LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - November 2018
Little Bluff cabin cam November 20 - cool and beautiful at sunrise (from our bedroom - got home about 1am)
CANVAS GALLERY HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE this Saturday, 10am-3pm
Journal updated November 20th
Print Of The Week special (above)
***Our HOLIDAY SPECIAL is shipping with your choice of seven different picture books
11/01/18 Today was one of the very best days of my 43-year photography career. And I had a feeling it might be like that. I was up and sipping a cup of mocha at 3:30am - a half hour before the alarm was set to go off at 4. It was like a kid on Christmas morning. It had rained a bunch yesterday and was supposed to continue light rain all day today. Most folks don't realize this, but prolonged wetness in the landscape creates intense saturation in the colors of trees, moss, rocks, and pretty much everything. Since the fall color in nearly every species of tree is at peak right now in the High Ozarks, and that color would be fully saturated, with HIGH water for waterfalls, it was going to be one heck of a photography day. And indeed it WAS.
I drove an hour and a half to the first potential shooting location, and it would be another 30 minutes before I realized the waterfall and surrounding trees and vegetation were exactly as I imagined them - even better. As light eased into the landscape I was up on a small ladder taking pictures from an angle I'd never been able to shoot from before because I'd always FORGOT to bring the ladder. But this day things seemed to be clicking. I shot the same waterfall for two hours and could have easily been there all day, for two or three days, but I had many more spots to visit.
The second waterfall was running well as expected, although not as much color since there were these pine and cedar trees - but even those were sutured with intense green. I found some nice compositions and shot away. Then discovered a dogwood tree in full "bloom" hanging over the river and oh my goodness the saturation in the RED leaves was really INTENSE!
With so much water I decided to make a long hike up into a nearby drainage to see how an 80' tall waterfall was flowing. It was a struggle at first since I started out hiking up the wrong drainage, and with no trail to follow across a very steep and SLICK hillside, my body took a beating (duh, I forgot my ARKANSAS WATERFALLS guidebook and it had been years since I'd been to this waterfall). When I finally made it to the waterfall it was running well, and as a bonus, I found a composition that included from brilliant RED vegetation in the foreground - I couldn't believe what I was seeing.
I spent the next couple of hours exploring the smaller drainage next door and ended up stopping to work seven different colorful, saturated, scenes. For some reason this particular drainage was so steep, and the rubble of flat rocks piled up beneath the forest floor and canyon sidewalls was at just the right angle to delay forward progress - I slipped and slid all the way coming and going. In fact I just had to laugh out loud at one spot I stopped to photograph. Even without the burden of my camera backpack on to disrupt my balance, even with the tall tripod fully extended and seemingly stable, while digging into my camera bag for a filter, I just barely happened to notice that my tripod was falling over and my new and very expensive camera and lens and tripod was in the process of falling over and headed to the bottom of the canyon - YIKES!!!!! But as quick as the swat of a cougar, I turned around, reached out and snagged one leg of the tripod and saved my camera - and the day - from total disaster. WHEW!
Even though there were thousands of potential colorful, saturated scenes in every direction as far as I could see, I left that area I'd been working all morning and into mid-afternoon and drove about 45 minutes into another drainage and hiked up to one of my most favorite waterfalls - Pam's Grotto. By this time my bones, muscles, whatever it is that's messed up in one of my knees due to a bad fall last month, and oh yes, all six bad disks in my back, were feeling the pain of what I'd been putting my body through. I laughed at one point thinking the "saturation" of my pain was as intense as the fall color in the drizzle!
At the Grotto I saw for the very first time all day another set of tripod legs - a former student of mine that really knows how to use a camera. I hadn't seen him in ten years and here we were shooting the exact same composition. I avoided his location so as not to get in his way, yet he was very gracious and was willing to move to make room for me - NOT NEEDED, he was there first and it was his scene to work. Most photographers - and people in general - don't understand this, and perhaps it is just me, but it seems to be common courtesy to not barge in and assume you have the right-of-way - you DON'T! I did eventually make my way over near him and had a delightful conversation - he's a great photographer and thank goodness he has a day job or I might be in trouble!
I had been running on fumes for hours already, but decided to make it to one more waterfall. I miscalculated my route and landed on a different part of the stream, but as luck would have it I found not one but THREE different amazing compositions along the way - one with a brilliant ORANGE maple tree standing proudly on top of a large boulder overlooking the stream, another scene with a carpet of intense GREEN moss and a baby sweetgum tree that was on fire, and finally one of the bright sweetgum leaves sitting right on that carpet of moss. Unfortunately I did not have my macro lens with me, but I made do with one of my other lenses - the detail of the individual fibers of that moss carpet are just amazing (you have to see it blown up large on my monitor).
Oh yes, I've photographed Haw Creek Falls hundreds of times but have never seen it like it was today - it looked like something else entirely, and I spent 30 minutes shooting the same scene over and over.
It was nearly 10pm when I got back down to our cabin after driving home and unpacking and downloading my memory cards and backing up the photos and taking a quick look to make sure I actually photographed what I think I saw - and I did. Or should I say the camera captured it all, thank goodness. IT really wasn't a dream. You will be seeing some of these images here later (I have not processed any of them yet but will post one or two tomorrow), and no doubt in books and calendars next year. My bride spent the day at home slaving away with the continuing process of trying to get moved in and unpacked and organized and cleaned up - an ongoing process that will take months or years. But somehow she managed to do what so many people think is her main job - to put dinner on the table for me even at 10pm. And she did that in spades, but we both laugh at how sexist our modern world continues to be (even other women) - she is the greatest wife on the planet for sure, but cooking and cleaning are chores we always share - her "other" jobs take up so much of her day, which include being the CEO, CFO, bookkeeper, online store manager/fulfillment center, plus a dozen other jobs that keep our meager businesses afloat - and oh yes she is also an artist, and hosted a two-day plein air painter event this week. Some days I can't even keep up with her.
Speaking of keeping up, I can feel my body screaming at me for what I put it through today, but I'm happy to report that it kept me going all day, something I never thought I'd be doing just a few short months ago (last year I could never have photographed even one of the scenes I did today - my body would not allow it). Tomorrow will be a different day and I suspect I will pay for my gallivanting through the wilderness, but how could I not have done so - it was one of the very best days of my 43-year photography career and I didn't want to miss it!
11/02/18 Just a quick update tonight. I did in fact get out of bed early this morning, but didn't go anywhere for a while as I needed to try and catch up some with email and misc. business stuff. I was interrupted several times by the amazing scene that was unfolding off the back deck of the cabin, so I decided to just sit down and wait for the right moment to take a picture. That seems to happen a lot here - I need to dedicate a camera and tripod to live on the back deck.
Come to think of it, I DID go someplace to take pictures before sunrise this morning. Only when I got there it began to pour rain and the sunrise I had hoped for had literally been washed away before it began, so I returned to the office. A few minutes later Pam's dad came through the door talking how INCREDIBLE the rainfall was against the brilliant SUNRISE!!! Are you kidding me??? I had turned my back and gone home and I never got to see it.
Later in the day I was reading how folks were disappointed that they would not be able to visit Triple Falls this weekend due to the road being closed for repair/upgrading. After I thought about it for a moment, I realized that I too had wanted to go visit Triple Falls, but the official NPS notice said the road would only be closed beginning at the park service boundary, which was quite a ways on down the hill from the highway. Not knowing what any parking situation might be at the park boundary, I hitched a ride with my lovely bride who dropped me off down the hill along the road to Camp Orr and Triple Falls, and then I hiked on DOWN through the woods until I reached the waterfall.
We did not receive nearly the amount of rainfall here in the greater Mt. Sherman metroplex this past few days that they got in the upper reaches of the headwaiters area, so I was not sure how if Triple Falls would be running triple or just a double. As it turned out it was just barely running triple, but it was good enough for a photograph, and there were even some colorful trees in the foreground, something I kind of need right now in all the pictures I'm taking - fall color.
Best laid plans of mice and men. Sunshine. It was raining when we left our cabin, but when I arrived at the waterfall it was nothing but blue skies and sunshine - a waterfall killer for me. I waited and waited, and played round with some odd compositions waiting for even a little cloud to drift by. An hour went by, nothing. Then finally when I was about to give up and hike back up to the road, I heard this nagging voice in my head say9ing "Just stay put and WAIT it out a little while longer - a cloud will appear." It was my bride's voice, and since I almost always try to obey, I continued to wait.
And son of a gun, that voice in my head was RIGHT (again) - clouds moved in and I was able to get the photograph I was after. Thanks honey!
Note to self - the road and hillside in between the park service boundary and Triple Falls is VERY STEEP, especially when hiking back UP!
Later in the day I made an evening bushwhack up a beautiful and lush creek in hopes of getting a picture of a waterfall with fall color that I figured was running OK. After more than an hour of some pretty tough and steep bushwhacking, I arrived at the waterfall. There was water and some color, but also a giant beech tree had some crashing down almost directly on top of the waterfall. By the time I figured out a composition that might work and included both the waterfall and some of the fall color in the distance, the sun had set ad and light was fading in a hurry.
I didn't mind hiking out in the dark, although this was a difficult bushwhack with very uneven footing. But my biggest issue was the fact that every time I looked up to see where I was going, I saw another beautiful scene in the dim light that I wanted to stop and photograph! After doing just that a couple of times I realized at that rate I would end up crawling the last half mile in the dark, so I took one last picture of a bright yellow tree hanging out over the beautiful stream with a soothing waterfall in the background. Then I packed up and locked the camera backpack for good and put it into high gear.
I stopped three or four times more with the thought of packing my camera backpack, but there was this voice in the back of my head again, and I was certain she knew best, so I trudged on and safely made it out to the van...
11/03/18 - kinda nice at dawn this morning...
11/12/18 The glass prow of our cabin has been transformed into a snow glove, and we are in the middle of it tonight. I guess we are easily entertained, as we've been just sitting here in the dark watching the show come down and swirl round and round. We had only the outside lights on so could see the flakes easily.
They predicted and we expected and planned for snow midday today. But it was supposed to have been clear this evening. But it is snowing, and the landscape surrounding our cabin is white (everything from midday melted before it could turn white). Can't wait until we get a real heavy snow and are marooned here at the cabin and get to sit and watch and perhaps even go play in it.
We've had a very long week, and it feels kind of strange to have been able to shut down the office at 5pm today and come down to the cabin knowing our van is packed full and all ready for us to make a pre-dawn trip headed south for a slide program in Little Rock tomorrow. Normally I'm running around like crazy just trying to pack boxes with books and pack the van with boxes and consult lists of all the things we need that have not been packed and loaded yet. Of course we spent almost the entire day today unpacking from last nights' program in Fayetteville and sorting everything out as we've had to shift gears (last night was a different program).
A week ago last Sunday I left the cabin early and headed south to catch some color in the Ouachitas. It took me until about 10pm to reach my parking spot beside Crooked Creek south of Mt. Ida. I had spent a good part of the day motoring down Hwy. 7 in thick fog, and stopping frequently to try and get pictures of the amazing fall color season up and down Hwy. 7. When the fog cleared there was more and more color. Perhaps the most color I've seen down south.
There was also a misstep as I was approaching Forked Mountain. I pulled over to the edge of the forest road to get out and take a picture, then realized I had parked in soft dirt so immediately began to back out. But while trying to get back onto the narrow road I almost ran off the end of a culvert - and the van almost flipped over and into the little drainage below it. I was stuck, with one rear tire hanging half-way over the culvert in air.
Two hours later, after I had hiked and hiked and hiked trying to get a cell signal to call for help, and after trying to do a self-rescue and "winch" myself out using a tow rope and giant ratchet strap (which did not work at all), I heard a vehicle coming along the road below. I sprinted down the mountainside - well, I use the term "sprint" kind of loosely here - and I flagged down a gentleman in a jeep and begged for help. Ten minutes later he drug the rear end of my van two feet away from the culvert and I was set free - YIPPIE! Such a very nice guy for helping me out!
I eventually got the waterfall shot I was after nearby, but missed an absolutely STUNNING light and color display up on the mountain that happened as I hiked back to the van - I didn't have a clear view nor a proper lens with me to photograph the mountain, but oh my goodness it was GLORIOUS! In fact, from my vantage point I could see the most amazing fully-in-bloom oak tree ever up there in the middle of the boulder scree field, all lit up by the setting sun. 'Twas one of those memories I'll just have to live with in my head.
The next morning I was up and standing in water in front of another waterfall about an hour before sunrise, then spent the next couple of hours at Little Missouri Falls shooting in the rain. The rest of the day was spent in rain of one sort or another, and stop after stop after stop along the forest road between Albert Pike and Bard Springs campground. I never saw another soul the entire day! In fact several times when I stopped to scope out and eventually shoot a picture, I simply left the van in the middle of the road (I didn't want to get stuck again), while always within sight of the van in case anyone happened to drive by so I could run and move it - no one ever did. It was one of those magical days in the rain with color and water the only happens once in a great while - but in fact it was the second one of those days this year!
The next morning found me atop Petit Jean Mountain hunting more color, but I didn't get much and ended up driving back ome.
A couple days later I was back in the Ouachitas, this time to give the first of our slide programs for the season, in Hot Springs Village. With an almost-record crowd of more than 220 folks, I discovered that neither my primary nor my backup projector WORKED! After trying every combination of computer, projector, and video cable, I gave up and was saved by a borrowed projector from the facility. I was MORTIFIED by it all! But the crowd did not seem to notice my incompetence and even laughed at a few of my remarks and all went well. We always LOVE Hot Springs Village!
My bride hitched a ride back home with her parents while I headed back up to Petit Jean State Park to try and get some color. It didn't take long for me to find some at Cedar Falls, which was running nicely. By the time I found a composition I liked though, the sun had set and it began to get dark. Hum, I don't mind taking pictures in the dark, but the location I liked was out in the middle of the creek, and I didn't have any waders with me. I was wearing blue jeans and didn't want to get them wet since I still had a full day of shooting left to do the next day (blue jeans don't dry well inside a car). So I decided to just shuck my boots and jeans and wade on out into the dark waters. About 10 minutes later the sky above began to glow and a very long exposure of the waterfall and creek scene came to life inside my camera. It was just BEAUTIFUL! And there I was standing in the chilly water in my underwear.
No problems with other hikers since no one else would be down that way in the dark, but it started to rain pretty good. And the jeans I had tried to keep out of the water and dry got all wet - oops! Oh well, won't be the last pair of wet jeans I wear home!
The next morning found me at one of those "personal vortex" locations that I'm beginning to believe in - a small lake within the greater 500,000-acre bottomland hardwoods swamp area known collectively as "The Big Woods." Water levels were high and color levels were low, but I spent the first couple hours of the day waist deep in the swamp soaking up the magic and majesty of the place. And I think I got one good photo too!
Then I motored on to another part of the swamp only to find that all the roads I needed to travel to reach the other places on my list were flooded and closed. But I spied one group of brilliantly-colored cypress trees about a half mile around this one lake, and I made a plan to hike over to them. Three hours later after many aborted attempts to wade through chest-deep water, I gave up. Defeated. And worn out and frustrated. I really needed a boat. But no boat. So I left my favorite swamp and drove home.
We had our gallery open the next day and got to see, meet, and speak with many wonderful folks all day. Pam's dad brought us lunch from Subway, but I didn't get to eat until closing time (I avoid eating around other people, kinda weird that way). Next day we had to pack up and figure out how to get one of my projectors working for our next program in Fayetteville (last night). I THOUGHT I had everything worked out, but when I fired up the projector as folks were arriving, it quit on me again. I had rented a backup projector ($168 from Bedfords in Little Rock), but there were glitches somewhere in my system and we had issues there too. I finally was able to get my original projector working and the show went on.
A new projector is supposed to arrive here Wednesday and we hope it will be the cure, but in the meantime we have our largest show of the season tomorrow at Temple B’Nai Israel in Little Rock. We'll be up and out the door by dawn and hope the 1,000 pounds of books in the van will help give us enough traction to get down our mountain, up the one on the other side of Jasper, then all the way down the southern slopes of the Ozarks into the Arkansas River valley without sliding into the ditch...
By the way, we'll have another slide program in North Little Rock at Windsong Church this coming Thursday evening, and another one in Springdale at Shiloh Museum this Saturday. Please come see us if you are in the area!
11/13/18 It was 15 degrees with frozen roads when we left the cabin at dawn this morning headed to a slide show for LifeQuest in Little Rock. There were a few bad spots along the highway, but mostly we were slowed down a few times whenever I saw an amazing scene and had to pull over to see if there was a picture there. The sun was rising and illuminating hillsides of latent color - some of it pretty bright.
The LifeQuest group was one of the best ever, and despite my anxiety over our projector problems, we had a good show and TONS of great questions. After more than 1,500 of these programs you hear a lot of the same questions obviously - and I LOVE answering questions - the more the better! But today there were several ones I'd never heard before and those often make me have to stop and think on my feet. Sometimes good, sometimes not. The older I get the more I have to pay attention to some of my answers, ha, ha! At the end of the day we got to eat at Backyard Burger for the first time in a long while, and had a smooth ride home - a 14-hour work day for us. It was dark when we got home, but we could still see snow covering the forest floor from the heavy storm that blew through last night. Our Thanksgiving dinner is this coming Sunday - winter is upon us...
11/14/18 - the very first "frost flowers" we've ever seen at Little Bluff - YIPPIE!
11/15/18 I sat in the great room sipping java as the eastern horizon began to glow early this morning. Venus was already up and shining so bright - I bet it is the 3rd brightest object in the sky right now behind the sun and partial moon. Beautiful soft hues of orange and blue mixed with red and pink and lighter and darker shades of blue. The horizon line and below were pure black silhouettes, 'cept for a yard light or two miles away on yonder hillside. Standing tall in front of this scene was what I'm not calling "Pam's Maple" - a middle-aged maple tree that we saved from the bull dozier and lives in the middle of the meadow below the cabin. We had such a spectacular fall color season this year, but I look forward each day and especially night to seeing all the naked trees, for they have so much character throughout the winter.
Yesterday was one weird day all around. It began with the guy who was supposed to have painted and stained all of our cabin - last time we saw him was early last summer, and we've been calling for him to return and complete the job since early July. We finally had had enough when he promised to show up on November 1st and finish the job - but he never did. So we fired him and went looking for someone else. Then, of course, just a few hours later we got a text from him saying he'd be down tomorrow and be completed before thanksgiving. OK, ok, I gave in and said yes.
A few minutes later the gutter company called that was going to install our rain gutters today (after a two-month wait) - "too much snow today" so they cancelled. A little later someone else who was supposed to have been here called to cancel "due to all the snowfall." I received alerts from the national weather service four or five times during the day about the approaching snowstorm that was to begin in twenty minutes and last for more than an hour. My bride has been working a day job elsewhere sometimes since our sales have plummeted this year, and she took off work a little early to make it to the Jasper library in time to return a book, but she was met at the door saying CLOSED AT NOON TODAY DUE TO THE APPROACHING SNOW STORM (or something like that). Just FYI, it never snowed a flake anywhere either of us were all day - so why were so many people staying home and not doing their jobs do to all the "snow" I wonder?
Just before noon I called in an order to our neighborhood cafe (Low Gap Cafe). But first I had to get around a behemoth BUS that was parked along our little county road. It was basically unmarked, and I think as large a bus as is possible in this country. That was weird. Was some rock star napping and didn't like our curvy roads? I have no idea, but the same bus was there when I came home a few minutes later with lunch, and my bride passed this bus on the highway at the end of the day - so at least whoever was napping or whatever finally was ready for travel again.
Oh yes, I must confess that I'm not really much of a soup guy, but whatever it was in the Styrofoam cup I got from Low Gap Cafe was easily the most incredible soup I've ever tasted - OH MY GOODNESS!!! Simple cheesy potato soup. If they ever have it, buy two or three servings. UmmmUmmmGOOD!
TODAY we are headed to the dentist first thing (quite the opposite of that cheesy potato soup as far as pleasure goes), then we'll load up and down back to Little Rock for our program at Windsong Church in N. Little Rock this evening. It will be midnight or after before we get home, but at least the national weather service says it will be clear with no snow predicted. Hum, I wonder if we'll get that blizzard they were predicting yesterday tonight?
NOTE FOR SLIDE SHOW ON SATURDAY AT SHILOH IN SPRINGDALE (11/17/18) - I got the time wrong - the show should have been at 2pm instead of 1pm.
11/18/18 I'm all curled up on the couch about an hour before sunrise and the sky is already showing lots of colors like pink and orange and purple and blue. Looks to be mostly overcast with several bands of sky breaking through and mixing up all that color. And for the first time ever we have FIRE inside the cabin - YIPPIEE Our wood-burning fireplace at Cloudland was one of the main features and always made it so special in the winter there. But it turned out I was allergic to logs, smoke, and everything associated with the fireplace. Now we have a small and simple gas fireplace and it just became operational a couple of days ago. So we get the flames and sparkle of coals and the heat without the stuff I was allergic too. And my bride just loves to sit there with a pup in her lap. Life is good.
Construction update. Our stain guy finally showed up yesterday and worked for a few hours staining the exterior posts and ceilings - that's another big YIPPIE since he has supposed to have been here since July - kinda late but we have been at his mercy. Also our shower tile guy showed up unannounced yesterday and has our main shower almost ready to finish off - that will be a giant step forward too. Rain gutters arrive tomorrow we hope.
Back to the fireplace. It was a four or five-step process to get it installed and up and running, and we have nothing but great things to say about the local propane provider from Harrison, Pioneer Propane (Amerigas?). Super nice and easy to work with. We have a 330-gallon tank in the woods that we hope will last the winter. Propane also will add some moisture to the air so the whole-house humidifier won't have to work so hard.
Slide program update. We've done five programs so far, and while our book sales continue to be dismal, the people we meet and get to visit with at the shows have been the BEST EVER! We really appreciate each of you so much for making the effort to take time out of your day to come see the show. Our hope is that we're able to contribute a tiny bit of joy and peace to your lives. Our next show is tomorrow night in Ft. Smith, one of the biggest shows of the season. (FYI, I sent the new projector back and figured out how to get the old projector working again - it is still the best one on the market at the moment, and it is working fine.)
And this coming Saturday is our main HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE at our gallery with grannie's homemade cookies! And we'll also have a few EXTRA SPECIAL DISCOUNTS on some of the canvas prints. If you have ever wanted a canvas print but just could not swing it, this might be your day to make a trip to the gallery. Also remember that we are open anytime time you are in the area and we are home - just contact us and we can open the door - no purchase necessary.
The clouds surrounding our little cabin are swirling and moving in a little closer and some of the color has blurred into one another. Seems like happy clouds, and I hope your Sunday is one filled with happiness! My only problem today is that my bride filled the caibn last night with a WONDERFUL bake of "sticky toffee pudding" and I must say it took all my restraints to not eat it all overnight! Our thanksgiving is today and it will be one of the main desserts (add an extra S for dessert vs. desert). She's a keeper...
11/20/18 Our garage heater has been fixed, yippie! Turns out the builder shot a nail through the supply line and our heat and air guy had to cut out part of the wall to get into and repair it. Oops.
Our bathroom shower tile is done - DOUBLE yippie! Hopefully we'll be getting faucet and shower head this week and see if it works. Stain guys should be done today - looks so much better outside already - kinda like a finished house, go figure. And we now have GUTTERS! Our gutter guy (from Branson) was able to configure them for our special needs in a couple of spots and were great to work with. YES WE CAN DO THAT was their answer to any question or concerns we had.
CANVAS GALLERY HOLIDAY OPEN HOUSE this Saturday, the 24th, 10am-3pm. I'll have a few new prints on the wall, plus several of the older prints will be priced at a 75% discount, including the largest print we've ever done here - 114' wide by 72" tall - it's the most amazing pebbles I've ever seen - you can actually walk right up to it and see grains of sand. Takes a really big wall to hang the three panels - OR each panel would be used individually for a 38w by 72tall print. Other canvas prints will be marked with red tags. And my bride will have a dozen or more original pastels on display and for sale. MOST IMPORTANTLY, Pam's mom will be baking many batches of homemade cookies this week and those are all free! (our thanksgiving is over so she is just on cookie duty this week, no thanksgiving dinner to prepare)
Regular price - $8,208 - RED TAG SALE PRICE - $2,052!!!