For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life — the light and the air which vary continually. For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value.
In a land of dolomite and granite, the chert-based rocks of Cowards Hollow Natural Area really stand out to the experienced Ozark traveler. I first read about Cowards Hollow more than five years ago and had two previous and unsuccessful attempts at finding it. Recently I had acquired some resources that helped me get a firm idea where to look and during our Big Spring break this spring Sarah and I went out to finally find it. Literally within minutes of parking the car and heading down the trail the sky opened up and began raining. Half-soaked, I retreated to the car and decided to try again later. It would be about 18 hours and near five inches of rain later before I got back there the next morning. I knew the area would be full of water and that the efforts would be worthwhile. Here is the first look upon reaching the hollow named for the refuge it provided civil war draft dodgers. I sure couldn’t blame anyone for preferring this place over the hell that awaited them on the battlefield or the chaos that was most of Missouri during that time.
“An Ozark Shangri-La″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 50mm, ISO 320, f/14, 6 sec
At only 56 acres, this relatively small NA has so much to offer. Seeps, a plant-fen community, a series of shut-ins, a shelter cave and lots of nooks and crannies to discover what plants and animals are waiting where are plenty to keep one busy for a full day’s visit. That’s not to mention these fantastic waterfalls!
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 24mm, ISO 125, f/11, 1.3 sec
I did not have too much time to spend here, unfortunately. In the three hours I visited, the falls took much of my attention. The birds and plants were screaming for my attention and I regret I could not give them more. The Waterthrush songs were constantly ringing off the chert walls of the hollow and were pretty much the only thing I could hear over the roaring water.
“Behind the Veil″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 28mm, ISO 200, f/11, 1.3 sec
Once again, mother nature did not let me down. A perfect overcast morning allowed for great exposure settings for running water and allowed for that glorious limon-colored new spring green from mosses and trees to pop. Anything lacking from these images is my own fault completely.
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 28mm, ISO 320, f/14, 0.8 sec
Well, that was Cowards Hollow. It is only about a 30 minute drive from Big Spring and is so secluded it seems to be a day’s travel from any sign of civilization. I wish I had the opportunity to explore this area more, but the vegetation was not yet doing much during this April visit. I can’t wait to make another visit in the near future.
I realized I had presented nothing but these masculine vertical compositions, so here is a landscape orientation…
“Cowards Hollow II″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 32mm, ISO 125, f/9, 1 sec
The forecast suggested the day in which I had been waiting for years might finally be here. Finally, the combination of snow in the big-spring country of south-eastern Missouri Ozark region, a vehicle that can move through these hilly, un-plowed roads and a day off to enjoy myself in them. I was also fortunate to have a friend who was just as excited about it as I was! I told Steve I’d pick him up from his place and we would visit Big Spring and whatever other places we desired and had the daylight to enjoy. This is the second winter season I have owned my current 4WD vehicle, but considering our winter last year, this was really the first time I’ve gotten to drive it under snow and icy conditions. It definitely lived up to my expectations. Remembering one must still drive slow and anticipate braking (as the three 4WD vehicles in the ditch that I passed demonstrated) we took our time and arrived at Big Spring State Park with a minimum of butt-clenching. It was definitely worth the drive! My photos do not begin to capture the beauty and peacefulness of our surroundings.
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 19mm, ISO 100, f/13, 1/10 sec
Nothing can beat a day spent during or after a snow at a place such as this. Although definitely slower and quieter during this “blue season”, life was still obvious in surrounding us. Mosses and lichen were wet and vibrant, and the bright green watercress contrasted nicely with the deep blues and sharp turquoise of the spring effluent. A first for my eyes was the conspicuous in-this-season mistletoe bunches that are evergreen and apparently still robbing their Sycamore hosts even during the “dead of winter”. I imagine I have observed these plants in the past, but assumed they were dead leaves potentially put together by a squirrel. And the birds! The birds were very abundant immediately surrounding the spring. Nothing beats being able to observe a Bald Eagle and a Belted Kingfisher simultaneously without having to turn your head. The photo below shows the geology that is not as visible in the green months.
“Big Spring, Winter 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 36mm, ISO 100, f/11, 1/60 sec
Every slight change in viewing angle resulted in noticeable changes in color of different sections of the spring’s effluent. I don’t believe I have ever seen so many shades of blue in one place at one time. I converted the image below to black and white, then toned as a “duotone” by bringing a selenium tone to the shadows. I hoped to focus attention on the textures in the water and the heights these waves reached.
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 17mm, ISO 100, f/14, 1/8 sec
After getting a satisfactory but still much too short experience at Big Spring, we left what unmarred snow was remaining and headed to the next spot I was eager to see with a cap of snow, Falling Spring.
“Falling Spring Mill-house, Winter 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 40mm, ISO 100, f/11, 0.4 sec
It always brightens my spirit to see that this delicate structure still stands and in relatively little disabuse. The spring’s discharge was light on this day, but the noise of the water falling the ~20 feet to the pool below was enough to drown almost every other sound. A nice point of visiting in the winter was being able to trek around the beaver pond a bit. Steve discovered the beaver den with obvious “trails” moving outward from it in the water. The picture below was taken facing away from the spring and shows the fiery warmth of the late-day sun that was cut by the height of the hill. I love the contrasts provided by the bare Sycamore branches and the reflections from the beaver pond. A stunning view indeed!
“Holding the Sun″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 85mm, ISO 100, f/14, 0.6 sec
Seeing what can be found on a day like this and how few people were out to make these experiences ensures that I will definitely be down here to capture more scenes like these.
“The trophy-recreationist has peculiarities that contribute in subtle ways to his own undoing. To enjoy he must possess, invade, appropriate. Hence the wilderness that he cannot personally see has no value to him. Hence the universal assumption that an unused hinterland is rendering no purpose to society. To those devoid of imagination, a blank space on a map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part. (Is my share in Alaska worthless to me because I will never go there? Do I need a road to show me the arctic prairies, the goose pastures of the Yuckon, the Kodiak bear, the sheep meadows behind McKinley?)”
“Currently I Dream…″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM @ 165mm, ISO 100, f/13, 1.3 sec