CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - OCTOBER 2011 Journal Archives
Cloudland remote Cabin Cam, October 30, 7:40am - sunrise and lots of wind!
SLIDE PROGRAM IN FT. SMITH this Thursday, November 3rd
CANVAS GALLERY OPEN HOUSE November 12th
FALL COLOR REPORT, October 30th - it is past peak now in the central High Ozarks in many areas, with leaves blown off by storms and wind. Still lots of color though, depending on the light direction.
New Arkansas Waterfall Guidebook has arrived - now shipping!
Updated Monday the 31st
10/13/11 It is cool and clear and quiet outside early this morning - my internal alarm clock went off around 3am and so I've been up for a while and finally finding a few moments to write a bit. I say quiet - that is most of the time. Every now and then there is a loud BANG and then a lot of noise as another acorn smashes into the tin roof of the cabin or carport and rolls off to the ground - I think the acorns are harder and heavier this year than ever, at least they seem to be making much more noise! Out in the woods the forest floor remains mostly acorn-free, but every once in a while I come across hundreds of acorns from a single big oak tree above.
We continue to scramble to get caught up on book and print orders that came in while we were gone, plus just doing our normal work load - things seem to pile up higher and deeper when we are gone these days, although our recent trip out west was the longest we have ever been gone since getting married almost 11 years ago. But it is great fun too - I'm kind of weird that way in that I LOVE packing orders for folks! I sat down a few weeks ago and figured out that I actually spend more time packing orders than I do taking pictures (potential nature photographer wanna-bes take note - you spend precious little time taking pictures and 99% of your time doing other business chores!).
We have some wonderful color here in the upper Buffalo River area right now, but the hills are still mostly green. Some of the maple trees, hickories and especially black gums have brilliant rich colors ranging from bright yellow and orange to deep red. Sassafras and sumac and poison ivy and Virginia creeper are quite colorful too. But the overall landscape in many places still looks green.
Yesterday morning we had a nice soaking rain with fog and wet conditions and I was able to get out and spent an hour or two shooting in my favorite maple groves near our cabin. It is funny in that I've photographed this particular stand of maple trees many dozens of times over the years but the trees this week that are really lit up I've never pointed a camera at before. It was a great pleasure and honor for me to be able to spend that time with these beautiful trees in all their glory. It will be probably another week before the entire stand of maples reaches peak, and I look forward to many more hours with them.
We spent a couple of weeks on the road and visited national parks and other scenic areas in New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and even a moment or two in snow Colorado on the way back. This was mostly a photo trip, but also the chance to spend some quality time with good friends. And we got to EAT our way across the west too - they have some amazing food out there, especially Mexican in Santa Fe and BBQ in Moab!
I've made many trips out west during my 36-year photo career, and returned to visit many of the same haunts I've been to over and over - sometimes I just can't get enough of a good thing, but I also wanted to show my friends and lovely bride some of my favorite places. Many of those places had changed quite a bit - paved parking lots and big highway signs and hoards of people where there used to be none of the above. But there were other places where I stood for several hours and never saw another soul.
We got to spend some time down in a native American kiva (underground hut). When we first arrive the only light was a glow from the entrance in the ceiling, but even that glow lit up the orange floor and walls. Soon a brilliant beam of bright sunshine appeared, and for the next hours that beam moved across the floor and filled every part of the kiva with light. It was REALLY dusty down in there, and even slow and careful footsteps stirred up dust. At first, that dust was kind of nice since the sunshine beam seemed to catch every single dust particle. But soon we realized that fine dust was collecting on everything we owned! I had to be really careful with my camera equipment, especially when changing lenses. And one time the dust got so bad that the beam of dusty sunshine filled about half of the kiva! It was amazing just to stand there and realize the importance of the location, and it was great that the park service had preserved such a place and that we were able to actually be there and be part of it - I think folks get a much better sense of it all when we are allowed to get so close to historical and sacred places like this.
While in New Mexico we got to spend a little bit of time enjoying the granddaddy of all balloon festivals as hundreds of hot air balloons lit up and took off into the sunrise - it was quite a spectacle and we plan a return visit to spend more time there in the next year or two.
Other places we visited included the famous Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend areas in Arizona; Zion, Arches, and Canyonlands national parks in Utah; plus many other scenic areas like Monument Valley and this neat little canyon filled with red and white "hoodos" in Utah. We had base "camps" in Santa Fe, Page, and Moab.
The first time I visited Antelope Canyon almost twenty years ago I hiked to the canyon entrance from the highway (private vehicles are not allowed) and got to spend as much time there as I wanted. I only saw four or five other folks the entire time I was there and pretty much had the place to myself (some photos were published in my WILDERNESS REFLECTIONS picture book). The scene is quite different now. We spent a couple of hours in the colorful canyon last week, as I would estimate there were no less than 100 or more folks in there at all times - this is a narrow and short winding canyon, sometimes only a few feet wide. It reminded me of a cattle drive going through a bottleneck where only one cow at a time could proceed - we were the cows! There are thousands of folks a day visiting this little canyon now. I can't complain much since I'm part of the reason it has become so popular. We were able to get some really nice photos in spite of all the traffic - and as it turns out, my lovely bride took one of the best, and it was the very last photo taken!
While in Arches National Park later on we left the hotel well before daylight and hiked to some arches in almost total darkness - it was quite spectacular seeing this stark landscape under a sea of bright stars. There was only a single location for a photographer to stand in order to get the composition that I wanted, and even though the parking lot was complete filled by sunrise, you can bet I was there a hour before sunrise and got the image that I wanted. In fact the spot was lined with photographers 30 minutes before sunrise - everyone shot and shot and shot, and it seemed like they were all about done and ready to pack up and leave when I told them - "the light show has no even begun yet - just WAIT!" And a few minutes later the entire scene was flooded with incredible golden light that was so intense that we really needed sunglasses, or a dark filter over the lens!
Another day I got up at 3am and drove to the far end of Arches park. The moon was up and everything that moonlight touched was glowing brilliant orange or red - but the moon was low in the west and looking east I was able to photograph several rock formations with a sky full of stars behind it. It was a magical experience hiking around in this moonlit wonderland - sometimes I just had to stop and look around in amazement and wonder and how surreal - and beautiful - it all was. By 5am I had reached a parking lot that fills up early and stays that way for most of the day, but on this morning there were only two cars there, both with live folks inside and the engines running to keep warm (it was a wee bit chilly out). I packed up all my camera gear and headed down the trail to Landscape Arch, one of my favorite ones in the park. I wanted to photograph it with the setting moon behind, and also with stars around, and the timing was perfect. I was stunned to discover no one else there - this was one of the most amazing scenes ever! I found the composition that I wanted and spent the next three hours taking pictures - with and without moon, with and without stars, sometimes lightpainting the giant arch, sometimes just letting the starlight light it. This is the longest natural rock arch span in the world at over 300 feet, yet it is one of the thinnest big arches too - I just LOVE this arch! I fully expected the viewing area to be complete packed with photographers by first light, certainly by sunrise, but I NEVER SAW ANOTHER SOUL the entire time! Several years ago part of this great arch broke off and smashed to the ground, so the park service moved the viewing trail back a ways and does not allow folks to get any closer. That was fine with me as the viewing area gave me the perfect composition that I wanted. And when the sun arrived, it flooded the face of the arch all at once with golden brilliance. Getting to spend several hours all alone with this arch was a real treat for me. I hiked back to the car a most happy camper!
Our tales could go on and on, but I know first light is fast approaching so I need to go pack up my camera gear and head out for a few pictures of our great landscapes here in Arkansas. But just a couple of more notes. On our 19-hour marathon drive back home we stopped in Colorado at one of my favorite little creeks - in fact at the same place where I "caught" a cutthroat trout with my SNOWSHOE one winter. The air was just incredible there - crisp and filled with that sweetness that only comes from the Rocky Mountains. Anyway, I normally reserve the very first snowball of the year for our dear daughter, Amber, but I could not resist the opportunity since there was fresh snow at my feet and my lovely bride was only a few feet away. We carried a little bit of Colorado snow back home with us.
It was a wonderful trip with great friends but we are glad to be home and back to real work here. We're hopeful to be able to make more extended trips like this one in the years to come. I must leave you know with another promise - I'll get the Print Of The Month posted later today I hope! And will post a few more photos from our trip out west as I get to them - but in the meantime we are going to have a spectacular fall color season here in the next week or two and so you might see a few Arkansas photos posted here - I hope you get the chance to get out and enjoy!
Native American Kiva and sunbeam in New Mexico
Skyline Arch and the Big Dipper, Arches National Park, Utah (above); Landscape Arch at sunrise (below)
10/14/11 I had a Cloudland Moment this evening. While outside taking a shower in the crisp night air, a very bright moon rose over the far ridgetop, flooding the landscape with that amazing light that can only come from the moon. It was then I realized that the dogwood tree that covers our outdoor shower was in full fall dress, casting a red glow down on me. Stars above the red leaves, crickets quietly chirping, and a slight, sweet breeze. There is no place finer than the Ozarks in October!
A couple of wildlife notes of late. I was standing on top of a flat rock in the middle of the Buffalo River before sunrise the other morning taking pictures. There was great beauty all around me in every direction - it was touch to know where to point the camera. The long pool upstream was still as glass and reflecting the towering painted Roark Bluff. The air was cool and sweet, and the sky above was a pure dark blue. As I was standing there waiting for the camera to fire I noticed some movement in the river downstream. It took me a moment to zoom in on it, but I could not quite believe what I had spotted - it was a small, TINY duck swimming upstream. She would swim a few feet, then disappear under the surface, popping back up again a few feet later. She obviously saw me, yet kept coming closer and closer until finally I realized she was no more than ten feet away from me! This is the smallest duck I'd ever seen, with a slender red/orange neck, and a body that would probably fit in the palm of my hand. She was very quiet and graceful. She finally came to rest near me in a clump of weeds, and just sat there in the water - she was watching me as I continued to take pictures - for something like five minutes! I could only smile that I was sharing such a beautiful moment in time with this wonderful little lady.
On my way back home later I came upon what I can only describe as a GIANT bobcat - no question it was a bobcat - it was not a cougar or "panther" or any other cat or coyote or dog - it was a very tall bobcat with a long black tail - probably a foot long. He crossed the road in front of me and then moved slowly through the trees nearby. I stopped and looked closely as he stopped and looked closely back at me. If I had been in "wildlife" mode with a big camera and lens in my lap I might have gotten a photo of him, but these guys don't like to be photographed much and he knew I was unprepared so he took his time. Beautiful color, striking marks, and that long black tail! The more I think about it, this could have actually have been a lynx, the larger version of the bobcat, although they are normally only found much farther up north. I've talked with several reputable folks who have reported lynx sightings or tracks in the area over the years.
Mountains of issues and people have cropped up here this week and so I continue to fall farther and farther behind. I shot the Print of the Month several days ago but simply have not had time to process the file and present it here, but I will do so on SUNDAY for sure (I hope). I'm out Saturday all day with a photo workshop - the first of three weekends full of them. I am working on the new ARKANSAS PORTFOLIO III slide program that will debut in Ft. Smith on November 3rd - YIKES, that date is getting here quickly! The reproduction in this new picture book is the best I've ever seen and it is a stunner from page to page to page. WOW!!!
10/16/11 Two more wildlife encounters today, both were while I was gathering my nuts. I spent a good bit of time outside in the warm - actually HOT - sunshine this afternoon, crawling around on the ground and picking up acorns (our friend has pet flying squirrels and he gets the worms out of the acorns and freezes them for squirrel treats in the winter). I collected several gallons of small white oak acorns that took a couple of hours, then got another gallon or two of giant red oak acorns in about ten minutes. At one point I happened to look up and see a large buck nearby that was sniffing the ground - he had a nice rack of eight or nine points. Even though he was within 50 feet of me, I watched him for probaby a minute as he made his way slowly through the scene and he never once bothered to look up and stare at me. Most of the deer have turn from their lusterous shiny brown coats to a darker, sometimes even black winter coats now.
Later on I looked in my nut bucket and saw a large bright green and yellow caterpiller - it was the caterpiller of my favorite moth, the luna moth, which is also quite large and bright green. This is one of the most beautiful caterpillers we have here. I was so intent on my nut gathering that I never figured out if I had grabbed the caterpiller and tossed him in the bucket along with a hand full of acrons, or if he fell out of a tree and just landed in there.
10/18/11 It is tough to be up working so early this morning long before first light since there is a nice steady, soothing, wonderful cool RAIN shower going on outside - the BEST sleeping weather! If it were light outside though I would be out there in it, wandering the forest and letting the wilderness breezes push me to wherever they wanted me to go. A wet landscape is so much more colorful and richer in every way. Daylight will come.
Yesterday afternoon I had a Cloudland Moment of sorts, even though I was a mile or two away from home. It was rather warm outside, with a strong wind. I had parked myself at the edge of my favorite grove of maple trees that were simply blazing away in the bright sunshine - BRILLIANT reds and yellows and especially oranges - we are having a very ORANGE fall here right now. (one maple tree at our cabin is about as orange as a hunter's safety vest) I had my big camera all set up and ready to go, and while waiting for the wind to die down and the sun to go behind a cloud (for even better color), I could not resist the temptation to sit down on the soft earth, lean up against a moss-covered rock, and just enjoy the moment. It was kind of surreal and yet felt normal all at the same time - I live to be out in the woods like that, and it seemed like the forest and the sunshine and the breezes were on my side - and then a bunch of the bright maple leaves let go and the air was FILLED with colorful jewels coming down right on top of me - it was a mini leaffall, YIPPIE!
And then the UPS truck drove up and stopped right behind me. This is something that can only happen at Cloudland - not the truck itself, but what the truck DELIVERED to me out there in the woods. A NEW TRIPOD! The driver handed it to me, I unboxed it right there on the spot, and mounted my big tripod cube head and camera and started taking pictures even before the UPS man had disappeared. What service! For a bit of history - I'm a tripod nerd, have no less than a dozen of them, each one purchased thinking it was the very best for my needs - and in many cases it indeed was - but my photo needs have changed over the past 30 years, and also tripods have gotten lighter and stronger and taller, and better. My current tripod is several years old and has taken quite a beating. It has been sent back to the factory to be rebuilt twice, and currently is literally being held together with duck tape in several spots. Several months ago, after a bit of testing in search of a replacement, I found a great new tripod that would fulfill all my needs - but just like so many items these days, it was OUT OF STOCK and not available - urgggggg! So I have waited patiently all these months, adding more duck tape when needed. And the just the other day they finally got some in stock, but told me they needed to send them off to other photographers who had "trips" coming up and really needed them more so than me (even though I was way in line ahead of them). So when the UPS guy arrived and handed me the new tripod, I was surprised and thrilled (sometimes a little screaming helps).
Another great moment came late last night and is kind of one of the reasons why I love living where I do, working the way I do, and really appreciate the quality and workflow of the digital era. I was standing in that very same grove of maples trees before daylight yesterday, waiting for just the right glow of color and magical light. It happened a few minutes before sunrise. It was a wonderful moment in time to be surrounded by all that wonderful beauty. An hour later I had processed one of my photographs and posted it on the web site as not only the new Print of the Month, but also as one of the new special series of limited-edition poster-sized prints. The first order came in before lunch. It wasn't until last night that I got the time to make that first large print, but as the print was coming out of the printer there was a feeling of total and utter satisfaction as the very same incredible scene that I had photographed just hours before emerged as a large print - the print and the scene were STUNNING! I love technology - it allows me to live and work in the woods without the hassle of city life.
The rain continues here with another couple of hours before first light. I think I'll go crawl back in bed with my wife and my dog and snooze for a little while, then get up and wander around in the lush forest a mile or two before getting back to work...
10/24/11 I got to spend some time running around on Friday morning hunting for photo workshop shooting locations. Still a lot of green in the landscape, but also some really wonderful color too, especially around the upper Buffalo River area near our cabin. I found one location farther south though just after sunrise that stopped me in my tracks, and so I spent the next hour there taking pictures. The air was calm and the skies blue and the light beautiful - this all made for a wonderful reflection on a quiet pool. My first view of this scene was great, but the light and reflections just kept getting better. I had to force myself to leave after taking nearly 100 pictures.
The opposite end of the weekend (Sunday evening) found me standing next to my camera tripod almost breathless in awe of the stunning beauty of great color all around me. The sun had set and the soft light made the trees glow reds, yellows, and oranges. I talk almost non-stop during my photo workshops, and so this time alone in the quiet forest was also a rest for my vocal chords - although I normally whisper anyway when in the company of such great beauty.
We had a great weekend photo workshop with folks from three states - everyone got some amazing photos, helped out by light that seemed to change almost on demand to exactly what we needed (brilliant sunshine and blue skies for some areas, clouds soft light for others).
LOTS of great color around Cloudland this coming week and in some parts of the Ozarks, while other areas will continue to turn and get better and better each day for the next couple of weeks (still lots of green in many areas). I'll be in town all day today but hope to be able to get out and explore and photograph the rest of the week.
10/26/11 I went to bed five minutes too early. An e-mail came in right after I shut down the computer from a friend who said to run outside and see the Northern Lights. It was an incredible display that is rarely seen down this far south, and a very odd red color too. I've been waiting to point a camera at them again for about 30 years. But it was not to be. By the time I got up early the next morning and got his e-mail, the show was already over. Fortunately our friend, Brian Emfinger, was able to capture the event, producing one of the best aurora and stars photos I think I've ever seen - it was used as the lead photo on the MSNBC site yesterday. Way to go Brian!
As soon as I got the e-mail I shot out the door with camera gear in hand and drove to a large meadow with a clear view all around - in hopes some of the red aurora would still be around. It was coal black outside, but a zillion bright stars as far as I could see in all direction. Only some of them were falling - I counted about a dozen before I had even hiked 100 feet - man the sky was really lit up with them! The starlight was enough that I was able to make my way through the field without having to use a flashlight - and I didn't have to worry about snakes. It was very quiet.
Just about the time I reached the high point in the big meadow, I heard dogs barking - in fact it sounded like the dogs were barking at ME! But I was a long way from anyplace. The sounds intensified, enough so that I pulled out the flashlight and scanned the far end of the meadow, where I found two pair of eyes beaming back at me. Those eye immediately began to move - in opposite directions - and the barking got louder and louder - they had split up but both were heading for me - YIKES!
I put down the flashlight and quickly began to open up my big tripod - each leg was tipped with 3" steel spikes, and it might work to help keep the dogs away if things got ugly. It was a frantic few seconds as I scrambled to get the legs extended - the entire time I could hear the dogs getting closer - not only did their barks change over to snarling and growling, but I could hear their feet bearing down on me. By the time I got the legs extended and picked up the flashlight again BOTH dogs where upon me - those glowing eyes were EVIL!
I mentally prepared for an attack and braced myself, wondering which dog to defend against first. And I got my first look at a body - looked exactly like a wolf, and with those gleaming white TEETH and RED eyes, oh my goodness! And then I remembered a bit of dog lore wisdom, and began to talk baby talk to them, but in a loud voice they could hear over the snarling. Much to my great relief they stopped charging, but their momentum brought both dogs right to my feet - tails wagging and all smiles! I started to breathe again and put the tripod down.
I had never seen these dogs before, although we became fast friends. They remained with me for the next two hours as I wondered around the open meadow and took pictures of the stars and then the predawn glow. Wherever I would stop and set up my tripod they would both lay down and curl up at my feet. They were beautiful dogs, obviously belonging to someone and not mistreated. It was good to share the night with them. And then just as quickly as they arrived, they vanished, and I could see their outlines disappear into the early dusk of a new day. I hope we meet again some time - perhaps with a little less exciting beginning though!
This is what happens when a burst of fog covers you camera lens during a long exposure - it blurs a planet!
Speaking of the new books, we received the much-anticipated new second edition of the ARKANSAS WATERFALLS guidebook on Monday - all I can say is WOW, if you love to go find waterfalls, you should pick up a copy of this new book! There are more than 200 waterfalls described (with a photo, map, description, GPS, and hike rating) - this includes at least 74 new named waterfalls that have been previously unpublished. They are available for order direct from us now, and will filter into your local book and outdoor store in the weeks ahead. Right now they have some at the Bedfords Camera store in Fayetteville (you may have to ask for the new SECOND EDITION), and also at the Ponca Elk Center in beautiful downtown Ponca. Later today they will be stocked in the Conway and Russellville Hastings stores, and Hastings in Fayetteville on Friday. The Elk Center in Jasper will have them by the weekend. This book is fatter and has 304 pages - it feels more like the "bible" that it has become!
We've also posted our brand new HAPPY HOLIDAYS greeting cards here. This is a scene I have wanted to photograph ever since moving into the wilderness in 1997, and I finally got the chance to do so last winter after a heavy snowfall - and while I was still in my shoulder brace after my operation. The scene is a neat evergreen tree near our cabin covered with Christmas lights out in the middle of a snowy forest at twilight. The perfect cheery holiday greeting scene! (In case you wondered, I strung the lights the day before the big snowfall, then plugged them into an electrical outlet in my jeep when it was time for the photo.)These cards are 5" 7" when folded, and have a blank inside for your own message. We pack them 6 to a bag, with matching envelopes, and the price is $19.95 for a dozen. They are available now for shipping to stock up for the holidays!
10/27/11 While I was typing away yesterday about going to bed five minutes early and missing a great photo opportunity, I was setting myself up to do the very same thing right then - because I typed that paragraph I ended up being five minutes late for some really spectacular early-morning color! I happened to look out the window at the pre-dawn sky and it was just amazing, so I grabbed my camera gear and ran out the house, and quite literally jogged all the way to Hawksbill Crag in hopes of getting that amazing light in the background of the Crag. Seemed like every step I took the colors got brighter and more intense. And then just a few minutes before I reached the Crag (it is 3/4 mile bushwhack through the woods from our cabin), I could tell the colors were starting to fade - I knew I had missed it all. But the journey through the deep forest with everything glowing from that light was just wonderful! By the time I arrived at the Crag it was too late - I had missed it by about five minutes. But on the way back I found a really neat scene kid of looking through the forest of maple trees and got a nice photo so it was well worth the extra effort required to get there.
Late in the day I made a dash out to tour the area and see if I could find anything to take a picture of. I normally don't like to say "I told ya so" but I must invoke this phrase right now - looks like we are in the middle of one of the most spectacular fall color displays I've seen in a long time here - I TOLD YA SO!!! Drought conditions produce intense color (that comes and goes quickly), even though most folks have been saying for months that we would not have any color at all this year. We summers produce more muted colors (that last longer). The perfect "storm" of color is when we have a dry summer and then get a lot of water once the trees start to turn - that happened a couple of times in the past five years. The central Ozarks in our area right now are at near 100% peak color, and it is just stunning to drive or hike around. The problem is where to point my camera - there is so much color everywhere.
As I'm typing this early today I hear it is raining hard outside - that rain and wind will probably knock many of those colorful leaves to the ground so I suspect the 100% peak may have already come and gone yesterday, but the wet conditions also produce even richer colors for a little while. This rain will only cut the dust a little bit - it won't produce any waterfalls - we need a week of soaking rains for that - perhaps next year.
Speaking of the winds that we've had most of the week, as I was on my way home last night just after sunset I happened to notice the wind had stopped - I frequently see this while driving, but once I get out of the car and set up my camera gear the wind picks back up again - it normally waits until I am just ready to take the picture. But yesterday it remained still, I mean DEAD still for a full ten minutes. As I stood there next to my camera rig on the tripod and waiting for a one-minute exposure to finish (which actually takes two minutes), I held my breath hoping the breeze would not start again and blur the leaves before the photo was done. It looked and felt like the wilderness was holding its collective breath right along with me and knew it had to remain perfectly still. It was one of those rare moments when all the planets align and things go just perfect - WOW, it was a remarkable scene and moment. The very last picture I took was a two-minute exposure, and I packed up the camera and let it take the second "dark slide" exposure as I was motoring on back to the cabin.
And then another great part of the day happened - I stepped into a gourmet restaurant featuring my most favorite dish of all time, and the cabin filled with the aroma that only this dish creates - my lovely bride had tired of waiting on me to get home and fix her beloved birthday dinner, so she did it all herself - and I must say that other than the fact I felt like a slug for making her do this herself on her special day - the dish was the very best I'd ever eaten - YIPPIE! (Banff Pasta by the way, a little dish I discovered in Banff, Canada, then recreated back here at Cloudland with my own twist)
Perhaps the most colorful individual tree was a dogwood I found near the Ponca low water bridge. I say "I" found it but that was not really the case - there were scores of other folks and photographers taking pictures of it during the several times I passed through the area. I stopped and looked but could not find a good viewpoint, so moved on. But on my way home I realize that there might be a good view from up on the big highway bridge itself - the other photographers were all down at river level and that scene was just OK. So I parked my car and hiked up and out to the middle of the bridge, and spent about 20 minutes taking pictures of this brilliant dogwood tree surrounded by colorful sweetgum leaves. Each time a vehicle would enter the roadway I would have to stop shooting since the bridge vibrates quite a bit. And for any cars in my lane I would move the tripod and camera bad and lean out over the edge of the bridge to try and get out of their ways. Only one vehicle really came close to me - and I learned later it was friends of mine that were just trying to say hello! (ha, ha, just kidding Judy!)
There is a scene along that same highway that I've always wanted to photograph - it looks terrific each fall but I've never been able to get a great photo of it. The scene is located in a tight turn and there is no place to park, plus it really takes dead calm air to photograph well. I parked and hiked down to the spot yesterday - the light and colors were beautiful, and the winds were sometimes perfectly still, in between breezes caused by passing vehicles. I stood there for more than a half hour and took many pictures, but when I got home and looked at the "little" camera pictures I took (sometimes I use a small, 24 megapixel camera that give me greater depth of field and allows use of a telephoto lens), the photograph did not do justice to the scene that I remembered while I was standing there. This happens quite a lot to me - the picture does not match the emotional experience I had while being there. I'll get a chance to process photos from my big camera of the same scene later, and hopefully will find one that will do justice. But if not, the process and the moment of being there to witness such great beauty was worth the stop for me.
I'll be on the road most of today once again - doing book work not taking pictures - and also tomorrow, so I will miss many great photo opportunities, but I'm hopeful some of you Journal readers will be able to get out and take my place and come home with great pictures! Not sure how much color will be left after the rains though. Good luck!
10/29/11 This is the most photographed fall color display in history. Not even close. Certainly there will be tens of millions of phone camera pics taken (and many of them will be very good! But the blazing colors have brought out multitudes of more serious photographers as well, driving in from surrounding states, taking days off from work, spending a week of vacation hauling around a big camera and tripod through the countryside and even into the wilderness. We live in a photo society, and everyone has a camera and is capable of taking some pretty darn nice images.
Case in point. Every single spot that I visited yesterday from before sunrise to well after sunset had at least one serious photographer standing next to me - or me next to him. It began quite early in the day, as I hiked over to Hawksbill Crag in some truly spectacular light that was happening all around me - with the forest cloaked in heavy fog. When I reached the Crag I saw the silhouette of a man and a camera and a tripod, standing in the perfect spot for the classic Crag shot. He looked up and smiled - "the light has been very good!" And then he motioned for me to come over and stand next to him - he was even going to move over so that I could get the best view. This same photographer had been to the Crag a few days before - both times having driven a couple of hours in the dark, then hiked a mile and a half in the dark to reach the Crag. That is dedication, and is exactly what it takes to be a good nature photographer. The early bird does indeed often get the photographic worm. I have a great deal of respect for the serious folks who get out and do this sort of thing. I also was not about to have him give up his prized spot that he worked so hard to get to, so I thanked him and moved on. In fact I didn't even stop at all, I merely turned around and hiked on out. I'm hoping this photographer got a terrific Crag shot for all of his efforts.
I didn't have too much time before going back to my day job, but did drive around Cave Mountain and stopped in several different places to shoot, always being joined by at least one other photographer. There was a lot of traffic, and I saw may tripods. The heavy fog continued to dance with the colorful trees that were everywhere - it was like someone poured a candy store over the entire forest! At one point I drifted down into the wilderness following the fog, setting up and taking photographs of many different scenes. It was one of those times when you could have pointed the camera in any direction and found success. This would probably be one of my last moments of silence and being carefree for a while, and so I paused, sat down, and sucked in that delicious mountain air for a few minutes.
I spent much of my day in town getting some stitches removed from both ends of our faithful dog, Aspen, who had surgery a couple of weeks ago (from his eye and also from his butt). After stocking the Fayetteville Hastings bookstore with our new books), and collecting a few items for my photo workshop today (including a large bag filled with BBQ for lunch!), I headed back towards the woods, stopping at the Kings River Falls Trail to let Aspen get out and run around a bit. This was just before sunset, and right ahead of me was a car from Iowa - with a camera and tripod.
(By the way, the Hastings bookstore in Russellville now has the new waterfall guidebook and Arkansas Portfolio III picture book, but we were not able to stock the Conway store yet - next week sometime we hope. The Duck Club Gallery in Fayetteville now has our calendars and new picture book. Also the Elk Center in Ponca has all our new books, and the Elk Center in Jasper will have them soon.).
The last stop of the day was right next to the main highway, about 45 minutes after sunset. The forest was simply glowing and I just had to stop and setup. A few minutes later a car slowed and pulled over, looked out the window, then hurriedly got out a camera and tripod.
The record number of photos taken of the spectacular fall color here in Arkansas this year will be displayed for years to come on walls, computer screens, and iPhones. The record will stand for a while - until next autumn, when we have another terrific display! It is peaking in the Ozarks right now, and I hope you get to get out and take a few pictures!
10/31/11 A couple of quick notes early this morning before I head out to parts unknown in search of a picture or two. It is both a MONDAY and HALLOWEEN - so HAPPY to all of your for both! We just completed our fall workshop season with another terrific group of budding photographers who all got some great images and prints. It continues to amaze me how much students advance during the short time we are together - most of that credit goes to the great light and subjects we seek out and find, but also to the willingness of folks to try something new and learn (the majority of "photographers" simply "point and shoot" no matter what camera they are using and hope something turns out - we try to insure that they get great photos no matter what equipment - it is really easy to do it the right way when you know how). As usual we all came back to the classroom with wet feet - the water was not really all that cold, despite the fact the air temp was in the upper 20's with a heavy frost all around!
We continue to have some spectacular color spread across the High Ozarks, although the rain and storms of last week took their toll and things are now fading and falling off the trees - creating more neat scenes all over the forest floor. It has really been a terrific fall color display this year - I only regret not having enough time or multiple copies of myself to be in many different places at the same time.
I spent most of yesterday working on the new ARKANSAS PORTFOLIO III slide program and it is almost finished. HOLY COW it is going to be an experience to watch and enjoy the scenes moving across the screen, and listen to some really great music! You'll get to hear two brand new tunes by the great pianist from Harrison, Joel Sebag - these are from his new CD that will be released next month, and Joel has graciously allowed them to be part of our new show. The first slide show is in THREE DAYS - OH MY GOODNESS! It will be at the Janet Huckabee Nature Center in Ft. Smith at 7pm, and is of course free and open to the public (hosted by the Ft. Smith Photographic Alliance). We'll have all of our books, the 2012 calendar, new holiday greeting cards, and a selection of black-mat prints - ALL available at special sale prices! (come early - we should be set up by at least 6:30)
I hope you've had the chance to get out and enjoy the weather and great scenery this month - I look forward to meeting you at one of the upcoming programs, or out in the woods!