almost overnight - that's the grasses going to seed. And if you stop and look close you will find all the downy white stuff on the grasses - the white stuff or fluff is what catches the wind and carries the tiny dark seed that is attached at the base.

It is just a DELIGHTFUL time to be out in the woods and meadows right now, day or night. We wish you the greatest holiday this week, and hope you get to spend it with family and loved ones. And we also hope you get to take a break from the rush to get OUTSIDE with them to soak in some of our great outdoors and give thanks for all that we have - and for all that you have helped to protect! And save a little turkey for me!

FYI, we'll have the gallery open three more days between now and Christmas, but they will be much less crowded and lower key than or Open House last weekend. I'll be on hand to show the canvas prints, answer questions and autograph books, and you are free to linger and enjoy the atmosphere as long as you like! And of course all canvas prints will be on sale for half price or more, plus books and calendars at program prices. (see all of the canvas prints in our online gallery here - PLUS WE WILL HAVE FRESH HOMEMADE COOKIES FROM PAM'S MOM!

Oops, one other final note. While we only have TWO copies of the Hawksbill Crag poster print left, we will have a very special promotion going in in December. It will be called THE 25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS. Each day we will select a special photograph and offer it as a limited-edition, fine art, archival poster print that will ONLY BE AVAILABLE FOR ORDER on that one day! The number of prints available for a each photo will be equal to the number of prints ordered on that day - that's all, no more poster prints will be made of that particular scene. So let's say you like the print we post on December 3rd and place your order and no one else does, you would get print #1/1 (or #1/3, etc.). Each limited-edition print will be priced at just $99.95. I'll set up a special page and make sure to link to it in the December Journal. Stay tuned...

ALL OUR OPEN HOUSE CANVAS PRINTS ARE NOW VIEWABLE ONLINE - click here to see them - PLUS you can reserve any of these at the special price and pick them up later - just send me an email.

11/24/12 It is SPECTACULAR outside early this morning - WOW!!! The skies are crystalline with a zillion twinkling stars above (the moon has already set so you can see a lot more stars then during the middle of the night). And you can see your breath - it feels and smells just like a freezer. Yet the actual air temp is a lot higher than the 18 degree predicted low - in fact it is just barely below freezing here at the cabin - more like 29 degrees. As usual the nighttime trees are beautiful as they stand tall against the starry sky. And it is particularly interesting to me this morning as a neat group of tall trees just to the west of the cabin is standing directly in front of Orion, the great hunter - that group of stars is hanging low in the sky and beginning to set behind the trees.

We had a terrific visit with family and friends during the week, but it is time to get back to work today. Our 2nd of 4 open houses begins here in a couple of hours, and I'm excited to show off a couple of new canvas prints that I just made up this week, plus about 65 other canvas prints we will have on display. Oh yes, and Pam's mom slaved away yesterday baking fresh homemade cookies for everyone! We did not have a Black Friday sale yesterday, nor will have a cyber Monday sale on Monday - but all of our canvas prints are ON SALE at HALF PRICE. And if you can't make it to the Open House, you can preview all of the canvas prints in our online gallery and RESERVE one or more for yourself - you would just need to come pick them up sometime between now and Christmas.

And we'll have our big slide program in FAYETTEVILLE tomorrow, November 25th at the public library - book sales begin at 1:30 with the program to follow at 2pm. We'll also have a selection of our special Black Mat Prints on had too. And we'll be at the Saline County Library in Benton the next day, Monday, at 6:30pm. Hope you can make it to one of these shows.

And we hope you are fat and happy this weekend - get out of your cars or living rooms and step outside during the day or night and breathe deep and ENJOY our wonderful outdoors! The photo below is of predawn in Boxley Valley Thursday.


11/27/12 We got home in the wee hours this morning from our slide program in Benton. What a joy it was to see so many smiling faces! Especially since it was a dreary and dismal evening to be out and about with the rain and cool temps - THANKS to everyone in fact who has attended our slide programs this past week - it was a treat to see all of you!

Our cousin, Joseph, is living at the cabin again this year, and it looks like this might be a problem building. He loves it so much here that we don't think he is ever going to leave, ha, ha! He went home last week to be with his immediately family over Thanksgiving so got his family fix for a while, but he will be here for at least the rest of the year and probably on into next year. The pups like him, and the cats are always standing at attention at the front door when he first gets up - waiting for breakfast! The only issue right now is that his room is directly below my computer station at the cabin, so when I get up early I'm afraid of disturbing him - but I think he gets up early too as I often see a light in his room - he is taking some online courses and spends a lot of time on the computer.

It is early winter now in the High Ozarks, and the naked trees just seem to glow in the mornings and pick up any little bit of color that the new sun happens to toss their way. I always love to watch the very first few minutes of the day as the color of bark and branches begins glowing brilliant orange and red, then slowly progresses towards yellows, and finally, their natural daylight color. If I happen to look away for a minute I miss it! It is kind of like witnessing the fall color change in hyper-fast time.

The nighttime air is so clear and crisp right now, and the leaves crunchy - guess it is the "C" season! And while we got a good rainstorm last night down south in Benton, and the roads were filled with water most of the way home, once we hit Cave Mountain Road everything was dry and dusty. Joseph said we did not get a single drop of rain yesterday. But I know the rains are coming, and soon the creeks will be filled again and the waterfalls flowing. I just have this "feeling" you know - I bet we have a terrific waterfall winter and spring season, which will be especially satisfying after all the dryness.

We are in recycle and catch up mode today and tomorrow - my lovely bride will be working overtime to make sure all orders are processed and shipped, and I'll be making more prints for the programs, filling orders, and also getting ready for our next open house at the gallery on December 8th. We have FIVE slide programs in the next week, and several of those we really need a LOT of folks to come out and attend - especially those in Dardanelle (this Thursday), Bentonville (Saturday), Little Rock (Sunday), and Clarksville (next Tuesday). Our shows in Springfield on Friday are filling up. We hope that most of you will be able to make it to one of the programs this week - or if not, please tell everyone you know to come out and spend an enjoyable evening or afternoon looking at the spectacular beauty that is Arkansas!

AND be sure to stay tuned for our big announcement of the TIM'S 25 DAYS (prints) OF CHRISTMAS that will begin on December 1st!

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