Butterfiles along the Cossatot

Driving the backroads within the Cossatot River State Park & Natural Area, it was warm, dry, and dusty.  I was exploring, and watching for interesting subjects.  Alongside the road was a patch of thistle, the flowers in full, fresh bloom.  Swallowtail butterflies were swarming the blooms – yellow tiger, spicebush, and two-tailed swallowtails were everywhere.  They were in a feeding frenzy, and paid little attention to me and my camera.  Again, I had the 70-210 f/4 Minolta lens mounted on the camera; a long enough lens that I could reach the butterflies without being too close to cause them discomfort, but short enough that I could find them in the viewfinder quickly.  I set the aperture to f/4, with a fast shutter speed of 1/1500 sec to freeze their movements.

Here are a couple of photos.  Butterflies, flying flowers…

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail Papilio [Pterourus] glaucusEastern Tiger Swallowtail

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About “The Wall”

In 1968, we still believed, for the most part, that our country was right to be in Vietnam.  We were helping protect the world against communism.  At least in Oklahoma, we still believed.  My duty was to serve my country.  I still would.

At that age, I was still searching for myself.  (Yes, I know some people think I still am!)  But after spending the summer working, my cousin Ron Gifford convinced me I should join the Marines.  And in doing so, I did him a favor, because he got an extra 5 days or so leave because he referred me to enlistment!  🙂  At that time, I could enlist for a 2-year commitment, and I did.  Went to San Diego for boot camp, then on to Camp Pendleton for infrantry training, and artillery fire direction training.  Came home for a couple weeks, then back to California, and on to Vietnam.  By that time, our thoughts were not so much of glory, but fear and hoping to stay alive…

I did my year in country, and came home safe.  (By the way, I never gave much thought, I’m ashamed to say, about how this affected my mother – until my son, Ryan, was deployed to Kuwait a few years ago.)  A chapter in my life closed.  I never forgot my “tour of duty” but it did not occupy my thoughts either.

In 1992, we visited daughter Michelle in Indiana.  On the trip home, we detoured through Springfield, Illinois to see Abraham Lincoln’s tomb.  Glad we did, but in the same cemetery is the Illinois State Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  We had no ties to Illinois, but forgotten emotions came up, and I began to realize how much so many of us gave.  I came back, but 58,000 others did not…

The next year, we visited Washington, D.C., and The Wall – the National Vietnam Veterans Memorial.  To stand there, and look at the names, to listen to the silence, to see people “rubbing” a pencil copy of someone’s name, to see the momentos left behind, again I thought, “I came back.”

So, this photo.  Not a great job, but I believe I took it at the right angle – to see the 3 Servicemen watching the visitors at The Wall.

This photo was shot with film, scanned with a Kodak CD scanner.  Wish I could do it over with digital… and I may some day.

Today, I put a crop from this on my Facebook Timeline, and several people have already noticed it, “liked” it and commented.  This is my backstory.  Sorry to be so long-winded; hope you read this, and understand…

The Wall

September, 1993

Fort Smith Park Autumn

After record breaking heat in the summer of 2011, many of us, including me, did not expect much in the way of “color” in the fall.  However, we were pleasantly surprised and had a very colorful fall – one of my favorite seasons.

Autumn in Arkansas and Oklahoma is brief, and each year brings a different look.  Occasionally, as in 2009, we’ve had an unusually wet fall, giving us water falls, and flowing streams to complement the color.  But, more often, it’s a relatively dry season.  It’s a time of change, and a photographer is challenged to be at the right place at the right time to make an image to represent the season.

On this morning, I was driving to work, but had left home early enough to stop if I saw the right scene, in pleasant light.  Here’s one image I stopped to make.  Initially, I pointed my camera toward the just-risen sun, but that wasn’t the image I wanted.  So, I turned around, and saw the clouds, the sky, the yellow leaves, and the tree line.

What you see here, was shot as a RAW file, cropped slightly to rid the image of a light pole on the right, and some pavement on the left.  Using Corel After Shot Pro, and Corel Paint Shop Pro X4, I’ve adjusted color balance, levels, and sharpness.  Camera was the Sony Alpha 700, with a Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 lens.  Exposure was 1/250 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 200.

Fort Smith Park is on Wheeler Avenue, just west of Midland Boulevard in Fort Smith, and includes numerous picnic tables, a boat ramp to the Arkansas River, and is visited by a large number of area residents throughout the year.  It’s an old park, with old trees; a park I often visit for photographs, and I’m seldom disappointed…

Fort Smith Park Autumn

November 2011

Dogwood Blossoms

After photographing the cattle in the morning fog (see “Pastoral Morning“), I continued south on Highway 71.  But, since I had a late start – at least, later than intended – and I had stopped for the cattle photos, I knew I wouldn’t have the good early morning light on the Cossatot.  So, I decided to explore a bit.  (Exploring is good!)

Despite having driven this way many times, I had never been to Lake Hinkle, near Waldron.  I took the road to Hinkle Dam, and found it a very pleasant & pretty drive, with a stream alongside the road much of the way, farms and farmland, and woodlands with dogwoods blooming.

After visiting the dam & the lake, I stopped on the return trip near a patch of dogwoods.  From the road, there was a slight slope down to the stream, so the dogwood trees were at eye level or slightly below.  Perfect!  In addition, most of the area was in shade.  I couldn’t have asked for much better conditions.

Here are a couple of the dogwood images:

“Dogwood Parade” looks like the blossoms are lined up ready to say “look at me!  look at me!”  I like the dark background, but wish the stems & branches behind the blossoms weren’t so noticeable.

by the numbers:  Sony Alpha 77, Minolta 70-210, f/4 @ 1/200 sec, ISO 200

The next image, “Dogwood Song”, really does sing to me – or maybe makes me want to sing, which is not a good thing.  I shot again at f/4, to limit the depth of field, leaving the most predominant blossom the sharpest, and the others gradually getting softer.  Camera & lens the same…

Feel free to offer your opinion as to which you prefer.  Comments are certainly welcome…

Next time, we’ll discuss another image from another time…

Larry

About “Pastoral Morning”

The destination that morning was the Cossatot River State Park and Natural Area.  The Cossatot River is well known for its scenery and challenges to floaters, canoeists, and kayakers alike.  I was anxious to be there, but as I drove by a pasture in a valley along US Highway 71, I saw this scene.

An ordinary morning for many farms, cattle gathered near a pond with misty fog surrounding the area, and backlit by the sun.  I drove past it, thinking how nice a little picture it was. Then, about two miles down the road, at the highway 23 junction rest area, I turned around and went back…

Fortunately, there was enough shoulder on the road that I could park the car safely, get my camera and trusty old Minolta 70-210 lens, and look for a vantage point to create a photograph that captured some of the magic of the moment.  I shot verticals; I shot horizontals.  I moved up and down the road; I moved closer.  I set exposure, with the idea of showing the light in the fog, and letting the cows become shadowy silhouettes.  The image shown here is actually a horizontal crop from one of the verticals shot.

Tech stuff:  Sony Alpha 77, Minolta 70-210 f/4 lens, ISO 200, 1/1500 sec, f/11, focal length 105mm.  The date was March 29, 2012 – check back for more photos from that day; I did eventually make it to the Cossatot.  🙂

Welcome…

Welcome to our page of exploration and discovery in the world of nature photography!

We want to share our images and vision with anyone stumbling across our pages.  🙂  Between the two of us, we’ve made a large number of photographs.  Of course, we’ve been doing so for a long time; we’ve been married for nearly 30 years, and had been photographing for many years before that!

From time to time, we will discuss things we found in nature.  Often, it may be a piece of nature you have not noticed, or perhaps we will give you a different look at a familiar subject.

Discovery also includes our insight into why we make photographs, how we make photographs, and why we make photographs.  And, make photographs, we must!

So, with that said, welcome to our world of nature photography…

Larry & Gayle Millican

Van Buren, Arkansas