PART A - October 1-15



Cloudland remote Cabin View, October 15th, 6:22am - predawn in the maple grove

FALL COLOR UPDATE: colors have explored in the upper Buffalo River area - lots of color elsewhere too!

* Our new 2013 ARKANSAS SCENIC WALL CALENDAR is now shipping!

* Our new picture book is now in stock - click here for more info and to order a personalized copy!

(See all of the new photos in the book here - you can order any size print)

Journal updated Monday morning the 15th


October 2012 Print Of The Month - God Beams Lead The Way Home

10/01/12 I had a very long day working in the woods yesterday, then we had a lovely evening campout along the Buffalo River, with an early wakeup call today. I'll post a new Print Of The Month later today...

10/02/12 I feel quite helpless this morning - the eastern horizon is filled with some of the most amazing brilliant COLOR I've ever seen and I can't do anything about it! WOW!!! Yet we have no direct view that direction due to all the trees around the cabin - we can't see the sunrise for the trees, ha, ha! So I can't take a picture of it, but at least I can sit here and enjoy all that color bouncing off the landscape all around. I just realized that the wilderness is totally quiet - like it is holding its breath and watching the pre-dawn light show too. Yet the colors are so LOUD! Contrasts are good.

My lovely bride was sitting on a gravel bar the other day typing up research data for one of our guidebooks when she heard a splash. (She was waiting for me to emerge from the woods - I was doing some bushwhacking to locate a section of proposed new trail.) It was a mature bald eagle that had dive-bombed the river - he flew away with a fish in his talons, just like you see on TV. Somehow she managed to still get work done as this guy continued the live show for the next hour or two. By the time I arrived he must have been stuffed because all he did for me was sit there on a tree snag looking quite majestic. Eagles in Arkansas at this time of the year are probably year round residents and are nesting nearby - that is SO EXCITING! We used to never see an eagle in Arkansas. Then a few of them started to spend the winter here. Soon there were hundreds, perhaps even thousands spending the winter here, but always going back north to nest. And then there was a single eagle nest, and two eagles because parents in Arkansas. Now we have a number of eagles nesting and spending the entire year here, although the number is still so low that it is an incredible event to see them. We'll probably be seeing a lot more eagles fishing in Arkansas in the years to come - YIPPIE!

There are a few times in ones career when all the planets line up and everything around you is in perfect order. One such moment happened to me a couple of years ago as I was out taking pictures of maple trees that were shrouded in heavy fog. I was actually testing a new and very expensive piece of camera equipment (that I did not purchase), when I looked up and saw the sun began to break through the fog. All of a sudden the entire scene was flooded with brilliant God Beams. It was at once and absolutely stunning scene of great power and beauty, and also a desperate scramble for me to learn how to use this newfangled camera gear and capture all of that glory before it disappeared - I knew I only had a minute or less to do it, perhaps even seconds. I'd been training myself for more than 35 years to be able to react quickly in situations like this, and I was indeed able to make everything happen in time. I got exactly three exposures of this amazing sight - and I have picked that third picture as the new Print Of The Month. To me, it is about as powerful a photo as I've ever taken - and that pretty much matches the scene I witnessed as I stood there, in awe. It was kind of like the heavens opened up and wanted to show me and welcome me the way home. This scene will be on sale at the special price this month, but I'm also working on a large canvas print of it that you'll be able to see in person at one of our FOUR holiday open houses coming up. I hope to find more scenes like this one as I continue to tromp through the wilderness, and I know they will continue to lead me back home...

10/03/12 I watched a leaf fall in the forest while I was on an early hike this morning. There was no wind, and this leaf was the only thing moving. It swayed back and forth as it slowly descended, then gently landed on the forest floor without a sound, taking its place among many other leaves there. The other leaves had fallen some time ago, and were mostly that brownish-rust color that leaves sleeping on the ground are. But this new one was different - it was fresh and vibrant and alive with color. I got down on my hands and knees and looked close. The very tip of this leaf was brilliant RED. That red slowly changed to yellow farther down the leaf, finally coming to an abrupt end about the middle of the leaf where a pair of veins came together at the center vein. From that point on the leaf was pure green.

I don't know what caused the leaf to let loose of its branch all of a sudden as I passed, but it seemed to be happy right there on the ground, so I can only assume that it figured it was just time to get a head start on the rest of the leaves and get a good spot to watch leaf fall later on this month. Sometimes my lovely bride and I do the same thing - we get someplace an hour or more early just to get a good seat, and we end up being the only people there for the next hour! That's OK - time has never been wasted just being together without anyone else around...

One other note about falling things. Acorns have begun to fall - not entire trees full - just one at a time. When a nut hits our tin roof, and the air is still, and the humidity is just right, it sounds like a gun blast!

10/05/12 We left the cabin way before sunrise yesterday and headed down out of the mountains into the Arkansas River Valley. I love to drive at this time of the day (or hike, or just be awake doing anything - 'tis the BEST time of the day for sure!) - the sky and landscape color change around every turn. We watched a giant red ball slowly rise into the sky and light up the landscape and a new day had begun. We are at an oil-painting workshop being taught by master painter, Bill Garrison, at Running Deer Retreat just outside of Danville (highly recommended!). It is a lovely place here, with wide open spaces, a beautiful pond, and giant pine trees everywhere. Bill has a full class as always, and canvasses are being filled with wondrous scenes.

My lovely bride took up pastel painting many years ago - the very first one she ever did was just amazing to me - she had real talent But life got in the way and her painting was left behind. A few months ago she got interested in oil painting, and while she still considers herself a beginner, I'm amazed at what she can do with a blank canvas - she does indeed have a natural talent for this sort of thing. Bill teaches his own special technique for starting a painting. The result is that even before Pam used any color at all on her painting yesterday, the painting was so good that I would be proud to frame and hang it right then and there! Bill really knows what he is doing. It will probably be years before Pam feels good enough about her work to display it in public, but when she does, you will be in for a real treat!

I would be lost without my in-laws - how did I ever survive without them? While are down here they are staying at our cabin (our normal caretaker, Joseph, will move back in again for our busy fall season, but not for another few weeks yet). Yesterday, the shipment of new ARKANSAS LANDSCAPES II picture books arrived - more than 8,000 pounds of them! Pam's dad had to pick them up in Springdale and haul them out to Cloudland, then unload them into our warehouse - that last part helped out by our great neighbor, Benny. THANKS TO YOU BOTH! So the book are now safe and sound and ready for shipment, and we'll be getting them sent out the next time the mail runs. They will arrive in bookstores during the coming weeks as booksellers place orders for them (but you can always order direct from us and get your copies personalized).

Looks like dawn is about to break down here in the valley this morning, so I'm going to post this and head out to wander around and see how wonderful the first rays of sunshine will be...

10/07/12 It is crispy-cool here early this morning before daylight, and Aspen and I took a little stroll to get warmed up. I love it when you have to work your bones just a little bit in order to warm up - put on too many clothes at first and I'm miserable within just a few minutes. The air was still and trees were still in slumber. The sky above nearly pure deep blue. The forest floor was moist and soft from recent rainfall, and I was able to move through the landscape silently, with only my thoughts.

We spent the last couple of days at Running Deer Retreat near Danville attending a painting workshop taught by Bill Garrison (as I noted in Friday's post, my lovely bride has finally found something she likes to do instead of working all the time - although she still has to do that too!). Here is a photo of the Master Painter himself doing a demonstration to the class - just happens to be a photo of mine he was painting - they guy can make a great painting out of anything!


As we climbed back up into the Ozarks from the river valley while drive home yesterday we could see bits of color in the trees here and there. We stopped at one place where the sweetgum trees were really blazing - nearly at peak color. It was a dramatic change from the past several months of mono-tone green. As we drove along we saw more and more bits of color - just individual trees that had popped, not really any larger areas. As we turned onto Hwy. 16 near Fallsville there was a bit more color, with small black gums, sumac, and other trees joining the sweetgums. If anything, there are LESS maples right now than a week ago, but perhaps that is because some of the other trees are adding to the color and so the individual maple trees don't stand out as much.


Overall the color in the Ozarks remains 90-95% green with no major color change. But the trees that have popped are really nice, which is a sign of things to come - they seem to be pretty brilliant. Every time I see a red or yellow or orange tree right now I just have to laugh - and think back to June and July and August when every single person that had a prediction for fall color this year said we would have NONE, ZERO, NO COLOR! My reply was always, YES, WE WILL HAVE GREAT COLOR THIS FALL! And indeed we will. I will post updates here as I see them, and of course you will be able to see for yourself in the daily photo I shoot from the back deck of our cabin (at least most of them will come from there - sometimes I will walk to other places around the cabin to take the picture - there is no "deck cam" that does this automatically - and often I will post something from elsewhere).

One sure sign of fall is the migration of monarch butterflies on the way to their winter home in Mexico or other points even farther south. And every butterfly that I see reminds me of my mom - she was an actual butterfly NUT, and I don't think I've ever known anyone enjoy a particular critter more. One of the many things she was known for was the fact that she always had a colorful butterfly pin on her right shoulder - usually life size. She was one of those wonderful people who just wanted to spread a little color and joy to all the world she passed through, and indeed she did. The last time she visited Cloudland before her death was for her birthday (which is in October). I remember it was a typical spectacular crystalline fall day, sparkling blue skies above, great fall color all around. As our family was out on the back deck gathered around mom, monarch butterflies started to spill over the cabin, floating above us and putting on quite a show, before drifting into the canyons below and on towards Mexico. This was no doubt a special note from the heavens above for this most amazing lady. THANKS MOM!


I mentioned the monarchs not only as a nod to this great lady, but also because I saw some the other morning. It was before sunrise, and I was out and roaming around as usual, and happened to stop and be enjoying a field that included tons of bright yellow sunflowers - in fact the flowers were even brighter than the sky! I was there a while, and just before the actual break of dawn, I looked up and there was a brilliant monarch sitting on one of the flowers right in front of me. I'm pretty sure it had been sent down from mom - she wanted to just let me know she was still thinking of me, as I do her each and every day!!!

The other great lady in my life is sitting next to me back here at the cabin - it is not even sunrise yet and she is busy working away at the computer. We'll spend most of today processing and packing up book orders for the new picture book that her dad and Benny loaded into the warehouse up on the hill while we were away. I am especially excited about this new book partly because it contains some photographs I've never shown to ANYONE - I planned it that way. These are among the very best that I've taken this past year. The picture books won't arrive in local stores for a while yet, but hopefully they will filter in during the next few weeks. We have a large order for Barnes & Noble for example, which will ship tomorrow, but they have to go to their main warehouse in New Jersey first, then eventually move onto the local stores back here in our region. I will stock our Hastings stores later this week, plus some independent stores that have already placed orders will have them this week as well, like Wordsworth in Little Rock and Mt. Magazine State Park. Of course the best place to buy them will be via our online store - we'll ship within two days and personalize them to the persons of your choice.


The best deal of all is our HOLIDAY SPECIAL, which includes the new picture book, 2013 ARKANSAS SCENIC WALL CALENDAR, and also a beautiful 5x7 fine art print in an 8x10 black mat (stunning!) - there will only be a limited supply of those available, so NOW is the time to order! Lots of folks fill their entire Christmas list with this holiday special, and we are happy to personalize and ship directly to those on your list - just let us know what you need.

The boss is pointing to the stack of new pictures on the counter that need to be autographed, so I had better get back to work. For all those seeking advise on fall color - no one can predict that - but I can highly recommend that you GET OUTDOORS as often as you can this month, and many wonderful things will happen!

Here is a lovely little cardinal flower that I found growing next to a stream at Running Deer Retreat - you can find them along many streams this time of year in Arkansas...


10/08/12 I LOVE Mondays! Guess that makes me a little odd, but for me it is the very best day of the week because I can get so MUCH more done than I could if it were Friday! We went to sleep last night to a soothing, slow-soaking rain that lasted for several hours. When I got up this morning before daylight it was obvious I was not going to be able to see a sea of clouds in the canyon below - we were totally socked in with a heavy layer of fog. And the temps had cropped into the upper 30s so it was a wee bit chilly outside as well.

As daylight began to seep into the froggy air, I decided to grab my camera gear and hike up the road and take a few pictures of - the road and the fog, what else! There is this scene that I see so often when coming home and just makes me smile every time - to me it means "coming home," and I'm almost there. So I set up my big tripod and camera right in the middle of the road and started taking pictures. It was really foggy, and the fog was moving in and out and so it got really thick at times - so much so that I could not see to the end of the road where it bends. I spent a lot of time moving the tripod around, zooming in and out, trying different lenses. I frequently take 100 or more photos of the very same scene since I never know for sure which one I will like best - and today I took a lot more because the scene changed so frequently as the fog moved in and out and it got lighter, then darker, then lighter again.

Every now and then things would get really light and it felt like the sun was going to break through the fog - this almost always happened right after I had moved the tripod off of the road and up into the woods somewhere. Then I would scramble back down to the road and find a good spot to set up again - and often one or two sun beams would appear for just a few seconds. Since I had two different cameras with me and I wanted to capture all the scenes with both cameras, I spent a lot of my time just switching cameras around. It was kind of funny since I'm pretty sure that more than once I missed the peak of action while I was switching them and had neither camera on the tripod!

And hour went by and I kept on shooting - the fog remained and the scene was as interesting and exciting to me as the first moment I got there. Then an hour and a half came and went. Then two hours. I kept shooting, and was spending more and more time above the road in the midst of a grove of small black gum trees that were just BRILLIANT red. Some of these trees were only a foot or two tall and just a few inches in front of me, while others were 10-12 feet tall and farther away. The play of color and light and fog and the leaf detail kept my attention as I shot away.


And then all of a sudden, BAM, the sun broke through and dozens and dozens of God Beams filled the forest! Oh my gosh, this is what I had waited more than two hours for and I was in the wrong place! I raced down the hill and picked just one spot in my mind and jumped onto the road and set up there. It was a frantic minute as I composed a scene, set my exposure, zoomed the lens, and focused - then carefully raised the camera mirror and squeezed off a shot. Then another. And another. I was being FLOODED with incredible LIGHT, and it was tough to stay on track and concentrate on my job because I wanted to just stop and enjoy the moment - but those beams were moving FAST, and I knew it was about to end. Then there was one last really great blast of beams that seemed to fill the entire space all around me, and at that moment I took pictures with both cameras - one on the tripod and one handheld. Moments later the fog vanished, and the beams with it, leaving behind a seemingly empty forest of harsh light, and one exhausted photographer that had fallen to the ground nearly in tears - it was one of THOSE moments where you really feel connected to the land, and to the heavens. Wow. Just wow...


10/11/12 We have wind and a bit of chilly rain coming down in spurts early this morning. Feels like October in the Ozarks - YIPPIE!

My lovely bride and I went for a short drive around the area yesterday afternoon. We found several really nice groups of trees in full, brilliant, fall dress. Most of the landscape remains mostly green, but it won't be long now, perhaps. Some black gums have turned a beautiful pure red. A few maples are popping too. And there is a yellow tree I don't know that grows in a line and looks just like Colorado aspens right now. When there is color, there can be a mixture of all the warm colors of fall in the same location - along with nice greens too - makes for quite a delight to the eyes!

We are being swamped with "when" and "where" questions right now, and my answer is always going to be the same - IT ALL DEPENDS!!! No one can predict the weather, the stock market, nor fall color. Typically the last two weeks in October are the best color in the High Ozarks. If you have the time to get out and explore during this time I suggest you do so. But not need to ask where or when - because I will tell you IT ALL DEPENDS! And the only way you will know is for you to get out and go there yourself. I bet you will have a splendid time no matter if you see the exact peak color or not. Color is peaking right now in some places, still green in others. The same thing will apply every day for weeks.

OK, back to our little trip. I have posted a few photos below from some of the trees and berries we found yesterday. I don't recall seeing the cedar trees (or are they junipers?) so LOADED with berries before - you almost can't see the tree for the berries! Yet the mast crop seems to be dismal - almost no acorns or hickory or walnut nuts. With the explosion of the deer population this year I'm not sure how they are going to fare during the winter.






10/14/12 Just a quick note this morning before I head out to see if there are any leaves left. We've had really strong winds all night long, and they continue early this morning. The color in the upper Buffalo River area - and other areas of the High Ozarks I've heard - have gone from green to PEAK color in just a couple of days, often even overnight. They just popped. I don't recall seeing such a drastic change in such a short time, although this is kind of the sort of fall color change I've said we might have all along - vibrant colors that turn fast and don't last long. And now with the heavy wind, we are having a form of "leaf fall" - only now it is leaf tearing off and flying away!

We spent a couple of hours yesterday morning starting just before first light wandering along the Buffalo River with my photo workshop folks. There was not a breath of wind in the air at all - the water and trees were calm, with terrific reflections along every step of the way. We all had driven through some of the thickest layers of fog I'd seen, but there was none down along the river, but that fog layer would keep the sun from shining. That was fine with us - I LOVE wet and overcast days when shooting.

Many of the trees along the river in the Steele Creek area of the Buffalo had popped in the last couple of days, especially a couple of them that live right next to the water - those were making great reflections. We eased our tripods along the edge of the river, sometimes going out into the shallow water for a better viewpoint. I think all of us were surprised to find so much color so early, and oh my, the QUALITY of the light was just amazing and the trees were simply glowing.

Later on we worked our way downstream to get some different views, then it was time to head back to the cars to begin the classroom part of the workshop back up here at our canvas gallery studio. But for some reason I stopped and gathered everyone at the last point on the river - it just "felt" right that something was going to happen, so we all stood there and waited. We did not wait long as within just a few moments there were some sky holes in the fast-moving clouds overhead, and little bits of sunshine shone through those holed and swept across the landscape before us. Everyone scrambled to set up their tripods, and after the first sunbeam passed by, we all held our breaths that there would be more. There were several specific trees that were fully peaked with color - yellow, or red, or orange, and one by one the sunbeams would illuminate them - it was like someone upstairs would turn on the light from inside the tree - but just for a second or two - then the light would go out and the next tree would light up. Everyone knew they had just been witness to a very special event, and everyone got the photo, yet each one would be completely different since the light was moving so fast, with cameras zoomed to different areas. It was just one of "those" moments you hope for during your photographic career, and we all were able to share it.


The drive up to our gallery was filled with lots of great color along the way - color that was not there the day before! No doubt that much of the High Ozarks remain almost completely green, but the areas that have turned, have done so with a brilliance and beauty that is a sight to behold - if it just doesn't all blow away!

By the way, towards the end of our workshop class when everyone selected a single image of theirs to print and take home, there was only one print made of that special scene I just described - even though everyone got a spectacular shot of it, there were so many other great scenes captured during the workshop that were also beautiful. I have a feeling that the other students will have prints made of the scene later on - each one being unique.

10/15/12 There was an orgy around here yesterday. A visual orgy of the most incredible fall color I've been part of in a long time. I began and ended the day down on the river, wading and tripping on slick rocks and filling many memory cards on a couple of different cameras. I had to return to the cabin during the middle of the day to reload and restock, then headed back down to the river for an evening of more spectacular color. There was just too much color actually - everywhere I looked, sunshine or clouds, there was brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows, and the reflections along the river when the winds calmed down were really very nice.


It was also one of the most frustrating days I've ever spent in the woods with a camera. There was SO MUCH color that at times I did not know which way to point. And when I finally did select a scene I wanted to photograph, I would remain with it sometimes for an hour or longer - even if I felt like I got a perfect photo, the next minute would bring on more color and WOW factor, so out came the camera again. It was kind of tough to make much progress.


I found myself seeking out reflections - the wind was heavy up here at the cabin, but down in the valley conditions were often calm, and when those winds quit the surface of the water turned into a fairyland of color and graphic design. Sometimes I love reflections better than the original - in fact that is frequently the case with fall color, which is one reason why I spend so much time wading through creeks at this time of the year - not so much looking at the trees, but rather the reflections.

I spent part of the day shooting the same scenes I've done dozens of times in years past (they were the same locations, but completely different too) - just because they were so wonderful. But I also waded along to visit new areas, and then I really got into trouble. Every bend in the river provided new visual delights. And once I was happy with a photo looking one direction, I would turn the other direction and had to unpack the camera gear all over again! I could have waded the river for miles, but it would have taken me months and months since I was going so slow. And then I returned to the very same locations in the evening and everything was completely different, so once again I did not get to make much progress, but did shoot a lot of pictures.

My time to get out and shoot this fall is extremely limited and so I'll remain in the upper Buffalo River area today and tomorrow. The splendid fall color will continue all week I bet, but I would not be surprised if the brilliant color goes fast - but probably replaced by other trees turning that are still green right now. I've heard reports that other areas in the High Ozarks have some great color too - word is spreading quickly from tree to tree that it is time to show their best colors! The best advice I can give for anyone who wants to get out is to GET OUT AND ENJOY WHENEVER YOU CAN! Don't worry about exactly when a particular area is "peaking" because you will just be chasing your tale - just get out and enjoy!







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