Sunday, November 9, 2008

Fall Colors

My favorite Fall scenes tend to be more intimate, not wide and grand, but tight and exclusive. This is, no doubt, a function of the type of Fall views that I have come to expect around Arkansas. Where the wide shots rarely manage to capture the scene in a way that translates well.

These first few images were captured along the upper section of the Buffalo River near Kyle's Landing. We hiked into the site and spent the night there a few weeks before our week-long sojourn on middle and lower portions of the river. It would have been ideal to include this section on our trip, but you have to go where the water is when traveling by kayak.

The last image was captured at the very end of the big trip at Buffalo Point as I waited on my shuttle to show up. The shuttle was 120 miles long so it took about 3 hours round trip for Dave to make the drive. In the meantime I was greeted to one of the loveliest scenes imaginable... a clearing thunderstorm on a fall evening. It was October 31, Halloween. I'd been flipped into the river by tricky currents and a sneaky limb snag earlier in the day... so I guess this was my treat.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Buffalo Chips (excuses, excuses, excuses)

Photography took a backseat to overall immersion during my latest outdoor adventure on the Buffalo River. While still in the planning stages it became evident that carrying a DSLR and even one or two tiny lenses was going to pose a problem. Not so much for getting the thing on the water... that's easy enough, but actually having\taking the time to make good use of it would be the issue. I wound up taking my two pocket cameras instead.

My last week-long outing on the Buffalo was nearly 20 years ago but I was remembering all too well how that went. Of course, it was all film back then, but I recall taking about 8-10 rolls and being worried that I might not have enough. As it turned out, though, I only went through a couple of them.

I learned on that trip that the open water is a hazardous place for a camera. It's bad enough if you are just along for the ride, but add piloting your watercraft to the equation and it gets even more interesting. Taking photos becomes a task that has be balanced against paddling and keeping the craft in a straight-forward and upright position. Now, the Buffalo is not a particularly difficult river to navigate by most standards. There are long, lazy pools separated by short, often feisty rapids. Sometimes the swifter sections are clear and easy, like riding the log flume ride at the amusement park. But other times there are rocks and limbs waiting to capsize those who choose a poor line or fail to execute the required maneuvers quickly enough. All in all it makes photography while on the water challenging.

So what about photography once out of the water when the boat is safely banked? As it turns out, there are problems here too.

Direct sunlight comes up over the Ozark hills late and goes down early. You still have ambient light, of course, but the light isn't predictable because you are moving from place to place within the mountains every day.

Then there are the morning and evening mists. Warm water streams like the Buffalo start creating mists every time the air temp drops below the water temp... which for us was around 55 degrees Fahrenheit. So each chilly evening and frosty sunrise brought about mists that wouldn't burn off until mid-morning.

Then there is the fact that daylight is the time of greatest activity. Once up, there is a fire to be re-stoked, coffee to be made, breakfast to be prepared, tents to be torn down, things to be packed, etc.... And because you are often already late getting on the rive because you were wating on the sun to finish drying the dew\frost off your tent, these moments happen all at once and are often the prime moments for photography. And, of course, in the evening the setup is much the same as the tear down.

Lastly, we really planned too many miles for the conditions (a lesson I thought I learned last time out... only to repeat it again) and wound up having to spend several days on the move with little time for fishing, photography, or other sight-seeing. Stop for 5 or 10 minutes on one of those days and you would spend the next half-hour working hard to catch up with the group.

So, time for photography? Of course, as long you weren't busy with something else.

This image is one of my favorites from only a few dozen Canon S30 images. The flare makes the image seem more interesting than it really is, and, if you look close, you can see all three of my kayaking partners.