Wednesday, November 26, 2008


It was cold and cloudy on Saturday, and I drove around downtown Little Rock looking to take a few pictures. I ended up in Riverfront Park in North Little Rock around dusk, so I sat up the camera and waited for it to get dark. Luckily this time there were no crazy people encounters, just me trying to stay warm. When I left, a sign listed the temperature as 35 degrees.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Burns Park

It was cold and cloudy last Saturday, maybe only about 40 degrees outside. Nearly all of the fall color is gone now, though some nice patches are still sticking around. I cancelled some plans to make a longer drive out to take pictures, instead sticking a bit closer to home. My first stop was Burns Park in North Little Rock.

There is an old cabin in the park, built before the Civil War. I stopped there first - here is a shot looking in through one of the windows.

And another shot of the cabin...

And one more view, this time with some sepia and orton tossed in for fun:
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Just down the road is another spot, the covered bridge. This is a popular spot to fish and take pictures, and luckily there weren't many other people out there. As I was leaving, a group of people taking portraits started posing against the bridge.



From there I went by the Old Mill, thinking that the chilly weather would deter people from heading out there. Boy was I ever wrong, the place was packed. There must have been a wedding going on there, it was as crowded as I had ever seen it. I didn't bother stopping, and instead headed towards downtown Little Rock for a few more shots before it got dark...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Third times a charm at Collins Creek

As I was driving up to Collins Creek on Saturday I wondered if it was good idea to make another visit up there. This would be the third time I've been up there this year, and I worried that I was repeating myself too much. Along with the three trips to Collins Creek, I went to Falling Water Falls three times this year, and also two trips each to Haw Creek Falls, Longpool Falls, Tyler Bend, Boxley Valley and Flatside Pinnacle. And who knows how many trips out to the Big Dam Bridge - probably too many to count. And hey, the year isn't even over yet.

But Collins Creek is a beautiful place, a playground for photographers. So while you might tend to take the same pictures that you've gotten before, some experience shooting in a certain place lets you find some new angles to shoot (or so I hoped). I did have a certain idea for a shot in mind, and Saturday was the perfect time to get it. Last time I was there I noticed a little whirlpool caused by the current under one of the waterfalls. How would that whirlpool look with a bunch of autumn leaves twirling about? Most of the trees are dropping their fall leaves now, so I might as well try to see what it was like up there. I just hoped that the shot I was daydreaming about actually existed there, and would compare to the shot that I had developed in my imagination's darkroom.

So I continued on towards Collins Creek instead of my Plan B location - Petit Jean Mountain (which I've been to once this year). I again made sure to slow down through the small town of Guy, to prevent getting another speeding ticket. The parking lot at Collins Creek was empty, which is really surprising considering how scenic this place is.

I walked the short trail and immediately looked to see if there were leaves swirling about, and yes, there were! But I didn't stop there first, exploring some small waterfalls further downstream.

The leaves carpeted the forest floor, and did contrast nicely with the mossy rocks along the creek.


I made it back up to the spot with the whirlpool, and quickly started trying to get some pictures. They just weren't turning out like I wanted them too. To get the best movement of the leaves I needed a longer exposure, but that tended to blowout the white of the background waterfall. I bracketed my exposures, with the hope that I could use the magic of Photoshop to merge the shots together to make it look presentable. Luckily I'd try again later on and get the shot I wanted. But until then, here is a view of the leaves and part of the waterfall...

One major difference of this Collins Creek trip is that I didn't wade into the creek. It was about 45 degrees out, cloudy and with a strong wind. The water was probably a bit to chilly to stand in barefoot. So I crouched on some rocks to get a few shots.


(OK, I did cheat and put that leaf there)


I carefully hopped across some rocks to the other side of the creek, and found a bright patch of leaves that had settled by the creek. If I had waited a week or so to visit, most of these leaves would have probably washed away. So it was good I made it up there, I thought.


Collins Creek, if you're interested in making a visit, takes just about an hour and a half to reach from Little Rock. It's located in the John F. Kennedy Memorial Park, near the dam and hatchery at Greers Ferry Lake. It still seems like a bit of a secret (don't tell!), in fact I only saw four other people out there the entire time I was at the creek.

It was starting to get dark, to the point where it was difficult to get the camera to focus. I made one last visit to the whirlpool, and took a quick picture to see what it looked like from the opposite shore of the creek. Since it was so much darker, I was able to get a good exposure on both the falls and the leaf swirl. So even though the light was fading fast, I carefully hurried to the other shore to try to get my dream shot again. And amazingly, it even turned out. I haven't quite decided on which one is the best shot so far, but this is the one I'm liking the best at the moment. It's a 15 second exposure, and one of the very last pictures taken on the trip.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Little Rock

I was just 15 miles or so south of downtown Little Rock when I left Lorance Creek, and I decided to head up there for some pictures. Most of the pictures I've taken in the past few months have all been of trees and waterfalls, so some pictures of buildings would be a nice change of pace. My first stop was MacArthur Park.

That white dot in between the tree and the tower is actually the moon. Some history on this place, if you're interested. It was built in 1840, and is one of the oldest buildings in Little Rock (which was incorporated in 1831). It was built to be the arsenal for the city, and was the place where World War II general Douglas MacArthur was born in 1880.

My next stop was the Old State House, but I was disappointed to see that the trees there didn't have any fall color. The trees on the lawn are magnolias, which don't change color in the fall (I think). So instead I pointed the camera up and at the Stephens Building, which did have some trees around it with some color.

Just a block away is one of my favorite buildings downtown, the Pulaski County Courthouse.

Construction on the courthouse was completed in 1889. I like the architecture, it's interesting both in and out. I've only been inside of it once, when I went to early vote before the 2000 election (memorable because I managed to lock my keys in the car right outside of the building).

When I was out there with the camera pointed up at the building, I heard someone behind me say "see, other people are out taking pictures!" I turned around to see another photographer, clearly dragging along her significant other (who didn't seem to want to be out taking pictures that day). She walked by and gave a look that said "I know.."

Just a block to the west is another old building, built in 1881 as a post office and federal courthouse.

The Stephens Building poking over it adds a nice contrast in architecture styles. I tried to get a few more shots downtown, but the light was fading fast. So for now, this concludes your tour of downtown Little Rock...

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lorance Creek

On Saturday I stayed close to home, driving out to Lorance Creek, a swampy area located less than 15 miles from downtown Little Rock. The trees around here have lost most of their fall colors and leaves already, so I wasn't expecting much when I got there. The creek is a part of the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission, and has a short half-mile trail that leads to a boardwalk through a dense swamp.
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A few of the cypress trees here still had some nice color, but most of them were already bare. The murky water was filled with fallen leaves...
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And looking up at some of those cypress trees...

It was yet another sunny day, but the deep blue sky did look nice reflected in the water.

There wasn't much more to see in the swamp, so I turned by focus onto the neat boardwalk that stretches out above the water. I ended up with a lot more shots of the walkway than I did of the swamp itself.
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And ok, just one more:
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I gave up and made the short walk back to the car and tried to decide where to head next. Since I was so close to downtown, I thought I might hit up a few sights out there (no bridges, this time). More on that soon....

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Old Mill

Last Friday I had to work late, which left me some free time before work to take some pictures. I headed over to the Old Mill in North Little Rock, with the hope that there wouldn't be many other people there on a weekday. It wasn't that crowded, but there were quite a few other people there with cameras in hand.
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The fall colors weren't all that great, and the light wasn't that great either. But I have a soft spot in my heart for the Old Mill, and it is always a good place to try to get pictures. It is so popular though that it is somewhat of a cliched place to get photos. Which reminds me of a my senior year of high school, I joined the staff of the school literary magazine (which published photography). The faculty advisor had grown tired of seeing pictures of the Old Mill, since dozens of shots of it were always submitted to the magazine's photography contest. So she banned all pictures of the Old Mill from the magazine, and even set up a huge board in the magazine's office with hundreds of Old Mill pictures. It was sort of a Wall of Shame of Old Mill pictures. When I joined the staff, I looked at the board to see in my horror a few Old Mill pictures that I had submitted the previous year. But in my defense, they were good pictures!

And so here is one more shot of the great Old Mill...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pinnacle Mountain

After leaving Lake Maumelle, there was just one more neat place to stop at - Pinnacle Mountain State Park. I didn't have time (or the energy) to climb to the top, so I instead went to the crowded area at the base of the mountain, and pointed my camera at a large cypress tree along the Little Maumelle River. The tree is quite old, and has a nice collection of cypress knees along the shore and in the water.

Notice all the debris and junk perched up in the tree in the background? Last time I was in this area, during the rains from Hurricane Gustav, this area of the park was flooded. That must be debris left from the high water.

The cypress tree is huge, this is a view looking up from the base...

About this time I got a call from a friend, who questioned my sanity since I was out taking pictures when I could instead be watching the MLS playoffs (one game had already started!). So I eventually left to watch the games, even if my heart really wasn't in it since FC Dallas missed the playoffs this season.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Lake Maumelle

Driving back from Flatside Pinnacle, I took a detour towards Lake Sylvia in the Ouachita National Forest. Lake Sylvia is small lake, and I thought there might be some nice color. The road finally turned from dirt to pavement, much to the pleasure of my poor car.

Well it turns out that Lake Sylvia is only open seasonally, and the access to the lake was closed. So I ended up heading back towards Little Rock, making a stop at another lake - Lake Maumelle.
Lake Maumelle

I stopped at a little picnic area with some views of the lake, which actually serves as the source of drinking water for central Arkansas. There were some nice colors and reflections there...
Lake Maumelle

But I soon headed off towards one last spot, Pinnacle Mountain....

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Flatside Pinnacle

Standing in the long line to early vote last Saturday, I thought my time would be better spent taking pictures instead, so I left the line and went to get the camera(I did end up voting Tuesday night after work, when there wasn't any line at all). Since it was mid-afternoon, it would be too late for a drive to the Ozarks. Luckily there is a great place located close to Little Rock, with one of the best views in the state.

That would be Flatside Pinnacle, located about 50 miles to the west of the city. It takes about an hour to get there - part of the way is on a bumpy dirt road that you have to drive slow on.
Winona Scenic Drive

The fall colors looked really great out there...

From the road, it is just a short .25 mile hike to the top of the mountain. The view there is amazing, with rolling hills in every direction. Of course, it was really sunny out there...
Flatside Pinnacle

Flatside Pinnacle sits within the Flatside Wilderness of the Ouachita National Forest. For the most part, there are hardly any traces of civilization, except for the dirt road leading up there. Sadly there has been some clear-cutting on a nearby hill, so the view now includes a brown patch of dirt where there used to be trees. Now the Ouachita National Forest is huge, containing land in two states. Why they had to choose this spot to log, when there are trees located elsewhere is beyond me. Of course, why so much logging is allowed in our National Forests is also a mystery to me. Who needs scenery anyways?

Oh well, the view is still awesome from there...
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Also, it was really hazy out there. Apparently the haze was thanks to the smoke from controlled burns the Forest Service was conducting in the Ouachitas.
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It was really sunny too, so I sat and waited for the sun to pass behind a cloud, hoping for better light for pictures...
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Flatside Pinnacle

A cool thing about the Ouachitas is there is a nice mix between oak and pine trees. The green from the pines adds a nice bit of color to the scene. A few pines were growing up on the exposed rock on the top of the mountain, which must not be an easy place to live.

Side of a pine at Flatside


One of the best places in the state to watch the sunset is at Flatside. But I didn't want to wait around three hours for sunset, so I decided to leave and hit up a few other places before it got dark. With one last view, it was time to take the short hike down the mountain...

Of course I made a few stops on the way. Here is a shot taken along the trail, of a fallen leaf resting on a bed of moss.
Trailside at Flatside

Getting back to the car I did a quick check to make sure I didn't get a flat tire on the bumpy road, and started the drive back. I stopped just down the road and got one last shot, looking back up at the top of Flatside Pinnacle....
Flatside Pinnacle