CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - May 2015
Cloudland Cabin Cam May 31 - May showers bring WILDFLOWERS! (foxglove beardtongue)
Journal updated Sunday night the 31st - the stormy trip home, and hours in the jungle
05/01/15 It was a textbook spring day in the High Ozarks today. There's just something about the fresh spring greens with that bright blue sky and crystalline water. The river is just the right level so we can hear music drifting up from deep in the canyon below. And holy mocking bird there are TONS of birds playing all over the place! I suspect many are going about the business of raising babies, others looking for a mate to make a few babies.
I just stepped outside tonight to take a shower, and moonlight really lit up the landscape - it was quite easy to see all around, bright enough to produce well-defined shadows. The shower smelled like rain, and my towel like sunshine - the towel had been on a deck rail all day soaking up the sun. Lots of critter noises tonight - one scream in particular I don't recall ever hearing before. Must be time to go upstairs and crawl under the covers to hide! I'll be up again before the moon sets - leaving at 5am to meet our next workshop group for some early-morning shooting...
05/05/15 We had some anxious moments today in the wildlife department. While out hiking with the pups I came around a corner and looked ahead and saw Mia staring down what appeared to be a cobra right in front of her! My first thought was of a hognose snake, which will often mimic cobras to try and scare off other critters, but this snake was much to large for a hognose. Then I thought it might be a big old timber rattler about to strike our little Miss Mia, so I put it into high gear and sprinted toward Mia and the snake, waving my arms and yelling as her. Mia backed off. Wilson stopped in his tracks. But then LUCY came charging right on past me and up into the face of that big snake - in fact Lucy ran right on up and got nose-to-nose with the big black king snake! Harmless snake, but I was about to have a heart attack. We're trying to teach the pups NOT to approach snakes - dogs get bit in the face when they get close to sniff.
Later on while we were crossing a wide meadow I looked up and saw both pups hunkered down sniffing something in the grass. OH NO, I thought - another snake! As I began to run towards them I saw something black in the grass moving - in fact it STOOD UP! Turns out it was a NEWborn fawn, just hours old, and could barely stand up. The puppies were shocked, and I herded them off quickly. Poor little fawn - I'm sure momma was nearby watching nervously. The pups were just curious, but I didn't want them to get the fawn all excited, at least any MORE excited. Smallest fawn I'd ever seen - less than HALF the size of Mia! OK guys, enough wildlife for one hike.
Early this afternoon we attended the grand re-opening/dedication of the Round Top Mountain Trail just south of Jasper. This has always been one of my favorite trails in the state, but it got hit hard by several natural disasters that had closed it off the past several years - including the giant ice storm of 2000, and even larger landslide that took away much of the mountain, parking area, and even part of Hwy. 7. It is all fixed and back open to the public now, and in terrific shape! The land is owned and managed by the non-profit Newton County Resource Council, which led the efforts and did much of the work to repair the damage and get the trail and parking areas back open again. Their volunteers are to be commended for their years of hard work to see this project through. Pillars of the community for sure, even though many were not Newton County natives. The Round Top Mountain Trail follows a scenic bluffline for several miles, has a pair of spectacular overlooks up on top, visits the site of a B25 bomber crash in the 1940's, and also happens to have one of the very best wildflowers displays in the state. Be sure to stop by and hike a little the next time you are headed south on Scenic 7 National Scenic Byway.
We had our last two workshops of the spring season this past weekend (10 days of workshops in 11 days - I was pooped!), and oh my goodness you should have seen the pictures they took - WOW! We met very early each morning and found perfect lighting conditions - and great calm water reflections too (I took the snapshot below on Saturday). I promised each student a world-class print of their own work to take home, and they sure did. One young man shot with a 5 megapixel camera and his print turned out amazing! Long gone are the days when the camera equipment has much to do with how good your photos are - we teach ya how to take great pictures with any camera. And, of course, I got to steal away a few of my lovely bride's homemade oatmeal chocolate chip Cloudland cookies fresh out of the oven (shhhhh, I'm not supposed to have any). We still have a few spaces left in our one day workshops in October, but otherwise all the rest are booked up for 2015. We'll announce a new workshop schedule sometime in the fall for 2016.
We could use a little rain in the Ozarks - anyone know a good rain dance?
And speaking of pictures, here is our little girl, Amber, who grew up in the backwoods of the Buffalo River Wilderness right here at Cloudland - one morning when she was quite young she had to literally chase a bear out of the way to get to the car for the 1.5 hour ride to school. NEXT WEEK she'll be graduating from Drury University as one of the top-ten honor students in her class. She signed a contract for a full-time job a year ago with a prestigious national accounting firm - this cookie is WAY smarter than your average bear! And while she is not of my own blood, she is more of a daughter than I could ever have wished for, and my pride in her as a person grows with each step she makes. Her mom did an incredible job - gosh, they should have a special day just for moms! I have grown taller from walking next to both of them...
Full moonrise a couple of nights ago
LOTS of blackberry flowers along our road - yum, YUM!
05/10/15 HAPPY MOM'S DAY! None on the planet or in life more important than our moms. The only problem with Mother's Day is that is really should be celebrated every day of the year. THANKS to all moms for being who you are and doing what you do...
We were BLASTED awake around 4am this morning by a giant bolt of lightening that hit somewhere nearby, and then all the lights in the cabin came ON. The power had gone out about 10pm last night - kind of fun to live by candlelight for a while, and go to sleep with the tiny flicker of a single candle. Lot of great rainfall across Arkansas this past couple of days - with more to come - so waterfalls should be running well today - hope you can get out and find a few and enjoy - take your mom...
Yesterday I was fortunate to participate in a celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Arkansas Wilderness Act, the public law that created most of the wilderness areas we have in Arkansas. I was part of the group that worked long and hard back in the early 1980s to draw the boundaries, fight the fights, and lobby congress to get the law passed (which included testifying before both the U.S. House and US Senate - that was kind of awe-inspiring and weird at the same time). The group yesterday included many of the stars of the Arkansas Wilderness movement that I traveled with in 1983 to testify before Congress, including volunteers who led the fight like Tom and Ellen McClure (McClure Falls are named after them), Tom McKinney, Chris Tullgren, Don Hamilton (Hamilton Falls is named after him), Alice Andrews, Ray Hanley, and many other important folks who played major roles in it all. Many forest service officials were there yesterday as well, including the Forest Supervisors of both the Ozark and Ouachita National Forests (these guys seldom get out in the woods, and it was great to see them working up a sweat at the top of the mountain!). One note of interest - the supervisor of the Ozark National Forest helped to lay out the Ouachita Trail many years ago - that is a great sign to have someone of this background in a leadership role in the forest service in Arkansas!
The biggest celebrity at the event was the man who led the battle in Washington to get this bill passed, former U.S. Congressman Ed Bethune. Ed fought long and hard against the tide of his own republican party (who was not generally in favor of creating wilderness areas), and even against fellow Arkansas democrats who were also AGAINST wilderness (democrats are normally in favor of wilderness - proof that good and evil do NOT follow party lines). Without Ed Bethune, we would never have won this battle. I've always admired Ed for his courage and interest in wild places, and I consider him a hero of Arkansas Wilderness. Former Senator Dale Bumpers (Bumpers Falls is named after him) led the fight on the senate side, and he certainly had his own battles to win, which he did so with his usual greatness - Dale was unable to attend yesterday's event due to health reasons.
The gentleman who organized this celebration event was current U.S. Congressman French Hill. He played a pivital role in the original Arkansas Wilderness Act way back in 1984 when he convinced his then boss, Senator John Tower of Texas, to co-sponsor the bill with Senator Bumpers to get the bill through the senate. The two senators were bitter rivals, yet the thought of protecting such valuable wild lands brought them together - although Senator Towers insisted that the phrase "Texas still has a better football team" be include, ha, ha! I was greatly impressed with Congressman Hill and his lovely wife, Martha. I don't know his background nor his politics - and I don't really care - I spent time with him in the woods, climbing Flatside Pinnacle and discussing wild places, waterfalls, climbing mountains, trash, and a lot of other issues - and talking about our daughters and wives. He is one of the good eggs, and I HOPE we have him around for a good long while making decisions and serving the people of Arkansas and America. And don't be surprised if you run into him hiking a trail or splashing through a waterfall.
Congressmen French Hill (left), and Ed Bethune (right) - THANKS TO BOTH!!!
A VERY SPECIAL THANKS to everyone who ever spent a moment working on the Arkansas Wilderness Bill more than 30 years ago - volunteers and government officials alike. Your legacy will take a long time to fully be realized, but generations will enjoy your efforts and billions of smiles will follow the footprints you took...
One side note - the group hiked on the Ouachita Trail up to the top of Flatside Pinnacle where we all got a great view over the Flatside Wilderness Area (this particular area is a direct result of Ed Bethune's involvement - it would not exist without him - YEAH ED!). The sun popped out a time or two and it was a little hot and sweaty. Anyway, on the way back down to the trailhead, I looked ahead and saw Congressman Hill leave the trail and head down a steep slope, scrambling to keep his balance as he slipped and slid through the brush. No one else was around, and I don't think he knew I was back there. I decided to follow, and when I caught up with him, he was bending over collecting trash down there in the weeds on that steep hillside. This was not a political stunt for the cameras, this is who he is, and this told me a lot about his character. I sure do wish the rest of Washington would pull their heads out and follow French Hill into the woods and collect a little trash - instead of manufacturing piles of manure like they seem to be doing most of the time...
Congressman French Hill and his lovely bride Martha on top of Flatside Pinnacle (Forked Mtn. is in the distance)
05/12/15 So I guess we finally got enough rain - about six inches total here at the cabin over the weekend. The hills are screaming at us to come jump in and play! And yes, I meant to say hills - most every little drainage in the wilderness is full and flowing well - although those will run down quickly since the lush landscape is always thirsty! It is great to see and hear all the water, and the parched earth can breathe a little easier now for a while.
There is this waterfall I've been wanting to visit for several years now, but I knew it needed high water to look good in photos - I decided the big storm was the time to go find it. It took me a while to get to the parking spot though. First I had to dodge all the severe weather - in fact I took refuge under the awing of a Sonic during the heaviest downpour - and waited out the 60mph winds that were raging just a few miles up the road. I sat in the jeep and watched the radar - man it sure was COLORFUL! Then the flood warning came over the radio for the location where I was, so I headed out into the storm and sped on to higher ground, driving through roadways nearly a foot deep.
The rain had stopped for a while as I suited up, and soon I was neck-deep in the JUNGLE that is the Ouachita mountains - holy cow the forest was THICK! So thick that at times I could hardly see more than a few feet in front of me, and in fact I don't think I saw my feet for the next couple of hours - sometimes it was so thick that I could not see below my waist! Down, down, DOWN I went - slipping and sliding and trying my best to maintain control. I don't like going down such steep slopes with heavy camera equipment, but that's where the waterfalls was - DOWN - so that is where I went. At the same time I had some issues just maintain control over my body - I would much rather climb uphill than down for this reason. The terrain was so steep and rocky that I guess it was more than a controlled fall rather than actual hiking.
After what seemed like one of the most difficult hikes I'd ever taken, I finally reached the waterfall I was looking for. It was a TALL beauty! And of course running well - at peak flow, but not muddy (a rare combination this week). It took me a while to figure out where I could setup my tripod and camera, and then when I found the perfect spot I just had to laugh. The hillside was so steep that I call it a 1-1 ratio mountainside. While standing on the side of the hill I could reach my arm straight out and TOUCH the hill!
While I was clearing out a spot for the upper leg of the tripod - which was just below eye-level on the hillside - some odd color caught my attention - a COPPERHEAD was looking right back at me! He was about half-grown (I've always heard those are more dangerous since their venom is concentrated), and luckily for me kind of slow moving due to the chilly temps and having been soaked for a couple of days. I reached around and picked up a stick and kind of flipped him around and down the hillside. Good snake, stay PUT down there please!
I set the camera to take a series of photos - one every 30 seconds - then I headed down the steep hillside to the creek below where I had planned to make my way upstream to the base of the waterfall and stand there while the camera took my picture - having a person in the waterfall photo add scale. Well guess what - just before I landed in the bottom of the canyon, I looked up and there was MR. COPPERHEAD, hanging over a limb and still looking right at me! Sometimes I'm even dumber than usual, and flipping that snake down the hill and then going down to the very same place was one of those times!
Ten minutes later I was standing at the base of the waterfall - actually I was standing up on the ledge with the falls, and oh my goodness the water pouring over me was CHILLY! I only had on thin nylon t-shirt and shorts. I know some folks make fun of me online because of my little green shorts I wear in the waterfall guidebook photos, but I really could care less - some of us have the legs for real shorts and others have to wear shorts that look like skirts. To each his own. CLICK!
So I made it back to the camera, packed everything up, waved goodbye to Mr. Copperhead, and began the long trek back UP the steep hillside just as it was getting dark. The earth was soft from all the rain and my boots dug in with each step. But I decided against using my hands to climb with - knowing the vegetation was so thick I probably would not be able to see where I was putting my hands. So I used my big tripod as an ice axe and dug it into the hillside as I climbed.
About half way up I stopped, got my balance, and looked around at all the glory that surrounded me. WOW! Even though it was a jungle, it was all quite spectacular. At that very moment my odometer clicked over to 60. It felt pretty darn good to be entering my "old fart" stage of life and yet quite comfortable out in the middle of no where doing some pretty physically demanding stuff and loving every moment of it.
It was a long drive home, dodging more bad weather and constant heavy rain, but I made it by midnight and got to kiss my lovely bride good night. I would be off the next morning for another photo trip...
And by dark the next day I had arrived at a state in Missouri, ready to spend the night shooting a timelapse sequence of granite boulders against a starry sky. I didn't get to sleep much, but as predicted the clouds all moved out and I did get eight hours of star exposures, plus a "moonstrike" on the granite boulders when the moon rose in the wee hours of the morning. I've not see all the photos or made the timelapse yet, but am hoping it will be good enough to include in the next slide show program this fall. In the meantime I put together one image to show you here with 2-3 hours worth of stars and the glowing granite boulders.
05/14/15 Just a quick note tonight that I hope you find amusing. We received a bulk order for autographed picture books last night. While I was autographing them today I noticed some red marks on the autograph page. In fact I noticed the same red color but different marks on a number of the books I was autographing. Then I realized - I had worn a hole in my little finger where it rested on the page of the book while I signed, and it was bleeding - I was signing my name in BLOOD! So if you happen to see a little bit of discoloration on the autograph page, pay it no never mind...
05/18/15 It's raining here - is it raining there? Looking out the window of the Photomobile I see red rocks, lots of cacti, short pines, and lots of cacti and red rocks. It's raining but the humidity is about 30% - is that possible? I guess it is in UTAH! I've always loved Utah and am back for yet another trip - hopefully to return home with a few pictures. It sure is a long way from Arkansas - seems to be longer each time.
Saturday was an especially long day, but most of it was just amazing! Amber graduated from college with honors, and with many of her good friends and family and extended family with her. It was a great day - WAY TO GO MOM!!!
It was 6pm Saturday when I left Springfield and headed for Utah - all the major storms were supposed to have been cleared out by then. Oops, while those guys had indeed moved on, new ones started to pop up, and by the time I had left Tulsa I was about to get trapped by not just one, but TWO TORNADOES! My lovely bride kept calling with updates, and as the rain and winds got really bad, she gave me the good news - there was a tornado just south of me heading for the interstate; and another one just ahead - the tornado horns were sounding there. The rain was so heavy I could not see to the far side of the lane next to me, and barely could see the white line that I was hugging. If I could just hold on until the toll booth a mile ahead.
I did hold on, but oh my goodness - it was CHAOS at the toll booth! And all the toll takers had FLED the scene, leaving behind signs that simply said - TORNADO WARNING - TAKE COVER. I kind of got stuck in the middle of big trucks - they weren't going anywhere. So we all just sat there. I shut the engine off, moved to the middle of the vehicle, and prepared to get hit. The hitting began with LOUD hail hitting the steel van and front window - I was kind of worried about those windows - there are 7 panoramic windows in this van. I dug out my rain jacket, secured my wallet, cell phone, and emergency locator inside my pants pockets, and just stood there waiting. The van and the trucks around me rocked with the heavy winds, the hail got louder and the rain harder.
I know this would have been kid's play for storm chasers, but for me it was just very odd, and kind of scary.
And then in the blink of an eye, everything stopped, and there was no noise at all other than the truck motors. Oh yes, and the air got dead still. Then everyone started to pull away, and I fired up the van and followed. I'm still not sure if someone gave the "all clear" signal or the "get the hell out of HERE" signal. I did notice on the radar screen of my cell phone that the classic hook signature of a tornado had just arrived at our location.
I stopped about 2am just outside of Armadillo, Texas, having left all the storms behind in Oklahoma City. Having been up since 4am Saturday, it was good to be stopped for a little while.
When I woke up I realized there was still 13 hours of driving to do - and I needed to be there by dark - so I jumped back in the front seat and headed west again. And I MADE it in time - arriving at Natural Bridges National Monument just in time to scamper down the trail to the base of a big sandstone natural bridge that I had wanted to take a picture of.
It was supposed to be clear by midnight, but I set up an all-night timelapse sequence to begin an hour before that. Turns out that having a few clouds moving across the screen in front of the rising Milky Way can be a good thing! There was another photographer that arrived and we exchanged plans and camera locations to be sure to stay out of each other's way during the night.
It was about 3am when the Milky Way got into the perfect position that I saw in my mind's eye when I was here back in March. And the sky was mostly clear, with the clouds moving on out - YIPPIE!
It was quite stunning and surreal being out under such dark skies and a part of the entire incredible scene all around me. But it was also a little unnerving. I wasn't sure about snakes, or scorpions. I was moving around quite a bit, down on my knees, and sometimes even on my belly to get a shot lined up just right. And I couldn't use any flashlights, even small ones, as they would not only wreck the other guy's shot (or my own timelapse), but also mess up my night vision. So I just crawled around and hoped for the best.
Right in the middle of the heat of battle - when the Milky Way had moved into the perfect position - I discovered a small pool of water beneath the big bridge that was reflecting stars - BONUS! So I recomposed and tried to capture the moment before the "galactic center" of the Milky Way moved out of sight. YIPPIE COYOTE!
I returned to the van about 6am (the other photographer packed up and left several hours before), drove out of the park (their campground was full so I could not stay there), and found a spot where I could crash for a few hours. Sometimes it gets kind of weird working nights taking pictures like this - leaving just when everyone else is beginning to show up. It was almost noon when I woke from my nap and was able to start downloading the photos to the computer so I could see what I shot.
The timelapse sequence will take a while longer to see (the computer is processing the files as I'm tying this - will take it an hour or two) - I'm hopeful those clouds moving through the frame turned out OK, and also that the Milky Way rose where I had hoped it would, and was visible beneath the big bridge as it moved across the sky. Since I'd never been to this spot when the Milky Way was rising like this, it was kind of a shot in the dark if I timelapse would turn out OK or not - especially since I had to set everything up and start the shooting sequence an hour or two before the actual Milky Way arrived. I think it will turn out OK.
I spent the rest of today getting recycled from the long drive, and hiking down into the deep canyon back at the national monument. And I stopped by their office to renew our annual Access Pass ($80 per year) that will get us into federal parks that charge an entrance fee for free - also half price campsites at many national parks and national forest service locations. 'Tis a great bargain! I can't wait until I turn 62 - then I can get a LIFETIME pass!
Cloudy tonight, so I'm afraid I'll be forced to SLEEP a while instead of being out chasing the Milky Way around, bummer...
05/23/15 I've been attending a nighttime photo workshop in the Moab, Utah area for the past several days - five nights of shooting, followed by classroom work most of the day. We've had some great weather and skies, and also a lot of clouds and some rain. Some of the things I'm trying to learn at this workshop are extremely complicated, and my brain has a very slow learning curve. I'm a terrible student to begin with, and trying to process so much mental info is a bit daunting. Coming the issue is the fact that the inventor of one piece of gear I'm trying to lean how to use is here with us to help, and to him programming his equipment that takes about 30 steps is EASY!
One amusing note from the campground where I'm staying at the edge of town. When I arrived at 3-something the other morning to park in my camping spot to rest for a few hours, I discovered someone had "poached" my site - there was a large tent set up next to their car in my space. Couldn't do anything about it at the moment, so I squeezed in and crawled into the back of the van. A few hours later I woke up to giggling and laughter, sat up in bed, and a the view looking out the front windshield lowly came into focus. There was a woman, standing on top of my picnic table, dancing. She had on a very short-cut t-shirt, and nothing else. No shoes, no shorts, no underwear. There were three women, but thankfully the other two were fully clothed. At first I thought I was seeing things, or perhaps was still asleep and was just dreaming - but the only lady I ever dream about is my lovely bride so I must have been awake.
The naked lady got down off the table and wandered around the campsite and then out into the campground, which was mostly still asleep. Then all three ladies quickly took down their tent, packed up, and drove away - they wanted to get out of the campground before the office opened at 8.
The next night at this same campground (I reserved my spot for the entire week), I piled up a bunch of brush that had blown off a nearby cottonwood tree - enough of a pile to prevent anyone from taking over my campsite again. When I arrived early the next morning the entire pile of brush had been removed! But no one had poached the site so I was good. But I wondered who would have removed all the brush?
Last night as we were headed up into Arches National Park, it took us more than 20 minutes in line to get through the entrance gate. As we were leaving the park entrance and headed up the steep hill the Photomobile went into what is called "limp home mode" - which means it locks into 2nd gear, and only 2nd and reverse are usable. Note - you can't climb a steep hill in a 10,000 pound vehicle in 2nd gear. I was able to pull over to the side of the road safely, where I sat for about an hour trying to figure out what to do next. There was a TON of traffic, so I hesitated to do anything other than just sit there. I finally got up the nerve to attempt to turn around - using reverse. The road was very narrow, with a steep drop off, and I was not sure if I could make the move or not - or get stuck across both lanes, holding up traffic right at the beginning of the holiday rush. I was able to make the turnaround and get back down the hill out to the highway. I "limped" on back to Moab, with a top speed of about 8 mph.
This morning I limped to the south end of town at 8mph - turns out that Moab has a great "limp home mode" extra lane on both sides of the highway through town so I was able to make it safely. I am having a diagnostic test run on the van to see if they can figure out what is wrong with it.
05/25/15 I sit beneath towering snow-capped peaks in the beautiful valley south of Salt Lake City. We were towed here yesterday (Photomobile was towed, I rode) - a 4.5 hour ride in the cab of the largest tow truck I've ever seen! The driver lives at 11,400 feet in the nearby mountains. He was a genuine character, seems to have lived everywhere and done everything, and knew a great deal of history about the everything. One thing that kind of surprised me - we drove past countless groves of YELLOW aspen trees - the color being from early spring leaves. It sure did look a lot like fall color to me - it was quite beautiful! I spent the night in the Photomobile dealer parking lot, and was first in line this morning to begin the process of getting my office on wheels back on the road.
There is a Lexus dealer next door to one side, and a Hyundai dealer on the other side. The last time I checked, the Hyundai dealer was still full of activity - both inside and outside the building - until well after 10pm last night. They must have had one heck of a sale going on. Those guy were really working hard!
OK, back to Moab and the remainder of the photo workshop I have been attending. We had a fast-paced classroom session all day Saturday, which included a ton of great info that I really needed to learn. Of course, most of it flew well above my head, but it was great to see the progression from RAW file to completed timelapse. Then we headed for Arches, which had been closed to entry on and off much of the day. We were able to breeze right on in and found the park almost deserted. All those hours they were closed allowed the park to empty out, and most folks changed plans and avoided the park in the afternoon/evening. YIPPIE!
Our group made the short hike to a location I'd photographed many times in the past 20 years - Double Arch. And then it started to rain. Most of the guys headed for the massive arch or off to one side to begin the process of setting up their complicated multi-access timelapse equipment. Always wanting to avoid other photographers, I hung a left and climbed up towards the base of Elephant Arch, an area you hardly ever see any photos of. And while I tend to like rainfall, I found a neat little alcove beneath a towering spire of sandstone, set up my folding chair, sat down and pulled out my dinner - a colorful wrap from a local deli in Moab.
I was in no hurry to get my equipment set up, so for once in a great while, I actually sat back, soaked up the amazing scenery all around me, munched on my wrap, and ENJOYED a few moments of solitude. I guess you could call it a remove Cloudland Mment - at peace with and in tune with the world.
Later I spent some time exploring the base of the bluffline (you can't hike across bare dirt in this park - it is too fragile, so I stuck to rock-only areas), where I found a very thin arch I'd never seen before - located in the butt area of the elephant. I had to get down on my knees and set up the tripod in an odd position to get the view that I wanted, and spent the next hour shooting the scene.
It had been mostly cloudy all day - swirling clouds in fact, with blue skies peeking through now and then. Just before sunset the sky really lit up, turing the red rocks all around very RED! It was a spectacular light show, with several rain showers being lit up by that sunshine off in the distance. Most of this scene was on the other side of where I was working, but by chance I hiked on up to the top of the ridge to have a look. As soon as I set foot up there I realized I needed my camera, so I ran back to collect my second set of camera equipment and sped back up the hill to the top of the ridge as fast as I could - light like this only lasts a short time, and moves really fast. I found a perfect spot and frantically began to set up the tripod and camera. And then I had one of those moments when you know you slap your head and realized you are an idiot - I had been using that camera with an attached battery grip, but left the grip back with my camera bag - and the naked camera did not have a plate that would allow me to attach it to the tripod. That meant I could not shoot the timelapse I had wanted to. All I could do was take a few snapshots of the scene and wish for what might have been - what SHOULD have been (note to self - ALWAYS carry ALL your camera gear with you when exploring what is on the other side of the hill!).
Back to my original spot, I began to set up for the main nighttime timelapse sequence. I found a nice spot near the base of a tall spire - one I had never really paid much attention to. There was an interesting tree right in front of the camera, silhouetted against the distant sky - and future stars. Plus the back end of the Elephant Arch cliff framed the right side of the scene. It was still mostly cloudy at the moment, but those clouds were moving around a bit, PLUS the moon had emerged from clouds behind me and provided some nice light on the landscape. So I began the timelapse around 9pm.
Next I turned my attention to finding a second timelapse to shoot, and wound up back at Double Arch, which was literally GLOWING! It looked quite spectacular in fact - with moonlight beaming down through the back side and bouncing all around. I set up a second camera and started shooting. Clouds swirled above, and stars shone through from time to time. I opened my folding chair and just sat down to marvel at everything - WOW!!!
In the wee hours of the morning after the moon had set the sky began to clear off and the Milky Way started to rise - right into the middle of the first scene I had set up, with the spire on one side, Elephant Arch butt on the other side, and the silhouetted tree in between. That's the scene I had hoped for, but never knew would happen. It did, it was quite beautiful, and I went into another one of those remote Cloudland Moments - WOW AGAIN!
Our workshop ended while the Milky Way rose, and everyone said goodbyes and I was left in Moab with an ailing Photomobile. That was on Sunday, so I spent the day bumming around Moab, and trying to finally sit down and learn some of the massive software that we had been taught during the week. One last night spent in Moab, and the next morning the tow truck picked me up for the long haul up to the dealer in Lindon, Utah - just south of Salt Lake City, where I remain for no telling how long. Very nice people and facility here, I'm hopeful it will be an easy fix, but still, not holding my breath...
05/27/15 The Mercedes dealer in Lindon, Utah did a great job getting to my van and fixing the problem. They surmise that an air intake hose was not reconnected the last time the Sprinter had its regular maintenance service in Fayetteville (Mercedes dealers in Arkansas will not service their vans, but there is an authorized repair shop in Fayetteville that does good work - well, except for this last time). The hose came loose and caused the particulate filter to clog up with soot, which in turn turned off everything else down the line and disabled the van. They did what is called a manual regeneration of the filter and system, and all was well - took about two hours for the fix, no new parts, and I was back on the road again - YIPPIE!
An hour later, not 50 miles outside of Salt Lake City heading home, a pulley that holds tension on the serpentine belt broke, off came the serpentine belt, and the Photomobile was out of service once again. I pulled over, called roadside assistance, and two hours later I had been towed back to Salt Lake City, this time to the GIANT Freightliner truck repair center (I'm a bit confused by all of this, but Freightliner sprinters are the same as Mercedes sprinters). Very nice folks here, but there are literally hundreds of big trucks in line before me, so I camped in their lot all night (after a nice hike around Salt Lake City), and am no awaiting my turn to get the issue fixed. They say it will be this afternoon before they will be able to get to me, but I am hopeful they'll be able to fix the problem - there is a major Sprinter parts store at one end of the building - DOUBLE YIPPIE! Seems like a lot of folks frown on Sprinter repair and service - I have no idea why. And even though I've had to be towed twice in the past three days, I'm still in love with our Sprinter van, and in fact started looking at a smaller one on the lot here as a potential workshop and book-hauling cargo van! In the meantime, I'll be headed out for another hike around Salt Lake soon, and hopefull will be back on my way home by the end of the day - for some reason Utah doesn't seem to want to let me go! (I love Utah, but am ready to get back to Cloudland...)
By the way, it has been great through all of this being fully contained in the van, with shower, toilet, full kitchen, bed, and all the electrical hookups I need. My lovely bride has been keeping everything running smoothly business wise as usual (she runs ALL our business things when I'm there too - more than a fulltime job by itself). She tells me we've had a little rain in Arkansas...
05/31/15 Just a quick update for the last day of a very long month. First, back to the parking lot in Utah where I waited for the Photomobile to be fixed the second time in two days. After consulting with the service desk, they told me it was going to be TWO MORE DAYS before they would be able to look at my van. OUCH! I love Utah, but did not want to sit in the parking lot another two days and nights. I guess I understood - there were a lot of big trucks parked and waiting for service, but I don't think many of them were stranded like I was.
Anyway, while I contemplated my next move, I got a text from my big brother, Terry. He said that his company has an office across the street, and the same Freightliner service center maintains their fleet of trucks - and wanted to know if he could do anything to help me out? HECK-FIRE YES! I never do this sort of thing - especially asking someone to do this sort of thing - but I was in a fix, and asked my brother to see if he could perform some magic with his connections. I swear - TEN MINUTES later my phone rang, and it was the repair guy telling me he was on his way to get my van - YIPPIE COYOTE! Way to go BIG BROTHER! An hour and $600 later I was on my way back home, again!
I spent much of the 23-hour drive back to Arkansas being hammered by one severe thunderstorm after another after another. Drove through hail three times. Got blown into the next lane twice. And once as I just started to cross Truman Lake near Clinton, Missouri, I looked ahead at an 18-wheeler rig about a hundred yards in front of me. The sky was quite black, but it was not raining at the moment. All of a sudden I saw the top of his trailer lean over to the left about 45 degrees, and then the wheels on right side of the rig followed the trailer and came up off the pavement! He almost got blown over and into the lake - but a second later he steered the big truck right back onto the pavement and regained control.
Then came MY turn! I slowed to about 20mph, gripped the wheel, and had one of those "Jesus take the wheel" moments - what else could I do? The gust blasted me and pushed me across into the other lane, but my wheels did not come off the road, and I was able to push right on through and made it to the far end of the bridge - where I promptly pulled over to wait it out.
I got home just fine after that, and have been mostly trying to play catchup ever since. We had to cancel a trip to Montana slated for next week - I just got too far behind. (It was a miniature "rally" of about 60 Roadtrek RV owners with hiking and photography lessons along the Bear Tooth Highway just south of Red Lodge.) Thankfully my lovely bride has been keeping up with all the book business stuff while I was gone - she puts in long days when I'm on the road - she is the one who runs everything, which is one reason she did not make the trip to Utah with me. considering all the Photomobile repair issues, I think she was glad to be left behind!
Two things happened today. I got up at my usually early hour, and spent several hours working in the cabin. Then about an hour after breakfast, I just lost all my energy - nothin' left in the tank I guess. I crawled back into bed and slept hard for several hours. My girlfriend got kind of worried. I guess all the driving and the waiting and the late nights shooting in Utah finally caught up with me.
Then this afternoon I shouldered my pack and headed down into Dug Hollow to see if I could find anything to take pictures of. It had been cloudy all day with only a few drops of rain - the LIGHT was BEAUTIFUL - so I just had to get out and shoot something.
The forest is a thick jungle right now - even more so than normal. REALLY thick. In the middle of the jungle I spotted a rotting stump that was covered with tiny orange dots. The forest floor was carpeted with poison ivy, but I had to get down and burrow in it to get my camera set up. I spent the next hour down there on my elbows and belly taking pictures of this miniature forest of beautiful mushrooms. It was like they were an army of mushrooms all trying to climb the mountain stump! SO FAR I have not been allergic to poison ivy, and I'm hoping today is not the day that I become allergic to it.
For photo geeks, my depth of field was very shallow since I was working with a macro lens on these tiny subjects and had to get really close to them. No way I could get all of the mushrooms in focus with a single picture, so I did what is called "focus stacking" where I took a series of photos with different parts of the scene in focus, and later on the computer will merge all of the in-focus parts into a single frame that I hope will have all the mushrooms in focus. I will post one of the original frames here, but realize not all of them will be in focus (but if you see this picture in a book, that means the technique worked!).
I spent the next couple of hours at the bottom of Dug Hollow, taking pictures of two different waterfalls. The last time I was in Dug Hollow was last year when Lucy got in between a momma bear and her two cubs - in the same thick jungle. We made it out of that mess just fine. No large critters today, just lots of waterfalls and BEAUTIFUL light!
On the way back home this evening, I spent some time in Kennie Woods' "North Meadow" taking pictures of wildflowers - LOTS of wildflowers! It was an explosion of foxglove beard tongue flowers, plus daisies and other wildflowers. Sometimes it was impossible to see the forest due to all the wildflowers!
OK, May is in the books - quite a journey this year. I will either hit the ground running tomorrow, or perhaps will crawl back into bed. THANKS for spending some of your month here at Cloudland...