CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - October 2016
Cloudland Cabin Cam, October 30 - cool and beezy
Journal updated October 29 - DONE with the new slide show!!!
*NEW - see an online gallery of all the images from the Arkansas In My Own Backyard picture book here.
Just a note that our beloved Cloudland is still FOR SALE - see info here.
Print Of The Week SALE - Hawksbill Crag in the mist
10/01/16 October for me signals the beginning of fall, and being in Colorado kind of drives the point home with a BANG! Trees continue to blaze at full blast in just about every direction - overwhelming at times.
Our special friends, Ray and Susan, arrived yesterday for a short visit and we felt it was our obligation (yea, right!) to get them up early today and head out for a fall color tour of the area. As we drove up into the mountains the very first aspen we saw was at 100% full blazing color. Thousands of them followed, and at times we seemed just helpless - not knowing if we should go forward, backward, creep up the road, or just stop and get out and run into the forest! We ended up doing a lot of all of the above. Ray is a pro photographer, and it didn't take long for both of us to fill memory cards. The ladies started off being puppy wranglers, but ended up with cameras in hand and spending a great deal of time wandering in the forest just like their photographer husbands (and I do think they got some better pictures than we did too!).
A couple of times we stopped and spend time totally immersed in the forest - groves of aspens with thousands of trees, all in peak fall color. There was little or no underbrush in these groves, and so it was easy to simply wander around wherever you wanted to. It was a mix of brilliant sunshine an soft glowing light when clouds drifted in front of the sun.
I spent a good bit of time in one forest area down on my hands and knees - not only was the forest floor carped with freshly-fallen and colorful aspen leaves, but the leaves were still holding onto raindrops from a morning rain shower. I LOVE macro leaf shots, but there were SO many, all around, everywhere! I shot pictures of probably 30-35 different individual leaves, in a quick review tonight of them I quickly picked out a couple to process and show you. One of them that I found later in the day after all the moisture had dried up - a brilliant orange leaf with green spots - was selected as our new Print Of The Week. This one had landed on top of a small stump and was surrounded by evergreen sprouts. It was one of those scenes that just screamed out at me as I passed nearby - COME TAKE MY PICTURE!!! And so I did.
We were all so engrossed in the amazing world we were traveling through that we didn't realize lunchtime had come and gone, and it was mid-afternoon before we made it back to camp for lunch. One highlight after lunch was a bubble-blowing session with Riley, Ray and Susan's "new" puppy (he weights 60 pounds and quite tall and long). We all gathered in the middle of our meadow below the campsite, and Susan waved a bubble wand that sent dozens of giant bubbles floating across the meadow. Riley took off and tried to capture each and every one - never seen a dog do this before, but it was quite a scene! Neither Wilson or Mia understood what was going on, but they got to run free and romp and play (and hunt cow pies) and had a great time too.
Tomorrow we plan to get out and visit more blazing hillsides and quiet forests - and stop at a local restaurant to double-check to see if the best cheeseburger on the planet is still the best - only one way to tell about that...
10/03/16 LEAF-FALL. I first used this term back in the early days of Cloudland, as I lay exhausted on the forest floor after a 30-hour marathon trip driving down to Houston and back to give a slide program for the Sierra Club there. I ran out into the forest and collapsed from exhaustion. At come point a while later, I woke up to brilliant sunshine and falling leaves - LEAF-FALL was happening! As I struggled to wake up, there was movement all around me, but no sound. COLORFUL movement. It was the moment in time when for whatever reason the trees started to release their leaves, one at a time, then in pairs, dozens, and eventually hundreds and even thousands of them would come floating towards the ground. I was being covered up with falling leaves! Most of these were maple leaves - brilliant reds, yellows, and golds. The leaves were soft to the touch, and richly saturated with color.
We hiked through several moments of leaf-fall here in Colorado yesterday, as entire groves of aspen trees began to turn loose of their bright yellow and orange leaves, carpeting the forest floor. Sometimes as we stood there in silence just watching, the wind would kick up and produce 100 times as many leave, all blowing across the scene in the same direction. I had worried about walking down a jeep trail we'd been trying to photograph - not wanting to mess up the carpet of leaves. Then one of those wind gusts would come up and deposit hundreds more leaves in just a few seconds - erasing any sign that I'd ever passed through. It was a magical fairyland that we were in, moments that certainly were being repeated all over Colorado.
We are headed back to our beloved Cloudland home in Arkansas today - I hear colors are beginning to nudge in the right direction already. I'm hopeful we'll get to experience many more leaf-falls in the weeks to come, and perhaps even reach out and catch a falling maple leaf or two There isn't any way to predict when or where this will happen - you just have to spend as much time as possible outside in the forest when colors are peaking - and cross your fingers that the trees around you decide it is time to release their little treasures and shower you with love!
EVENING UPDATE We had an incredible double rainbow arching over our campsite early this morning - a nice gesture from above as we were getting ready to pack up and head back to Arkansas. We really hated to leave so much beauty - while many trees have lost their leaves, there are still millions of aspens and cottonwoods in perfect peak fall color. Perhaps there is only so much COLOR one brain can absorb at a time. (Arkansas will be next!)
It took us about three hours to break camp - take down the gazebo that has been our living room and TV room and dining area and all-around gathering place since July. We left the metal frame up - hoping it would withstand piles of snow and harsh winter weather. Pam headed out first driving the big "bookmobile" van - she almost immediately reported HEAVY crosswinds. A sign of things to come.
The wind was blowing so hard that I could hardly force the door open to refuel. Big trucks were all going slow speeds with warning lights flashing. I often had to drive the BIG bookmobile at reduced speeds of less than 50mph, while holding on for dear life! At one point I had a strong tailwind, and drove for about ten minutes without touching the gas pedal - nor was I in cruise control. The wind pushed me along at 55-60 mph across level ground! (I weight about 10,000 pounds)
We had a couple of hours of calm winds across the northeast corner of New Mexico, but very heavy winds began once again as darkness found us headed across the Oklahoma panhandle. We are hunkered down tonight in the city park in Guymon, Oklahoma - the camper van is rocking and shaking and windows and vent covers are flapping - it is going to be a long night. We'll have about nine more hours of driving tomorrow, then we will be home for good. Colorado was really great to us, but we are looking forward to the next nine months of work and travel across Arkansas!
10/06/16 Beautiful, soft light at dawn this morning. A cool breeze was blowing, and the air was so SWEET! 'Tis so great to be back home at Cloudland in Arkansas. There is no finer season than October here as tinges of yellow and gold creep into the landscape, and the wilderness seems at ease and at peace. It's a slower pace of life somehow, although that is mostly just the calm before the storm. We're here until at least July, and hope you'll follow along a little bit too.
During our marathon 18-hour drive home this week from Colorado, my lovely bride got some great news - she sold her very first pastel painting - YIPPIE, COYOTE, YAHOO!!! She has more raw talent in her pinky than I do in all of me, and others are beginning to discover and recognize her unique artistic vision. You will be seeing a lot more of her work in the months and years to come. The only problem is - I hope you guys don't keep her too busy - she still runs all of our businesses, and I/they would collapse without her!!!
We are trying to get unpacked and caught up and all of our new fall projects on the move. Our new picture book and 2017 calendars will be arriving ANY DAY now - you will know it first here.
FALL COLOR UPDATE. The overall landscape here in the Buffalo River Headwaters region around our cabin has already begun to show some slight shift in color hue - towards orange and yellow. Some maple trees are red around the edges already. Virginia creeper, poison ivy, sassafras, and sumac are getting brilliant RED, as are some black gum trees. Lots of sunshine and cool night temps should bring the color right on along in the next two weeks.
Night before last we had FOUR major waves of heavy thunderstorms and pouring rain! So loud they woke us up. The landscape must have been very dry as it sucked everything up like a sponge and the creeks and rivers below remain bone dry. I'm sure the forest was grateful for the drink though. Cave Mountain Road had just been graded and all the places where they've dumped pure clay became nearly impassable for a time yesterday morning, but dried out well during the day. May be the last rainfall for a while.
WORKSHOP SPACES OPEN. Just a note that we still have a couple of spots available in our upcoming One-Day Fall Color Photo Workshops - these are especially suited for novice shooters so you don't need to be an expert to join us! These will be our last workshops until April next year.
10/08/16 A textbook early fall morning in the Ozarks!40 degrees with crystalline blue skies and brilliant sunshine. Cool enough that a flannel shirt and jeans fell just right.
A couple of fall-related items my lovely bride and I noticed while out hiking yesterday. First, deer have new fur coats! Their lush brown fur of spring and summer has made a quick transformation to dull and dark gray - designed by Momma Nature to soak up more heat during the cool months ahead.
And secondly, even though we've not even been close to the first frost yet, persimmons have already started to shrivel up and go SPLAT on the ground! They look to be about 90 years old (oops, I probably should lean away from old jokes since I'm closer to 90 now than I used to be!). We did not sample the sweet meat of the fruit, nor split open any seeds to see if we were gonna have snow or ice this winter - but it was great to see the fruit lining our path.
Dray deer coats and falling persimmons mean fall is upon us here in the wilderness of the Arkansas Ozarks. And I swear some vistas here had noticeable color changes during the day yesterday - that can happen just because the sun has moved across the sky, but could also have been due to actual advance in color. Hummm, WHEN will the color peak in the Ozarks? No way to predict - but I suspect we will see a lot of great color here in the next couple of weeks.
BOOKS AND CALENDARS ARE ALMOST HERE! Actually they are all sitting in a truck terminal in Ft. Smith. We'll go pick them up on Monday, so shipping of all orders for the new products will happen on Tuesday - order today and yours will go out in the first batch! I have changed the status from "preorder" to "now shipping." FREE SHIPPING ON ALL ORDERS. TOO!
PAM'S PASTELS IN BRANSON UPDATE. This weekend will be the last days you can go by the Chateau On The Lake grill in Branson to view Pam's pastels on display there - they will come down on Monday. One of her favorites now lives in a lawyer's office in Chicago, so there are only four left on display. Some of these (and more) will be on display at our Holiday Open Houses at Cloudland in November and December too.
10/10/16 A spectacular dawn today!
10/11/16 All our new products are in stock and shipping - YIPPIE!
10/16/16 It is BRIGHT outside at 4am today - the full "Hunters" moon seems to be lighting up the wilderness landscape more so than ever! There is a brisk breeze, and the moon shadows are dancing in rhythm with the swaying trees.
We've had a busy week filled with noted events both public and private, some good, others not so good. Yesterday I let our photography workshop group sleep an extra hour and it was almost daylight when we gathered along the banks of the Buffalo River (we normally meet at least an hour before, but with heavy cloud cover I decided we'd have more great light than usual so there was no hurry). The ever-changing light, bluffs, and river ripples did not disappoint, and everyone in the class shot and took home an AMAZING color print of their work! Oops, I take that back - one student opted to convert his photo into black and white, and we all got to see some of the options available to digital photographers these days and how we could interpret the scene as Ansel Adams would have done it. (It is possible to convert any color photo into an unlimited number of different types of black and white images - some of them quite remarkable!). One problem we had was that my lovely bride made too many of her famous Homemade Cloudland oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, which she delivered to the group fresh and hot out of the oven. The issue was that I kept on eating them right up until my bed time - they were delicious!!!
Friday morning I decided to make a quick trip down to the annual COLORFEST event at the Elk Center in Ponca to set up a table to showcase our newest publications that we just got this past week - I've been to that event many times in the past as a visitor, but never was part of it. I was able to set up in a shady spot out of the way, which meant I could gaze at all the great artists there and watch them work. SO MANY great artists we have in Arkansas! It was great to see many folks we knew, and also meet many more from other states, and even a couple from other countries. It was quite a different pace that I'm used to at public events where everything is such a rush at the beginning or end of a slide program.
Speaking of slide programs, our brand new show season will kick off on November 11th at Hot Springs Village and run through almost Christmas. We don't have our schedule complete yet, but you can see what we do have here. All shows are FREE and open to the public, and we always have all our publications available for sale before and after the event at SPECIAL SALE PRICES. One note - we do not have a program scheduled for the Lyric in Harrison this year - they charged us $500 last year to give the program, and we simply can't afford to do that again (it's the only time we've ever had to pay to give a public program, ever, and we've done more than 1,200 of them in the past 30 years).
Mia had a very rough week. At first we thought she had been bitten by a snake - the entire left side of her head swelled up rock-solid hard, almost completely closing one eye. While she did not seem to be in a great deal of pain, she looked very much like Rocky near the end of the big boxing match in the original movie. She spent the night next to us in bed, and we were SO worried about her. Medication did not seem to help, so Pam got her into the vet first thing the next morning. They decided it was some sort of blunt trauma - and probably a concussion - although there were no apparent wounds. The odd thing was that Mia did not act like there was anything wrong (other than her personality was a bit subdued). They started her on more serious medication, and we kept a very close eye on her and tried our best to keep her from making her usual rocket flights out through the forest. The medicine worked quickly, and by the second night the swelling had greatly reduced. It's been four days now and she is getting a lot better.
We continue to have setbacks with our new book warehouse and gallery building project over near Mt. Sherman. We will have our first Holiday Open House on Saturday, November 25th - not sure where it will be, but I'll keep ya posted.
I had one rather damp Cloudland moment the other day. Momma always said to "take a raincoat" with me when I headed out during storms, and for once I actually listened! I grabbed a jacket for a quick jaunt up to the warehouse building on the hill here, and before I'd taken even 100 steps, the sky opened up and it began to pour - THANKS mom! I could have fled back to the cabin, but I had to get things done, so just put the jacket on and leaned into the storm. As sometimes happens with me I decided to bypass WORK and continued right on up and over the hill, and wound up wandering through the forest in the pouring rain for 30 minutes. It was WONDERFUL! And then after I had turned around and began to work my way back towards Cloudland, the forest ahead began to lighten up, and I swore there was a rainbow developing somewhere - but the forest was so thick I could never have been able to see one. The light drew me closer and closer, and the feeling of COLOR got more intense. I was led to the outside edge of a steep dropoff, and son of a gun, there it was - there was an opening in the forest and in it was a multi-colored tree standing tall, reaching for the sky, and simply GLOWING! It was one of the more intense moments I'd ever spent in the wilderness, and that tree seemed to radiate all the joy and happiness of the entire wilderness. It gave my spirits a much-needed lift. Whenever you are feeling like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, I highly recommend a trip into the forest - during stormy weather or clear skies - and hopefully you will encounter a glowing tree too! I suspect there will be millions of them in Arkansas this next couple of weeks - get out and ENJOY!
10/17/16 A couple of quick comments from our second photo workshop of the weekend yesterday. First, while we had high winds up at our Cloudland cabin, the air was completely STILL down on the Buffalo River during our workshop shoot. This produced some stunning reflections of the soaring Roark Bluff on the river - I could only describe them as "crystalline" reflections - WOW! And secondly, looking back at the people we've met that come to our photo workshops, they always seem to be so happy, upbeat, and POSITIVE about life - the sort of folks you like to spend time with. I don't know if this is the result of being in the great outdoors, having a camera in hand, workshops attracting a certain type of person, or a combination of all. Whatever it is, it's always an honor and a great pleasure for us to be able to meet and work with each and every one of our workshop students - so a great big THANK YOU for attending! And oh by the way, the work they produce is AMAZING!!! (*On second thought, 'tis possible that my lovely bride's fresh baked cookies could be the source of all the happy people!)
10/22/16 It's 3 this morning and I'm up with the pups starting to get ready for the last photo workshop of 2016. The sky above is filled with brilliant stars, and a pretty bright moon, even though it is only about half. Our cabin is designed to let in winter sunshine and moonlight as they both move across the sky and on the floor.
Mia seems to have fully recovered from her accident, and is in full-out bur-collecting mode. We spend a great deal of time de-burring them each day. One of these years we will equip them with onesies/oneseys (I have no idea how to spell this, but my bride says it is a common garment for toddlers) - folks have recommended them for dogs during bur season - but so far we have resisted dressing them up in any sort of clothing though.
There seems to be more bear activity than usual, both here and at our new property. Neighbor Kennie has photographs of a very large bear near the gallery here at Cloudland, and last week we discovered a HUGE pile of bear scat on TOP of one of our trailers next to the tractor shed. It seems the bear squatted on the ground at the end of the trailer and was tall enough so that his scat landed on the trailer, nearly two feet off the ground! (it spilled over the edge) Last night Mia jumped up and ran outside and we think chased a bear away multiple times. Wilson kept his post at the foot of our bed in the loft to protect us just in case Mia's defense did not hold up. (She did a great job, so he was not needed.)
At our new and as-yet unnamed property, our neighbor there (also named Kenny, though spelled differently), has been getting pictures of a large bear on his game camera that's set up a couple hundred yards from the new gallery building - this bear seems to always show up soon after a band of wild hogs in the 2-3am range almost every day. He has a picture of the bear standing straight up on his hind legs, and says it is a very large boy. I've not seen a bear yet this year, although Pam chased one a couple of times several months ago. Bears don't actually hibernate in Arkansas, but as we move on into the cooler months they will spend most of their time in slumber, becoming active on warmer days.
FALL COLOR UPDATE. There isn't too much to tell - colors have not bloomed yet in most places in our area. I think we had too much rain in August, and that has impacted both the timing and brilliance of the color. Many hillsides remain 50% green or more, although others are showing a yellow base with black gums looking good with deep reds. I've seen some really SPECTACULAR sassafras and persimmon trees - they have a special salmon color. The maples around Cloudland are turning yellow, with hints of red here and there. And some oaks are turning a nice red/orange, although many gave up already and just turned brown. It is still possible to have a spectacular POP of color in the next week, though some areas may be two weeks away, or not show much color this year at all. It just depends. The direction and quality of LIGHT and moisture content in the air play a big role too. I recommend driving into the sun to look for the best color - it's always looks best when backlit by sunshine. It will be crowded in the Buffalo River Headwaters area this weekend, but I suspect next weekend will have a lot more color.
There is a stretch of our driveway that is lined with persimmon trees - this year we've dubbed it "persimmon alley" because so many of them are dropping ripe fruit at the same time. And the aroma is just SO SWEET! Sometimes I close my eyes and move slowly through the alley. We've not even been close to freezing/frost temp here yet* this year, but the persimmons are doing their thing anyway, and we're seeing a lot of coyote scat that's loaded with seeds.
(*I just stepped outside to water the flowers and I must say my bare feet are telling me that I need to check the temp as it sure does feel like freezing!)
10/23/16 Quick update. It is a SPECTACULAR day outside this morning! We had a terrific photo workshop yesterday - it was probably the last workshop ever held at Cloudland. I've been doing them here for 19 years - almost 200 workshops! Hopefully our new gallery building and classroom will be complete and ready for workshops next spring. Everyone got an incredible color print of their work - continues to amaze me how good even novice shooters become during a workshop. The only real issue we had was the fact that my lovely bride made a mountain of her famous cookies (a double batch), and while the workshop group tried their best, I was still left with the task of consuming the remaining cookies - in fact I've already had three for breakfast! (They are oatmeal cookies, so are a healthy breakfast food, right?)
With workshop season ended I can now put the gallery and print room back to normal. Today will begin a marathon session to produce the new slide program. Pam has been busy selecting lots of great music for me to pick from - probably none of it you've ever heard of before. So I'm off this morning to be locked away in the print room until I'm done - and of course, I must take a bag of cookies along for nourishment. (Actually it will take me most of the week to produce the slide show, and I have a feeling that bag of cookies will not last that long....)
Most trees remain green around here, so I think there is still lots of great color to come in the next couple of weeks...
Wilson and my lovely bride - who has a birthday this week!
10/26/16 I just came in from a short hike in the dark, and Holy Moly there were thousands of Emerald Eyes out there in the forest, and they were all staring up at me! Tiny spiders seem to be peering from underneath every leaf. Nice to know I'm not alone. Such a beautiful night to be roaming around too, with a cool breeze and mild temps. The forest is taking on that "autumn" aroma from so many fallen leaves. We swish, swish, swish through them now, but by spring they will already have begun to transform into soil - a giant compost pile.
Last night about this time a large pack of coyotes started yippin' and yellin' and soon got all the neighborhood coyotes stirred up. The first and largest pack was directly across the Whitaker Creek Canyon from us to the south - probably bouncing along just beneath the bluff. Their music bounced off that bluff and right into our windows. The second pack was across the Buffalo River Canyon to the east - not as many pups but they had a better tonal range than the others. A third pack was farther away upstream and joined in just for the last few minutes of the concert. My lovely bride and I sat on the back deck an soaked in all in.
Also yesterday we had a large immature bald eagle buzz the cabin - he flew so close we could almost reach out and touch him! We usually only see adults here, but this one was about half-way there. He returned several times and played in the airspace above Mom's meadow.
A note for Harrison folks - we will have our new slide program in town on Friday night, December the 16th, 7pm at the Durand Center just off the square. They have a giant screen there and plenty of room. We'll be set up with all of our books, prints, and calendars ON SALE before, during, and after the program. See our full schedule of shows here.
And speaking of the new program, I just uploaded an online gallery all of the new photos from the new ARKANSAS IN MY OWN BACKYARD picture book - the new slide show will include all of these, plus several new timelapses. You can also order greeting cards, small prints, mouse pads, etc. of any picture from within the online gallery. Of course they will look even better up on the big screen at a show, so we hope you'll be able to attend one.
10/28/16 A quick picture book note. A long-time customer (who happens to make terrific candles!) was tryiing to fill out his colletion of our coffee-table picture books and was missing some (e-bay or amazon). That led me to dig up the list - so far we've published 17 picture books - here is the list:
Arkansas Portfolio: Twenty Years of Wilderness Photography (1994, out of print)
Wilderness Reflections: An Intimate Look at Wild Places in America (1996, out of print)
Buffalo River Wilderness (with watercolors by William McNamara, 1998, out of print)
Arkansas Spring: Dogwoods, Waterfalls and Wildflowers (2000, out of print)
Arkansas Wilderness: My Favorite Photos from the Natural State (2002, out of print)
Arkansas Portfolio II: Spectacular New Images from The Natural State (2005, out of print)
Buffalo River Dreams (2006, out of print)
Arkansas Waterfalls: Scenic Icons of the Natural State (2007, available)
Arkansas Landscapes (2008, out of print)
Arkansas Wildlife (2009, only a few copies available)
Arkansas Autumn (2010, out of print)
Arkansas Portfolio III (2011, available)
Arkansas Landscapes II (2012, available)
Buffalo River Beauty (2013, available)
Arkansas Nightscapes (2014, available)
A Rare Quality Of Light (2015, available)
Arkansas In My Own Backyard (2016 - just published!)
10/29/16 I'M FINISHED - YIPPIE COYOTE!!! This must be a record - a full two weeks before our first slide program of the season, and the new slide show is DONE. Thanks mostly to my lovely bride, who spent many long hours over the past several weeks listening to hundreds of musical selections and helping me narrow them down to a final six that are included in the show. The program will include all 123 photos from the new picture book, plus three new short timelapses. All programs are free and open to the public.
Kind of a funny note last night - when I went outside to take a shower, I found the deck covered with several inches deep of freshly-fallen leaves - LEAF-FALL had happened at Cloudland! Knowing a snake or two might be hiding in the leaves, I spent some time sweeping the leaves off with my feet - but worried a little bit about doing that in the dark - the only time I've been bitten by a snake was on the same deck many years ago.
Seems like forever since we've had rainfall here, but there was plenty of dew early yesterday morning to wet things down for a bit. But the rest of the week it has been nothing but crunch, crunch, CRUNCH while hiking through the forest. Still plenty of green in the landscape, but also many bare trees beginning to show. In fact we're now able to see the big bluff across the way on Beagle Point for the first time since last spring. The 100-foot thick layer of sandstone is visible for more than 70 miles as it snakes in and out of the canyons of the Upper Buffalo Wilderness Area and back. (pun intended)
New warehouse/gallery building update. We are making progress on the new building - sheetrock is all up and all the finish work should be completed sometime next week. Next up will be PAINTING all inside walls and ceiling - anyone know a cheap painter? Once the painting and electrical work are done, we can get carpet installed in the gallery side, then begin installation of display panels, a new print hanging system, and final placement of track lighting. Hum, then all I'll have left to do is make about 80 canvas prints to hang! SO GREAT to be getting close to a usable building - it has been a very long, drawn-out project that is months late. If all goes well we hope to have three holiday open houses in the new gallery building before Christmas.
I came out from working on the slide program for a few minutes today and shot a couple scenes of the beautiful maple forest near the end of our driveway - harsh midday light gave me the opportunity to capture some abstracts...