2016 was a difficult year, for several reasons. Personally, it was a painful year spent deep in grief after a drunk driver killed my Aunt just before New Year’s Eve last year. The following twelve months have been very difficult, and I admit to being depressed and angry and confused about what happened. Spending Christmas with family, and not having her there, was incredibly difficult. The drawn-out legal proceedings have been frustratingly slow. The accident caused a lot of darkness in 2016.
So we needed a little bit of happiness and goodness, and we received it on February 10th when we welcomed our baby boy, Jonah, into the world. He is supersized in personality, spirit and in weight (he was nearly 11 pounds when he was born). His happiness and smile have brightened up our world. He has definitely made our lives much more interesting and fun, even if our days are spent changing dirty diapers.
I’ve taken lots of pictures of him this past year, and this is one of my favorites. He was laughing and smiling as he sat in a swing in a city park in Nashville.
Not every picture I've taken this year has been of the baby, so here is a little countdown of some of my favorite pictures from a long year that had both some bad and some awesome moments.
April 6: Toma, Arkansas.
I worked on a little photography project in 2016, which focused on the Delta region of eastern Arkansas. It’s not a part of the state that a lot of photographers flock to, since it lacks the waterfalls and tall bluffs of the Ozarks. But the flat swampy lands of the Delta contain a great many neat and photogenic places. I found this field while driving through southern Arkansas one day. The crops hadn’t been planted yet, and ominous storm clouds hung high overhead.
February 23: Little Rock, Arkansas.
My work has an extremely generous family leave policy, so when Jonah was born I was able to take three months off with pay. Which was a great way to spend time with and bond with the baby. Plus, it meant having a little extra free time to sneak out and take pictures once we got the baby settled in at home. This was taken one evening during rush hour, where I was glad I wasn’t having to battle the crowd on the freeway trying to get home from work.
January 29: Lake Sylvia, Ouachita National Forest, Arkansas.
About a week or so before Jonah’s due date, I hurried out to Lake Sylvia on a clear night to try to get some star trail pictures in before the baby was born. The lake is a short drive from Little Rock, but luckily is far enough away that there isn’t much light pollution. This was taken over the course of about two hours, looking north.
April 15: Nashville, Tennessee.
Caroline needed to travel to Nashville for work, so Jonah and I tagged along to keep her company. While she was busy, I had some freetime and decided to drive Jonah off to visit a waterfall that was about an hour and a half away. Well sitting in the car seat was not exactly what Jonah had in mind, and was not pleased to make the drive. So I drove all the way there, with a crying baby in the backseat, only to see a sign in the parking lot saying that a recent flood destroyed the trail and everything was closed. Whoops! This was taken on the same trip, from the pedestrian bridge over the Cumberland River which provides a great view of the Nashville skyline.
July 10: Near Wynne, Arkansas.
On one drive through the Delta, I passed by this old house. It was just barely still standing, the walls were slanted at a severe angle, and the interior was gutted. The only thing that might be holding it up are the hundreds of wasp nests inside.
May 1: Kings River Falls, Arkansas.
With the baby being born in February, I didn’t have as much time to get out to any waterfalls in the Spring. But I was able to make a quick trip up to Kings River Falls one afternoon. The trail has become popular and a little too crowded, but right around sunset everyone else had left and the falls were quiet and peaceful.
April 6: Watson, Arkansas.
Watson is a small town located deep in the Delta, not too far from the Arkansas River. My grandmother was born in Watson, and she lived here until the Mississippi River flood in 1927 forced the family to move to North Little Rock. Watson is a small town, now with a population of about 200 people. One of the landmarks in Watson used to be Bonnie's Cafe, which was one of those great local little restaurants that I wish I had been able to eat at. But apparently Bonnie has retired, and the place closed. Looking through the windows, the cafe is still set up like it just closed a few minutes earlier. Salt and pepper shakers are still on the tables. You wouldn't ever guess that it was closed, except for the dead houseplants that long ago turned brown sitting by the window.
June 23: Clarendon, Arkansas.
Clarendon is a neat old city, with an impressive courthouse that was built in 1911. The string of buildings across the street from the courthouse are mostly abandoned, with some crumbling away in the Delta humidity. The window here was filled with vines and flowers from a plant that has been growing wild inside one of the buildings.
September 30: Little Rock, Arkansas.
View from the top of a parking deck, looking down at the intersection of Center and 6th Streets. I attempted to get pictures of the International Space Station passing over the city from here, but the shots didn't turn out right. But before then I was luckily able to capture some neat light in the sky while we were waiting for it to get dark.
October 20: Big Spring, Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Missouri.
Big Spring is aptly named, since it is pretty big. It’s actually one of the largest springs in the world, with a daily output of 276 million gallons of water. The waters pour out of a hole at the base of the bluff and instantly create a small river. Although the fall colors weren’t all that great in the Ozarks this year, it is still amazing to see the water flowing out from the ground here.
July 10: Cotton Plant, Arkansas.
Cotton Plant, like so many other cities in the Delta, has its fair share of empty and abandoned buildings. Although there was still merchandise sitting out for sale in this old store, it looks to have been closed for a long time. A think carpet of dust covered the tables, and the back wall of the store had completely collapsed.
June 23: Clarendon, Arkansas.
The old Hwy. 79 bridge was built in 1931 and was just replaced with a new bridge in 2016. The state’s plan was to demolish the old bridge, but there has been an idea to preserve the bridge and convert it into a pedestrian and bike bridge. Hopefully that will go through because it is a fine old bridge and needs to be saved.
November 27: Little Rock, Arkansas.
Of all the bridges downtown, the Junction Bridge has to be the prettiest. It has the best lighting display, and the bridge has one of the best views of the Little Rock skyline. A barge floated by to go work on the new Broadway Bridge right after I took this, and it'll be interesting to see how the new bridge changes the views downtown in 2017.
November 12: Roark Bluff, Buffalo National River, Arkansas.
This was a pretty unspectacular year for fall colors in the Ozarks. Apparently some very dry and hot weather just zapped all of the good color out of the trees this year. When the trees finally did change, it was about two weeks past the time they usually hit their peak. This was taken at sunrise one morning along the Buffalo River. Most of the trees had already turned brown or lost their leaves, but the trees by the river managed to have some decent color. Hopefully the fall colors in 2017 will be better.
December 26: Big Dam Bridge, North Little Rock, Arkansas.
I got a new tripod for Christmas and was eager to go try it out. I hurried over to the Big Dam Bridge and found this reflection. Perhaps I maybe should have read the instruction manual on how to properly work the tripod first, but I did manage to maneuver it in place by this small puddle. I also managed to get a few shots without knocking the camera and new tripod into the muddy waters of the Arkansas River.
August 20: Hot Springs, Arkansas.
I was given the opportunity to go inside the Medical Arts Building, one of the most spectacular buildings in downtown Hot Springs. It was built in 1930, and is still the tallest building in the city. It has been all but abandoned for several decades, and has since been preserved as a sort of time capsule of old architecture. You can see the art deco pieces that signified the era in which it was built, and then some touches of 1970's era brightly colored shag carpet. This old electric outlet was situated in a sea of peeling and cracked paint in one of the rooms. The interior is still in mostly good shape, besides some water damage. It could easily be preserved and needs to be saved. After the loss of the Majestic Hotel, we don't need to lose anymore of Hot Springs' iconic buildings.
March 30: Mitchellville, Arkansas.
Some heavy storms moved above these huge grain elevators, and I tempted fate by trying to get some pictures of it. I hoped to catch maybe some cool lightning, but only ended up in getting the camera soaked by the rain. It stopped working, and I had to put it in a bag of rice for a day or two to get rid of the moisture. It worked, and the camera works just fine now (it just had a lingering smell of jasmine rice for a few days afterwards).
October 21: Alley Mill, Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Missouri.
Alley Mill was built in 1894 and sits by a spring that pours out about 81 million gallons a day. It's a beautiful spot, and well worth the long drive up to southern Missouri.
August 11: Altheimer, Arkansas.
This ghost sign was painted on the side of a building that dates back to 1917. During the great flood in 1927, people huddled for safety here as it was tall enough to survive the flood waters. But now the building is abandoned, and the roof appears to have collapsed.
June 25: Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
The Hotel Pines was built in 1913 and was considered to be one of the finest hotels in the state. But it closed in 1970, and has steadily deteriorated ever since. The glass skylight is broken, so water pours into the lobby every time it rains. Chunks of plaster have fallen from the walls and ceilings. The fine marble in the lobby is cracked and broken. But the building is currently for sale, and maybe a buyer can come along to save it. Or at least preserve it so it doesn't collapse like the buildings that once stood across the street from the Pines.
October 20: Turners Mill, Mark Twain National Forest, Missouri.
This massive 25 foot tall waterwheel is all that remains of the old Turners Mill, and the small town of Surprise. The town faded away, and has been reclaimed by the forest. The steel wheel sits in the waters of Turner Spring, where about 1.5 million gallons of water pour out every day.
December 4: Pine Bluff, Arkansas.
The Saenger Theater was built in 1924, and was called the "Showplace of the South." But the theater closed in 1970, and has been abandoned for many years. It is a beautiful old theater, but the years of neglect are taking their toll on the building. Water pours through holes in the roof every time it rains. The ornate crown molding is cracked, the plaster is peeling off in chunks, and the orchestra pit is flooded with murky water. This was taken from the stage with a fisheye lens, which helps to show the fine architecture of the building and the damage that is occurring there.
April 10: Flatside Pinnacle, Ouachita National Forest, Arkansas.
The view from Flatside is probably one of the prettiest in the state, and its only about an hour away from Little Rock. The trail heading to the top of the mountain is short, but a bit steep (especially if you had just spent the past two months doing nothing but holding a baby and watching TV). But the view is worth the effort, with miles and miles of tree-covered hills spread out below you.
June 5: Little Rock, Arkansas.
This was taken during the fireworks show that capped off the end of the Riverfest music festival in downtown Little Rock. It was actually taken during the beginning of the show, when there was still a little bit of light in the sky. And also before the smoke from the fireworks drifted over and obscured the skyline.
October 20: Klepzig Mill, Ozark National Scenic Riverways, Missouri.
This was one of my favorite places to visit and photograph last year. The old mill sits right by Rocky Creek, which passed by several waterfalls and some huge boulders (hey, wonder where it got it's name?). The photos were eventually posted here to this little blog, which actually celebrated its tenth birthday in 2016. This blog actually got its start on MySpace (remember that?), and then moved here to Blogger. It is a bit of work to keep up with a photoblog, and I admit that it seems daunting to come up with something to say and to post. But the internet is littered with old photoblogs that started and then were abandoned after a year or two. I feel like it'd be a waste now to give up on it, so I'm going to continue plugging along and posting pictures with some stories and the occasional bad joke. I'm not always sure that people are reading these posts, but if anyone is then I just want to say thanks for sticking with me all these years and for putting up with my bad grammar and photography. My goal is to take more pictures in 2017, and to soon teach Jonah photography (or to at least force him to carry my tripod and camera bag during hikes when he's older). Thanks again, and hopefully 2017 will be much better than 2016!