CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - JUNE 2017
Cloudland Cabin Cam, June 30 - rain and thunder - the wilderness gets a much-needed drink...
Prints Of The Week Special (above)
06/30/17 June is almost over, and has been filled with many cool days, a few very CLEAR nights, and less and less ticks (after an explosion of them in springtime - typical behavior of late). This past week my internal and external clocks were all jumbled up, but I managed all without too much trouble.
Our first of three back-to-back nighttime workshops started out well - clear skies with a promise of zillions of stars to photograph. Just as we began to set up camera at the first shooting location on the Buffalo River (about 10:15pm), we looked up and all of a sudden the stars had vanished. Clouds moved in, the sky remained cloudy for the entire night. With "clear" skies predicted, we kept the faith and stayed at each shooting location until it was time to move to the next, but no stars. By 3am we had reached our final location and FINALLY saw five stars - Cassiopeia came shining through to greet us, but only for a minute or two. Otherwise it was nothin' but clouds.
The forecast for the second night's workshop was for heavy rain and clouds. I made an attempt to call the workshop off, but three brave souls wanted to come anyway, along with two students from the previous night's failed workshop. Guess what - it was one of the most spectacular clear nights of the year, and everyone got terrific Milky Way photos at EVERY location.
The third night's workshop was pretty much normal - clear skies were forecast and that is exactly what we got. I only had one signed up for this one, plus one from the night before, and the two students were treated to more incredible Milky Way scenes. We were kind of late arriving at our final location, but that was OK - some ground fog had formed and kind of messed up the scene. Or did it? We discovered that the fog actually added a great deal to the quality of light, and while the Milky Way was not nearly as clear or bright, that light was just beautiful, and we lingered and shot until almost daylight. While I normal don't shoot much during these workshops, I did shoot this final scene, and think it will go down as my most favorite image of the historic Boxley church ever. You just never know.
The rest of the week was a scramble to catch up and get chores done. Then Pam and I traveled to Ft. Smith to take down her pastel show that has been up at the library there all week. As a reward for the month of June, we splurged and had ice cream on the way home - I had a full banana split and enjoyed every bite. The month ended with my bride and I on the back deck watching the approach of a large thunder storm - actually this one was mostly lightning, and plenty of it. It was fun to see each ridge slowly turn white with rainfall, backed with lightning bolts, then we got hammered and chased off the deck. Few things are as wonderful as a summer thunderstorm in Arkansas!
06/23/17 It's twilight tonight, winds are calm, sky is clearing, there is soft music drifting up from below. And while the has gone and it's getting darker, it is actually getting lighter at the same time. There are a few thin clouds floating by, and they are catching the hidden rays of sunshine coming from below the horizon, and their glow is lighting up the landscape, and growing brighter with each breath. I stand to watch, but want to run and grab a camera. I finally did, but the battery died at that moment - leaving me to take a seat and simply soak up the great beauty of our wilderness home.
Several hours ago I was on the tractor moving piles of brush across Mom's meadow, when the sky opened up and began to POUR, and POUR, and pour. I was wearing shorts and t-shirt and those raindrops were kind of chilly. Eventually the tractor was abandoned in the trees and I ran up the hill back to the cabin. I did stop under one cedar tree that was kind of dry beneath, and I paused a few moments. I LOVE summer thunderstorms in Arkansas!
The other night I was shooting the Milky Way next to a fire tower - it was one of the most brilliant-clear nights of the year so far. I was testing a new lens and comparing to an old lens (very old lens). The new lens is not quite as wide as the old lens (15mm vs. 14mm), so I had to back up just a little bit to match the wide field of view. As the Milky Way continue to stand up almost straight, I had to move back a little farther into a weed patch where I'd been shooting. When I finally completed my testing I looked (actually felt) around there in the darkness and realized I'd been swallowed up in a sea of tangled weeds that were about shoulder high on me (the camera was higher than that up on my tripod so I did not notice the weeds). I had visions of being covered with a million ticks, but as luck would have it I didn't get a single one. My lens tests were inclusive (BOTH lenses were very good), but I did get a good photo of the Milky Way for the new book project, so I was a happy camper.
Some of you have asked, so...They have confirmed that I have "multiple" bulging disks - which helps explain some of the "ail" in my ailing back that I've had now for almost two years. One explanation is simply old age, so deal with it - I'm a geezer, and it is finally catching up with me. On the other hand, I'm still a YOUNG geezer and I'm going to press forward - at a slower pace - because there is SO MUCH more to do and I'm not ready to take a seat on the sidelines just yet... (I go to UAMS in Little Rock in three weeks for some treatment, am not expecting much in the way of results.) A special thanks to Jeff and his son, and to Billy Woods, for stepping up and helping me out today. The world is full of good people - GREAT people actually. And I realize that the less time I watch TV, the more good/great people you run into... (we've not had TV at Cloudland for more than a year now)
06/17/17 We're having one last blowout party here tonight as the bachelor pad gets ready to welcome momma back home from her week of painting camp in the ay and we were up and on the run once again. My lovely bride was about to embark on a week-long "painting camp" in the Adirondacks tomorrow. I'm sitting on the back deck with my feet on the railing, eating cereal. Wilson is asleep below me on the deck. Mia is up wondering when the coyotes way over yonder are to begin the evening concert. The river continues to provide some music too - actually more than normal considering how low the water level is. The Fab Four are singing about Jo Jo inside the cabin on my computer - where I've been sitting for most of the day. I met and worked with the actual Jo Jo while in Wyoming in 1993 - have a signed Let It Be CD - "Great to have gotten back there with you Tim. Where we both belong! - Jo Jo -" (Thanks Terry G - ditto)
Breezes tonight are cool and soft, daylight fades into blue. It has been cool here all day.
a fellow Cave Mountain bachelor
A couple of days ago I got up early and sipped some java on the back deck waiting for dawn. Even summer dawns are terrific here -for one thing the temps is usually quite comfortable, even chilly some. But there seems to be a certain sweetness to the air in summer. After a bowl of cereal I worked a while on the Cloudland Journal, then took the puppies for a hike on up to the Faddis Meadow to see how well they could chase a rabbit or two. Back at the cabin there were some guidebook orders to process, laundry to get started, and several e-mails to answer. After a while my stomach began to growl so I figured it was time for lunch already. As I was headed to the kitchen I happen to see the clock on the wall - it was 7:15. I had left-over brats from the night before.
Contrast that with last night (or actually this morning). It was after 2am when I got home from being out shooting the Milky Way. Wilson and Mia were on the front steps waiting for me. They looked puzzled when I pulled out the water hose and spent five minutes spraying my lovely bride's flower beds along the edge of the deck. These days I have to do chores when I happen to think of them, even if it is in the middle of the night.
LOTS of lightning bugs active tonight. It is a good year for them.
It is now fully dark outside at Cloudland, and the night bugs are getting into full swing. Guess I'll head back to the computer and get some more work done - I hear Hey Jude spinning up and I gotta' go sing a big first...
06/14/17 There is a cool breeze blowing in from the south this morning a couple hours before daylight - feels like lower humidity too. A 3/4 moon is hanging low in the southern sky lightning up the wilderness spread out below. Broken clouds that are moving right on along with the breezes combined with that moonlight has created a moving twilight scene that is quite tranquil. And the Buffalo River below is singing a lively tune for some reason - no rain here in a week, but the river is at just the right level to produce some mighty pleasing tunes up here on the hill. And an odd sound - the muffled bass of a bullfrog far out there - I bet it is in a pond on the opposite ridgetop a mile or more away - those winds sometimes carry a long way. What day is it? I have no idea. The puppies are begging for a hike in the moonlight, so I guess we are off to soak up the sweetness of a classic cool summer morn at Cloudland. Hope you have a grand day, whichever one it is!
Shhhh, don't tell anyone, but my lovely bride is having a very nice week at "painters camp" in the Adirondacks. She has taken up with one of the top painters in the land (or is it vice versa?), and the two of them visited a "secret sunset spot" to paint together last night (there are about 100 painters at this camp). The lady is one that Pam has admired for years and hopes to take a workshop from eventually. My bride is one of the "babes" at this amazing event, yet everyone has been so nice and she has been holding her own. The rock star and organizer of the event, Eric Rhoads, included Pam in a live Fecebook event that he did yesterday while folks were painting a giant waterfall. GO PAM! (And while I hate to keep making a fishy reference to my wife, "she's a keeper" for sure!)
Speaking of talent, sometimes it is not enough to just have talent, especially as a photographer. Often you have to put in a lot of grunt work and downright extreme effort to get a picture. Here's an example of just that - and I'm happy to say this photographer has been to several of my photo workshops - the first one being way back in 2008. He certainly has what it takes and his work proves it. Here's a note from his blog (June 9th) about a photo of moonset in Rocky Mountain National Park several days ago - hum, does this sound like someone else we know? GO DAMON!
WILDLIFE NOTE: Cicadas have arrived for the season! Actually they woke up, crawled out of the ground and up into trees - and started singing at dusk. The really vocal Summer Bug season has begun...
06/13/17 I only had about an hour to setup and shoot the rising Milky Way from the lower back deck late last night. That's how long it was between when the sky got "dark" and when the bright moon rose. I wanted to capture the Milky Way, just to see what it was looking like this week. I ended up combing about 15-minutes worth of 20-second exposures to create this Milky Way and Star Trails view - hope you enjoy! (FYI, we have a couple of spots open for our One Night Milky Way photo workshops coming up in a couple of weeks...)
06/12/17 A pack of coyotes are yipping and howling tonight an hour after sunset, and the moon has not even risen yet! They've been at it much of the day, down below the bluff, and across the Buffalo River, probably at the base of the bluff over there. It's warm and breezy, and there are puffy clouds moving across the dark blue sky (with a few stars beginning to peak out). Dueling whippoorwill's are screaming back at the coyotes. There's a barred owl or two hooting in the distance. My goodness it is LOUD out there tonight! And the summer bugs and frogs have not begun yet.
Yesterday I decided to grill up some brats in the middle of the afternoon, then realized the grill was out of gas. I found some charcoal, but the fluid had all dried up and I didn't have any. So I lit it the old-fashioned way and soon had a bucket of flaming charcoal! Holy Moly those brats really smoked up the place! With the doors and windows open they smoked up the cabin too - and boy did it smell GREAT inside, even after all the brats disappeared.
While the smoke was pouring out of the grill I watched about a dozen "Ozark eagles" playing games above the meadow and canyons below - they put on one heck of a show! Winds were high, gusty, and changed directions constantly, and so did the buzzards. They had white-tipped wings - have I seen these before? Some were in pairs, others threes, several were solo. My focus was so tuned to these acrobats that I didn't really even notice the BIG bird approaching until it was too late to run grab my camera. I heard it first, then a second later saw it approaching - down in the canyon, it had just come from the direction of Hawksbill Crag. Then right down below the cabin it did a quick 90-degree bank and headed right towards me and flew above the cabin SOOOO close - I could almost reach out and touch it! The bird was one of those giant HC-130s that you normally see flying in twos or threes - they train out of the Air Force base in Jacksonville near Little Rock. Something was different about this one - first off there was only one, and they normally don't buzz the cabin like that. And I don't recall seeing military markings. I think they were having fun up there - buzzing the Crag and then Cloudland!
As the C-130 disappeared I turned to look for a second one, but what I saw was a lot smaller. From about the same spot where the big guy came, a beautiful red-tailed hawk rose up, circling, climbing, right up through the group of buzzards. The white-tipped birds all parted and let the hawk through. It was like watching a ballet - of buzzards, hawks, and C-130s!
Today I saw a flock of GEESE flying in formation - and they were headed EAST.
Later I spent a while with some orange day lilies in our front yard. They were especially bright and beautiful today, so I decided to take a picture of one. This flower's DNA came out of the ground along the banks of a creek deep in the wilderness many years ago. The family where the flowers grew in their front yard moved away in the 1940's. Soon trees grew up at the old homeplace, and eventually the branches and leaves blocked out the sun and the flowers stopped blooming. 60 years later a storm toppled one of those trees, and bulbs from the flowers were exposed to sunshine. A hiker who had been passing the spot for many years and had never seen a single blossom happened by. One of the bulbs was carefully transplanted to a more flower-friendly environment - i.e., in the sunshine - and the very next summer the plant produced a brilliant display of orange day lilies - most likely the first time that plant had flowered in decades. There are now hundreds of bulbs, and each summer they burst forth with incredible beauty. Each blossom only lasts a single day though, so they have to show off their stuff to the fullest.
06/11/17 Did I really need a long-sleeved shirt for a hike early this morning? Boy it sure did fee like it, but after I consulted the outdoor temp, I realized it was actually 72 degrees - it just felt a lot cooler. And indeed it was cooler and downright pleasant outside early this morning. I used to loathe hot summer days in Arkansas, and would head for the high-altitude hills of Wyoming for several months until things cooled down. But ever since I moved into the wilderness, I quickly realized how beautiful the summer landscape can be around here, and also how comfortable the temps are. Of course, once the sun arrives and rises along with the temp, I do tend to move back indoors until evening.
Today I took the pups on a short hike up the hill and round about. It was very quiet - never heard a single peep from any bird, nor saw feathers anywhere. No squirrels either. I guess the wilderness critters slept in a bit on this weekend morn. But my fun time for the day is over, and I'm headed up to Aspens meadow for a couple hours of tractor work on the bushhog, then have a full to-do list for the day and long into the night.
We had a long day on Friday - after doing business and personal chores at the cabin we drove over to the new print gallery and loaded up all the slide program gear then headed north for our two shows in Springfield. As is typical this time of year, there aren't many people show up for this programs, but I must say those that do show up seem to be more interested and have a LOT of great questions! The highlight of every show for me are the questions - the more the merrier! The only problem I run into is that my answers can sometimes run on FORever, and I soon run out of time. But it was GREAT to meet several new folks and see other friendly faces - we REALLY APPRECIATE all who attended!
It was after midnight when we got back to Cloudland from the Springfield shows, but it was a short night since the alarm rang at 5am Saturday and we were up and on the run once again. My lovely bride was about to embark on a week-long "painting camp" in the Adirondacks in upstate New York, and we had to get to the airport. This is a dream trip she has been working towards for two years, and it finally was going to happen. It's not a workshop, or competition, but rather simply a group of painters who live, eat, and enjoy the same space for a solid week at a small college. There are rock stars in the painting world, and also complete novice painters, plus everyone in between. Oil, watercolor, acrylic, and a very few pastel painters will be there - all ages, and from all over the country. It will be an amazing week for Pam in a spectacular part of the world. There are no leaders, no agenda, just paint, paint, PAINT! The only rules are - NO groupies, NO divas, no DRAMA! Everyone is equal. Oh, and everything is done "en plein air" - it is a plein air painting camp. I think my girlfriend is going to LOVE this camp.
The only problem is that she left all of us behind - YIKES! I know so many of you don't think my lovely bride does much - including some of our family members. But I've got news for you - SHE DOES A LOT MORE WORK THAN I DO, and has for many, many years! Most of you would have never heard of me if not for Pam. This is not news to me of course, but I bring it up now in hopes of working up some sympathy for ME while she is gone - oh my goodness, I have to do all of HER WORK too! I suspect a lot of what she does on a daily basis to run our businesses here will be pushed back while she is gone (shhh, please don't tell her), and so when she arrives home in a week there will be plenty more for her to do somehow. I WILL get all orders processed and in the mail so not to worry about that - MIA has been left in charge in a supervisory role, and Pam has her trained well.
But today is mostly a Cloudland-chore day for me, so It's time to get back outside and fire up the tractor engine while it's still cool...WE MISS YOU ALREADY HONEY!
06/06/17 Wilson and I just wandered out onto the lower back deck late this evening. After several hours of staring into a giant computer screen (I suspect my eyeballs will eventually burn completely out as a result), I was pretty much snow blind, and so the first few steps into the night world were slow and deliberate since I could not see too well. But with an almost 3/4 moon shining BRIGHTLY, night vision came quickly, and the next few steps built up to almost normal speed in a hurry. By the time we reached the lower deck I could see tree shadows that were far across the meadow below and into the woods beyond. It is crystal-clear tonight, but the bright moonlight is hiding most of the stars.
The music of the river far below sounded more like ocean surf crashing into the coastline than a mountain stream in the Ozarks. And while I stood in the moonlight and listened (Wilson sniffed something in the air and stood at attention at my feet), the tone and volume of the crashing waters moved around a bit - higher and lower, left to right, as if it were a living being - and I guess IT IS!
Much of the past week has been somewhat of a blur, both mentally and physically. I've spent a good bit of time in the print room making very large prints for others. This is one of the best parts of my job - being able to SEE what I was taking pictures of at last. With high-resolution, large-format digital photography, processing, and printing, when I'm able to make prints that are four or five or six feet wide or tall, there is actually more detail visible in the print than I was able to see while standing there in person. How wonderful is that! I like to be able to walk right into a print and keep seeing more and more detail.
One such image that I shot the other day and have not made a big print of yet is a bird nest, a simple bird nest. One that had fallen off its perch before new residents and babies arrived, so everything is pristine. The careful tangle of several days work by future mom and dad are quite precise in their design, and I find rather beautiful in the function and form and graphic nature of it all. I spent three hours late one night taking pictures of this little bird's nest. I hope to have a print on the wall large enough for the next open house so you can walk right up into the nest and look around and see what the birds made (here is a small version of it).
I also got to travel around with my lovely bride one morning to photograph cone flowers - lots and LOTS of coneflowers. I needed a great coneflower image to replace one that I'd shot 30 years ago with a tiny film camera and needed to make a five-foot wide print of, but the tiny film slide just didn't cut it. So we went coneflower hunting. I buried myself into the camera and lens for hours, and saw many magnitudes more beautiful things than in this computer screen. One of the very last photos I took may turn out to be the best, although a different scene was chosen for the large print that was made yesterday. It was SO GREAT to be out buried deep into the camera and flowers with perfect, soft light and almost no wind! It was a coneflower orgy. And afterward we got a big slice of Casey's PIZZA and a starbucks mocha - YIPPIE! Here are a few saps.
We've had a lot of heavy rain events this past week. One day our neighbor had more than FIVE INCHES, and the rivers headed into flood stage rapidly, but then quickly went back down by morning. Then another heavy downpour and more high water. Then more heavy rain yesterday. Of course, every time it rains around here right now we know the canyons below will fill with seas of clouds the next morning - making for some terrific scenery and photo opportunities! I've spent some time taking pictures with a small camera that sits atop an invisible tripod that is about 200 feet above the cabin (AKA my "flying" camera) - the sunrise view (above the trees that happens before it hits the cabin), and is often quite spectacular.
We've had several packs of coyotes yelping day and night down in the canyon and across the way - although sometimes they sound no more than 100 yard away. More singing during the middle of the day then I recall in previous years - must be a lot more going on in coyote land they need to discuss. They were completely silent tonight for some reason.
Our canvas gallery was open last Saturday for a few hours and several wonderful folks stopped by to look and chat. Only one print was sold, but it was exchanged for two pieces of PIE from Low Gap Cafe instead of a credit card slip. I only requested one piece, but somehow two ended up on my plate - a big slice of strawberry cake was saved for my bride, but when she could only eat half of it I had to step in and do my manly chore and clean the plate - so I got a piece of pie and half slide of cake - BONUS - thanks Cindy! We will not have the gallery open this coming Saturday, and I'm not sure about the rest of June.
One building note over at the new gallery building and book warehouse. We made the decision to use spray foam insulation and so far it is paying off big time. I've not had the AC on once this week, and I like cool conditions when working with these big prints. The foam really helps to seal off the building so there is minimum air circulation.
I did get stuck at the gallery print room this past couple of days with only chicken pot pie to eat - three meals in a row. Good thing I LOVE them, and they are cheap and easy to fix. I used to eat them daily while growing up on the outskirts of Fayetteville. Swanson TV dinners and chicken pot pies were a staple lunch for me and I loved them.
One funny note from the print room yesterday. Pam had been listening to Fresh Air on NPR and sent me a link to Brandi Carlile's that she fell in love with (as a result of seeing a TED Talk by photographer, Paul Nicklen, who Teri Gross had been interviewing - link here). One thing led to another, and I found an online video of Brandi's first performance at the Newport Folk Festival in 2008 - link here. It was very loud in the print room since I had an air compressor running full blast while I stretched and stapled some big prints, and I had the stereo cranked up LOUDER than the compressor so I could hear Brandi's music. Right in the middle of a pretty loud bit of rockin' music and the compressor going full blast, Pam's dad arrived unnoticed by me - when I looked up and saw him I bet he was thinking - "Kids today with their loud music!"
06/03/17 It's very fall-like early this morning - the air is cool and sweet, and look what I found at the edge of the forest - a maple leaf in full fall color dress!
06/02/17 Sunrise from above our cabin this morning - see how far the sea goes!
06/01/17 The air is cool and sweet this morning. Many birds up early singing beautiful songs to greet the day. The light is soft and lush, kind of like the early summer landscape. There is a sense of peace and calm all around. A new month is upon us, one that will be filled with mornings like this, plus a few spider webs in my face!
To help celebrate the coming of June I decided to stay home last night and sleep. The previous two nights I've been out working long into the night - or rather long into the early morning - taking pictures of the Milky Way, or at least trying to capture it.
The first night I hiked over and down to Hawksbill Crag and set up my camera just as the last light from a setting crescent moon lit up the crag and the landscape spread out before it. Within a few minutes everything went dark - this is when the Milky Way began to rise above the distant ridgetop. It was going to be a couple of hours before the stars were aligned just right for my picture, so I set the camera to take a new picture every five minutes (just in case clouds rolled in later), then I settled down for what I hoped was a nice nap.
Turns out my napping spot beneath a giant oak tree was more like a bed of nails - actually a bed of sharp rocks! Not wanting to mess up my night vision with even a short burst of light, I could only feel around to find suitable napping terrain, but that didn't work too well. But I was tired and did manage a few minutes of shut eye, I think. Then SPLAT! A large, wet drop of SOMETHING landed on my shoulder. I assumed it must have come from a feathered critter in the branches above me, but the fluid was clear and had no odor. Hum. Several minutes later another SPLAT! The sky was clear and it was not humid, but there was excess moisture in the branches anyway, and I was the target.
An hour or so later I had my Milky Way photo and it was time to pack up and leave - actually I started to hear "voices" so I left in a hurry. I wanted to hike out in total darkness just in case someone was after me, but I quickly discovered that even with a couple of hours of night vision adaptation, with no moonlight to help out, it was REALLY dark back in the deep forest. So I had to inch my way on up the hillside and back to our cabin. I'm sure the voices I herd were that of an orny owl playing games with me - it was a great hike out anyway.
The next night I headed down into Boxley Valley and spent a few hours trying to capture the Milky Way rising behind various ponds and barns. The air got saturated with dew pretty quick, and the stars were only out for a little while, then disappeared into the mist. But I got a good photo I think, a scene and perspective I'd never seen before. Since I was already half way to the office by then, I decided to just drive on over to the new gallery and bunk for a few hours. I must have been really tired since it was 9am before I opened my eyes again - SLACKER!
Today I'm headed back to the gallery for a printing project the next couple of days, then I'll have the gallery OPEN ON SATURDAY from 10am - 3pm. My lovely bride's original pastels will be on display in the Ft. Smith Library all this month, so drop by and have a look anytime. Prices on all of her work will increase once the show is over.
Back to realtime this morning at Cloudland. A pack of howling coyotes down in the canyon somewhere is awake and screaming like the dickens! The puppies can only stand on the deck and listen - somehow they know that while the coyotes are related to them, they dare not answer. Coyotes and puppies don't mix.
This marks the 20th time I've made a post here on June 1st - YIPPIE COYOTE! Just another sign I'm moving on into becoming a real geezer. And last month while passing through New Mexico, I stopped at a volcanic park and purchased a SENIOR Federal Lands Pass for $10 - now I'm even an official geezer in the eyes of the government. I used to pay $80 per year for this pass (worth every penny), but now I'm good for life.