Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A foggy Mt. Nebo and lots of Christmas lights

Christmas is a great time of the year, one small reason being that people decide to string up lights everywhere and make stuff look cooler than normal. I even strung up lights on the balcony of my apartment, hopefully bringing joy to the people in the parking lot below (probably not). One other Christmas light display is from the Bank of America building in downtown Little Rock, which puts up lights in the shape of a Christmas tree on three sides of the building. They've been doing that for as long as I remember. There is a parking deck downtown that offers some nifty views of the building so I snuck up there one night (I get worried about going up there since I'm probably trespassing), and got a few shots. It was really cold and bit rainy, so I didn't stay up there too long...
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

A week later the lights on the State Capitol were lit. Along with the lights, they also have a fireworks show:
Christmas fireworks

This is only the second time I've gotten shots of the fireworks there. I didn't like how my shots turned out last year since I was having tripod problems and all the shots were a bit blurry. This year was a bit of a challenge since it was packed with people (more than last year). It may have been because I was standing next to the free hot cocoa and cookie stand.
X-Mas X-plosion

This is the big finale...

Getting shots of fireworks is a bit tricky. The hard part is timing. These shots were all 4 second exposures. So to get the best shots you have to have the camera taking a picture during the four seconds when the best fireworks are popping. The added difficulty is that my camera takes an extra four seconds to process and do noise reduction, so it's an added time to sit and wait. The shot of the finale was lucky because I started taking a picture just as the main finale fireworks were exploding. By the time the camera finished processing eight seconds later, the show was over.

One night after work I went down to the Big Dam Bridge. The last time I had been there the water was high and moving fast, ruining any good reflection shots. The water is back down to more normal levels, and quite still at the base of the dam.
Big Dam Bridge

This shot was taken on some sort of concrete thing that juts out into the water. It might be for navigation or to control the river channel or just to give people a place to fish, but it also gives decent views of the bridge.

In order to get to the little concrete thing you kind of have to scramble down a rocky slope. I was making my way down there, sure I was going to tumble down the hill breaking bones and camera parts when there was this loud and creepy noise behind me. Some sort of river monster was lurking around, and it wasn't happy with my being there.

I searched the darkness and saw that it wasn't some sort of Loch Ness monster or Godzilla, but an egret. It gave me the willies though...

This is the view looking downriver from the concrete thingy. The color in the sky is from the city lights of downtown hitting the low clouds.
Also a bit spooky

A weekend after that was one of those where it was foggy, the kind of fog that just lingers everywhere. I'm fond of fog so I grabbed the camera and headed out the door. There are a few places that I had read about that were somewhat nearby, so I headed out west along the freeway. The first place was called Goose Pond, in the Point Remove Wildlife Management Area north of Atkins. I got lost trying to find it, and in looking for a good place to turn around came upon this old barn in the fog:
Foggy Barn

I got back to going in the right direction and finally made it to Goose Pond. The pond is really more of a swamp, with lots of cypress and tupelo trees growing in murky water. There is a bit of short trail that runs along some higher ground above the swampy area, which was good because otherwise it would have meant trying to wade through the type of mud that likes to suck in your shoe if you aren't careful.
Goose Pond

Getting closer to the water meant braving the mud, but in some places there were enough fallen leaves and pine needles that it created a bit of a carpet to walk on. I sunk in a bit but not enough to lose a shoe.

This is a shot taken close to the edge of the water. The picture has an orton effect on it, a process that gives the shot a bit of a blur while leaving some parts in focus. It used to be done by people using slide film by taking a sharp picture of something, then taking a blurry picture of the exact same thing, and then sandwiching them all together. The same thing can be done much easier in Photoshop nowadays. Now that I learned how to do the effect, I have to restrain myself from not putting it on every single picture I take.
Goose Pond

On the way back I stopped in Atkins to take pictures of a neat old church. None of the pictures of it turned out, mainly because I got mad at the town after stepping in dog crap in a little park across the street from the church.

Then I went on west to Mt. Nebo State Park, south of Russellville. It was still foggy, and I thought the fog might be thick on top of the mountain. It wasn't all that foggy driving up there, but while starting up the steep and windy road to the top, a thick fog enclosed everything. I got excited because it did look really cool up there.
The Fog

It was so foggy up there that in the few minutes I had parked the car to take a few shots, all the windows in my car fogged up as well:
Everything is fogged up

As I made my way to the top of the mountain, thinking about all the fog pictures I could take, I then saw something terrible. There was some strange orange light poking through...the sun had come out. In the span of just a few minutes, all the fog burned away. I was pissed.

I made my way to the edge of the mountain, to an overlook called Sunset Point. The fog at the top of the mountain was gone, but down in the valley below there was still fog rolling through the small foothills at the base of Mt. Nebo.
From Sunset Point

From Sunset Point

I got back into the car and drove back around some of the roads around the park. To my amazement, the sun went away and the fog returned just as quickly as it burned up.
Fogged out

The fog was so thick in places that it was impossible to see more than 15 or 20 feet.
Foggy Mt. Nebo
That was another shot processed with the Orton effect...

I stopped and parked at a little playground area, which was deserted because of the weather.
stop in the name of fog

One of the ideas I had for a picture was a lichen covered rock in the foreground with a foggy forest in the background. I found it at the play area, which was cheating since the fog hides a tennis court and road...
Lichen Fog

Here is the playground. I was tempted to go down the slide but restrained myself.
Slidin' away

Foggy picnic

From the picnic area I went and wandered a bit in the woods. I found this fallen tree on the ground and tried to get a shot. I spent quite a bit of time there since I was focused so much on getting the tree trunk centered in the shot I failed to notice the camera strap sprawled all along the foreground. Whoops.
Fallen, and it can't get up

I walked back around to the tennis courts, where it seems some people didn't bother to pick up any stray tennis balls.
No Man's Land

I laughed to myself a bit since it reminded me of the tennis class I took in college where the coach would always yell at me, "McCormick, you're in No Man's Land!" I never found out where No Man's Land was, but was sure I was sitting there even then taking pictures.

I walked back into the woods on the other side of the tennis courts and found this old downed tree covered with lichen and moss. It did look neat with the fog, so I did end up getting the shot I wanted.
Mt. Nebo

From there I went and drove back to Sunset Point. It was around sunset time and I thought that it might look neat if there was enough sun out to make a sunset, the light hitting any fog in the river valley. But it was either too foggy for the sun to come out or I missed the sunset completely, since there wasn't really anything out there. I was a bit hungry so I stopped by the park visitor center for some refreshments. I walked in and clearly disrupted the workers there having a lazy chit chat. There was a really painful awkward silence as I grabbed a Coke and candy bar and went to pay for it. I did find out that I had missed a visit from Santa Claus that afternoon at the visitor center. Damn!

It was getting dark but I took one last drive around the mountain, and just randomly found this neat old building along the side of the road.
Finding Nebo

Open Door

It got too dark to take pictures so I headed back down the hill and made a stop at Dardanelle. The courthouse there had Christmas lights on it, but they hadn't been turned on. I sat in the parking lot and waited, and then waited, and waited a bit more for them to come on. I got bored of staring at a dark building and ended up driving up Highway 7 to Russellville to take a look at the their courthouse. It had lights on it, but the building is too close to the road so it was hard to get a good shot of it.
Pope County Courthouse

Luckily it isn't too far to drive back to Dardanelle (maybe 10 minutes) so I headed back down the road and they finally had the lights turned back on. Guess someone remembered to plug in the light cord there.
Yell County Courthouse

I got back on the freeway and made a stop in Morrilton to see if the courthouse there had any lights on. They didn't, the jerks.

I made it back to Little Rock and headed down to the Capitol again. It looked kinda neat with some fog lingering around.
Foggy Capitol

Oh Christmas Tree

I drove down Capitol Avenue and went by the Bank of America Building again. The fog seemed thicker there and the lights of its Christmas tree looked cool in the fog...

From near that same spot I got a shot of the Union Bank Building reflecting in a building across the street:
Capitol Avenue

For Christmas I drove up to the small town of Charleston, Arkansas, where a lot of relatives live. After going to the candlelight service on Christmas Eve, we drove by the courthouse there that had a nice light display on it. I brought up my camera and tripod with me, so my Aunt and Dad headed back up there to take a few pictures of the courthouse. It's a nice building, built in 1923, but it was really cold out there. The sign on a bank across the street said it was above freezing, but just barely. We also had to be back to do some more family visiting, so we didn't stay out there too long...

Now that it really has turned into winter, it's almost too cold to stand around taking pictures. On the other hand, with all the rain we've had the past few weeks it means that waterfalls are starting to flow again. I'll have to debate if I'll sleep in on weekends or step out into the cold some more. You'll see some pictures soon if I do....

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Return to Collins Creek

A week after I made a trip up to the Ozarks and to Collins Creek, I headed back up there again. This time it was with a few other photographers, which is always interesting to see how other people get shots of the same thing when you're there. I went up there, not before stopping at another BBQ place in Heber Springs for a quick lunch:

The sandwich was from a place called Spunky Pig BBQ in Heber Springs. The food was good. It was especially good considering half of the place was a gas station. Normally you can't get a good sandwich and motor oil at the same time, but they pull it off here.

With a full stomach it was on to Collins Creek, a neat little place by Greers Ferry Lake. A few years ago it was decided that a trout habitat was needed, so the Corps of Engineers piped in cold water from the lake to flow along this little creek. It did produce a nice little area for fish, and also a nice little area for people to take pictures of waterfalls and such.

We made it to the creek, but there was one small problem: it was sunny. Sunlight is the enemy of waterfall photography. To get the best shots you need really cloudy weather, sunlight messes everything up. Sadly, with all the sun there wasn't much opportunity to get anything reallly good. I tried a few shots, but the light was just too harsh.

If we waited awhile, the sun would begin dropping below the treeline on the hill above the creek, providing some shade. This would take awhile, so about an hour or so was spent waiting out the sun. I tried to find some places that were shaded, but no real luck.

Eventually the sun sank low enough that there was some creek in the shade. Here is a shot of the creek with the background still reflecting the sunlight in the background.
Collins Creek part 2

And finally enough of the creek was shaded so it was time to get to work. These were taken while walking along the creek heading back upstream towards the parking lot:
Collins Creek

Collins Creek

Collins Creek

Collins Creek

And a bit closer view:
Collins Creek

I love this place, lots and lots of waterfalls...
Collins Creek

Although most of the creek was still in shadow, the sun was hitting the hills creating some interesting reflections in the water...
Afternoon sun on Collins Creek

Collins Creek

And finally it was back up to the main part of the creek, the area with the most little waterfalls. Here the creek tumbles over several rocks like stair steps, creating some neat little falls. The water isn't deep here but it really does have a personality.
Collins Creek

I was also happy to see that the rock I had spent so much time taking pictures of the week before was still there. I did find out from someone who went there a week after that the rock had moved, and was now sitting halfway in a small waterfall. Someone must have moved it since the water through there probably isn't strong enough to move a rock that size...or is it?
Collins Creek

When I was there last week it started getting too dark to explore the upper reaches of the creek, so I went to have a look at the waterfalls up in that area.
Collins Creek

The area above this is where the pipe bringing all the water is. The pipe really isn't the most scenic aspect of the creek, so I tried to avoid getting it into any shot. Instead I focused on some of the smaller waterfalls and such. To get to this little area, it required stepping across slick rocks to get there. One point I slipped a bit and grabbed onto a tree for support, only to find that the tree was wrapped by a thick vine of poison ivy. I tried to wash my hands in the water, and luckily didn't have any problems, yay!
Collins Creek

But it was again starting to get dark so I tried a few more shots. Here is a shot taken next to one of the waterfalls, just far enough away that the camera wasn't getting soaked by the falls...
Collins Creek

And then I packed it all up and headed on home. I really like Collins Creek, and will probably head back out there soon. It's a good place for shots of waterfalls in all conditions. It might be interesting when it gets really cold, maybe some icicles or something will be there. We'll see....