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CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - May 2014

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Cloudland Cabin Cam May 30 - light rain overnight and more lushness!!

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Journal updated May 29

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Print Of The Week - The Road To Heaven (above); Engagement Calendar Print Of The Week - Cossatot River (below)

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05/01/14 As midnight arrived and the new month began this morning, I was standing knee-deep in a river gazing up at an incredible star-filled sky. And then SPLAT! I slipped and fell face-first into the cold water - WELCOME TO MAY!

It was one of those times when I stepped onto a slick spot and my feet just went flying out from under me, and in an instant I was down in the water flopping around like a guppy, reaching out in the darkness trying to find something, anything to grab ahold of as I was being washed towards the top of a waterfall. I was finally able to find a foothold and get up on my knees, then stand up and shake off. The chill of the water took my breath away - I was not expecting it to be that cold!

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I was wearing jeans and a down jacket - the temp was 32 degrees. I was totally soaked to the bone, except for my right shoulder and coat pocket that I managed to keep out of the water. I had several important electronic devices in that pocket that were spared the dunking, thank goodness. Since I didn't have any other clothes or jacket to change into, all I could do was wring out my coat and continue working for several hours along the creek until daylight - not my warmest memories! But I did get the photo I was after - in fact two scenes on different stretches of the river - one of them I had tried three times to capture - and finally, success!(at Six Finger Falls, below)

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(*If you want a copy of this print, just order the current Print Of The Week special and put "Six Finger Star Circle" in the comments section of the shopping cart and we will send you this print.)

The second half of April was somewhat of a blurrrrrr, filled with six workshops, many nights trying to get pictures of stars or waterfalls or bigfoot or whatever I could find in the darkness, and 12,000 pounds of guidebook reprints that arrived and needed to be unloaded. It had been an incredible month up here in the High Ozarks, with more blooming trees that I can ever remember, and dogwoods that stuck around forever - in fact they are still in bloom.

I remember one afternoon after spending many long hours in the print gallery working on something, when I just had to escape and get out into the woods. I leaned into the hillside and soon I was more than a mile away, and my pace seemed to quicken with each step. It was early spring, and the forest was late to come to life. Yet as I walked the hue of the forest began to change - and before too long, I was walking right on out of winter and into spring - the landscape was turning lush and GREEN! The air was filled with moisture, and it started to mist. Things usually look lush and saturated when they are wet, and my goodness the landscape was colorful!

May is the new April this year though, with that brilliant green color of new growth everywhere. I suspect that summer will come charging soon enough - so I hope you get out and enjoy spring while it is still here - 'tis one of the best seasons on the planet!

WORKSHOP UPDATE - we only have one space left in the June nighttime workshop, but several spaces in the normal one-day workshop on June 28th. Our next workshops will be in October, although we will only have one-day workshops and no multi-day ones since we cannot find a suitable lodging facility that is available.

05/02/14 Cool and clear this morning, and a CLASSIC early spring day in the High Ozarks! What was not so classic was that we were visited by the first bear we've had at the cabin in several years - literally, he was up on the front porch. And I think he may have had a green thumb and was trying to put in a garden. He dug into four bags of potting soil, even dragging one of them off across the yard and into the woods! The one he drug off left a trail of black dirt, and looked kind of funny. A couple of other bags he just dug into and appeared to have eaten half of each bag. When I presented my lovely bride with this discovery, a light immediately went off in her head - ANTS! She said the bags had been full of ants, and ants are a mainstay snack for bears. I've always thought that was so ironic - the largest beast in the forest loves one of the smallest! Can you image how many ants it takes to make a meal for a 300-pound bear?

I'm heading West this weekend to attend a week-long nighttime photo workshop. Just in case the gardener makes a return visit, my lovely bride will be equipped with a 9mm Glock noisemaker that should scare off any furry critters. She is also a pretty good shot, so two-legged visitors are highly discouraged from making any unannounced visits - day or night, ha, ha!

And speaking of my lovely bride, she is about to wrap up the third year of her KINDERGARTEN BOOKSHELF PROJECT and needs your help. We have been funding this project mostly by ourselves, with a couple of generous donors each year (THANKS SO MUCH GUYS!) And we've already paid for all the materials for the beautiful bookcases that are ready for each graduation student at Jasper school kindergarten class (34 of them). Pam has been collecting books for a few months, but has a special need. She needs DR. SEUSS HARDCOVER BOOKS to include with all the other books - we've hoping to be able to give each student 15-20 books each (which will include a guidebook and picture book for each, of course! Plus a bible and a dictionary.). If you have any slightly used books that you would like to donate, or would like to purchase new books to send, she needs to receive them in the next week. This is all being privately funded so there are no tax advantages if you contribute - it would just be helping put smiles on little faces - and in some cases literally change their lives for the better. For many of these kids, the heirloom-quality oak bookcases that Pam's dad builds for each child is the only item they can call their own at home (each bookcase has a plaque with the child's name on it - thanks to Bedfords Sign for helping reduce our cost for these), and the included books help kickstart their minds - it has been an incredible project that Pam and her dad have done such a tremendous job on these past two years. If you have any Dr. Seuss hardcover books to contribute, please ship them to her dad's address: Ron Ferguson • HC 70, Box 74 • Jasper, AR 72641. THANKS!!!

05/03/14 When the alarm blasted me awake at 1am this morning, I started to cuss that I had set it wrong - I had only been in bed a couple of hours. Then I realized - THE MILKY WAY was up, and I wanted to go take her picture! After looking out the window and seeing the top edge of stars beginning to rise in the east, I knew my time was short - 14 minutes later I shouldered my camera bag and headed into the woods. I wanted to get a picture of the Milky Way spread out just above the horizon and arching over Hawksbill Crag. The moon had set, the sky was clear, the forest had a lush coat of fresh spring growth - this was the right time!

And it was indeed an amazing scene, with the sky so clear it was like you could just reach out and touch those stars. The longer I was out in the night, the more I could see. I used a tiny red light to make sure of my route, although it mostly kept me from smacking into a big tree - looking around I could see the edges of the landscape. The walking was easy and quick, and before long I was standing looking at the Crag.

I had to hurry to set up and frame my shot, then I took a series of images of the fast-moving Milky Way as it rose behind the Crag. Then I took several long exposures pictures - up to 12 minutes in length. This was to get a proper exposure on the landscape - the Crag and the forest spread out below - which were only lit by starlight. Amazingly, even in near total darkness, with a long enough exposure the landscape looked bright green just like daylight! (well, almost) My plan was to blend one exposure of the Milky Way with one exposure of the star-lit landscape together to form one composite photo. The resulting image would be about what I saw in real life.

An hour late I was done, packed up, and headed back up the hill through the deep forest towards our cabin. As I got near the top of the bench just below the cabin I saw a pair of eyes beaming back at me from up there. Lucy? A deer? I marched on. My little red light showed those eyes great, but I could not see any body to go along with them. Seemed like those eyes were a little too far apart for deer eyes, and deer usually spook quickly as I approach - but these eyes stayed put. I had a spotlight in my pack, but I didn't bother to stop and dig it out. And then I looked up and the eyes had vanished. Probably just a deer, or perhaps a raccoon or coyote. Out here in the dark in the middle of the night by yourself - you are likely to make a bear out of any pair of even tiny eyes!

As I approached the cabin I stopped in awe of the scene - that same old Milky Way was towering above the cabin, and I just had to stop and take a picture or two - after all, I was UP at 3am, with my camera gear, so why not? While I was waiting for the long exposures to take, I happened to notice that right in front of me was the new metal arbor we had just put up to replace a rotting wooden one - a bear had just been there and knocked it over!

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I looked around for other evidence of the bear, but could not find anything. My lovely bride had put hummingbird feeders on the arbor - and the birds LOVED it! But so did the bear - could not resist that sugar water.

Several hours later when we got up for the day, I discovered that Mr. bear had been back - he found more bags of dirt, and even clawed through empty bags, and scattered them all over the place. The bear had to have been right there while I was taking pictures of the cabin - or close by, watching, waiting, so he could run back in and eat some more dirt! He probably was looking ove rmy shoulder with his iPhone and thinking "AMATUER - I can do better than this guy!"

The next time you are in the woods along at night and you come upon a pair of eyes you can't identify and you think they must be bear eyes - you may be RIGHT!

The picture that I got of the Crag will be posted on Monday as the new Print Of The Week - WOW, the forest is really LUSH in the starlight - and the Milky Way is SPECTACULAR!

05/04/14 Just a quick note from the road. I left the cabin at 6pm yesterday and headed west, but I only made it as far as a rest stop in Oklahoma before I got exhausted, so I slept for a few hours before getting back on the road again this morning. Just before midnight tonight I pulled into a campsite at Colorado National Monument in western Colorado to spend the night - SPECTACULAR here at night for sure! But I won't be taking any pictures - just getting a few winks. I'll finish my drive tomorrow morning and spend the rest of the week near Moab, Utah. We are hoping for some clear skies at night! Hope you have a GREAT WEEK!

05/06/14 Cloudy skies all night overnight here in Utah. I drove into Arches park after midnight and spent some time in the wee hours of the night roaming around and trying to find a good composition that would work with the setting ghost of a moon through overcast skies. It dawned on me that 20 years ago this month was my first visit to Arches. Oh how many things have changed, yet so much remains the same. The change is mostly in the numbers of people - the area is alive and crowded with folks doing outdoor things. It is TERRIFIC to see so many people being healthy!

But the scene changes at night. Crowds vanish just after sunset, and I pretty much had the park to myself - just the way I did 20 years ago. There will be night photographers this week - including of course the group that I will be with. Arches has always been one of my most favorite parks to photograph at night. Even 20 years ago, I was taking night picture here. I remember having to get a special back country camping permit from the visitor center before I would be allowed to stay out all night taking pictures. These days the park is open "24 hours a day" - such a great policy!

What stays the same - the rock formations - they continue to be some of the most amazing and spectacular shapes and colors on the planet! If you have been here, you know what I mean. If you have never been here, I highly recommend you visit.

Of course the main attraction are the natural stone arches - there are hundreds of them, actually more than 2,000 at last count. And many of the largest and most scenic are just a short distance off the paved road. This is a very visitor-friendly park, and it is also easy to see many of the highlights in just one day.

But, of course, I recommend seeing it AT NIGHT! And while I probably won't get the iconic clear-sky Milky Way photos due to the weather, I think we'll have some nice scenes to photograph.

Note to any serious photographers - especially ones who make long trips somewhere to take pictures. At about 2am this morning the main camera that I use for nighttime photography broke - or rather an important part of it stopped working. No worries. I had a spare in the Bookmobile. In fact I have two spares - you just never know when something is going to break down when you need it most. The photo of Double Arch that I posted was taken with the broken camera - but I never knew exactly what the picture looked like until later when I downloaded it to the computer - I had to make all the exposure choices based on experience and I had no idea if any wold turn out or not. Things should be better tonight!

It is warm here in Moab, and the air is filled (literally) with fragrant blooms from some tree - floating carefree and spreading their rich aroma. There must be hundreds of those trees in bloom somewhere, 'cause the air has been filled with them for two days now! I'm staying in an RV camp at the edge of town - my site is shaded and at the end of the row - kind of off by myself, just the way I like it. I'll only be here during the daytime (trying to sleep for a few hours), and I will be out shooting at nights.

I'm leaving now for several hours of classroom work before we head out for the night to shoot. If I get anything worthy of you to look at I'll try and post it sometime tomorrow - probably will be midday though...

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05/07/12 Just a quick update this morning before I head back to class. We worked in class here in Moab until late afernoon yesterday, then spent the rest of the night and until just before sunrise this morning out shooting in Arches National Park. (For my workshop students who think that I am a slave driver - we had class and then went out to shoot non-stop for 11 hours! OK, so that IS kind of like me...)We had some great luck when cloudy skies parted and drifted away to leave us with many hours of clear skies to work with - and a zillion stars! I'm happy to report that our dark, clear skies in the High Ozarks are just as good as they are out here in one of the great "dark sky" locations in the United States. Efforts are underway in Arkansas to establish an International Dark Sky Park - which show how great our skies really are at home.

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05/13/14 It is LUSH and WET and LOUD outside this morning - happy return to Arkansas to me! We had some nice thunderboomers roll through during the night and dropped a couple inches of much-needed rainfall. It is cool this morning, and the landscape is not only glad to have received a good bath, but is also poised for more rainfall later today and tonight. It takes a LOT more moisture to keep creeks and waterfalls up and running well at this time of the year because the growing landscape sucks up so much water to feed all the vegetation. The rivers far below are singing a lively tune - probably a muddy one for a while too.

After a week of nighttime photo workshop near Moab, Utah last week, I got chased back home by the big storms that rolled through on my heels, dumping more than a foot of snow in Colorado and creating many tornadoes across in Kansas. I just barely got out of there in time. As I was going up and over the high passes in Colorado just after sunset, the sky was filled with black, ominous clouds - which looked kind of neat as the backdrop to the snow-capped mountain range of the Rockies. But I was glad to get down the eastern slope before those clouds dropped their snow load.

On my birthday the next day I woke up in a rest area in eastern Colorado - the van had been rocked all night by the heavy winds out ahead of that very same front. It was telling me to get up and GET ON THE ROAD before the van got blown away. I obeyed, and spent nearly all of my birthday fighting 40-50mph cross winds while crossing Kansas. At one point the winds were so high that a jolt knocked the traction control and cruise control out, causing me to pull over and reset everything. I felt sorry for the big truckers, although many of them simply pulled over to wait it out - not really a good idea as there was much worse weather behind us. I had a birthday meal at the Arby's in Colby, Kansas (turkey, bacon, and swiss wrap, with curly fries!!!), which was the highlight of my trip home. I made it back to Cloudland before midnight, and was able to wrap my arms around my lovely bride just in time for a goodnight birthday kiss before I collapsed into bed.

It was a long trip to Utah, but I have always loved that area and learned a lot during the workshop. Unfortunately, we really only got to get out and shoot one full night - it was cloudy the rest of the week, something that rarely happens in Utah in May. (In other words, no more pictures to post - sorry!) I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the workshop that I took for anyone who is serious about nighttime photography - Brad Goldpaint is one of the best there is (he was featured on the Oprah Winfrey Network last fall), and has a teaching style that is second to none. Most of his workshops fill up, although he recently added a couple more for 2014 that have space in them. He and his lovely bride will be hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2015 so won't be doing workshops again until 2016 (?). He is one of the good eggs in the photography world.

Now that I'm back home, I have fallen another week behind with my nighttime photo book project - thank goodness my lovely bride worked her fanny off while I was gone to keep everything else on time and out the door. I have no idea how I ever did any of this without her! I'll be criss-crossing the state the next six weeks in search of interesting nighttime scenes with star-filled skies, lightpainted landscapes, and hopefully a few scenes that will knock your socks off! I'll get to sleep in July...

There were no bears or other unannounced visitors while I was gone, so Pam didn't get any additional target practice...

05/17/14 It was 31 degrees when I stepped out of the Photo Mobile early this morning before first light. It felt GREAT to be able to wear jeans and a flannel shirt in Arkansas in May! I know, I know, most folks don't like the cool temps, but I've always felt like temps that are contrary to the season seem to help bring things to life. And oh my goodness was there a lot of LIFE along the trail to Kings River Falls!

I hiked in late last night to set up a camera for an all-night series of photos. The moon had not risen yet and it was pretty dark out, and since some of that trail goes through thick forest, I elected to use the little red lamp for navigation that was strapped to my head. While I was not able to see anything much more than the rocks I was stepping on, I knew there were wild azaleas blooming all around - the aroma just about knocked me down! I tried to just close my eyes and hike so that I could soak up more and more of the sweetness, but that didn't work - KLUNK right into a tree.

The river was running pretty good, but not at all flooded. The water was crystal and beautiful, and humming right on along like a well-turned machine - well, perhaps it was actually roaring along. The sky was clear and Mars stood tall directly above the waterfall. (I never knew how to spot the planets before the advent of "apps" that show them clearly - although I felt like an idiot out there in the dark with my reading glasses on trying to navigate the heavens with my iphone.) One of the apps that I use will plot the position of and show the motion during the night of planets, stars, the Milky Way, etc. I wanted to figure out exactly where the moon was going to rise and set, and its track during the night - those little apps are priceless for the moon path, since it changes so much every night.

After a couple of hours of messing around with the camera and taking test shots, I finally had everything set up correctly (I hoped) and hit the GO button. I had packed in two large external batteries to power both the camera and the dew heater that I hoped would help keep the front of the lens from fogging up once the temp hit the dew point - that dew gets especially bad when the camera is right in front of a thundering waterfall.

I had to hike the first 1/4 mile back out to the van in total darkness since I did not want for my headlamp to show up in the pictures that were being taken, and it was right about in the middle of that slow hike that I started to think about cougars, and Bigfoot - especially Bigfoot. I've been watching the Survivoman series on Bigfoot, and you can probably imagine how many times I heard or saw something out there in the darkness! I actually have seen and heard a lot of strange things during the past 52 years that I've been exploring wild places that have gone unexplained - yet just like Survivoman, my personal thoughts about the existence of Bigfoot remain skeptical, but inconclusive.

We DO have cougars around here for sure, and while I don't pat all that much attention to them, again, when in the darkness all alone one does tend to hear and see things that may or may not actually be there! I made it back to the Photo Mobile just as the moon began to rise above the treetops, and HOLY COW did it really LIGHT up the landscape! I had timed my camera setup to capture the moonrise, so was glad to see it right on schedule. And I was not bothered by either cougars or Bigfoot.

As I hiked back out to the van after collecting my camera gear this morning I was finally able to see all the things that I had been smelling along the trail - TONS of azaleas in full bloom, and dozens of species of wildflowers blooming - it was a very pleasant hike out, although a bit frustrating.

My frustration level right now is because I tend to get tunnel vision when I work on a picture book, and pretty much refuse to photography anything else. I'm in crunch time right now with the Arkansas At Night book, and so my photo senses shut down when it gets light, and I have to walk right on by some amazing scenes. I could have easily spent an hour or two with many of those wildflowers - hummmmmm, I guess I need to see about photographing some wildflowers at night this next week.

I won't know how well my "moonlapse" series of photos turned out that I took during the night for a while - it takes quite a bit of computer time to put them all together. I shot 1400 photos of the moonlapse last night. The night before, I shot three different series of photos, which totaled more than 8,000 pictures! It took me six hours yesterday just to download them from my different cameras to the computer. I LOVE doing these nighttime series, and hopefully there will be a good one every now and then that will make it into the new picture book. I will share some of the results with you in the future...

05/18/14 We awoke early this morning to find a sea of clouds at our doorstep - I guess it is after all, CLOUD-LAND! The deep canyons below were filled to the brim with white, yet we were just barely above it and in the clear. Sometimes when it is like this as the sun rises so does the sea of clouds, but it didn't happen that way today.

A little bit of color began to creep into the sea, and soon brilliant sunshine flooded the entire landscape. I sat on the back deck sipping a cup of java and munching on a bowl of raisin bran (my standard morning fare these days when I'm at the cabin). Something weird happened next - coyotes began to howl - an entire pack of them - down in the bottom of the sea somewhere. I don't recall ever hearing them howl like that in broad daylight before! It was a different howl then usual, not nearly as deep or mournful, but rather more light and lively.

And then a few minutes later I looked up and the canyon was EMPTY - the entire sea of clouds vanished quite literally into thin air! But since I guess it WAS the air it was easy. The day turned on a dime.

A couple of mornings ago I was standing on top of a tall bluff in another part of the wilderness - it was about an hour before sunrise. And there was a sea of clouds below me - not nearly as much as today, but it was still a sea. I had wanted to make a timelapse of the fog as it grew and moved, but as I stood there and watched, I really could not see much movement. I hesitated to set up my camera equipment, but decided to go ahead and do so anyway just for the heck of it.

A few minutes later both the sea of fog and the sky above the distant canyon wall started to gain some nice color. Still not any movement in the fog, but the color was nice. The cameras were busy taking hundreds and hundreds of photos - one of them every second. I wandered on up to the van and made myself a cup of coffee, and sat there at the edge of the wilderness peering out into it and sipped my java, listening closely to make sure the cameras were still working down there on the top of the bluff. Working to record what I thought was the same scene over and over.

The sun arrived and the color went away, and I shut the cameras down and went back home. Kind of a bust. I had another camera set up back at the cabin that had been working all night shooting the very same sea of fog a few miles away and the moon as it raced across the sky. That camera had taken several thousand photos during the night. It took six hours just to download the photos from all three cameras.

Later in the day I put together a short timelapse from the photos I had taken while I was sitting in the van having coffee - 1800 pictures worth. And SON OF A GUN - I was STUNNED at what the camera recorded! That "dead-still" sea of fog was actually moving PRETTY FAST in front of the camera. HOLY COW! I still can't believe that fog moved so fast for so long, even though I could not detect any movement while I stood there looking at it. 'Tis the beauty of timelapse photography! I hope to include a clip of what I just described in the program this coming fall.

Historical note - Amber had an accident with a deer while trying to get home tonight. The deer actually hit her car instead of the other way around. It is historical because that is the first time we've had a deer incident in all the years and HUNDREDS OF thousands of miles that we have driven while living here. There are way too many deer in Arkansas at the moment, and I'm afraid accidents like this will continue to rise statewide. I love our deer, but we have allowed them to generate well beyond the capacity of the land to keep them and us safe from each other.

 

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The view from our back deck early on 5/20/ 14 (below)

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05/21/14 Tropical-like breezes are floating through the trees this morning just after dawn. There are soft shadows on the landscape and puffy, lazy clouds above. I can almost hear Jimmy Buffet strumming (actually I can - my lovely bride is a big fan and has him playing on her stereo right now...)

It seems that SNAKES are on the move right now, and we've been seeing a lot of them. I happen to like snakes, and almost always smile when I see one. The other day Lucy and I were hiking along one of the trails at Busick State Forest north of Branson, Missouri, when we came upon a beautiful spotted king snake - which is perhaps my most favorite of all snakes. I just LOVE those tiny yellow spots that really stand out against a the backdrop of a coal black body.

We chatted with Mr. Snake for a moment or two and then he went on his way. A few steps later, another snake came into view - this one however was dead since all I could see was a brilliant yellow underbelly. Poor guy. Although we had just been down this trail/road not 20 minutes before and there was no dead snake with a bright yellow belly then. I wondered if the first king snake that I saw had just done battle with this snake and lost? King snakes are called so because they sometimes will kill a poisonous snake. But this new snake looked to be another king snake. Hum.

As I stepped closer I realized that I was being watched - by the SNAKE! He was very much alive, and was looking right at me upside down. And then he immediately began to roll over and run off. He was about the same size and shape as the spotted king snake I had just seen, but completely black everywhere but his belly. It was like all those yellow spots fell off his body and landed on his belly! Mrs. and MRS. King Snake perhaps, and she was just all tucked out and taking a nap, belly up?

The next day back at the cabin I saw a hawk fly right past the window, and I rushed out to see what he was up to. Son of a gun, he was hovering right over Mom's meadow just below the cabin, and had a SNAKE in his talons! He quickly gained altitude in the rising warm air currents. And then he let the snake go! Perhaps he knew that I loved spotted king snakes and just brought us one as a present. I have seen hawks flying around with snakes on board before - maybe they just give them rides.

Yesterday there were two large tom turkeys in Benny and Mildred's front yard (the Faddis Cabin), and they were putting on quite an act. One at a time they would puff themselves up, spread out their feathers, and strut around like they were trying to impress a lady turkey. Both had long beards. It was warm and sunny, and I thought it funny that they were doing their dance underneath a shade tree - they did not want to get out in the sunshine.

Fast forward to real time. I am sitting in the middle of a large meadow that stretches out in front of me as far as I can see, and also to the left and to the right. It's about a quarter 'til midnight and I can't see all that far, but it is a large meadow. There is a delightful breeze blowing, and the tall grasses are swaying back and forth. The sky is filled with a zillion stars - and a few planets. Mars is looking very red tonight. I've been having a conversation with a hoot owl just over there down the hill a bit in the tall trees.

I'm waiting on The Milky Way to rise above the horizon - probably be another hour or so before I will start shooting. There are a few thin clouds on the eastern horizon that I'm hoping will blow out of the way by the time the Milky Way wakes up.

I just started working on the 2015 Arkansas scenic wall calendar photo selections. My lovely bride has completed work to put the document together with all the correct dates for holidays, days of the month, and full moon schedules. You would think that picking 14 photos would be easy, but it is always a tough job for me each year. I try to publish mostly new images each year, but this past year I've been working on the nighttime photo book and I don't want to fill the calendar with all night photos! It is funny how FEW pictures I've taken during the daytime this past year.

Work on the photos for the new picture book continues (which is what I'm doing out in the middle of a large meadow on top of a mountain midnight tonight). Although my plans this week and next seem to be melting away. I've shot quite a bit up here in the High Ozarks, and now is the time when I normally head to other parts of Arkansas. But I've been stuck close to home this week due to an uncertain bulk-book delivery schedule.

6,000 pounds of guidebook reprints were supposed to have arrived on Monday, then Tuesday, then Wednesday, and now they might arrive Thursday. We have to drive a couple hours to a truck terminal and load them onto a pair of big trailers, then bring them to our warehouse here at Cloudland. If I'm in the Ouachitas when the call comes in I get into trouble!

So I've been working on the calendar photos and a few other chores that are months and months behind. NEXT week will be even better shooting though as it will be the first part of the dark-moon week - however they are calling for cloudy skies and rain much of the week. As much as I LOVE rain, I could live without it next week - at least at night (rain all day, then clear off at night please!). I still have some time, and I'll get my work done. In the meantime, I have this owl to speak with, and The Milky Way on its way into my camera frame,,,

05/24/14 A new ASPEN arrived at the cabin today, yippie! But then we were instructed to dig a hole 2' x 3' x 2' deep to set it into. We only know one guy in Arkansas who has an actual ASPEN GROVE in his yard, and today he delivered a 12' tall aspen tree for us to begin one here - THANKS DAVID!!! My lovely bride and I have always loved aspen trees (so much so that I named our beloved Aspen after them), and all the interior walls and ceilings in our log cabin are covered with aspen boards. The new aspen tree will live inside the circle drive in the front yard, and we're hopeful it will grow and thrive and enjoy life at Cloudland! (Anyone want to come dig a hole?)

Speaking of that circle drive area, Pam has been slaving away there for years to try and trim back the jungle that she found when she arrived here all those years ago - hoping to be able to plant some flowers one day. She has been making some great headway. Just today she was out there pulling weeds around one of her flower beds when she saw something odd in the leaves. Turned out to be a large spotted King Snake! As just recently noted, I LOVE spotted King snakes, and this guy was a beauty! Actually we never got to see the entire snake. He was all layered up and about half-way covered up with leaves - he was doubled-back on himself at least seven times. Pam let him enjoy his slumber in the warm afternoon sunshine and she worked on weeds elsewhere.

Later on she made another discovery in a different flower bed that holds a hundred native, historical day lilies that had been moved to our cabin many years ago from an abandoned pioneer cabin in the woods. While reaching for another bundle of weeds, she heard that unmistakable sound - a RATTLE - YIKES!!! Turned out to be a 3-foot long+ timber rattlesnake, and he was not a happy camper! His eight rattles stood tall and made a lot of noise. This was about 30 feet from our front door. We once had a rattlesnake issue here, but have not seen them in the yard for many years. I was not home at the time, but my wilderness wife held her own with Mr. Rattlesnake. (He ended up taking a scenic flight over the bluff.)

Is this the Chinese Year of the Snake? Seem to be a LOT of them this summer - BE CAREFUL OUT THERE, especially if you get off trail.

Speaking of that, I'm headed out into the dark shortly to have another go at shooting some star photos - last night was cloudy, and the past two or three nights have been partly cloudy as well. I got to make hay while the sun don't shine!

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My Lovely Bride and our little Lucy on a recent hike

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05/29/14 I was up and out early this morning but the "partly" part of "partly cloudy" never happened, so I was not able to shoot any star photos. We are in the middle of a stretch of non-star skies right now, but we've had about an inch of rain this past week that has been great - the landscape is smiling, and is LUSH and colorful!

The other day Lucy and I hiked up to the warehouse to do something, and when it started to rain I looked up and realized that we were TWO MILES away from the cabin! How did that happen? Sometimes I just follow the lay of the land and that takes me to places not on the schedule. I LOVE to hike in the rain, only on this day I was wearing a t-shirt and shorts, and since I had not planned on going on a hike in the rain, didn't have any rain gear. As luck would have it, we did not get a single junk mail magazine (I had picked up the mail along the way, and we usually get 4-6 bits of trash a day). So when it started to pour down, all I could do was stick the mail in my shorts and hope for the best. We had two bills, one check, and a small box with a piece of new electronic gear inside. I put the check in between the bills, and under the small box.

If you have never been caught out in a summer thunderstorm like this unprepared, I'm here to tell ya that while the thermometer may say 80 degrees, when those raindrops hit your bare skin from 10,000 above, it is a wee bit CHILLY! But that didn't bother me too much - I was mostly worried about keeping the mail dry. Lucy didn't seem to mind either, although she did look back up at me once in a while and wondered what I was thinking - and there was a little grin. My wheels went into high gear - the harder it rained the faster I moved - mostly to help stay warm. It rained all the way back home.

One thing I noticed was that while the rain was coming down the colors in the forest just got richer and richer - SUPER saturated greens. And the perfume from the hundreds of wild roses in bloom was almost too much to take - the air was thick with sweetness! That aroma always reminds me of my mom - she loved flowers, but was especially fond of roses.

My schedule got kind of turned upside down this past ten days. I had planned a lengthy trip to other parts of Arkansas for nighttime shooting during the dark of the moon. Then our guidebook delivery got delayed, again and again. Once those arrived and we got them all unloaded into the warehouse, the clouds moved in and it has been cloudy ever since. I did manage to get out four nights around here, and worked on getting a single image - and it took me all four nights to get it right. Funny, I saw online where someone commented how great it must be to just set an alarm and get up and step outside and take a picture like that. ME TOO! Wish I could do that! Most of the images of mine that you see are the result of a great deal of planning and hard work, sometimes a bit of blood shed - often times many days and long nights of work. Sometimes weeks of long and difficult work. But in the end I guess all it really takes is pushing one little button to take the picture, so that seems kind of easy and anyone could do it. (I HOPE I never settle for snapshots!)

I'm back on the road again today to run errands in town, and will be on the road again tomorrow, and the next and the next. I'm hoping for some clear skies next week before the moon gets too bright again. In the meantime, we still need lots and LOTS of rain, so bring it on please!

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