CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - April 2013 Journal Archives
Cloudland Cabin Cam, April 30, 7:13am - cool and LUSH
JOURNAL updated Sunday the 28th
Print Of The Week - #18 - Triple Falls - ON SALE!
04/01/13 April is here, and SPRING is about to come charging on! The transformation in the High Ozarks will go from naked to fully clothed right before our eyes the next few weeks. Each day will be new and different and exciting. It will go by in a flash, so be sure to make some time to get out and enjoy.
I was out yesterday exploring a new area in the wilderness and found a waterfall. I had my heavy camera gear with me but since the clouds had parted the light was pretty bad, and so I was mostly just looking around to see what I could find and not taking pictures - that happens a lot. It was a neat waterfall - probably 25-30 feet tall - but I could see there was something else above it - the large sheer bluffface was broken into at least two different levels, and I wanted to get up onto that second level to see what was going on.
I worked my way along the base of the bluff a couple hundred yards to where I found a spot where an old log had fallen from above and provided a conduit for me to climb up onto the next level. When I was about half-way up the log, I discovered that I was not the first - there were many claw marks in the smooth tree trunk (all the bark had worn off years ago) - BEAR CLAW MARKS! I would have loved to have seen that bear (or those bears - looked like the log had been used a lot) crawling up that old log.
One up on the ledge I started to make my away along the base of the new bluff back towards the waterfall and almost immediately saw something that startled me a bit - a GIANT grasshopper! This guy was nearly three inches long. He hopped up onto a twig in front of me, gazed over at me for a moment, then flew off the ledge and disappeared into the forest below.
A few minutes later I saw more movement, and I just had to stop and shake my head and smile a little bit in wonder. There was an overhang at the bottom of the bluff about three feet tall, and it went back in a couple of feet. I love to follow along the bases of blufflines like this one - there is frequently interesting stuff right there along the ledge. Anyway, as I was hiking along a sweetgum ball came rolling down from underneath the bluff – all on its own! It came to rest up next to my boot. What the heck? I don't believe that sweetgum balls are a food source for a pack rat or whatever might have been up underneath the bluff, or even nesting material. A couple of them playing ball perhaps?
Another hundred yards later I came around a bend in the bluff and there it was – the second layer of the waterfall, and this one was more beautiful than the first, spilling into an emerald pool, and surrounded by painted sandstone bluffs. That was the end of the ledge, and there was not way to climb up farther - which I really needed to do because it looked like there might be a THIRD waterfall up there!
So I retraced my steps, crawled back down the bear-claw log, and continued exploring along the base of the bluff until I found a spot where I could make my way all the way up to the top of the big bluff. Once on top I sat down on a moss-covered boulder and got an incredible view out across the landscape that was spread out before me. The sun was shining and it was just one of THOSE moments out there in the middle of the wilderness - it was so serene and beautiful.
A little while later I made my way along the top of the big bluffline until I came to the waterfall drainage, and sure enough, there was indeed a third waterfall - but it was actually down below me, and I never could find a way to get down onto the hanging bench that it poured onto.
I was out for several hours and never took a single picture, but I did have three "wildlife" encounters of sorts, and got to see this amazing three-tiered waterfall. As most of them are, it was a fine trip into the wilderness!
OK, April has arrived, and it is now time for SPRING to finally get into high gear - hold onto your hats, it is going to be one amazing ride this month!
04/02/13 This is a non-wilderness, non-Cloudland story, but since our daughter is involved, I thought it would fit here so please indulge me - or just go back to whatever you were doing and skip this! Our daughter goes to a private university that has about 1,600 students - she is getting an incredible education - absolutely the best we could ever hope for for her, and she is constantly challenged and is excelling (and maintaining a 4.0!). Several of her fellow classmates are part of a basketball team that defeated the defending national champions a couple of days ago, a school with TEN TIMES the enrollment of her school - and they did not just barely scrape by, they punished them and won going away. Now her incredible team from a tiny school in Missouri is going to play in the NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP game in Atlanta on Sunday - against a school with 22,000 students! It is an amazing story, a classic David-vs.-Goliath. This is what America is all about, and proves that pretty much anything you can dream might come true. One of the players on her team sits behind our daughter in class, she knows many of the other players, and sees them every day at school.
In order to make this historical event as accessible to the student body as possible, the university President has called off classes on Monday, and has charted busses for any students who want to make the long trip to Atlanta to be a part of it all - the total cost to the student for the bus ride and entry into the game - $20. It will be a long, grueling ride all night to get there, and all night to get back home, but hey, they are college students, and they'll be able to take it! (plus there won't be any hotel cost this way) Win or lose, this will be an amazing experience for everyone who goes, for her school, and for our daughter. To heck with the other final four on Monday in Atlanta - the Sunday NCAA Division II Championship Game is the REAL story - GO DRURY PANTHERS!!!
04/03/13 It was late in the day by the time I reached a bluffline and waterfall that I wanted to spend some time with yesterday. We'd had some nice, slow, soaking rains all day, which helped keep local streams and falls running, although waterfalls were not full, just looking good and making all sorts of music.
I spent some time at the waterfall trying to figure out how to best photograph it, and before I knew it, darkness began to creep in. I spent a lot of time underneath the overhang that the waterfall was pouring over - it was nice and dry back under there, but kind of loud due to the waterfall. I know Indians loved to live in these places for the protection, but where there were waterfalls I bet they lost their hearing in a hurry!
Anyway, it was nearly pitch dark by the time I packed my camera gear up and started the long and steep hike back out to my car. Two things hit me as soon as I stepped out into the night. First, it was QUIET outside! Within just a minute or two the only sounds I heard were my own footsteps. And secondly, it was SNOWING!!! I had not really paid much attention to the cold, but the temp had slipped down towards freezing, and the snow/sleet pellets coming down were a bit of a surprise.
Since it was so dark and I had a lot of thick forest ground to cover, I used a head lamp, first using just the dim red light beam so as not to destroy my night vision. But most of the time I actually prefer white light, so I switched to that, and was able to see a lot farther up the hillside and plan my route more quickly through the very thick underbrush. Towards the end of my hike I got a flash of EYES glowing out there in the woods - it was completely dark by this time. Since me and my beam of light were moving, I only got a glimpse of each eye - you know how and eyeball will reflect a headlight or flashlight. No big deal - probably just a deer, raccoon, or a bear. But a little while later, as I was into the steepest part of the hillside, my light flashed upon a giant RED eyeball, and this one was up high - YIKES! Sometimes when I'm out hiking alone and in the middle of nowhere in the darkness, my imagination takes over a little bit, and oh my goodness you should have seen what was going on inside my head - all accounts quickly returned that this must have been a giant cougar that was getting ready to pounce and eat me. Turned out to be just the reflector of my jeep! (which was on the roadside high above me)
It was great to be out in the wilderness, and I rather enjoyed the steep hike out in the dark and snow, even with a few wild critters looking on...
04/05/13 OK, I do believe that SPRING is finally about to spring in the High Ozarks - I know, I've said this before, but I think it is real this time. We saw thousands of popcorn trees popping open yesterday, and by the end of today there will be thousands more. And we saw the first redbud - such a dramatic and pleasing addition to the brown landscape! Soon they will be everywhere. Wildflowers will be making a comeback, and new species will appear along forest floors. Some waterfalls are running well, although we really didn't get hardly any rain this past week, but they are calling for more rain in the coming week so waterfalls should be good. I've got a run of four photography workshops in a row coming up so we're happy to see all of this about to happen!
There really is no finer season anywhere on planet Earth than springtime in Arkansas. And while it is great to sit inside your home, office, or car for the view, you MUST GET OUTSIDE and experience it firsthand! There is just something about walking through - heck, even standing right out in the middle of - the springtime forest as it comes alive. The colors, sounds smells, LIFE itself is sweeter than at any other time of year. And you don't have to go far to soak it all in - even your local park will be filled with the joy and wonder of spring. It will cleanse your soul and lighten your spirits, so get out and participate!
Speaking of that, my lovely bride took me on a quick hike around the mountain a couple of days ago and we found the very first bloom on a tree on the mountain - it was a wild plum, which often burst open along with the popcorn trees. It was still pretty cold, but the tree was covered with buds, with this single bud open and smiling. Kind of like the little trout lily that is always first to bloom, this particular tree blooms first - but usually in early March instead of April!
I've got two items for you to consider if you are interested in such things. The first is an art exhibit in Springdale that we went to last night. More than 30 works of lovely pastels by Judy Howard are on display at the Arts Center of the Ozarks there - running through early May. This is Judy's first solo show, and oh my goodness is it a good one! Many of her landscape pastels were done of the Buffalo River area, and I think they capture the beauty and freshness of the area well. I found myself standing right in the middle of the crowded room last night just turning around and looking at them all - they harmonize as well as the great outdoors itself! Highly recommended.
And if you have ever wondered about the rich and varied history of the upper Buffalo area, especially Boxley Valley (now officially - Boxley Valley Historic District of Buffalo National River), there is a book that is as rich and varied as the valley itself - Old Folks Talking - A place of special value in the Ozarks of Arkansas - Historical Sketches of Boxley Valley on Buffalo River, by Jim Liles (with a lot of special help from the park historian, Suzanne Rogers, now Jim's bride). This book was first published by the government in 1998 (all copies quickly sold out), and republished in 2006, but has often been difficult to find and purchase. I finally got a copy from Jim Liles himself, and I must tell you, it is one of the finest books of its kind ever produced - get ready to sit down and spend a lifetime exploring Boxley Valley! It is a thick book, rich with photographs - historical and more recent - drawings and maps, and stories from both the residents (via an oral history project, written records, and personal contact), as well as Jim's expert dialogue. Jim was assistant Superintendent for the park for many years, and while one of his largest jobs was the design and creation of the trails system in the park, he also obviously had/has a passion for the history as well. I cannot recommend this book enough! But you probably won't find it on the shelf in your local bookstore. They sometimes have copies at the Elk Center in Ponca, or at the Tyler Bend Visitor Center. But you can also order this direct from the publisher, Eastern National here. Bring it with you when you visit Boxley!
The first wild plum bloom of the season at Cloudland!
04/06/13 We had a big wind storm hit here about 2am today, so I thought I would get up and get some work done since I can't sleep anyway with all that wind. It has taken me two hours just to catch up on e-mails from this past week - I'm a slow typer, especially in the middle of the night. We'll be leaving soon for the charity event in Ft. Smith, and I discovered I'm a slow packer too - it took me nearly 7 hours just to pack the van yesterday, and we're only taking 12 prints! I don't know how we would have done this without the van, but everything is wrapped up safe and sound, even with plenty of room left over for us.
I had a Cloudland moment late last night - in fact I nearly peed in my pants! Pam called over to the gallery to say that Lucy was going nuts - there was something in the yard she thought, some sort of critter that Lucy did not recognize - or something else was going on outside that was not quite right. Out here in the middle of the wilderness there was no telling what might be happening. And earlier in the day we had seen weird marks in the forest nearby. I didn't have a flashlight with me, but I stepped outside to see if I could see anything. And then all of a sudden it looked and felt like I was under attack by a herd of elephants - oh my goodness! There was movement and noise all around me, although it was too dark to tell exactly what. All I could do was press on and hope whatever it was would not eat me. And then I realized I was smack dab in the middle of a huge herd of deer - all they were trying to do was get the heck out of there, but in doing so they scared the pee-waddin' out of me! It took another hour for Lucy to calm down a bit, although she never did get completely comfortable. Our caretaker is going to take her on a long hike today, so hopefully she'll get to sniff scents all she wants and realize like I did that they are just furry critters like her, only a lot larger....
04/07/13 We had a 25-hour work day yesterday, and got home at 3am this morning from the big charity event in Ft. Smith. It will take the rest of today to unload the van and unpack everything. The Wine & Roses event for the Reynolds Cancer Support House was an absolutely terrific event, and we were honored to have been asked to participate. We basically moved our print gallery into their library room, although most of the prints were made especially for this event, including three new metal prints and four of our canvas prints that were mounted on board and framed with a very expensive gold frame - those looked simply stunning! We will do more framed canvas and probably more metal prints too for future open houses at our gallery, as well as our standard gallery-wrapped canvas prints. We ended up selling enough prints to cover our costs, which was great, although not the reason we were there (the Support House got half of all sales, which was the reason for the entire event - to help fund their heroic efforts).
There were celebrities there, and lots of very nice people in expensive gowns and tuxes. And also the absolutely wonderful folks who run the Support House, support the Support House, and so many volunteers that did so much to make this event happen - HATS OFF TO ALL OF YOU! I managed to remain comfortable in my hiking pants, shoes, and my hat - but I did have on a nice long-sleeved shirt, a brand new $12 purchase by my lovely bride (who by the way looked pretty terrific, as she always does!). Pam's parents drove all the way from Jasper to Ft. Smith just to help us unload the cargo van - we could never have made it without them. And all they got was a BBQ lunch out of the deal, but they did rescue an injured hiker on the way home who was attempting to hike the entire Ozark Highlands Trail. INLAWS ARE GREAT TO HAVE!
The building was also filled with fine food and wine (I did not partake of either - in fact I never once left my "post" - I always wanted to be available to answer questions),. And music, oh my there was piano music, harp music, and a rock band on the patio. And, of course, the building was filled with artists and their magical works from Arkansas and surrounding areas. And ROSES, there were no less than A HUNDRED DOZEN giant long-stemmed roses of all colors! If you ever get the opportunity to attend this event in the future, I highly recommend it, and of course the support of the Reynolds Cancer Support House.
The old man and his lovely bride (photo by Kirsten from Bedfords Camera)
Back on the home front, spring has now sprung, and the popcorn trees are at full POP and growing. Redbud trees will follow, along with tons of wildflowers and other blooming trees - we saw a single bud on a dogwood tree here so those will be blooming soon as well. YIPPIE COYOTE! But we need more rain, and are hopeful the next few days bring lots of moisture.
Our daughter has just arrived in Atlanta for the big national championship game today. It sounded like nearly half of the student body drove through the night to arrive in Atlanta (the school charted 7 buses, plus many other student groups took their own buses), and we're hopeful they will cheer the team onto victory - go Drury Panthers!
It is a tight fit backing the van up to the gallery, but I'm getting pretty good at it; below is the 40" x 60" metal print in its wooden crate (it did not sell so is still for sale!)
Our daughter, Amber, below, just seconds after the final buzzer in Atlanta when her classmates WON...
DRURY PANTHERS WIN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP!!!
If you can dream it, you CAN do it!!! And kudos especially to the President of Drury University, Todd Parnell, for making this trip of a lifetime possible for so many hundreds of your students - including our daughter - you are a class act.......
04/10/13 We've had a lot of strong winds here overnight and this morning, but only three drops of rain so far - they are calling for heavy rainfall and severe storms later today - let's hope we get lots of water!
I got to spend a wonderful hour crawling around on the forest floor a couple of days ago. I found an area where bloodroot wildflowers had their second coming - they actually bloomed nearly a month ago, but faded quickly with the cold temps we had. For some reason they have reappeared in some places, and I think they are even more beautiful than ever!
These little beauties are so small and simple, but I just love getting up really close to them and having a conversation with a macro lens. My friend and fellow photographer, David Dodson, gave me a pair of extra-thick knee pads that work perfectly for this sort of thing, although I had to get even lower for some shots - down on my belly. I selected three different wildflowers to take pictures of, but I like this one the best. There was a slight breeze blowing on and off, and I had to wait until the flower was perfectly still to make sure it was sharp.
I've decided to offer this wonderful little flower image for sale in a smaller print size than we normally sell - and 8 x 10 with an 11 x 14 inch black mat. If folks like this size and subject, I may add a few more as I shoot them this spring. And while I call this little lady a "Royal" bloodroot, that is just due to the background color - it is a simple bloodroot, and as beautiful as you'll ever see one.
Spring continues to be slow in coming to the High Ozarks, but with the rain this week and sunshine later, I expect things to really green up in the next week. We'll have some brilliant blooms, but I don't think they will last long. We have a wild peach tree that just exploded with color yesterday - but today it has already begun to fade. My advice for springtime - as for ever season - is get out and ENJOY whenever you can, as much as you can!
the "Royal" bloodroot (above), and "wild" peach blooms (below)
04/14/13 Just a quick update. My work day began at 3:15am yesterday, and I worked until nearly midnight - do I don't have much time these days for anything other than quick updates! We had a wonderful day with workshop students who all produced amazing images. For these one-day workshops we meet somewhere in the middle of nowhere and shoot for a couple of hours, then drive back here and spend the rest of the day in class processing their images and making prints of their work. My lovely bride always creates a great BBQ spread for lunch - sometimes it is tough to get the students up out of their lunch chairs! Most students have wet feet from wading in creeks to get better pictures. Most students arrive with sub-standard tripods (I would estimate that about 90% or more tripods that are sold by camera stores are not fit to use - this is a continuous battle I've raged with them for years. One hint - if you are in the need of a tripod and the tripod you are looking at says anything about being "lightweight" - WALK AWAY and don't buy it! Sorry, that is just a pet peeve of mine, and I see many thousands of pictures ruined each year by terrible lightweight tripods.).
We have been doing a survey of sorts over the years during our workshops to see if there is any correlation between whether students eat buns with the BBQ at lunch and image quality of photos they produce. Some workshop groups are "bun eaters" and most of them have buns with their BBQ. Some groups - like yesterday's group - simply don't eat buns at all (like me). It is an ongoing study, complicated by the fact that all groups produce terrific images during the workshop, so I'm not sure if this multi-year study will ever yield any worthwhile results - typical of most government studies perhaps?
We'll be working most of today getting ready for eight days of workshops, which will be a lot fun since we'll get to see and photograph the bursting forth of spring in the High Ozarks. And it looks to be a mix of weather during the week, which is what I like. Some days I want sunshine for a little bit, but most days I prefer clouds, or ever better - misty days! Those are the very best for so many great colorful images (colors are richer when things are wet).
One funny note about Miss Lucy and then I'll let you get back to enjoying a beautiful spring day. During class yesterday Lucy happen to wander into the classroom and sat down in the middle of the room. She is black and since all the lights were out no one noticed her. And then I hear some heavy breathing - it was Lucy going into hyperventilation mode - that meant a low pressure cell was approaching. She is 100 times more accurate than any weather forecast. I glanced outside and didn't see anything. Literally within three minutes it started to RAIN! She is simply amazing.
04/15/13 I had a Cloudland Moment yesterday, actually two of them at once. It was bright and sunny and warm, with slight breezes, with springtime bursting out all over. There were wispy thin clouds in the blue sky. I had laid back on the soft forest floor to take a nap, when something hit me in the face and woke me up. I opened my eyes and saw a hundred - no, probably a thousand - golden jewels filling the air and floating to the ground all around me. It was "leaf-fall" in the spring! They were the little leaves from beech trees, that had been clinging to the limbs all winter, and now as new leaves began to emerge they pushed the old one off, setting them free to make a freefall and play a few seconds before coming to rest on the ground. It was beautiful!
And then I heard the sound of laughter. I leaned over and looked downhill and found the source of the laughter, and it made me smile. It was my lovely bride, standing on the edge of an emerald pond, raising her fishing rod high, as a sunfish danced on the end of her line - her first catch of the season - YIPPIE! I hurried down to have a look, then we carefully released the little guy back into the pond - he will grow up and fight again. I could not think of a better moment in time to be alive...
04/22/13 We survived three photo workshops back-to-back-to-back - nine solid days in a row of teaching and exploring our great High Ozarks area with cameras! I've taken seven different workshops as a student in the past few months (the longest being five days), and only one of them ever lasted for more than six hours in any one day. The shortest day this past week for any of my workshops was about 12 hours, with the longest being 17 hours. The moral of this story is that you have to TRAIN in order to participate in one of my workshops, ha, ha! I had a lot of help during the week from photo and IT assistants Ray and Angela, and also my lovely bride and her parents - it took a village to get this all done. For our multi-day workshops we stay at Harmony Mountain Lodge; and when not dining at the lodge we visit the Ozark Cafe and Ciff House restaurants, plus a stop for ice cream and gas at the Nail store. (We pumped a lot of cash into the local economy.) Two of the workshops had last-minute cancellations, and so I'm afraid we had a lot of food left over, and hopefully everyone left with full bellies.
We spent a lot of time with cameras pointed at amazing scenes with lots of color and character - as were many of our students. Our students came from a total of seven different states, some novice photographers, others were quite accomplished. I am not a people person - in fact I shy away from and sometimes hide when I encounter another person in the woods - but workshops and slide programs are different, and I really enjoy getting to know and working with some very wonderful people. It is always great to see how different folks from different backgrounds and skill levels interact and learn from each other, which is the whole point. Most of the time I taught, helping students to get the most out of their particular camera equipment (and oh my goodness did they SUCCEED!) But every now and then I would get out my camera gear and shoot a little bit too.
One time while driving through Boxley Valley I pulled the car over to the side of the road, jumped out and went running across the highway, yelling at everyone to grab their longest lens and to HURRY! And soon there we were, everyone lined up along the fence line with our cameras and big lenses on tripods, and working away feverishly trying to capture a moment of just beautiful light. Several cars stopped to see what we were shooting, and seemed rather confused and disappointed to learn that it was only a tree more than a quarter mile away. But it was one of the most amazing trees bathed in magical light that I had ever seen. In just a few moments the light was gone, and we were left gasping for air because the moment had been such an emotional high. And then we moved onto the next moment like that, at the river's edge, when magical light on the surface of the water started to happen. Most folks would have passed right on by these scenes, but our students were able to capture a bit of great natural beauty because we were there, and were prepared, and our techniques were good. Everyone used different types and brands of cameras and it didn't matter one bit.
We photographed sunrises and sunsets, waterfalls, wildflowers, redbuds and dogwoods, stream scenes, towering bluffs and colorful sandstone, and beautiful light that sometimes only lasted for a few seconds - and we just barely scratched the surface of what was out there. Springtime is exploding in the High Ozarks right now, and I hope everyone gets the chance to get out and enjoy.
I'm neck-deep now scrambling to search for more and more and more magical light and subjects for my newest picture book project. I'll be in the mode of shooting as much as I can during the next six weeks but won't be able to even look at many of the images until I sit down in early June to make selections for the new book. I'll try and post a photo or two here along the way. Today I have to deal with the IRS, and tomorrow am getting a root canal - I'm not sure which one I will enjoy more!
EVENING UPDATE. I spotted a large, no a GIANT morel mushroom in our yard today - it was a full eight inches tall, and was the largest I'd ever seen. (I'm allergic to mushrooms, and in fact can't stand the taste or smell anyway, so I've never been a big fan of them - but I do like to take pictures of them.) Within minutes we had a plan underway to get the morel to Pam's mom, who is like the rest of the world and loves them. Yuk!
After delivering the morel to Judy, we spent some time in the woods looking for wildflowers. While we didn't find a lot of them, we did stumble onto an entire patch of morel mushrooms. TWO mushroom spots in the same day, and we weren't even looking! These morels were much smaller, in fact there were a couple dozen miniature ones that were spread out across the hillside in thick forest that were only two inches tall or less.
My lovely bride spotted him first - a timber rattlesnake (locals call them "velvet tails" because of their black tail) - all coiled up and taking a nap, right in the middle of all the mushrooms. I know serious morel hunters like to keep their spots secret, but guarding them with a rattlesnake seems a little overboard! There was a trio of tiny morels that I really wanted to get a picture of, but I was kind of worried about that rattler. Lucy was with us and I didn't want her to go waking him up, so Pam put her on a leash. I set up my tripod - spread all three legs out flat so the camera could set almost directly on the ground - and that way I could get, well, a snake's-eye view of the mushrooms! It took me about 30 minutes to finish my job, and the entire time the rattlesnake never woke up.
The woods were windy and bright today, with fresh greens all around overhead. Seems like the landscape is already getting dry though, and more rains this week would be welcome.
04/28/13 I hiked in the dark to an overlook of the Buffalo River downstream about 75 miles (I actually drove most of the way, and hiked just the last mile). It was foggy and cool and wet, and slowly the colors of the day began to creep into the landscape along with first light. I could just barely see an outline of a bend in the river far below - light blue water against the yellow hues of the gravel bar. The sun started to burn off the fog and more of the river came into focus, along with a tent and a canoe - someone was camped on the gravel bar.
I shot pictures for nearly an hour as the sun and fog played tag - first the fog won, then the sun, then back to fog again. At some point I heard the tent zipper and a person appeared. He walked around a little bit, explored up and down the river bank, and disappeared into the woods a time or two. The entire time he kept up a running conversation with someone that I soon realized was not even there. I just had to laugh - I talk to myself all the time when alone in the wilderness, especially when taking pictures.
I hiked to another overlook later in the day, and then another, and another - the last one twice. All of these were in the lower part of the river - there seem to be a lot of nice overlooks downstream. Most of my time was spent just exploring and taking mental notes - these were clear-blue sky days, and those days are terrible for taking the sort of pictures that I like to take - the light is very harsh. I proved that point to myself when I hiked into one particular scenic spot that is an icon of the river - and after two hours of shooting realized that none of my pictures were any better than snapshots, I gave up and hiked out - it was the terrible light. Most of the time, you can't take a really good picture of even a spectacular location if the light is not equally spectacular.
We had a great photo workshop on Saturday, and got to spend some time in beautiful soft light photographing waterfalls. And we got rained on a time or two, but it was so nice being with like-minded folks who didn't seem to mind the rain too much at all - there were a lot of smiles all around when the little pictures they had just taken in the beautiful light popped up on the back of their cameras! Amazing how eight different students could each produce a beautiful print, all of them special and unique. Shooting digital correctly and going through the digital workflow really helps put students on the fast track to great image quality. When a new print is made during one of my workshops I like to lay the print out and watch as the photographer and others walk up to it in amazement - WOW! That's right, YOU created this lovely image! I guess that is the sort of thing that real teachers get to see all the time - teachers are special people that make our world so much better.
I got to spend a bit of time last week on my belly taking pictures of a wild orchid - the crop is small in number and in size this year, but still quite beautiful. Many wildflowers got hit hard with the heavy rains that moved through on Friday night and Saturday morning, but these sunny days will return them to all of their glory. (I also found this "heart" plant that was growing at the base of the orchid - made my think of my lovely bride, which I do often...)
The alarm went off at 3-something this morning, and soon I was standing in water and pointing my camera at a waterfall - who would have thunk it? Triple Falls at Camp Orr is one of my all-time favorite waterfalls, and I think one of the most beautiful in this part of the United States. Since it is really easy to get to, there are often lots of folks there enjoying all the ions it produces during the day. I was there before daylight making long exposures of the flowing water. This waterfall is so powerful that it produces its own wind, and the trees all around the base were dancing with joy.
I spent the next hour or so hiking into and shooting another waterfall in the upper Buffalo River area. Water conditions were just perfect today - high water from the recent rains, but clean, clear water without the muddy water from yesterday.
Later in the day I was blessed to spend some time with the family of Austin Elder - many of you know the remarkable story of this incredible young man, and his equally-incredible family. Gosh, I just don't know how they have been able to cope with everything this past several months. Both Austin and his family have given so much. We visited the site of Austin's accident today, and his mom tied a yellow ribbon around the tree that reached out and slowed Austin's fall. Amazing to realize how much the wilderness was a part of Austin, and now how much Austin is a part of the wilderness. His family is so generous and full of life, and it was an honor to walk in their footsteps.
Austin's mom gave us a giant wooden planter full of colorful flowers that she put together, which now sits with Aspen in the flower garden in front of the cabin. There are a lot of really, really good people in the world.
This week will bring more hikes to different locations as I continue to work on a new picture book. Spring here in the High Ozarks is one of the very best seasons on the planet, and I hope each of you has been able to get out and enjoy! April is almost over - breathe in that delightful air, and then bring on May!