Potholes In My Lawn

Specifically referred to as potholes, this feature was found in the long stretch of shut-ins of the St. Francis River between Silvermines Recreation Area and Millstream Gardens.  Steve and I took this, one of our favorite hikes, this autumn, just before peak color came into this section of the Ozarks.  Here is a wonderful description of this feature’s formation from Tom Beveridge’s Geologic Wonders and Curiosities of Missouri:

Potholes are formed at the nearly right-angled intersection of channelways where the direction of flow is abruptly changed.  The abrupt changes in direction of flow and the intersecting channelways create local whirlpools where the swirling waters grind out circular holes using sand and gravel carried in suspension as a natural abrasive.  Man did not invent sandblasting – he only mechanized it!  Deepening of the holes is also expedited by the steep gradient of the stream;  some holes are in part plunge pools formed by the impact of water descending vertically and gouging out the bed at the base of individual waterfalls.”

See my Flickr account for similar images made on this day.

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“All Seeing Eye”

Big Spring Trip – Autumn, 2013

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.

-Claude Monet

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“Ageless Banks”

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“Amber Mists”

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“Changing Time”

Sutton Bluff Recreation Area

I have driven past signs for Sutton Bluff Rec. Area dozens of times speeding past on Highway 21, but had not visited until recently.  Located in Reynolds County about five miles or so from Centerville, it  is quite a drive over hilly and windy roads to this creation of the Black River as it bends its way across this hill.  This is a view on top of the bluff following a quick mile or two hike that is on an OZT spur.  Unfortunately, this is about as scenic a view you’ll find from here as the blacktop-covered recreation area covers the majority of this valley.  The rec. area is nice and clean, one of the nicest camp sites of this type I have seen.  I spoke briefly with one of the camp hosts and he was very helpful with some information and maps.  If this type of place is your scene, then it looks to be top notch.  It seems to me the best time to visit here would be in full autumn colors and the best compositions will likely be from the riverbanks below shooting up at the tree covered bluffs.

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“Sutton Bluff Recreation Area″

Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 67mm, ISO 100,  f/11, 1/30 sec

A Warm Winter’s Day in the St. Francois

With forecasted highs near 60F, there was no question what I would be doing this past Saturday.  The only problem was where to take a hike!  Being mid-January and a warm, sunny day, I knew that Lower Rock Creek would not disappoint.  As expected, the Ozark Witch Hazel was in full bloom and beautifully fragrant.  The sky was completely clear and the lighting harsh for much photography of the many water features the area has to offer, but of course I had to try.  Ultimately I just tried to enjoy the hike and experience the wilderness that life continually rips from my fingertips.  There were a good number of ice formations still left on north-facing canyon walls and this particular patch was beginning to melt, releasing its maker into a mirror-like pool that ultimately fell down this drop and married with the rest of the stream.  I looked for ways to get closer to these formations but could not find a safe passage.

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Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 40mm, ISO 200,  f/11, manual blend of two exposures

On the way upstream, I stayed off the trail as much as possible; I preferred following the creek bed although wet and icy rocks often made this a challenge.  A couple of times near bends I was forced to go up and over a ridge because of lack of good foot or handholds above the creek.  After about three hours of rock hopping with my 30lb pack, fatigue started to creep in and I twisted my ankle bad enough to cause a minor sprain/strain.  This was very close to this wonderful swimming hole, so I pulled my boot and sock off and dunked my foot into this spring-fed water… for about 30 seconds.

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 Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 25mm, ISO 100,  f/11, manual blend of two exposures

 On the way back downstream I followed the trail most of the way, shedding layers as the temperature rose over 5oF.  Along the route I was fortunate to spot a coupling couple of Eastern Garter Snakes.  These light-bodied snakes, much like grasshoppers and Morning Cloak Butterflies, will often wake up and see what’s happening on a warm winter day.  And usually, the males have something other than food in mind.  As can be seen in this image, the female was about two thirds larger than her mate.  Following a successful copulation, the female can store sperm until closer to the warmer months, and many snake species can and do copulate several times and will actively select sperm of her choosing.  I tried my best not to disturb this pair too much.  They were rather laid back and didn’t seem to be alarmed, even when I lowered the diffuser mere inches from them.  When I left the male was still busily making his intentions known, while she kept her eye and tongue focused in my direction.

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Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, ISO 400,  f/11, 1/40 sec

 After having some lunch at the car I tried my best at finding the John James Audubon Trail that I have been wanting to visit for a while.  After some fruitless searching I was unable to find a single trail-head, placard, sign or blaze marker that I was confident in.  Unless I hear otherwise I will consider this a defunct trail.  So I decided to visit the Castor River Shut-ins and spend the remainder of the daylight hopping around on even more rocks.  The lighting was still rather poor and I had little inspiration for finding a composition so I experimented a bit, focusing on the effect of minute changes in exposure time on capturing the movement of flowing waters.

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 Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 60mm, ISO 320,  f/7.1, 1/13 sec

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Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 80mm, ISO 400,  f/6.3, 1/40 sec

Missouri’s Conservation Ethic

Did you know?  The Missouri program of The Nature Conservancy has protected nearly 150,000 acres of critically important natural habitat?  Their science-based approach to choosing important and biologically diverse habitats combined with their ability to work with private individuals, governments, corporations and a variety of other organizations has enabled them to protect forests/woodlands, savannahs/prairies and freshwater habitats across our great state.  Their annual update was released recently and in it are a few photographs I donated for it’s use.  Please have a read to see what The Nature Conservancy has been up to in Missouri this past year.  And please, do give some thought of making a charitable donation for your new-years plans.

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Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 40mm, ISO 100,  f/14, 1/10 sec

Snow in SEMO!?!?

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.

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“Ozark Whitewater″
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.

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“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.

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“Exhalation″
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.

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“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!

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“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.

Location Spotlight: Bryant Creek Watershed

Located in the south-central Missouri Ozarks, Bryant Creek drains approximately 600 square miles, nearly half of which is comprised of high quality pine and deciduous timberland.  As is much of this part of Missouri, the remainder of this geography has been clear cut for use as cattle ground.  Bryant Creek is a fascinating little waterway and makes a great companion to the North Fork of the White River, its nearby companion to which it ultimately feeds.  I have not seen nearly enough of Bryant Creek or this section of the White River.  Both Ozark streams provide homes for river otters and the critically endangered Ozark Hellbender population.  Considered a losing stream, Bryant Creek is robbed of its limited water supply by the karst topography and several sections are often dry.  Reversely, major flash floods can be a threat during heavy rains and this stream is often sought out by lovers of white water.  During our autumn vacation, this view was along the roadside not too far from Hodgson Mill.

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“Bryant Creek, Autumn 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 24mm, ISO 100,  f/11, 1/4 sec

One of the major sources of water into Bryant Creek and later, the North Fork comes from the discharge of the Hodgson Spring.  Listed in the top 20 most productive Missouri springs, this spring powered the restored grist mill pictured here.  Although no longer a working mill, its likeness is still used to sell stone ground, whole grain flours under the name Hodgson Mill.

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“Hodgson Water Mill – Autumn 2012 II″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 33mm, ISO 100,  f/11, 1/4 sec

So this is Arkansas?

Along the Glade Top Trail looking southward at what I believe are the northern hills of the Boston Mountains.  I look forward to exploring more of Arkansas one day.

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“View of Boston Mountains, Autumn 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 105mm, ISO 100,  f/11, 1/15 sec

Painted Leaves

“October is the month of painted leaves.  Their rich glow now flashes around the world.  As fruit and leaves and the day itself acquire a bright tint just before they fall, so the year near its setting.  October is its sunset sky; November the later twilight.”

-Henry David Thoreau-

More and more I’m beginning to appreciate HDT’s recurring theme of matching the development and maturity of flowers, fruits and even leaves and shoots of plants together as analogous cycles in nature.  This is an idea he writes about in several pieces.  In the passage above, he takes it a step further and shows the similarities the course of seasons within the year has with the progression of a single day.  Simple, but I like it.  The colors and changes so dramatic in spring and fall are like those of sunrise/sunset.  The high sun and heat of the day are so like a long, hot temperate summer, while winter is of course equated to night.  Of course, this metaphor only makes sense in the temperate zones of our planet, but I like it.

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“Painted Leaves″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 100mm, ISO 100,  f/13, 1/10 sec