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CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - October 2014

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Cloudland Cabin Cam October 23 - a brilliant flood of color at dawn

COLOR REPORT, October 22nd for the High Ozarks in the upper Buffalo River area. The overall landscape is about 50% green now with more color every hour - some areas are near peak color. Next week should be great! As is always the case, color can change from one valley or hillside to the next, also by time of day, moisture content in the air, and most of all the LIGHT.

NEW 2015 ARKANSAS CALENDARS NOW SHIPPING - wall calendar, engagement calendar

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Prints Of The Week - Hawksbill Crag in the Mist (above); Arkansas maples (below)

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FALL COLOR PHOTO WORKSHOPS

10/01/14 October signals the beginning of fall here, one of the very best seasons on the planet. After letting the pups out to water the flowers, I wandered off into the woods for a while. The predawn light was soft, cool, and sweet. Still a few stars out, but fading quickly. I found a large white oak to lean up against, and just sat there in the quiet and soaked up a bit of wilderness. The eastern horizon began to glow orange and pink, which quickly spread to the rest of the sky, and the stars disappeared. I began to see detail in the shapes around me - bark on the shagbark hickory, moss on a rounded sandstone boulder at my feet, twigs and weeds scattered along the forest floor.

The horizon got brighter and brighter, and then with a mini-explosion of brilliance the top edge of the sun appeared. The world started to glow, and the new day was officially born. YIPPIE COYOTE - fall had arrived! I think it is going to be a grand one, and can't wait...

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Midnight view after the storms moved out (above); weird light after sunrise (below)

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10/10/14 LOTS of great RAIN today - yippie coyote - THANKS for doing your rain dance! At times it was quite LOUD and even scary and giant lightning bolts landed nearby and rattled our bones. Other times we just had nice gentle rain for hours. The colors of the landscape changed rapidly once the moisture moved in, with rich hues of greens, yellows, reds, and oranges as far as we could see. And of course the rain brought baby clouds - CLOUDLAND - the place were clouds are born!

WATERFALLS should be up and running in the northwest corner of the Ozarks tonight, and SOME will probably continue to run on all weekend. One note of WARNING though - DO NOT CROSS MUDDY WATER! It only takes a few inches of rapidly-moving water to knock you off your feet, and you can drown in shallow water easily. I much prefer to wait until the day after any high water - after the muddy water has cleared up a bit - to get out and enjoy waterfalls. They are much more scenic then, and a lot safer.

Wilson and I made a big discovery a couple of days ago while hiking up to the warehouse on the hill. Actually Wilson is the one who made the find. His tail was in pretty much non-stop happy mode anyway, but then it went into overdrive, with his head down in the leaves - his little behind was moving back and forth as well. WALNUTS - he found WALNUTS! We don't have walnut trees on our property that I knew of, yet he came up with a giant green walnut in his mouth. Looking around I saw dozens more. It was easy to spot the walnut tree - it had no leaves, just walnuts. Good dog.

I spent some time early the other morning with a walnut tree in a high meadow near here. I arrived there about 3am on the morning of the Blood Moon Eclipse. After scouting around for several days, the scene of the naked walnut tree and its nuts silhouetted against a starry sky and the Blood Moon was one of my top pics for this event. I had a couple of other locations picked out too (and set out cameras with timers to record the eclipse remotely), but the walnut tree was my favorite.

It was a beautiful morning with starry skies, and a few flashes of lightning off to the west - a big storm was approaching, but I was hoping it would keep away long enough for a little bit of that blood red color to appear. I shot a few frames as the moon began to grow dark on one side, then the shadow slide across and covered up nearly the entire moon. And then the RED color poured over the entire moon - it was BEAUTIFUL, and quite surreal.

And then something unexpected happened. The thunderstorm remained off in the distance a little bit and the sky was still clear, but all of a sudden ground fog appeared, and I was standing there with all my camera equipment engulfed in FOG!!! Actually the blood red moon looked even more surreal and spooky through all that fog, and I was a happy camper - the view before me was unlike anything I'd ever seen before! Not the classic clear eclipse sequence like you've seen lots of this week, but something a little bit different - at least I hope so - I've not had the chance to even look at the pictures yet, but is sure did look nice!

We've been busy trying to catch up around here this month. It seems that for me anyway, the older I get, the more stuff I heap on my plate, and the longer it takes me to get anything done! And unlike what most folks think I should be doing at the moment, other than our trip to Colorado, the early-morning eclipse pictures are the only photos I've been able to take in at least a couple of months, maybe longer. 95% of my work as a professional nature photographer is spent at the computer or on the road, and I rarely get to actually spend much time taking pictures. But I'm hopeful to be able to get out and finally shoot a little more as the fall color begins to bloom. I think we are going to have a great fall color season, and I will share as much of it here with you as I can.

Workshops begin next week, then both our slide program and Canvas Gallery Open House seasons fire up in November and run through December. We've posted both of those schedules here online - hope you can make it to at least one of each this season!

10/12/14 I took the pups on a long ramble through the forests and meadows this morning. Lots of underbrush color, nuts and berries - but I could not locate a single pawpaw. Spent the rest of the day over in the print room working on making a few canvas prints to try and get the gallery back up and running again.

One time after I sent a print to the printer that was going to take more than an hour to print, I went back to the cabin and laid back in an old, overstuffed leather chair to watch a little football ON TV. I had both puppies sitting on top of me - Mia is about 30 pounds now, and Wilson is over 40 pounds already! All of us got covered with burs during our hike this morning, and so besides watching the game I picked burs off of Mia - sometimes you get into auto pilot and can watch the game and pick burs at the same time. (Lucy doesn't get burs for some reason.) Anyway, at one point I started to feel tugs, looked over and saw Wilson picking burs off of ME! Life at Cloudland is pretty good on a soggy early fall afternoon...

10/15/14 There is a soft hush or running water in the air, drifting ever so slowly up from the bottom of the canyon far below. The music of the wilderness floats in the nighttime air, joined by only a few night bugs. And a hoot owl calls to a prospective mate - or to no one at all. It is pitch black outside tonight, 'cept for a little bit of starlight - actually a LOT of starlight - that air is quite clear and crisp and there are a zillion stars. Mr. Moon will brighten everything up when he arrives sometime after midnight.

I can still hear Whitaker Creek a little bit - two days ago it was roaring much louder than the mighty Buffalo River. Yesterday I could still hear strong currents in the flashing whitewater. Tomorrow the creek will melt into the landscape and sing out no more - until the next big rain.

Today I put the sweetest, most perfect piece of fruit into my mouth - the meat melted away - the SWEETEST persimmon I'd ever tasted! The ground was covered with them, each one being richer than the last (the sweetest ones are usually wrinkled and on the ground). The big winds of the previous couple of days had ripped off many limbs that were hung thick with fruit - and they limbs and fruit sat on the ground in the brilliant early fall sunshine, ripening, turning into sweet nectar! Wilson must have eaten 20-25 of them. Yup, it is indeed a wonderful year for persimmons!

But it was not so for pawpaws - I found a few leathered hulls today in our pawpaw patch. Part of the problem was me. It feels like I let the pawpaws down by not having visited them daily as they ripened on the limbs last month. But from the looks of things many critters got to taste them, so all was not lost.

We'll have a few textbook autumn days this week - and next too. And the colors will come marching in. And then I think some late color too, the last week of October and on into November perhaps. 'Tis going to be a nice fall color season, and I hope you have plans to head for the hills as often as possible to enjoy!

10/21/14 It did my heart good to see my photo workshop students wading out into the middle of the Buffalo River early Saturday morning, setting up their tripods in the water and getting their feet wet. Often times the best view is from the water, and coming home soaked is part of the fun! (Hint - if you come to one of my workshops, prepare to get wet!) At the end of the day, the prints we made of their work were some of the most beautiful, world-class prints I'd ever seen - way to go students!

At one point during this workshop I wandered downstream to see what that scene looked like. The sun had not appeared yet, and there were sheets of mist rising from the river. A deer appeared at the edge of the river, dipped her toes in the chilly water to test, then carefully moved across the water. It was one of those moments when you held your breath - not only at the sheer beauty of the moment, but also hoping she would not get spooked and run off! She did stop and looked directly at me - both of us caught out in the middle of the river. I didn't have a camera with me, so it was one of those rare moments when I was allowed to simply be a part of the scene instead of scrambling around trying to capture it. For that short moment we were kindred spirits - both of us enjoying the great beauty around us (I DO believe that wildlife is able to appreciate the world around them), yet also going about our daily chores.

We had four deer quietly slip by the cabin early yesterday morning - a pair of does and two fawns. One of the fawns still had spots - a late bloomer I guess (they normally lose their spots by late summer). And the "rut" has begun in our area - the time when buck deer take off in search of girlfriends. I enjoyed following a fresh "scrape" line near the cabin made by a young buck. They will paw or scrape down to bare dirt a circle in the ground - usually 2-3 feet in diameter. These are often made directly underneath a low-hanging branch, which the bucks will bite and break off part of. Then they will put their hoof print right in the middle of the freshly churned up earth - all designed to be a calling card for prospective girlfriends. The bucks will make a line of these scrapes through the forest every hundred yards or more, and will spend a good bit of time "running" them to see if there are any friendly does that have come by and left their marks. This is all the wilderness version of online dating I guess!

We've been taking the pups on at least one long hike every day - some of them have turned into "rambles" where we simply go where the wind - or actually the puppies - take us. They are at the peak of their puppieness, and run and play through the wilderness with reckless abandon - sometimes running head-on into trees or rocks, or most of the time each other. They have taken us to many beautiful spots - sometimes just a small area with moss-covered boulders, brilliant RED leaves, and the quiet solitude of the deep forest. Other times they've sped at top speed across an open meadow, back and forth, back and forth - makes me tired just watching!

But today it all comes to an end. My lovely bride is taking them to their first day of obedience school. Yikes!

I just stepped outside to water the dogs - it is very early - still an hour before sunrise. There was the thinnest crescent moon rising just ahead of the sun in the east. And still a few stars out. Below the cabin the canyon is filled with a sea of clouds - or perhaps just thick fog (is there any difference?). It is quite cool, and the air is super-saturated with dew. Looks like another SPECTACULAR fall day in the High Ozarks! I hope you get the chance to go out and ramble through the forest this week and soak it all in...

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10/23/14 There is just something special about a tiny silver sliver of a crescent moon quietly rising in the east at dawn, with a deep blue sky above, brilliant orange of the approaching sun below. Earthshine on the shadowed part of the moon revealed very soft features. The moon just hung there with its last smile of this phase. I tried to smile too, but knew I had to get my camera out and see if I could capture any of the beauty that was before me.

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A little while later I was splashing up the Buffalo River at the base of a giant painted limestone bluff in search of more beauty. I paused for a moment to access the scene before me, and started to open my tripod - when I noticed some movement out of the corner of my eye behind me. 'Twas a photographer, heading for the same scene I was standing at. Drats. I prefer to work in solitude, so I tried to slip away unnoticed (to give the other guy some solitude too), collapsing my tripod as I went. I don't know if he ever saw me or not.

I spent the next hour in a meadow near the river concentrating on a group of colorful sweetgum trees that towered above me. They remained cloaked in heavy mist the entire time, but since the mist and colors were ever changing, I kept shooting - always hoping for the perfect moment. Truth is that all the moments were perfect - it was a glorious morning and it felt great to be standing out in the middle of it all!

Color is advancing rapidly around here, and I suspect many areas in the Upper Buffalo River area will be peak by the middle of next week - yet many other areas will continue to change color for the next couple of weeks, perhaps even longer. In a normal year, the underbrush turns first - usually in September. Some trees turn color then too, but most trees wait until the middle of October when the big rush begins. Right now we still have a lot of underbrush in full fall dress - like sassafras, sumac, and dogwoods - all normally gone by now. There is one dogwood up in Aspen's meadow that is especially nice right now, filled to the brim with brilliant RED berries. Wilson and I hiked up to it the other day and took its picture. I think both pups love Aspen's meadow - they run and romp and play just like Aspen used to. I bet he is looking down from dog heaven directing them!

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The brightest color of the day in the sky is usually before sunrise, as was the case this morning. It all started about 45 minutes before sunrise, when the sky above filled with purple, orange, red, and several other colors I'd never seen before. There were clouds floating around at several levels - all the way to the horizon. The color grew brighter and more intense with each passing minute. We don't have a clear view to the east from our property due to all the trees, but I was able to find an open spot where I could take a few pictures - and that color spread from the east across the south as well. And it lasted longer than most color like this - in fact I think much of the region saw the same color, and I've seen dozens of really spectacular photos taken in different places - I had no idea so many people were up that early with cameras - way to go everyone!

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