CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - May 2013 - PART B, May 14-present
Cloudland Cabin Cam, May 31, 8:17am - cool, breezy, and wet - an inch or two of rain overnight
Journal updated Thursday morning the 30th
Print Of The Week - #22 - Newborn Fawn - ON SALE!
05/14/13 When my eyes opened yesterday at 2:15am I could barely make out the shape of my lovely bride standing next to me looking out the window - the night sky was filled with a zillion stars. I jumped up out of bed, give her a big hug, ran down the stairs to pack my camera gear, then headed off. Some time ago I had this vision appear in my head of a photo I wanted to find and capture. It took me a while of research on maps and in the field, but I finally found what I thought would be a suitable location, and that was the spot I headed for.
But first, another picture popped into my head, and I stopped and spent about 30 minutes under a starry sky working on that picture. When I was satisfied I had captured it (you might see it in the new picture book), I moved onto the nearby river bank - hoping my vision was about to appear in front of me. The stars were great, with the Milky Way standing nearly straight up, but I had trouble finding the perfect spot to take the picture. I fought through some pretty thick brush along the river bank until I came to a place that would work, although I had to set up my tripod and camera out in the creek, and believe me, that water was rather chilly as it filled my boots! (the temp was in the upper 30's)
I spent the next 45 minutes working the camera and hoping my vision was being captured be the special sensor of the big camera I was using. I bought this camera last year specifically to take these kinds of pictures with - pinpoint-star Milky Way pictures, something you can only do with just a handful of special cameras, this one being the best one in my opinion. The river itself was beautiful too, and it picked up a lot of the deep blue color from the night sky, and was lit just barely enough by the starlight so that you could see it all. It also was singing a lovely lullaby that nearly put me to sleep - if not for that cold water I might have just sat down and napped. You can see that photo at the top of the page here.
OK, picture completed! It was time to move on, and so I made my way farther downstream in search of other photo opportunities, and I ended up spending the next hour or so taking pictures as dawn broke and the stars disappeared and went to bed.
At one point I was crossing a wide meadow on my way to another part of the river and got quite a surprise. The hay was over knee-deep on me, and was totally soaked. In fact my jeans got wet up to nearly my waist as the fabric wicked moisture up. It was still kind of dusky-dark when I came upon what appeared to be the carcass of a dead elk - without getting too graphic, these things will shrink up and slowly sink into the landscape after a while. The pile of fun was lower than the tops of the grass, and that grass seemed to have grown up around it. When I got to within about ten feet of it, all of a sudden the fur began to move - it just sort of uncoiled - kind of like a bag of Jiffypop popcorn when it starts popping well. The fur swelled and grew and then just PRESTO, there was a fullsize ELK standing right in front of me with a stunned looked on his face! The darn thing was taller than me! I guess he has just hunkered down for the night and curled up tight against the chilly temps. We looked at each other for a second or two, then the elk slowly moved away, and I continued my hike across the meadow. It was an eye-opener for both of us.
Later in the day we made a quick run into town to decommission a bookstore that was the very first bookstore that ever sold our books, and at one time was the largest of all our more than 200 book dealers - Hastings bookstore in Fayetteville is closing. It was a bitter-sweet moment for me, as this store had so much to do with our early success, and opened the doors for many other bookstores for us. Previously we had only sold in outdoor stores. As far as I know, the other Hastings stores in Arkansas will remain open - the store in Russellville has been our largest single-store dealer for many years. In fact I'm headed down there this week to restock. A special thanks to all the wonderful folks at Hastings for a great job all these years!
Our daughter is taking her last final exam of the semester tomorrow, and by Monday will begin a short semester of study overseas, which is a requirement for her degree. Her university has a small satellite campus on an island in Greece, and that is where she is headed (she is paying her own way too!). For some reason the school made it perfectly clear that NO PARENTS were allowed! We could not have afforded to go anyway, but it is great to know our daughter will be able to see a small part of the world as part of her college study.
And speaking of that, she was surprised last week when she received a very special honor during a luncheon on campus - she was given the "Outstanding First Year Accounting Student" award at her business school at Drury University - WAY TO GO AMBER!!! Amazing how smart this young lady is - she is one of those that you know is going to go far and do many more great things in life. It helps that she tends to work her fanny off - that sort of thing will continue to pay off for decades to come...
05/16/13 Yesterday began for me at midnight, as I was standing in knee-deep water in the Buffalo River working on pictures. I spent most of the night working up and down the river trying to find and capture another one of those “visions” that I had recently - of a picture I hoped I could take. Conditions were just about perfect, and I started my quest before midnight, found the perfect spot on, or actually in, the river, looking upstream at a giant painted bluff that was illuminated by moonlight. Turned out that vision was not so easy to capture, and in fact after spending many long hours in the river working on it, the resulting picture that I made was not as good as I had wanted. But a lot of what I do is trying to educate myself and learn how to do things that are not easy or normal - which leads to a lot of failures - I suspect I will return to this spot if conditions repeat, and will try to do a better job!
There were two visions of photos I was chasing on this trip, so I left the river before dawn and headed for a blufftop an hour drive away to photograph sunrise. I had already been up and working for more than 24 hours straight, so what I saw on the road in front of me was a little blurry to begin with as my headlights lit the object up. It looked like a small tripod setup in the middle of my lane. WHAT? And then I realized it was actually a small fawn - probably no more than a day old - standing there - caught like a deer in headlights - with its spindly legs intertwined, not knowING which way to go. I swerved just in time and then pulled over and ran back to the fawn. Poor thing was probably only hours old, and I bet any noisy highway traffic would have been quite a shock. I kind of herded it off the road and back into the woods, hoping momma was nearby to lead the little guy to safety. (she was, and did)
The wind was blowing really hard as I parked near my next shooting location and made my way down a very steep hillside towards a bluffline I had never been to, but from looking at a top map I hoped was there. The air was FILLED with the strong sweetness of wild mountain azaleas - there were small plants in full bloom all over the place, dancing to the crazy tunes of the winds. Azaleas have been on my shoot list this spring, but I can’t shoot moving azaleas, so I continued down until I came out onto the top of a big bluff - it WAS there! The view out from the bluff was pretty nice, and so I set up my tripod and camera and waited - I had arrived five minutes early for once!
But I had gotten kind of punch-drunk as they say from being up so long, and I decided not to setup right on the edge of the bluff as I normally would have - fortunately there was plenty of space on this bluff, and there was a little tree right behind where I set up the tripod - so I sat on the ground next to my tripod to wait, hoping I would not fall asleep and miss the sunrise!
Turned out that it was the sort of sunrise where I should have been someplace else - I was hoping for strong side lighting on my subject, which required clear skies and bright sunshine. With a few clouds and high humidity that had gathered along the eastern horizon, the sun was weak and as blurred as my eyesight, and I needed to be shooting directly at the rising sun, which was a nice red ball at the time - I was unable to find a good spot to do that. I shot a few pictures of the original scene, but just like my previous vision of the moonlit bluff, this was a bust as well. Oh well, now I have a better understanding of the location and what conditions will work best there - I’ll be back! I frequently have to make many trips to a particular location before I find suitable conditions - that’s just part of the job.
Then it was on to Russellville where I had several items on my agenda, including restocking the Hastings bookstore there. Our cargo van has been working out great for trips like this one since it has lots of cargo space, many electrical plugins to recharge my stuff, and cabinets and drawers to store all my junk - plus a kitchen so I don’t have to mess with stores or restaurants. On this trip I just didn’t get to use the bed in the back at all - I was one tired puppy when I arrived home, and got to finally lay down and take a nap - YIPPIE!
05/20/13 I came upon a GIANT pine tree while hiking along the top of a narrow ridge in the Lower Buffalo Wilderness area. It was HUGE, more like a redwood than a native shortleaf pine. Yet it was not the massive trunk that towered overhead that got my attention - it was the pile of pine cones everywhere - there were hundreds of them! I love pine cones, all sizes, shapes, and colors. And I've always loved Pine Sol too - makes me think "clean" whenever I smell it.
And while there were pine cones all over the place, there was one spot that was literally covered with them - it was a low area and I guess the cones piled up there. I love scenes like this one, and so I dropped my camera pack and spent the next 30 minutes taking a picture. I cleaned up the scene a little bit, removed a few leaves and twigs that had blown in from other trees, moved a cone or two around until it all seemed just right. As the sign in our loft bathroom says, I was "as happy as a bird with a French fry!"
I wandered further into the wilderness and came upon a bluffline. I followed it around the hill, exploring the cracks, colorful patterns on the wall, and some giant sandstone blocks that had separated from the rest of the bluff. When I explore bluffs I'm always looking for a way UP, and I eventually found one, at least it seemed like it from below. I was able to get about half way up easily, then the route turned back to my right via a set of wet and slippery stair steps that took me higher. Finally I came upon a short moss-covered ledge that was about head-high on me. I had to take off my tripod and camera pack and set them up on top of the ledge, then I reached out and grabbed the base of a small tree up there and hoisted myself up onto the ledge. YIPPIE, I had made it to the top of the bluff!
I love the tops of bluffs ever more than exploring the bottoms of bluffs, and this one was especially scenic. There were long views all around, some interesting rock formations, and lots of different species and colors and shapes of wildflowers. And then I came around the corner and found THE VIEW – oh my goodness, the hills and ridges seemed to go on forever! With sweat pouring off me and many miles behind me, I decided that would be a perfect spot to rest, and so I did. I sat right down and leaned up against a short blackjack oak.
It had been cloudy all day, actually quite hazy too - the air was heavy with humidity. And all that haze just added to the interest in the long view. I had not really paid much attention to which direction I had been traveling, but with a view like that and the end of the day getting near, I thought was a great sunset the scene would make. Turns out I was facing almost directly west, and that is a good direction when hunting a sunset.
So I set up my camera and tripod and started to take a few pictures, trying to imagine exactly where the sun would be if it ever decided to appear. The scene was very wide with those ridges everywhere - even disappearing far out into the scene. So I made a series of images - zooming in close and then taking one picture after another while moving the camera left to right, overlapping the images just a little bit so that I could later "stitch" them all together for a really wide panoramic scene.
And just then the sun appeared as a brilliant red ball right in the middle of the scene. Most of the time you can't take a picture of the raw sun - it is just too bright. But all the humidity and haze provided a filter of sorts, and so I was able to capture the color of the sun and still retain the detail and color of all those ridges. In fact the colors seemed to be changing rapidly, and got more intense as I darkened the exposure. For each different exposure I made I had to go through the entire series of overlapped pictures so that everything would match up. And then it was gone - the sun was only there for a minute or two, and then faded away as quickly as it had appeared, never to return. It was beautiful, simply gorgeous!
It wasn't until the next day that I pieced the sunset images together and took a good look. I zoomed way in on the computer and there it was - a GIANT PINE TREE standing tall and above all the rest in the forest. I got to thinking about that tree and ciphering and going through the hike in my mind, and son of a gun, this was the very same pine tree that I had taken the pine cone picture of! At this small size you will have to look close to see it, but the tree is on the lower right side of the photo below, down the foremost ridgeline a little bit. It will be easy to see in the new picture book I'm working on when it comes out in the fall, and even easier to spot on the big screen during the slide program tour.
After a 15-hour flight, Amber arrived in Greece at 1am (our time) this morning. She will spend the next several weeks in study as part of her double-major from Drury University - they have a business school on an island in Greece, and that is where she'll be working. I saw that someone had posted a photo of Amber Falls on the web today, and I went back into the archives and dug up the picture I had taken of her at her waterfall - and it was exactly ten years ago today that I took that picture! She has come a long way baby, and in fact has flowed all the way to the other side of the world!
And here is an iPhone pano of my camera setup for the sunset photo:
05/23/13 There are a few puffy pink and white clouds hanging in the a dark-blue sky early this morning. The very tippy-tops of the ridges are beginning to glow, and then that glow begins to work its way down into the canyon. Several baby clouds are resting in the valley floor - soon they will be kissed by the rising sun and will begin their journey up, up, and away to become larger clouds that will perhaps provide shade for someone today. The air is calm and sweet, and filled with the sounds of the early birds making music. And the river far below is humming in the background. It is a textbook early spring morning in the High Ozarks, with the promise of a beautiful day all around!
I had big plans yesterday - to make a long hike and bushwhack into a spot on the map in the middle of the wilderness 100 miles downstream from here to explore and photograph. I arrived at a parking spot late the evening before, and spent the next hour or two inside the van plotting my route and studying maps. But when I awoke at 4am I saw STARS - not a good thing, since I needed clouds and soft light, at least for the very beginning of the day. So I had to change my plans.
I would probably be too late to catch sunrise at my Plan B location, but I headed out into the darkness anyway, following a horse trail so the going was not too bad. Four miles later I knew I had missed the sunrise from up high, but I veered off a little bit and found myself on the banks of the Buffalo River hoping to catch some interesting light on the water. The river this far downstream was wide and lazy, clear and colorful, with just a hint of fog resting on the surface.
Next I climbed up to the very top of the highest hill in the area, which had a commanding view of the surrounding wilderness - which was all GREEN! We have slipped into summer mode in the hills, which seems about right for the end of May. I bushwhacked around a bit and eventually found myself standing on a narrow ledge overlooking the Buffalo River where it met the mighty White River. There was only a small hole through the trees, and I set up my tripod and camera and took a few pictures, but the magical light was not there - but I was, so what the heck.
I stood there on that little ledge for nearly and hour working, watching, listening. The wilderness was full of life, including perhaps 20 different species of birds that either floated by or landed on limbs nearby. Other than at a feeding station, I don't believe I've seen so many different species in one location in the wild in such a short period of time. There were everything from tiny warblers to large vultures and herons. And oh my goodness, those herons can make the LOUDEST noise!
My long trip to the other end of the river did not yield any great new photos, but it was time well spent, as is most time in the wild.
There was a great event that happened in Jasper yesterday - kindergarten graduation! And again like last year, my lovely bride and her dad provided each graduate with an oak heirloom bookshelf - handmade by Pam's dad Ron, stocked with books, and with a gold name tag stating "This Bookshelf Belongs To *****." The joy these bookcases and books bring to these young people is immeasurable, and hopefully will remain with them for the rest of their lives.
The project was the brainchild of my lovely bride, who put in countless hours getting everything going and finalized again this year. Her dad spent months crafting each bookshelf by hand in his workshop. Pam collected the books - and this year many books were donated by wonderful people - THANKS GO OUT TO EVERYONE WHO SENT BOOKS - YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW THRILLED THE KIDS WERE!!! And a special thanks to Donnie Garrison who made the bookshelves happen for 10 of these kids. Bedfords provided a discount for the name tags. Teachers sorted through the hundreds of donated books and picked out books for each student.
Here is one note of many from the event. After graduation each child ran out into the hallway to find their very own bookshelf. There was one little guy who found his and immediately grabbed one of the books, sat down on the floor beside his bookshelf, and started to read and look at the pictures. He was mesmerized, and continued to sit there, turning pages and examining the contents carefully. This is the sort of thing that happens when you open a book - and hopefully the books will also open minds and hearts to a lifetime of exploration, learning, and fun for these young people.
I believe Pam and Ron are going to attempt this project once again in 2014. We will be asking for book donations and enough cash to pay for materials - stay tuned for an announcement if you would like to help. Here are the completed bookshelves before they were stocked with books (Pam's dad does REALLY nice work!), plus an example of some of the books:
05/27/13 The winds are howling tonight, trees are dancing, birds are singing lonely songs - or crying out for HELP to keep from being blown away! I was sitting on the back steps a few minutes ago when a tiny wren flew up from underneath and landed in between my feet - not sure who was more surprised when the little guy turned around and saw me.
Several nights ago I heard them for the first time. I didn't really want to believe what it was that I heard - it is just one of those noises you hear in the woods. The next day my lovely bride said she had heard them too. Really? We would have never known the sound if we had not gone to Turpentine Creek. What we were hearing sounded exactly like BOBCATS! We compared notes and realized there must be a bobcat den near the gallery building. Really? But it just didn't seem real.
And then the other night I heard them again and I grabbed a powerful flashlight and went to have a closer look. Son of a gun, there they were, in the trees within 20 feet of the gallery. Really. In fact, it was the sound of two trees rubbing together on windy nights that we had been hearing - and we both swore they sounded exactly like bobcats! I've heard the sounds of LOTS of trees rubbing together and they never sounded anything like this. But come to think of it, they never sound like anything - each pair of tree lovebirds make their own brand of music. Although these two particular trees have the highest-pitch that I've ever heard trees make - in fact I can hear them now, way over here at the cabin.
Speaking of wild critters, we had a bear in the front yard this morning. Lucy has had that "bear" sense about her for a while now, and the is usually right. None of us saw the bear today - he slipped in and out without us knowing. But now we are on bear watch, and in fact I thought I saw one several times today - they all turned out to be shadows - there are lots of "bear" shadows in the woods, especially when you suspect a bear is nearby! Lucy just got her hackles up again, sniffed the breezes, and ran out the door.
I took Lucy on a stroll around the mountain late this afternoon, just as the sun was sinking low in the west. The wind was blowing then too, cool breezes, lots of dancing trees. When we stepped out into the east meadow all I could see were ears - lots of pairs of ears - and they were pointed at me! The hay in the meadow was so tall that about all I could see of the herd of deer was their ears. It was so funny to see them bound off, disappearing into the hay each time they landed, then seeing them rise above the hay and fly on. The deer are getting their summer coats now - beautiful, lush, bright tan.
Yesterday my lovely bride and I took an hour off from work to just sit and do something besides work. Pam sat in the front porch swing reading a book, looking up now and then at her busy hummers, and at the colorful yard that is now all the colors of the rainbow. I remember when she first came to the cabin back in 2000 - she literally had to push back weeds nearly as tall as her just to reach the front steps. (I didn't want to "finish" the front yard, knowing my future mate would want to make her own mark...) Ever since then she has been crafting the front yard to her liking, adding a few choice flowers each summer as time and funds allow. My mom was a flower nut, and I try to encourage Pam to see if they can catch up!
I sat on the back deck, with my feet propped up on the railing, sipping a cup of cheap bourbon and coke, tending to brats on the grill. The entire wilderness was spread out before me, although unlike the kaleidoscope of color in Pam's yard in front, my view was mostly a monotone green - all the trees have molted into that generic summer green, and it is tough to tell the pines from the oaks by their color alone. There was a bit of blue sky, and flashes of feathers - mostly black - now and then as buzzards rode the wind currents. And then a BRILLIANT spot of ORANGE came charging onto the scene - a large red-tailed hawk swooped down and played right on along with the "Ozark eagles." It was quite a show.
Soon the eastern horizon filled up with giant thunderheads - the bottoms were orange and yellow and dark blue, the billowing tops a pure white against that blue sky. As near as I could tell there were four or five different groups of clouds, each at a different altitude and distance from me. Of course I had to get up and run grab my camera gear - back to work! Looking through a long lens I could see the different groups of clouds moving around - some in opposite directions. I got all excited and nearly forgot about the brats! "Sorry honey - but there were CLOUDS!"
05/30/13 CRASH, BANG, POP! We had a bit of noise, wind, and furry around 3-something this morning. And FINALLY a bit of rain to go with it. Contrary to popular opinion, the Buffalo River area has had little rain this month - in fact almost none. So it was great to hear and feel and smell some of the wet stuff coming down.
I got up and spent some time on the back deck just after the storm passed, sipping on a cup of java and watching the light show. There were many breaks in the dense clouds that allowed not only brilliant moonlight to shine through, but also stars against a deep blue sky. With those clouds moving around - and the corresponding cloud holes and moonlight, it was an ever-changing scene both above and below - the wilderness landscape was lit up and alive! The only sounds were those of distant thunder that rolled up and down the canyons, and the occasional raindrop that would get blown out of tree limbs and splash on the deck - it was mostly a light and movement show going on.
I could have easily rolled over and gone back to sleep after the storm hit, but scenes and the "feel" of the raw wilderness like this are things I seek out, and cherish. Makes life so much richer somehow.
Funny story about some printing that I have been doing this past week or two. I'm a stickler for a perfect print, every time, or the print goes in the trash. I've had a particular issue with a canvas print that was ordered a couple of weeks ago - it is as if there is a curse on this image. I printed it more than a DOZEN times, and stretched a couple of those (this was a large print, and each one cost me dearly in canvas, ink, and protective varnish spray - six coats of it). And still one thing or another was wrong with every print. FINALLY yesterday I made what I consider to be a perfect print. I long since lost money on this print, but I guess that is just a consequence of me being a perfectionist.
And then I had made up five GIANT canvas prints to be glued or "mucked" onto special equally giant sheets of Gatorfoam, and then installed into even more GIANT gold frames. None of these were for customers - these were all for spec to hang in the gallery in hopes that one day someone would purchase them. As luck would have it I got every single one of them right the very first time with the print, six coats of protective varnish, AND the "mucking" part, which I completed at a very late hour last night. These prints are quite incredible - oh my gosh the fine detail that you can walk right up to and stick your nose in! But in the end none of them will be seen by anyone at the gallery for a while - the frame manufacturer has had a run on these special gold frames and don't have any molding in stock at their warehouse - gosh darn it! They will be on display for our fall open houses in November and December, along with many other special framed canvas prints.
One other "funny" note. While sitting in the dentist chair the other day - with half of my head numbed for some dental work - I got jolted with what felt like a bolt of lightning. There had been no other pain - all the nerves were quite numb for all the other drilling. But for some reason something happened and stung me to my very core. YIKES!!! The dentist could not explain it, other than to say that "pain is sometimes funny like that" - to which I respectfully noted that it was NOT THE LEAST BIT FUNNY TO ME!!! They did not charge me for the hours worth of work done - very nice people, other than that one little jolt...