Familiar Places

Many photographers, especially outdoor and nature photographers, including me, like to travel and to seek out new locations and scenes.  There is so much in this country, not to mention the world, yet to be seen.

However, circumstances and time often prevent us from traveling, so we learn to make the best of the locations near to home.  And, we soon find that we have favorites:  “go-to” places that always give us a photo opportunity.

Returning there often, we learn the best times to go, we see the seasons change, and we challenge ourselves to see familiar things in a new way.

My go-to locations near my home in Western Arkansas have been Natural Dam, Devils Den State Park, and Cherokee and Flanagan Prairies, among a few other spots.  I always find something to photograph at these locations.

Natural Dam

One of the first nature sites I ever photographed, Natural Dam is where I learned how to “blur” the water, using a long shutter speed.  The “dam” sits less than a quarter mile off the state highway, about 14 miles north of I-40.  In other words, it is easy to find, and easy to get to.  I have taken thousands of photos there, and I know many other photographers who have done the same.

Visiting for the first time, most people will be overwhelmed by the scene and the power of the waterfall, especially in the spring.  We have all made this photo, and family and friends will like it…

Natural Dam waterfall from the road

But there are many other compositions to be found.


a low angle perspective



from the west end, a winter sunrise, and the dawn light plays along the top of the falls

Vertical compostions



Devils Den State Park

One of Arkansas’ most popular state parks, Devils Den sits about 15 minutes from I-49 in Western Arkansas, via one of two curvy mountain roads.  It is a fairly large park, with hiking and walking trails, horseback trails, and wonderful scenery including waterfalls, wildflowers, and wildlife.  Many of the structures in the park were constructed in the 1930’s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), using native rock and timber, and very interesting to see.

On my first photographic visit, my attention was centered on the dam and spillway, also constructed by the CCC.


However, there is much more to see and photograph in Devils Den State Park

Sunrise in Devils Den

lower, more wide angle view

Vertical photos


a foggy sunrise at the Yellow Rock outcropping


The Prairies

My favorite places also includes two areas created by the Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission.  Cherokee Prairie and Flanagan Prairie are both near Charleston, and for wildflower photographers, these are wonderful locations many months of the year.  Early in the year, lots of small flowers are blooming, including Indian Paintbrush, spiderwort, clover and much more.  The bigger showy wildflowers begin to appear in May…


In May, normally the prairies are covered by purple coneflowers, Echinacea…


then followed in June by the yellow coneflowers, or black-eyed Susans…


next comes the Gay Feather, also called Prairie Blazing Star, or Liatris…

But beyond the spectacular, are lots of details and surprises to be found…

Vertical photos-butterflies-prairies

Vertical photos-prairies-2

Vertical photos-prairies-3

Vertical photos-prairies-4

And this year (2018), for a few days in May, Flanagan Prairie had a special visitor…


The pink katydid is not seen very often, but a number of visitors to the prairie were privileged to view it…


Final Thoughts…

Each of these places is familiar to most residents of Western Arkansas, and many photographers do visit there.  Each site is rich in photographic opportunities, and returning often, we find something new and different every time.  There is also the challenge to see the familiar in a different way, from a different angle, or with a different background, or in a different light, or with a different lens…  All photographers, regardless of our location, if we are to grow and improve we need to challenge ourselves, to explore, and ask “what if?”….

Wishing you Great Light and Great Locations!



10 thoughts on “Familiar Places

  1. Pingback: The 2018 Annual Favorites – Millican Photography

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