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CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - May 2016 (Part B - May 17 to present; see Part A here)

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Cloudland Cabin Cam, May 31 - baby clouds being born this morning in the canyon below

Journal updated Tuesday the 31st

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05/19/16 Nice cool rain tonight, and the canyon below has already filled with a sea of clouds. We heard deep thunder for several hours before a drop fell, and the landscape seemed to be holding its breath just waiting for that drink. There are smiles all around outside now - even a little rain is great, especially for wildflowers.

I spent about an hour lost in an open meadow near our cabin late today, just wandering around waves of daisies. This is the best daisy bloom I've seen here in decades, at least in some of the high meadows. There were breezes much of the time while I was there, and I shot a couple hundred photos, but never was satisfied with much - tough to shoot wildflowers when they are moving. As I was leaving the meadow and ready to pack it in (just as those first raindrops arrived), I knelt down in the flowers and saw a scene just for an instant. But my eyes had been zoomed all the way in, and I needed to go back to the van and get a different camera system and long telephoto lens.

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So instead of having everything in focus like I normally like to do. I set up the camera very low to the ground so it could look through many of the flowers to focus on a plane of flowers back there in the middle. Tough to judge what the camera captures sometimes, so I shot away for a while hoping my vision would work out. Time spent on your knees in a wildflower meadow is never wasted!

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We decided to upgrade the well water pump and had a larger, more powerful, and more effecient pump and support system installed at Cloudland today - YIPPIE! Our well is just over 800 feet deep and has never gone dry. Our ace well pump guy, Kent Patty, pulled everything up - pipes and electrical wire - then replaced with brand new. He also replaced all the controller hardware, so we are now pumping with a completely new system! This pumps into a 1,000-gallon holding tank, which is gravity-fed downhill a couple hundred feet to the cabin. It has been a great system, with the best water in this area (no iron or sulphur).

Yesterday afternoon I headed into the headwaters of the Little Mulberry Creek near Red Star. Soft clouds covered the sky, and it was cool and beautiful in the wilderness. I hiked a couple of miles downhill and found the creek running well and clear. First thing I found was a waterfall - not very tall, but it spanned the entire creek, with lots of personality. I photographed it from both sides of the creek, and one time crawled back in an overhang - 'twas the sort of place snakes love to hide out, but I didn't see any.

LittleMulberrFalls1b

I spent a little bit of time to get another in my series of "polished river stones" series. I just love doing these, and especially looking up close at the stones. It is amazing how much beauty these tumbled sandstone jewels have. It was dry so I had to splash some water on the stones, then set up my camera pointed straight down from above. shhh, don't tell anyone, but the rocks don't look as good when they are wet and shiny - best to let the water soak in for a while, but not so much that they begin to dry out. This particular group of rocks had one with a little basin in the middle, and there was a little red rock with swirls bathing there. I realize this photo may offend some folks who believe you should never put the subject in the middle of a frame, but for some reason I kind of like it there. I've done photos in this series from four different major river drainages, and hope to get three or four more done before I complete work on the new picture book.

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I kind of spent too much time taking pictures down on the creek - when I finally looked up to see what time it was, darkness had already begun to fall - no wonder some of my exposures were getting really long! So I packed the bag up, strapped on my big tripod, and headed up the steep two-mile hike back out to the van. It was an easy trail, and I rather enjoyed getting to lean into the hill and give it some gas - I made it all the way to the top without stopping a single time. Not bad for an old guy, who has now clicked another one to 61.

We had a Cloudland Moment of sorts late last night after I got home from the photo hike. Both my lovely bride and I left the cabin early and were gone on the road all day. I was a bit tuckered, wet, sore, and hungry when I stomped into the cabin and started pulling off my dirty woods duds. Pam was already in bed reading after a 14-hour work day. I grabbed a bag of frozen veggies and tossed them into the microwave, then went up into the loft and began a conversation with Mia about borrowing "her" chair so I could lean back and munch on my veggies and get to talk to my bride about the events of her day. We hadn't seen much of each other all week in fact, and it was GREAT to get to catch up. Funny how sometimes when you live so close sometimes 24/7, you still don't get to know what all is going on. Mia was quite patient and let me finish my veggies. But I just had to laugh about having to borrow her dog bed so I could eat dinner!

No progress on our new gallery/warehouse building - it doesn't take much rain to delay the completing of the concrete slab work. We still hope to have the building ready to move into sometime this summer. We might even have an open house to celebrate!

The forest continues to be lush and vibrant, and with another round of rainfall tonight the lushness will continue. Hope you get the chance to get out and enjoy some of it this weekend...Rainfall is falling on our tin roof once again, and I think it is going to lull me to sleep.........

05/22/16 Took my girlfriend out for a hot date Friday evening. Good thing she is a very understanding wife. We drove into a remote valley that I'd never been to before - 12 miles of very narrow county road that wound through lush pastures and a lot of dense forest. There were a number of farmsteads and cabins along the way, and it was easy to figure out why they choose that area to live in - quite beautiful, peaceful, and remote - not much traffic, just a handful of cars/trucks a day (through Walnut and the headwaters of Big Piney River). Since almost all of the land was private, I never found anything that I could photograph, but it was great just finally getting to see this place that I've wondered about for a long time.

When we climbed out and got back to pavement again, I had a choice - turn right to head back home, or turn left for a short detour to the only place in the region with ICE CREAM! Hey, it was Friday night, and this was a date, so my lovely bride was treated to a frosty cone from the Burger Barn in Ozone (I forced down a handmade chocolate milkshake, one of my weaknesses). It probably was a good idea that we had already eaten dinner before we left on the trip at 4pm, since the dinner we really wanted to get at the Burger Barn would have been about 2,000 calories - before the ice cream. We were happy campers all the way home.

Saturday evening near dark found me a mile or two upstream into the Buffalo River Wilderness with camera in tow, wandering around looking for a great scene and beautiful light. I had arrived early, when harsh sunshine flooded the area, but that gave me time to explore around a bit. Only when the great light did arrive, it all seemed to come at once, and I was in one of those situations where there were so many compositions in every directions I didn't know which one to point the camera at! I prefer just ONE great scene at a time.

Only there was a problem. I had a vision of what a particular scene would look like in this exact light and how I would photograph it. But somehow I had hit the wrong button and switched the "scene mode" of the camera capture to BLACK & WHITE, so every time I took a picture, all I saw was a small black & white image on the back. With digital, it is easy for me to adjust my exposure and shooting techniques on the fly to make sure I'm capturing the right color, and color was critical for this photo. I was shooting long exposures of one or two minutes each, and at that time of day the colors change rapidly and mix with each other, and you never know how the camera is going to capture that color. So I just kept shooting away and hoping something would turn out. The first photo below was taken when I first arrived during harsh light; the second one taken after sunset with beautiful soft ight...

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I kept shooting until it started to get pretty dim in the forest around me, then I packed up and began a mile bushwhack through the forest downstream, with two crossings of the Buffalo River thrown in for good measure. I had a headlamp with me, but really didn't want to use it. Several times I moved through brush so thick that I simply had to duck and just plow through, hoping I was going the right direction. Then there is one spot where you just have to guess at where to turn and leave the forest, and luckily I ended up within just a few feet of where I needed to cross the river a final time. There seemed to be more light once I got on the other side, then another very short and easy half mile hike across meadows to reach the van.

As I climbed up out of Boxley Valley on the steep Cave Mountain Road headed home I saw the rising full moon, all orange and glowing like crazy. And right next to it was Mars, something we are not used to seeing rising with the moon - although it has been in all of the Milky Way photos I've been taking this past few weeks. There was a particular tree I had made a mental note about once when I was standing next to it - COME BACK HERE during a full moon rise sometime, and so I sped up just a little bit and made it to the tree in time to photograph the colorful moon rising behind it.

Later on after I had downloaded the pictures from the river did I get my first look at the color of the water - the camera did a great job of capturing the mix of color and emotion that Momma Nature tossed our way - YIPPIE! Almost as good as ice cream...

The alarm went off at 4am this morning, and I had somewhat of a panic - I was out of coffee! That was OK - I was pretty excited about a field of wildflowers my bride had told me about, and so I splashed my face with some cold water, packed my gear, and headed out the door - and followed the setting full moon all the way into town and through sunrise. I don't remember always being so aware of the rise and fall of the full moon as a child, but I sure do notice and keep track of it now every chance I get.

The wildflower field was even better than Pam had described, and I spent the next hour with kind of the same situation I had been in the night before on the river - so much incredible beauty in all directions (i.e., what looked like a MILLION flowers!), I didn't know where to point the camera. And this field was right next in between the main highway and a paved hike/bike trail in beautiful Bella Vista, so I didn't have to hike very far to get to it. With perhaps a time or two near Ouray, Colorado, this was easily the most PURE COLOR in one place I'd ever seen - oh my goodness! I took three cameras with me and I used them all. But the light was changing rapidly and so I had to work fast. I also had a meeting back at the Cloudland Gallery so I had to work even faster to get back home in time. Shooting these flowers turned out to be pretty easy - but picking just one or two to show you has proven to be impossible! This was obviously out of the 12-mile circle of the new picture book I'm working on, but I hope to be able to include one or two of these flower images in the 2017 Arkansas calendars. If you see one in your calendar next year, you will know it was taken today!

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This evening I headed back out again near dusk to see what I could find, although I mostly stuck to the local roads up here on the mountain. The moonrise was about an hour after sunset, and it was brilliant golden again, but the landscape all around was mostly silhouetted and I'm not sure I got any keepers. But it was great to be out - and anytime you get to watch a moonrise your life will be a little big happier.

05/24/16 It was a lovely afternoon out on the back deck grilling an early dinner - fresh asparagus (stolen from Benny/Mildred's garden) and other veggies along with some pig and chicken. Rainfall singing a lovely tune. Wisps of clouds drifting on by. Then BAM!!! The sky lit up. POW!!! The ground rumbled. CRACK!!!!!!!!!!! The earth shook, and so did the cabin. This was just the first round fired over the bow. We had about 45 minute more of the same, sometimes more severe, with heavy rain. One BOOMER hit about five seconds after the sky lit up, then shook the ground for nearly ten seconds! The brats got a little well done, which is exactly how I like them!

I got caught out in the rain yesterday, another activity I like, in fact LOVE - being outside during a summer thunderstorm. I had set up my tripod looking straight down at the polished river stones spread out on the banks of the Little Buffalo River when the rain began. It wasn't a thunder-boomer like today, rather just a gentle, steady rain, soft and beautiful. Wet rocks are saturated rocks, and as the rain continued the rocks got really colorful. I let them get nice and wet while my hat covered the camera to keep it dry, but pulled out an umbrella to attache to my tripod to keep the rocks from getting any wetter. Shiny rocks are not as colorful. So I let the rain drops soak into the rocks, and when the shine began to fade I started taking pictures. This group of rocks was the fifth one in a series from different river drainages I'm working on for my new picture book. The rocks in this photo seemed to be mostly smooth, organized, calm; peace and harmony - I was only 1/4 mile from a Buddhist retreat center so it was no wonder they were acting this way.

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We had our first unannounced visitor at the new warehouse/gallery building site over on our new property. No walls or floor yet, but progress has been made bringing in some utilities. Anyway, a big old fat bear wandered through what will become the front door to the building, walked through the gallery part, then exited on out through what will become the back door of the warehouse part - leaving his tracks all along the way. Nice of him to use the future doorways instead of just breaking down the future walls! I wonder if he noticed any of the future canvas prints that will be on the walls?

CRASH. BOOM. BANG!!! Another round of thunder-boomers is passing overhead...

~~~~~

05/25/16 Long night with lots of noise and rainfall, and we awoke to the sound of the mighty Buffalo River roaring up from below. I had a very long and exhausting day and just got home late tonight and kind of resemble a drown, stinky, starving rat. (I had a bowl of cereal at 6am and have not eaten a thing since then - it's about 10pm now and I'm getting ready to heat up some of the leftover brats from the grill! And I hear my lovely bride brought some sweet treats for me from town.) So this will be a quickie update - I've not seen any of my real photos from today, only a few snapshots.

I left the cabin early and headed out for what I thought was going to just be a quickie waterfall shoot and then back to the cabin for normal work. There seemed to FINALLY have been enough rainfall to get the creeks up and running (many were just a trickle after yesterday's rainfall, but the overnight storms brought the levels and flow up.) I hiked into Little Pine Hollow just across the valley from our cabin and slide down to the base of a nice waterfall there, set up my tripod and took a few pictures. Then I wandered into the back of the overhang there and started to shoot more pictures.

Then it started to get DARK - I mean REALLY dark! It got so dark in fact that I was unable to see to walk around back under there and had to pull out a flashlight -and it was 9am! Along with the darkness came lightning, thunder boomers, and heavy rain. And along with that came a large waterfall. I shot the basically the same scene of the waterfall from underneath the overhang for more than an hour, and the size of the waterfall increased at least triple - it was rockin' and rollin' by the time the rains stopped!

And I had somewhat of a dilemma. I've always been an "overhang" dweller - camped and explored and escaped many downpours beneath bluff overhangs. But I've heard the opening can act as a "spark gap" like in a spark plug if lightning hits nearby - and anyone hiding under the bluff can get FRIED! Well, today, it was pouring pretty hard, with lots of fireworks going on all around, yet I was snug and happy and working away with my cameras under that bluff overhang. But did I need to get out from under there and go stand in the pouring rain? I elected to just stay put and keep working until the storm passed - and daylight returned!

FlodedPineFalls

Next I headed towards Waterfall Hollow near Fallsville - with names like that this should be a killer combination for waterfalls! Ya think? Well, in all these years of hiking that portion of the Ozark Highlands Trail that goes through Waterfall Hollow, doing a guidebook entry about the three main waterfalls there, and now making three attempts this year to go photograph one of them for my new picture book, I STILL have not found good flow. Until today - all three waterfalls were running just great - ONLY the clouds all disappeared and all I had was HARSH SUNSHINE - YUCK!

I hiked to the middle waterfall and set up my tripod and camera, then began to clear away tons of limbs still leftover from the 2009 ice storm (Roy Senyard and I worked several days with chain saws just to get the trail corridor open through this hollow back then - it was hit really hard by the ice damage). And right off the bat I slipped and fell hard on the rocks - really hard. Lucky I came down on my elbow and hand, and I thought I had cracked bone in my elbow - I was unable to move it for a while, and I spent the next 30 minutes clearing the ice storm debris with one hand.

Still nothing but clear blue skies in all directions, but being the eternal optimist that I am, I was still counting on a few clouds to roll through so I could finally get just one photo of this waterfall! I also spent some time looking at the other waterfalls and trying to make sure I had the best composition in case that cloud did happen to drift overhead - so I would be ready.

And I contemplated which helmet would be the best to protect my hard head for the future falls that certainly will come. Had I hit my head instead of my elbow this might have been all over for me. Bike helmet, rock climbing helmet, kayaking helmet - anyone have an idea?

waterfallhollowsunnytop

About an hour later some thin clouds drifted by and I was elated and shot away. The more clouds and more pictures, then finally a solid cloud cover and I really went to town. Same exact scene you understand, I just had to shoot it under every single cloud that produced beautiful light. OK, done - I got my Waterfall Hollow waterfall picture - YIPPIE!

Next I headed for Lichen Falls - lots of water flow there and overcast skies so this one would be easy since it is located right along the Ozark Highlands Trail. But when I arrived just above the falls there were two photographers already down there at the base of the falls - I'm pretty anti-social in social matters, but downright a hermit when I'm working, so I try to avoid all over photographers and people in general when I'm out taking pictures. So I just motored right on by the waterfall and kept going along the trail until I got to Lynn Hollow, which has always been a beautiful spot. Only today would be different.

It was SPECTACULAR! I had to get out into the middle of a narrow canyon with swift whitewater, and had to use my tripod as a "walker" to navigate the swift currents, but I was able to find a spot with three different waterfalls all coming together and pouring into the narrow canyon - it was a special scene that I'd never seen before. And then the sun came out. Go figure! I stood in the middle of the canyon and waited patiently (not really, but it sounds better to say patiently). Eventually the light got softer and finally total cloud cover, and I was all set! I have not seen any of these pictures yet, but I'm assuming one of them will turn out well - it was a very interesting scene with beautiful light.

POWMay26LynnHollow

OK, I had given the other guys at least an hour so I returned to Lichen Falls and found they had gone - just the crowd I like to work! I spent the next hour shooting from two or three different spots, the last one being very low to the ground with a smaller cascade in the foreground - which is now my favorite shot of the day I think.

LichenFallsFromBelow

The final stop of the day was to Sweden Creek Falls Natural Area. I'd shot here many times but never can get enough of this place. And this time was no exception - the tall waterfall, light, and especially the lush FERN everywhere were just wonderful. BUT the wind was blowing pretty hard and made for difficult shooting conditions. It was tough for me to work his scene, and while I shoot a couple hundred photos there, I don't know if I'll like any of them or not. Towards the end of Sweden Creek my thoughts turned to FOOD - 15 hours already since my last meal and I still had to hike out and drive home.

And so here I am with hot brats and BBQ sauce now waiting on my to finish up this blog post (Ugggg, I used that word BLOG - I hate that word...). JOURNAL post, that is what I meant to say. I have pressing work to do here in the morning so probably won't go out waterfall shooting tomorrow, but more rain is on the way this week, and I should be all dried out by then...

05/27/16 Made a quick trip down into Amber Falls near our cabin yesterday evening - we had a nice thunderstorm dump a good amount of rain. Seemed like most of the wet stuff was still in the trees/brush - I was totally soaked to the bone after only five or six steps from the road! Bumping into a limb or bush brought at least a gallon of cool water down on ya. It was a REFRESHING hike for sure! And for the first time that I can recall, I actually heard the waterfall the moment I stepped out of the van - sound travels uphill pretty well.

When I arrived at the roaring creek I found a river of chocolate milk. I figured since the ground was pretty saturated that the flow would be high, but also that there would not be much mud - WRONG! Oh well, I just admired all the new waterfalls in the canyon that only run when flooded, then turned around and hiked back up to the van. It is only a ten-minute or so hike. And now there is a narrow beat-down path from the "wilderness" sign on Cave Mountain Road almost all the way down to Amber Falls (shhhh, don't tell anyone - been a lot of folks visiting this falls).

For some reason I had a tough time waking up and getting going this morning - took me two cups of coffee and a couple of quick naps before I was ready to head out for a day of work in the woods. The waves of thunderstorms that were supposed to have come through during the night never arrived - not a single drop. But when I arrived at Amber Falls it was still roaring, and the river and falls were clean and clear and just terrific! I spent the next couple of hours there taking pictures - first from downstream, then from up close, shooting through one of the big umbrella magnolia trees that was hanging in front of the falls.

AmberFallsBelow

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The water was so high that the waterfall produced its own wind, which meant the giant leaves on the magnolia tree would never stop moving. So even exposures of 1/4 to 1/2 second long would blur at least some of the leaves/limbs. But the light was so interesting I didn't care (nor could I stop the waterfall wind, so why worry about it). A quick hike back up and out and I was ready for my next chore - I was a lot drier than the night before since the forest was not soaked with rain.

I could have easily spent the entire day in the Whitaker Creek drainage - there were at least eight named waterfalls within my reach, and many more along the way. But I opted instead of drive on over and explore Knuckles Creek some more - my third visit there in the past month or two.

I started off on one of the mountain bike trails (old road), but quickly took off hiking - then splashing - upstream on an unnamed drainage. It was a beautiful clean and clear creek that was running well with many pools and sections of whitewater, plus a waterfall here and there. And the forest all around was THICK and LUSH! While I was hiking it rained a time or two just upstream from me - I never actually got rained on, but I was pretty soaked from the wet forest.

The very first of at least a dozen times I crossed this stream I decided what the heck - just plunge right on in and fill my boots with water, then not worry about trying to cross dry the rest of the day. And so I did. The water was cool, but not cold - in fact it felt pretty good.

I found a tall double-decker waterfall that poured directly into the creek, and while I climbed around to the upper level too I didn't think it was flowing enough to warrant a photo stop. Seems odd that it wasn't flowing any stronger since everything else was, yet it looked like it flowed most of the time.

Several times I found scenes while standing in the middle of the creek, and I set up my tripod and camera in a foot or two of water - so it was a good call to go ahead and get my boots flooded right off the bat since I would fill them up dozens of times!

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One time I came upon this amazing stream scene that had a lot of fog rising - it looked quite magical! I hurriedly set up my tripod and camera and before I could even look through the lens to make a test exposure, POOF, the fog disappeared! And it never returned. This was one spot where it had just rain ahead of me.

Another time I crossed the creek and was stepping out on the other side when I looked up and saw two giant moss-covered trees. The close one had some really thick moss on a large exposed root, and then there was some nice white-water in the distance. And all around was lush, LUSH! I decided to set up my camera pretty low to the water surface and very close to the tree root, putting it in the foreground just a few inches from the front of the lens. With the moss so close, I could not get the rest of the scene in focus at the same time, so I ended up doing what we call a "focus stack" of the scene - I shot about a dozen pictures of exactly the same scene and exposure, only I moved the focus a little farther away each time. This is something we could never do with film, but it is possible with software now, and in fact pretty easy to do if you use proper technique. (And I did manage to get everything in focus from front to back - you can see how sharp and detailed the moss is, and how lush everything was! Actually you can't see all the detail in this small photo - but if you are ever at my gallery and are curious, ask to see a full-size view of this on my computer!)

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After exploring for several hours I decided to make a giant loop back to the van, and I took off upstream on a side canyon that went for nearly a mile - the last part of it being pretty steep - but it felt great to get some exercise in and work off some of the chocolate/peanut butter granola bars that my lovely bride bought me!

One funny note - after spending several hours bushwhacking through some really thick and at time difficult and steep backcountry without any issues, I slipped and fell pretty hard while waking across a level and open part of the forest! I came down hard on the other elbow (not the one I injured the other day in a fall). While I was laying there on the ground cursing, I had to laugh a little bit too - what brought me down was a one-inch dead tree limb on the ground - it just rolled me when I stepped on it.

These two falls this week got me to thinking about wearing #1) elbow pads (both my elbows really hurt tonight), and #2) a helmet. While of course it is terrible to hear about and see a hiker fall from a tall bluff to their death, one can also die while walking on level ground and hitting your head on a rock - I've always worried about that. So now I'm wondering if a rock climbing helmet might help save you from serious injury or even death from a short fall like that? Anyone have an opinion on this? I say rock climbing helmet vs. bike helmet because I would not need the added shape and weight of a helmet that is designed for aerodynamics (I DO hike pretty fast at times, but not that fast). Anyway, if you happen to see a soaked dude bushwhacking through the forest one of these days wearing elbow pads and a helmet - and a camera backpack and tripod - it might be me.

I returned to Knuckles Creek and hiked upstream for a mile or so to a nice shelf waterfall that spanned the creek. What was visually interesting to me about this waterfall was the fact there was a tree arching over the entire waterfall - it looked really different.

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It was a textbook day for waterfall photos - clear water and lots of it! Just wish there were many more of me to be able to visit a lot more falls! Saturday should be pretty good as well, unless the sun comes out, then things won't be as lush or as colorful - but a great day to be waterfall hunting for everyone I hope!

05/29/16 The alarm went off at 3:30 this morning, and soon I was standing knee-deep in the Bella Vista poppy field a couple of hours away. The pre-dawn light was beautiful, but there was a problem with the poppies - they were EVERYWHERE, and the COLOR was INTENSE!!! I didn't have a clue which direction to point the camera.

Two hours later I gave up and left. It was kind of like eating the most wonderful flavor of ice cream - two gallons of it. And then someone hands you another gallon. I wandered around the poppy field with three different cameras - one was my little snapshot camera; second was a normal 35mm camera with long telephoto lens, which I use to isolate individual flowers against a sea of color; and finally I had my really big camera - it's the standard camera that is my first choice if I'm able to use it. I used them all.

pinkpoppy

Just now after downloading and looking through the photos that I took, I realized that I came back to the very same scene five different times - that's often a good indication that I probably liked that scene and should use it somehow. And each time I did a number of identical photos to combine later as a "focus stack" - i.e., so that all the flowers from the very front to the very back will be in focus. So what I think I ended up with will be a very high resolution image of my favorite scene with every flower in focus and can be printed mural size - and you'd be able to reach our and touch any flower in it since they would all be sharp! (part of that image is below)

poppyfieldstack

On the way home I stopped and bought a helmet to protect my hard head. So now if you come across me hiking in the woods I will most likely be wearing it instead of a normal hat. And if someone asks why I'm wearing such a funny helmet in the woods, I'll just tell them it is my thinking cap!

05/31/16 A very quick update since I'm about to run out of room for this month. Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend! I spent an hour yesterday morning shooting wildflowers in neighbor Kennie's yard and meadow - with all the rainfall lately we're having tons of wildflowers in many places - LUSH!

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Yesterday afternoon I bushwhacked into the headwaters area of the Big Piney River (or is it Creek?). I spent some time working on the next in the series of "polished river rocks" and it turned out really nice. Lots of darker stones in this drainage. There was rainfall on and off, and every time it rained the river would produce fog, which looked and felt kind of eerie - and also quite beautiful!

BigPineyPoishedRiverRocks

I had to fight my way downstream in search of other scenes - sometimes the forest was so thick I could not see a route through, and I ended up just trying to head towards a lighter part of the forest - where a tree had probably fallen and opened up the canopy a bit. The last 1/4 mile was some of the thickest jungle I'd ever encountered in Arkansas - not only trees and brush, but also vines of all shapes, thorns or not. MANY times I would get entangled in vines and they would bring me to the ground - though I spent a lot of time very close to the ground just trying to push through the jungle so I did not have far to fall! I found myself lowering my head and bowling my body through some of the thickest parts, using my new helmet as a ramrod to push through.

I started counting how many times I got tangled up in vines that stopped my progress - or threw me to the ground. 37 TIMES! They should call this the "Viney River" instead of Piney. Sometimes I just rolled onto the ground in laughter - more of the vines were smooth grape vines rather than thorny briars, although they did punch a few holes in me and I would notice streams of blood down my arm now and then, but rainfall and soaked bushes would usually take care of that.

I went as far as I could and landed down next to the river on a rock slab, and stood there in the pouring rain shooting a neat pair of rock slabs out in the water. If you look close you can see all the rocks on the far river bank are wet and shiny and saturated from all the rainfall. The river was flowing by quickly, which smeared all its details during my 30-second exposures, and the beautiful color just got richer and more saturated. Fog would form and lift, and in between would swirl around and come pay a visit to my location, then rise off into the clouds.

PineySlabRainFog

Just before the heavy rains I found an old, twisted ceder living just above the river, and somehow managed to get my camera on tripod about eight feet up and above an interesting part of the tree. I urge my workshop students to buy a TALL tripod and most just look at me and say "this is what the salesman sold me and said would work just fine" - and those tripods might work just find if you are shooting in a parking lot, but short tripods just don't cut it out in the real world of nature photography. Anyway, the cedar tree twisted detail was very nice, although I think with many of the images I'm shooting these days it would look better in a large print - I hope we have enough wall space in the new gallery!

cedarpoolTopaz

The trip back to the van as darkness began to fall was much quicker than my trip in - I elected to go high on the hillside, just below a tall sandstone bluff - more rocks underfoot, but not so many vines.

This will be my last post for May - my goodness it has been a full month, yet I fell like I've wasted a great deal of time and could have visited many more places. June will be the last month to take pictures for the new picture book, and I still have a long way to go. I hope it's not too boring for you, and I will try and post as much interesting stuff as I can. HAPPY MAY TO YOU!

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