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CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - June 2015

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Cloudland Cabin Cam June 30 - cloudy, hazy, humid, and cool

Journal updated Tuesday night the 30th - done with step 3

06/01/15 - Journal updated Sunday night May 31st (click here) - the stormy trip home, and hours in the jungle.

Here's the final image of the army of tiny mushrooms that I photographed yesterday; along with another scene from Dug Hollow; and our neighbor's wood shed in full bloom...

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06/06/15 Sorry no posts yet this month, but I've mostly been totally consumed trying to play catchup from being gone so long, and also working on the first two of three publications, which were supposed to have been completed and off to the printers by now. So just a couple of notes and then I'm back to the grind.

I agonized for days and nights and days to select the 14 new images for the 2016 Arkansas Wall Calendar. There is no written rule, but I've been trying to only use new material that was shot from the past year or two. As you may recall, most of the past year was shooting for the nightscape book or out of state, but I didn't want to produce a nightscape calendar - maybe a little too much star overload! But many of my most favorite images are nightscapes, so guess what - you will have to endure more Milky Way photos in 2016 - I LOVE THEM!.

I spent many days and nights going over tens of thousands of photos and finally came up with a combination that I like. One was published in the Nightscapes book, but all the rest will be published for the first time, although you have seen them in the Journal before. It was a feeling of mini-uphoria when I finally got that combination. So the wall calendar is done and ready to send to the printer - YIPPIE! (includes one of the photos posted above)

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I've been working on the 2016 Arkansas Engagement calendar now, and my search expands to hundreds of thousands of pictures - anything that has not been used in one before. Still trying for mostly new images, all verticals, but I like to sprinkle in some oldies of wildlife, swamps, and other stuff that I've not photographed recently.

But I hit a roadblock. I shot a picture this spring that I knew I had but could not find ANYWHERE on my computers or backup harddrives or memory cards. I've been hours and now days looking for this one picture. The reason it is not where it's supposed to be in my carefully organized file system is that it was actually just a snapshot taken with a tiny point-and-shoot camera - I don't normally log those into my system. They are kind of my version of instagram and I typically only use those for a Journal entry and then never again. Anyway, it was driving me nuts (not a long trip, ha, ha), and I had trouble moving forward with the rest of the 54 photos I needed for the calendar. Then late last night, it suddenly hit me - there was one camera buried deep in a drawer in the Photomobile that I had not used in a while - I jumped up out of bed, ran down the stairs and outside, found the camera, and plugged its memory card into the computer - and THERE IT WAS! YIPPIE COYOTE!!! OK, so I found the first picture for this calendar, now onto #2!

Late last night I went over to the gallery to shut down the computers in case we had storms during the night (none arrived), I used a headlamp to make sure I was not going to step on a snake (no moonlight yet). And oh my goodness, I counted more than 300 sparkling, golden jewels along the way!!! You really only see these when you use a headlamp - the light source needs to be close to your eyeballs. The jewels literally sparkled, caused by the light source moving as I walked. Upon close examination you find a tiny spider perhaps only 1/4" wide - yet their eyes reflect the headlamp light with such beautiful sparkling color. Try it sometime - just go out in the woods and walk around with a headlamp and look down.

OK, we've got town chores today, then back home this afternoon to continue my search for engagement calendar pictures - my new goal is to get calendar #2 completed by the time my lovely bride gets back home from yoga on Monday night (they have a small yoga class at the Boxley Baptist Church Community Center, which is wonderful, and my bride always comes home tired and sore, but with a large smile!). She is spending the weekend doing all the design work on the calendar to be ready for me to place all the photos I'll be selecting this weekend - it is a TEAM EFFORT all the way!

Should be a hot and steamy weekend here in Arkansas, with creeks and some waterfalls still running - a perfect early summer weekend to be out - hope you get the chance to enjoy! (And below is the view of dawn from the back deck yesterday.)

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06/13/15 The airwaves are filled with the music of a hundred birds early this morning at dawn. Sounds like they are all having a grand time and enjoying the cool morning air. There are dark clouds swirling overhead - perhaps the clouds are dancing to the music of our feathered friends! Or maybe just gathering to dump on us later.

It has been a very long, weary, sometimes SPECTACULAR, and at other times quite frustrating week here. In other words, a pretty typical week. The puppies got shaved at Dog Party USA in Springdale - they do such a great job there! Ticks are as bad as anyone can remember this summer, far worse than I can ever remember - kind of a perfect storm for ticks I suppose. And, of course, the puppies live on the ground where the ticks are, and seem to be tick magnets. Having them shaved helps a lot - they still gather tons of ticks, but are much easier to spot and remove. Pam has been giving them a wonderful tick-killing agent that actually works, but so far we've not found anything that repels kicks before they climb onto them. I know there are a million home remedies, but so far nothing has worked. They enjoy the attention they get while being shaved, so we'll just keep them with a cool-cut all summer.

I got to spend three glorious nights out shooting pictures - two of them down on the Buffalo River - or should I say out in the middle of the river since my tripods were set up in about a foot of water. First night the sky was clear and I shot about 1200 pictures of the Milky Way rising above the river and moving across the sky (about eight hours worth of photos). But just as the moon rose above the eastern horizon to light up a bluff in my frame, a bank of clouds moved in and kept the moonlight from doing its thing (this is called a "moonstrike" - you was a couple of these in my slide program last year if you attended - I LOVE this effect and will be doing a lot more of them).

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Second night proved to be much better sky conditions, and I once again was out in the middle of the river shooting all night, this time with two different cameras using different exposures. I framed the scene with more river visible in the bottom of the frame to get the stars reflections. The sky remained clear all night, and I did get the moonlight I was hoping for. BUT, later on when I did a quick process of the pictures into a star trail instead of a timelapse video, I discovered that the camera had captured thousands of lightning bug "strikes" too - the resulting photo shows quite a few of these, which was a nice surprise.

Being out there on the river in the middle of the dark night with a zillion stars overhead was already quite an incredible experience - almost surreal - and something I NEVER tire of. And then you add a half zillion lightning bugs firing off all around you and OH MY, it was just AMAZING! These guys are tough to photograph, but man they sure were putting on a show.

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We camped at the Steele Creek Campground near where I was taking these pictures - all five of us, including my lovely bride and all three pups. The puppies mostly stayed tethered to us at the campground (they are not allowed on trails in national parks), but did get to swim a time or two in the river - that was the peak of their existence so far in life! We will find more opportunities for them as the summer goes on - after all, both Wilson and Mia have webbed feet.

We were treated to music of another kind from the campsite right next door to us - a gentleman that was quietly plucking a ukulele turned out to be a genuine musician - Alan Ames. His music was a perfect match for the surroundings, and we spent hours just soaking it all up (he switched to a slide guitar with equally beautiful results). His was the sort of music that you would want to bring along with you to such places - and in fact we now have two of his CDs so we'll be able to do just that! (one CD with his slide guitar is Confession of a Waterdog) It was a real treat to meet Alan and his wife Nancy, who it turns out is actually the subject of a William McNamara painting - perhaps my most favorite of all Billy's paintings - it is featured on page 72 in our BUFFALO RIVER WILDERNESS picture book titled "Beneath The Umbrella Magnolia." (we published this book in 1998 and it is long since out of print, but probably available on Amazon/Ebay or in some bookstores still).

Alan and Nancy were camping with another couple that were from Idaho and had been on the road camping for more than two months. Everyone seemed to enjoy the stars and lightning bug display. We really enjoyed listening to all the stories from these four travelers. I'm not much on camping in a public campground, but this was a special night because of them, and also because my cameras were set up in the river about 100 yards away. Oh yes, and my lovely bride produced some of the finest hot dogs off the campfire that I've ever had - I LOVE hot dogs from the campfire!

I spent another night shooting a neighbor's barn near here as the Milky Way appeared and rose above the barn - once again getting a little bit of "moonstrike" on the barn, although the moon was kind of small and not too bright. But the Milky Way was pretty darn nice! Almost no lightning bugs up here on top of our mountain though - they seem to prefer the banks of the big river below, and who could blame them!

After a marathon several days of picture selection, processing, and caption writing, we completed part II of III new projects - the new 2016 Arkansas Scenic Engagement Weekly Planning Calendar - YIPPIE COYOTE! My wife did so much work to put this one together! There are lots of brand new photos in this calendar, plus some of my favorites from the past - 56 photographs in all. But it has been a real "bear" trying to get the files uploaded to the server in California to begin the three-month printing process. The files for each calendar are nearly 2 gigs in size, and our minimal internet connection out here at Cloudland has been choking. I've been doing the uploads at night when there is little other activity, but even then it only takes one little hiccup somewhere in the intergalactic system to shut down the upload (upload speeds are only a tiny fraction of what your normal download speeds are). And in fact I still have one stubborn file that have been unable to complete, so today I'm going to throw up my hands and drive into town and find a more reliable net connection.

In the meantime, we've begun work on the BIG project for the summer - the new picture book. It still doesn't have a name yet, but the subject will be some highlights from my past 40 years of nature photography. There will be chapters on places like Iceland, Yellowstone in Winter, Utah, Colorado, and things like that - mostly photos from those places that I've never been able to publish in a book before (since all but one of my books have been about Arkansas). It is a mammoth undertaking, but we'll get it all done by early July when we have to send it off to the printers - or rather upload it to their server. Heck, we may have to drive to a big city to be able to upload those files!

One wildlife note - it appeared that we were at the beginning stages of a bear attack the other evening, when both Mia and Wilson charged out to chase the bear off. Good dogs! The bear(s) have been in the area for a while, sometimes getting pretty close to the cabin. We don't want the puppies to actually get into the chase, but it is good for the bears to know there are some pretty scary - and NOISY - critters of our own here at the cabin, and the bears have so far wisely kept out in the woods and away from us.

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06/14/15 Just a quick update this morning. We spent more than 12 hours yesterday trying to get the final file for the engagement calendar uploaded to the printer's server in California. Kind of like watching paint dry. But we finally got the entire file to upload, so that means we are done with those two projects (I thought we were done days ago). So today it is FULL ON book project for a couple of days, then a three-day photo workshop to teach, then back to the book until I'm done, which will be in early July. I'll post the cover photos of the two calendars in a little while - don't know for sure what the new book cover photo will be, but I keep seeing ICELAND in my head when I think about this book...

We had a ton of rain yesterday - about 3" here overnight and the rivers below are singing a lively tune. Looks like there will be waves of rain here the next few days, but we are hoping 1) that river don't flood too bad - remember DON'T CROSS A FLOODED RIVER! Especially if the water is muddy and you can't see the bottom. 2) that we get clear skies so we'll be able to shoot some star photos during our workshop.

Should be a great week for waterfalls, but please keep #1 above in mind no matter if you are in a vehicle or on foot. There is no fooling around with high water. Have fun, and be safe!

Since this will be a busy week, at times exhausting, I've decided on a little extra energy to get things going. We just ran a test batch of simple ice cream - sugar, vanilla, and cream. The most difficult part was packing it into the freezer to rest for four hours before consuming. We were forced to take a sample or two before the little ice cream maker completed its cycle, and it appears they really do know what they are talking about - got this simple recipe from Sunset magazine that came yesterday. But the real test will be in four hours, just in time for lunch dessert! No wait, isn't live short and we are supposed to eat dessert first? OK, maybe that will be our lunch game plan for today - vanilla ice cream then a salad...

06/16/15 Quick update. We have had in excess of 8-12 inches of rain already this week, sometimes coming down an inch an hour. Parts of Cave Mountain Road are washed out, and of course the rivers are flooded up here in the headwaters. More heavy rain this afternoon. The tropical storm will arrive tomorrow with another 4-6 inches predicted, perhaps more. I've heard folks talking about 100 year flood levels, 200 year flood levels, even 500 year flood levels. Of course no one really knows, but it does not look like a good time to visit the Upper Buffalo River area - the roads will only get worse, perhaps a lot worse. Once the week of rain is over things will flow off and river levels will drop quickly, but the roads will remain a mess for a while. If you visit the area, I repeat - DO NOT ENTER FLOODED OR MUDDY WATERS WITH EITHER YOUR CAR OR YOURSELF!!! Also note - muddy waterfalls do not look very good in photographs.

We've been neck-deep with the new book project, which is coming together nicely. My lovely bride has been digging through literally tens of thousands of original slides - 35mm, 645 and 6x7, and 4" x 5 " sizes - some of them almost 40 years old. (HUNDREDS of thousands of them now) She has been looking for a handful of specific photos - and late last night was able to locate all but one of them - YIPPIE! But along the way she uncovered a lot of others - I felt exhilarated and exhausted at the same time just looking at all the spectacular places I've been with a camera oh these past 40 years. The book is going to have to be larger than we had anticipated (more pages), yet still just scratching the surface. It will contain many of my favorite photos from the past 40 years - including perhaps half the book shot in state other than Arkanas that I've not been able to publish before - plus some brand new material from this past year from Arkansas and other places.

06/20/15 A cool, calm, mostly-clear, pastel type of morning here in the wilderness. The roar of twin rivers far below dominates the airwaves - in fact I've not heard a single bird song this morning and the sun is almost up - WAKE UP BIRDIES! We did not get as much rain as predicted, but probably close to a foot total for the week is still a lot of water onto the landscape. Lots of road damage, but the county has been up and out on Cave Mountain Road this week putting in new culverts, and I guess some of the hard rain has packed the road so it is not as messy as it has been - or perhaps washed away a lot of the clay so it's not so slick. Our road into the cabin has been slowly washing away - it's gravel, and I need to carve in a couple of waterbars one of these years.

My lovely bride and I have looked through in excess of a million color slides this week in our search for pictures to be included in the new picture book,. And it has a name, at least for the moment - A RARE QUALITY OF LIGHT - 40 YEARS OF WILDERNESS PHOTOGRAPHY by Tim Ernst. Yesterday I found and scanned an image that caused me to turn the focus of my career when I took it - or actually just before I took this picture - the decision to take the picture was the turning point. I'll post it here and maybe tell the story in the new book.

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Late last night I found and scanned and image I took in California several decades before but never even looked at seriously until now. I sent it to my lovely bride who was just about to fall asleep, and told her this represented the "poppy love" I felt for her - sorry, kind of corny, but what the heck.

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And I located an 8" x 10" color negative that I scanned and took a look at - one of my very first wildlife photos - it was taken in the Canadian Rockies back in 1979 or 1980, showing a Stone Sheep peeing. I used to have a large print of this in my bathroom over the toilet when I lived in Fayetteville. One friend emerged from the bathroom with a big grin on his face noting how pleased he was not to have to pee alone! I probably won't use that one in the new picture book.

Also a photo that I took from an airplane of Mt. St. Helens during a minor eruption shortly after the big blow. It was a quite powerful experience not only seeing the massive destruction from the air, but being up close and personal when the new eruption started to happen - FAA called our pilot and made us leave the area of course, but I got a few photos before we left.

Just FYI, the first couple of million photos I took during my career were all on film, most of them on slide film or "transparency" film. In order for me to use any of these images in the book (or show them to you here) I have to first scan them, which is quite time consuming. I have a special scanning station set up over at the gallery print room where I'm living right now - and there are stacks and stacks of naked slides (ones that have been removed from their mounts) piled up all over the place. The piles are all ORGANIZED of course, and I've found that generally the slide that I'm looking for at any given moment is always at the bottom of whatever pile it's in.

And there is ONE photo we can't find - both of us have looked and looked and looked again. It is am important piece of the puzzle, and I'm not done yet. I found the photo that I took just seconds before the one I'm looking for, but it is from the wrong angle so I can't use it.

OK, back to the mountain of slides I've got to scan. There should be lots of waterfalls flowing this weekend - we will probably have high water all weekend and maybe into next. Flooded river conditions remain and it's dangerous to be around high water, so if you venture out, remember that water can sweep you away in an instant and you could die...

06/23/15 Another quickie update. I'm in lockdown mode at the cabin all this week after the third trip of mine this month has been cancelled. First was our trip to Montana (van trouble in Utah that caused delays); then the nighttime workshop last week (floods); and this week my plan was to pickup my lovely bride in Minnesota, but work on the picture book has gotten in the way (she drove up yesterday with a roving band of women for their annual trip to scour the Mall Of America for $5 t-shirts and $2 panties - they always come home with some AMAZING deals!).

I've most of the photos now scanned, and have begun the process of the actual book design and layout. There will be 12 chapters, with 14 or 15 pictures per chapter. The Introduction will begin with the very first photo of mine that was published way back in 1975 (cover of ARKANSAS magazine). Chapter 1 will include a number of firsts for me - my first contest photo (won Best In Show); first photos published by National Geographic; first time I jumped off a sailboat into the ocean and swam to shore to take a picture of a conch shell on the beach at sunrise in the Virgin Islands - well, you get the idea.

My eyes can only stand 2-3 hours of this at a time before everything gets too blurry, so I work as long as I can, then give my eyes a rest for a few minutes (usually on the couch with at least two dogs on my chest), then repeat the cycle, pausing to grab a quick meal, plus six hours of sleep. My schedule to messed up a little last night when I had to drag the big computer from the print room back here to the cabin to update some software (which took several hours to download). While that was going on I grabbed my camera gear and headed out to see if I could see the Northern Lights - there was a major solar storm hitting the earth all night, but you really could not see much from this far south - and nothing with the bright moon shining.

I also break for a brisk three-mile fitness hike, being towed behind the dogs as they learn how to behave while on leashes. I'm also doing some of Pam's work while she is away - that girl puts in a long day here just keeping things running, and I'm already wishing she'd get back home ASAP!

Today I have posted the Table Of Contents two-page spread from the new picture book - it's a rainbow we found in Wyoming a couple of years ago. This new book will be all about LIGHT, and I think this image shows that pretty well.

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Breezy and warm here this week, with haze building up in the landscape. I'll check back in when I can...

06/24/15 VERY WARM tonight in the wilderness, and windy. It's one of those times when the wind really doesn't help cool you down all that much - kind of like a breeze coming off a fire, and that heat soaks into your bones a little bit.

Late last night I got into the harddrive with all the ICELAND photos - I just sat there staring into the computer screen dumfounded - WOW! That was one incredible place! Seems like every single photo exemplifies the very title of this book - A RARE QUALITY OF LIGHT. I'm not a world traveler and probably never will be - don't really have desires to be. But I would go back to Iceland anytime. My only problem is the fact that I'm only allowed 14 pictures from the time I spent there to go into the new picture book I'm working on. Maybe 15 if I can find a spot in the front or back of the book. Needless to say I didn't get much work done on the book last night - but I did get to spend hours and hours back in Iceland. Did I say WOW! what a country...

A few moments ago I got word back from the Library Of Congress, and the new book is now officially registered with the U.S. Government. It is always a satisfying feeling when that happens, and actually still a big thrill for me - it kind of validates the entire process, makes it seem a little more real, and makes me feel like a grown-up.

Speaking of grown-ups, while digging around in the computer a little while ago looking for a picture, I came across a photo of my lovely bride on the day she graduated from college - she was looking at her cap, gown, and gold cords and had this uplifting look on her face (just like her daughter, she graduated with honors - like mom, like daughter!). She worked like a dog to get that degree, and the look on her face showed how happy she was with that well-deserved achievement. Aspen and I got lucky the day he laid his muddy paws on her when we first met, and I've been a lucky dog ever since.

Speaking of puppies, we found more piles of fresh bear scat this morning - someone is roaming around not too far away.

OK, I'm almost done with picking photos for the Iceland chapter - have narrowed it down to about 30...

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06/30/15 I was up at 3-something this morning watering the flowers, and was kind of taken aback when I noticed the RED BALL dropping into the southwestern horizon. It was the moon, the darkest red I'd ever seen it. It was too dark to photograph (would have just been a blur with no detail due to needing a long exposure), so all I could do was enjoy. Later when the sun rose I realized there was weird light everywhere, which was probably from smoke. Later in the day my lovely bride told me that the weird light was coming from smoke in the upper atmosphere that was coming from forest fires in CANADA! Amazing how the sky works.

We had some degree of that weird sunlight all day, and I expect if I had a view of the sunset right now there would be a red ball peeking out through all the smoke. Smoke and other air pollution often make for very colorful sunrises and sunsets, and moonsets too!

The new picture book is dragging on - or should I say I am dragging. I completed the first three steps (design of the book; selection of all the photos; and writing the factual caption info for each photo. I'm about a third of the way home! But I should be almost done by now. I began writing more detailed captions for some of the photos today (step 4); then will write a paragraph or two to introduce each chapter (step 5 - and there will be 12 chapters in this book - the most ever by me by far); then the ladies will edit all the text (step 6) while I process all the photos (step 7); then I'll put it all together into a final completed file (step 8) to send off to the printer (step 9); finally I'll go to bed (step 10).

I think I've spent too much time at the computer - I just had an argument with one of mine while typing this - and I WON! The computer was wrong - how can that be?

There have been a LOT more birds out playing and singing this week - seems like their numbers multiplied soon after it quit raining - or maybe they all just came out from under their umbrellas.

Looks like more rain in the coming days, which will bring on the annual colorful mushroom bloom. I swear around the 4th of July every summer we get groups of red, white, and even BLUE mushrooms!

Deer fawns are growing larger and losing their spots - many now look like small deer instead of fawns. We have at least two broods of turkeys nearby - one has chicks that are less than a foot tall; the others are more than half grown and look like small adult turkeys.

So long June, now it's time for JULY!

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