Single Photos
June 11-18, 2011
Judging from the photos I took, I got out and enjoyed the outdoors a good number of times for a summer season. Johnny joined me on a late-afternoon trip to the Erbie area in the Buffalo National River on June 30. We drove down an old road across from the Erbie church that ended at Cove Spring on Cove Creek. Water from the spring splashed down the sheer face of a bluff covered with lush green moss and Venus Maidehair ferns in a beautiful "fern fall" above the surface of a deep pool of clear water. As daylight faded, we drove to the nearby historic Rulus Jones barn, which sits at the edge of a wide field with a great view of Mutton Point on the southern side of the Buffalo River. I was hoping to take a picture with hundreds of fireflies flashing in the field, but there weren't nearly enough out for what I had in mind. We stayed late enough for the sky to get totally dark, and we were able to see the Milky Way rising in the south. I made a long exposure with the camera that resulted in a picture with the Milky Way a lot more visible that what we saw with our eyes. We stayed til 10:45 and didn't get home til 1:45. Ouch!
Three days later, on July 3, I got up at 5 in the morning to visit the prairie preserves near Charleston. The combination of late sunsets and early sunrises of Summer are tough on an amateur outdoor photographer. At Flanagan Prairie I found an amazing field of Blazing-Star, with clusters of purple flowers atop tall stalks lit up by the golden light of the rising sun.
The next morning Cliff and I drove to Boxley and waded the Buffalo River to fish in several holes of water. The weather was great... low 70s and overcast with an occasional sprinkling of light rain. Cliff caught an 11-inch smallmouth bass, which was still 3 inches shy of the legal minimum length limit. But those smallmouth fight like crazy, so even the small ones were a lot of fun on our light tackle. We also caught several Goggle-Eye, which is a small sunfish found only in the White River watershed.
In the midst of a record-breaking heat wave with over 21 consecutive days of temperatures over 100 degrees, Johnny and I went on an evening trip to Forked Mountain on July 27. I'd chosen a moonless night when a dome of high pressure meant the air would be good and clear for seeing the Milky Way. We saw a lot of meteors as we waited for our cameras to make long exposure shots. As I was taking 30-second photos of the Milky Way above the profile of Forked Mountain, I heard the approaching roar of low-flying military cargo planes behind me. I started another exposure just before two C-130 planes entered the frame. The military pilots use Forked Mountain as a landmark and often fly by it. Because the camera shutter was open so long, the lights on the planes made long trails in the picture, yet because of the low-light conditions, the planes themselves mysteriously vanished.
A week later, on Wednesday August 3, temperatures reached 115 degrees in the Fort Smith area, setting a new all-time record. Friday night during an invisible geomagnetic storm, I went up to Shores Lake hoping for some aurora pictures, but the northern lights weren't visible this far south. It was 92 degrees at midnight, and I was so tired I sat there on the rocky, dirty bank with my head against the backpack and it actually didn't feel that bad.
This was a bad year for the Perseid meteor shower, because the full moon was out during the peak. I still made an effort to see some falling stars. I drove up to Mineral Hill after work on Monday evening to scout out a viewing location. I recalled seeing a hillside of widely-spaced pine trees last February that seemed promising. I marked a few locations on my GPS receiver. The following Wednesday morning, August 8, I pulled a crazy stunt and got up at 1:30 to go take pictures. Cliff literally begged me to let him and Garrett go along, and I finally gave in. It wasn't that I didn't want their company; I just couldn't see how they would enjoy sitting in the dark while I took photos. We arrived as the moon sank below Bliss Ridge to the west. The weather forecast, which called for clear skies, was totally wrong; thin clouds filled the sky, but a long exposure of the moonlit clouds made an interesting image. An armadillo, sniffing around for food, walked right up to me and only scurried off when I shone my flashlight on it. When strange flashes of faint light filled the sky, I realized a thunderstorm was nearby, so we headed to White Rock Mountain for lightning photos. Wouldn't you know it, heavy rain hit just as we got there. Luckily our drive home took us around the edge of the storm. I was able to get three hours of sleep then go in to work.