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 Slump: The Never-Ending Winter

It seems that every time we think warmer weather is on its way this year, we have ourselves a few tornadoes and then go right back into the deep freeze.

Snowfall in April was a dead giveaway that winter likes it here and doesn’t really want to leave, despite the fact that most of us have made it quite clear that it has overstayed its welcome and it should just look for other places to hang out because we would like to move forward into the next season that will give us at least a brief period of time to enjoy outdoor activities between the “freezing-to-death” months and the “I’m-melting-melting” months. (Whew. I should try to punctuate more often.)

April 7, 2018 in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Ugh.

To top it all off, I’m all about some nature photography. I really, really, REALLY like to capture each of the four seasons that Arkansas supposedly gets to experience annually. Every time I think I’ll have a spare Saturday to go forth and look for pretty spring trees, I end up at home…under a blanket…looking at the clouds outside and expecting the poor little flowers to wither any day now. Or, I’m huddled in a closet as the tornado sirens scream at the neighborhood. But, I’m still trying to find photography opportunities.

I’m too scared to chase the storms while they’re heading towards me, so I get in the car afterwards and follow them. Yep, I’m a chicken.

We have had some short windows of time when the conditions were good for springy, flowery photography, however.

Yes, black and white can work for spring photography. (This print is now for sale in my Etsy shop, MeticulousObserver.)
See?
These little guys are trying to make spring happen.
Okay, so…I cheated and went south and out of the state for this one. You do what you have to do to look for good spring photography opportunities.

Any suggestions on where I should go for upcoming photography excursions? (By the way, I don’t limit myself to Arkansas at all. However, if you suggest Hawaii, I suggest that you might need to help out with those expenses…)

A First Glance: Stairwells and Pretty Pictures

Cliche Alert!

Things aren’t always as they seem.

You knew that, though…right?

Several years ago, I was visiting a friend and noticed an odd contraption in the middle of the room with the Apple logo on it. My mind started spinning with all the possible newfangled inventions that Steve Jobs and his team of geniuses could have come up with that I didn’t know about yet, so I pointed at the object and asked about it.

“Hey–what is that thing right there? Something new from Apple?”

“That? No, that’s my humidifier. I just put the sticker on it.”

the office eye roll GIF
Cue the “I-Feel-Stupid-Now” reaction.

Of course, how was I really supposed to know unless I asked? I’m not usually hip to all the latest technology and lingo and such. I’m not on fleeks with all that and a bag of chips.

I was recently in a situation where I decided it was best to just trust that something I was seeing was a bit…off.

Elevators make me nervous. I was stuck in one once for about ten minutes when I was ten years old, and a little incident in which about a baker’s dozen of my colleagues were stuck between floors on one in the not-so-distant past hasn’t helped ease my concerns. If I have a choice, I’d prefer the stairs…or an escalator.

escalator GIF
Escalators just seem like more fun, don’t you think?

Anyway, I found myself in a building I’ve only visited a handful of times, and I’ve always taken the elevator. However, once I walked through the lobby doors, I noticed that one of the elevators was staying put with the doors open…and was apparently under repair. The interior of the elevator is filled with mirrors, and most of them were covered as though they were being replaced.

The situation screamed, “FIND THE STAIRS.”

I asked a lady that I saw in the lobby to help me find the stairwell…because I didn’t trust the elevators. I pointed at the one in question as I spoke to her and she said, “Oh, that doesn’t look good. Let’s see if we can find the stairs. Where are you going? The top floor? Ooh…hmmm.”

Error Number One: I didn’t ask enough questions about the key card she had to swipe in order to open the stairwell in the first place.

“Umm…when I get to the top, will I be able to get through the other door?”

“Oh, I think so. I think this is just designed to keep people out but not lock them in.”

“O…kay.”

I was huffing and puffing my way up the stairs when I had a little flashback to a summer internship during the ol’ college days. I have always preferred getting to work early, and I was true to form on the morning in question. Interns are typically given what they need and not much else, so I only had one key–the one that accessed the back stairwell. I soon found myself in a stairwell limbo because I wasn’t able to open any other doors. (I’m glad someone was actually there and heard me knocking frantically on one of the doors.)

cat jumping GIF
LET ME IN!

Error Number Two: I thought I was in better physical shape than I am. Had I known that I would have to climb all the way back down the stairs because–surprise–I actually couldn’t get through the upstairs door, I would have just taken my chances with the elevator in the first place. The whole time I was headed back downstairs, I kept praying that I could get back through the original door. Otherwise, I was going to have a problem on my hands.

When I finally made my way back to the lobby, I was able to get back through the door (thank goodness), and I took my chances with the elevator.

I’m happy to report that the problem with the elevator wasn’t as terrible as it appeared. My calves, on the other hand, are now feeling the results of my stellar intuition.

Speaking of things not appearing as they seem, sometimes things are exactly as they appear. (Why, yes, I do have some new photography to share! How did you guess? And, no, I haven’t doctored or otherwise overly edited these photographs. What you see is what I saw…unless it’s in black and white. I did shoot a few in black and white.)

I took a little Spring Break adventure to visit some parks I hadn’t been to before, and here are just a few photographs. Look for some of them to appear in my Etsy shop soon!

The first ones are from Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri. I really enjoyed the trail and the scenery. If you haven’t heard of it, you can find more information here.

Black and White photo from Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri.
Color photo from Elephant Rocks State Park in Missouri.

Another stop…Big Spring, also in Missouri. Although it was cloudy and cool the day I visited, the views were quite impressive. You can find more information about this location here.

I forgot my tripod, but I managed as best I could.
Yes, the water is actually that blue.

So…there are a few photographs for you to look at that are accurate at first glance. I’m going to go rest my calves now. I hope you enjoy the photos.

An Observation: Nice Ice

I believe I’ve made my feelings about winter very apparent.

In case you missed it, here’s a summary:

I HATE WINTER!

winter GIF
I’m pretty sure that guy does, too.

With that being said, you have to look for the silver lining in all situations. Occasionally, our trees quite literally have that silver lining.

No one in northern Arkansas will ever forget the Great Freezing Rain Power Outage Ice Storm of Misery (2009 Edition). Not only were the trees, power lines, elevated surfaces, inanimate objects, cars, grass, leaves, houses, (yeah, you get the picture) and lawn furniture coated with a thick, shiny sheet of ice, the frozen precipitation caused infrastructure chaos that left many, many people without power for several weeks.

Luckily, Winter 2018 hasn’t shown off in that manner…yet. (Let’s hope it doesn’t. Do you hear that, Winter 2018? That’s not a challenge. Just don’t do it.) However, the silver lining has been quite attractive for photographers like myself. (Well, to the extent that photographers like me can stand to be out in the cold long enough to capture the images.)

Pretty scenery…I was able to stop my teeth from chattering long enough to hold the camera still.

I call this phenomenon “Nice Ice.” It’s the kind of ice that doesn’t stick around long enough to do any actual damage. It stays off the roads and only accumulates enough in the trees to produce good photography.

The only problem was the wind. I had to find the light and take the photos quickly before the branches moved, and, more importantly, before my fingers froze solid.

“Nice Ice” is rare around here, but it can make winter slightly more tolerable by providing something to look at other than bare branches and gray.

Oh…and photography.

Lots of photography.

Sometimes, they even throw in a nice sunset for you.

Here’s one.
Here’s another one.

Nice.

An Observation: Winter Isn’t My Favorite

I’ve tried. I’ve given this winter thing a few decades to show me its redeeming qualities, and I just don’t like it.

Maybe some of it has to do with where I live. In Arkansas, “hot” and “humid” go together like peanut butter and jelly. “Cold” and “icy” aren’t typical words in the local vernacular. However, I live in the northeastern part of the state, where we can generally expect a little more winter than our friends in L.A. (That’s “Lower Arkansas,” for the uninitiated.)

“Oh, but I’d rather be cold than hot. You can always put on more layers.”

Every time I hear that argument, I want to scream.

A Christmas Story GIF
More layers. Right. Good idea.

Most of the time, when I add layers, I end up sweating while at least one of my extremities is still numb.

I will admit that the first day the weatherman mentions the word “snow,” I get a little bit excited. (That’s “SNOW.” NOT “flurries.” When I hear the word “flurries,” I get about as excited as I do when he says the word “sprinkles.” You only need to mention “sprinkles” if you’re bringing me a cake. Otherwise, it’s insignificant to my outdoor plans.)

In Arkansas, though, it’s the reaction of the masses that gets amusing. See, I was always taught that you’d want non-perishable items around the kitchen if you were facing a disaster of epic proportions (see also: 12 whole hours of being snowed in…with “snowed in” defined as .025 inches of slush). When the disaster is looming, though, it’s the bread and milk aisles that are wiped clean before everyone settles in to hold down the fort. Because you know you’re not going anywhere for at least three or four days. Because snow is slick.

“Y’all just don’t know how to drive on that stuff.”

Image result for driving on snot and ice
Uhh…yeah, well, I guess that’s a valuable lesson, too.

True. But…most of the time we don’t get actual “snow.” We almost always get some kind of mix, usually starting out with a glaze of freezing rain. Sometimes, it’s exclusively freezing rain, which is a total mess. If we get a layer of snow on top, at least it’s prettier to look at while we’re sitting inside waiting for the power to come back on.

(I’ll admit…it’s good for a laugh sometimes. Our friends to the north definitely have a sense of humor about it.)

And, on occasion, when we’re not iced or snowed in, you can find a few little gems here and there.

I wasn’t going to go through an entire post about winter without at least one original photograph. A little bluebird. (Awwwwwww.)

Most of the time, though, we look at bare branches and gray skies for a couple of months.

Typical winter view. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So, if I had to rank my favorite seasons in order, it would probably look like this:

1. Spring, Summer, Fall

 

 

4. Winter.

Sorry, winter. You had your chance. Be sure to pick up all of your icicles when you leave.

A View: All This Nature

The Natural State really lives up to its name. We have no shortage of stunning views and opportunities for immersion in the outdoors. I recently had the chance to take a brief evening trip up to a place I’ve enjoyed many times over the years.

Petit Jean Mountain is a highly unique geographic feature of the Arkansas landscape. My little car had a few Casey Junior “I-Think-I-Can” moments as it chugged its way up the twisting road (even though I wasn’t pulling several cars full of elephants…it’s a steep highway and the horses under the hood probably would have been terribly winded trying to hike it, much less approach the speed limit…but I digress…).

She'll be coming 'round the mountain...together, now!
She’ll be coming ’round the mountain…all together, now!

I’m always impressed with the views from atop Petit Jean. Even a cloudy or hazy or BLAZING HOT day is worth the trip. (For the record, it was a hazy, BLAZING HOT day.) I’ll admit, while I knew I was unprepared to do any serious hiking, I was also unprepared just to simply walk around in the heat. It was a last-minute decision to actually make the little road trip, and I ran off without my water bottle. By the time I made it to the lodge, I parked and went directly towards the vending machines. As luck would have it, the machine spent a lot of time spinning its wheels only to tell me that everything was sold out. Fortunately, it refunded my paper money–in the form of quarters and nickels–and I went into the lodge to buy a bottle of ice cold water with change (my apologies to the clerk).

If I hadn't been so thirsty, I might not have stuck around too long to capture this photo. Thank you, Arkansas humidity!
If I hadn’t been so thirsty, I might not have stuck around the lodge long enough to capture this photo. Thank you, Arkansas humidity!

Of course, with it being the summer tourist season, I wasn’t the only person sightseeing–far from it. When I reached the overlook, a few other cars pulled into the parking lot, including a family of awestruck adults and two very bored small children. I can only assume that the kids were suffering from acute electronics withdrawal…a common syndrome these days.

Lost Phone Meme
This is just an assumption…but the struggle is real.

The parents were gazing down across the breathtaking landscape, taking in the view. The kids were less than impressed.

The conversation cracked me up.

Kid No. 1: “Why did Petit Jean wanna come all the way up here?”

Mom: Silence…snaps photo of river.

Kid No. 2: “Moooooom! Why did Petit Jean want to come all the way up here?”

Mom: “I don’t know. Maybe she liked it here.”

Kid No. 1: “What are we doing all the way up here?”

Dad: “We’re looking at all this nature.”

I suppressed my laughter, spent a few more minutes looking at “all this nature,” and rolled back down the mountain, becoming a mere speck on the landscape to the spectators on top of Petit Jean.

(A boring little speck, I’m sure…)

A Gallery: Photography

Why, yes…I did mention photography!

I’ve updated the menu on this page and added a Photo Gallery. Please browse through some of my original landscapes and nature photographs. This gallery is currently for display only. More detailsĀ  about purchasing photographs will be coming in the future.

Click below for an easy link to the page!

Photo Gallery

Hayrake 2015 Watermark