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.




Merrell Woolf(non-registered)
Your photography is wonderful, Ernie! Loved learning about your process and the history of the area. Thanks for sharing.
Lori Hannah(non-registered)
Very interesting! Thank you for sharing!!
Paige Boroughs(non-registered)
Ernie..the photos are magnificent and your writing is so interetesting and and full of info. I enjoyed it so much. Autumn has always been my favorite. Thank you so much!
Jim Hysaw(non-registered)
You definitely captured the moment. There are thousands of colors in those leaves. A beautiful place. Very well done.
John Evans(non-registered)
These pics are amazing, Ernie. And I appreciate the time you took in explanation of your trip and your time in the park. This park was not on my lists of parks I plan to visit, but it is now. And I very much enjoyed learning of the source of the Elk in the area. I will be looking for them when we go. I look forward to your posts and always enjoy your pics. God blessed you with many gifts and I enjoy the blessing I receive in your sharing your gift of photography with us!
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