CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - October 2013
Cloudland Cabin Cam October 31 - fog and wind with a little rain - HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
FALL COLOR REPORT for the upper Buffalo River area, October 31, 2013. PEAK FALL COLOR EVERYWHERE!
Print Of The Week - Pond Maples
Journal updated Monday the 31th
10/02/13 The air is full early this morning - full of moisture, coolness, and somehow it has a depth to it that we've not had here in a while. It is just delightful outside! And as dawn approaches, color will seep into the air, above and around us at first, slowly creeping down to our toes - when that happens, it is time to get out and roam around and become part of the air.
EARLY FALL COLOR REPORT. We typically will be a fair amount of color in underbrush things, ground cover, and some species of trees. But up until now the landscape has remained pretty much lush and green, so kind of behind schedule. But I am seeing some really nice BRIGHT RED color in underbrush like sumac, ground cover like poison ivy and Virginia creeper, and a few black gum trees too - that's the color we are expecting! And looking at the overall landscape, bits and pieces of the forest are beginning to lean a little towards warm hues or reds and yellows, which for some of them might be a bit early! So in other words, the forest is going to do what it always does - it is going to change color whenever and wherever it wants to, ha, ha! And I suspect the next few weeks will be quite beautiful in the High Ozarks! For now it is mostly green though, but you can find nice splashes of color here and there. I will make notes here on the progress as I find it in those weeks to come. As always, it will be best to simply get out and explore around for yourself and enjoy!
I've been getting a lot of questions about where one can and cannot hike at the moment. I can understand some of the confusion since those who know may have left the building. But in general, here is some info that I hope will help. Avoid anything that has "national" or "U.S." in the name - like "National" park, river, or monument. This would include the entire Buffalo National River park - seems that all of it is now closed, meaning you are not allowed to be there, even to hike, camp, fish or whatever. The national forests are a little more questionable, but certainly all facilities are closed - like campgrounds, info centers, Blanchard Springs Caverns, etc. It is unclear if we are allowed to hike the trails in national forests or not, so probably best to just avoid them. FYI, it would probably be a good idea if you as an individual educate yourself about who manages the areas you want to visit - i.e., is the trail you are wanting to hike in a state park, national forest, or national park - YOU should know the difference - it is very simple, and I would think required before you ever set foot in any of these places. All of our guidebooks tell exactly who manages the trails and other areas that are included in the books, so they are an easy reference since you probably already have that info sitting on your deck.
STATE and other non-federal lands should be open for business as usual, like all of our wonderful state parks (Petit Jean, Devils Den, Lake Ft. Smith, Mt. Magazine, etc.); natural areas (like Kings River Falls and Sweden Creek natural areas, etc.); and Arkansas Game & Fish areas (like the Elk Info Center in Ponca and in Jasper, and many wildlife management areas scattered around the state). Certainly you can drive our state highways and enjoy the views and wildlife, although roads that lead into national parks (like down into Steele Creek, Kyles Landing along the Buffalo, etc.) are closed to the public. Two things about the local park staff. First, none of this is their fault - big corporations run this country (and the puppets that we have elected to do their business) - the local guys are just doing what they have been told to do. And secondly, law enforcement officers remain on duty, and I suspect will be ready to issue citations when they see violations.
So generally speaking, KNOW WHO manages the scenic area you want to visit (consult your guidebook), then avoid federal lands and facilities for the time being. But mostly, I encourage everyone to GET OUT and ENJOY our great and abundant outdoors here in Arkansas - or wherever you live. And BREATH IN some of that wonderful air!
10/03/13 Nice and cool with sweet air early this morning, with the forest refreshed from a bit of rain yesterday afternoon. Even cooler weather is on the way, and along with it we'll start to see more color creeping in. The transition from the heat of summer to fall is one of my most favorite times of the year - variety is the spice you know (in many things but a spouse - I'll keep the one I got, thank you!). And speaking of cool temps, we had planned to be in Colorado all this week shooting fall color, but had too much work to do here so we stayed behind. We had planned to be in the Creede area tomorrow - the temp is supposed to be 17 degrees there tomorrow night - yikes! We made the right choice.
Yesterday afternoon we got a text from our daughter, who was in class at college - her classroom and their building on campus had just been placed in lockdown do to a potential security issue taking place. There were many reports circulating, but the gist of it was that they thought there was a gunman who had threatened to start shooting students. Needles to say momma was not too happy. Getting accurate information was impossible, and some of the posts on even the local TV station's web page were all over the map, including one that said there had been a shooting in one of their classrooms. It seemed that our daughter's school had prepared them well and they remained mostly calm while the situation played out. A little while later we were told the suspect had been captured, and the doors were unlocked. Turns out there were actually TWO different security issues going on in the immediate area. It wasn't until after 9pm last night that our daughter made it safely back to her on-campus apartment. WOW, this sort of thing kind of puts the circus going on in washington into perspective - let them play their silly games, the real strength of our country is much closer to home...
10/04/13 The wind started blowing late last night, and my lovely bride remarked that it sounded like an ice storm going on! Nuts, millions of nuts, were flying around hitting stuff and making a lot of noise. Some parts of our road are nearly covered with them now. I've noted the multi-colors of the acorns recently, and now the ones coming off the trees are very large too. Persimmon trees seems to be loaded with really FAT fruit, just like the pawpaws. I guess that aspect of it comes from all the rain we had in August.
I took a stroll through the forest early this morning. Cool breezes, crickets, hoot owls, and blue jays came with me. It was delightful! This is only the second time I've ever known blue jays to be around the cabin - they always seem to be fussing about something, or perhaps it is just the way they sound.
Pam and I were over working next door yesterday when a burst of rainfall hit. There was a bird of some sort sitting on a nearby limb, and my goodness he immediately struck up quite a tune! We could not tell if he was mad at the rain, or thankful for it - I suspect he was a happy bird, as were we.
The weekend is almost upon us, and with it will come more rain we hope. Should be a wonderful time to get out and wander around outside - if you can't make it to wild places out of town, how about spending a bit of time in a neighborwood park - the air always seems a little fresher when you wander with the trees...HAPPY WEEKEND!
10/08/13 We had kind of a funny wildlife encounter yesterday while my lovely bride and I were moving some stuff from the cabin over to her new studio. Pam heard some weird hissing coming from the deep shadows under the deck. The noise got the attention of one of our cats too. I soon joined the group, and just had to laugh when we found out what, or who, was hissing. It was a hog-nosed snake! (aka, puff adder) We have seen several of them around the cabin this summer, and always enjoy them. They have got to be one of the most animated and entertaining snakes on the planet. Often they will rear their head up and flatten it out, trying to look like a cobra, waving back and forth like they are ready to strike (and sometimes they do). And if that doesn't scare you away, they will just roll over and play dead, letting you mess with them, even picking them up - but sometimes when you have them in your hand they will suddenly come back to life - now that is really funny when that happens!
Anyway, this guy would have no part of games, but rather stood his ground and just kept hissing at all of us. We got the cat away from him, and then we left him alone - he stayed put for quite a while and watched us as we walked nearby. Snakes are a valuable part of the ecosystem, and while we would rather the poisonous ones keep their distance, we love having king snakes, worm snakes, and especially puff adders around - they love mice!
Still not much color yet in our part of the world, and conditions are very dry - the rain we got the other day hardly settled the dust. But that is OK - the color will be stronger if it remains dry. We've had beautiful, clear nights, and SPECTACULAR early fall days this week. And the nuts continue to fall on our heads and roll underfoot. I need to gather up a bunch of acorns and take a group photo.
We are hoping to take delivery of our new BUFFALO RIVER BEAUTY picture books later today - we have to drive into Springdale with two cars and trailers to pick up four TONS of them! If they do arrive today, all pre-orders that have been placed will be shipped tomorrow (including the Holiday Special packages). We never know for sure about the delivery though, but I will let you know when we actually get them. I'm going to be one tired and sore puppy once I get them all unloaded into the warehouse...
10/09/13 We had another funny wildlife episode yesterday. My lovely bride had been mowing the lawn, stopped the mower, and called out to me. "I smell GOATS!" Well goodness, it was my turn to take a shower last week and I certainly did, so it could not have been me. We scoured the property for any sign of them, but none were to be found. Pam went back to mowing. A little while later, son of a gun, I heard one. BAAAAAAAA - there was a goat lounging in the gazebo in Mom's meadow down below the cabin. He was one of the same pair of wild goats that had been here several months ago. As much as we really wanted them to trim up the yard a little bit, they were gone by the time we got back from town.
We did indeed head into town with a flotilla of vehicles and trailers to collect nearly 8,000 pounds of the new picture book. Took us about ten hours, and thankfully Pam's dad was back at the warehouse to help us unload them. I'm happy to report that all books are now safely here and ready to ship! Production time for this picture book was about five months. Next week we hope to have an online gallery available with all the pictures for you to browse through - many of those will be on display during our holiday open houses here in November and December as large canvas or metal prints.
I had a Cloudland Moment late last night just before beddy-by time. It was a cool, crisp, CLEAR night, and there were a zillion stars shining brightly above. Since the goat-smell comment had been made earlier, I decided to take another shower. The steam rose up through silhouetted dogwood and oak limbs above our outdoor shower. There was a crescent moon and Venus dipping low on the western horizon. It is always a giant relief when a major book project like this one is completed, and I was one tired and sore but very happy camper. Anyway, right in the middle of the beautiful scene, a lone coyote cried out, and his music echoed throughout the wilderness, bouncing off the canyon wall for miles. I'm sure he had been toiling all day as well (to put food on the table, just like I had been trying to do). I was thrilled to be able to howl at the moon right along with him. Good day to you my friend!
EVENING UPDATE. I spent a bit of time on my back this noon - to get a view looking up through a sumac bush. I was laying on a sticker bush, and the sun was in my eyes - it was not fun! But very rich color, below, and up above too! There is not a lot of color yet in the High Ozarks, but there is some very brilliant color.
I also spent a bit of time collecting acorns. They just keep falling and falling and piling up everywhere. If you get down on your hands and knees and crawl around and look closely, you will often see tiny holes in acorns. And if you are lucky, you will see what made that hole. Each acorn contains a single little worm inside, and after the nut has hit the ground, the worm will burrow out, leaving the little hole behind. You have to look close at the acorns on the ground - perhaps pick one or two or three up and examine them - but that is what nature is all about - observation, discovery, and JOY! (by the way, I don't think there are any worm holes in this photo - you need to get out and find the real thing)
10/10/13 Here is an old, twisted cedar with a great bluff-top view of sunrise.
10/12/13 And so it begins. I've been up since about 2:30 this morning - lots and lots of nuts crashing down on the tin roof. The air was dry and clear and void of any other noise, the sound carried really well. And then all of a sudden the darn sky lit up - CRASH, BOOM, BANG!!! It was not a giant nut, but rather a bolt of lightning. My first reaction is always to run for the computers to shut them all down and turn them off, and so I was out the front door headed for the gallery. I grabbed a flashlight since the moon had already gone down, but goodness I did not need it - there was so much lightning that I could easily see my way over there and back.
I sat on the back deck sipping a cup of java and watched the light show - it got pretty intense, and LOUD. BUT. But no rain. Looking at the weather radar, there was a bright green and yellow front moving quickly towards us, and a few minutes later that dry air filled with rainfall, and the landscape got a well-deserved drink.
We've had rain and thunder and more lightning for the past 30 minutes. And now it is just about to draw silent and dark and calm once again. It was a narrow front that race through and dropped just enough moisture to wet the ground and added a little boost of color saturation to the landscape. It is 5am now, and my first photo workshop of the season begins in an hour and a half - and the student's photos will look so much better with a wet landscape - YIPPIE COYOTE!
This is the first of six workshops I'm doing over the next two weeks. Six, in two weeks - YIKES! We'll have 48 students, and it is going to be so exciting to not only get to see all the wonderful and amazing images they will produce, but also get to see all the light bulbs that will go off inside their creative minds. With an art form like nature photography - especially in the digital age - the best teacher really is Momma Nature, and the best way to learn and grow artistically is to get out there and soak it up - sometimes, literally! And so it begins...
10/14/13 It was so bright late last night that I didn't even need a light to take my shower outdoors. Not only was the 3/4 moon standing tall and bright, but also Venus was beaming quite a bit of light - really, another planet shining down on earth? Well, at least it seemed that way.
Which brings up a thought I had a while ago. I suspect that someday there will indeed be Martians not only visiting, but also living on earth. Here's how. We will eventually send astronauts to Mars, and they will establish a colony there (I'm talking about during some century in the future). At some point human babies will be born on Mars. Since they will have been born there, won't they be citizens of Mars - i.e. Martians? Then surely some of them will fly back to earth - and we will have Martians living here!
OK, back to normal programming. We had two terrific photo workshops this weekend! During our first one we had to spend a bit of time just standing around waiting out a pretty good downpour - you really can't take pictures during a downpour - not because your camera equipment might get wet - but rather because those big old raindrops would blur the photo. We did not have a bluff to stand under, so we mostly just stood around and watched it rain, knowing that if the weather broke over our heads, the scene we were standing next to would turn into a magical paradise once the rains quit. And indeed it did! Everyone was soaked to the bone, but the photos the students got were well worth the wait.
We had dry conditions during the second workshop, but with the early sun breaking in and out of clouds, small clouds being born right before our very eyes, and just a really neat scene in front of us, everyone captured a unique and beautiful photo of their own that we eventually processed and printed for them to take home and hang on the wall.
Both workshops were filled with energetic and talented photographers that I think had a grand time and produced some fine work. Many of them had never used their cameras on anything but full "auto" mode, and really did not realize what the camera was doing - only that they were not happy with the results they had been getting. What we do in our workshops is have them put everything on manual and get back to the most basic fundamentals of not only the camera, but also photography in general. Keep it simple and remove all the buttons and whistles of the equipment as obstacles, so that the artist can concentrate on creating something they really like - that is what this type of photography should be about. And while the students had cameras that cost anywhere from a couple hundred bucks up to a couple thousand, everyone shot images of amazing quality that could have easily been magazine covers - we have long since zoomed past needing fancy and expensive equipment to make good pictures.
My lovely bride kept everyone filled with BBQ lunch, and HOMEMADE Cloudland oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies - but for some reason, the cookie plate always ended up on my desk EMPTY! Hum...(*a student delivered a box of amazing Pecan Pie Muffins from The Overlook B&B they had stayed at the night before - located just south of Jasper, 870-688-5436 - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! thanks Sandra & Clint...)
Two workshops down, four more to go this month! FYI, we have one space available in our upcoming weekend workshop on October 24-27 - let us know ASAP if you would like to attend - it will be a lot of fun!
It is cool here this morning, and I can see a bit of color creeping into the eastern horizon. Feels like something is changing in the air, and I guess we have some more rain on the way. It will take a ton of rainfall to get waterfalls running - which I don't expect to happen. But it will be nice to get the creeks flowing a little more, although as dry as the landscape is right now I suspect the moisture will soak up quickly. But I LOVE still pools in the fall, especially when there are colorful trees hanging over them - which equals great REFLECTIONS!
Overall the beginning of fall color is late, but I think the color will come on strong and quick and we will have a really terrific color season. I base that on what I'm seeing right now in some of the maple trees - oh my goodness how our maple trees in the High Ozarks put on such a beautiful show! Seems like there are more and more of them every year, and the smiles they produce reach out to visitors far and wide.
'Tis Monday, and I hope you have a terrific week ahead! (Benny S. - if you are reading, we've been seeing two good bucks in your front yard!)
10/17/13 This morning is the first time in a while that the music of the Buffalo River drifting up through the darkness from far below is overpowering all other sounds in the wilderness - it is GREAT to hear her singing once again! Recent rains have put some much-needed moisture into landscape, although the main Buffalo River downstream in the Ponca remains pretty low - typical for this time of the year. It is also rather chilly - edging down towards the thirty-somethings. And I can see baby clouds being born and rising up out of those beautiful waters. We're still a couple of hours before sunrise, but it looks to be a wonderful day here in the High Ozarks.
I got to go on a genuine ramble through the woods the other day - first one of those I'd done in a while. A ramble is when I head out with no particular destination or route in mind, mostly just wandering through the open forest wherever the contours or my interests seem to take me. It had been raining, and everything was soaked to the bone. I had my heavy camera bag strapped on, and my largest tripod slung over my shoulder. My boots sunk deep into the soft earth, and since everything was wet, I was very quiet, and could easily move through the forest without making a sound. I used to spend hours upon hours back in my youth trying to slip through the woods unnoticed - you tend to see a lot more wildlife that way - at least that was always my plan. I remember one time sneaking right on up upon a sleeping doe deer - wow, talk about an adrenaline rush for both of us!
There was a great deal of color in one section of forest that I passed through - oddly enough, it was right next to a pine forest. Lots and lots of young blackgum trees, each one beaming brilliant leaves of BRIGHT red. And a lot of young maple trees that were quite orange. At one point I stopped and stood and just looked all around - there was enough color everywhere to fill my visual senses and lift my spirit - GREAT FALL COLOR was on the way!
I moved on across a bench so level that if I placed a bowling ball down it would not have moved in any direction. Truly flat bits of land like this are tough to come by around here. It was easy rambling, just going from tree to tree, and my mind melted right on into the landscape. And then I came to the edge - not of the hillside, but rather of the color line - I looked up and everything was GREEN! Not a red or orange leaf in sight! Time to turn and head left, where I eventually wandered back into the color, through the big pines trees, and headed back towards home.
Several times I passed over areas where the ground was nearly covered with acorns - good grief there have been a lot of them falling this past couple of weeks! I can honestly say that I've never seen such a huge mast crop as we've had so far this fall. I'll bet I could have sat down and gathered an entire bucket full without every having to scoot my rump from one spot to the next. My lovely bride noticed something the other day - many of the acorns don't have tiny holes in them. The holes are made when the tiny worm that lives inside the nut burrows out and escapes. Either the worms are kind of lazy this year and taking their sweet time making their exit, or there are no worms for some reason. Squirrels love those little worms, so I hope they are just being lazy. Hey little worm, come out, come out wherever you are!
The wilderness is quite gentle right now, with soft edges, wonderful air, and rich colors. It allowed me my ramble without interruption - in fact as I steeped back onto our cabin deck I realized that I never even stopped a single time to take a picture. I saw thousands of beautiful scenes, but those were for my internal memory banks and not for electronic ones.
Fall color has begun, but we are still probably a week away from widespread color - if you had to pack a weekend, I would pick the last weekend in October. But whenever you come, two notes of caution - the highway through Boxley Valley may be crowded with parked cars, especially in the mornings and evenings, and especially on the weekends. Elk watching has become a mega attraction, and right now is getting into the peak of the action. There are new pulloffs along the highway, and legally if you pull over your tires must be completely off of the outside white line of the pavement. But the real warning is to drive slow while passing parked cars - in the excitement of the moment it is easy for folks - especially kids - or kids of all ages - excited at the elk they see - to run out across the road - or perhaps even an unconcerned elk or two may be about on the pavement - so when behind the wheel, WATCH THE ROAD in front of you!
The other note is about some of the trailheads. I know Hawksbill Crag will most likely be packed to the gills on the weekends, as well as other popular hiking trails. If you have it in you, plan your trip during the week and not on the weekend - you may have trouble finding a place to park sometimes otherwise! Our federal government has been on furlough this past couple of weeks, no reason why you should not take a day or two for yourself and explore and enjoy your lands at last. I'm thankful the national park and national forest service staff will not have to share the financial burden that was thrust upon them any longer - these folks were the LAST ones who wanted to lock the gates, and it will be great to have them back again!
OH, one other note - the muzzle-loader gun deer season will be going on starting on Saturday in some areas - so as you drive the roads and wander through our forests and parks, be mindful of hunters and don't get too concerned if you hear a gunshot. Fortantely hikers are not in season! Hunting is not allowed in state parks or in some areas of the Buffalo National River - but national forest lands are open to hunting
GOSH DARN, still one more note - we have a single spot open in each of our multi-day photo workshops next week. With the park back open and the color going to be so great during the week, these might be the best fall workshops ever. Here is our workshop info page.
10/21/13 Looks like a cool and crispy week ahead - textbook fall weather for the High Ozarks! We're in the middle of our nine-day workshop marathon right now, and so far things have gone really well. Four workshops down, two long ones to go the next seven days. One highlight of the weekend workshops happened early Saturday morning. It was kind of chilly, and the sun had already risen as we spent a good bit of time getting everyone's cameras all set up to photograph the majestic Roark Bluff rising out of the river. Sunshine had not hit the creek yet when we arrived at our prime shooting location, but someone else was already there. As we walked up to the edge of the Buffalo River, a big buck deer jumped into the water and swam across the pool right in front of us - kind of a "Welcome to the Buffalo River" sort of event! We didn't get any pictures of him. None of us realized that the old buck was hiding in the trees nearby as the students shot tons of great images of the big bluff and reflections - a half hour later he jumped back into the pool and swam back across - again, right in front of us! So nice of the local wildlife to be so helpful!
There was a magic moment at the river early yesterday morning as well. It was much colder, and the creek was blanketed with dense fog that was swirling around. The big bluff, fall color, and reflections in the river all combined to make one of those scenes that dreams are made of. And something happened that was pretty rare - the fog and beautiful light lasted for an hour! Later in the day when we were making prints of everyone's work, it was amazing how there were so many different views of the same scene by the different photographers - no two alike - each one a work of art. Things like that happen on the Buffalo River, and especially early in the morning - the best time of the day!
On a side note, at some point during the weekend there was an unknown mystery woman seen lurking around the cabin. Humm...
The rest of our week will be filled with more nature photography students as we explore many different locations in the High Ozarks, searching out beautiful light, reflections, brilliant sunshine, and FOOD! We have students coming from several states, plus I'll have three assistants helping keep me in line. And of course my lovely bride is getting all of the food and supplies gathered for everyone, but she also has to keep our business operations up and running all week - good luck honey! I have no clue how I ever did any of this without her....
10/24/13 Just a quick update while I'm home for an hour in between workshop groups today. We just completed an amazing photo workshop with a great group of folks who all went home with memory cards filled with spectacular images - oh my goodness! We shot everything from wild orchids to sunrises to big bull elk to blazing fall color. One highlight of the workshop was standing in the middle of the Buffalo River for nearly an hour - waiting on the wind to stop. When the breezes finally faded, everyone was treated to one of the most spectacular color displays I've seen in a long time - the sort that makes you hold your breath until you shoot 100 pictures just to make sure it was real! We worked long into the night last night to make beautiful prints, and then got up well before down once again this morning to shoot ever more scenes.
We have another workshop group arriving in a couple of hours, which will be our last workshop for 2013. We plan to cover a lot of ground in the next four days, eat another ton of delicious food, and not get too much sleep!
ONLINE GALLERY NOTE. Unfortunately the web host for our online gallery web pages switched over to new servers and they no longer support the software that was used to build those online galleries. The guy we hired to build those galleries decided awhile ago to abandon his customers and is no longer supporting us. Oh well. When I get back into the office next week I will get to work on trying to find a solution to this issue. In the meantime, our online stores here are always working just fine, and you can order all of our publications and new Print Of The Week just like normal. *This is one reason why we try to do as much of our own work as possible - it is tough to depend on others because they will often let you down!
10/28/13 Still a couple of hours before sunrise here this morning, and already I can tell it will be another wonderful fall day in the High Ozarks - it just FEELS terrific outside right now! I hope everyone has had the chance to get out and wander around and be part of it all. There has been some blazing color scattered across the landscape - in fact some of it the best I've ever seen - but there is also still lots more to come with many hillsides being green or mixed. If you have not been out yet, I hope you plan a trip soon - in fact lots of Arkansas will be peaking in the next couple of weeks as the annual fall color display spreads across the state.
I got home yesterday afternoon from nine straight days of teaching photo workshops. Normally after I unpack everything I sit down on the couch and don't move for days. But I don't have that luxury right now, and worked long into the night last night - and I still have not been able to unpack everything. The past couple of weeks of frantic work around here are just the beginning. Our first program of the season happens in less than a week, and I have not even started to work on the slide program yet - we'll have 20 shows during the next six weeks, plus four open houses at our gallery here at Cloudland - YIKES!
One of the most difficult parts of this week will be watching the peak of that great fall color happen all around us, and not be able to do anything about it - I'll be in the office nearly all the time working. I know, dig out the violin, and have a pity party for me! I would always rather be out in the woods than sitting at the computer, but 95% of my job is NOT being outside taking pictures, but rather trying to deal with the business side of things. 'Tis the nature of the beast.
We had many great moments during our workshops this past week, and so many wonderful students who came from far and wide to learn and also to share their knowledge. Our days generally ran from before first light until long into the night, scrambling during the day to photograph nature and to process images in the classroom. I attended seven workshops myself during the past year, and only one of them ever spent more than six hours in any single day actually teaching or learning. My workshops are a lot different, and I try and "work students like borrowed mules" while I have them, and if the results are any indication, I would say that philosophy works.
Oh my goodness, you should have seen how impressive the prints were from images the students took during the week! And one thing that really stood out and continues to amuse me when I read about things - THE EQUIPMENT DOES NOT MATTER!!! I read an online post just yesterday that started out with something like "I don't have the best dslr camera so this picture is not very good" - the simple fact is that you can take an amazing picture no matter what camera you use - it is really more up to the operator and technique much more so than any equipment. Case in point. We had several students in our workshops this past week who were using what amounted to point and shoot cameras - in some cases many years old and only six or eight megapixels in size. Yet the prints they made could easily have been on the cover of any nature book or magazine, or billboards, or printed to wall size. We are in an age where the photographer matters much more so than the equipment - and guess what, it is actually pretty easy to learn the basic skills needed to produce outstanding work, which is exactly what we teach during out workshops - the EASY way to greatness!
I want to relate a couple of workshop moments and then I have to get to work on the slide program. Our group had been wading along the Buffalo River for a while searching for great images until we came upon what will probably become an iconic scene of the Buffalo River. The only problem was that the wind was blowing, which kept a reflection from happening on the water surface - a major part of the scene. So we waited, and waited and waited. I kept telling the group that this scene was worth waiting for, and that the wind would eventually stop. Students had waded out into the middle of the river, and bless their hearts, they stood there and waited. It was nearly AN HOUR later that the breezes finally died down - then the MAGIC happened! We had about ten minutes of incredible light and beauty, and I bet they took more than 1,000 photos. WOW, it was just amazing!
Sometimes the difference between a snapshot and a work of art is just being there at the right time.
One of the more advanced students in another workshop was trying to push the limits of image quality in a scene that we had visited - shooting outside the box sometimes is a great avenue to creating a unique and creative image - but is also often required in order to get the camera to record the same scene that our eyes see (cameras DO NOT see or record the same data that human brains do!). Anyway, it was very late at night when we were making his print, and the first print did not meet my high quality standards, so I sent him back to the original RAW file he created to see if he could do better. He is a very talented photographer, and his prints reflect that, but he had picked a very difficult scene to photograph. During the night I dreamed about this photographer, and in the dream I was also pushing him to craft a piece of wood he was working on so that it was the very best piece of wood on the planet. I did indeed work him like a borrowed mule. In the end his piece of wood was a beautiful work of art - and so was the print he ended up with in the workshop! WAY TO GO Emil!
Oops, sorry, another workshop story. One of our students was a young lady with a very small, older camera. After looking at the first group of photos she had taken she seemed quite disappointed. I sat down at her computer and asked her to show me a scene that she thought should be great, and we opened that file to have a look. About 30 seconds later a broad smile came across her face and I could see a great deal of excitement begin to build up within her - that picture turned out to be pretty darn amazing after all. She gained confidence in not only her little old camera, but also in herself - that she did indeed have interesting things to see and photograph and share with the world. I kept an eye on her for the next few days as we all wondered around taking pictures, and it was amazing how many things she found to take pictures of - so many of them the rest of us walked right on past without noticing. In the end her print might have been the most stunning of all - and her camera was just a small old point and shoot - go figure.
Really great photographs are made by a person, and not by a camera.
Daylight is creeping into the landscape here at Cloudland, and a new week is about to dawn. It will be a full week here, and I hope yours is full of hope and fun and family and the great outdoors!
One down note about the week. Once again I missed my lovely bride's birthday - seems like we always have a workshop going on. I did get to see her briefly during her special day when I brought our group out to the gallery. The only thing she requested was a slice of left-over pizza for her birthday dinner - and I FORGOT it - SORRY HONEY!!! She had to stay at the cabin during the week to keep up with all her normal business chores - you can imagine that things get pretty busy this time of year. She also had to make several trips to town to shop for and restock our workshop groups. And one morning I sent her a frantic e-mail at 4am - that I needed another tripod to loan out to a workshop student. She was up early as always, hunted down the tripod over in the print room, and promptly delivered it to us by 9am - WOW, how could a guy ask for a better business partner! And all she got was a slice of left-over pizza for her birthday. I WILL make it up to ya someday honey!!!
10/31/13 We have light rain, dense fog, and heavy winds early this morning before daylight. We did not get much rain overnight - in fact we've not had much rain at all this week. It appears that much of the High Ozarks are in full-on peak color mode right now, and it is kind of blinding out here. As one of my workshop students likes to say - IT'S ALL GOOD! I spent yesterday on the road and in Little Rock and got to drive through a lot of great color, but was not able to take a single picture. I had to put blinders on and try to ignore all that brilliant color everywhere since I could not take the time to stop and take any pictures - very frustrating for a nature photographer.
We've been getting quite a few requests from folks who want to know what the colors are like and where to go take pictures of waterfalls. The best answer I can give is to get out and enjoy and not worry about finding a specific location - TONS OF COLOR, but not much in the way of waterfalls, at least in our part of the High Ozarks. If we get any additional rain that might change of course, but those chances are fading away. I'm also not sure what the storms did to knock leaves off trees, but I bet there is still plenty of color left today. It should be a classic weekend around here, although I probably would avoid the Hawksbill Crag and other popular areas as they will be overrun with people looking for the same things you are looking for.
I made a short trip out on Monday morning to take a few pictures, and while doing so I heard what had to have been one of the funniest questions I've ever been asked. I had been at Hawksbill Crag for a couple of hours watching fog and rain move through and clear out and move in again, with some nice color all around. My large camera system had a glitch and so I was unable to use it, but I did bring along a backup camera and was able to shoot with it. I never saw another soul the first two hours, and then a young fella from Texas arrived. He had a nice camera system and tripod and I moved my equipment out of the way to clear the view in case he wanted to shoot from that view. While he was setting up he asked about waterfalls, and where he could go to get the best shots once all the rain moved through. After I told him we might not actually get enough rain for waterfalls, or if we did get floods the waterfalls might be muddy the first day, he got a puzzled look on his face. Remember, we were standing and looking at what is perhaps one of the most amazing natural wonders in this part of the United States - and the view was indeed just published by Backpacker Magazine as the best view in Arkansas. And it was blazing away with great fall color and beautiful light. And he asked me "So what is there to take pictures of around here if the waterfalls aren't running?"
I have a funny wildlife story from the road yesterday to share. As Lucy and I were headed towards Little Rock yesterday, a large buck appeared and darted across the dirt road in front of us - I hit the brakes and avoided a collision. As he sprinted across to the other side of the road and jumped into the woods, he hit a large oak tree square on - he rammed it with his head! That knocked him to the ground, and then he immediately twisted around, got up on his feet, and ran back across the road again right in front of us. It was very funny! Poor guy - see what you girls do to us boys - you just make us crazy sometimes!
OK my theme song for the next 7 weeks - I'm late, I'm late, for an important date (with fog and colorful trees today). No time to say hello, goodbye! (have some pumpkin pie) I'm late, I'm late, I'm late! (And have to get this posted and out the door to try and find a picture to take!) HAPPY HALLOWEEN!
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