Friday, December 29, 2017

The Old House

A lot of my family hails from the small town of Charleston, Arkansas, which sits in the far western edge of the state and is one of the two county seats of Franklin County. We've been there for generations, probably arriving in Charleston sometime around the 1850s. One of my great-great-great-great relatives, named A.J. Singleton, opened a stagecoach stop in 1854 just outside of Charleston, which was part of the Butterfield Overland Express Line that connected the Mississippi River to California. His daughter, Julia Singleton, was the first female school teacher in the area. They are both buried in a small cemetery in Charleston that my family maintains, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The old stagecoach stop is long gone, but there are a few old buildings in Charleston that have a connection to that distant family history. There is an old house, sitting just off of Main Street, that was either built or purchased by my relatives in 1871. Despite its age, the house has been preserved, with the original well sitting next to it (which still has water), and a few outbuildings like the smoke shack and the chicken coop that are still there (although they are definitely showing their age). The house has been vacant since the 1960s.


The old house has seen decades of history - the house sits by Main Street and was within view of the complex of buildings that are home to Charleston's elementary and high schools. The Charleston schools made their small note in history by being the first school district in the South to completely integrate all grades in 1954. The school has been designated a National Commemorative Site by the National Park Service.


A distant branch of the family owns the house, and a decision was made recently to put the land up for sale. It sold, which unfortunately means that the house will probably be torn down soon. It's heartbreaking news. But I have to admit it's not too surprising. The land around the house was sold earlier this year, and a big gas station was built just feet away from the house. I figured it was only a matter of time before something like this happened.

When I was in Charleston to visit family for Christmas, I was given the opportunity to go inside the old building one last time to take a few pictures. So my Aunt Nette and I got the old key, which took a few tries to get to turn in the rusty lock on the front door.


And a shot of the front door, with a few tattered curtains hanging in the windows.


And the opposite view, looking through the windows from the inside. Just through the windows you can see the outline of the gas station, and its trash cans and the spot where the people who work there go to take their smoke breaks.


This was actually only the second time I've been inside the house, which has only really been used for storage in the last few decades. There was a lot of old junk lying around, with a thick layer of dust covering everything.


In this room we did find a few old books, including one with a handwritten note from 1891. I found one with a note that was dated 1906, which mentioned going to see Vice President Fairbanks (we had to look him up, he was the Vice President under Teddy Roosevelt). We kept the books.


There was this bright orange-red curtain hanging in one of the windows, which I'm guessing was one of the last modern touches added to the house before people moved out (I'm guess it's from the 60s, but I could be wrong).


I took some more pictures, just to more document the place than anything else. It was hard to think that a place that has stood for so many years could possibly be gone soon. It seems like such an ignoble end to such a historic place.


This is a view of the back of the house, which was covered with tin. There were also several old oak trees here, which I'm afraid will probably be cut down too.



I ended up getting lots of pictures of this old window, with its frayed curtains and the peeling paint on the frame surround by rusty tin.


Maybe it was knowing that the house would probably be torn down soon, but the visit there just had an air of melancholy and sadness. Once the house is gone, this part of history which is shared not just by my family but by the small town of Charleston will be gone. I guess that there is an argument that the land can be used by someone new, to possibly create a new house that could provide new memories and history. But I hate that this house had to be sacrificed for that, just to make way for something new.


It deserves a better fate.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Foggle Rock

Recently, we had one of those cold and dreary foggy nights that can be just the perfect subject for a few pictures. I grabbed the camera and headed out for a few minutes to get a few pictures downtown, where the city lights were tinting the fog with an orangish hue. The branches of the old trees downtown were stretching out, contrasting against the foggy sky. Here's a tree by the new Broadway Bridge, right along the Arkansas River.


From there, I headed a bit further down the river to the Junction Bridge. The old rail bridge turned pedestrian bridge had red and green lights for Christmas, but in the long exposure the colors all sort of merged together to form this golden orange color.


And then one last shot, with the lights of the bridge reflected in the still waters of the river.

Junction Bridge

Monday, December 18, 2017

Little Rock Christmas

I headed out the other day to try to get a few pictures of Little Rock while it's decked out with Christmas lights. The most prominently decorated building in town would probably have to be the state capitol, which has over 100,000 lights strung across the marble building. I feel sorry for the poor state workers who had to go out and string all the lights, but it does look pretty cool.

Under The Dome

And while the lights do look cool, I do miss the old days when they had the "disco dome" going.


There were a few other people out there taking pictures, including someone taking pictures of a woman dressed as the Statue of Liberty and a man in a suit with a big ugly blonde wig, who I assumed was supposed to be Donald Trump. There were standing next to some signs, but I was too far away to see what they said. I'm guessing the photo shoot was to either to protest or support the President, or was for some really bizarre Christmas card.


And one last shot of the Capitol, this time from across I-630. The dome stands above the lines of traffic, which is probably people rushing off to the mall.

Dome For The Holidays

Before heading home, I stopped to get one more picture of some Christmas lights. This year, the city put up a 40 foot tall Christmas tree at the corner of Main Street and Capitol Avenue. But even at 40 feet, it's not the tallest Christmas tree around. That distinction belongs to another tree that shines down on Capitol avenue from the sides of the Bank of America Building. At 16 stories tall, it's probably the tallest tree around (at least as long as the people in the offices remember to switch on the lights in their windows).


Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Capitol Fireworks

Every year, the state of Arkansas is kind enough to drape 100,000 lights on the outside of the state capitol building. And then, if weather permitting, there is a little fireworks show when the lights are switched on after a little ceremony. This year, instead of fighting the crowds gathered in front of the capitol, we headed behind the building where we could hopefully catch a slightly different perspective of the fireworks show. As an added bonus, we managed to miss the lighting ceremony, which has gotten too political the past few years.

When the fireworks started, I realized that I had seriously misjudged where the fireworks would be exploding and that my shot was woefully composed. I quickly zoomed out to get more of the fireworks, but one of the shots where I was zoomed in closer to the capitol turned out to be my favorite shot of the night.


And a shot from near the end of the show, with a wider view of the capitol and the fireworks. By the end, there was a lot of smoke from the fireworks that hadn't blown away. But if you look closely, you can see part of the full moon sneaking its way into the shot on the left.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

Oh Christmas Tree

This year, the city of Little Rock installed a new feature downtown for the holiday season - a 40 foot tall Christmas tree at the intersection of Capitol Avenue and Main Street.

Oh Christmas Tree

Even at 40 feet, the tree does seem to be a little dwarfed by the tall buildings that surround it. But apparently we were supposed to get a taller tree, it was ordered from a place in Oregon but it was vandalized before it was shipped. It's still a lot taller than the tree we just set up in our living room though.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

On Broadway

While the new Broadway Bridge opened to traffic a few months ago, construction has continued to finish out the bridge. Recently, a ramp that connects the bridge to the Arkansas River Trail just opened up, providing access to the trail and Riverfront Park. It also provides a nice place to get some pictures of the bridge.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017


The other weekend, I headed out to try to get a few more fall color pictures before the trees all dropped their leaves. This time, I headed east towards the Delta region and visited the Dagmar Wildlife Management Area near Brinkley. The WMA contains 9,805 acres of protected lands that encompass lakes, forests, streams and bayous. The first stop I made was this spot just above Apple Lake. I'm not a tree expert so I can't say for certain, but this tree has to be several centuries old. It is massive, and it's surrounded by dozens of cypress knees that stick out of the ground like buildings in a downtown skyline.


According to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, the WMA contains some old-growth forests of cypress and tupelo trees that may date back to around the year 1000 (they note that some of the trees here would have been sprouted some 500 years before Columbus sailed to America). It definitely feels like an ancient area, and it's amazing that the trees here have not been cut down for their lumber.


And one more shot of a cypress knee, sticking out of the murky water like a snaggly tooth.


The Dagmar WMA is very near where someone spotted the long-extinct Ivory-Billed Woodpecker in 2004. On this trip I didn't spot any woodpeckers, or really any other wildlife. Hunting season has started, so most animals were probably in hiding. But even if there aren't any Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers here, this is a neat space. The Dagmar WMA has even been recognized as a "wetland of international importance" by something called the Ramsar Convention.

From there I headed over to Hickson Lake, which is part of the Dagmar WMA. The lake is lined with cypress and tupelo trees, and fallen leaves drifted across the still lake. The only thing that disturbed the waters would be the occasional splash from a fish and the wake from two fishing boats.



This is one of my favorite places to take pictures of in the state. Especially this time of year when there are some fall colors, and there aren't as many snakes or mosquitoes. I stayed out taking pictures until it got dark.


Monday, November 20, 2017

Collins Creek

Collins Creek, which sits in the JFK Memorial Park by Greers Ferry Lake and Heber Springs, is a wonderful little spot to visit to take pictures. It's one of the very few places in the state where you can be guaranteed running water no matter what the weather conditions are.


Even though the creek is by Heber Springs, the constant flow of water doesn't come from any natural spring. Instead it comes courtesy of a pipe from Greers Ferry Lake, which sends cool water from the bottom of the lake over to the creek so that it can be used a habitat for baby trout that are born in the nearby hatchery. It also provides a great habitat for photographers, because there are several small waterfalls and cascades along the creek.



This was taken a few weeks ago, and was just about near the peak of the fall colors here.




A bunch of fallen leaves had collected in a pool just below some of the larger waterfalls along the creek, and were slowly swirling around in the current. It was starting to get dark, so this ended up being a 25 second exposure that captured the leaves dancing around below the falls. From here, the leaves will flow downstream, and eventually into the Little Red River, which then flows into the White River.


Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Buffalo River

This has been a strange year for fall colors. It was really wet and cool in the summer, which made me hopeful that we would have a spectacular fall color season here. But then in late September and early October, it got hot and we didn’t get any rain. As a drought set in, many leaves started to turn a lackluster brown. The oak trees were hit the hardest, and most of them never recovered. It looked pretty doubtful that we’d have any fall colors again this year, just like last year.

But lo and behold, some trees really popped with color last week. So to take advantage of the colors, I met up with Zack and made a trip up to the Buffalo River. Zack has spent the past year driving around the country in his converted school bus, but is back home in Arkansas for a bit. We met up and headed north, and eventually ended up driving down this dirt road that ran deep into the woods by the Buffalo River.


We then headed to an overlook on Red Bluff, which provided a spectacular view of a horseshoe bend on the Buffalo River. Unfortunately, I think we were just a few days past the peak of fall color here.


We tried to be really careful here, since the overlook is not very big and a fall would result in an unhappy descent of about 200 feet through the trees and into the river. I tried to get a few pictures without getting too close to edge. This is the view looking downstream, with some bushes and trees along the river exploding in bright color.


And the view looking upstream. There was some strange moss or lichen growing on the trees here, which looked more like Spanish Moss.


From there we headed over to Tyler Bend and made another visit to the Buffalo River, but this time without any danger of falling off a bluff. Luckily there was still some good fall color along the river.


And one last shot from Tyler Bend, showing the bluffs along the river. We took a few pictures here and enjoyed the view before heading back towards home.


Friday, November 10, 2017

The Old Mill

Last Saturday, I made a quick trip over to The Old Mill in North Little Rock to check out the fall colors there. It was a cloudy and rainy day, and I was surprised that there weren't very many people there. Usually this place is packed with people, since it is a pretty little spot right in the middle of the city. And the fall colors were looking pretty good there.


Monday, November 6, 2017


From New Orleans, we then drove east into Florida to spend the rest of our vacation in Pensacola. It was a nice way to spend a few days, the beaches weren't very crowded and it wasn't very hot outside. The view from the hotel room wasn't too shabby either. This was the view one morning at sunrise.


And then the same view at night. This is about two hours of star trails above the Gulf of Mexico, with streaks of light on the beach from people walking around.


One day we headed out onto the beach around sunset, and while Jonah played I got a few pictures around the Pensacola Beach Pier. The pier runs 1,470 feet out into the Gulf of Mexico.




These shots were taken right after sunset, so I had to have the camera set up on a tripod. Since I live in the hopelessly landlocked state of Arkansas, I don't have much experience taking pictures on beaches. So many of the pictures from here were messed up by waves coming in and shifting the sand beneath the tripod.


On our last morning there, we woke up to this great sunset over the beach.


And then we packed up the car and tried to make the long drive back home, which would take about ten hours and cross through four states. We were worried about the drive since we had a toddler with us, but he napped for a good chunk of the drive. We also tried to keep him entertained, which meant letting him watch some TV. By the time we made it home, we were too familiar with his current favorite TV shows - Sesame Street (especially any episode with lots of Elmo) and Teletubbies. But he really did great riding in the car, only starting to get fussy right at the end when we finally made it into Little Rock (on the other hand, I started to get fussy when it seemed like it was taking forever to drive through Mississippi).