Winter Snapshots
March 19, 2007
For several years around Christmas I've intended to take time out to get a picture of the Crawford County Courthouse here in town. I finally got around to it on the Friday evening before Christmas. I wanted to post it on my Recent Photos page, except the picture required several bouts of computer processing to undo some of the distortion caused by my wide-angle camera lens. By the time I got the picture straightened up, Christmas was over. I might post it there next year.
All those quick trips I make to Lee Creek park when I think there might be a decent sunset paid off big-time on Saturday, January 6. The icing on the cake was the bald eagle that flew overhead at the same time the colors were at their peak (see the picture at the top of this page). I got him in one of the pictures, though the shutter speed on the camera was so long that the eagle was just a blur.
The following Sunday morning Cliff and I got up early and drove to White Rock, because I got suckered in by the exciting news at SpaceWeather.com that one of the brightest comets in years, Comet McNaught, should be visible at dawn low on the horizon near where the sun rises. It was cloudy and foggy when we left the house, but I'd been watching the radar and weather satellite images and I thought there was a good chance an incoming high pressure system would drive away the clouds. I was wrong about the weather, and White Rock was shrouded in fog. Yet Cliff and I had a good time. A foggy winter morning in the forest has its own scenic quality.
That evening we drove to the Mulberry River bottoms because the comet was possibly visible just after sunset. The sky was clear yet there was a lot  of haze that took on a wonderful orange glow a few minutes after the sun disappeared. While scanning the sky with my big camera lens hoping  to spot the comet, I snapped a bunch of pictures of a line of birds way off in the distance.
Temperatures were above average - in the 50's, but there was a constant wind with strong gusts, and I had to put on my cold weather clothes to keep me warm. Cliff retreated to the truck and played with the radio and heater controls. The comet never did show itself, and I came up with the name "Comet McNot".
I returned the next night, because according to sources on the Internet the comet was growing brighter by the hour, but I still didn't see it. I'd used my high power lens to slowly scan the horizon, so I know if it had been there I would have seen it. The next night several folks in the area captured it with cameras and posted pictures online; those pictures revealed that the comet was just a small, faint, fuzzy object in this area. It wasn't the profound sight I'd been hoping for. Over the next month the comet dazzled skygazers in the southern hemisphere, but it wasn't visible in the U.S.

Sunday morning January 14 I made the trip to the Talimena Scenic Drive along the top of Rich Mountain, hoping to catch some winter scenery. The idea was that, like Mt Magazine, Rich Mountain is so high in elevation that it will receive snow when the surrounding areas don't.  And most of the time this goes almost unnoticed. As I got to about 1500 feet in elevation I began to see ice on the trees, but as I drove east and the road climbed higher up the mountain, the ice suddenly disappeared. I pulled over at one of the overlooks, and could actually feel that the air was warmer. A thermometer I had in the back of the truck confirmed this. It was raining and foggy so I turned off of the scenic drive and down the side of the mountain to the Rich mountain community, hoping to see some small waterfalls and cascades along the way. I saw some pretty stuff, though small, on the Oklahoma side on the drive home.

I was at Clear Creek park Saturday evening, March 3 waiting for the moon to rise. It was technically a full moon, though mostly covered by the earth's shadow. It was emerging from a total lunar eclipse.
I attended a weekend wildflower photography workshop by Tim Ernst, March 16 through 18. Helping Tim at the workshop was Don Kurz, a professional botanist and author of several guidebooks (Six years ago I gave Daddy a copy of Don’s Scenic Driving in the Ozarks as a retirement present). This was the first time I’d scheduled some time off from work in 18 months, and as I left work Friday afternoon I felt like I was going on vacation. I took my normal route to Ponca, which is always enjoyable as soon as I turn onto Highway 21 North at Clarksville. To the northeast - I’m guessing somewhere near the Johnson County line - filling the sky was a colossal tower of smoke from a Forest Service controlled burn, except I think it was out of control. It was quite a sight.
I drove into Jasper for dinner at the Ozark Cafe. Their Friday night buffet is pretty good if you get there early. I then drove back west to Mount Sherman. The workshop was at the Buffalo Lodge. We had a classroom session that night where Tim covered techniques for taking close up pictures of wildflowers.
The next morning we carpooled to Lost Valley to take wildflower pictures. Along the hike in, Don Kurz stopped several times to point out certain wildflowers. He told us some interesting facts about the early-season wildflowers. One of the workshop students, Larry Daniel, took a bunch of photos along the way, and gave me permission to publish them on this web site (thanks Larry!). His wife, Marilyn, is in the top picture below:
With Tim’s help, I got one good shot of an Ozark Wake Robin before the breeze picked up and made shooting impossible. We drove back to the lodge for lunch and more instruction, including digital darkroom processing and printing.
We returned to Lost Valley that afternoon. Tim’s wife, Pam, accompanied us and helped me find several Bloodroot in bloom, but none of the pictures came out very good. I wandered off up a dry moss-covered stream bed and took shots of Hepatica (also called Liverleaf) at several locations. That evening after dinner we continued photo processing and printing, and Don Kurz presented a slideshow of spring wildflower pictures he’s taken over the years that included a lot of expert narration.
Photos © by Larry Daniel