LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - January 2019 (previous months)



Little Bluff cabin cam January 31 - 14 degrees and beautiful at dawn

Journal updated January 31st - hoping for one good one

01/01/19 My year began at 2:30 this morning when I woke up wide awake, sipped a cup of java, had a bowl of cereal, and was ready to get to work. I had wanted to hike into a waterfall at first light, but after working for a while in the office, it was still a couple of hours from first light, so I just drove to the trailhead and waited in the van. An hour before first light I loaded up and headed out into the dark forest - guess it was my version of cabin fever and I just wanted to be in the woods.

Since it was cloudy the deep woods remained dark a little bit longer and therefore I ran into more trees and rocks and vines than normal - hiking in the dark is delightful - as long as you are able to avoid literally running into things! (I hike very slow.) But I love being able to see the geographical features and shape of the land around me as the slightest hint of light begins to creep into the landscape, even if they are just silhouettes. "Oh yes, there is a hill up there and it slopes down in front of me. Nothing but darkness that direction - must be a wall or hillside. Looks like level hiking ahead, but watch out for that tree!"

I did use my dim headlamp a time or two. Once after crossing a stream I happened to look back across where I had just come from and there was a pair of eyes looking at me through the darkness. They seemed wide apart for being so close to the ground. I moved in a little bit closer and realized it was a river otter! Sleek and almost black with diamonds for eyes. I immediately turned my headlamp off and he disappeared - there was just blank space where he had been. Turn lamp on again, and the diamonds and black otter shape returned. Eventually he turned and disappeared for real into the hillside. As I continued on up the creek he seemed so much larger in my mind than he should have been. Hum.

It was heavy overcast so no sunrise, but it was almost daylight by the time I reached the small waterfall way on up the hillside that I was headed for. I really wanted to see what the entire scene looked like against the sky - if there was any - and if it might be a candidate to shoot with stars behind and above it. I shot a few pictures just for reference, made a couple of calculations with an app on my iphone (can't believe I just SAID that!), then packed up and headed back to the car. The location may or may not work for my starry waterfall photo, but I hope I can remember to return the next time we have high water and clear skies with no moon.

On the way back to my van I followed the contour of the land, crossing a steep hillside most of the way, then made kind of like an otter and slipped and slid almost straight down the hillside and landed in the bottom with a CLUNK. It was level hiking from that point on, stopping only once to get down on my hands and knees to photograph a tiny waterfall on the creek. The bubbles it produced were what interested me, but it was a tough location to place my camera. I ended up with only one good photo, and by accident I had shot the scene at a "film" speed/ISO of 12,500 in order to freeze the motion of the bubbles. I was able to pull out an acceptable image to post here, but not sure it will ever see the light of day anywhere else.

I was back home by 8:30am and ready for a nap. HAPPY NEW YEAR HIKE TO ME!


Since I never made a last post for December I will make a brief one here. My bride arrived home from her week-long trip to Florida with our daughter, and I don't think it was a good trip for either of them. Pam came home exhausted and with a cold - ironic that both of us managed to make it through our second program season in a row without getting sick, and now she went to sunny and warm Florida and caught a cold! Anyway, it had not been our finest year and I think both of us were happy to see 2018 end as soon as possible. Pam was in bed by 7:05, and I followed quickly by 8. We are big party animals as you can tell, ha, ha! We look forward to a better 2019....

01/02/19 A nice gentle rain is falling tonight, and the temp so far has remained above freezing - and in fact has risen from about 33 to 36 right now. Supposed to drop into the upper 20's by first light, but I think the precip will be done with by then. At one point today the van was covered with ice, but roads and trees remained warm enough and I never saw an ice coating. We would LOVE a foot or two of beautiful snow, but I'd rather keep the ice in the freezer or glasses.

I was a slacker today and slept in until about 3:30 this morning. It was chilly and damp and dark when I hiked up to the gallery before dawn. Seems like much of my day was spent driving back and forth to town running errands. My time would have been better spent in the woods behind a camera, but work marches on.

There was one magical moment this afternoon as the pups and I made our way back up to the gallery after lunch. The forest the trail goes through is so rich with color right now - earthy tones made all the richer by the moisture in the air. Hardly any wind about, and so it was pretty much just yourself and your thoughts. Within a few seconds of each other I took notice of the sweet aroma of approaching rain, then my phone made a funny sound, and a quick glance at the screen told me it was going to rain within a few minutes. And sure enough, within a minute of that announcement it began to rain. It is still pretty difficult for anyone to predict the weather with any accuracy, but these little weather apps have all of a sudden been able to predict rainfall about to hit your head - and I'd say they are right about 75% of the time.

A point of reference that I just noticed a moment ago. The ringing in my ears is beginning to sound like a summer's eve around here - the constant sound of summer cicadas. I've had some degree of this ringing for a very long time, but it wasn't until we moved here to Little Bluff last year that I really began to notice it a lot more. I think one reason may be that it is a lot quieter here than it was at Cloudland - mostly because at Cloudland the voice of the Buffalo River could be heard rising up 600 feet below - as an almost constant background (when the wind wasn't blowing too hard). That stretch of the river never goes dry in the summer, so there is always water spilling from one pool to another, and when the water is higher the rapids play a very nice tune (when the river is high it is a pretty loud roar). But here the water sounds are about 1,000 feet below the cabin, 'cept for when we have a lot of water running in our little creek to the north, then the creek and waterfalls play a pretty good tune too!

Anyway, I read somewhere that nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) like Aleve and Ibuprofen can make the ringing worse, and since I've been on prescribed elevated doses of them for the past couple of years (for back pain), that probably had something to do with all that too. I have backed off almost all medications now for the past month (cut in half last summer to start), but I can't really tell much difference in the ringing yet - although the more I think about, it the louder it gets, ha, ha! My overall body pain has increased with out the medications, but it's probably a good idea to give my body a rest from all that anyway, for a little while. (Rollin - the jury is still out on the oil - works great in some limited doses, but not enough data to know yet.)


01/03/19 Elvis came to visit 42 years ago today.


Elvis at Mt. Sherman Cemetey, 01/03/77 (photo by David Spencer, we thinks)

Elvis Presley Visits Mt. Sherman Assembly of God Church

Mt. Sherman is located approximately five miles from Jasper. According to Walter Lackey's "History of Newton County", the first post office there was called Killgore. It was established October 23, 1891 with Jackson Killgore as postmaster. It was discontinued in 1898 and the mail was sent to Jasper. It reopened on February 23, 1914 with a new name, Plumlee, but the name changed again on March 15, 1934. The name Mt. Sherman was suggested by John C Spencer. Mt. Sherman was a small, thriving community with school, church, and store/post office. Land for the church was given by William Alonzo Spencer, who was called to preach and was ordained by the Assemblies of God on February 15, 1918. A little country church was built and Alonzo preached there for many years. The church faced many changes in the 1930s when it was rolled back from the road on logs, a stage was built, and the pot- bellied stove was replaced by gas heat. In the early 1980s, a foyer, classroom and two bathrooms were added and a new front porch. In 1977, it still was a little country church with only twelve pews, six on each side. There was an old, high-backed piano badly in need of a tune-up and no full-time preacher. But something happened on January 3, 1977, that made Mt. Sherman Assembly of God the talk of the area. Elvis Presley came to visit. On this day, the church would conduct the funeral services of its founder, William Alonzo Spencer. He was the maternal grandfather of Ginger Alden, who was Elvis' fiance, and Elvis would be by her side at the funeral. The Rev. Martin Villines and Rev. Guy Jones would officiate for the service. A young minister who had just arrived to take the pulpit at Jasper Assembly of God would be asked to sing. He was a long-time fan of Elvis and his Jasper congregation often enjoyed some of the same gospel songs Elvis sang. One of the songs chosen for this occasion was "How Great Thou Art." Rev. Roger D. Maddox had sung this song many times, but on this occasion his voice broke about halfway through. Then the solo became a duet. Elvis began to sing the harmony as they finished, "Then sings my soul, my Savior, God, to thee, how great thou art, how great thou art." After the service, the King of Rock and Roll apologized for joining in the singing. Young Reverend Maddox thought quickly and replied, "That's all right, Elvis. You can sing with me any time!"

Written by Diana Nelson and printed in Volume 13 issue of the Newton County Historical Society Newsletter.


01/04/19 Here's a snapshot of a waterfall I visited yesterday morning...


01/05/19 Looks like we got a LOT of rain! This is actually just a mud puddle in the front yard shot up close with a phone camera.


01/06/19 Sunrise...


01/11/19 A very cold rain today, probably all day, with a little bit of sleet and snow mixed in. We love a rain like this, especially because we just had gravel spread this week to finish off our 1/4 mile driveway and circle drive - hopefully the LAST gravel we'll have to buy for a very long time - it has nearly busted us. Soaking rain helps to settle all that gravel into more of a hard-packed surface.

We also need a good rain every week or two in order to keep the waterfalls up and running - YIPPIE for WATERFALL SEASON - hope it is a long and wet winter and spring!

I spent a couple of nights out wandering around shooting star trail "circle" photos this past week - we had just incredible clear and brilliant night skies and stars. Gearing up for many more night shoots this winter and on into spring and summer, I hope. My back was not too happy about it, but we'll get along.

Yesterday the famous fireman boys stopped by and helped move several large items out of grandma's house and into ours, then hooked up an important bracket on our roofline to make it easier for me to install the new weather station - it is recording rainfall data now, but this week I will hoist it up over the roofline so we can get accurate wind data too.

LAST NOTE - I GOTTA GO. My lovely bride won't be with me for our last two programs of the year THIS AFTERNOON - 3pm and 4:30pm at the Bull-Shoals White River State Park visitor center. So it will just be me to run the sales table and do both programs and not much time to do either. Have a great FRIDAY!


01/13/19 Cold and wet with a stiff breeze at first light today. We've had ice in the trees the past couple of mornings but it has all melted off now. Some areas nearby had significant ice damage to trees, but so far I've only found one pine tree limb down here at home. Mostly it's just been blowing cold light rain here and there, duck weather - and also pretty nice hiking weather as long as you keep moving.

Our last slide programs Friday night were bitter-sweet as always - we run an exhausting and dangerous schedule for about six weeks doing these shows each year, and it is oh so SWEET to be done with them for another year - we both survived, no accidents or sickness (until Pam got sick in Florida), and we were able to cope with the impossible schedule with many 20-hour long days back to back to back.

The BITTER part is the fact that while I do LOVE getting out and taking pictures: including the sometimes minute-to-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day struggle to get the job done (that most folks simply have no clue about or can appreciate) - all of that work for months and months each year with zero pay (I've not been paid to take a picture in more than 30 years), to try and capture the great beauty of our natural world to share with you; and it is great to come home from a shoot and find a single image out of hundreds that makes my heart soar; and the special feeling I get when someone hands over some of their hard-earned income to purchase a print of a scene that touched my soul; and the great satisfaction I get when I'm able to produce enough good images to fill an entire book that often takes a year or more to accomplish, and sometimes even the book printing turns out pretty nice and we are able to sell enough copies over the years to pay off the printer bill. But the pinnacle of my work is when I'm able to pair those best images with some beautiful and moving music and present it up on a big screen to YOU, someone who has taken time out of your busy day to make the effort to come attend a slide program and sit there in the dark and watch and possibly be moved to tears - THE SLIDE PROGRAM gives me more joy than anything I do.

And now we're done with those until November, when we'll reload with a new program - AND a brand new picture book for 2019 - and do the program circuit all over again. I hope you have enjoyed our show this year and it was worth your effort - THANK YOU FOR ATTENDING!


So I'm sitting here on the living room couch in front of our ten-screen panavision of the world spread out before me soaking in the first light and colors and motion and feeling of the new day. There is soft music - mostly piano - drifting across the room from a tiny wireless speaker on the mantle over the fireplace (we don't have a stereo or even a radio, so we use the free version of Pandora), and I'm laid back on the reclining couch and all seems beautiful and good. Puppies are asleep next to me (wet mops from a trip or two outside already). And my lovely bride has bravely headed into town to grocery shop. With one exception when she went over to her parent's house last week to discover a mini-flood in progress that would require five days of emergency cleanup, tear out, and dry out by a service company from Russellville (and eventually replacement of floors, walls, furniture) - Pam has been cabin-bound by her sickness since December 31st. She is a real trooper. She's had a difficult week.

Her story is really just beginning, but we wanted to share some of it now in the hopes it might impact someone else who might be in the same boat. Cut to the chase - she had a breast biopsy procedure done on Thursday and we are waiting to find out if she has cancer or not - hopefully we will know tomorrow.

She's had some issues for a couple of months and back in November she tried to get a mammogram done early (had already been scheduled for one in February). They could not get her in any sooner. So she turned to the magical Dr. Andrew Monfee in Russellville, and he was able to get her in for a mammogram a lot sooner, before Christmas. And while her problems were not related to cancer ("cancer does not hurt" we're told), they did find several "masses/lumps" that needed further attention (they did the mammogram three times to be sure - as you ladies know that is not any fun!).

So they scheduled a biopsy for last Thursday, the first opening. It was hard enough waiting several weeks, but made worse when she came down with this terrible cold. When it didn't get any getter as her biopsy date approached, they told her it could not be done if she had a cough, which is where her sickness had progressed to. Once again she called upon the magical and most wonderful Dr. Monfee in Russellville, and late one night he called in a prescription to the Walgreens in Harrison and I was able to go in and pick it up just before closing time that night. The medicine helped a great deal, but did not completely stop her cough. The alternative was she could not get the biopsy done - and find out if she had cancer or not - until next month. So she dug deep and bravely marched on into the procedure holding her cough in for more than two hours, and they were able to complete a the biopsy. Her stress level and blood pressure at that point were pretty high as you might imagine. The folks at the Hulston Cancer Center were just wonderful to her. As we walked out of the cancer center she let it all out and coughed all the way home - but her blood pressure dropped and she was able to breathe normally once again - and I saw a little smile of relief.

But there would still be no news for at least four days, maybe longer.

Friday morning when we got out of bed I just had to break out laughing. So the one boob they worked on had four or five layers of bandages and TIGHT wraps, an x-large bra to hold it all in, plus an ice pack to top it off. From one side she looked just like Mae West! It was so good to have a little bit of laughter in the cabin for a change.

The odds are in her favor - we know so many folks who have had the same issues and procedure and was caught early enough so there was zero cancer. We also know very healthy and engeretic woman who have died. The odds mean nothing - the only answers are yes or no, so it is really 50/50. The world is so much more advanced now then ever when just a few years ago a "self exam" was good enough. They told Pam they are now able to detect a lump the size of a grain of sand - and get rid of it completely in time before it grows out of control and kills you. A self exam is unlikely to find such a tiny devil. And so while some may claim an annual mammogram is no longer necessary, if you skip a year that might just be your last. Cancer doesn't hurt. It kills.

Pam has been invested in the fight to cure breast cancer for a very long time - including devoting two years of her life to the 60-mile events for the Susan G. Komen foundation. I did one year with her, but was not strong enough to even keep up - my shoes melted and so did my feet! 10,000 women walked off and left me in their dust.

This morning my bride no longer looks like Mae West with inflated boobs, but is much more colorful now (blue and green bruises - on her boob, not her face!). She is a very strong and smart young lady (still in her 40's), and last night made me sit down and come up with a to-do list for today and tomorrow - she wrote everything down to make sure I could read it. She knows I need a little focus today. And these last few paragraphs I just wrote here are one of the items that I get to check off that list. Tick, tock. Thank you for listening...

*Please know we aren't looking for sympathy or pity - we are quite the oopposite in fact. Pam just wanted to get her story out - good or bad ending - in case it might make a difference to even one person who might decide to get a checkup.

01/14/19 GREAT NEWS THIS AFTERNOON - NO cancer found, but my bride will have to have surgery to remove lumps to keep them from developing into cancer…THANKS so much - you are like family to us!

01/16/19 Quick Pam update. She will meet with a surgeon next week to see what if any surgery is needed to remove the questionable masses. She is doing fine and is mostly over her nasty cold, or whatever it was, and has continued working all week. One thing we learned was that MANY more folks have had cancer than we knew, and even more keep silent. In this day and age it's something that can creep up on anyone no matter your health or family history. Guess I'm sounding like a commercial...

Yesterday we were to make a quick trip to see and photograph trumpeter and tundra swans that are making a rare stop in the river valley near Atkins. Then I remembered I needed to scramble around and photograph as many CCC sites in Arkansas as I could for an upcoming magazine article - I knew about this a week ago but have been too lazy). So I left my bride behind and headed south, spending most of the short day at Ozone campground and Petit Jean State Park (both sites of CCC camps in the 1930's). I've always LOVED the stone water tower at Petit Jean, but have never photographed it before. Yesterday I took a couple hundred images of it over several hours, including after dark.

I also had never photographed Mather Lodge there either (crown jewel of our state park system, and the first park to be built), and while I spent several hours on both sides of the Cedar Creek Canyon taking pictures of it, it was the very last photo about 45 minutes after sunset that was my favorite. The Civilian Conservation Corps worked in Arkansas for about eight years building roads, dams, campgrounds, fire towers, water towers, trails, cabins, and scores of other infrastructure and park projects. Much of their stone work survives and is still in use today, but not much of any of their camps do. Their sum total output and quality and quantity was impressive, as where the folks who did the work! Look for statues at both Petit Jean and Devil's Den state parks that honor them.

I photographed the dam at Shores Lake in moonlight, then ended the day near White Rock Mountain, a longtime favorite of mine. I spent an hour processing some of the images from the day and e-mailing the files to the magazine editor. Amazing that it's possible to do all of this over the internet these days - even while sitting in your van in the middle of the woods! Then crawled into the back of the van for a few winks. The plan was to drive up to White Rock and photograph the CCC cabins there at sunrise, then process those pictures and send off before the magazine's morning deadline - but the sunrise never happened, nor did my processing - my computer died! (I forgot to pack the power plug.)

So I sped off to Devil's Den State Park to photograph more CCC items before rushing home to get the files processed and sent to the magazine - I missed the deadline though, so many of the photos were for naught, but it was still great to be OUT taking pictures, even if it was mostly for free. (no one pays me to take pictures, only if one gets published, or I sell a print or a book) There are 30+ more CCC locations around Arkansas I want to visit and photograph. Patience grasshopper.

The Atkins swans are probably gone by now, but it was amazing to see others' photos of them anyway. Maybe we'll get to make a run over to the Heber Springs area before the swans all take flight back north.

The to-do list that my bride made up for me this week has been slowly getting checked off, including finally getting Larry's weather station on a pole and hoisted up above the cabin - YIPPIE! (thanks so much again - we used it all day, every day, and now it will be even more accurate)


01/18/19 I have a quandary almost every day. One of the very best views in Newton County is from our back deck. Daybreak is often the most amazing light of the day, and sometimes begins before daybreak and continues for an hour or longer. At this time of year that happens when I normally would be hard at work up the hill in our office where we have no view of all the magic that is going on at the cabin. So often I simply sit and gaze out the windows - or in warmer days sit outside - and enjoy the light and color and movement show. However, being a nature photographer whose job it is to capture such things, it is difficult for me to sit and gaze and enjoy - it is my nature and in my blood to JUMP up and run to get the camera and get to work to capture the scene. Kinda tough to do that while I'm sipping my half-cup of java I allow myself each day, or the small bowl of cereal I savor. So often I will linger at the cabin and take a few snapshots of the glorious day as it unfolds, then dash up the hill to the office and help my bride get things done that have to get done to start the work day.

Yesterday the pups and I went on a ramble late in the afternoon after the delivery trucks arrived and had either delivered (I got a new lens to try out for STAR CIRCLES) or picked up packages (a book order headed to a new dealer for us - GREARHEAD OUTFITTERS in Jonesboro).

The forest was wet, the air filled with water - but not quite raining. It had been overcast all day without hint of any sunshine. There was a breeze. The landscape was soaked to the bone - which meant a lot of COLOR since wet things in nature generally are much more colorful than when dry.

We normally follow the trail around but decided to break away and ramble for a while and just float across the hillside, veering left or right when it seemed appropriate. I LOVE the woods in wintertime, when trees bear their souls, the forest floor is clear and open, and no bugs or snakes or poison ivy to worry about.

We came upon a pile of rocks - a simple stack of unrelated chunks of sandstone of all shapes and sizes that had been halfheartedly tossed into somewhat of a pile. No doubt these were stones cleared for making the forest into a field probably in the late 1800's. Unlike other parts of this area in the Ozarks, where such stones would have been stacked nearly to form walls, it seems most of that activity in this part of the county was done much more quickly - simply to pile the rocks to get them out of the way for plows instead of making something out of them. Or perhaps someone had already removed neatly stacked rocks many moons ago and these were rejects tossed into a pile.


I found the stones to be quite beautiful, especially on this wet day of saturated colors - all were covered with bright green and other shades of mosses or lichens that had taken quite a while to grow. We stopped and looked closely at the stones (the pups only took a few sniffs, then moved on towards more favorable squirrel habitat). I counted all that I could see - 31. Many of them were too heavy for me to even roll over if I had wanted to, certainly not lift (I left all of them in place, not wanting to disturb). And I figured a rough estimate of how much this pile of stones would weigh and it turned out to be more than 2,000 pounds - literally a TON of rocks!

OK, back to the present (I stuck around at the cabin this morning). As I was typing the above I happened to glance up and saw a giant red ball sun on the distant horizon, so I grabbed my phone, jumped up and ran outside to take its picture. There was a GLORIOUS burst of brilliant light - and such an uplifting rush of joy that came with it! Then I ran back inside and tried to capture the view looking across my seat on the couch, through the multi-screen panavison prow. We're easily impressed here - first sun we've seen in a while.


Then clouds quickly moved in and surrounded and covered up the sunshine, and so now I'm done with my morning spectacle and time to head out through the woods to the office up the hill a quarter mile away...HAPPY FRIDAY TO YOU!

I don't think the pups care too much about the sunrise...


01/19/19 It wasn't quite light yet this morning, we were sitting in front of a dancing fire, soft music drifting across the room. And I saw movement outside. It was SNOWING! Snowing hard. Giant flakes. The back deck turned white almost instantly. "It will all melt shortly - the earth is too warm" I said smugly. Fifteen minutes later there was an inch on the deck. Then two inches. The snow wasn't melting. In fact, it's late evening now and the snow still hasn't melted - and we have about four inches of beautiful soft snow covering the landscape. The temp is 19 (thanks Larry) with a howling wind and wind chill about 8 or 9 (thanks again Larry - I always love to know the real wind chill, and now we can check it all the time!). Clouds are breaking up and moonlight is beginning to light up the world - supposed to be clear and in the 40's tomorrow - maybe the snow will melt then.

Here's what the radar looked like when we first got up - quite colorful!


Moonlight on snow - gosh darn it, I should be out there taking pictures tonight! And I probably would be if not for my excuse of not knowing where my winter coveralls are - the ones that kept me toasty at -69 in Alaska a few years ago. I must have worn them last winter here when it got down to zero two or three times, but I have no idea where something that bulky could be hiding up in the back of the gallery building (where we lived last year). I'll find them tomorrow, and hopefully will be out taking pictures tomorrow night - let's see, it is the Full Wolf Blood Super Moon Eclipse, or something like that. I don't have a spot picked out yet, but that is what tomorrow is for.

We went on a hike this morning while it was still snowing and blowing hard, and I'm ashamed to say and show it here, but I stopped to take a selphie several times along the way (I don't do selphies, unless it is while standing in front of a waterfall in my green short-shorts for scale). But I wanted to show the front of my Canadian Moose sweater, and how it went from twin mooses to no mooses by the blowing snow. (I know the plural of moose is moose and not mooses, but I actually like saying the word mooses, sorry.)


My lovely bride hiked with us and it was a special treat to be out in the woods on such a beautiful, snowy day. Mia and Wilson had a grand time too - Mia mostly just tore off and ran as fast and as far as she could, then a few moments later would reappear running back towards us - wanting to know what was keeping us! Wilson at first would run and dip his lower jaw into the snow and scoop up a mouth full as he ran. Then he would pick up a stick and run and jump and play with that stick like it was the only one in the forest - until he lost it in the snow. Then he would find another stick and, well - there were a lot of sticks in the forest and he was an especially happy camper in the snow today!

After our hike Pam made homemade chili for lunch and we put our feet up in front of the fireplace to warm and dry them. The pups slept. Light snow continued - although after a while the wind was blowing the snow around so much it was hard to tell if it was fresh snow or wind-blown snow.

I spent much of the afternoon conversing online with a couple of guys about a camera I was trying to sell - a guy from Australia really wanted it and was willing to pay more, a guy from Delaware couldn't speak in complete sentences but he wanted the camera too and sent me his Paypal info (we don't take paypal), and a guy in Florida was worried that I might have already made a deal with someone else and wasn't telling him (I had not). While those three snoozed I ended up making a deal with a gentleman from southern California and I'm shipping the camera to him on Monday. It's my beloved "big" camera that I've been using for five years as my main landscape camera - in fact it the longest I've ever owned a digital camera, and it has served me well (I owned its little brother for the previous five years - so ten years with the basically the same camera system). The guy got a great bargain on a terrific camera, and I hope it continues to capture wonderful scenes for five more years!

Not a single bite on the lens I also have for sale. I wonder if the guy from Australia would be interested?

I hope many of you got the chance to get out and play in the snow today- HAPPY WEEKEND! Thanks mom...

01/21/19 The blood moon eclipse was magical, and a bit of a hectic scramble. I had several cameras set up in two or three different locations, including one right here in the front yard of the cabin. The entire event happened over several hours in the middle of the night, with the total eclipse - the part when the moon is indeed "blood red" - lasts for about an hour. The degree of difficulty for this event was pretty high since the moon itself was pretty high in the sky - passing not quite straight overhead, but almost. Pointing a camera UP that much and being able to see through it is taxing on one's body, but it can be and was done.

At one point I had a camera or two on "trackers" - motorized mounts that move the camera at the same speed as the moon is moving across the sky (to keep the moon in the frame, otherwise it moves out of frame within a minute or two), taking pictures at specified intervals. The exposure of the moon changes dramatically during an eclipse - for those who understand such things, it changes about fifteen stops from the brightest uncovered full moon to the darkest fully covered full moon. And when the moon is in partial eclipse, the bright parts are on the brightest end of that scale, and the darkest parts are on the darkest parts of that scale - cameras cannot capture that much contrast range in a single exposure, so you have to pick which part you want properly exposed.

I had a couple of locations within a short driving and hiking distance from our cabin, and during the critical hour of total eclipse, I drove/hiked/ran from one to the other and back to the cabin a couple of times, manually adjusting the exposure and alignment and zoom of the cameras. I didn't have time to closely examine or even look at most of the pictures I took during this time, just tried to capture as much and as many different scenes as I could, hoping to get one or maybe two that I liked.

The degree of difficult was also raised due to the frigid conditions - it was very cold with high winds, and the tips of my fingers were numb and aching much of the time - so much so that I often could not even feel tiny buttons I needed to push to change a camera setting. You can't wear gloves while doing most of this work, but I was able to extend the feelings in my fingertips a little by using latex gloves - in fact those helped quite a bit. At the end of it all I ran around to collect all my gear and kinda made a pile in the van and in the garage - it was 2 or 3am by the time my head hit the pillow, and I had only made a brief look at what one of the cameras had captures so didn't really know what I had.

Then BING, the alarm went off at 5am - time to get UP! My bride had an appointment with her boobie surgeon in Springfield first thing, so we sped off into the dawn and managed to get through Springfield traffic with ten minutes to spare. She will have surgery soon to remove the offending lumps, and then hopefully that chapter will be history - although as many of you ladies know all too well, she'll have to be quite vigilant from now on for the rest of her life, but for now we are much relieved.

The rest of the day was so full with that while I did make a dozen trips between the cabin and galley, not one of them included a detour out into the forest. Our driveway remains partly frozen SOLID, and at least once I slipped and nearly busted my fanny. That shook me so much (especially while running around during the eclipse) that I fitted my boots with a pair of ice grippers - oh man that made hiking so much easier both physically and mentally.

It wasn't until about 9pm tonight that I finally got a chance to download and backup all the eclipse photos, and then take a look at a couple of them. The quickie snapshot that I'd processed at 2am this morning and posted on Instagram became the most popular one I'd posted there ever, by about 2x. Of course there are ZILLIONS of eclipse photos now all over the web, and some really terrific ones and incredible sequences of the entire event. But it will be a while before I'm able to see what I really got, and eventually hope to past another one or two, but I probably won't be doing any sequences - those are just too much work and end up being just another one of zillions. But it all was great experience for me, and I learned a lot - funny but I kinda started all over again like a newbie, and maybe the next time this happens I won't have to be so hectic - after all the next total lunar eclipse is only 1.5 YEARS AWAY! Here's my snapshot, taken with a Fuji 50 gfxs camera and Pentax 100-300 lens, ISO 3200, f8, 1/2 second exposure (this is a crop of about 10% of the total picture frame.


As I'm sitting here typing this on the couch in the prow of the cabin, the wind is howling and the moon the normal spectacular moon is up there overhead dancing around with clouds, and the landscape all around reaming pretty bright since that moonlight is reflecting on quite a bit of snow still on the ground. In fact the main mountains that we see straight across the canyon in front of us is completely white - being on the north side of the hill it doesn't get any direct sunshine right now, and not much has melted off yet.

And the howling wind - so far while I've been sitting here it has reached 45mph several times! Our weather station is working overtime, and I think it is in for a long night. Speaking of that, I'm kinda weary, so nightall.

01/21/19 morning update. The hillside across the way melted quite a bit during the night and is much less WHITE than last night.. The wind continued to howl all night, and speeds remain in the 30-40mph range at dawn. The puppies came inside and ran across the great room floor to the couch. I could tell because of the muddy trails they left behind on our beautiful CLEAN floor! Here's a snap of the mini-queen herself, Mia, in her elemet on mom's lap on the couch:


01/23/19 A half inch of rain overnight, 25 degrees this morning and calm, and kinda brisk outside! (at least that's what the puppies report - I'm still in my jammies and robe in front of the fireplace)

Actually I'm trying out a new typing location - sitting on a bar stool so I can look at my bride on the other side of the bar making her breakfast. I'm not able to sit in normal chairs for more than a few minutes without it killing my back, but I've been trying a few new sitting positions that make it not so bad for short periods. Anyway, while sitting here typing away I happened to notice a beautiful scene on the front of her long-sleeve t-shirt (canoe in moonlight - ha, I just noticed it is of a "wolf" full moon - the standard scene of a wolf howling in front of a full moon - the original made-up scene that could never have happened, but gives a sense of wilderness).

And I got to thinking about a Beatles t-shirt ad I saw yesterday (you probably did too) and one of the many thousands of replies was from a lady who commented she would love to have the scene on the BACK of a t-shirt instead of the front - the art is almost always on the front. I've always felt weird about staring at a ladies's chest. Pam said she didn't mind except for one time she was wearing a St. Louis cardinals t-shirt (was a big Big Mac fan back in the day) that had a pair of baseballs placed, well, you know, right where they would stick out! Anyway, if you are wearing a really nice t-shirt/sweatshirt scene and I notice please know I'm not staring at your boobs! Or better yet, buy a t-shirt with the scene on the back.

The softness of first light is ever so slowly creeping across the landscape this morning. The big oak tree, maple tree, and several tall pines in front (back) of the cabin are all silhouetted against a foggy backdrop, with a hint/outline of the distant ridges across the canyon coming into view. No wind or sound, and it's like the world is still a slumber, at peace, and waiting for the new day to begin.

We're headed into town with the puppies to get them haircuts! Wilson is absolutely the most shaggy he's ever been, which is nice for him on a frigid day, but not so nice for the rest of us when he comes in soaking wet and muddy all over. I'm hoping the switch-backed road down into Ponca is not icy.

CCC photos update. It appears they are using seven of the photos I took last week at Ozone, Petit Jean, White Rock Mtn. , and Devil's Den - including one on the front cover. (and my statue photo above, although it will be tiny) Lots of historical photos and great article too. Also, photo below is of our "boulder jumble" along the trail in snow from above.


01/24/19 They missed the high temps yesterday by at least 10 degrees - one of the coldest days I've been in since Alaska! But when I returned from spending the day in Fayetteville getting the dogs a haircut, we had cuddly puppies instead of the mops that I left with. Roads were fine, but when I came back in the evening many of the ridgetops were covered with magical, fairy trees cloaked in hoar frost - BEAUTIFUL! (hoar frost is fog that freezes and builds up on things like tree branches as delicate crystal-like ice)


The sky didn't clear until mid-evening, and stars came out in full force. I was also quite beautiful, with a temp here of 21 degrees. I got fixated on a particular piece of astronomical gear it seemed like I just HAD to acquire, and spent a couple of hours doing my diligent research and locating a source in Canada that I could purchase from. After almost clicking the order button several times, I came across some info that recommended this item could NOT be used with a Mac computer - it needed a windows computer. Oops, they just lost my order. Life is short enough, and wasting it with a windows computer is just not worth it.

But while I had my nose stuck online, the temp began to inch up - 22, 23 - until finally when I awoke just before dawn this morning it had risen during the night to 31 - not something you see much in the middle of winter - the temps RISING all night.

There was a group of clouds that were quite colorful over there above the eastern horizon about an hour before sunrise, and I spent the next 30 minutes running around in the back yard in my bathrobe and iphone trying to snap a good photo of the trees and clouds for the Journal post today. I was never quite happy, and eventually gave up and went back inside to finish the 1/2 cup of java I had been sipping on. Then I noticed a thin line of individual clouds had formed in the same area that began to glow and light up pink, orange, and red. iphones don't to telephoto shots very well (in fact, they are terrible at it unless you use an additional clip-on lens), so I ran out and grabbed my advanced snapshot camera from the van and took a number of photos of the clouds. Even though they were small and way out there, something about them was unique and pleasing. Not sure if the camera was able to capture that feeling or not, but I tried.


A few minutes later the eastern horizon really lit up brilliant orange, then exploded with a tiny bit of the tip of the sun that FLOODED the landscape with BRIGHT sunshine! A new happy day has arrived!

01/25/19 A couple of hours before dawn this morning and the temp is a balmy 13 degrees and still dropping. Clear skies, rather breezy, with a wind chill well below zero. I'm sitting with the pups on the couch in the prow, with two bright planets staring back at us - Venus and Juniper. These planets have been hanging out very close to each other in the pre-dawn eastern sky for a while now.

Yesterday I made a bit of a miscalculation, and it is about to cost me. I had planned to visit a waterfall mid-afternoon and spend some time taking pictures. It was sunny, but I was feeling a bit of cabin fever and really wanted to get out and shoot - the waterfall would have been in full shade, so no harsh sunshine problem. It would be the longest hike with camera gear I'd done in a while. On my way home I was going to make a detour and photograph some distant mountains at sunset. Then I had wanted to set out two cameras in different places to photograph star "circle" timelapses for a few hours before a bright moon would rise and wash out the landscape.

But first, I decided before I left that it was time to do a little chore that had been at the top of my to-do list for a while - since JULY in fact. Install a dog door so the pups could come and go as they pleased. I have no idea why I put this off for months - yes I do - that's just the way that I am. Hundreds of things on my to-do list, and I pick this one. OK, no problem, and hour-long job and then I would head off to the waterfall.

Four or five hours later I was about half done with the dog door, and my back was screaming in pain. Thank goodness my bride got home and rescued me. Took us about 45 minutes to complete the job. She is the BEST at following directions and being able to put stuff together (I had spent most of my time cutting out the hole in our steel door, but I did get that part done). By the time the project was complete and in operation it was almost dark, and the waterfall trip was not to be (I could not have carried a camera backpack by then anyway). And it was cloudy so no sunset nor star circle photos. 'Tis the nature of the beast.

So no problem - I figured the waterfall would probably look better this morning, and decided to hike in before sunup and maybe get a few icicles too. Please see the first sentence in this post. What was I thinking??!! It is a wee bit chilly, even for me at the moment. But now I really want to go see what the waterfall looks like, so in about an hour I will suit up and head out. I only wish that case of hand warmers on the shelf in front of me at SAMS a couple of days ago had ended up in my shopping cart...

WILDLIFE UPDATE. Pam discovered some shredded kleenix in her car. Oh NO! That means a mouse is in the car. Not good for electrical wiring. Then yesterday when I was checking on some camera equipment in my van, I looked up and there was a long-tailed field mouse sitting in the front seat - DOUBLE oh no!!! My bride brought home some mouse traps and I quickly set out a trip line after dinner last night. I checked on them an hour later and son of a gun, all four traps in both cars had been cleaned off without snapping! That sometimes happens when I don't do a good job with the baiting, but now I wondered if there was a mouse in each car, or just one working both vehicles? I ran the trap line again just before bedtime, and three of the four traps had been stripped. I doubled-down on my bait-attachment technique and went to bed. While I didn't dream about mice, I've been wide-awake since about 2am worrying about them. I got up at 4 and ran the trap line - GOT HIM! At least one of him - the other three traps had not been touched.

5:30am and the temp is down to 12 degrees and continues to fall. I need some rubber gloves...

01/26/19 Several folks asked how much snow we were getting yesterday evening - zero was always the answer. Guess the snow they kept showing on the radar evaporated before it hit the ground. 30 degrees this morning at dawn felt BALMY compared to yesterday, which bottomed out at 9 degrees when I arrived at the Sweden Creek Natural Area trailhead about 6am.

Hiking downhill to the big waterfall there was pretty easy and I rarely need heavy clothes while hiking, especially with a camera backpack. But I knew once I arrived at the waterfall and spent a couple of hours there mostly standing still while shooting that I would need some serious winter gear. Not wanting to carry two sets of clothing (and have to bare myself to the elements while changing), I opted to just wear my Alaska coveralls and nothing else, but have a down jacket in my camera pack just in case.

The trip down to the top of the big bluff there was easy, although since I had also opted to wear my "Angela" rubber boots (insulated, and waterproof, and a nod to my dear departed workshop assistant, Angela Peace, who insisted for years that I buy a pair, and I finally did and love them). These boots kept my feet warm and toasty the entire time - my toes are usually the first to go in frigid weather. BUT the boots are terrible on ICE. And the passageway between the upper and lower sections of this natural area passes down through a miniature "bear crack" to get below the bluff - and ALL of that passage was solid ice - YIKES! Somehow I left my ice crampons back at the cabin and I had to go it alone, with slick-bottomed boots.

The trick was to find something, anything, to hold onto for each and every nervous step I made - a rock or branch or small tree trunk so I could shift my weight to it for balance and not put much weight on my leading foot - otherwise that foot would slip right out from under me and my day would be over.

I made it to the bottom of the passage with only one or two minor slips, then proceeded to follow the path along the base of the bluff, and sometimes beneath the bluff. Normally this is an easy trail, but it turned out to be an ice highway, not only smooth ice flows covering the trail, but also chunks of icicles that had come tumbling down from above in previous days. Sometimes I could hug the wall and stay away from the ice, other times I had to carefully inch my way along using the same grab-a-rock-or-limb process as before.

In one area the trail was right along the edge of the bluff - or rather there was bluff above and a smaller bluff below, maybe 15-20' tall. It made me stop and ponder the wisdom of proceeding. One slip and it might be my last. At one point I got down on my rump and slid along and made it OK, wishing all the while that I would have bypassed this bluff trail area altogether and hiked below the bluff. I made it to the waterfall without incident, but it was not a wise trip.

The next couple of hours were magical - the waterfall was flowing nicely, although as I realized later it was so cold that much of the water in the drainage above the falls was actually frozen and so the flow was less - so much less that the creek below the waterfall pool was DRY! It emerged a couple hundred feet downstream.

Not nearly as much ice on the bluffs above and around the waterfall as I had hoped, but there was quite a bit of what I call "spray ice" around the base of the falls - these are stalagmite-type ice formations that are built from the ground up by spray hitting in the same spots over a period of time (see photo below). Some of the patterns were just beautiful!


And the emerald pool at the base of the falls was wonderful - almost like Eden, except that at about 8 or 9 degrees it was 70 or 80 degrees cooler than I figure Eden was.

Most of my pictures were long exposures - 25 or 30 seconds each to capture the pure color and beauty of the pool. In other words, I spent a great deal of time just standing there waiting for the camera to complete each picture. My body and feet were plenty warm enough, but my hands were not. I wore rubber gloves, a hand warmer on each hand, then a normal winter glove as an outer layer. Didn't really help much - the tips of my fingers got "frozen" pretty quick, and despite my best efforts they remained that way the entire time, which may have cost me a $2,500 lens.


While the pictures were being taken I would flap my wings like a bird, swing my arms back and forth, and generally snap my arms to try and drive blood to my fingertips. Sometimes that would work for a little while and I could feel my fingertips, but they always returned to numbness and pain. At one point while changing lenses I did not realize my grip on the lens I had just removed was not very good, and the lens slipped from my hand and crashed on the rocks below. Fortunately I had bent over to put the lens into my camera backpack that was on the ground, so the fall was not too great. This was near the end of my shoot and I never used that lens again - I'm been kind of afraid to test it to see if it is broken. Maybe tomorrow. Note to self: ALWAYS handle camera equipment like you have no feelings in your fingers and make sure you have a good grip!

So I got a few nice photos I hope - I really only needed one for the new book project, two would be even better. By the time I was ready to leave, bright sunshine had almost worked its way into the deep canyon where the waterfall lives, and I knew it would be a rather warm hike out. I struck off and contoured along the steep hillside below the ice bluffs (instead of hiking on the ice trail along the bluffs), and made it back to and up through the mini-bear crack just fine. Fine except for the fact that I was burning up inside my winter suit! All of the hike back was uphill, and I know that normally I would kick it into high gear for the last half-mile UP to the car. That pace and my winter suit would probably melt my insides, so I decided to remove the suit and hike back carrying it instead of wearing it. Hum, not much chance of meeting any other hikers on the trail - not many would be as crazy as me to be there on such a frigid day.

So it was just my rubber boots, my down jacket, and my underwear, and the hike out felt DELIGHTFUL! As luck would have it, when I arrived back at the van I looked up and here came a pickup truck driving by slowly, and I'm sure they realized there was a looney at the trailhead in his underwear. But HEY, the temp had risen into the teens so I was not all that crazy!

Gosh while I was typing this little story the eastern horizon spread out before me this morning went from a beautiful burnt-orange, pink, and red sky to a sun so brilliant that I can't even look that direction without sunglasses. Saturday has arrived with clear skies and a brisk breeze. It's gonna be a GREAT DAY in the Ozarks - I hope you have a terrific weekend!

01/27/19 (see colorful cabin cam photo at end of post from our view this morning) Almost out of space here, so I'll be brief. My lovely bride and I went on one of the BEST hikes EVER yesterday morning. She just needed to get out and spend some time in the great outdoors, and so I was happy to tag along. We started at the Ponca low water bridge and hiked the Buffalo River Trail downstream. The landscape was covered with a heavy dusting of fresh snow, which made everything from tiny star moss that covered many parts of the ground, boulders of all sizes, and trees from tiny to giant stand out. Thousands of beech trees with their golden leaves rimmed with snow dust glowed against a rising sun.

The trail itself was beautiful as well, having more snow on it really stood out as it twisted and turned up and across the landscape. Much of the trail route was right next to and sometimes a bit above the river - and emerald river that was just SO, SO, AMAZING! Plus the music of the river as we hiked along - wonderful melody.

We crossed several creeks that while they were not flowing all that much, still provided some really nice immersive scenes. I even went into work mode, got down on all fours, and made a few video clips of the moving water patterns - you may see one of these in the slide show later this year. Many bluffs had been seeping and were covered with clear icicles, some glistening in the sunshine. We followed the trail to the highpoint of this section, where it goes up between the base of a bluff and a large rock - a kind of mini "bear crack," Then turned around and hiked back. We spent twice as much as we had planned on because everything was just so nice being there, on the trail next to the river, and with my lovely bride. Lots of folks have been writing up their stories of memories from years gone by about the good old days, but I don't know how I could have had a better memory than this hike was. These are the good old days right now - enjoy each and every step!


ice pam





01/30/19 The alarm went off at 1:20 this morning, I hopped out of bed and in one coordinated saunter through the cabin I collected a few items, brewed a large cup of java, put on my Alaska coveralls, slipped into my insulated Angela rubber boots, then loaded myself into the van and headed out for work, making a quick stop at the gallery to load up several batteries and power packs that had been charging for a few hours.

My target was Roark Bluff, and within a few minutes of arriving there I had set up two sets of camera gear with large 12 volt batteries to power both the camera operation and dew heaters - the ground was already covered with frost, and I didn't want any of that on my lenses. The sky above was filled with a zillion stars - twinkling as they do in the crispy 13-degree air. After getting everything set up and running, I laid back flat in the meadow and took a few moments to just look up and stare. WOW! Those stars shone down from very dark skies - the moon wasn't scheduled to rise for another couple of hours, and there was not a single light in sight - the campground was deserted. Ahhhhhhhhh.

Rewind to a couple of nights ago when I had frantically set up one camera in the middle of a neighbor's pasture pointed at my favorite tree, and left it running to shoot pictures all night until dawn.

Then I drove to Boxley and set up a second camera - again pointed at the North Star to run all night and produce a "star circle" - 'tis the season for star circles, a favorite of mine, as long as I can't find a suitable composition.

The forecast called for lows in the upper 30's with a dew point at 28, so I didn't bother to add dew heater protection to the lenses since it would not get cold enough for them to fog up. I spent several hours in Boxley Valley just wandering around - literally hiking up and down the highway, out through a friend's pasture and along county roads, killing time until my star circle photo had been completed (takes 4-8 hours). SPECTACULAR clear night with a zillion stars - just what I LOVE!

At one point while wandering through the valley I thought how incredible it must be to live there - so peaceful and quiet and isolated. Then I had to laugh because even though no one really lives in this particular part of the valley right now, there were seven yard lights in various locations on all night that really lit up just about every inch of that section of the valley. Folks are afraid of the dark, even when they are not there.

And then I noticed that all of a sudden I was walking through a FROSTED pasture. What? HOLY MOLEY, my LENSES! The temp had dipped to 27 degrees and was still falling, which meant those lenses were covered with frost just like the pasture - no recovery once a lens gets frosted or fogged up. So I ran over and packed up the first camera, then sped on through the valley and up the hill back towards camera the original camera set up. As I drove up out of the valley I watched with great pleasure as the temp quickly rose to a balmy 42. Whew, my first camera would be OK and I let it run on until daylight.


After being up and out working all night I drug myself home to the cabin and crawled into the RV for a few winks - wanting to stay out of the house so my bride would not wake me up. My alarm went off at 9am and I had to get up and go meet with a local contractor to get a bid for repainting Pam's parents house that had recently been messed up due to a minor flood.

Later that same day, I packed up all my camera gear again and headed to the greater Erbie Metroplex and once again set up two camera systems in two different spots to capture star circles - the sky was clear and BEAUTIFUL once again! But then Houston, we had a problem. It had taken me about an hour to get one of the cameras set up, then I'd spent another 30 minutes getting camera #2 going. I was shooting in and around the oldest homestead within Buffalo National River park - the Parker-Hickman Farmstead, which is a complex of rustic buildings including the main cabin, barns, and other outbuildings. I'd been shooting here several times already this year, always at night.

Anyway, it's always just a tad bit creepy being there alone at night, and I wander around without any lights on so as not to mess up my pictures or my night vision. And it was very quiet there. The second camera was almost all set up to run when all of a sudden that silence and stillness was shattered by the slamming of a screen door! WHAT THE HECK? Did someone just come in or out of the cabin? Was there a boogieman living there, or a bum, or a hiker, or a ghost? Was an outlaw hiding in there - or someone laying in wait to sneak up in the dark and strangle me? Oh my gosh!!! Of course, I couldn't turn on my light to see. And after a few moments of trying to collect myself I went on about my business, which included walking past the cabin - and once I even checked on that screen door. No sign of anyone.

When in a isolation like this - in the dark and alone and on edge because you think a ghost or murderer is on the loose nearby and waiting for you - you tend to hear a lot of sounds, and a chill runs down your spine, and you shiver a bit. I was ready to just get in the van and just drive away and come back at dawn, but I had a third camera I wanted to set up. Hum, but what to do about the THING that was most on my mind.

So I finally eased up on the hysterics a bit and went back to work, and found a composition that I really liked taking pictures of the cabin from a different angle with camera #3. It looked really nice, but there was one glaring element missing from my scene - I needed a little bit of yellow or orange or red glow coming from INSIDE the cabin out of the windows to look like glow from candles or a fireplace. I would need to enter the cabin and set up a small light - what did you just say - ENTER the cabin where the ghost/murderer had just run into? GULP. Crud.

And so I did. No one in the first room, or the second, or the third - my goodness I had to go back and around into a FOURTH room to get to the window, really? Yes, and then something really kinda funny happened. When I set down my headlamp with the tiny red LED lighting up that little front room and turned to RUN back through the cabin, I realized that headlamp was the ONLY light I had! So I was forced to make my way back through all the rooms in the cabin by feel - HOLY MOLY/COW/TOLEDO!!!!! And eventually I also had to climb up into the ATTIC to place a small light up there for another picture - and it was the most likely hideout for a ghost/murderer. But thankfully it was empty as well and I got my photos without being murdered. WHEW!

I laid down in the van and napped for a few minutes while the cameras were running, then got up and started shooting with the third camera in various places once the 1/3 moon had risen to light up some of the buildings. When I got home at dawn I took a pill and crawled into bed and slept a good three or four hours before getting up and back to my day job. My bride is so understanding and helpful - thank goodness we runs our actual businesses.

So at 8pm I took a pill and went to bed, and that is when my alarm went off at 1:20 this morning and so now we are back to real time (Wednesday morning). Only problem is - remember how I quickly got up and down to Roark Bluff and set up two cameras to capture star circles - well, about 30 minutes later it started to snow! And of course clouds had moved, so at the moment I'm in the van typing this my cameras are running but not capturing anything since there are no stars. But I'm waiting it out - wandering around an empty campground and meadows, but probably will head back home at daylight with no pictures. My plan is to repeat again tonight/tomorrow morning somewhere - they are calling for clear skies. All of this is leading up to Friday morning, when we have to get up at 3am and get Pam to surgery in Springfield at 6am.

01/31/19 Nice clear skies overnight, which was great for star pictures. I spent much of the night inside the van that was parked near three of my cameras that were set up in a meadow nearby. I got up to check on them at least once an hour to make sure the dew heaters were working correctly to keep frost off the lenses (they did). All cameras were shooting the same scene - one had an ultra-wideangle lens on it, and the other had a uber-ultra-wideangle lens. And a third camera was just using a normal wide-angle lens. This was my second night in a row to shoot the same scene, and I probably won't know for a while if I got a picture worth publishing. Sometimes (rare) I can just take a couple of photos and get a good one - usually I make many, sometimes hundreds. For nighttime images it can be a single picture (very rare), hundreds (most common), or many thousands to get one good one, like in this case.

I also got to just wander around under a beautiful starry sky staring up in awe, but since the temps were in the teens and I didn't have any handwarmers, these moments were short, but still quite spectacular. And this morning I was out and about since about 4am, and got to experience the very beginning of a new day, while there were still stars visible, and the eastern horizon glowed pink and purple and orange and red. The crescent moon rose along with Saturn and Juniper.

As wonderful as all that was - even more so if one of my pictures actually turns out - the highlight of my day was when I got home at sunrise - my lovely bride was up and waiting for me with open arms! How much better could life get...

HAPPY JANUARY TO YOU, and thanks for reading!

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