Monday, June 30, 2008

Burns Park

I slept in last Saturday, and ended up missing some good photo weather. It was rainy, which might have resulted in some good waterfalls running somewhere. I wasn't sure if the rain was enough to really get any waterfalls going, and I hesitated, finally deciding to head off late in the day with the camera. I wish I had set out earlier, because I immediately thought of some places to go. All those required a bit of a drive, and I was running out of time. Instead I stuck close to home, driving around Burns Park in North Little Rock looking for anything to take pictures of.

I stopped at this old cabin, which was built prior to the Civil War and was the home of the original settlers of the park area. The cabin used to be part of a larger homesite, though this is the only building that remains. Hard to believe that people used to live in buildings like this, since this cabin could easily fit in the bedroom of my apartment...
Burns Park

After that I got some calls from friends, talking about plans for dinner. The thought of any more photography was dashed when "Whole Hog" was mentioned, so I gave up and went to eat some BBQ instead (the ribs were awesome).

Saturday, June 28, 2008

A day in Hot Springs

Hot Springs is a great town, filled with lots of old buildings and an interesting history. I do wonder about the people, however, who drive by on the freeway and see the sign for "Hot Springs National Park," and turn off thinking they are going to find a natural place like the hot springs at Yellowstone, only to find a row of old bathhouses surrounded by a touristy town?

But Hot Springs, located about 50 miles southwest of Little Rock, does have a neat history. It's the site where 47 springs bubble out, producing about a million gallons of 143-degree water every day. Ever since they were discovered, they were thought to be special, so much that the US Congress set aside the land as a federal reservation in 1832, technically making it the first national park in the country.

But in 1832, of course, they didn't have a good idea what to do with preserved land. So unlike the lands set aside later on as national parks, the springs were capped and the water diverted to several bathhouses built on the edge of the federal property. Hot Springs would soon turn into a resort town, where people would flock to take in the waters, thinking it would heal all their wacky illnesses and such.

Some fancy bathhouses were built, along with some fancy hotels, which catered to the throngs of people coming into the town. There were also numerous casinos, which were illegal back then, but not many people cared. The mob soon followed, and the town was a popular spot for Al Capone and other mafia people to visit. The city was at its peak into the 1950's, until the state decided to crack down on the illegal gambling, and when people figured out that sitting in hot water probably wasn't going to solve all their health issues.

So for the past few decades, the town has still been a touristy area, but not able to retain its previous glory from the olden days. Much of the architecture of the town's heyday still remains, and there are several great old buildings there. Sadly, it seems like many of the old buildings are abandoned and torn down with depressing regularity. Last weekend I was sad to see an old building across the street from the Documentary Film Festival theatre was gone and replaced with nothing except a concrete lot.

But it is still a neat town. There is an interesting contrast there. You can visit the museum in the fanciest of the old bathhouses, and see the old Victorian touches there. Then you cross the street to the touristy-trap stores and can but whatever tacky stuff you want. My favorite is still the t-shirt with the lady in the bikini (classy!). I love Hot Springs.

But enough of the history lesson - time for pictures. I got into town and went to visit a few old buildings. The first was the St. John the Baptist Catholic Church, a neat old church that was built in 1908.
St. John the Baptist Catholic Church

After that I became a tourist and started visiting some of the sites. The first was to take one of the driving tours, going up on a hill with overlooks of the city. At one overlook was this sign, where the park service people should have realized that a sign warning against graffiti and vandalism was just going to get vandalized with graffiti. Nice try, though...
Nice try, though...

Then I went and parked the car and made my way to Bathhouse Row. From the parking deck along Central Avenue, I got this shot of the Buckstaff Bathhouse and the old Army and Navy Hospital in the background.
Hot Springs

I then got this shot of one of the small fountains outside of the national park headquarters:
Hot Springs

Then I walked on up the hill and got this shot of the front of the old Army and Navy Hospital, which is now a rehab center. It's a cool old building, but a bit creepy. I think it looks like the setting for some sort of haunted house movie.
Old Army & Navy Hospital

After that I went back and started walking along Bathhouse Row, and got a few shots of the bathhouses. This is the Ozark Bathhouse...
Bathhouse Row

And a color shot...
Ozark Bathhouse

And the Fordyce Bathhouse, which was considered the fanciest of the bathhouses there. It now serves as the national park museum. I went in there to enjoy some air conditioning, since it was about 90 degrees out that day.
The Fordyce

There is some good architecture across the street from Bathhouse Row, though most of it is used by the tacky touristy stores. One of my favorite buildings in Hot Springs is the old Medical Arts Building, a 16 story Art Deco building built in 1929. When it was built, it was the tallest building in the state. It doesn't seem like the upper floors of the building are in use now, which is a shame.
Old Medical Arts Building

Just down the road from the Old Medical Arts Building was the old Aristocrat Hotel, which is now a home for senior citizens. Across the street is the Arlington Hotel, built in 1924. When Al Capone came to town, he would always stay in room 442 there.
The Aristocrats!

After that I decided to take a break and went inside the Arlington to have a nice cold drink at their lobby bar. I had a few options to consider. There are some more cool old buildings farther from Bathhouse Row and the National Park, including some neat older motels. I thought I might visit some of the old motels, and try to get a picture of some of their retro signs before heading back downtown for some dusk shots.

So I went back to the car and drove around town. There are many old motels, all with old neon signs that would be great for taking pictures of. But every time I found one, there would be some random motel worker standing around, so I felt nervous about stopping to take pictures. I thought I'd drive on to one of my favorite old motel signs along Central Avenue, but found that it was gone and replaced with a boring modern sign. Feeling like this part of the trip was going nowhere, I went to get some dinner (Kings Chinese, awesome), and would try again for something later.

On the way back downtown I visited this old advertisement, just up the road from Bathhouse Row, for Tom Moore cigars. Apparently you could get them for just 10 cents, and they were America's Favorite!
America's Favorite, only 10 cents...

Then I went and had a walk along the promenade, which runs along the hill above the bathhouses. Along part of the way was a water fountain, which I thought might make an interesting shot. So I stood in the middle of the path, trying to get a shot, when a woman pushing a stroller came by and startled me. I jumped and turned to her, giving a look that meant to say, "don't mind me, just taking a picture of this here water fountain." She in turn gave me a look that said, "stay away from me insane person." The pictures of the water fountain were all blurry, but here is a shot of the promenade, anyways.
The Promenade

I wanted to stick around to get a shot of the Arlington Hotel and the Medical Arts Building at dusk, from a spot along the promenade. I got a shot from there a few years ago, at night, and wanted to try for another shot again. The spot I wanted was right above the display spring, where the park service lets one of the springs flow out and run into a little fountain. The promenade runs right above the display springs, and gives a nice free view of the hotel and Central Avenue. But I didn't realize that the trees would have leaves on them now, and it cuts out much of the view. Looking for a decent shot again, I walked along the paths around the spring, and ended up getting this shot of the way down...
Hot Springs

Realizing that I still had some time to kill before dusk, I went back down the hill to the Arlington Hotel, and had another beer in the lobby bar. This made me feel quite cosmopolitan (or like an alcoholic), but it killed enough time for me to head back up the promenade to see what the view would be like. The trees really cut out much of the scene, so I scrambled on down to try to get some views from street level. This worked out, and I got a few shots of the old Medical Arts Building:
Central Avenue

And of the Arlington Hotel:
The Arlington

I tried to find a view that would get both the Medical Arts Building and the Arlington in the same shot, but couldn't find one that didn't involve me standing in the very busy Central Avenue. When the light was finally gone, I packed it in and decided to head on home.

Monday, June 23, 2008

A trip to Scott and the Old Mill...

Last week after a somewhat frustrating day at work, I thought I'd take the camera out and try to get some shots of something. I decided to head out to the small town of Scott, about 10 miles east of Little Rock, to have a look around some of the old buildings there. And also, if I could, find a place to catch the sunset in some of the swampy areas around there.

I drove out there, and really didn't have much luck finding anything. There is a place there called the Scott Plantation Settlement, where they have accumulated all sorts of old buildings and recreated an old plantation. But it was fenced off and closed, and anyways I'd have had to pay three bucks for the honor of looking at their buildings. I thought about sneaking by the fence, but decided not to since I'd probably have the finest from Scott PD on me for trespassing. Oh well, time to move on.

A bit down the road is a small state park, the Plantation Agriculture Museum. I've never actually been inside, but I assume it has to do with plantation agriculture. The museum is next to an oxbow lake, so I tried to scout out any potential places for a sunset shot. Not really seeing anything, I walked around and got a few shots of this old building, surrounded by all sorts of weeds:
Tick city

There is a huge old barn/warehouse that was recently renovated and I made my towards it. Last time I was there, the state was clearing out some places that had been overgrown by weeds and poison ivy. There were all sorts of old rail cars and old oil tanks, that had probably been abandoned for decades and forgotten about. I looked forward to taking some newer pictures of them, only to find that they had all been torn down. Crap!

Well they saved at least one of the old rail cars, and setting it up on display along a piece of track next the old barn/warehouse thing. So this is a shot looking through some old cracked glass:
Cracking up

Well you know those days when all sorts of great photos just present themselves to you, seemingly plopping down at your feet, practically taking the camera and taking the picture themselves? Well, this wasn't one of those days. I got in the car and sort of aimlessly drove around, looking for at least something to shoot. The light was fading fast, and I got a bit more desperate.

Finally on some random road I found another lake with some nicely placed cypress trees, with a bit of the sunset still lingering in the sky. I was way too late to actually get any good light, but I tried for something anyways. I used a flash on this one so that it would at least show some of the trees, but I'm not too sure how this one turned out.
Too late for sunset...

A few days later, I made a trip over to the Old Mill. Now the Old Mill is a really neat place, and I always like going there. My grandparents used to live a few blocks away so we always would make a trip there, and a cousin even got married there. It's also a popular spot for taking pictures, I think it must be some sort of law that states that if you pass through town with a camera, you are required to stop by there. In the short time I was there that evening, there were two groups of people getting family/engagement portraits done. The two groups both got a bit pissy with each other since they would get in each other's way or in the background of the other's shots. I was annoyed with them because they were all in my way, so I had to wait awhile before it was clear to take a few shots. Here is one I got when no one was in the way:
The Old Mill

And if you like pictures of old buildings, stay tuned. Took a trip down to Hot Springs last weekend, so I'll get those up as soon as I get finished doing some photoshop stuff to them...
(UPDATE: finally figured out how to change the formatting on here so larger pictures will show up ok. Now I just have to go back and change the small pics to larger ones...).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Junction Bridge, again

Meant to post this a few days ago, but had some wacky computer problems over the weekend. This isn't as thought-out as I'd like it to be, no creative or fancy commentary on this post (is there ever?). This was done in a hurry, sorry!

Well after getting soaked trying to take pictures of the Junction Bridge in the rain, I headed back out the next night. The weather was a tad bit nicer this time around, sunny and warm. I got out to the bridge with enough time to have a look around, then waited for it to get dark. The bridge provides some nifty views of the river and skyline. While I was waiting for sunset a barge came by, slowly making its way upriver.
Barging in

The sunset was ok, but it left some sweet color in the sky. Here is a view of the skyline along with some of the bridge:
Dusk from the Junction Bridge

And it's probably hard to see on this small version (need to figure out how to change the settings so the pictures can be bigger), but this is the moon through the ironwork on the bridge:

Here's a view of the bridge itself, looking south into Little Rock.
Junction Bridge

And another view, looking north to North Little Rock...

The bridge is a great place to get some shots of the humble Little Rock skyline. There is a streak in this shot from a plane flying by.
Little Rock

While there was still some light left in the sky, I rushed to get a few shots of the bridge from the shore. The area on the Little Rock side is still a mess, since there is still some construction stuff in the way. But I managed to find a few places to set up the tripod...
Junction Bridge

Junction Bridge

And finally, just one more view. With gas prices being what they are, I'll probably get stuck taking pictures closer to home, so there will probably be many more shots of this bridge in the next few months...
Junction Bridge

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Stormy night at the Junction Bridge

I hadn't actually been across the new pedestrian bridge here since it opened a few weeks ago, so I planned on heading out there Monday night after work. Of course, an hour before I was to leave it started pouring down rain, and would be stormy the rest of the night. I had two options: head on to the bridge anyways, or clean my apartment (which I'm ashamed to admit has gotten quite grungy, even with my bachelor pad standards). I took the obvious option, take pictures.

It was a steady rain, so I thought I might put off actually crossing the bridge for another day. Instead looked for more places to get a few other shots of the bridge and the skyline. I ended up on the North Little Rock side, setting up under the I-30 bridge. This provided an unobstructed view of the bridge, and since I was under the freeway, a place where I wouldn't get soaked.
Junction Bridge

There were a few stray lighting bolts cutting across the sky, but I could never get a good shot of them. I moved on out of the safety of the bridge, and stood in the rain to get this shot of the skyline framed by the freeway bridge. It was still pouring down rain, and the camera and I were huddled under a small umbrella that the wind kept trying to tug out of my hands.
Under the bridge

And also no crazy people encounters this trip, though people might have thought it was crazy/dumb to stand out there taking pictures in a storm.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Collins Creek

Collins Creek is a great place to visit, the creek tumbles over many waterfalls and cascades, and flows past tons of moss-covered rocks. The added benefit is that the creek will always have a nice steady flow of water, thanks to a pipeline from the nearby Greers Ferry Lake. A few years ago, the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission decided that there needed to be an extra habitat for trout in the area, and decided to divert water from the lake so that it flows through the creek. The benefit is that little baby trout have a place to hang out, and that photographers can enjoy the several waterfalls along the creek.
Collins Creek

The weather people predicted it would be a sunny day, so I hesitated going out for waterfall pictures. I thought I'd head up there anyways, but wait till the end of the day and get pictures when the sun was setting.

But that Saturday was a bit cloudy, so it gave me hope. It was still cloudy in the afternoon, so I grabbed the camera gear and started heading up north to Greers Ferry. As usual, the clouds disappeared when I got halfway through the trip, so I knew I couldn't take many waterfalls shots for awhile. I wasted some time by having a look at some areas around the lake, stopping by an access point along the Little Red River. I was surprised to see the river was running very high, apparently the dam was generating electricity that day and was sending a lot of water through.

Still needing to waste time I went to find something to eat, stopping at a Subway. The dinner was disappointing, and a reminder as to why I prefer Firehouse Subs to Subway. But anyways, after that I headed up to Collins Creek to just have a look around, and was pleased to see that most of the creek was already in shadow. It was time to start hunting waterfalls.
Collins Creek

These falls are along the first part of the falls you see after hiking in the short trail there.
Collins Creek

I followed the trail down the course of the creek, then doubled back up looking for interesting stuff in the water. The creek has a lot of small waterfalls like this along the way.
Collins Creek

And also, there is a lot of poison ivy out there.
Let it be

And more from the creek, which is a great place to spend some time with the camera:
Collins Creek

Round the bend

Collins Creek

One not-so-bright idea I had was to just wear flip flops up to the creek instead of shoes. The thinking was that I could get into the creek and take pictures from a different angle. It worked, and I strolled into the water a few times. It wasn't that great of an idea any other time. Flip flops aren't the best hiking shoes, especially in and around the creek. The wackiest moment came after I was in the creek taking pictures and was walking back to shore. One of the flip flops fell off and went off downstream. I stumbled down the creek and managed to snare the floating flip flop with my tripod before it sailed on down the Little Red River. I couldn't imagine walking back to the car with just one flip flop.
Collins Creek

Collins Creek

Collins Creek
Then I made it back up to the top of the trail where the taller waterfalls were located. These were taken while standing in the creek (the water was really cold).

Time to get your feet wet...

Collins Creek waterfall

There were even a few people fishing just downstream from where this was taken. I didn't think that there would be much fish in this area, but one of them managed to catch a small fish while I was there taking pictures. He also managed to fall right into the creek after catching the fish. I laughed, but then felt bad since I was standing in the creek taking pictures and was more than likely to stumble and fall into the water as well.
Collins Creek

Collins Creek rocks!

Collins Creek
There are lots of great places to get pictures here, this is the third time I've been up to Collins Creek in the past year, and although it is a small creek there area lots of different angles to get of it.

Collins Creek

Collins Creek

Collins Creek

By now it was starting to get a bit dark, so I called it a night and started heading home, but first getting just one more shot:
Collins Creek

I felt pretty good, seemed like a good little trip out there. That feeling ended on the drive home when I got caught speeding, but hopefully I'll sell some of these shots to make up for the cost of the ticket.