Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Ozarks

The art gallery at the University of the Ozarks was kind enough to host my photography show on the Arkansas Delta, and even had a little reception last weekend. So Caroline and I headed over to Clarksville for the reception, and for a trip down memory lane.

I'm a graduate of the U of O, having attended college there way back in the olden days (I had a scary realization that I probably graduated the same year that some of the current students there were born). The college has a long history. It was established in 1834, and is the oldest college in Arkansas. It was also the first college in the state to admit women (in 1875), and was the first predominately-white college in Arkansas to integrate (in 1957). And some very notable people have graduated from there, like me (I feel like I can make that joke since I'm still paying back my student loans!). But it's a small school, and it often gets unfairly confused with the very conservative College of the Ozarks in Missouri.

After the reception was over, we walked by the old Munger Chapel. The chapel was built in 1933, with some of the labor coming from students as a sort of work-study job. Which sounds a lot more difficult than the work-study job I had when I was there.

IMG_2093

Sunday, February 25, 2024

An Old Church In Keo

The small towns of Keo and Scott are just a short drive from Little Rock, but they still feel like they belong in another era. Both towns are home to numerous old agricultural buildings, and lots of old homes and churches. I drove through Keo last week, and stopped at this old cotton gin. It was built in the 1940s, and was in use until the 1970s.

IMG_1483

I was there to visit an old church that sits just to the south of Keo. My plan was to get out there before sunset, and to get the camera set up in time to start some star trail pictures. This would be my second attempt at star trails here. I tried last summer, but the lens fogged up and ruined almost all of the shots. I hoped this time would have better luck...

I arrived at the old church, which sits along a dirt road. Across the street is a cemetery, which contains many old graves. I wish I knew the history of the church, like when it was built and when it was abandoned. It does have a very sad feeling to it, especially since it not in the best of shape and probably won't be standing for much longer.

IMG_1601-2

The front door was open, so I went inside. The former sanctuary of the church looked rough. A large hole had formed in the roof, along with one on the floor. Fallen ceiling tiles littered the floor, next to a bright green carpet that once ran between the pews.

IMG_1693

The back room of the church was in worse shape. Most of the roof was gone, and the floor was covered with a carpet of fallen leaves.

IMG_1710

And the view looking out the back window of the church:

IMG_1719

And one more view of the front of the church, taken across the road at the old cemetery. I did want to make another star trail attempt here in the winter, when the brush in front of the church was bare and wouldn't cover as much of the building. And also, when there wouldn't be any mosquitoes out.

IMG_1771-2

I set up the camera on the tripod, found the composition that I wanted. I put a hard-warmer inside a sock, and wrapped it around the lens (which is a crude, but effective way to prevent the lens from fogging up). And when it was dark enough I put the camera into manual mode and set the right exposure time, ISO, and aperture. Everything was going great until I tried to use the remote shutter release. It was plugged in, but it wasn't communicating with the camera. I pressed the button in vain, but it wasn't working at all. It is a vital piece of equipment, and without it I was out of luck.

After saying a few choice words (that were probably inappropriate to say in front of a church, sorry!), I had to sadly pack everything up. With the shutter release not working, my second attempt at star trail pictures here was a bust.

The next day I made an emergency run to Bedfords, which luckily had a shutter release for sale that fit my camera. So that night I headed back out to Keo to make attempt number three. Luckily I remembered to charge the batteries, pack the memory card, and bring the camera and new shutter release. I set up the camera, and got a little creeped out when I heard something emerge from under the old church and move around in the brush nearby. I was afraid it might have been a skunk. But I shined the flashlight on it, and it was just a little armadillo.

And amazingly, the third time was a charm! So here the star trails over the old church, taken over the course of about two and a half hours:

StarStaX_IMG_1810-IMG_2074_lighten-Edit-2

Monday, February 12, 2024

Pam's Grotto

A little bit of fog still clung to the Ozarks as I drove along the winding mountain roads. I pulled over at an overlook, which provided this view:

IMG_1396

I met up again with my good friend Zack Andrews, and we decided to visit one of the prettiest waterfalls in the Ozarks - Pam's Grotto. The falls are reached via a short but steep trail that runs up the side of a hill and then down to the falls. It's been a few years since I've done this hike, and the last time I was here it was a little traumatic. As I was climbing up the steep hill I encountered another hiker. This hiker was standing in the middle of the trail and was, well, pooping. Just right there. And to make things more awkward, he wanted to have a conversation with me while he finished up his business.

Luckily there were no pooping hikers, or actually anyone else out on the trail that day. We made it to the falls, which were running well after all the recent rains. For a sense of scale, see if you can spot Zack in this shot:

IMG_1422

The falls here are 37 feet, and they tumble into a small grotto.

IMG_1420

IMG_1436-3

We headed back to the cars, but made one last stop to get pictures along the creek. The orange in the background is from beech trees, which hang onto their leaves after the fall. They provide a lot of nice color, even in the dead of winter.

IMG_1461

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Boxley Valley

Boxley Valley, along the Buffalo National River, is one of the most photogenic places in the state. Especially on foggy days.

I drove up there at dawn, as thick fog clung to the mountains and along the river.

IMG_1114

There was some fog around the old Boxley Baptist Church (built 1899).

IMG_1115-2

One of the main reasons that Boxley is so photogenic is the large number of old barns there:

IMG_1132

And other historic structures, like the old Boxley Mill. The first mill in Boxley Valley was built in 1840 and was even the site of a small Civil War fight. The current mill was built in 1870 and operated until the 1960s.

IMG_1145

IMG_1150

IMG_1167

IMG_1176

It was hard not to stop every few feet to take pictures, since there is so much to see there.

IMG_1190-2

IMG_1201

This is the old Beechwoods Church, which was built back in 1918.

IMG_1228

IMG_1239

This old building was used, I think at one point, as a school.

IMG_1298

It was a quiet morning in the Valley. I was surprised that there wasn't anyone else out there taking picture of the elk. There's usually a few elk paparazzi out there.

IMG_1311

And one last shot from Boxley, showing some other visitors to Boxley Valley. A flock of Canadian geese had taken over this pond, which still had a little bit of ice remaining from the big freeze.

IMG_1371

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Falling Water Creek

After delivering the pictures all safe and sound to Clarksville, I still had a few hours left of my day off to spend looking at waterfalls. And luckily that day, the waterfalls were absolutely roaring. This was after the recent snows had melted, and after about two inches of rain had fallen. There was water everywhere.

I drove up to Haw Creek Falls, but wasn't able to cross the low-water bridge into the campsite. That's because the low-water bridge was currently under a lot of high-water. I could see a few people were camping there still, and wondered how long they would have to wait until it was safe to get out. I've been to Haw Creek many times over the years, and I've never seen it with this much water before. 

IMG_0948

Further down the road is the old Hwy. 123 bridge over Big Piney Creek, which was built in 1931. I ran out in the rain to get a quick picture.

IMG_0958

Most of the mountains were covered by thick fog.

IMG_0986

I met up with my good friend Zack Andrews, who lives nearby and is always up for going to see waterfalls. We didn't have much time, so we decided to head over to Falling Water Creek. As the name suggests, Falling Water Creek is home to a good number of scenic waterfalls. And they were definitely running full-tilt that day. Here's the view of the popular Falling Water Falls:

IMG_0998

For a comparison, here's what it usually looks like:

Falling Water Falls

And a few more shots of the falling water at Falling Water Falls...

IMG_1005

IMG_1008-Edit

There were still some icy spots along the road, but we were able to get around just fine. We stopped at an overlook, which provides a great view of the creek and the foggy mountains.

IMG_1016-Edit

And then we made it to Six Finger Falls:

IMG_1027-Edit

For a comparison, here's what it looks like when it's not at flood stage:

Six Fingers

The falls are named Six Finger Falls because if you were to look at it from above, it supposedly looks like a hand with six fingers. Here's one last shot from there:

IMG_1046

We drove down Falling Water Road all the way to the Richland Creek campground, and were kinda surprised we didn't see anyone there kayaking. It would have been the perfect day for it (even if the water would have been so cold!).

IMG_1054

Sunday, January 28, 2024

Longpool

I wasn't able to get out and take pictures during the "Snowpacalypse" that recently hit Arkansas. Which was only about 3-4 inches of snow for us, but it was enough to shut down the schools for five days. But I did take off work last week to make a quick trip to the University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, which is kind enough to host my Delta photo exhibition at their art gallery for the next month.

On the way there, I decided to make a visit to the Longpool recreation area, which is along Big Piney Creek in the Ozark National Forest. The creek was running high and muddy, swollen by heavy rains and melting snow.

IMG_0835

There was still some icy spots on the roads there, enough that the car slid a bit (with all those framed pictures jostling around in the back of the car). A thick fog drifted through the trees and along the tops of the hills.

IMG_0853

I started the short hike to Longpool Falls. The trail starts out from the campground and runs along a hill that stands up above the Big Piney. It then drops down and meets up with a smaller creek. There is a great little waterfall here, which is about 10 feet tall.

IMG_0876-2

IMG_0889

IMG_0897-2

From there I made the short hike to Longpool Falls. I should know better, but I can never seem to find the best trail to the waterfall. I always seem to follow the path that scrambles over rocks and boulders. On this trip, many of them were still covered with ice. But I safely made it to the falls (I only slipped and fell once out there). I was careful to find a spot under the bluff that was not under any of the massive icicles, which could break off and fall at any moment now that it was above freezing.

IMG_0910

Longpool Falls is 44 feet-tall, and was quite loud. The sound of the falling water seemed to echo off the surrounding bluffline.

IMG_0920

It is a neat waterfall, but one you need to see after periods of heavy rain. Usually when I'm here the falls are just barely flowing.

IMG_0927

I checked the time and realized I was going to be late for my appointment in Clarksville. So I hurried back (as best as I could over the icy rocks) on the trail to the car. But I stopped one last time to get a picture of the narrow road in the campground, which curved through some foggy trees.

IMG_0942

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

2023

2023 had its moments. There were moments of celebration, since this year marked mine and Caroline's ten year wedding anniversary (and what a great ten years it's been!). There were moments of difficulty, like the time spent potty training (our toddler, not me). And then there were some scary moments, like when the EF-3 tornado cut a path through our neighborhood in March.

But when possible, I tried to find a few moments to take some pictures. So here’s a little collection of my favorite photos from the last year…

#25:
IMG_0280
December 13: Artists Palette, Death Valley National Park, California
Death Valley was such an interesting place to visit. The landscape there is so bizarre and beautiful. And for a place that is almost entirely all rocks and sand, it can be so colorful and vibrant. Especially at Artists Palette, where it looks like a giant spilled a bunch of paint all over the mountain.

#24:
Finding Nebo
October 28: Mt. Nebo State Park, Arkansas
2023 turned out to be a great year for fall colors in Arkansas. The fog was too thick to see anything from the overlooks on Mt. Nebo that day, but the bright colors on this tree shined through the mist like a lighthouse.

#23:
Untitled
November 9: Keo, Arkansas
Another great thing about the fall colors this year is that the trees seemed to hold onto their colorful leaves for a long time. This shot was taken on a rainy day in November, when it's nice to visit oxbow lakes like this and not have to worry too much about snakes or mosquitoes.

#22:
Untitled
June 19: Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts, Little Rock
The art museum reopened this year after a massive renovation, and one of the new features was this "living room" space that extends out over the entrance. From inside, you can get drinks while enjoying the view of MacArthur Park from the massive windows. In this shot, the infrared camera somehow turned those windows into mirrors that reflected back the park grounds.

#21:
IMG_9946
December 12: Devils Golf Course, Death Valley National Park, California
Being in Death Valley definitely feels like being on another planet (which explains why so much of Star Wars was filmed there). No place felt more strange and alien than the Devils Golfcourse, a massive stretch of salt crystal formations that have eroded into sharp and jagged spires.

#20:
Untitled
April 28: Near Eureka Springs, Arkansas
I was driving up to Eureka Springs and saw this barn and immediately stopped the car to get a few pictures. I wasn't sure if the barn had been abandoned. The house next door to it certainly looked like it had been - it was quiet and seemed empty. What wasn't quiet was the cacophony of clucking that came from the chickenhouse in the nearby field.

#19:
Untitled
April 23: Pine Bluff, Arkansas
Unfortunately it doesn't seem like this old house will be around for much longer. Last year, part of the balcony roof collapsed. It will be sad when it's gone.

#18:
IMG_0133-3
December 12: Badwater Basin, Death Valley National Park, California
One thing you don't expect to see in Death Valley is water. But a hurricane passed over the park and dumped a record amount of rain, enough to create an ephemeral lake in Badwater Basin that we were lucky enough to catch before it evaporates away. The lake is only a few inches deep, but it did a great job reflecting the colors of a sunset one evening.

#17:
Ultra Violet (Light My Way)
November 20: Big Dam Bridge, North Little Rock, Arkansas
The Big Dam Bridge is always a fun place to go to take pictures, especially on really foggy nights. The bright LED lights on the bridge were reflected back in the fog, which on this night was so thick that it obscured the far end of the bridge.

#16:
Untitled
March 19: Jackson Square, New Orleans, Louisiana
This shot was taken on a Sunday night, has dusk settled in over the St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square. It had been really busy that weekend in the French Quarter (it was Spring Break, after all), and there were crowds everywhere we went. But that evening, it was unusually quiet at this spot. The only other people around were a few other tourists who would walk up here while eating their beignets from Cade Du Monde, and some ghost-tour groups sharing spooky stories about Jackson Square.

#15:
Untitled
October 27: Shores Lake, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas
The water in the lake was so still that the reflection looked like a mirror image of the trees and fog that lined the shores of Shores Lake. This was taken at the end of a great day spent in the Ozarks.

#14:
Untitled
October 27: Yale Church, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas
This is a neat old church, which sits right by the scenic Mulberry River. We stopped by here, and then drove to Oark and treated ourselves to some burgers from the Oark Cafe.

#13:
Untitled
March 24: New Hope Missionary Baptist Church, Estill, Mississippi
This beautiful old church in the Mississippi Delta was built in 1918. I've been wanting to visit it for years, and it just so happened that we would drive right by it on our way back home from the Gulf Coast. The dark clouds behind the church were ominous, a few hours later this area would be hit by a really bad tornado.

#12:
Untitled
September 12: Hawthicket Church, Faulkner County, Arkansas
By the time enough funds were raised to build this church, almost all of the congregation had transitioned to the nearby cemetery. So no services were ever actually held here, and it has been empty and abandoned for decades.

#11:
Untitled
October 28: White Rock Mountain, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas
The plan was to camp overnight at White Rock Mountain, with the goal of getting some good fall color pictures from the overlooks in the morning. But it was so foggy on the mountain that there was no view from the overlooks, so had to settle for taking lots of pictures of foggy roads instead.

#10:
Coyote Ugly
December 11: Golden Canyon, Death Valley National Park, California
The hike through Golden Canyon is one of the most popular hikes in Death Valley, but it was never all that crowded while we were there. We did see a few other hikers, but we mostly had the trail to ourselves. Well except for the time a coyote trotted down the canyon right by us, then turned and went up to some rocks and seemed to pose for a few minutes while we snapped a bunch of pictures. He scurried off a few minutes later, I'm guessing to find his order of ACME products.

#9:
Zabriskie Point
December 11: Zabriskie Point, Death Valley National Park, California
This was taken just after sunrise, when it was about 40 degrees outside. I can't imagine what it's like to visit here in the summer when it would be about 120 degrees here.

#8:
Untitled
July 6: Centennial Baptist Church, Helena-West Helena, Arkansas
This church was one building I desperately tried to get access to over the last few years while working on my Delta photography project. But the building was partially destroyed by a storm, and the ruins now sit behind a tall fence. I had to hold the camera up over the fence to get these shots, with a slim hope that some of them might turn out ok. It's a beautiful old church still, despite the damage. Hopefully it can be saved and restored some day. 

#7:
IMG_9616
December 12: Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, Death Valley National Park, California
The hardest part about taking photos here was finding a composition that didn't have any footprints in it. While walking across the dunes I was annoyed at all the people who had been out there before, so carelessly walking through where I'd want to take pictures that morning. How rude! But then I realized that I was of course walking through there and probably messing up some future person's pictures. So sorry about that!

#6:
Jackson Square
March 18: Jackson Square, New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans is one my favorite cities to visit. On this trip, we were there with our two small kids so that meant visiting some of the more family-friendly parts of the French Quarter (so no Bourbon Street this time). We spent a lot of time in Jackson Square, which gives lots of room to run around without having to worry about traffic or drunk tourists. Plus it's just a short walk away from Napoleon House (and its muffaletas).

#5:
Untitled
April 28: Near Eureka Springs, Arkansas
Spent a lot of time taking pictures of this simple gate, as storm clouds lingered over the field on the other side. The infrared camera made the clouds look a little more spooky than they were in person, but I loved the contrast between the land and sky here.

#4:
Pig Trail
October 27: Pig Trail Scenic Byway, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas
The Pig Trail is one of the prettiest stretches of road in Arkansas, especially on a day when a bit of fog helps bring out the fall colors. I drove up there to meet my friend Zack so we could go hiking, but I was late because I kept stopping to take pictures along the road. Luckily there wasn't that much traffic that day.

#3:
City Park
March 19: New Orleans City Park, New Orleans, Louisiana
New Orleans City Park is a great place to visit, especially if you need a break from the crowded streets and noise of the French Quarter. The park contains the largest strand of mature live-oak trees in the world, with some trees that are thought to be over 800 years old.

#2:
Idlewild
February 25: Idlewild School, near DeVall's Bluff, Arkansas
This old one-room school was built in 1921, and was in use until 1949. This was taken on a rainy day in the Arkansas Delta, where a massive puddle had formed on the saturated ground in front of the school. I'm honored that this picture was chosen by the Arkansas Arts Council to tour the state as part of the 2024 Small Works on Paper exhibition.

#1:
IMG_9397-Edit
December 11: Dante's View, Death Valley National Park, California
Death Valley has some of the darkest skies in the country, and I was so excited about the possibility of doing star trail photos out there. But whoops, it turns out that every night some clouds would roll through so I never got a chance to do star pictures. But those clouds did produce some great sunsets, including this one at Dante's View. The view, with the sunset reflected in the temporary lake at Badwater Basin, was truly breathtaking.


And I'd like to thank you for reading this!! I hope y'all have a great 2024. May the waterfalls be flowing, the fall colors be vibrant, and the mosquitoes not plentiful. Happy New Year!