CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - June 2014, Part B - June 18th to present
(June Journal Part A from June 1 - 17th is here)
Cloudland remote Cabin Cam June 30 - on the road early this morning...
Journal updated July 1st
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• Regular Print Of The Week - Mirror Lake Falls in the Moonlight (above)
• Engagement Calendar Print Of The Week - Wolf Creek Cave Falls
06/18/14 I got a new flashlight yesterday. The good news is that it will allow me to take one particular picture that I've been wanting to take for a while now. The bad news is that it cost $200, AND it is not the most expensive flashlight I own for lightpainting, not even close. At last count there were more than 25 flashlights in the bookmobile flashlight drawer. Sometimes I will buy a piece of camera equipment to do one specific thing, and it turns out to be useful in many ways, and that was the case with this flashlight, thank goodness!
I was on puppy duty until my lovely bride got home late from Missouri last night, then I sped off into the night to do some testing with the new flashlight. 'Tis one of my problems - I've been working on this nighttime picture book now for more than a year and I'm still in "testing" mode! And I've got less than TWO WEEKS left to complete all the pictures for the book - YIKES!
Anyway, I had this vision in my head for a while, and that new light was going to get me there. I set up two cameras and two tripods and ran off into the darkness with my big new light. (Did I say the light was almost two feet long, and many-million candle power? It comes with a shoulder strap - really, a shoulder strap for a flashlight!) First thing I discovered was that my remote trigger for the cameras would not reach from my lightpainting location - I was too far away. I had no less than four different remote triggering devices with me (plus several normal wired cable releases), but none would transmit a signal that far - the only one I own that would go that far was back at home! But I figured that out - I set the cameras to shoot a long exposure every minute, over and over. I set the cameras to alternate, so whatever I shined the big light on would be captured by one of the cameras or another.
It took me about an hour of testing to realize that what I wanted to do was not going to work - at least not on this night. So I gave up and started to look around to see what else I could find. It was mostly cloudy with just a few stars now and then peeking through, and since I'm out for maximum stars right now I didn't have too many choices. And then I literally stumbled into another potential scene that I might be able to lightpaint. I had been hiking along the banks of the Buffalo River - which was lined with very slick small boulders - much larger than "gravel" stones. And so in the darkness with the slickness and the irregular shapes of the stones, footing was not very good. So I slipped a time or three, and once stumbled and landed face-first in the river. When I looked up and shined my light around, the idea came to me. OF COURSE!
I made another trip back up through the woods and across the meadow and collected some of my camera gear - I would only use one camera for this next test. I was beginning to get rushed a little since the moon was about to rise above the nearby ridge, which would mess up the blank canvas of dark landscape that I wanted to lightpaint. The clouds continued to move and expose a band of stars every now and then.
This time I set up in the Buffalo River at the base of the towering Roark Bluff, in water about a foot deep. I hoped no large fish would swim by during the exposures and bump the tripod. I made a few test exposures and set my composition, then hiked upstream in the darkness while the camera started to take pictures. I spent the next hour or so lightpainting the giant painted limestone bluff, walking along (and doing a lot of stumbling) the river edge as I went.
One thing you learn pretty quickly when you do lightpainting in the summer with a big light, is that the light beams attract a SWARM of bugs. They come out of nowhere and all want to fly right on down to the source of the bright light - which, of course, is ME! Luckily I packed a headnet for just such a swarm, although it was sitting on the front seat in my jeep! I kept moving to keep the bugs guessing, and then every now and then would turn the light off - I have no idea where they went then, but it only took them a few seconds to return once the light came back on again.
There was a big beaver in the long pool beneath the bluff, and he was not happy about me being there. There are a lot of beavers in High Ozark streams with pools like this, and they love to lay a game with anyone who ventures near during the night. They will swim up close to you in the dark (my spotlight illuminated the big bluff, not the water), then SLAP their tail on the water with a loud CRACK! While I have never actually seen them firsthand doing this, I know they get a big chuckle out of watching someone like me JUMP every time they slap their tail. There must be a word for this.
Here is the photo I was working on - you can order a print of this by going to the Print Of The Week page to place your order
Another hour went by with me and the beaver and the bluff and the spot light. The moonrise was mostly covered up by the clouds, so I moved my camera gear to another location and tried a different composition. After about 30 minutes of work I gave up and decided it was time to head home. I'd worked five or six hours along the river, and was not sure I had anything - most of my tests with the big light failed - not because of the big light or the big bluff or the Buffalo River or the beaver, but just because of ME not knowing what or how to do. Sometimes I look at a whole pie and think I can eat it all too, but that never seems to work out either.
I drove home and took the puppies out to water the flowers - it was before 4am. Then crawled into the back of the bookmobile and went to sleep for a couple of hours (I don't like to wake up my lovely bride in the middle of the night by crawling into our normal bed). Later in the day I downloaded and took a look at the pictures I'd taken during the night. Son of a gun, I did find one frame that might work for the new book - a single frame out of the hundreds that I'd taken during the night. Hey, I'll take that average anytime, especially with night photography when you never know what you are going to get, if anything. So the new big light worked after all!
06/19/14 I headed out late last night to test a new lens and a new lightpainting technique (I repeat - shouldn't I be done testing by now, ha, ha!). The skies were mostly clear and the Milky Way was shining bright and looking might fine. I stood in a hayfield with hay up over the hood of the jeep and shot for a couple of hours. The Milky Way eventually rose and arched across the sky from the southern horizon to the northern horizon - it was quite a sight! My new lens worked really well, although I did have trouble getting it focussed - oops! That is kind of important. I'll try again the next clear night.
Next I moved to another hayfield where a rustic barn lives. The Milky Way was standing tall but the moon had just risen and so the sky was quickly starting to lighten up - lighter sky means less stars. I set up my camera gear and took pictures for the next hour. What can I say - two of my most favorite things to point a camera at - the Milky Way and a rustic barn! Funny, but the barn looked a lot shorter than I had remembered - then it dawned on me - with the hay at least three feet tall, the barn was indeed shorter visually since the hay covered up the bottom of it.
Now available as a Print Of The Week
While I was working on the barn, a fox appeared - well, actually just a pair of red eyes at first. I watched him and he watched me. He would disappear, then reappear again someplace else, watching me, always watching me. We used to have a pair of gray foxes here at Cloudland, but we've not seen them in many moons.
After the bright half-moon rose into the sky and washed out my Milky Way scene, I moved into a grove of giant old oak trees and spent an hour in conversation with one. Amazing what stories these old guys can tell!
Now available as a Print Of The Week
FYI , if there are any typos or grammar errors in this post it is quite possibly because Wilson is sitting in my lap and has had his paws no the keyboard a time or two...
06/23/14 Is it SUMMER already? We've had some rain and cool temps here this afternoon, more like early fall weather. Lots and lots of humidity though, so I guess it really is summer. I was out shooting most of last night, and the air got saturated just about midnight - that's when my tripods got soaked, and so did my boots and pants as I made my way through the brush. One camera had an electronic heating coil around the lens - keeping it above the dew temp so the dew did not form on the lens - that is critical for the photos I'm taking right now. The other camera just had one of those chemical hand warmers duck taped to it, and that worked for a little while. But eventually that lens started to fog up.
Kind of funny, but some of the pictures the camera with the foggy lens took looked pretty neat to me - I guess it is nice to go through life a little fogged in the head sometimes! There were clouds passing while I was shooting. Some of them were interesting colors, others simply gray or off white. I was deep in the bottom of the Buffalo River Valley in the greater Boxley-Ponca-Steele Creek Metroplex. Some of the clouds reflected street lights that seem to be in the yards of even the most remote cabins in the Ozarks, and that light bounces off the clouds - mostly a ghostly orange hue.
There is a move afoot to change the type and direction of street/yard lights in this country - literally change their direction. Most of the light they produce goes up and out, which is where a great deal of our "light pollution" comes from. The new lights are not only more energy efficient and cheaper to operate, but they direct the light down to the ground where the light is needed and wanted in the first place. If we had a yard light here at Cloudland it would be the new type, but we've never had a yard light of any sort - we much prefer the natural light of the Heavens, especially on a cold, clear night when either the bright full moon or brilliant Milky Way lights the way.
Saturday my lovely bride and I attended the second wedding in three weeks (and only the third since we've been married). Last month my niece got married in a beautiful church. Saturday Pam's nephew got married on a farm - and oh my goodness the setting, lighting and everything were simply gorgeous! It could have gone either way though - there were giant thunderheads gathered all around which dumped heavy rain short distances away, but for some reason the outdoor ceremony never got a drop. I was mostly on puppy duty, with all three dogs in tow. But I really spent most of my time just gawking at the incredible light coming from those clouds, and how it spread across the lush, rural landscape. (No tie for me at this wedding - shorts and a hat were the order of the day.)
I left the wedding sometime after 9pm and headed towards the largest spring in Arkansas - Mammoth Spring. I've been there many times and always wanted to photograph it at night. Conditions were very good with clearing skies and lots of mist and fog produced by the spring. But even though I spent a couple of hours wandering around, I never found a single composition that I was happy with. It was quite beautiful, but I was not good enough to get a good photograph out of it. Could have been my tooth though - yes, that's it - I had a mountain of an aching tooth, and that's why I couldn't take a good picture!
I had wanted to come back just before dawn and try again, but I could not find a place to park, so I headed out of town, not having a clue where I was headed. My throbbing tooth was probably all that kept me awake - I was exhausted and running on fumes after a very long week. Luckily I found a fishing access point not too far outside of town, and I pulled in to see what it was all about.
It turned out right on the Spring River, next to a railroad track, with a nice view looking right towards the rising Milky Way - how about that! I perked up right away, and while it took me several hours to get a picture that I liked, I was able to get a picture t hat I hoped would fit in the new book. Then I collapsed and slept for a few hours until the burning heat of the summer sunshine woke me up. (And my aching tooth woke up too!)
The Milky Way on the Spring River hear Hardy on the first full day of summer
After returning to the cabin and recyling myself and camera gear, I headed out for another night of shooting - I had grand plans that included scouting several different locations for my upcoming nighttime photo workshop, plus finally getting to take a couple of pictures I've been wanting to take for a while. The best laid plans of course often never happen. I skipped my first stop, and ended up staring at the base of the massive Roark Bluff - and the sky was clear and filled with stars - YIPPIE! I can't ever seem to get enough of that place.
But my goal was to scout around a bit for the workshop, not take a bunch of pictures. Four hours later I was still at Roark Bluff - taking pictures! Then I moved upstream and spent a little bit of time with a dreamy scene that included the river, Milky Way, lots of those colored clouds I talked about, and a dark bluff. This was the scene that I spoke of before - there was just something about it. I shot and shot and shot some more - the only reason I stopped was because my camera battery died. I pulled it out and breathed on it for a few minutes, then put it back into the camera and shot a few more. (I can almost always squeeze a few more photos out of a dead camera battery, at least once.)
I visited a historical cabin upstream a ways and shot a few pictures, then moved onto another and final scene for the night - none of these were on my original agenda - but 'tis the nature of the best. The last scene was of a barn that I had driven past hundreds of times at night and never bothered to pay any attention to. And I did so again this morning. But then it hit me - hum, I wonder what it looks like with the Milky Way behind it!? When we drive at night we are almost never able to see the Milky Way because our headlights are so bright and our night vision is destroyed. I continue to be amazed by adults who say they've never seen the Milky Way, but I bet all they had to do was stop, turn the light off, and go stand outside for a little while. And son of a gun, there it was, the Milky Way was standing exactly straight up behind the big old barn - WOWZA! But those clouds were hanging around, and covered up much of the Milky Way. No matter, it was an amazing scene to me, and I spent more than an hour standing in the same spot taking pictures.
Kind of funny, the life my lovely bride and I have at the moment. I stopped the van once I got to the very top of Cave Mountain next to Hedges Pouroff - I have cell service there. I sent Pam an e-mail telling her that I was on the way home. I wanted her to know that I was there so that when she woke up she would not worry. I park the van in our carport and then crawl into the back and sleep for a few hours - not wanting to wake her up at 4 in the morning - husbands, remember this!
I spent much of today scrambling to get my stuff together for the nighttime workshop tomorrow - and sitting back watching as yet another deadline came and went. I've missed SEVEN deadlines for our 2014 Arkansas calendars now - originally scheduled to go to the printer in January! Maybe next year I'll get them done ahead of schedule.
TONIGHT I'm going to stay home and I get to sleep with my WIFE!
06/30/14 I left the cabin at 1am this morning. By 2 I was standing in the middle of a large hay field beneath a soaring Milky Way that stretched from the horizon in front of me, directly overhead, and all the way to the other horizon behind me. I only wanted part of it in the scene, along with a little white church at the bottom. It was a beautiful, clear night, soft breezes, and lots of cow poop! And it was already wet - heavy dew covered everything, and my boots and pants were soaked.
A while later I moved to a second location and continued shooting that big and bright Milky Way which was beginning to lean a little to the right. There was some ground fog, and a few clouds in the southeast that obscured the very bottom of the visible Galaxy.
Then I spent some time working on a third composition nearby, and The Milky Way was well bent to the right as it headed out of the frame in the trees above. In three hours of shooting I only saw one vehicle - no crowds where I go shooting!
My fourth stop for the day was in the dentist's chair - Oh no, a ROOT CANAL, really? Crapola! That would have to wait until next month, and more medication.
A quick drive down out of the Ozark Mountains and through the Arkansas River Valley oven (temps in the 90s), found me scouring a couple of different ridgetops deep in the Ouachita Mountains for a suitable composition. I figured that TONIGHT would be the last, really great clear night of shooting I would have (not many clear nights this past month or two), and I needed to make it count. So I headed for my most favorite mountain in the state - Forked Mountain near Hot Springs. It was pretty hot up on those exposed ridges too, but there was a stiff breeze blowing and helped keep the sweat off.
Once I came up with a game plan for the night, I found a cool creek to go sit by. Then I crawled in for a few minutes. The isolated pool was only about two feet deep, but that was plenty for me. I set my clothes out on the rocks to dry and sat in the water wearing only my sun glasses. It felt OH SOOOO GOOD! The pool was not deep but it was fed by running water - in fact a little bit of white water. So wonderful to just duck under the waves and rest my head on the bottom for a few moments, then come up shaking off like a wet puppy dog.
I dried off and tried to take a nap, but work chores kept nagging at me, so I've been sitting in the woods typing on this computer, in the shadow of Forked Mountain. It was more than 40 years ago when I first laid eyes on Forked Mountain, and it was love at first sight. It is one of THOSE places in a guy's life that keeps reaching out and pulling me back. I had five different views in mind that I wanted to photograph tonight. I won't know for sure until the stars come out and The Milky Way rises, but I'll probably end up shooting from two or three different locations, hoping one of them will make it into the new picture book.
In the meantime I'm working on the 2015 Arkansas Engagement Calendar while here in the woods, making photo selections, processing the images, and writing captions. I have not picked a cover for it yet. The scenic wall calendar is almost complete - the cover of that one will be a first for me I think - the temp was below zero when I shot it. Seems like I spent a lot of time in cool temps this past winter, and call me weird, but I sure did enjoy playing in the cold and snow!
I will shoot all night until about 4:30-5am-ish, then collect my cameras and crawl into the back of the bookmobile. Three or four hours later I'll head out of the Ouachitas and drive to the other side of the state and hunt up a few suitable places in the SWAMPS to spend tomorrow night. Then I'm back home the next day by 11am, so no sleep for me tomorrow night (five or six-hour drive home). I'll pull all-nighters again Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights, which will complete all the shooting for the picture book. During the days I'll finish both calendars and get them shipped off to the printers, and begin work on the selection, design and writing for the picture book.
It is evening in the southern mountains now, the temps is dropping and the shadows are growing longer. A few night bugs and tree frogs are waking up and starting up the band. Tall pines tower over me, and CLEAR SKIES above them - YIPPIE COYOTE! I'm gonna fire up the oven and make some beans and rice for dinner, then have a look over all my camera gear and sort it all out. Nighttime will soon arrive, and I look forward to my version of dancing with the stars!
One off pair of things that happened this afternoon when I first arrived here. Not ten feet from the van I came upon a snake tail - about a foot long. Just the tail. It was sticking out of the ground and was not moving. It looked REALLY funny, and the only thing I could think of was the Mr. Snake had found a hole to explore and got stuck with his read end hanging out. When I returned to the spot a few minutes later the tail was gone, leaving only a small hole in the ground behind - I don't know if the snake backed out or was down in there somewhere having a nice mouse lunch.
The other odd thing was that while I was sitting on a log nearby, all of a sudden a rock that I had been staring directly at broke loose from the hillside and started to tumble down the mountain. Just like that. It was about the size of a football, and it only traveled five or six feet before coming to rest. But how does a rock just break loose like that on a day like this? Ya think a mouse or snake crawling underneath it pushed it just enough to get it started moving? It's gonna be a fun week!
A couple of unrelated plant notes. Have you noticed that not only are butterfly weed flowers everywhere this year, but I've seen some incredible, almost unbelievable colors in them as well - sometimes even multi-colored plants in the same group. I have not even bothered to stop and photograph them because those wild colors would be nearly impossible to reproduce in a book, and also because most folks would never believe the color - I have a tough time believing it myself in the flesh.
And right now I am sitting on a windswept, open ridge, awaiting nightfall and the arrival of stars. It was so hazy at sunset that the sun looked more like the moon, a pale, white color. Anyway, I am surrounded by hundreds of BLACKBERRY bushes - mostly red, but a few black berries, although all of them I've tasted have been hard and sour. Anyway, the RED color of these berries is kind of like the butterfly weed - the color is ELECTRIC!
July 1st quick update. I worked until about 4:30 this morning, then got a few hours sleep - the temp never got below 82 degrees. Skies remained cloudless all night - DOUBLE YIPPIE! I shot from five different locations during the night, once having three different cameras and tripods shooting at the same time. Right now I am half-way to the swamps in a parking lot in Stuttgart - I think the van tires are MELTING from the heat of the pavement! I plan to be up and out all night tonight shooting - and watching for snakes...