An Observation: Nature Walkin’

It’s easy to take natural beauty for granted. As a photographer, however, I am always looking for a unique angle. Most of my photography comes from Arkansas, and The Natural State truly lives up to its nickname. The choices in a single setting are just as varied as the state’s geography itself. What kind of story do I want to tell with the picture? How can I frame this differently? Am I missing something?

Speaking of “missing something”…we go nature walkin’ ’round these here parts. The “g” on the end of the traditional pronunciation of “walking” is unnecessary in Arkansas. I guess it’s in the spirit of the pronunciation of the state name itself. You know…you drop the last letter when you say “Arkansas.” However, don’t you DARE try to spell it without the “s.” When it happens, it’s not pretty.

As seen in New Mexic.

Batesville, Arkansas is a very picturesque community. The historic homes downtown are postcard-perfect in many ways. The churches are equally as fascinating.

Late afternoon in September. Ahh.

Oh, and I did mention nature, so I suppose I should show you some nature. Batesville is situated along the White River–an excellent photography location for all of you shutterbugs out there.

Nice September day along the White River at Batesville, Arkansas.
Looking towards the bridge along the White River at Batesville, Arkansas.

Guess what?!? It’s also possible to find natural beauty in an urban setting, and a quick trip across the state line to Tennessee can offer up some great opportunities. The clouds in these photographs created some great backdrops for photography along the Mississippi River in Memphis, Tennessee.

Isolated storms, the bridge, a barge, and the Mississippi River. If you turn to your right from this vantage point, you’re looking directly into downtown Memphis.
Towering clouds over the Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid in Memphis, Tennessee.

Of course, if you’re interested in really getting close to nature (in a controlled-ish sense), you should give a drive-thru safari a try. Yes, you can pay to let animals stick their tongues out at you as you cruise at a steady five miles-per-hour. But, the photography is fun…as long as the animals don’t try to eat your camera. I caught up with this rather tall giraffe in Alamo, Tennessee at the Tennessee Safari Park.

Oh, you makin’ fun of me? Well…you’re too tall. So haha. Enjoy getting rained on before anyone else does.

I suppose the drive-thru safari is more like nature drivin’, to be specific. Where are some of your favorite nature photography locations? Leave a comment!

A Perspective: Don’t Look Down (Unless It’s For The Sake Of Tourism and Photography)

My old pal Webster defines acrophobia as “an abnormal dread of being at a great height.” Of course, “great height” is quite subjective, seeing as how I sometimes find that being a mere three feet off the ground is outside of my comfort zone.

However, as a child, I tried to force myself into situations that would help me overcome that fear. I pretended to enjoy roller coasters as long as I could…and as long as someone was sitting next to me that would help hold me in the seat. I was proud of myself for riding the Judge Roy Scream at Six Flags Over Texas when I was eight and even more proud of myself for tackling Splash Mountain in high school (even if the words I shouted at my friends on the way down the final drop suggested otherwise), but as I grew older, my mind began to formulate more possibilities of what could happen at those heights. Therefore, I all but stopped riding roller coasters in my early twenties and merely tolerated glass elevators.

Elevators are another story altogether. I was stuck in one briefly when I was ten years old and developed some semi-annual recurring nightmares about being in one that was tipping over or falling, so I’m also not too crazy about that mode of transportation. Granted, my ankles and knees prefer the elevator, but my brain seems to like the stairs.

I think “The Price is Right” has long been providing the perfect representation of how I feel on an elevator.

Four years ago, I was in Chicago when a friend suggested we go to the top of the Sears/Willis/Whatever-It’s-Called-Now-Tower for a stunning view of the city. I’ll admit, I wanted to do it to start marking more items off of my Ferris Bueller Bucket List.

The Cameron pose.
I’d already taken care of the Cameron pose.

The thought of the elevator ride made me a little nervous. Well, the elevator ride turned out to be sixty seconds with no outside views, so it really ended up being a non-issue. I could handle one minute, although the feeling of my ears popping was a bit unnerving.

Once we made it to the observation area, I was very impressed with the views. However, another attraction was available that no one told me about, and once I saw it, I couldn’t believe it was there.

The Skydeck.

Yes, this is a perfectly natural way to observe your surroundings. What reasons could I possibly have to be absolutely, completely, 100% terrified? Oh, right...it's PLEXIGLASS.
What reasons could I possibly have to be absolutely, completely, 100% terrified? Oh, right. Chicago’s about a thousand feet below me…and I’m standing on PLEXIGLASS.

A professional photographer pulled us aside and asked us to take a step back for a picture. I looked at her and said, “You take a step back!” In the end, I managed to muster up enough courage to step out twice. The first time was for the terrifying look you see above, and the second one was to plaster on a smile for my friend so that we could have documentation of our little adventure. (Yes, a copy of that photo exists, but the one you see here more fully captures the sheer terror of my experience.)

This weekend, I decided it was time to tackle both of those fears again in the name of tourism and photography. Bass Pro Shops recently opened its beautiful new facility at the Pyramid in Memphis, and I really did want to take some photos. Ten dollars pays for your trip up the elevator to the top, and while it’s not a tremendous height, the elevator does offer a view…spectacular to some, slightly terrifying to me.

As soon as I stepped on the elevator, someone who had apparently ridden it about twenty times that day stepped on with a bag of greasy food. I’m one of those people who gets queasy when I get nervous about something, and the aroma of fried anything wasn’t really helping. Thankfully, the ride was relatively short, and the doors opened to the restaurant atop the Pyramid.

I really did love the views from the windows, but my real test was actually stepping outside to the observation deck for my photos. After all, I had to take few selfies to prove that I did it, and a few landscapes to feed my photography addiction.

Once again, I found myself in a situation that falls under the “Nobody Told Me About This” category.

Pyramid Feet
That first step is a doozy.

I’m not sure if the people who plan these things think that we don’t realize that the ground is down there, but they sure seem to be obsessed with giving us every opportunity to look down and see just how far off the ground we are standing.

Two older ladies were out on the deck and we immediately struck up a conversation about acrophobia.

“Oh,” one of them said, “I’ve also been up the Sears Tower, and I was stretched out all over that Skydeck thing. My friend here hates this stuff!”

Her friend had found a nice corner by the door.

“I’m not coming out there!” she yelled.

Her friend laughed like crazy.

“I made her come up here.”

“Well, I’m not too crazy about this myself,” I said. “But I really want to take some pictures. Here goes.”

“LOOK!” she yelled to her friend as I took a deep breath and stepped closer to the railing. The wind was gustier than I’d hoped it would be. “SHE DID IT! SHE’S OUT THERE!”

I immediately started snapping pictures.

The "New" Bridge view towards Arkansas.
The “new bridge” view back towards Arkansas.
Sometimes, the view looking up is just as impressive as the view looking down.
Sometimes, the view looking up is just as impressive as the view looking down.
Yep, I actually went out there.
Yep, I actually went out there.

Fifteen minutes later, I’d had enough, and I found myself back on the elevator for the trip back. So had my new friends. One of the ladies stepped on the elevator and walked over to the corner nearest the doors.

“There. I’m in my corner!” she exclaimed.

I was a little irritated that she had claimed it already, and her friend turned her attention to me.

“You need to look! It’s not like we’re gonna fall or anything!”

Bad choice of words.

But, I did force myself to look, and it wasn’t unpleasant…just not really my cup of tea. The decor is very nice. I just preferred looking at it from the ground.

I doubt I’ll be dancing a jig on top of a high-rise anytime soon, but I’m okay with taking a few trips to new heights once in a while.

Once in a great while.