Thursday, December 30, 2010

Downtown again

It rained all yesterday, and last night a drizzly fog descended over Little Rock. I was out running some errands, and decided to make a quick visit to downtown to see how it looked. The top of the skyline dissolved into the fog, and the low clouds picked up the orange glow of the street lights.

The first stop was the Junction Bridge. I walked past the disco dance music being played at the ice skating rink in the River Market and set the camera up along the river.

The fog or clouds had lifted, obscuring only the tops of the taller buildings. I drove around some, and eventually stopped at the base of the tallest building in the city - the Metropolitan National Bank Building. This was taken while standing next to the old YMCA Building.

And finally, farewell Kodachrome...

Thursday, December 23, 2010

So This Is Christmas

Well since Christmas is coming up, I guess I should finally get around to posting some more Christmas pictures...

Last weekend, I headed back to downtown Little Rock. I had noticed that the columns on the old Robinson Center were thrown in green and red colored light. It must have been for some sort of Christmas show being put on there, I think by the orchestra. The old building did look very festive:

I think this was done just for last weekend, I drove by there a few nights later and there weren't any special lights on.

And a view from Robinson Center, looking towards the Pulaski County Courthouse and the Stephens Building:

Hope everyone that reads this has a good Christmas!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Silent Night, Cold & Windy Night

I headed out in the cold and wind last Saturday night in order to get some pictures of Little Rock bedazzled in its holiday glory. My first stop was the Arkansas State Capitol, which has about 300,000 lights strung across the marble facade. I got there before dusk, and managed to catch a little bit of a sunset there.

The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer. It was indeed cold and windy out there, but not all that silent (please forgive me for trying to make this post sound awkwardly Christmas-like). The heavy winds were flowing by the many flags on the capitol grounds, making them flap with a loud retort. The winds were from a front that was moving through, which brought with it much colder weather. The low tonight is predicted to be a chilly 18 degrees.

It wasn't that cold out at the capitol, and I managed to stand out there long enough to get pictures as dusk settled in.

From the capitol, I headed over to another one of my favorite places to get pictures during the holidays. This was the top of a parking deck, which provides some decent views of downtown. I got to the top of the parking deck while there was still some color in the sky, and pointed the camera westward.

This particular parking deck offers a good view of the Bank Of America Building. Every year for as long back as I can remember, this building has put up a Christmas tree design along the facades of the building.

And another view of the building. I waited for awhile before there was some decent traffic heading down the road and into the shot.

I don't remember being too cold while standing out on the top of the parking deck. Maybe by then the chill had just set in and I didn't feel it anymore. The wind was still blowing strong, enough that it made a streetlight that I was standing under wobble menacingly, like the wind was about to topple it.

Luckily I survived, and made it off the parking deck without being injured by falling streetlights or arrested for trespassing...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Capitol Fireworks

The capitol fireworks show is a great holiday tradition. After the Little Rock Christmas parade, there is a little ceremony and then the 300,000 lights that adorn the capitol are switched on for the first time. Just as the lights turn on, there is a small fireworks show. It all makes for a fun evening out, and also a good spot for getting some pictures.

The last few years, I had gotten pictures from the front or side of the capitol during the fireworks. But this year I wanted to try something a little different. A few months back I was driving around and ended up in the Capitol Mall - the collection of state buildings that are huddled together behind the capitol building. I thought that might make for a different vantage point for the fireworks.

So on Saturday night I met up with John again and we drove over behind the capitol. It was quiet and empty back there, the acres of parking for state employees were empty. The only signs of life were the fireworks people setting up. One of the firework guys walked by, and we asked if it was ok to take pictures back there. He said we were fine, but couldn't get much closer since we would end up in the blast zone. But the guy then said that because of the heavy winds, the show might not go on. And if it did, it might be a shortened version.

So we waited as dusk settled in. It was chilly, the wind provided a bit of a nip in the air. Eventually we got some company, when a Little Rock fire truck pulled up next to us. It was nice that they came out to make sure we didn't catch on fire.

The downside to being behind the capitol is that we had no clue what was going on at the front of the capitol. You couldn't hear anything of the ceremony, so unfortunately we missed out on some speeches and whatnot. Sadly, we also missed out on the free hot chocolate and cookies they always give out.

Then suddenly - boom! Fireworks started popping up, and I hurried over to the camera. The fireworks this year were taller than what I remember from the previous years, so I had to quickly adjust the camera to get everything in.

From this perspective, it was interesting to be able to see the fireworks actually being shot up. But it was loud. The bangs and pops of the explosions bounced off of the buildings surrounding us. It was loud enough that it made my ears ring.
Saturday Night Lights

And the finale of the show:

After the fireworks, you can go inside the capitol and have a look around at the decorations inside. We decided to head back to someplace warm, even if it meant not getting to see Santa.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Pinnacle Mountain

So our early morning adventure continued after I got back in the car, transferring several little grass seeds onto the interior of the car. I followed the on-ramp to the freeway and headed south over the River, and then headed out to Pinnacle Mountain State Park.

The fog wasn't as thick as it had been along the river, but it mixed well with the few remaining bits of fall color left. I stopped first at the Kingfisher Trail, and did the short and easy hike there. I took my time on the trail, enjoying the scenery. There wasn't anyone else out there, or so I thought. I was startled again when a jogger rushed by. I'm sure I looked like a crazy person, with pants half-soaked from standing in water or dew-covered plants. Add to that the bizarre layer of plant seeds coating my legs.

And to prove that I'm not grossly exaggerating - here is a shot taken from that morning, showing off the coating of seeds....
A helpful hint if you're ever in this situation. Running the seed-covered clothes through the washer and dryer helps. In fact, about 90% of the seeds fell off in the dryer and ended up in the lint trap. A few did end up attached to the other clothes in the dryer, so I had to spend a few mornings at work picking off wayward seeds.

But enough about my wardrobe malfunctions. I hiked along the trail, enjoying the morning and the fog. This is a view looking down at the Little Maumelle River, which was running very low...

My next stop was the old Hwy. 300 bridge over the Maumelle River. This old bridge is a neat spot, built back in the 1920s. The bridge was replaced by a modern bridge in the 1980s, but you can still reach the old bridge by following part of the old road that was cut off when the new bridge was completed. The old road is overgrown by tall plants, and is a neat little hike.

The old bridge had a coating of fallen leaves on it, which I thought made for an interesting picture...

After that, my lack of sleep was catching up with me so I decided to return home to a warm bed....

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rosenbaum Lake

Rosenbaum Lake is a beautiful little spot, but you hardly see many pictures taken from there. Tens of thousands of people drive right by it every single day, it's located along the side of I-430 in North Little Rock, just before the bridge over the Arkansas River. The reason not many people get there is that there isn't any true access to the lake, I think, besides parking along the side of the freeway.

I was up early again on Sunday (I hope this isn't becoming a habit) because a thick fog had settled over the city. I've been wanting to get more pictures of this place for awhile now, so I decided to make a try at the lake. I headed out and parked my car along the on-ramp to the freeway (from the Maumelle Boulevard exit). It would probably be safer to park instead at a gas station or parking lot along Maumelle Blvd. and walk along the on-ramp to the lake. But it was early Sunday morning, and traffic was light, so I hoped it wouldn't be a problem.

I carefully made my way down the hill from the on-ramp through thick grass. This was the kind of grass that features those little seeds that cling to shoes and clothes. There was even a bit of trail that worked through the grass, but I soon ended up covered in a layer of seeds from trudging through the tall grass. The lake was awesome. It is filled with tall cypress trees, whose leaves were a vibrant orange in the fog.

I got close to the bank, walking on top of the thick grass. I started to take a few pictures and looked down to see my shoes entirely submerged in water. The grass was apparently growing in the water, and I had started to wade out in the lake without knowing it.

But it was worth having wet shoes and socks. The views were outstanding out there.

I took a ton of pictures out there, and hoped that some of them would turn out and actually be in focus...

I was a bit startled to hear some rumblings in the brush behind me, when two other people descended from the mist. One of them would turn out to be a photographer. I gave out a polite warning to watch your step since you will find yourself walking in the water. She didn't answer, and strolled out to get some pictures with what looked like a cell phone.
Her pictures probably turned out better...


I took a bunch of picture out there, and decided it was time to head out.

I made it back up to the car with soggy shoes, and covered with hundreds of tiny seeds. But it looked like the fog was going to last for a bit longer, and I had one other place I wanted to check out before going back to sleep...

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sunday Foggy Sunday

I'm not a morning person, and would happily prefer to sleep in all day if I could. But for some strange reason, I woke up just after dawn last Sunday morning. Normally I would just roll back over and go back to sleep. But instead I took a look out the window, and saw that a thick blanket of fog had settled in over my apartment complex. Awesome, this was perfect conditions for trying to get some pictures.

I grabbed the camera and headed out the door. It was about 7am, and most of my neighbors were sound asleep. The first stop was this stretch of woods, actually located adjacent to my apartment complex. The woods are a rare stretch of undeveloped land here in the city. The fog was mingling amongst the trees, with a bit of fall color still clinging on.

I made my way again to the Park on the River, located on the edge of Maumelle. This is a neat park, and it still had some decent color in the trees. It's also a short drive from my apartment too. The road through the park passes by a small lake, so I headed down to get a shot of it in the fog:

The fog was thick and made a great backdrop for the trees in the park...

The ground was covered by a thick blanket of fallen leaves. This was taken right by the lake.

The boundary of the park is lined by this white fence. I like the fence, since it tends to add a little special something to the scene. It looked really good in the fog too.

The road heads down a hill to a small parking area next to the river. Being this close to the Arkansas River, the fog was thicker. I walked through this grove of trees, which stood out amongst the thick fog.

This is a really neat park, but it is fairly new and not many people know about it. To get there just take the Maumelle exit on I-430 and follow Maumelle Boulevard to the stop light at Crystal Hill Road by the new Wal-Mart. Take a left onto Crystal Hill Road, and the turn-off to the park will shortly come up on the right side of the road.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Collins Creek

Collins Creek is always a great and reliable place to get pictures. I headed up there last Saturday, long after the fall colors had peaked in that part of the state. I hoped that there would be enough lingering fall color spread around the creek to produce some decent pictures.

The trees had already shed their leaves, but a good amount of colorful leaves were scattered along the banks of the creek...

It was another bright and sunny day when I headed up there, and I wanted to time my visit so I got there around dusk. This would put the creek in the shade, and hopefully make for some better photography conditions.


Collins Creek is a beautiful spot - it's one of my favorite places to visit. It isn't that large of an area, but there are several scenic little waterfalls to explore.

This is one of the last pictures taken out there. It had gotten dark, which meant that the exposures in the camera were getting longer in order to capture the fleeting amount of light left in the day. This was an 8 second exposure:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

State Street

After work on Friday night, I headed to downtown Little Rock and met up with John and Zack. The plan was to find a spot to get some pictures of of the city skyline, and I proposed heading to the State Street bridge over I-630. This bridge doesn't see much traffic, but it provides an interesting view of the skyline in one direction, and the state capitol in the other.

This is a view of the skyline - with traffic on I-630 zooming past. I was grateful that I was taking pictures of this scene instead of trying to finish my commute in it.

And a shot of the traffic on I-630 zooming past the dome of the state capitol:

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Park On The River

The Park On The River isn't a very creative name for a park, but it's a neat spot. It's also a place that I've been trying to keep an eye on the past few weeks, with the hopes that I would catch some decent fall color there. The park is in Maumelle, and does indeed sit right along the Arkansas River.

The boundary of the park is lined with a white fence, which I thought might look nice with some decent fall color. The color in central Arkansas seemed to reach a peak this week, so I headed out last night to try to catch it at the park. Unfortunately for me, Daylight Savings Time hit last weekend. By the time I battled rush hour traffic to get to the park, I only had about 30 minutes of light before it got dark.

I got to the park and stopped for a few pictures on the road that heads down to the river. None of those really turned out, so instead I went to the small parking area in the hopes of catching the sunset (the sun was setting, but it wasn't anything too exciting). I ended up getting some shots of a road heading up the hill, flanked by the white fence.

It was getting dark when I drove back up that hill and headed towards home. But I made one last stop, and headed out to a small lake that sits next to the park. The white fence divides the city park property from some private land, and the fence runs right into a small lake. The fall colors looked really nice in the dim evening light...

And another view of the lake. To the right of this shot is a large house. It was getting dark, and I could barely see out of the camera viewfinder. In fact it was so dark that I didn't notice a deer walking along the opposite shoreline. The deer was caught in this picture, although you can't actually see it. Due to it being a bit dark, this was a long exposure (6 seconds) so the deer is only a brown blur even when you look at it up close.

Friday, November 5, 2010

An Autumn weekend in the Ozarks

I had plenty of vacation time saved up at work, so I decided to take a few days off in order to make an attempt at getting some decent pictures of the fall colors this year. I had to put in my vacation request about a month in advance, which meant having to make a guess at when the colors might be at their peak. I ended up taking off during the last week of October, and hoped the trees would cooperate with me. This had me taking off right before Halloween, which would mean that I would miss out on my office's "Dress Like A Witch" contest, but one must make certain sacrifices for pictures...

There was decent color up in the Ozarks when I headed back up there, but it wasn't quite at peak (or in some places, it was past the peak). The weather didn't quite help things - it was bright and sunny every day that I took off - which isn't the best condition for photography. Oh well, any trip to the Buffalo River beats sitting at a cubicle, so I tried to make the best of it.

I got up to the Buffalo River and made a quick visit to Erbie. I wanted to see what the fall colors were like at the old homestead there. But my timing was wrong, and I got there right around Noon. The light was crummy, and I didn't take many pictures of the old barns or home there. But I did take a bunch of pictures of two random chickens that just happened to be wandering around the parking area at Erbie. They didn't seem to mind a person being around, and in fact came up to me like I was going to feed them. They scratched at the dirt and did what chickens must do. I wondered where they came from and why they were there...
I didn't tell them that I ate at Chick-Fil-A a few days before...

I drove over towards Boxley Valley, which is one of the neater spots along the Buffalo River. But the sunny day was causing problems for any pictures, and I struggled to get anything good out of it. This is a view of one of the barns, near the Boxley Church.

There were a lot of other photographers out, all set up along the side of the road trying to get pictures of the elk that were grazing in a nearby field. Dozens of cars were parked alongside the road, and the elkarazzi were out in force. The elk were just too far back for me to get a decent shot of with my zoom lens (and the light still wasn't great). I stopped a bit further down the road to get a shot of this old building. There are a few elk in the distance, and some swans were frolicking in a pond not too far away.

I made another circuit of the valley, and made a stop to get a picture of this old barn reflected in the waters of the Mill Pond. I was there for just a few minutes taking pictures, and about three other cars pulled up behind me to see what I was taking pictures of. The inhabitants of the cars must have seen that there were no elk nearby, and quickly drove off.

I got back in the car and headed back over to Steele Creek. I wanted to get some shots of it at dusk, and it was starting to get late in the day. I walked along the river, amazed at how low it had gotten. I got a few pictures of the famous bluffs there, even if the light wasn't the greatest.

I went over to a another stretch of the river, and waited for the evening light to hit the bluffs. This shot was taken just before the sun set behind the hills...

And this is the same view at dusk. It was getting to be dark by the time I got back to my dust-covered car.

The next day I tried to get a few more pictures, but was still fighting against the harsh sunny light. I ended up spending most of the day just relaxing along the river, driving to a few different spots just to see what the view was. This was taken in the late afternoon, and is where Hwy. 7 crosses the river.

From there I drove up to visit my Aunt that lives in Berryville. The next day, we drove over to Fayetteville and met my favorite brother for lunch, and then made a trip down to Devil's Den State Park. Along the way, we stopped at this old barn that sits alongside the road. It was really sunny (typical), but here is a shot of it:

And for a comparison, this is a view of the same barn taken back in May:
The Ozarks

We drove down into the park and met up with my Aunt's friend Sheila. First we made a visit to the park visitor center, which had an interesting exhibit about the CCC. The CCC built the dam in the park, most of the trails, and many of the overlooks and structures. The funniest thing I saw was that the Devil's Den CCC camp newsletter back in the 1930s was actually called "The Voice of Satan." Being back at Devil's Den also let me recycle my joke that perhaps the Devil would also be out on the trail, perhaps offering to partake in a fiddle contest.

We wanted to hike one of the trails there, and decided to hit the Devil's Den trail. This trail takes you past the caves and crevices that gave the park its name. All the caves are still closed, in order to protect the bats from white-nose syndrome. But the light was still crappy anyways. Towards the end of the hike, the trail drops down and follows along Lee Creek. It had gotten late enough in the day that the creek was (finally!) reflecting some nice light hitting the trees.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Richland Creek

I headed over to pay a quick visit to Richland Creek, which had some nice fall colors. Richland Creek is a beautiful place, even when there isn't much water in the creek. It's one of the prettiest places in Arkansas - lots of boulders sticking out of the serene water. It's one of my favorite places to take pictures, but also one of my least favorite places to go hiking.

There aren't many trails along Richland Creek. The ones that are there tend to fade out and disappear. Add on a layer of fallen leaves covering up everything, and it makes finding your way a bit trickier. And the terrain is rough and unforgiving - I broke a tripod out there a few years back.

I set out from the campground (still closed), and made the crossing over Falling Water Creek. During my previous times out there, this crossing was a wet one. You can either wade the creek or carefully try to make your way across using rocks and tree limbs that are sticking out the water. But it was so dry that Falling Water Creek was nothing more than just a series of large puddles.

I got across and headed up the first big hill, and found the faint trail that runs above the creek. I followed where I could and eventually dropped down to the creek. I set up the tripod and got a few shots of the fall color reflected in the still waters of the creek...


I wasn't the only photographer out there - in fact there were over a dozen other photogs out along the creek. They were part of a Tim Ernst photography workshop (this is the second time that day that we bumped into that workshop). I politely kept my distance, but I probably wandered through the background of a lot of their pictures.

I headed back on the trail and went back towards the car. Along the way, while trying to find the trail again, I went over this fallen tree. It had a leaf perched perfectly on it, so I stopped and took a few pictures (I swear I didn't put that leaf there!).

After that, I headed home. Luckily I had a few days off from work in the upcoming week. It would be just a few more days until I would be able to get back up to the Ozarks...