Monday, January 2, 2012

Best of 2011

Well 2011 is over, which means it's that time of year where I make the three people who read this website suffer through my own version of a "best-of" list. 2011 was actually a pretty good year, I took a lot of pictures and spent time with some good friends exploring a few different parts of the state. And yeah, I think I got a few decent pictures out of it. So without further ado, here are my favorite pictures of the last year:

Lightning Crashes
August 8: Downtown Little Rock, Arkansas.

A huge summer storm came through town, dumping a lot of rain and lightning. The storm was enough to cause the power to go out in my apartment. So as the storm passed, I sat in the dark. With nothing else to do besides look out the window, I grabbed the camera and headed towards downtown Little Rock. I went to the top of a parking deck and got a few shots of some lightning, and also managed to catch a plane taking off from the airport.

Hickson Lake
October 9: Hickson Lake, Dagmar Wildlife Management Area, Arkansas.

This is one of my favorite places to take photos, and luckily it's a fairly short and easy drive from Little Rock. Hickson Lake is lined with tons of cypress and tupelo trees, and if you catch it with good light it can be amazing. This was a trip on an early Sunday morning, which I was extremely hesitant about since it would mean being awake on an early morning. But we got here just before the sunrise, and watched the sleepy lake come to life.

Sweden Creek Falls
May 14: Sweden Creek Falls, Arkansas.

This 80 foot-tall waterfall is located in the Ozarks, just north of the Buffalo River. It was a cold morning, but luckily there was some nice water going over the falls. The waterfall is beautiful, but I thought that it wasn't the easiest to get pictures of. There are a lot of trees around it, and some debris left-over from the ice storm a few years back.

Center Street
January 17: Center Street, Little Rock, Arkansas.

I had the day off from work and decided to get a few pictures downtown. This is the old Centre Place Building (built in 1917). In the distance is the Metropolitan Bank Building, which was built in the 1980s. The Centre Place Building is one of my favorite buildings in downtown Little Rock, and luckily it hasn't been torn and down and replaced with parking lots, like so many other old buildings in downtown....

Roark Bluff
October 28: Roark Bluff, Buffalo National River, Arkansas.

This is easily one of the most scenic spots in the state. And luckily we managed to catch it with some good fall color. It had been a dry fall (and summer), and the river was very low. But it did help to make some nice reflections of the bluffline and the fall colors...

I'd rather be a forest than a street
April 23: Longpool, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas.

This was a perfect day for pictures: cool, cloudy and with a bit of fog along Big Piney Creek. This was in the spring, so I naturally assumed that there would be water at Longpool Falls. But after hiking to the waterfall, I was disappointed but not surprised to see that the falls were hardly running. I don't have a good history with Longpool Falls. I've been here several times and have never seen it with much water. Oh well. I did like how this picture turned out - this was taken in the campground, near the trailhead to the waterfall.

December 26: Subiaco, Arkansas.

I have family that lives nearby, so I've driven by Subiaco hundreds of times over the years. But I've never stopped there to take any pictures. So after Christmas, I had the camera with me and decided to make a quick stop. It was a cold and rainy day, but I went out and made a few pictures while trying to keep the lens free of raindrops. Subiaco is a neat old place, sitting on a low hill surrounded by old barns and pastures.

Sam's Throne
October 26: Sam's Throne, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas.

I took a few days off from work and went camping up in the Ozarks with my friend Zack. We were extremely lucky to be up there during one of the best years for fall colors. On the first night, we camped at Sam's Throne. This is one of the neater places to camp in the Ozarks - you have one of the best views in the state just a short walk from your tent. The morning after this shot was taken, we both woke up before dawn and walked out to this overlook. The plan was to hopefully get a good shot of the sunrise, or of some nice fog at least. But a rainstorm was moving across the valley below. Before we knew it, the rain was right over us. A lightning bolt hit Sam's Throne, and we wisely decided to head back to the car for safety. In the pouring rain, we headed down to Jasper for a breakfast at the Ozark Cafe. After a very filling breakfast, we headed out to get a few other shots (some of which you will see below).

Where The Streets Have No Name
June 29: Springfield Bridge, near Bono, Arkansas.

The Springfield Bridge is the oldest vehicular bridge in the state. It was built way back in 1874, and was used for over a century before being replaced in 1994. The bridge isn't in the best of shape now. The wooden beams are rotten or missing in places. But it turns out that there are plans to preserve the bridge. Which is good, since there's no telling how much longer it will last...

Hedge's Pouroff
October 27: Hedge's Pouroff, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas.

This is a view from Hedge's Pouroff, which is along a bluff that sits 110 feet above Boxley Valley and the Buffalo River. It was still pouring down rain, and the distant mountains were covered with fog. While the weather wasn't great, the conditions were perfect for taking pictures. I think this day might have been one of the better days of the year for taking pictures.

Little Punchbowl Falls
April 16: Little Punchbowl Falls on Bear Creek, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas.

This is just one of several amazing waterfalls along Bear Creek. This one drops down into a large pool, which was filled with emerald-green water. We visited a few other waterfalls along this creek (you'll see another shot from this creek below- spoiler!). This is really an amazing area - with some of the most unique waterfalls in the Ozarks. Unfortunately it's a bit of pain to get here, since you have to bushwhack up and down a steep hill to get to the creek...

Tractor Beam
October 28: Erbie, Buffalo National River, Arkansas.

After spending the night at the Erbie campground, we ended up crossing the Buffalo River at the low-water bridge there and found this large field. The mountains that surrounded the field had a small bit of fog that was dying off in the early morning sunlight. There was an old tractor parked in the field, which made for a nice subject for a few pictures.

Cornelius Falls
May 21: Cornelius Falls (aka Bridal Veil Falls), Heber Springs, Arkansas.

I drove to Heber Springs in May to get a few shots of this neat waterfall. The waterfall is about 40 feet tall, and is located on private property. But luckily, the city of Heber Springs has gotten an easement that has allowed access to the falls. So now everyone can see the falls. The city has even built a viewing platform over the falls. So thanks, city of Heber Springs!

Smith Creek
April 30: Smith Creek Nature Preserve, near the Buffalo National River, Arkansas.

Smith Creek is an amazing area - the creek flows past huge boulders and a few small waterfalls. It isn't part of the National River, but is instead land preserved by the Nature Conservancy. I made this visit with my Aunt in the spring. We enjoyed the creek and the views, but didn't really like the long uphill hike to get back to the trailhead.

Light My Way
March 29: Downtown Little Rock, Arkansas.

I headed out after work to get a few pictures of downtown Little Rock. It was another cold and rainy night, and I spent most of this night using an umbrella to try to keep the rain from getting on the camera. This is a view overlooking the Chester Street on-ramp onto I-630.

Goat Trail
May 13: Goat Trail along Big Bluff, Buffalo National River, Arkansas.

This is the view from the Goat Trail, which is 340 feet above the Buffalo National River. Now this was taken during one of the most bizarre camping experiences I've ever been on. To get to the Goat Trail, you hike about 3 miles on the Centerpoint Trailhead. We had set up camp that night, and had a good campfire going. I had heard a few coyotes off in the distance, and was then surprised to see a few flashlights in the distance. Somehow, someone was coming down the trail at 11:30 at night. At first, I naturally assumed that it was some sort of crazed serial killer coming down the trail. But it turned out to be a large church youth group from Tulsa. Apparently they decided, for some bizarre reason, to hike this trail in the middle of the night. They didn't know they had been hiking for three miles, or really where they were going. After standing around our campfire for a bit, they turned around and headed back up the trail. Which I can't imagine being any fun, since they were hiking 3 miles uphill, in the dark. But at least they didn't kill us!

Brushy Grotto Falls
April 15: Brushy Grotto Falls, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas.

I took off work this day and met up with Matt and Zack in Conway. We drove up into the Ozark National Forest and ended up finding some new waterfalls. We hiked a few miles and went through several drainages. I thought it was a somewhat annoying hike, since there were countless thorns along the way, that would grab and cling at you while you tried to walk by. But it was worth it, since we found some cool waterfalls. This waterfall pours into a grotto, which eventually empties into Brushy Fork Creek. For directions to this waterfall, visit Zack's site here. For some reason, he didn't include some other waterfalls we saw that day, which I decided to name after FC Dallas soccer players.

Top Of The Rock
May 29: Downtown Little Rock, Arkansas.

This is a view of downtown Little Rock, crowded with cars and people during Riverfest. In this shot you can see the Centre Place Building, which you may remember as a building shown before as #22 in this post...

Triple Falls
April 16: Triple Falls at Camp Orr, Buffalo National River, Arkansas.

Like Longpool Falls, I have made several visits to this waterfall and have never found it running. My little joke is that it should be called Trickle Falls, not Triple Falls, whenever I try to drive there. But this spring was I amazed to actually see these falls running full-tilt. This is one of the coolest waterfalls in the state, and I'm so glad I was finally able to see it running with water in it!

Big Dam Blues
January 24: Big Dam Bridge, North Little Rock, Arkansas.

My apartment isn't very far from the Big Dam Bridge, so I'll occasionally head out there when it looks like there might be good conditions for pictures. This was one of those nights. It was about 10:00 PM, and I headed out to take some trash to the apartment dumpster. But as I got outside, I saw some of the thickest fog I've ever seen around here. So I threw the trash away as quickly as I could, and ran up the stairs for the camera and tripod. It was very cold that night (34 degrees), but the fog was thick. I stood at the bridge taking several pictures, and for some reason the blue lights on the bridge seemed to show best in the fog.

And I'm happy to say that this shot was selected to tour the state this year as part of the Small Works On Paper Exhibition. Not to brag too much, but this is the fifth time I've had a photo selected for SWOP, and the fourth year in a row...

Parker-Hickman Farmstead
October 28: Parker-Hickman Farmstead, Erbie, Buffalo National River, Arkansas.

This is the oldest building within the Buffalo National River, built back in 1840s. Zack and I had camped overnight at Erbie, and this was our first stop that day. We had hoped that there would be some cool fog that morning. There was some, but it was quickly dissolving away as the sun came up. I tried to get a few shots of the old home before the sun came up. I ended up taking pictures of the home framed by this tree, which had some nice fall colors on it. Of course the vine on the tree is actually poison ivy, so I didn't dare get too close to the tree...

Smith Creek
April 30: Smith Creek Nature Preserve, near the Buffalo National River, Arkansas.

Another view from the trip to the awesome Smith Creek. This small creek has risen to the top of my favorite places to visit in the state. It helps that it's right by Boxley Valley, and the Buffalo River. I can't wait to head up there again...

October 27: Road heading down to Kyle's Landing, Buffalo National River, Arkansas.

After a hot and dry summer, people were predicting that there wouldn't be any good fall colors in 2011. But somehow, the trees ignored the skeptics and managed to have one of the best years for fall foliage in recent memory. This was taken on a cold and rainy day in October, on the bumpy dirt road that heads down to the river put-in at Kyle's Landing. We headed down here after having breakfast at the Ozark Cafe, and we made several stops because the views kept on getting better and better. I ran through an 8-gig memory card taking pictures of the falls colors out there that day....

Under The Bridge
August 12: Downtown Little Rock, Arkansas.

Dusk over downtown Little Rock, framed by the I-30 bridge. There was a storm moving in, which helped to produce the clouds seen in this shot.

V-Slot Falls
April 16: V-Slot Falls on Bear Creek, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas.

This has to be one of the coolest waterfalls that I've been lucky enough to photograph. The creek is divided by a boulder, which creates a V-shaped waterfall. Below the falls, the creek has carved out a small slot canyon. There are several waterfalls on this creek, but unfortunately it is a difficult hike in to get there! My knees just ache looking at this picture, because they remember the beating they took to hike out of this spot...

Well so thanks to anyone who made it to end of this post - I hope you didn't get bored looking at old pictures! I hope that everyone who reads this has a great 2012.

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