Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Catching lightning and going to an easy waterfall at Lake Catherine

Hope everyone had a good St. Patrick’s Day. On that day last week I was driving home from work and noticed that the Big Dam Bridge was covered in green lights in honor of the holiday. So I rushed home and grabbed the camera and headed out to the bridge. I went out and stood on a little island that sticks out from the dam.  I went out on the shore, and found an area with some rocks in the river that worked with the bridge in the background.
Big Dam St. Patrick's Day

After I got the shot I headed back to the car. It had started raining anyways, so I thought the night was done in terms of taking pictures. I drove out to a beer store to buy a 6-pack of Guinness for a traditional photo to celebrate my Irish heritage, which I used for a shot later that night:
Happy St. Patrick's Day

At the store I noticed that there was a nice storm developing in the sky, so I drove back out to the Big Dam Bridge to attempt taking some lightning pictures.

Taking pictures of lightning is very difficult. Not only do you have to get out in some nasty weather, it takes a lot of luck to be in the right place at the right place to get the shot. I’ve been out a few times to try to get lightning shots, never really getting anything in the process. One time I was out at Ft. Roots, trying to get a shot of lightning over the Little Rock skyline. There were some great lightning strikes right over the downtown buildings. But I was using film at the time (this time being maybe 1996), and I didn’t load the film in the camera correctly so nothing turned out. Last year I tried to get some lighting at the Big Dam Bridge, and managed to catch one small bolt. It wasn’t much, but I was happy with it at the time:
Dark and Stormy Night at the Big Dam Bridge

This time I went to the same exact spot, hoping to catch lightning again. I sat for about 30 minutes with nothing much going on. There would be some lightning, but it was either in the distance or up in the clouds. I took lots of pictures, never catching anything. I finally got one shot with a small bolt, so I thought I’d at least get something. Then it started to rain, so I moved under the bridge, with the hope it would provide some shelter from the rain. I hoped to see some lightning, but wished it wouldn’t strike me or the bridge while I standing under it. I took lots and lots of pictures, at 20 or 25 second exposures. It’s a crapshoot really, to get a good lightning shot. You have to be set up in an area that sees lots of lightning strkies, and have to be taking a shot at the right place at the right time in the second or so that it strikes. Finally, on one exposure, lightning hit!
Big Dam Lightning

Holy crap! I was thrilled that I managed to have taken a picture of the lightning. I wasn’t too happy with the composition of the shot, I don’t like the location of the bridge pillar, but it was better than standing out in the rain. I stayed out there longer, in case there would be more strikes. But the storm moved on and seemed to be striking behind me, very near to where I was. Enough that it made me nervous so I went to back to the car and back to safety.

The storm that brought so much lightning also dumped lots of rain across the state. We only saw a few inches in Little Rock, but other parts of the state saw over a foot of rain. Some of that ended up in the Arkansas River, flooding the area around the Big Dam Bridge. I went back out there three days later to see the damage. The floodwater covered the road leading to the bridge.
Big Dam flood

Big Dam flood

The water had risen 15 feet, at least. It was well above the spot where I stood a few days before taking pictures of lighting. The second pillar of the bridge is the one that I stood by on the previous Monday, the spot under about a dozen feet of water.
Big Dam Flood

The river was so high that it had gone over the banks and had flooded some of the parking lot and was just a few feet away from the base of the bridge.
At the foot

I went up on the bridge to have a look at the flooded area. The place where I stood to get a shot of the bridge with it’s St. Patrick’s Day lights was also under water. Even the spot where I parked my car was now part of the Arkansas River.
Big Dam Flood

But there was a nice sunset, which I got on the way to the bridge. This was taken along a backwater along the river, which was the home to ducks and a beaver that night. It was a tough decision, stay and catch the sunset there or go and get pictures of the bridge...
Duck Tales

A few weeks before I went out to the Big Dam Bridge, I went out to Lake Catherine State Park. I wanted to visit the waterfall there, which is very easy to reach. It would be a nice change after my previous adventures attempting to reach Twin Falls at Richland Creek. The waterfall at Lake Catherine is easy to get to, the trailhead at the end of paved roads. The trail is level and easy, under a mile and with just one hill to travel over. There is also a nifty swinging bridge to cross, so it was a nice trip to take.

The waterfall there, called Falls Creek Falls, is a popular spot to take pictures. I’ve been out there several times, and the hard part is to find an angle that hasn’t been shot before. I tried to find a good spot to take pictures. Luckily there weren’t many other people out that day.
Falls Creek Falls

The falls aren’t that tall, and the creek isn’t very deep. I should have worn the mud-covered shoes I had last worn to Twin Falls, but instead foolishly wore some new shoes, so I was reluctant to get them wet. To get some shots, I tried to find some rocks in the creek that would be a dry place for me to stand to get some shots of the falls...

I crossed the creek using some convenient rocks and took some pictures from the other side of the creek...
Falls Creek Falls

Side of Fall Creek Falls


After that I went back across the creek and hiked up the hill to above the falls. The view up there is just as nice...
From the top...

But then the sun came out. The sun isn’t your friend when you’re trying to take pictures of waterfalls. Luckily, the waterfall was in shadow. The sun was striking a rock at the top of the falls, so I got a shot of it with the waterfall below.
Falls Creek Falls

Spring is a great time for taking waterfall pictures. Sadly, I wasn’t able to go out last weekend. And this next weekend will be spent in Dallas, so no waterfall shots. Hopefully there will be more rain so all the waterfalls will be running nicely when someone hikes up to them with a camera....

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