Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Something Fishy

My big present under the Christmas tree this year was a brand-new fisheye lens. So one night after getting the kids to bed, I headed downtown to make sure the lens worked ok. I ended up at the Clinton Park Bridge and started to set up the camera and tripod. But even though the trip was meant to test out a new lens, the first picture here is actually one taken with the iPhone (and a neat photo app called Spectre). There was a full moon that night, which is what made the clouds look so bright in the sky.


And here is the view of the bridge with the fisheye....


And the view of the bridge from the shoreline, with the Little Rock skyline poking out underneath the bridge.


And then the view from along the shore on the other side of the bridge, but for the next two shots I actually swithced over to a wide-angle lens. I was amazed at how still the river was, which created some nearly-perfect reflections in the water.


The reflections got messed up at one point because some sort of critter swam through the water nearby (it may have been an otter, or maybe something like the Loch Ness Monster?). Luckily it didn't attack anyone standing by the water taking pictures.


I headed over to the Junction Bridge and tried to get a few pictures with the fisheye lens. This is the view of the bridge, the skyline and the full moon hanging in the sky overhead.


It's amazing how many stars the fisheye lens was able to pick out in the sky (at least I hope those are stars and not just dead pixels in the camera). This is the view of the Main Street Bridge and the Junction Bridge, and in the middle is a sculpture named "The Center" by an artist named Chapel.


It was starting to get late, but I made one last stop at the State Capitol. I'm kinda surprised that I didn't get a visit from the security guards as I set up the camera and tripod right by the fancy brass doors at the front of the building. This is the shot looking straight up towards the columns, still showing off their festive holiday decorations. In the distance you can see Capitol Avenue and the rest of downtown.


I was able to get out again last night, and headed over to the Big Dam Bridge for a few pictures with the fisheye. This is the view of the bridge and the river, which also had some nice reflections (I'm guessing because the water level is really low right now).



And the view looking downriver, with the sky a mix of soft blue from the moon and warm orange from the city lights.


I switched out lenses to the wide-angle for this last shot, with some low clouds quickly moving across the sky above the Big Dam Bridge.


Monday, December 21, 2020

Little Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree

The other night I had some free time after getting the kids to bed, and decided to try to get some pictures of the Christmas decorations in downtown Little Rock. There was a bit of fog, which I had hoped would add some atmosphere to the pictures (and also make things less crowded). The first stop was at the intersection of Capitol and Main Streets, where the city has an electronic Christmas tree, a Hanukkah menorah, ornaments and Santa's sleigh.

Little Rock

Lights adorned the trees along Capitol and Main, and despite the weather there was a steady stream of people going and having their pictures taken next to all the decorations.

Little Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree

And a closer view of the tree - here you can see the fog trying to cover up the top of the Simmons Building in the background.

Oh Christmas Tree

And another view, with a car heading west down Capitol Avenue...

So This Is Christmas

I also headed down Capitol Avenue, and stopped to get this view looking back east towards Capitol and Main streets.


And a bit further down was this view looking straight up at the Simmons Tower and the Regions Building. The fog was starting to clear, but it was still clinging to the top of the Simmons Tower.


The fog was just about gone by the time I got to the Arkansas State Capitol, which still looked nice with all the holiday lights on the building. 

Dome Alone

And one last shot, looking up at the Capitol building from along Capitol Avenue. Yes, this was taken while standing in the middle of the street, but it was almost 11 PM and there was no traffic out there...

Capitol Avenue

Monday, December 14, 2020

Capitol Fireworks

One of the best holiday traditions in the state is the annual fireworks show at the State Capitol. Surprisingly they actually went ahead and had the show this year, despite the pandemic having cancelled most major events this year. The state just kindly asked that everyone social distance and wear masks. I took Jonah to the show, but we set up off to the side away from where most people were gathering at the front of the building. Fortunately, it seemed like most people were distancing and we only saw one family there without masks.

This year they didn't do the usual ceremony, with just a short recorded message from the Secretary of State. Which was nice, actually. Sometimes in years past the ceremony and speeches would drag on a bit. Soon enough, the fireworks started up....

Blue State


Red Light District

Red Rock

Right after the show was finished, all of the 100,000 or so Christmas lights on the Capitol are switched on. The lights are on all sides of the building, which was done so that the kids at the nearby Children's Hospital could enjoy them. The state has been putting lights on the building since the 1930s. It's a great tradition, although there are many people who miss the old "disco dome" lights from the 90s.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Lorance Creek

A few weeks back I made another visit to the Lorance Creek Natural Area with the hopes of catching some good fall color on the cypress and tupelo trees there. But my timing was off, and almost all of the leaves had already fallen off the trees. There were a few good patches of color still clinging on, mostly on some of the oak trees.


The sky provided another nice bit of color, it was close to sunset and the creek was reflecting some colorful clouds floating above.


The fallen leaves ended up in Lorance Creek,  flowing along past the tall trees. At one point, the leaves got caught in the current and swirled around. This was taken when it was nearly dark, with a long exposure capturing the motion of the leaves as they slowly floated around in circles.


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Alum Cove

Since I was in the area, I decided to make a quick visit to Alum Cove. The trail is popular, and the star attraction is the massive natural bridge. There was a good little crowd of people mingling around the bridge, and while waiting for people to disperse I spotted this leaf laying on top of a log that was covered with thick moss.


The natural bridge is 130 feet long and 20 feet wide, big enough that you could actually drive a car across it (if you could manage to get it down the hill, of course). Apparently this was once a large cave, but the center section of the roof collapsed and left behind the large arch.


And the view from the other side, where a little waterfall spilled over the edge and then flowed under the bridge.


Monday, December 7, 2020

Parker-Hickman Homestead

There are lots of historical places within the boundaries of the Buffalo National River, and one of the largest and well-preserved is the old Parker-Hickman Homestead. The homestead is situated at the foot of a ridge, not too far from the waters of the Buffalo River. The oldest building here dates back to the late 1840s, and is believed to be the oldest building in the park. It's hard to imagine what it must have been like when the first settlers cleared the land and built the log cabin by hand. 


Amazingly, the home was occupied until 1978. In 1982 the National Park Service purchased the property and stabilized and preserved the home and the other buildings in the homestead. While the home is empty now, the door is unlocked and you are invited to go inside to take a look (just please don't leave graffiti or mess anything up!). Although the home hasn't been occupied in over 40 years, you can still see hints of the home's past. In one room, there are layers of newspaper stuck to the wall. In the olden times, people used newspaper as a sort of insulation.


At the back of the house is an addition, which was completed in the early 1900s. The house has seen a lot of history, even during the Civil War. Near the end of the war after US troops liberated Little Rock and the fledgling Confederate government had to flee, most of the mountainous areas of the state was left uncontrolled by either army. In the power vacuum that followed, guerrilla fighters roamed the countryside. A skirmish among dueling guerrilla fighters occurred near the Parker-Hickman Homestead, and the home was used a field hospital.


The house also has a nice front porch, from which you can see the other buildings in the farmstead. Along with the house, there are several barns, sheds, a granary, a smokehouse and even a little outhouse (which dates back to the 1920s, but I didn't investigate to see how it was). This is the view of the porch, with one of the barns reflected in the window.


The largest barn in the homestead dates back to 1912.


And one final shot of the barn, framed under these towering trees showing off a bit of fall color.  


Friday, December 4, 2020

Mt Judea

We live in a modern world where we can find out all sorts of information in a heartbeat. Our cellphones are tiny super-computers that can access all the known knowledge of the world at any time, letting us research any random thing when we need to (although it's mostly used for people to argue politics on Facebook or look at cat pictures). So it is a bit frustrating when the internet lets you down, and there isn't much information out there for something. Like, for instance, this amazing old house near the small community of Mt. Judea. I did my best, but I couldn't find anything about it or it's history. The once-grand two story home sits empty and abandoned, seemingly for decades. No one lives there, but there are a few horses around to keep it company.


I'm not an expert on old buildings, but I would guess that it probably dates to the late 1800s. The old house is actually close to the notorious hog farm that the state finally closed because it was polluting the Buffalo National River.


Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Big Piney

The next morning we headed out to take a few pictures, and again ended up in the area around Big Piney Creek and Haw Creek. Although it was a sunny day, the valley was still shrouded under a thick coat of fog. We hurried to get some pictures, stopping first at the old Fort Douglas schoolhouse (which was built in 1946).


And then we drove across the historic Hwy. 123 bridge over Big Piney Creek. The narrow one-lane bridge was built in 1931.


Luckily there wasn't much traffic out that morning, so we were able to stop on the bridge for a few quick pictures.


Next to the creek is a dirt road that heads off into the woods alongside the creek. It's a fun little road to drive down, especially on a foggy morning with vibrant fall colors.



But it isn't the easiest road to drive down, since the road runs right into Big Piney Creek. In order to go further, you have to ford the creek to head on (which is funny to me, since that sounds like something you'd expect wagon trains on the Oregon Trail to do). But luckily we were in Matt's truck. If we were in my car, it would have been immediately submerged and then floated off towards the Arkansas River.

After crossing the Big Piney, the road runs alongside the creek and eventually passes beneath Car Wash Falls. This waterfall is aptly named since you can actually drive right through it, giving your car a nice wash in the process. The falls are 21 feet-tall, and empty right onto the road (just be sure your sunroof is closed before you drive by).


And the view from the car as you pass under Car Wash Falls:

We drove further down the road, making several stops to get pictures of the trees that were showing off their fall colors.





The sun was starting to finally break through the thick fog, and we made a stop along the valley to get a few shots. The retreating fog clung onto the distant hillsides.


We started headed back, but one made one last stop here for a few quick pictures as the last bits of fog drifted above the hills by this old barn.