Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Crazy times at the Junction Bridge

Little Rock seems to love pedestrian bridges. Along with the Big Dam Bridge, a new pedestrian bridge will be opening up in the next few weeks. The Junction Bridge, a railroad bridge built in the 1880's, is nearly finished being rennovated. It will be a great place when opened, the views of the skyline should be awesome from there.

The new lights on the bridge were recently turned on, so I headed downtown one night last week to get a shot of the bridge with the city skyline in the background. There were just a few flaws to my plan, one being that the bridge is still a construction site so that a large black safety net was hung on the bridge. The other was that I was target for a crazy person.
Junction Bridge

I got there early and had to wait for it to get dark. I scouted the area, looking for a good place to get a shot, then set everything up and waited.

While I stood out there next to the camera, a car drove up and parked about 30 feet away. The car just sat there, and I could see that the driver was just sitting there. This got me a bit worried.

After sitting there for awhile, the guy in the car got out and started walking towards me. Oh crap, I thought. What now?

The guy walked up and asked what I was taking a picture of. I thought that he was just smoking a cigarette when he walked up, but realized I was wrong. He was smoking a joint.

He said he was curious as to what I was doing, taking pictures out there. He wondered if I was taking pictures of the "May" sign on the bridge. The May sign is there because the company doing the rennovation is named May. He said that he thought the sign was there to promote Memphis In May. I wasn't sure what to say. Of course, it seems obvious that there wouldn't be a sign on a bridge in Little Rock that would promote Memphis In May, since that is held in Memphis and not Little Rock. I lied and told him I didn't know what the sign was there for, and he looked at me like I was an idiot.

"Then why are you taking a picture of it?" he asked.

I tried to explain that I was trying to take a picture of the bridge and the skyline at sunset. He then asked if I spent a lot of time studying when the sunset occurred.

No, I could honestly say, I don't normally look at that. I admitted that I thought it might set earlier, since I had gone out there only to wait longer than I expected. He said that Channel 7 News said it would set at this time, as if I was ignorant for not knowing that.

I said I didn't watch the news today, so I missed that. He then added, "well I don't watch the f--ken news anways, f--k them."

Which made me wonder how he'd know when Channel 7 would know when the sunset would be, if he didn't watch the news. But I figured asking that might make him mad, which might make him stab me or something, so I didn't say anything.

At this point I should have walked to my car and driven away.

But the crazy guy began to ask me all sorts of crazy questions. He asked about the crane above the new building being built in Little Rock. "Where did they get that crane?" Not knowing where cranes arrive from, I told him I didn't know.

He said, "well it probably didn't come from Arkansas! They must have brought it in from Memphis or St. Louis."

"Or Dallas?" I added, for some odd reason, adding on the nearest large city. I don't know why I was trying to make conversation with him.

"Dallas!" he said, "F--k Dallas!" He then railed on how Dallas sucks and that Texas is filled with horrible towns filled with "cultural centers" and that the only good places in Texas were Austin and San Antonio. I was glad I wasn't wearing a FC Dallas t-shirt that day.

Then he asked me if I smoked pot, since apparently his joint was gone. When I said no, he looked a bit dissapointed. Then he asked me if I had any beer on me.

"No, I don't have any on me." Which was truthful, I don't usually carry a keg with me everywhere I go. He gave me another look like I was the craziest person in the world, and asked "why not? There are plenty of places nearby that sell beer!" and motioned his hand towards the bars on Main Street in Argenta.

He said that he wanted a beer, so he was going to head across the river to a bar in the River Market area. I was more than welcome to join him. He even asked what kind of beer I'd like. I told him that I had plans tonight and couldn't make it out there.

"No, f--k those plans, get a beer. You're young, grab a beer!" I told him that I'd meet him for a beer after I finished taking pictures, so he'd leave. Which he did, after asking me what kind of beer I'd like, either in a pitcher or in a glass.

I, of course, didn't head down there. But did wonder if he sat watching a glass of beer get warm while he waited for me to show up.

Sadly, I didn't make this up...But this was really a bizarre encounter, the only time in many trips to downtown that anything like this has happened.

But being left alone I was able to take more pictures. The bridge will be awesome when it's done (it will be open for Riverfest on Memorial Day weekend).

Junction Bridge

Junction Bridge

After looking around the bridge one last time, I went over to Riverfront Park to get a shot of the skyline reflected in the river. I was too late to get any color in the sky, but luckily there were no crazy people out bothering people. Just a few people walking the trail and enjoying the view...

Little Rock

Friday, April 25, 2008

Catching up with the Travs

Went to an Arkansas Travelers game last weekend at Dickey-Stephens Field. It was a good game, and a nice night out.

The game was nearly sold-out, the only seating left by the time we got there was on the grassy bern. They announced that there were over 7,000 people at the game. The game was against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, so maybe lots of people came out to see the new Arkie team. The Travs won, 3-1.

Dickey-Stephens is a great ballpark, but one thing that I don't like is how they are starting to use more music during the game. Everytime a Travs player's name would be announced before he went to bat, they would blare out 30 seconds of some random song. It got on my nerves after a few innings. Say what you will about soccer games, but at least they trust that people can pay attention to the game without playing music every few minutes...


This was taken right before I went to stand in line to get something to eat and missed the Travs scoring a few runs.

A Travs player (sorry, I don't follow the team that closely to know their names, and I can't read his jersey number, it's 1-something!)..
Getting to 3rd base

Our seats had good views of third base, so I hope I could get a good shot of something happening, but this was just about all I got. Dickey-Stephens is a neat stadium, so we'll probably head back to another game. Maybe on one of those $3 ticket nights...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Flatside Pinnacle

The other day I took the short drive out to Flatside Pinnacle, just under an hour from Little Rock. It is probably one of the best views in the state, but isn't all that well known. It is similar to Pinnacle Mountain, except maybe it hasn't been "loved" too much, there are hardly many other visitors there, and the views are spectacular. Unlike Pinnacle, there are hardly any traces of civilization out there, just miles upon miles of forested hills. The only man-made things that can be seen is the dirt road leading up there, and sadly, some clear-cutting on a hill.

But the views there, are just great. It's also a great place to catch a sunset. The day I was up there it was cloudy, so there wasn't a sunset to catch. Here is part of the view:
View from Flatside Pinnacle

And a shot with some of the lichen-covered rocks on top of the Pinnacle:
Flatside Pinnacle

And a panoramic shot, which is an autostitch of seven shots...
Flatside Pan

Flatside Pinnacle is located in the Flatside Wilderness of the Ouachita National Forest, and is west of Little Rock. To get there, take Hwy. 10 west from Pinnacle Mountain until you reach the junction with Hwy. 9. Turn left (south) for 3.2 mile and then turn right onto a dirt road, which is the Winona Scenic Drive. Follow this dirt road for about 11 miles, and you'll come to a small parking area. From there just take a short trail that heads a bit steeply up the hill to the Pinnacle. It's well worth the effort.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Dallas road trip

Just two weeks after driving down to Dallas for a soccer game, we made the five hour pilgrammage for another game. This time we actually had time to do some touristy-stuff there, visiting a few sites other than Pizza Hut Park.

On Saturday morning we paid a visit to the Sixth Floor Museum, which sits in the Texas School Book Depository. It is an interesting museum, though a depressing way to start the day. After looking at all the exhibits, we had a look around Dealey Plaza. This part of Dallas seems to attract a few crazy people. One of the last times I was there, someone was selling pillow cases with Lee Harvey Oswald's face on it. This time, a large group of people were protesting just across the street from the grassy knoll. Many of them were wearing the Guy Fawkes masks from "V for Vandetta," and holding up signs at the traffic driving by. One of the signs said "Google Disconnect," which made us wonder if they were protesting against Google. It turns out they weren't, they were protesting against Scientology.

But this is a view looking out from Dealey Plaza, towards the old courthouse:

One of my friends needed to find an ATM, actually a Bank of America ATM. Luckily, the Bank of America building is nearby. We made our way a few blocks to the building, in the hope that there might be an ATM. There wasn't one. We found a security guard who pointed us in a direction of a nearby ATM, and I ended up getting this shot of the Bank of America building with this fancy sculture thing.
Bank Of America Building

The security guard said that there was an ATM in a lobby a few blocks away, so we made our way in that direction. On the way, I stopped and got this view of a building along Main Street...

We made it to the building that has an ATM in the lobby, but of course, the lobby doors were locked.

From there we gave up and walked to the West End district for lunch, and then went to the Dallas World Aquarium. The aquarium is a neat place, but a bit expensive - $20 to get in!
Dallas World Aquarium

While expensive to get into, it is a cool place. This was taken in an area that recreates a rainforest, and features lots of tropical birds and monkeys. In some ways it seems like it more of a small zoo than an aquarium, but at $20 to get in they should at least let people take home a monkey or shark or something.

In the aquarium, next to a small food court, was a sloth. It was surrounded by people trying to get pictures of it. It wasn't bothered, thanks to this sign:
No touching!

There was an aquarium worker (or the "sloth whisperer" as his nametag said), making sure no one actually touched the sloth. One of my friends asked if the sloth minded being the center of attention like this, and he said that sloths can barely see a few feet in front of them, and don't have a good sense of smell, so he probably didn't even realize he was surrounded by a large group of people...

Along with the sloth, the aquarium also had some ducks..

And some black-footed penguins...
Penguins, not marching.

The actual aquarium bit is cool, they have sharks and all sorts of bizarre fish there. It is also neat how the aquarium was built, and it is worth visiting (even at $20 a person).

After the aquarium we headed up towards the soccer stadium in Frisco. After getting stuck in traffic for awhile, we finally made it there in time. Since this game was being played at night, I decided that I wouldn't try to take many pictures and instead just sit back and watch the game. The game was against the New York Red Bulls. Just under a minute into the game, Dallas would score the first goal. According to the write-up on MLSnet.com:
"Just 51 seconds in, Alvarez netted his second goal of the season and the second-fastest in club history to give FCD an early 1-0 edge. FC Dallas controlled the ball from the kickoff, and Andre Rocha took a pass about 25 yards from the Red Bulls box. He then sent in a great cross and Alvarez, who found some room in between New York's Chris Leitch and Seth Stammler, got his head on the end of it from about 15 yards out to beat New York goalkeeper Jon Conway."

Here is a shot of the crowd celebrating after the goal:

It was a good night for the game, just a bit chilly. The sun began to set and I regretted that I accidently left my sunglasses in Arkansas:
And I left my sunglasses in Arkansas

As it got darker, the photographer in me began to kick in. I hoped there might be a nice sunset over the stadium to get some good shots of. The sunset never really developed, but here is a shot of dusk settling in over Pizza Hut Park:
Pizza Hut Park

And a panoramic view, put together with five shots:
Pizza Hut Pan

In the second half, Dallas scored again...

The goal was scored by Kenny Cooper, and according to MLSnet:
Cooper's goal, his third of the year, came in the 66th. Adrian Serioux sent a long ball that traveled nearly 50 yards before the Dallas native brought it down and chipped it over Conway's head. FCD is now 14-0-3 all-time when Cooper scores.

Dallas won the game, 2-0. We headed back home on Sunday, and I'm not sure when we'll be able to make it down there. With gas prices rising, it might be awhile until we make another pilgrimmage to Dallas.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A sunny day at Boxley Valley

Weather has been a bit wacky around here the past few weeks. Flooding, tornadoes, then more flooding, and then more tornadoes. And as of this writing there might be a frost tonight. But the benefit of all the rain is that the waterfalls are running full-tilt, so I've been trying to find a good time to make a run up to the Ozarks for some waterfall pictures.

The other week it rained just about every day. The downside of this is that I had to work, so I looked forward to the weekend when I could try to make it out there. I tried to make some plans to head up to the Ozarks, trying to hit a few waterfalls around Boxley Valley on Saturday. I tuned into the news on Friday night and saw, to my horror, that the weather was going to be sunny. This was bad news for waterfall pictures, since you want cloudy weather. But it was also good news for the people here in Little Rock, since it gave them some nice weather to clean up from the tornadoes the day before.

I cursed the sun for wanting to break out, then tried to decide if I should head out anyways. I woke up the next morning, and saw that it was still cloudy outside! Yay! I grabbed my camera gear and ran out to the car. As I drove west the clouds began to break up, but it was still mostly cloudy. I thought that if the clouds hung around a bit more I might be able to salvage some waterfalls out of the day. It was cloudy until I hit Russellville and started driving up Highway 7. As soon as I headed north, all the clouds vanished, as if by magic. I was a bit annoyed, and considered turning around. I'm glad I didn't, since Boxley Valley is a great place no matter what the weather.

My first stop was to visit Steel Creek, which is one of the best spots on the river. I was there around noon, so the light was harsh. But it was still quite scenic. The river was running high, and it was amazing to see some of the damage from the recent floods. This is a view looking in at where Steel Creek flows into the Buffalo River.
Steel Creek

I hiked on a little trail that follows Steel Creek, which was also next to the horse stables there.
Steel Creek horse

I wondered what they did with the horses when it flooded. Where I stood to get this shot, there was debris in a tree a good eight feet above me. It must have been really crazy in this valley when the river flooded.

There are some awesome bluffs at Steel Creek, and I went by the campground to see what they looked life from there. I was really surprised to see a large waterfall running down from the bluff.
Steel Creek Falls

This isn't all that great of a shot, since it was taken in direct sunlight. But the falls were awesome. According to one of his picture books, Tim Ernst said that "This towering waterfall only comes alive when there is a big flood, and then it becomes one of the tallest waterfalls in the state."

From there I headed on towards Boxley Valley. The first stop was the low-water bridge at Ponca. I went across the bridge to an old homestead site, featuring a barn and an old house dating from the late 1800's. Here are a few shots of the old barn:

Old barn

And here is a shot of the Buffalo River from the low-water bridge at Ponca. It's hard to believe that a few days before the river was running 10-15 feet above where I stood...
Buffalo River

There were a lot of people kayaking the river, and it would have been a good day for it.

My original plans for the day including hiking down to a neat waterfall, but since it was sunny I decided to skip that and spent my time looking around Boxley Valley. That would actually turn out to be a good idea, turns out the dirt road leading to the waterfall was washed out from all the rain a few days before.

One place I had seen pictures of in Boxley was an old springhouse, which has a cascade of water flowing beside it after heavy rains. Apparently the springhouse is right on the side of the road, but I had managed to miss it everytime I had been to Boxley. I got some directions on where to find it, but managed to drive by it several times before finally seeing it tucked back in the trees. There wasn't much water flowing past it when I was there, but it is a neat old building.
Boxley Springhouse

With it being sunny I decided to wait until it began to get dark, and then try to get a few waterfall shots. To pass the time I went to one of my favorite trails in the state, Lost Valley. I took the tripod along with me, even if I didn't think I could get any good waterfalls shots with it being sunny.

The trail is wonderful, there were flowers blooming along the trail and the creek was filled with water. I reached the "natural bridge," with its neat waterfall. But it was in full sun and none of the pictures turned out. There was a new bizarre feature along the trail, and all the hikers were laughing at it. For some odd reason, a large bra was hanging from a tree along the trail. I didn't stop to get a shot of it, but now I wish I did. It was so amazingly random.

I continued on the trail, finally making it to Eden Falls. Then I was amazed to see that the falls were running quite well, and they were in shadow. Yes! I hurried down there and started taking a lot of pictures.
Lower Eden Falls

Lower Eden Falls

There are actually three waterfalls all next to each other on this creek. The other two are a bit harder to reach. It involves walking along a narrow ledge, then scrambling down a steep eight foot drop. I made my way down there, with some help from a few other people who must have taken pity on me while I tried to make my way there without dropping the camera. It isn't that scary or difficult to reach, and the views are amazing. The Middle and Upper Eden Falls both meet up in this little area, just above the top of the Lower Eden Falls in the above pictures.

Middle Eden Falls:
Middle Eden Falls

And Upper Eden Falls:
Upper Eden Falls

Both of these falls are close together. I thought it was cool that you could get both in the same shot...
Middle & Upper

And a close-up view of Middle Eden Falls:
Middle Eden Falls

Middle Eden Falls is formed from the waters that exit out of a nearby cave. The Lost Valley trail ends at the mouth of the cave, and you can crawl back about 100 feet and find a 30-foot waterfall inside the cave. I didn't bring a flashlight with me, so I didn't go through. It is really neat inside there...

I followed the trail back, which goes by one of my favorite waterfalls in Lost Valley. Tucked in the hill is Moss Falls, a series of small waterfalls over mossy rocks. The sun was a bit of a problem here, so I had to focus on just a few of the falls...
Moss Falls

Moss Falls

Moss Falls

Moss Falls

After that I finished the hike and got back to the car. I took one more drive around the Valley, stopping at this neat old barn. I thought it was interesting how they built the barn into the hill.
Boxley Barn

At Lost Valley, I was talking to another photographer about nearby waterfalls. I thought I might try to hit Triple Falls by Camp Orr on my way home. She said the road down there might be rough now, after all the flooding, but that I should try and hit some other falls instead. The falls were at Broadwater Hollow, a few miles north of Boxley. The way there was easy, just take a dirt road a few miles and the waterfalls will be right alongside the road. So I headed up there and started driving down the dirt road. But that road was also rough. There were huge culverts carved out by the rain, and my car bounced around on the way there. I got nervous, just having spent a few hundred dollars repairing my car. I didn't want to press my luck going down another dirt road so I sadly turned around and headed back to the safety of paved roads. Apparently dirt roads in the Ozarks didn't fare that well against all the rain.

So the trip didn't turn out exactly as planned, but it was still an enjoyable day out in the woods. Lost Valley and Boxley Valley are amazing places, definately worth visiting no matter what the weather is like...

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Big Dam Sunset

Went out to the Big Dam Bridge last night to see what kind of sunset would develop. It was rainy, with some storms moving in. I got a bit worried, since there were a few flashes of lightning up in the sky. I didn't want to see what would happen if lightning struck the bridge, especially if I was on it. I got up there and the sunset never really got all that great, too much cloud cover, but there was some neat color in the clouds..
Big Dam Sunset

And I'm still working on getting all of my pictures from last weekend uploaded. I ended up going to the Buffalo River, but my plans of waterfall pictures were burned out by a brilliant and sunny day. I did manage to get a few shots in, even some waterfalls! Here's a preview:
Lower Eden Falls

Friday, April 4, 2008

Dogwoods in bloom at Pinnacle Mountain

We got back in town from Dallas on Monday, so I took the day off. We got back in the afternoon, and I took the free time to make a visit to Pinnacle Mountain State Park. I hiked the Kingfisher Trail, but really didn't see much there to get a picture of. The dogwood trees at the base of the mountain were blooming, so I did get a shot of that...

It has poured down rain here all week, and I've been looking forward to the weekend since I would finally have a chance to go out and get some waterfall pictures. I've been studying the trusty Arkansas Waterfalls Guidebook for inspiration, making a tentative plan to maybe go up to the Buffalo River area. Then I watched the weather tonight, and the plans were ruined. What was the weather forecast for the weekend? Sunny both Saturday and Sunday. Crap! It made me mad, it rained every day while I was at work this week, but the one free day I had it would be sunny - the enemy of waterfall pictures. If I owned a gun (or was Elvis) I might have shot up my tv.

The good news at least is that all the places hit by the tornadoes and stormy weather last night will have some nice weather to help clean up. I guess I'll pack up the camera and set the alarm to wake up in the morning to see if maybe there is some decent cloud cover, and try to find a good waterfall to reach that is maybe closer to home....

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

FC Dallas vs. Chivas USA game pictures

This weekend was one made for waterfall photography. It was nice and cloudy on Saturday, with some light rain falling. Instead of rushing out to the woods, however, I went down to Dallas for the season opener of FC Dallas. I was looking forward to it since (I’m ashamed to admit) I hadn’t been out of the state this year and Dallas is a fun town to visit. Even if we don’t really get to see much of the city in the short time we’re down there, it’s a nice change of pace.

We got in to town on Saturday afternoon, making a traditional stop at an awesome grocery store that features the best beer selection around. I stocked up on some Carlsberg, a beer I haven’t been able to find anywhere else. Then we went and checked into our hotel, and then went to find a place to watch some of the other MLS games going on that day...

The game was played on Sunday, and it was warm and muggy at the stadium. It was cloudy, but the sun broke through so I ended up getting sunburned that day.

Before the game there was the "FC Dallas Experience," a place for people to mingle before the game and get free stuff. They also had face painting, a live band and a place to make your own sign or banner. While I didn’t get my facepainted, we got some free streamers - which I promptly managed to forget about and leave outside the stadium. But we did manage to bump into Michael Hitchcock, the GM of FC Dallas. I should have asked him for a job there when I had the chance....

One thing the team is doing now is opening up the concert stage at the stadium as a beer garden. It wasn’t much there, really, a booth selling beer and some tables set up. But the benefit was that the door the players walk out is down there, so we went up and stood waiting for them to walk out.
Duilio Davino

I felt like a paparrazi standing out there. We also booed some of the Chivas players when they came out, and they gave us a few dirty looks (which I feel bad about, since I have a Chivas player on my MLS Fantasy team)...

And the start of the game:
Pizza Hut Park

We started out sitting at one of the plaza areas at the top of the stadium. It was shady there, but didn’t really provide close-up views of the game.
FC Dallas

Free Kick

I ended up heading down to the stands under the plaza, getting onto the first row. I was set up right next to the spot where they take corner kicks, thinking it would be a great spot to get some shots from. Of course they never took a corner kick from there while I was sitting there. And of the two goals scored during the game, both were on the other side of the field. The first goal was scored by Juan Toja by Dallas, here is the crowd celebrating:

I was close to the action on the field. Since Dallas’ goal was on this end of the field, most of the time I saw Chivas players trying to attack and Dallas trying to defend...



In the second half...


I got a laugh from the people sitting behind me. One of them had apparently never watched a soccer game before, so he was confused by the time. "I just noticed that the clock is going up, not ticking down?" He asked, "how much time is left?"

Soccer is a hard sport to take pictures of. Or I’m just used to taking pictures of waterfalls and rocks and nature stuff - you know stuff that doesn’t move around all that much. I really need a better lens, maybe something like what this guy was using. I’m sure it’s out of my price range though:
Camera Envy

Abe Thompson


Blake Wagner

Cooper trying to score


In the 84th minute, Chivas ended up scoring and tied the game 1-1. With just a few seconds left in the game, Dallas nearly pulled out a win with a shot by Andre Rocha. But it went above the crossbar, and the game ended as a draw.
So close

It looks like we’re going to head back there in a few weeks for another game, this time against New York. This game will be at night, which makes it a bit harder to get pictures. I might try to actually watch the game, instead of watching it through the camera’s viewfinder...