CLOUDLAND CABIN JOURNAL - May 2016 (Part B - May 17 to present; see Part A here)



Cloudland remote Cabin Cam, May 26 - warm, dry, windy, and BEAUTIFUL!

Journal updated Wednesday evening the 25th



Print Of The Week special (above)

05/19/16 ...(see May 1-16 posts & photos here)

Nice cool rain tonight, and the canyon below has already filled with a sea of clouds. We heard deep thunder for several hours before a drop fell, and the landscape seemed to be holding its breath just waiting for that drink. There are smiles all around outside now - even a little rain is great, especially for wildflowers.

I spent about an hour lost in an open meadow near our cabin late today, just wandering around waves of daisies. This is the best daisy bloom I've seen here in decades, at least in some of the high meadows. There were breezes much of the time while I was there, and I shot a couple hundred photos, but never was satisfied with much - tough to shoot wildflowers when they are moving. As I was leaving the meadow and ready to pack it in (just as those first raindrops arrived), I knelt down in the flowers and saw a scene just for an instant. But my eyes had been zoomed all the way in, and I needed to go back to the van and get a different camera system and long telephoto lens.


So instead of having everything in focus like I normally like to do. I set up the camera very low to the ground so it could look through many of the flowers to focus on a plane of flowers back there in the middle. Tough to judge what the camera captures sometimes, so I shot away for a while hoping my vision would work out. Time spent on your knees in a wildflower meadow is never wasted!


We decided to upgrade the well water pump and had a larger, more powerful, and more effecient pump and support system installed at Cloudland today - YIPPIE! Our well is just over 800 feet deep and has never gone dry. Our ace well pump guy, Kent Patty, pulled everything up - pipes and electrical wire - then replaced with brand new. He also replaced all the controller hardware, so we are now pumping with a completely new system! This pumps into a 1,000-gallon holding tank, which is gravity-fed downhill a couple hundred feet to the cabin. It has been a great system, with the best water in this area (no iron or sulphur).

Yesterday afternoon I headed into the headwaters of the Little Mulberry Creek near Red Star. Soft clouds covered the sky, and it was cool and beautiful in the wilderness. I hiked a couple of miles downhill and found the creek running well and clear. First thing I found was a waterfall - not very tall, but it spanned the entire creek, with lots of personality. I photographed it from both sides of the creek, and one time crawled back in an overhang - 'twas the sort of place snakes love to hide out, but I didn't see any.


I spent a little bit of time to get another in my series of "polished river stones" series. I just love doing these, and especially looking up close at the stones. It is amazing how much beauty these tumbled sandstone jewels have. It was dry so I had to splash some water on the stones, then set up my camera pointed straight down from above. shhh, don't tell anyone, but the rocks don't look as good when they are wet and shiny - best to let the water soak in for a while, but not so much that they begin to dry out. This particular group of rocks had one with a little basin in the middle, and there was a little red rock with swirls bathing there. I realize this photo may offend some folks who believe you should never put the subject in the middle of a frame, but for some reason I kind of like it there. I've done photos in this series from four different major river drainages, and hope to get three or four more done before I complete work on the new picture book.


I kind of spent too much time taking pictures down on the creek - when I finally looked up to see what time it was, darkness had already begun to fall - no wonder some of my exposures were getting really long! So I packed the bag up, strapped on my big tripod, and headed up the steep two-mile hike back out to the van. It was an easy trail, and I rather enjoyed getting to lean into the hill and give it some gas - I made it all the way to the top without stopping a single time. Not bad for an old guy, who has now clicked another one to 61.

We had a Cloudland Moment of sorts late last night after I got home from the photo hike. Both my lovely bride and I left the cabin early and were gone on the road all day. I was a bit tuckered, wet, sore, and hungry when I stomped into the cabin and started pulling off my dirty woods duds. Pam was already in bed reading after a 14-hour work day. I grabbed a bag of frozen veggies and tossed them into the microwave, then went up into the loft and began a conversation with Mia about borrowing "her" chair so I could lean back and munch on my veggies and get to talk to my bride about the events of her day. We hadn't seen much of each other all week in fact, and it was GREAT to get to catch up. Funny how sometimes when you live so close sometimes 24/7, you still don't get to know what all is going on. Mia was quite patient and let me finish my veggies. But I just had to laugh about having to borrow her dog bed so I could eat dinner!

No progress on our new gallery/warehouse building - it doesn't take much rain to delay the completing of the concrete slab work. We still hope to have the building ready to move into sometime this summer. We might even have an open house to celebrate!

The forest continues to be lush and vibrant, and with another round of rainfall tonight the lushness will continue. Hope you get the chance to get out and enjoy some of it this weekend...Rainfall is falling on our tin roof once again, and I think it is going to lull me to sleep.........

05/22/16 Took my girlfriend out for a hot date Friday evening. Good thing she is a very understanding wife. We drove into a remote valley that I'd never been to before - 12 miles of very narrow county road that wound through lush pastures and a lot of dense forest. There were a number of farmsteads and cabins along the way, and it was easy to figure out why they choose that area to live in - quite beautiful, peaceful, and remote - not much traffic, just a handful of cars/trucks a day (through Walnut and the headwaters of Big Piney River). Since almost all of the land was private, I never found anything that I could photograph, but it was great just finally getting to see this place that I've wondered about for a long time.

When we climbed out and got back to pavement again, I had a choice - turn right to head back home, or turn left for a short detour to the only place in the region with ICE CREAM! Hey, it was Friday night, and this was a date, so my lovely bride was treated to a frosty cone from the Burger Barn in Ozone (I forced down a handmade chocolate milkshake, one of my weaknesses). It probably was a good idea that we had already eaten dinner before we left on the trip at 4pm, since the dinner we really wanted to get at the Burger Barn would have been about 2,000 calories - before the ice cream. We were happy campers all the way home.

Saturday evening near dark found me a mile or two upstream into the Buffalo River Wilderness with camera in tow, wandering around looking for a great scene and beautiful light. I had arrived early, when harsh sunshine flooded the area, but that gave me time to explore around a bit. Only when the great light did arrive, it all seemed to come at once, and I was in one of those situations where there were so many compositions in every directions I didn't know which one to point the camera at! I prefer just ONE great scene at a time.

Only there was a problem. I had a vision of what a particular scene would look like in this exact light and how I would photograph it. But somehow I had hit the wrong button and switched the "scene mode" of the camera capture to BLACK & WHITE, so every time I took a picture, all I saw was a small black & white image on the back. With digital, it is easy for me to adjust my exposure and shooting techniques on the fly to make sure I'm capturing the right color, and color was critical for this photo. I was shooting long exposures of one or two minutes each, and at that time of day the colors change rapidly and mix with each other, and you never know how the camera is going to capture that color. So I just kept shooting away and hoping something would turn out. The first photo below was taken when I first arrived during harsh light; the second one taken after sunset with beautiful soft ight...



I kept shooting until it started to get pretty dim in the forest around me, then I packed up and began a mile bushwhack through the forest downstream, with two crossings of the Buffalo River thrown in for good measure. I had a headlamp with me, but really didn't want to use it. Several times I moved through brush so thick that I simply had to duck and just plow through, hoping I was going the right direction. Then there is one spot where you just have to guess at where to turn and leave the forest, and luckily I ended up within just a few feet of where I needed to cross the river a final time. There seemed to be more light once I got on the other side, then another very short and easy half mile hike across meadows to reach the van.

As I climbed up out of Boxley Valley on the steep Cave Mountain Road headed home I saw the rising full moon, all orange and glowing like crazy. And right next to it was Mars, something we are not used to seeing rising with the moon - although it has been in all of the Milky Way photos I've been taking this past few weeks. There was a particular tree I had made a mental note about once when I was standing next to it - COME BACK HERE during a full moon rise sometime, and so I sped up just a little bit and made it to the tree in time to photograph the colorful moon rising behind it.

Later on after I had downloaded the pictures from the river did I get my first look at the color of the water - the camera did a great job of capturing the mix of color and emotion that Momma Nature tossed our way - YIPPIE! Almost as good as ice cream...

The alarm went off at 4am this morning, and I had somewhat of a panic - I was out of coffee! That was OK - I was pretty excited about a field of wildflowers my bride had told me about, and so I splashed my face with some cold water, packed my gear, and headed out the door - and followed the setting full moon all the way into town and through sunrise. I don't remember always being so aware of the rise and fall of the full moon as a child, but I sure do notice and keep track of it now every chance I get.

The wildflower field was even better than Pam had described, and I spent the next hour with kind of the same situation I had been in the night before on the river - so much incredible beauty in all directions (i.e., what looked like a MILLION flowers!), I didn't know where to point the camera. And this field was right next in between the main highway and a paved hike/bike trail in beautiful Bella Vista, so I didn't have to hike very far to get to it. With perhaps a time or two near Ouray, Colorado, this was easily the most PURE COLOR in one place I'd ever seen - oh my goodness! I took three cameras with me and I used them all. But the light was changing rapidly and so I had to work fast. I also had a meeting back at the Cloudland Gallery so I had to work even faster to get back home in time. Shooting these flowers turned out to be pretty easy - but picking just one or two to show you has proven to be impossible! This was obviously out of the 12-mile circle of the new picture book I'm working on, but I hope to be able to include one or two of these flower images in the 2017 Arkansas calendars. If you see one in your calendar next year, you will know it was taken today!


This evening I headed back out again near dusk to see what I could find, although I mostly stuck to the local roads up here on the mountain. The moonrise was about an hour after sunset, and it was brilliant golden again, but the landscape all around was mostly silhouetted and I'm not sure I got any keepers. But it was great to be out - and anytime you get to watch a moonrise your life will be a little big happier.

05/24/16 It was a lovely afternoon out on the back deck grilling an early dinner - fresh asparagus (stolen from Benny/Mildred's garden) and other veggies along with some pig and chicken. Rainfall singing a lovely tune. Wisps of clouds drifting on by. Then BAM!!! The sky lit up. POW!!! The ground rumbled. CRACK!!!!!!!!!!! The earth shook, and so did the cabin. This was just the first round fired over the bow. We had about 45 minute more of the same, sometimes more severe, with heavy rain. One BOOMER hit about five seconds after the sky lit up, then shook the ground for nearly ten seconds! The brats got a little well done, which is exactly how I like them!

I got caught out in the rain yesterday, another activity I like, in fact LOVE - being outside during a summer thunderstorm. I had set up my tripod looking straight down at the polished river stones spread out on the banks of the Little Buffalo River when the rain began. It wasn't a thunder-boomer like today, rather just a gentle, steady rain, soft and beautiful. Wet rocks are saturated rocks, and as the rain continued the rocks got really colorful. I let them get nice and wet while my hat covered the camera to keep it dry, but pulled out an umbrella to attache to my tripod to keep the rocks from getting any wetter. Shiny rocks are not as colorful. So I let the rain drops soak into the rocks, and when the shine began to fade I started taking pictures. This group of rocks was the fifth one in a series from different river drainages I'm working on for my new picture book. The rocks in this photo seemed to be mostly smooth, organized, calm; peace and harmony - I was only 1/4 mile from a Buddhist retreat center so it was no wonder they were acting this way.


We had our first unannounced visitor at the new warehouse/gallery building site over on our new property. No walls or floor yet, but progress has been made bringing in some utilities. Anyway, a big old fat bear wandered through what will become the front door to the building, walked through the gallery part, then exited on out through what will become the back door of the warehouse part - leaving his tracks all along the way. Nice of him to use the future doorways instead of just breaking down the future walls! I wonder if he noticed any of the future canvas prints that will be on the walls?

CRASH. BOOM. BANG!!! Another round of thunder-boomers is passing overhead...


05/25/16 Long night with lots of noise and rainfall, and we awoke to the sound of the mighty Buffalo River roaring up from below. I had a very long and exhausting day and just got home late tonight and kind of resemble a drown, stinky, starving rat. (I had a bowl of cereal at 6am and have not eaten a thing since then - it's about 10pm now and I'm getting ready to heat up some of the leftover brats from the grill! And I hear my lovely bride brought some sweet treats for me from town.) So this will be a quickie update - I've not seen any of my real photos from today, only a few snapshots.

I left the cabin early and headed out for what I thought was going to just be a quickie waterfall shoot and then back to the cabin for normal work. There seemed to FINALLY have been enough rainfall to get the creeks up and running (many were just a trickle after yesterday's rainfall, but the overnight storms brought the levels and flow up.) I hiked into Little Pine Hollow just across the valley from our cabin and slide down to the base of a nice waterfall there, set up my tripod and took a few pictures. Then I wandered into the back of the overhang there and started to shoot more pictures.

Then it started to get DARK - I mean REALLY dark! It got so dark in fact that I was unable to see to walk around back under there and had to pull out a flashlight -and it was 9am! Along with the darkness came lightning, thunder boomers, and heavy rain. And along with that came a large waterfall. I shot the basically the same scene of the waterfall from underneath the overhang for more than an hour, and the size of the waterfall increased at least triple - it was rockin' and rollin' by the time the rains stopped!

And I had somewhat of a dilemma. I've always been an "overhang" dweller - camped and explored and escaped many downpours beneath bluff overhangs. But I've heard the opening can act as a "spark gap" like in a spark plug if lightning hits nearby - and anyone hiding under the bluff can get FRIED! Well, today, it was pouring pretty hard, with lots of fireworks going on all around, yet I was snug and happy and working away with my cameras under that bluff overhang. But did I need to get out from under there and go stand in the pouring rain? I elected to just stay put and keep working until the storm passed - and daylight returned!


Next I headed towards Waterfall Hollow near Fallsville - with names like that this should be a killer combination for waterfalls! Ya think? Well, in all these years of hiking that portion of the Ozark Highlands Trail that goes through Waterfall Hollow, doing a guidebook entry about the three main waterfalls there, and now making three attempts this year to go photograph one of them for my new picture book, I STILL have not found good flow. Until today - all three waterfalls were running just great - ONLY the clouds all disappeared and all I had was HARSH SUNSHINE - YUCK!

I hiked to the middle waterfall and set up my tripod and camera, then began to clear away tons of limbs still leftover from the 2009 ice storm (Roy Senyard and I worked several days with chain saws just to get the trail corridor open through this hollow back then - it was hit really hard by the ice damage). And right off the bat I slipped and fell hard on the rocks - really hard. Lucky I came down on my elbow and hand, and I thought I had cracked bone in my elbow - I was unable to move it for a while, and I spent the next 30 minutes clearing the ice storm debris with one hand.

Still nothing but clear blue skies in all directions, but being the eternal optimist that I am, I was still counting on a few clouds to roll through so I could finally get just one photo of this waterfall! I also spent some time looking at the other waterfalls and trying to make sure I had the best composition in case that cloud did happen to drift overhead - so I would be ready.

And I contemplated which helmet would be the best to protect my hard head for the future falls that certainly will come. Had I hit my head instead of my elbow this might have been all over for me. Bike helmet, rock climbing helmet, kayaking helmet - anyone have an idea?


About an hour later some thin clouds drifted by and I was elated and shot away. The more clouds and more pictures, then finally a solid cloud cover and I really went to town. Same exact scene you understand, I just had to shoot it under every single cloud that produced beautiful light. OK, done - I got my Waterfall Hollow waterfall picture - YIPPIE!

Next I headed for Lichen Falls - lots of water flow there and overcast skies so this one would be easy since it is located right along the Ozark Highlands Trail. But when I arrived just above the falls there were two photographers already down there at the base of the falls - I'm pretty anti-social in social matters, but downright a hermit when I'm working, so I try to avoid all over photographers and people in general when I'm out taking pictures. So I just motored right on by the waterfall and kept going along the trail until I got to Lynn Hollow, which has always been a beautiful spot. Only today would be different.

It was SPECTACULAR! I had to get out into the middle of a narrow canyon with swift whitewater, and had to use my tripod as a "walker" to navigate the swift currents, but I was able to find a spot with three different waterfalls all coming together and pouring into the narrow canyon - it was a special scene that I'd never seen before. And then the sun came out. Go figure! I stood in the middle of the canyon and waited patiently (not really, but it sounds better to say patiently). Eventually the light got softer and finally total cloud cover, and I was all set! I have not seen any of these pictures yet, but I'm assuming one of them will turn out well - it was a very interesting scene with beautiful light.


OK, I had given the other guys at least an hour so I returned to Lichen Falls and found they had gone - just the crowd I like to work! I spent the next hour shooting from two or three different spots, the last one being very low to the ground with a smaller cascade in the foreground - which is now my favorite shot of the day I think.


The final stop of the day was to Sweden Creek Falls Natural Area. I'd shot here many times but never can get enough of this place. And this time was no exception - the tall waterfall, light, and especially the lush FERN everywhere were just wonderful. BUT the wind was blowing pretty hard and made for difficult shooting conditions. It was tough for me to work his scene, and while I shoot a couple hundred photos there, I don't know if I'll like any of them or not. Towards the end of Sweden Creek my thoughts turned to FOOD - 15 hours already since my last meal and I still had to hike out and drive home.

And so here I am with hot brats and BBQ sauce now waiting on my to finish up this blog post (Ugggg, I used that word BLOG - I hate that word...). JOURNAL post, that is what I meant to say. I have pressing work to do here in the morning so probably won't go out waterfall shooting tomorrow, but more rain is on the way this week, and I should be all dried out by then...

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