Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Riverfront Park

I don’t think I’ve gotten this much use out of a Christmas present since the one time my brother and I got a Nintendo for Christmas in 1985. I’ve been trying to take the new camera out every chance I get to get a few pictures, or as much as I can while having to go to work and do stuff like that. There was one night last week that looked like it might have a great sunset, but the best light had faded by the time we got to the park. But the clouds did look pretty cool as they slid past the downtown skyline.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Mount Magazine

Last weekend, Caroline and I decided to take a little trip to the lodge at Mount Magazine State Park. Which if you've never been there, is surprisingly very nice. It was actually nicer than the lodge we stayed at when we went to Yosemite (although the one at Magazine is only a few years old). The rooms were fairly inexpensive and spacious, and we had access to an indoor pool and hot tub. Our room at the lodge also had a nice view from the balcony of the Arkansas River Valley, and the Ouachita Mountains off in the distance.

I brought the new camera, and was eager to take some more pictures at night. Luckily there was no moon, so the sky was filled with stars. It was nice enough at the lodge that I just stuck the camera on the balcony, and tried to take some pictures of star trails. I wasn't the only one, in fact there was a photographer staying in the room next to us that was out on the balcony taking star pictures as well.

It was a really nice place to take star trail pictures. After a few minutes spent getting everything set up, I just simply went back inside and relaxed in the comforts of the room while the camera went to work. Over the course of two hours, the camera took about 240 thirty second exposures. They were all stacked together when I got home to create this view. This is looking towards Blue Mountain Lake. I believe the city lights in the distance are from the small town of Havana, Arkansas (population 392).

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I tried again the next night for another shot. I gave up the comforts of the lodge and drove over to one of the overlooks on Cameron Bluff. The conditions weren't ideal, strong gusts of wind would blast across the valley and hit the mountain. I tried to take enough pictures for another long set of star trails, but several had to be discarded due to camera shake. This is about a hundred shots, all stacked together. The view is looking off to the northwest, with the city of Paris, Arkansas, in the distance.

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We headed home the next day, but I made one stop along the way. There is an old barn near Subiaco that I wanted to see, since it's leaning a bit and probably won't be standing too much longer.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Little Rock

I wanted to take the new camera out some more, so I headed out after work to try to take a few pictures last week. One night, I drove over to a spot that overlooks I-630 and part of the skyline. Rush-hour traffic zoomed by on the freeway and on the Chester Street bridge.

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The next night I battled rush hour traffic again and went to the Two Rivers Bridge. It was very cold, below freezing, as I stood trying to get a few shots right after sunset.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Final Frontier

One of the things I'm most excited about the camera is the better ability to take pictures at night or in low light. So to test it out last week, I headed over to John's house to borrow a 200 mm lens and try to find a comet. The comet Lovejoy is making an appearance this month, and is nearly bright enough to be seen by the naked eye (it helped to have a camera). We stood out in the freezing temperatures and found the comet, about 44 million miles away (it's the green dot).

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It was impressive to get a picture of, but I admit I would have been more impressed if there was something like a Death Star up there. Or in the very least, a Millennium Falcon.

Mext, we swung the camera around and got a few pictures of the Moon (which was much easier to find than the comet).

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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Petit Jean

Last weekend, I wanted to take the new camera out for a few pictures. The weather promised to be rainy and foggy, and I tried to think of a good place to go. My original plan was to drive to a swamp in east Arkansas that I've been wanting to get pictures of in the fog. So I woke up at 8, grabbed the camera gear, and headed out of town on the freeway.

It had rained overnight, but I didn't realize how much it had rained. There was a lot of standing water along the road, and the ditches were full. Maybe it was enough to get waterfalls going? So I turned around and started heading west, and then changed my mind and turned around again. No, I thought. Who knows if things will be running. Better stick to the original plan. A few minutes later I changed my mind again, and turned the car around. I decided to head to Petit Jean State Park, which should have waterfalls (or at least fog). All in all, I probably spent about 30 minutes driving in circles around Little Rock before heading to Petit Jean.

I finally got to Petit Jean, and the top of the mountain was covered in fog. I stopped several times along the road for a few pictures.

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I had actually been up to Petit Jean the weekend before, but there wasn't much water in the creek. That wasn't the case on this visit. It had poured down rain the night before (dropping up to four inches in places). The creek was overflowing. The small waterfall by the Davies Bridge, which was just a small tumble the week before, was raging. It was a torrent of muddy water, stretching nearly all the way across the creek.

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I walked along Cedar Creek below the bridge, or at least tried to. The Boy Scout trail that runs along the creek was under water. The usually peaceful creek was a raging deluge, with tall whitecaps rising out of the water. I had never seen Cedar Creek with this much water in it before.

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I drove over to one of the Cedar Falls overlooks to see what the waterfall looked like from above. As expected, the falls were churning.

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I peered down to the creek and didn't see anyone by the falls, which is a rarity. The creek was flooded and I wondered if the trail was closed due to high water.

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I decided to try hiking the trail to Cedar Falls anyways, and try to make it as far as I could. Even if you couldn't make it all the way to Cedar Falls, there were a few other things to see along the trail. One of those is the small stream that tumbles down the hillside by the trail. Usually there isn't much water here, but it was running full tilt that morning.

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Along the way I saw another hiker, who was making his way back from the falls. I asked how the trail was, and if it was passable. Oh yeah, he said, you can easily make it. The trail is flooded and you have to scramble on the hillside some. But it's doable.

Plus, he added, there were a few other people there. Including a four year old girl. So that pretty much meant I had to make it to the falls. I was imagining the hike to be a lot worse than it was.

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I reached the bridge over Cedar Creek, which I nervously crossed. I really hoped the bridge wouldn't collapse while I was heading across.

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There were two spots where the creek was so high that the trail was flooded. To get past it, you had to go up along the hillside, which was a slick scramble over moss covered rocks.

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And finally I reached the falls. The sheer amount of water pouring down the falls was breathtaking. The spray from the falls was flying downstream like rain, and I was immediately soaked while trying to get a few pictures. I took several shots from this spot, and this is the one with the least amount of water on the lens.

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I tried to take a few more pictures, while trying to combat the constant spray from the falls and the water streaming in from the bluffs above.

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For a comparison, this is how Cedar Falls usually looks:

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I started to head back on the trail, but stopped for one last shot of the creek. This is just below the falls, with the steep canyon walls in the background.

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I dried the water from the camera and stowed the new camera away (luckily I didn't drop it in the creek). I have been to this waterfall many times before, but I've never seen it flowing with this much force. It was definitely a memorable first hike for the camera to go on.