CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - April 2014
Cloudland remote Cabin Cam April 20 - our weekend photo workshop folks at Harmony Mountain Lodge
Journal Updated Tuesday the 15th - shooting The Blood Moon
Print Of The Week - Blood Moon & oaks, Arkansas (above)
(below) City Rock Bluff Engagement Calendar Print Of The Week special
04/01/14 SPRING HAS ARRIVED! I always consider April to be the month of spring in the High Ozarks, and today did not disappoint. Popcorn trees started to pop, and could be seen dotting the blufftops and hillsides for miles and miles. They are typically the first tree to bloom up here, and I call them popcorn trees because they just POP into bloom - almost the entire tree at once. They are really sarvis or serviceberry trees, but I will always know them as popcorns.
The other tree that begins to bloom right about now is the wild plum, and there are a few of them just coming out now. When you get up close and stick your nose right into the blooms, the aroma is oh so SWEET! Unlike the pure-white popcorn trees, wild plums have a slight pink color to them.
As I made my way back to the cabin from the print room tonight I got a glimpse of the crescent moon setting in the west through the trees. Gosh darn it, I should have been OUT taking pictures instead of IN processing them! I thought it was supposed to be cloudy and stormy tonight? Anyway, the night sky is rather beautiful, with a zillion stars out. And that moon, now just a glow on the horizon, reminded me that I needed to post a photo that I took last week.
I was up early on Friday to scout some of my favorite haunts for the upcoming weekend nighttime photo workshop. It was just a tiny orange sliver that seemed to appear out of nowhere - like a ghost - and then it whispered to me. I got out the camera, and held my breath as I set it up so as not to scare away the last moonrise of the month. It was one of those moments of raw Momma Nature that I cherish so - just a simple landscape with a single oak tree, and the crescent moon shining through a royal predawn sky. Click. Click. Click. Click, click.
04/03/14 Oh the SWEET and wonderful feel of raindrops on my face in April!!! It has been wet here for a couple of days, but tonight we are getting some nice rainfall. Those raindrops forced me to detour a little while ago and mosey on through the forest instead of returning straight to the cabin from print room work. There is just something about rain in April here - the ultimate sign of spring. And the promise of GREEN and yellow and red and white and LIFE all around. Oh yes, and WATERFALLS! I know I'm neck-deep in the nighttime book right now, but waterfalls remain at the top of my photography list (and of course, I will continue to combine them).
The storm raging outside right now has a lot of light and noise with it. Another one rolled through this morning while I was away, sometime mid-morning. My lovely bride was here and reported that the air CRACKED with LOUD BANG. Phone lines went dead, and water began to pour in places it has not before. It was after 6pm tonight when the phones spring back to life, and internet access with it. We have very limited cell service out here, so when the phone lines go down, we are cut off. But that is OK - we always have plenty to do around here!
In fact we got to spend some quality buzzard time out on the back deck before dinner. The wind was HOWLING about as high as I'd ever seen it - Pam had to come in from working on her flower bed because it was tough to stand up the wind was blowing so hard. But the buzzards seemed to take it all in stride. It was amazing just to sit and watch them right out in front of us - playing and doing all sorts of aerobatics. There were actually just beyond the tree line, which put them about 100 feet above the treetops below. They were trying to fly in formation - or rather drift in formation. It seemed the harder the winds blew the tighter their formation got. Watching buzzards - now that is some kind of EXCITEMENT!
The other day I was hiking through the woods and instinctively stopped in mid step and landed about two feet off to one side of where I was headed. I caught a glimpse of "copperhead" color and pattern and shape on the forest floor right about where my foot was headed. Turned out to just be a stick about the right size and color pattern. But I was glad that my brain was already tuned into that sort of thing since the little guys will be soon coming.
Oh yes, one other wildlife note that was related to the wind. My lovely bride and I were on the road up near the warehouse this afternoon doing something, and a bright yellow butterfly came whizzing by - it was a yellow swallowtail. It was not faring as well in the wind as the buzzards were, but somehow it managed to keeps its composure and general direction despite being tossed around so much. I wonder - do butterflies get dizzy?
I have been working on a few new canvas prints for our Spring Open House this coming Sunday. Let's see, there is a 30x40 of the newest Oak Tree Moon at Dawn image that I am mesmerized by - oh my you can count every little branch of this beautiful tree in that big print! There is also a smaller 24 x 24 canvas print of that same scene, but a different frame of it without the moon - just a nice blue and purple sky. And there is another 30x40 canvas of the Cossatot Falls at dawn from last week - the rocks are so smooth as the mist rises. Plus I've done a couple of star photos from this past month or two - one of them being the Honeymoon Star Circle photo from last week, and one of the Hawksbill Crag Comets from January (or February?). I made may a couple more new ones if I get the time. We'll also have many of the canvas prints from the Holiday Open House last fall - everything will be on sale for HALF PRICE, including all the new canvas prints that I'm making this week. PLUS we will have ALL of the framed canvas prints marked on SUPER SALE at 75% OFF - holy cow!!! These are some of the most gorgeous framed prints you will ever see. We did them as a test and the big, heavy gold frames cost us a small fortune, but they sure do raise the look of the canvas prints up a few notches and give them a more formal look. You can see most of these prints - including all of the framed canvas prints - in our online gallery here. Shhhh, don't tell anyone, but you can reserve any of these for pickup on Sunday or at a later time - just send us an e-mail.
Tomorrow, Friday, I'll be up extra early trying to do about five days worth of work to get ready for the Springfield programs and the open house on Sunday. I suspect that the gallery won't be cleaned up until about 9:55am Sunday - but if I don't make it, please pardon my mess - I've been spending a lot of time outside at night and don't always get my daytime chores done! Oh, and I'm sorry to report that Pam's mom just had hip-replacement surgery so she will not be on hand to provide her wonderful homemade cookies and cider - it will just be canvas prints and music without refreshments. Of course, all you have to do it step outside for the cleanest, freshest, mountain air in this part of the country to enjoy! We hope to see ya either in Springfield or at our Open House - or both!
FYI, I restocked the Russellville Hastings store today and they have a full case of Arkansas Waterfall Guidebooks for those who have been looking for them there!
04/06/14 I was wide awake at 3am Friday, just like a little kid on Christmas morning, holding open the curtain next to our bed and gazing out the window into the night sky. We had a couple of storms roll through the day before and I was hoping the clouds would clear on out and I could run out and take a star picture before dawn. When it looked like the clouds had started to break up, I jumped out of bed, ran down the stairs, and began to study the radar map to be sure, and then tried to figure out where I need to go for the best chance at an interesting picture.
With all the rains of the day before I figured that Compton Double Falls might be flowing pretty good, and I thought I might have a view of the clear sky above it - that's the combination I was looking before. It was about 4am when I parked along the gravel road, loaded up my camera backpack, and headed into the very dark wilderness.
Since the quarter moon had already set, the forest was really dark, and so I used a small headlamp to see my way down through the thick brush. Those that have been to Compton Falls know this as a difficult bushwhack - there is no trail or any landmarks other than the creeks. It was kind of fun bushwhacking through this terrain in the dark, and since it was all downhill, it was a pretty easy trip for me - oops, did I say "trip?" I only did a couple of times, but the ground was pretty soft so no harm done!
Folks ask me if I use a GPS - I usually do not, other than when I'm working on a guidebook and need to plot out the trail route or mark waypoints. But in the dark like this trip, I sometimes do use an old GPS, and here is how I use it. I loaded the coordinates for Compton Double Falls from the Arkansas Waterfalls Guidebook, then added a waypoint for my parked car. I knew that I wanted to generally drop down the hill until I reached Whitaker Creek, then turn left and follow the creek to the big double falls. But it is kind of rough down there along the river (especially in the dark!), so once I got down close to the creek, I turned left and followed along a mostly-level "bench" that ran 50-100 feet above the creek - MUCH easier hiking than along the creek itself. I would check the GPS map now and then to see how close I was getting to Compton Falls, and once I got to a point where I was almost directly above it, I simply "hung a right" and headed straight down the steep hillside and ended up right next to the waterfall - in the dark no less!
From there I made my way downstream a little bit and found a place to cross the creek. The water was high and loud, and close to flood stage. I worked my way up the creek to the base of Compton Double Falls, and shining my light around I saw an amazing beast of a waterfalls, full of life and glory and very, very LOUD! And the sky above the falls was clear and full of stars - YIPPIE!
I looked around for a few minutes to figure out the best location and composition for my photo, but as luck would have it, by the time I got my camera set up the stars had DISAPPEARED! Yup, cloud bank moved in and covered up all the stars. Bummer. I still had a couple of hours before daylight, and I spent that time shooting long exposures of the waterfall and blue-purple sky above, and tried various light-painting techniques to see how the waterfall looked all lit up.
And then just a tiny bit of lightness began to creek into the sky - and at that point, even if the clouds moved out, the sky would be too light for stars to show up the way I wanted them too. Oh well, at least I was there and trying - tough to get a good photo while back home in bed!
I ended up behind the waterfall and took some pictures of Venus rising along the eastern horizon - the planet was so bright that it was eventually the only object in the sky. As dawn approached I packed up my camera gear and made the long trek back uphill to my car. No great picture to brag about, but I learned a few things about the relationship of the waterfall to the night sky.
I spent most of Friday working over in the print room - and as it turned out, most of that was in vain. With our Spring Open House coming up on Sunday, I was anxious to try out a brand new type of canvas print material, and I made 10 large canvas prints. But then the more I looked at them, the more I realized that something was not looking too good. I called my lovely bride over to have a look, and she spotted it right away - NONE of the prints were any good - the canvas was all defective! I had to trash about $1,000 worth of canvas and ink and start all over.
Fortunately I had enough of my regular premium canvas, and I spent the rest of the day and on into the night remaking the prints - and oh my goodness the new ones look terrific! But by the time I looked up at the clock it was 10pm - and guess what - the SKY WAS PERFECTLY CLEAR! And it was supposed to remain clear all night. But I had somewhat of a dilemma. The photo I got early in the morning was pretty nice - with a purple twilight sky and the thundering lightpainted waterfall. On a scale of my person work I rated it an A-minus - not exactly what I had hoped for, but pretty darn nice, and certainly one I could use in the new book. But did I want to try for an A, or an A+ photo? If so I had to work a lot more to get it.
I was a TERRIBLE student all through my school years - a C-minus would have been great for me! But photography is completely different, and I've always been somewhat of an image-quality nerd, and place pretty high demands on myself and my work in that regard. So I hurriedly packed up my camera gear again and headed back for another try at Compton Double Falls.
Just as I stepped out of the car to begin my second dark hike of the day towards the waterfall, BAM! - a shotgun blast rocked the silence of the night. I froze in my tracks, and strained to look around and see what the heck was going on. And then BAM! again - a second shot - it was really CLOSE! A chill ran down my spine - or perhaps it was just my chicken feathers going up! I did not see any muzzle flash, but man it was close. I could see a yard light of a residence just up the road a little bit, and it sounded like the shotgun blasts were coming from there. But what the heck was going on? It was pretty late at night, and this was the only house around, so I didn't exactly want to go wandering into the yard to see. So I did the next best thing - I shouldered my camera backpack and slipped off into the woods and headed down the hill as quick as I could!
It was early enough and the 1/4 moon was up, but not enough moonlight for me to see my way, so once again I used my small headlamp, this time just the red light on it. I tried to be as quiet as possible, and yet as quick as possible. I once again used the GPS waypoint for the waterfall to give me an idea of my progress, and eventually found my way to the bottom of the waterfall. Oh yes, there were a couple more shotgun blasts along the way, but I never saw or heard anything else.
It is kind of eerie being out there in the middle of the wilderness in the middle of the night, especially when someone was shooting nearby. But I had work to do, and sky conditions were perfect - it was clear and cold, and there were a zillion twinkling stars over head. And since Compton Double Falls in way down in the bottom of the canyon, from my the vantage point where I set up my camera, the moon had already set behind the hill and was not in the way of my photo.
I wanted the get as close to the exact same framing of the waterfall as I had done the night before, and to make sure of that I brought along an 8x10 print. It was kind of funny if you had see me out there - holding that color glossy 8 x 10 in one hand, and trying to look through the viewfinder and shine a light around the waterfall area to get them all matched up. I do some weird things, but that's just the way I work sometimes.
The forecast was calling for not only temps down below the "dew" point, but also FROST in the early morning - YIKES, frost in April? Not good for my photo. My plan was to take a series of long exposures and combine them into a single 8-10 hour star trail exposure. But if mist, dew, or frost got onto the front of the lens, the photos would not work. So I brought along a "dew heater" - an electronic contraption that is used by astronomers to keep their telescopes from collecting dew or frost during long hours of use. And I packed in a six-pound battery to power it all night! I also packed in a large external battery (only 3 pounds though) to power my camera all night - the in-camera batteries don't last long enough to run all night.
After an hour or so of messing with the composition and the camera, and making sure all of my electronics were working well, I sat there in the darkness and wondered if I really needed to let the camera run all night long, then hike back in again the next morning to pick up the camera gear. I felt like I had already improved over my first photo by getting the waterfall with a sky full of stars behind it - a solid A this time. But to get an A+, I really needed the long star trails - but that would take a lot more work, another roundtrip to the waterfall and back, and not much sleep on a weekend when I really needed some.
I hit the start button on my remote control timer, and the camera began a series of long exposures that would continue until I came back to turn it off. Then I crossed back over the creek and headed UPHILL towards my jeep. What else could I do - I really wanted that A+!
It wasn't until I got about half way back out that I remembered the SHOTGUN blasts. Hum, had the shooter gone to bed? (it was midnight) Or was he waiting for me to return to my car? When a guy like me it out there in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, all along and kind of punch-drunk from lack of sleep, his mind begins to wander - or is that wonder? All I could do was lean into the hill and pick up my pace and hike as hard as I could towards my jeep. The temp was already down in the low 30's, but that actually felt kind of nice with the uphill grade.
I stopped a couple of times and shut off my little headlamp just to look around and soak up the wilderness. It was quite beautiful in the woods at night, and I could easily see ridgelines of the hills around me, and of course all those stars overhead.
I had gotten within a quarter mile of my jeep when I stumbled. And since I was moving so fast my momentum kept me going a little bit as I tried to keep my balance. But then I noticed a bright light out of the corner of my eye - it was coming from the direction of the shotgun blasts - but there was a hill in between me and the yard light over there, so the light had to be something else. As jumpy as I was, I just knew it was the shooter, and he had his spotlight on me. My heart raced and I froze in my tracks, and turned off my red light. I held my breath, bracing for burning lead to rip me open.
And then I turned around and saw the source of the light - it was the MOON!!!!! It had set behind the hill when I was down in the bottom of the valley, but now up on top of the ridge the moon was still in the sky, and holy cow it sure did look like a murder's spotlight to me!
So I drove back to the cabin and spent a little more time in the gallery working on things for the Open House, then slipped over to the cabin and into the back of the Bookmobile van to sleep for a couple of hours - I did not want to wake up my bride and cause her to loose sleep on my account.
*I did sneak into the cabin in the middle of the night to get some pain killers to east my aching bones - and fortunately I turned on my headlamp just to double-check to make sure which bottle I had - I ALMOST took three "stool softeners" instead of Ibuprofen! (exactly same size/color/markings on both bottles)
Saturday morning. A couple of hours later (5am-ish), I was wide awake once again, and on my way back to my parking spot, and back down into the very dark woods (the moon had set for good this time) towards the big waterfall. The temp was 29 degrees, and the forest was pretty wet - oh yes, and my jeep was COVERED with frost - oops!
I made my way through the thick forest in the dark, down the steep slope, and to the bottom of the big waterfall (one-way distance from the road is just over a mile of solid, dense forest). Much to my delight, the camera was still working, and it looked like the electronic dew heater had worked and the front of the lens was free of frost or dew - YIPPIE COYOTE! I would not know until later if the photos turned out like I wanted them to or not, but at least I gave it my best shot - and by the time I arrived back at the jeep, I had made three roundtrips to the waterfall in the dark over the previous 24 hours, a total of about 7 miles of bushwhacking.
OK, now we were cooking! We loaded up the bookmobile and headed up to Springfield for two programs at the library there. Oh did I forget to mention, that during that 24-hour period when I was running back and forth to the waterfall, I processed and put together 1420 photos that I had taken in Alaska last month to create an opening scene for my slide program - a timelapse that lasted 71 seconds. That was a job I had been putting off for a month now, and waited until I was approaching the edge of my mental ability to stay awake and focus - sometimes I do my best work then, ha, ha!
The two groups in Springfield were a JOY to speak with, and the library staff there had done a lot of hard work to set it all up for us - THANKS to everyone who attended, and especially to Kathleen O'Dell for making it all happen!
Sunday. It was after midnight when we arrived back home from Springfield, and I did manage a few hours of sleep before the alarm went off at 5-something. Both of us got up and worked to get the gallery into shape for the open house - boosted when Pam's dad arrived to help take up the slack! Since we didn't really do any advertising other than a mention here on the Journal and on our Facebook page, we were not expecting a lot of people. But much to our surprise and delight, we had more than 100 folks come tour the gallery today - and it was a special treat for us to meet and visit with all of you! Needless to say, we were rather pooped by the time 4pm arrived.
How are the skies tonight - can I run out and spend the night shooting more star pictures? Mercifully, there are clouds and no stars, so it looks like I'll be able to get some sleep tonight - at least until 5am - I have to be in town for an early meeting Monday. Supposed to be clear skies later in the week though - YEEHAW - I can't wait!
04/08/14 It is 6:27am, and the first whipoorwill of the year just woke up right outside the cabin and proclaimed he was open for business! These guys are generally known as a summer bird around here, and are famous for liking to roost in a tree directly above your campsite and sing all night - I bet any of you who have camped in the summer know exactly what I'm talking about. Many years ago I found one on the ground just below the cabin, down near the steep slope that ends at the top of the big sandscone bluff. I was easing my way down to the bluff for a view of the river when I nearly stepped on her - the camoflauge was just incredible. I stepped back and admired, then made a wide path around her so as not to disturb her any more than I already had - I knew she had some serious work to do.
A little while later I tried to sneak up on her from below to have another look, and by the time I spotted her I was just a few feet away - she had been watching me for 100 feet at least I bet! She had not made a formal "nest," but the little depression where she laid her eggs seemed soft and comfortable. I would check in on her from time to time from a distance to see how things were going - sometimes she was there, other times it was just the eggs. Those eggs eventually hatched and took flight and then momma was gone.
The music of the wilderness this morning at dawn also now includes spring peepers, those little frogs that are another sign of spring. This morning they are having to peep pretty loud as the music of high water from the flooded Buffalo River and Whitaker Creek below have taken over the airways - they are really roaring this morning!
And speaking of roaring rivers, while over in the print room late last night doing something or other, I remembered that I had never looked at the all-night photos I had taken a few weeks ago during the first night of my trip down to the Cossatot River - since the lenses were covered with spray and mist when I found them the next morning, I figured the night's shoot was a bust. But low and behold the lens on one of the cameras had not fogged up until just before dawn, and it did indeed record a night full of stars as the earth rotated beneath them. And as dawn approached, the churning waters of the "skull crusher" falls area that the cameras were pointed at began to produce mist, which the rising moon behind the camera illuminated a little bit - it added a bit of mystery and movement to the scene.
04/09/14 It's about 9pm tonight, and I'm sitting next to a beautiful stream that is glowing in the moonlight. The voices in the rushing waters sound like family, so soft and gentle and reassuring. The temp is downright balmy, and I don't even have a jacket on. I know there must be frogs and perhaps even a few early summer bugs awake and talking, but all I can hear are the voice that are rolling on downstream. The half moon is high in the sky, and lighting up the landscape so much so that I don't need a flashlight to walk around, or even to reach out and touch something small.
But it is that moon I'm waiting on - wanting it to move on over a little bit and get out of the way of the picture I want to take! I'm all set up to do another all-night star trail photo with a waterfall in the foreground, but it will be another hour or so before the moon moves enough to get out of the frame. In the meantime, I'll enjoy the music and voices of the night.
It was 2:30 this morning when I began my day as I stepped out of the bookmobile, hoisted my camera backpack and tripod, and headed into the woods. I had been waiting on the moon to move out of frame as well, although unlike tonight where my camera is nearby, this morning I had to hike the steep and rugged 2.5 miles DOWN to Hemmed-In Hollow Falls (HIH).
The moon was setting and didn't provide too much light - I probably could not have seen much anyway as I was still half asleep. I used a headlamp and had it focused on the trail about three feet ahead of me. I was in a hurry, and was in travel mode. I don't like hiking downhill, especially going down a steep hill, and certainly not going down steps. This trail has been used a lot in the past 20 years, and I do believe it has gotten better and was in fine shape - I just don't like going downhill. One of the reasons is because I don't have as much control over myself, especially when things are wet and slippery like they were this morning. So my pace was quick, but also deliberate and as sure-footed as I could be.
It took me about an hour to reach the base of the largest waterfall in the central United States, and by then the moon had set and everything was dark, but I could hear the thunder as I approached.
I must pause here for just a moment - MARS just popped up over the horizon - YIPPIE! I is especially bright and red and visible to the naked eye right now.
OK, where as I? Oh yes, at the base of HIH. The big falls was flowing nicely and the sky was clear and filled with twinkling stars. I spent a little bit of time looking around (I use that term loosely since it was pitch black), and then set up my camera and tripod and started to take a few test pictures, a process I go through to figure out exactly where I want to shoot, and how to compose the image.
In fact I spent the next couple of hours doing that - trying different compositions, exposures, lightpaintings, and techniques. Trying to find just the right combination that worked. The temp was chilly - dropping down into the low 30's. And my time flew by.
I had two deadlines. First was the light. The sky kept getting better with each minute that passed, but soon it would hit a wall and would begin to get light - and then I would be done shooting. The second deadline was the time - I had an appointment in Springdale that I had to get to, and so I counted back the drive time, and hike-out time, and figured I had until about 5:30 to shoot and still make it to town in time. But when 5:30 arrived the light was still good - in fact getting better with each image I took. But that clock was TICKING! And each minute I remained at the waterfall, I knew I would have to make up for on the hike UP the hill. It was 6am on the dot when I shouldered my camera backpack and headed out - OOPS!
I really do enjoy hiking UPhill, especially when the hill is steep and my load is heavy. And the fact it was cool meant that I could really push into the hill and not work up too bad of a sweat. 2.5 miles of mostly-steep grade in an hour. I leaned into the hill and kept my feet working. I was breathing really hard and fast, but I figured as long as it still felt good (meaning I did not feel like I was about to blow up!), I could keep going. And I did. Up and up and UP. I did stop a couple of times to blow and let my racing hear slow down a beat or two, and sip a bit of water.
I had turned off my headlamp by this time, and the wilderness around me began to take shape and details filled in. While walking that hard a guy really can't look around too much - got to concentrate on every single step - for a single misstep would not be good. So whenever I would stop and blow for 30 seconds, I got to look around and see the country - a sleeping giant wilderness that I had all to myself.
EXCEPT FOR THAT TURKEY HUNTER! Oops #2. There were some campers just across from the trailhead when I started out, and when I heard a turkey gobble on my hike up I thought back to just a couple of nights ago when there were shotgun blasts going off nearby. Was that gobble an actual turkey, or a turkey hunter? Not wanting to be confused for a feathered turkey (I will claim to be a human one), I struck up a conversation with myself, hoping the would-be hunter would hear "us" talking and point his muzzle elsewhere. By the way, when an old fart like me is pushing up a hill like this, there isn't much wind left to carry on a conversation, even with yourself!
I reached the trailhead at 6:55 and my breathing had returned to normal. 55 minutes from the bottom - that felt really good! I made it to town in plenty of time to woof down a fast-food breakfast and pack on about ten times more fat than I had just worked off - but it sure did taste great!
On the way home from town and met up with my lovely bride down in Boxley, and we went for an afternoon hike to visit some waterfalls and wildflowers. WOW, the wildflowers in the High Ozarks are bursting forth all over the place, with some species being the largest and most populated I've ever seen! (like yellow trout lilies for instance - they were late blooming, but have come on STRONG!)
OK, I think the moon is just about out of the way now, so I'm going to slip on over through the woods along the creek and find my camera, take a few test shots, then turn on the timer to shoot pictures all night of the waterfall and stars above.
04/11/14 Mostly-clear skies early this morning and soft colors all around. I took the night off and actually slept in bed at home with my lovely bride! At least until about 3-something when I got up and wandered downstairs to begin the work day.
Yesterday I had crawled into the back of my jeep to spend the night, although I kept getting up and returning to my camera setup at the waterfall just to see how things were going, so I spent more time at the falls than in the back of the jeep. At about 5am I turned off the automatic star-trail-capture sequence on the camera remote control and started to do a series of lightpaintings of the big waterfall, and also switched the camera exposure to capture the Milky Way, which was rising directly behind the waterfall - YIPPIE COYOTE! It is always a magical experience for me to be witness to the Milky Way, but especially now that I am able to capture it to share with others.
By the time sunrise arrived and spread brilliant light across the landscape, I was pulling into the driveway back at our cabin - just in time to kiss my lovely bride good morning! (she had already been up working for an hour or two) The rest of Thursday was spent working at my day job - making prints, backing up photos, and trying to schedule another nighttime photo workshop. AND dealing with the WEATHER - holy cow, we nearly got blown off the map out here! We had some of the strongest sustained non-storm winds out here nearly ALL day long that I'd ever been part of. And the temp kept rising until it hit nearly 80 degrees.
NEW NIGHTTIME PHOTO WORKSHOP SCHEDULED - June 24-26 (Tuesday - Thursday). The Milky Way will be up all night, so if we get clear skies everyone should be able to make the photos of a lifetime and capture this incredible sight of nature. Plus we will cover and shoot a ton of other stuff. This will be a small group of only 4 to 6 students, so there will be lots of individual attention as needed. If you know anyone who might be interested, send them to the workshop info page.
NEW ONE-DAY PHOTO WORKSHOP ADDED - June 28th.
JULY OPEN HOUSE AT OUR CANVAS PRINTS GALLERY, Saturday July 19th, 10am-4pm. All of our canvas prints will be on sale for HALF PRICE, plus all of our framed canvas prints will be 75% off - YIKES! Click here for more info.
04/15/14 It was one of the most remarkable natural events I've ever been privy to witness. I'm nearly 60 years old and have never seen this before - WHERE have I been all my life?
I left the cabin before dark drive and hike and set up a couple of camera systems in remote areas with the hopes of capturing it a few hours later. Then I choose a spot with a clear view of the sky from east to west, parked the van so that the cargo door would open away from the strong winds that were building, and started to set up more camera systems.
That WIND - oh my it was strong! And it chilled me right to the bone. The temp would drop into the mid-20's during the night, and the wind would blow all night, at times taking your breath away it was so cold. Wasn't it nearly 80 degrees here just a couple of days ago?
I had planned to photograph the total lunar eclipse from beginning to end - or actually from before the beginning until after the end. And I had three cameras set up and working when Angela arrived. She has been one of my photo workshop assistants for many years, but on this night brought a prize possession of hers to share with me - SHARE? Actually it was to let me use it all night - once I got my mitts on her special 600mm telephoto lens I never let it off my tripod - sorry Angela!
So I had four different cameras shooting at various times, using different lenses and exposures (plus two other camera systems that I had set up in those other remote locations - those shot pictures of the eclipse automatically all night long). Angela set up two different camera systems. All six big tripods were set up within just a few feet of the Bookmobile, which turned out to be a really great thing. The problem was the wind - it made everything so darn cold! And I say this after spending all that time in Alaska and 60 degrees colder last month - I believe it FELT a lot colder this morning as we shot the eclipse. Must be the humidity I guess!
Anyway, we had a timer in the van set to go off every ten minutes. We would run out of the van and compose the camera and take a series of pictures of the eclipse using different exposures; then repeat for the next camera. One of my cameras was working on automatic so I didn't need to touch it, but I would run from one camera to the next until I was satisfied that the three other cameras had shot good images. Then we would run for cover and jump back into the van. Usually it took us 7 or 8 minutes to shoot the cameras and get back into the van, all the while the timer was counting down another ten minutes. I had decided that I wanted to take a picture every ten minutes of the eclipse sequence, which actually lasted from just after midnight until nearly 5am. Sometimes we didn't spend much time in the van before the alarm would go off again - and sometimes we never made it back into the van to warm up - and our fingers and toes got kind of chilled.
I fired up the Kureug in the van and we had coffee, tea, hot cocoa, and hot apple cider. Sometimes it would take 30 minutes to get a cup consumed since we were so busy working with the cameras.
It was REALLY bright outside in the open meadow where we were with the full moon standing tall high above us. The moon was totally full when we started shooting, but gradually one edge of it began to darken, and then more and more and more would move into the earth's shadow. The moon looked pretty normal during this time - just the regular gray moon with a shadow moving across it.
But the AIR was crisp and clear, and had just been swept clean by a passing storm. The humidity dropped right along with the temperature, and the only word I could think of to describe the clarity of the air was crystalline.
And then all of a sudden, I looked up and saw COLOR - this was about the same time that the earth's shadow nearly covered the entire moon. And then the entire dark moon lit up with this amazing color - OH MY GOODNESS! I'd never seen anything like this before. The image in the camera with Angela's big lens was magnified and that color really shone. On the other cameras I would enlarge the image to make sure everything was in focus, and oh my goodness that COLOR! (I probably already said that.)
And then I didn't want to go back into the van - I just wanted to stand there and gawk at how colorful yet out of place the moon was. It was a surreal scene, and I could hardly believe it. And during the time the moon was dark and red, the stars all around came to life and were bright and full of twinkles - just like they are when there is no moon at all! The Milky Way rose in the east and tried to catch the dark moon, but the moon was too fast. The moon was trying to catch Mars, which was a constant companion in the sky just above and to the right of the moon. There was a bright star just below the moon as well.
The dark and red moon lasted for more than an hour, and I did double and triple takes at each photo the cameras captured. I just could not believe that me - being one of the most "lunar" people I know for so many years - had never seen this before. I took my first lunar eclipse photo more than 35 years ago, but it was rather nondescript. This one I will remember for the rest of my life.
When the shadow slowly began to leave the moon and the bright, gray moon returned, it was like the world had gone from technicolor back to monotone, and THAT became odd and surreal. Soon the moon was back to being full and bright once again, and the entire landscape all around was lit up like noon on a Sunday. Angela had to head back to town to her day job, but I remained on site and kept shooting for another hour or so. Then I packed up all my gear and headed out to collect the other two camera setups.
I went back to my day job too, and spent much of the day working on other things and wondering what was on my memory cards - until I could not stand it any longer. I selected one series of pictures from on camera and picked a few of them to process and stack together to show some of the phases that the moon went through during the eclipse. I probably won't have time to see any of the other hundreds of images until next week sometime - too much other work to do.
Moral of the story - DON'T WAIT until you are nearly 60 to go watch a total lunar eclipse! It was worth every frozen moment...
04/17/14 Springtime is beginning to creep into the landscape (a week or two late), with soft and furry views as the trees start to leaf out just a little bit - some are kind of just taking on a green hue, others producing "oak worms" in advance of actual leaves. Popcorn trees and wild plums are about done blooming, while redbuds are in full swing and peaking this weekend. Dogwoods are just beginning to bloom, and will be doing so for the next couple of weeks. WATERFALLS, we have plenty! But will need more rain each week to keep them healthy. Creeks are just GORGEOUS right now, with emerald pools and clear, clean whitewater. In short, we are entering one of the most beautiful of all seasons on earth - ENJOY!