Big Spring Handles Big Waters

Sarah’s and my recent trip to Big Spring country provided us with lots of different looks that only the Ozarks in spring can provide.  On our second day the region was subjected to a strong storm front that dumped nearly five inches of rain in about a 12 hour period.  Although that limited the time spent outside cabin or vehicle, it did bring some learning opportunities.  I have often wondered with what speed and “precision” these large Ozark springs and their karst systems reacted to new rainfall in their watershed.  Would a deluge such as this become immediately apparent in the relative rate of discharge at Big Spring?  Or would the dynamics take a longer period of time?  My prediction would have been that the system would take up some considerable slack and act like a sponge.  That the effluent from the spring would rise eventually, but not as quickly as the rains came.  I turned out to be wrong.  During the first 12-18 hours, the increase of discharge from the spring seemed to keep pace with the rate of rise in the Current River.  This photo was taken at mid-morning the day after the rains.  Here the spring’s aquamarine  waters are flowing into the already mud-laden flood waters of the Current.  I estimate the waters were about two to three feet above normal at this time.

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“Confluence Contradiction″

Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 58mm, ISO 320,  f/10, 1/25 sec

The next morning the scene looked quite different.  It looked to me the Current had gained enough water to rise over the shallow points of land this far into the effluent channel.  Water was everywhere, completely covering the lower section of the Chubb trail, completely covering the dock and railings surrounding it, and blocking access to the spring accept by the main road.  Even with the extra water the boil from the spring was still quite noticeable.

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“Current Rising″

Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 65mm, ISO 640,  f/9, 1/20 sec

This scene is always one of my favorites.  This tree’s load of mistletoe is easily seen.  Thanks for pointing this out to me, Steve!

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“ ‘Planely’ Flooded ″

Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 75mm, ISO 100,  f/10, 0.4 sec

Since the spring had lost a good deal of its potential for interesting compositions, I played a bit with some macro work.  Here is that symbol of Missouri’s Natural Area System, the Jack-in-the-Pulpit, taken within the Big Spring Natural Area.

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“Jack in the Pulpit″

Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, ISO 160,  f/5, 1/8 sec
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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.

IMG_2391 color

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.

Cold Origin of Life?

Fire and Ice

by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Will the world ultimately end in fire or ice, desire or hate?  I don’t know, but a multitude of fascinating theories exist for the origin of life on earth.  I’ve recently read an interesting theory that suggests ice-cold conditions were more conducive for the origin of the first complicated molecules.  Although cold temperatures are a detriment to most life on earth, several potential problems are alleviated by this as well.  An interesting read if you like.  Pictured below is the main boil of water that is released from Big Spring located in the Missouri Ozarks

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“Cold Origins″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 19mm, ISO 100,  f/14, 1/6 sec

Currently I Dream…

“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?)”

-Aldo Leopold-

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“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

One Grand Palimpsest

“When a page is written over but once it may be easily read; but if it be written over and over with characters of every size and style, it soon becomes unreadable, although not a single confused meaningless mark or thought may concur among all the written characters to mar its perfection.  Our limited powers are similarly perplexed and overtaxed in reading the inexhaustible pages of nature, for they are written over and over uncountable times, written in characters of every size and colour, sentences composed of sentences, every part of a character a sentence.  There is not a fragment in nature, for every relative fragment of one thing is a full harmonious unit in itself.  All together form the one grand palimpsest of the world.”

-John Muir-

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“One Grand Palimpsest″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 45mm, ISO 100,  f/14, manual blend of two exposures

The Autumn Adventures of Ozark Bill Continues – Mark Twain National Forest

During the first day of our short vacation this fall, Sarah and I took the winding, yet scenic Hwy 19 south.  Always a nice drive, it is particularly attractive in autumn.  About halfway through the drive the sky opened up on us, but I did use this opportunity to find a few new places and at least get them on the ol’ GPS.  This stretch of highway contains many potential destinations and we have only begun making real visits or hikes into most of these.  Later, we went back to a place I’ve had on my radar for quite some time, the “Virgin Pine Forest”.  This amounts to a strip of apparently virgin shortleaf pine, many of which are over 200 years old, on both sides of the road.  The wind was very strong here so I let the pines tell their story…

“Screaming Pines″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 27mm, ISO 100,  f/13, 2 sec

Just a short drive from the town of Steelville lies the aptly-named “Red Bluff Recreation Area”.  I have seen photographs of this place and it was as beautiful in person.  Carved over time by Huzzah Creek, these bluffs get their color from the high amounts of iron oxide in the limestone.  This spot was almost indescribable.  Incredibly peaceful and full of singing birds, the first thing I did was take off my shoes and pants and wade into the river to make this picture.  At times like these my city-slicker feet never fail to disappoint me.  Each step was painful and it was then that I realized my mitochondria training regimen was getting me nowhere.  Anyway, this place has lots that would make a return trip worth the drive, including a natural arch and the ruins of an old grist mill site.  Definitely a place on my “return to” list.

“Red Bluff – Autumn 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 28mm, ISO 100,  f/14, 1/5 sec

Continuing on Hwy 19, south of Winona is another of our favorite visited spots – Falling Spring.  This spot is out of the way and if the spring is flowing, will never disappoint.  My mind’s eye pictured better autumn colors than were actually found, but it is always a treat to find that vandals have not completely taken the old structure down.

“Falling Spring – Autumn 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 45mm, ISO 100,  f/11, 2.5 sec

Further west in south-central Missouri Sarah and I visited the Hodgson Water Mill located on Bryant Creek.  This picturesque mill is still in business as a museum/store.  The spring discharges from a cave just behind the building and its 24 million gallons per day powered two underwater turbines for milling operations.

“Hodgson Water Mill – Autumn 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USMEF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 24mm, ISO 100,  f/14, 1/6 sec

So that’s a little more from our splendid autumn Ozark trip from 2012.  I still have a few images to share and will hopefully post some in the near future.  I’m quite thankful that there are so many nicely written books available with descriptions of these locations.  I use these books quite often and one of these days I will list them in a post.

The Mark Twain National Forest contains near 1.5 million acres across the Missouri Ozarks.  Make some time to pay a visit, as it belongs to us all, except the areas that are logged… ;=)

“Mark Twain National Forest – Autumn 2012″
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 37mm, ISO 160,  f/9, 1/5 sec