CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - May 2013 - PART B, May 14-present
Cloudland Cabin Cam, May 21, 6:55am - clouds and thunder, cool and calm, less than 1" of rain overnight
Our thoughts and prayers are with our neighbors in Oklahoma...
Journal updated Monday the 20th
Print Of The Week - #21 - Wild Rye Grass at Sunrise - ON SALE!
05/14/13 When my eyes opened yesterday at 2:15am I could barely make out the shape of my lovely bride standing next to me looking out the window - the night sky was filled with a zillion stars. I jumped up out of bed, give her a big hug, ran down the stairs to pack my camera gear, then headed off. Some time ago I had this vision appear in my head of a photo I wanted to find and capture. It took me a while of research on maps and in the field, but I finally found what I thought would be a suitable location, and that was the spot I headed for.
But first, another picture popped into my head, and I stopped and spent about 30 minutes under a starry sky working on that picture. When I was satisfied I had captured it (you might see it in the new picture book), I moved onto the nearby river bank - hoping my vision was about to appear in front of me. The stars were great, with the Milky Way standing nearly straight up, but I had trouble finding the perfect spot to take the picture. I fought through some pretty thick brush along the river bank until I came to a place that would work, although I had to set up my tripod and camera out in the creek, and believe me, that water was rather chilly as it filled my boots! (the temp was in the upper 30's)
I spent the next 45 minutes working the camera and hoping my vision was being captured be the special sensor of the big camera I was using. I bought this camera last year specifically to take these kinds of pictures with - pinpoint-star Milky Way pictures, something you can only do with just a handful of special cameras, this one being the best one in my opinion. The river itself was beautiful too, and it picked up a lot of the deep blue color from the night sky, and was lit just barely enough by the starlight so that you could see it all. It also was singing a lovely lullaby that nearly put me to sleep - if not for that cold water I might have just sat down and napped. You can see that photo at the top of the page here.
OK, picture completed! It was time to move on, and so I made my way farther downstream in search of other photo opportunities, and I ended up spending the next hour or so taking pictures as dawn broke and the stars disappeared and went to bed.
At one point I was crossing a wide meadow on my way to another part of the river and got quite a surprise. The hay was over knee-deep on me, and was totally soaked. In fact my jeans got wet up to nearly my waist as the fabric wicked moisture up. It was still kind of dusky-dark when I came upon what appeared to be the carcass of a dead elk - without getting too graphic, these things will shrink up and slowly sink into the landscape after a while. The pile of fun was lower than the tops of the grass, and that grass seemed to have grown up around it. When I got to within about ten feet of it, all of a sudden the fur began to move - it just sort of uncoiled - kind of like a bag of Jiffypop popcorn when it starts popping well. The fur swelled and grew and then just PRESTO, there was a fullsize ELK standing right in front of me with a stunned looked on his face! The darn thing was taller than me! I guess he has just hunkered down for the night and curled up tight against the chilly temps. We looked at each other for a second or two, then the elk slowly moved away, and I continued my hike across the meadow. It was an eye-opener for both of us.
Later in the day we made a quick run into town to decommission a bookstore that was the very first bookstore that ever sold our books, and at one time was the largest of all our more than 200 book dealers - Hastings bookstore in Fayetteville is closing. It was a bitter-sweet moment for me, as this store had so much to do with our early success, and opened the doors for many other bookstores for us. Previously we had only sold in outdoor stores. As far as I know, the other Hastings stores in Arkansas will remain open - the store in Russellville has been our largest single-store dealer for many years. In fact I'm headed down there this week to restock. A special thanks to all the wonderful folks at Hastings for a great job all these years!
Our daughter is taking her last final exam of the semester tomorrow, and by Monday will begin a short semester of study overseas, which is a requirement for her degree. Her university has a small satellite campus on an island in Greece, and that is where she is headed (she is paying her own way too!). For some reason the school made it perfectly clear that NO PARENTS were allowed! We could not have afforded to go anyway, but it is great to know our daughter will be able to see a small part of the world as part of her college study.
And speaking of that, she was surprised last week when she received a very special honor during a luncheon on campus - she was given the "Outstanding First Year Accounting Student" award at her business school at Drury University - WAY TO GO AMBER!!! Amazing how smart this young lady is - she is one of those that you know is going to go far and do many more great things in life. It helps that she tends to work her fanny off - that sort of thing will continue to pay off for decades to come...
05/16/13 Yesterday began for me at midnight, as I was standing in knee-deep water in the Buffalo River working on pictures. I spent most of the night working up and down the river trying to find and capture another one of those “visions” that I had recently - of a picture I hoped I could take. Conditions were just about perfect, and I started my quest before midnight, found the perfect spot on, or actually in, the river, looking upstream at a giant painted bluff that was illuminated by moonlight. Turned out that vision was not so easy to capture, and in fact after spending many long hours in the river working on it, the resulting picture that I made was not as good as I had wanted. But a lot of what I do is trying to educate myself and learn how to do things that are not easy or normal - which leads to a lot of failures - I suspect I will return to this spot if conditions repeat, and will try to do a better job!
There were two visions of photos I was chasing on this trip, so I left the river before dawn and headed for a blufftop an hour drive away to photograph sunrise. I had already been up and working for more than 24 hours straight, so what I saw on the road in front of me was a little blurry to begin with as my headlights lit the object up. It looked like a small tripod setup in the middle of my lane. WHAT? And then I realized it was actually a small fawn - probably no more than a day old - standing there - caught like a deer in headlights - with its spindly legs intertwined, not knowING which way to go. I swerved just in time and then pulled over and ran back to the fawn. Poor thing was probably only hours old, and I bet any noisy highway traffic would have been quite a shock. I kind of herded it off the road and back into the woods, hoping momma was nearby to lead the little guy to safety. (she was, and did)
The wind was blowing really hard as I parked near my next shooting location and made my way down a very steep hillside towards a bluffline I had never been to, but from looking at a top map I hoped was there. The air was FILLED with the strong sweetness of wild mountain azaleas - there were small plants in full bloom all over the place, dancing to the crazy tunes of the winds. Azaleas have been on my shoot list this spring, but I can’t shoot moving azaleas, so I continued down until I came out onto the top of a big bluff - it WAS there! The view out from the bluff was pretty nice, and so I set up my tripod and camera and waited - I had arrived five minutes early for once!
But I had gotten kind of punch-drunk as they say from being up so long, and I decided not to setup right on the edge of the bluff as I normally would have - fortunately there was plenty of space on this bluff, and there was a little tree right behind where I set up the tripod - so I sat on the ground next to my tripod to wait, hoping I would not fall asleep and miss the sunrise!
Turned out that it was the sort of sunrise where I should have been someplace else - I was hoping for strong side lighting on my subject, which required clear skies and bright sunshine. With a few clouds and high humidity that had gathered along the eastern horizon, the sun was weak and as blurred as my eyesight, and I needed to be shooting directly at the rising sun, which was a nice red ball at the time - I was unable to find a good spot to do that. I shot a few pictures of the original scene, but just like my previous vision of the moonlit bluff, this was a bust as well. Oh well, now I have a better understanding of the location and what conditions will work best there - I’ll be back! I frequently have to make many trips to a particular location before I find suitable conditions - that’s just part of the job.
Then it was on to Russellville where I had several items on my agenda, including restocking the Hastings bookstore there. Our cargo van has been working out great for trips like this one since it has lots of cargo space, many electrical plugins to recharge my stuff, and cabinets and drawers to store all my junk - plus a kitchen so I don’t have to mess with stores or restaurants. On this trip I just didn’t get to use the bed in the back at all - I was one tired puppy when I arrived home, and got to finally lay down and take a nap - YIPPIE!
05/20/13 I came upon a GIANT pine tree while hiking along the top of a narrow ridge in the Lower Buffalo Wilderness area. It was HUGE, more like a redwood than a native shortleaf pine. Yet it was not the massive trunk that towered overhead that got my attention - it was the pile of pine cones everywhere - there were hundreds of them! I love pine cones, all sizes, shapes, and colors. And I've always loved Pine Sol too - makes me think "clean" whenever I smell it.
And while there were pine cones all over the place, there was one spot that was literally covered with them - it was a low area and I guess the cones piled up there. I love scenes like this one, and so I dropped my camera pack and spent the next 30 minutes taking a picture. I cleaned up the scene a little bit, removed a few leaves and twigs that had blown in from other trees, moved a cone or two around until it all seemed just right. As the sign in our loft bathroom says, I was "as happy as a bird with a French fry!"
I wandered further into the wilderness and came upon a bluffline. I followed it around the hill, exploring the cracks, colorful patterns on the wall, and some giant sandstone blocks that had separated from the rest of the bluff. When I explore bluffs I'm always looking for a way UP, and I eventually found one, at least it seemed like it from below. I was able to get about half way up easily, then the route turned back to my right via a set of wet and slippery stair steps that took me higher. Finally I came upon a short moss-covered ledge that was about head-high on me. I had to take off my tripod and camera pack and set them up on top of the ledge, then I reached out and grabbed the base of a small tree up there and hoisted myself up onto the ledge. YIPPIE, I had made it to the top of the bluff!
I love the tops of bluffs ever more than exploring the bottoms of bluffs, and this one was especially scenic. There were long views all around, some interesting rock formations, and lots of different species and colors and shapes of wildflowers. And then I came around the corner and found THE VIEW – oh my goodness, the hills and ridges seemed to go on forever! With sweat pouring off me and many miles behind me, I decided that would be a perfect spot to rest, and so I did. I sat right down and leaned up against a short blackjack oak.
It had been cloudy all day, actually quite hazy too - the air was heavy with humidity. And all that haze just added to the interest in the long view. I had not really paid much attention to which direction I had been traveling, but with a view like that and the end of the day getting near, I thought was a great sunset the scene would make. Turns out I was facing almost directly west, and that is a good direction when hunting a sunset.
So I set up my camera and tripod and started to take a few pictures, trying to imagine exactly where the sun would be if it ever decided to appear. The scene was very wide with those ridges everywhere - even disappearing far out into the scene. So I made a series of images - zooming in close and then taking one picture after another while moving the camera left to right, overlapping the images just a little bit so that I could later "stitch" them all together for a really wide panoramic scene.
And just then the sun appeared as a brilliant red ball right in the middle of the scene. Most of the time you can't take a picture of the raw sun - it is just too bright. But all the humidity and haze provided a filter of sorts, and so I was able to capture the color of the sun and still retain the detail and color of all those ridges. In fact the colors seemed to be changing rapidly, and got more intense as I darkened the exposure. For each different exposure I made I had to go through the entire series of overlapped pictures so that everything would match up. And then it was gone - the sun was only there for a minute or two, and then faded away as quickly as it had appeared, never to return. It was beautiful, simply gorgeous!
It wasn't until the next day that I pieced the sunset images together and took a good look. I zoomed way in on the computer and there it was - a GIANT PINE TREE standing tall and above all the rest in the forest. I got to thinking about that tree and ciphering and going through the hike in my mind, and son of a gun, this was the very same pine tree that I had taken the pine cone picture of! At this small size you will have to look close to see it, but the tree is on the lower right side of the photo below, down the foremost ridgeline a little bit. It will be easy to see in the new picture book I'm working on when it comes out in the fall, and even easier to spot on the big screen during the slide program tour.
After a 15-hour flight, Amber arrived in Greece at 1am (our time) this morning. She will spend the next several weeks in study as part of her double-major from Drury University - they have a business school on an island in Greece, and that is where she'll be working. I saw that someone had posted a photo of Amber Falls on the web today, and I went back into the archives and dug up the picture I had taken of her at her waterfall - and it was exactly ten years ago today that I took that picture! She has come a long way baby, and in fact has flowed all the way to the other side of the world!
And here is an iPhone pano of my camera setup for the sunset photo: