Fall and Spring Photos in Lost Valley National Park - Arkansas

May 19, 2019  •  5 Comments

Lost Valley National Park is a treasure of Arkansas.  I went for the first time in November 2018 and again this week.  I never seem to have enough time when I visit these incredible places.  I always try to calculate the time of day and sun placement in the area that I am visiting.  Each time I traveled from Fayetteville area east on 412 to the Huntsville, Kingsville and then to Ponca.  Where 21 intersects into 43 there has always been a herd of Elk grazing.  The park ranger at Lost Valley told me that the Colorado Park Service transported about 25 Elk in the area about 10 years ago and now he estimates 300 to 400 Elk are in the area.

In between last Thanksgiving and now the national park service has taken full control of the park and rerouted the entrance into a great big parking lot which visitors depart to the main trail.  The trails are very nice now.  It is wheelchair accessible for about the first 3/4 of a mile and then there are rock stairs.  The trail up to this point has many vistas and points of interest as most national parks have.  There is signage and information along the way. 


On this morning in November the temps were in the twenties.  It had been overcast for several days in the area but on this day the sun was out.  The trees and leaves left from the fall foliage were covered with a film of ice from a recent rain.  As the sun started to warm up the area the leaves started to drip the melting ice.  The sound this was making was incredible.  I was the only person in the park on this day and felt blessed to have seen and heard this happen.  The sun magnified the wet color of the fall leaves.

On my next visit was this past week, I knew it would be different as the Clark River would be running through Lost Valley Park.  I did not know what to expect.  I arrived early again and I am glad I did.  While I was first in the park on a Monday morning there were several hikers and photographers appearing within a couple of hours.  When I left about 11:30 am there were more than forty cars in the lot.  I was here today to photograph waterfalls.  I picked my spot  and stayed there for a couple of hours. 1 HB = 0,9,-4 FN=1 FB = 58 outdoor = 0 ISO = 150.000000 exp=33.333336 return=0 BS S(10)B(30)S(0.000000) YNR(0)CNR(0) FM1 CR0.51 [0,9,-4] Prymid2 maxDarkArea2.59 maxBrightArea1.04 maxPeakNotSat1.22 dr30.17 br17.32 wdr18.64 wbr10.30 sbr4.26 ldr31.91 lns0.0 FC000000000bfalic 0000X

It had been raining for several days and more was headed there later in the day.  The sun was out this morning (lucky me) but the tree canopy was too thick to have the sun peek through.  After the 3/4 mile flat trail ends you start climbing rock stairs ascending up the mountain.  The trail is a little more challenging as it skirts the edge and the once flat terrain turns into a deeper gorge beside the trail.  The water finds it way down the side of the mountain through this gouge creating the waterfalls. 

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Once you find an area that looks promising then you find a way to descend into the area below.  I am not the most nimble anymore so my steps have to be careful as the rocks are wet and mossey from the spring moss growth.  I seemed to overpack every time.  This time I brought 2 cameras two tripods and lenses, bags....etc....  Word to the wise, don't over pack like me.  I always think I am going to miss something if I don't have the right (fill in the blank) with me.  I packed about 40 pounds and should have kept it to the necessities.  It took me 6 months to make it make here and I will come back again...said a wise man. 

I will get the tech specs out of the way here.  I have a Canon 5DMK IV sitting on a Really Right Stuff ball head sitting on a ProMediaGear Series 34 - 71" 4 Long Section Carbon Fiber Tripod.  The Camera has a Really Right Stuff right angle bracket for quickly going from landscape to portrait.  I am using a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens.  I have a 82mm circular polarizer filter attached to the lens.  This filter helps take the glare or blown out highlights of the water.  I also have a Tiffen 4x4 Neutral Density 3 stop filter clipped on to the lens.  The ND filter allows the camera to elongate exposures to soften the water.  The exposures below are noted in the Adobe Lightroom metadata here.    

Composition Anatomy

As you can see above I have the tripod and camera set as low as I can without water splashing on the lens.  The reason for getting low is to bring into focus the foreground within a few feet to infinity.   This is what is important to a good photo composition.  Not everyone goes to the trouble of taking in beautiful nature and settings, but my passion is taking my viewers there through my photographs.  When I enlarge this photo to 5 feet or more wide and you stand close enough to fill your peripheral vision, it will feel like you are there minus the sounds and smells.  I have always been attracted to larger than life sculptures like Calder, Henri Moore and Chihuly Glass.  My all time favorite larger than life painters are Wilson Hurley Frederic Edwin Church.   .....and my favorite larger than life photographer is Peter Lik.  I was stunned when I went to his gallery of massive size photos and their crisp clarity.  

Color Version 

Color photographs are different than black and white photographs.  Your eye and brain have to process more in a color photograph. Light tones and colors attract your eye along with movements of leading lines in photos.  In this color photograph, the light tones and leading lines of the rocks from the left lead your eye to the middle.  The reason is we read photos like we read a book left to right.  While the lightest green color is the sunlight in the trees at the top of the photo, your eye stays in the middle as the big boulders cleverly arranged as arrows pointing at the white waterfall.  Lichen spots on the rocks don't bother me as far as a composition and my eye moves right past to the center.  Being in the moment of setting up a photos on location I never take the time to analyze what I just said above.  When I set up a photo I just go with my gut feeling of what looks good.  I did not see the the big boulders pointing to the center until i started analyzing what made me take the photo.  I probably took 30 different setups along the river like this that morning but it wasn't until I stared at it in Lightroom processing that I kept coming back to this one.  All in all there are 2 two dominate colors of green hues and grey hues.  I see this as one of my best on this morning.   



Black and White Version

Black and White photos are more personal to some people.  To me they are the art of the composition.  Art has always been a feeling to me.  How I feel looking at the black and white composition.  This is a very busy composition in a dark location but the one waterfall in the center is the focus.  The leading lines I spoke of in the color version doesn't work for me in this B&W version.  It stands on its own merit as a good B&W composition.  I hope you have enjoyed my inner thoughts and personal descriptions of the area.  Feel free to email me or leave your comments below.  Safe travels.



Our Sunday in Galveston with Elvis

February 21, 2018  •  1 Comment

Angie, Elvis and I traveled down to Galveston from Houston last Sunday.  We are in Houston for the week glamping in the RV.  The locals had said this was the second cold snap this year and apologised for the bad weather.  As long as it was cool we were happy. 

Some people like the mountains and others like the ocean.  I think we were split.  Angie and I like the mountains and Elvis liked the soft deep sand under his feet.  Had he felt a 100 degree day of heat with his long hair he may have wanted to stay in the comfort of the air conditioned truck.

It was very cloudy in Galveston this day.  We had planned to see the strand, a couple of old hotels and of course.....the 61st street Fishing Pier. 

The strand had just been through Mardi Gras the weekend before.  Little did we know the strand would take 4 hour to traverse when we got there.

Our first stop was a sidewalk cafe called the Gumbo Bar.  It was good.  We got seafood Gumbo and char broiled oysters.  Gumbo is like good chili as its takes a long time to prepare and cook so all the ingredients can all marry together.  Food was good and now we off to the strand.

We had to park 4 or 5 blocks away from the strand as this is the general location where all the cruise ships dock, clean and get the next captured victims aboard.  Angie and I were talking about how many times we were stopped with Elvis before we got to the strand.  (Now, this is my observation from the strand walk.)  Our world is in a mess as everyone is very protective of their personal space, their identity and their conversations.  Elvis our standard poodle is a visual conversation.  He is trained and invites conversations as he calmly stands or sits and allows strangers around him to talk to him and have their photo taken with him.  He brings strangers together for a quick happy conversation about him and their dog.  I can't begin to tell you how many times we were stopped and asked about him.  Those that don't stop us, whipped out their camera phone for a quick photo of Elvis as we walked by.  I even caught people slowing down in their cars and taking photos.  My point of this rambling about a dog is we would have never even known all those people could/would talk or share feelings.  A dog enabled all these people to let down there public shield to share their feelings.  A dog changed their disposition for a short time and I bet they talked to their family and friends about Elvis and proudly showed the photos they took of him.  We humans need more genuine moments like this everyday to get back into building public trust in each other.  This showed us that the public is starving for good honest and wholesome conversations.

Elvis the great communicator

The fishing pier was our final stop as the strand was exhausting but the reward was great.  It was incredibly cloudy at the beach, so much so that you couldn't see past the fishing pier.  You could hear things in the distance beyond the fog wall but that was it.  The waves would just appear from the fog and roll into the shore.  My off-the-wall thinking could imagine a big wave machine tucked into the fog wall producing the steady waves as a part of the carnival atmosphere.  We played with Elvis (his first beach) in the sand for awhile and Angie and Elvis went back to the truck while I got the camera backpack and tripod out to take a few photos. 

When I get serious about taking photos of what I have envisioned, time stands still.  We all want something in our lives that we are so engrossed with that we spend hours when it seems like minutes.  Once I got my tripod out to a safe distance into the water, I started just looking at the best angles.  Since there was no sun, it was hard to find the right combination of photo techniques to use.  Ever been out working and feel like you are being watched?  After what felt like minutes which must have been longer, I turned around and probably startled the 4 people standing 25 feet behind me whispering.  All kidding aside I am the worst at watching people.   We all want to learn and I stare the same way. 

The image is an HDR combination.  HDR takes muliple images.  They have to be registered meaning you cannot move your tripod while shooting.  I took several 3 shot combinations of varying shutter speeds.  It's a good thing I did because the pier moved with the ocean waves.  There was a sway motion which showed up once I sat down and started editing. 

I use Photomatix 6.0 to sandwich the photo sets together and do the photo editing in Abobe Lightroom.  Hope you enjoyed the story.

Back Roads

February 20, 2018  •  2 Comments

When I am driving in the country, I can find a place to photograph most anywhere.  That's why I only do this when I am driving by myself.  It makes for a tedious trip when others are in the truck with me as I am always looking at both side of the road because I don't want to miss anything.  I stop and slow down and start again. Take this old house above.  Most everyone would love to see it torn down and hauled off.  I see someone's memories.  I picture families pioneering and scratching to make a living in hopes of making sure their children don't grow like they did.  (Or....its's just an old deer camp lean-to that hunters threw together to to keep the varmits out of their lap.  I like the first idea.)

It takes decades for these live oaks to make their way and take root through the porch and roof to make a photograph like this tell a story.

This is an HDR image comprised of 3 photographs with 2 stop differences in shutter speeds.  The aperture or f-stop is f11 which means these were long exposure photographs.   HDR photographs are always setup and shot from a tripod so the registration is precise.  Once the 3 images are sandwiched together into one photo then the fun begins.  This is when the image comes to life with Adobe Lightroom.  I use the full set of tools within Lightroom to make the texture and color.  Once i am happy with the look and feel then I crop the total image into a "readable" image.

We "read" photos like we read a book.  Once we see the artist's focus point, our eyes start reading right then back and fourth.  Art and photos we like or dislike give us a "feeling".  The visual positive "feelings" give us comfort like our favorite music.  If that feeling is strong enough, we want to buy that art so we can walk past it on our walls in our home or office to give a calmness for our life.

Final thoughts on my photography workshop from Zion National Park

November 23, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Zion National Park in Utah during fall foliage.

I had never taken a location photography class until this class with Matt Suess (www.mattsuess.com).  If you ever had the opportunity to hire a fishing or hunting guide this is the same idea except with location photography.  While Matt had photographed Zion NP for 8 years he arrived a couple of days ahead of the class to put his possible 18-hour days itinerary together.  He had sunrise, sunset and night images placed and the 18 hour days were real.  (never drove myself to work that hard).

I highly recommend taking an organized class and especially Matt's.  He is a great teacher of not only your majestic surroundings but placing the right technique to capture a masterpiece for your collection.  http://mattsuess.com/photography-workshops

At my age its not often that there are others older than me but other than Matt I was the YOUNGEST in the group and it was a struggle to keep up with these very fit guys!  From left to right is Rich, Ward, Ernie, Matt and Mike.  In geographic order we were from Florida, Colorado, Texas, Montana and Tennessee.

It is great to share ideas and critiques because that is how we grow.  Yes, even at our age we learn and grow in artistic perspectives and talent.  We should all strive to learn something new everyday.  I am thankful for sharing time and thoughts with these men.  I am a better photographer after Matt's class.



Fall Color in Arkansas

November 23, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

The above photos were taken from above and below of the same location at Cedar Falls in Petit Jean State Park at different times of the year.  The photo on the left is late November and the fall color is still hanging on since this years freeze is late.  The photo on the right was taken late spring of this year and the water fall is active from the spring rains.  The sun is out as well and the rock colors are different as the sun really warms the color of the rock.  The photo on the left was taken yesterday and it was very overcast and misting rain.  This is a "hollar" as the locals call it.  The trail head to the falls is a 1.1 mile moderate trail and very scenic along the way especially when the water is running making for lots of great photos.  The photo on the right has a couple sitting behind the falls.  

This photo is taken a couple of miles west of the falls and this is where the canyon walls open to the valley where Dardanelle is located NW @ 15 miles.  Love the colors as the mix of evergreens and rust colors wash the canyon walls.

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