This Photo #4

This Photo #4

Some years back, we suffered a computer hard disk crash.  There were some photos on it, but I did not consider them a great loss, and thought they were backed up… somewhere.  I said “some years back” meaning before I had learned about serious back up and better organization.  (Today, we use three duplicate external hard drives, with more drives for images prior to 2015.)

As time went by, I did not find that back up.  Until recently.

Since I retired as store manager, I have gradually been re-organizing my office.  And, some old CD’s have appeared.  On one of them is this photo, my first good water drop with refraction.  For me, it is important, as it marks a turning point in that part of my photography.  My first success!  Although it is not a perfect photo, I learned much about searching for the right combination of water drop, refracted flower, and light… Continue reading

This Photo #3

This Photo #3

Canoes with Morning Reflection

Image 5105     Date:  April, 2016

A couple of years before this, I had begun photographing the canoes at Devil’s Den State Park.  Probably, I had seen similar photographs of canoes elsewhere (I know – who hasn’t?), and was inspired to make my own version.  Each time I revisited these canoes, I would make new photographs, and with each visit, it seemed my photographs improved.








On this day, we were holding our spring macro photography workshop in the park.  I arrived early, and while waiting, I walked to the canoe docks.
From early spring to late fall, the park rents the canoes and paddle boats for use on the Park’s little lake, formed from Lee Creek.  It’s a very small lake.  Besides the lake, the Park has miles of hiking trails, waterfalls, and plenty of the rugged beauty Arkansas is known for.  It is my favorite Arkansas State Park. Continue reading

The Annual Ten

The Annual Ten

Each year, we review our photos from the past 12 months, and select ten (or 12, on occasion) as our favorite images for that year.  Never easy, and does not appear to serve much purpose, but it is a fun exercise, and we enjoy sharing.  So, here you go, my 10 for ’16, in chronological order.

  1.  Going Back to Mexico

Going Back To MexicoIn February, I was photographing the sunset over the Arkansas River, near the Garrison Avenue bridge in Fort Smith.  The Arkansas River originates in the mountains of Colorado, then travels through Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas before merging with the Mississippi River on the Arkansas-Mississippi border.

In front of my camera, the river was flowing without waves, and reflecting the sunset-colored sky and clouds.  I made several images as the sun dropped lower in the sky, then this canoe floated into my composition.  The first thought was, “oh, no!”  However, I then thought how this would add perspective and a human element, and I managed to get two frames, before he left the scene.  As I stood there behind my camera, the canoeist called to me, “I’m going back to Mexico, buddy!”  At least, that’s what I think he said…   🙂


2. The Pot o’ Gold


On St. Patrick’s Day, I visited Natural Dam, a favorite site to me – and many other photographers.  The challenge is to see a different image of this small waterfall, as I and all those other photographers have taken a million photographs here.

So, I selected this viewpoint that revealed the sunrise reflected along the edges of the waterfall – like seeing the legendary Irish “pot o’ gold”.  Exposure was set for the highlights, and I made sure the shadows remained dark, resulting in a near-abstract of light and shadow…


3. Devil’s Den Redbuds


April 1 was not a Fool’s Day, at least not entirely, as I found this wonderful juxtaposition of a blooming redbud tree and the spillway cascade in Arkansas’ Devil’s Den State Park.  The Park is another favorite photography destination, and you will see three more photos made there among these 10.


4. Waiting Canoes in Spring

Morning Reflections

In April, we held a Macro Photography Workshop, which included a trip to Devil’s Den State Park.  While I was waiting for the students to arrive, I visited the rental canoes.  I always visit them, and make photos.  Usually, I use a wide angle and get fairly close, but this time, I backed up and used the 70-300 zoom.  The telephoto really provided a narrow angle of view, and brought the background much closer and larger.  This background was the reflection of the mostly bare trees across the small lake, lighted by the rising sun, and reflected in the lake water…


5. Spring Afternoon at Falling Water Falls

Afternoon at Falling Waters

Later in April – one of my favorite months, it appears – I spent the day driving the Ozarks, visiting some popular locations, including Falling Waters Creek and its falls.  It was spring, and in Arkansas in the spring, the sky is never clear for long, and I was treated to some great clouds in a blue sky above the waterfall.  The clouds’ reflection creates a line from the foreground rocks to the falls to the clouds.


6. Flanagan Prairie

Flanagan Prairie Morning

Flanagan Prairie is an Arkansas State Heritage Site, and allows no vehicular traffic.  The result is a natural area that abounds with wildflowers throughout the spring and summer.  On this June day, I was trying out a new Sony lens, the 90 mm macro.  I often visit here, looking for water drops, which are refracting an image of the background  But there were none.  That is, until about an hour after sunrise, and suddenly everything was wet.

Later, someone asked about only including half of the sunflower.  That was intentional, as the image is not about the flower, but the setting.  It was about the morning, the water drops and the Prairie.


7.  The Milky Way

Milky Way at the Fire Tower

Along the Talimena Drive, near Queen Wilhelmina State Park just east of the Oklahoma State Line, is a picnic area around the Rich Mountain Fire Tower, with picnic tables and restrooms.  Gayle and I spent an August evening there, photographing the Milky Way.  My favorite of the night was this one.  It is also my favorite of the Milky Way photos I have made thus far – but there will be more in 2017!


8.  Brigadoon (Petit Jean Morning Light)

Summer Morning, Petit Jean Mountain

Also in August, on the way home from the Bedford Camera Photo Expo in Little Rock, I drove to Petit Jean State Park.  I missed the sunrise, but the morning light was amazing on the flats below the mountain.  This photo was made from Stout’s Point on the eastern end of the mountain, overlooking the Arkansas River.  (The river is just out of the frame behind the tree.)  Looking at this scene, the light, the green grass and trees, the fog on the horizon, I am reminded of the 1954 Gene Kelly movie, Brigadoon.  Look it up.  🙂


9.  Autumn Starburst


On an October morning in Devil’s Den State Park, there was not much color found for a photograph, except for these leaves against the blue sky.  I moved until the sun was backlighting the leaves and shining through a small hole caused by a hungry caterpillar or beetle.  With an aperture of f/16, the sun peeking through presented a lovely burst of light, a sunburst.


10.  Autumn Canoes


In late October, I once again visited Devil’s Den State Park.  And, once again, photographed the canoes.  This time, there was a bit of color in the reflection, and complemented the red of the canoes.  The canoes are floating at dock, waiting for some park visitors to take them out for a ride on the small lake.

So, that’s my 10 for ’16.  Not necessarily the best photos you will see, but my favorites.  The photographs I enjoyed making this year, and the ones I still enjoy viewing.  Hope you enjoy seeing them, too.

If you follow me on Facebook (Larry Millican), Twitter (@LDMillican) or Instagram (@LDMillican), you may have seen them before.  Would enjoy hearing from you; comments are certainly welcome and appreciated.  In any case, thank you for looking.

And, keep looking for the light.


Milky Way Photography Adventures

Milky Way Photography Adventures

Despite the fact that Arkansas’ River Valley has had a dry year, it seemed that every time I planned a star photography outing – there were clouds.



On this night, the clouds parted over Shores Lake just for a few minutes, and just enough to see the Milky Way.


And, this trend included our Night Photography Workshop in August.  We tried 3 times, before we finally had a marvelously clear night to see and photograph the Milky Way.



Same location – Shores Lake – but no significant clouds!  🙂  To add a little foreground interest, I set up my film camera to photograph the stars streaking across the sky, aka “star trails.”


If you live in an area with little light pollution, you may wonder what’s the big deal.  However, for those of us who live in an urban area, it is a rare treat!  Some of the photographers in our workshop had not seen the Milky Way since childhood.  Seeing it and making photographs was very exciting!

Would you like to photograph the Milky Way?  Here are 5 things I think you need:

  • A DSLR camera, because shooting in manual exposure mode and manual focus mode, and at a high ISO is necessary.  Very few compact cameras have all those functions.
  • A wide angle lens.  How wide?  My preference is a 24mm for a “full-frame” sensor, but up to a 35mm will work.  If you have an APS-C sensor, sometimes called a “crop-sensor,” 18mm to 24mm is the equivalent.  That does not mean that we cannot use even wider!  Many photographers use a 14mm, 16mm or an 18mm, and sometimes a fish-eye.
  • A Good tripod.  Shutter speeds will be measured in seconds, and no one I know can hold a camera steady for that long.  Your tripod will need to be solid, and easy to adjust in the dark.  I recommend a carbon fiber or aluminum tripod, with a ball head.
  • A remote control for firing your camera.  Pressing the shutter button will cause your camera to move, so use a remote cable or wireless remote.
  • A headlamp or flashlight with a red lens.  Without the red lens, your night vision will be compromised each time you turn on the light.

Also helpful:  an app on your phone.  “Photo Pills” and “The Photographers’ Ephemeris” will provide photographers where and when information – I like and use both.  I also like “Star Guide” which does just what it says – displays on screen where and when the stars are.

Once you have the equipment, the techniques we use are different from most other types of photography:

  • Locate an area with a probable good view of the Milky Way.  Helpful web sites:,, and Google Maps
  • Check the moon phases – a full moon is so bright you cannot see the Milky Way.  A crescent moon is also bright enough to interfere, although if it sets early, the light – coming from the opposite direction of the Milky Way – can be helpful by lighting up the foreground.


    Nearly a full moon means no visible Milky Way.  When the moon went behind the clouds, there was still enough light to photograph Shores Lake with a 10-second exposure.

  • Camera settings:  Start at ISO 3200, a shutter speed of 15 seconds, and your aperture at its widest.  Make a test shot, check your image exposure, and adjust as necessary.  It is not uncommon to set ISO at 4000 or higher.  (Note:  to calculate the longest usable shutter speed, divide 500 by your lens focal length.  Example:  with a 24mm lens, 500 divided by 24 = 20.83, so you would keep your shutter open no longer than 20 seconds.)  A too-long shutter speed results in trailing stars, not points of light.
  • Focusing can be difficult.  We tried to use autofocus before dark, then switched to manual focus.  We also applied gaffer tape to the focus ring to avoid accidentally bumping and moving it.  If you need to focus after dark, try using “live view” and magnify the display.  (Practice this before dark!)  The good thing about digital photography, of course, is we can see what we shot, then adjust and reshoot if necessary.

The end result can be very rewarding photos.  And, watching the Milky Way – and other stars and constellations – begin to appear after the sun goes down is exciting and breathtaking!  Especially the first time…


Milky Way at the Fire Tower

This photo is from a shoot with just Gayle and myself, when preparing for the workshop.  Rich Mountain Fire Tower, Talimena Scenic Drive, near Arkansas’ Queen Wilhelmena State Park.  Sony A7R, 24mm lens, f/2.8-15 seconds-ISO 5000


The “season” is about done for this year; during the winter months, the Milky Way is not visible.  When it is most visible is late spring to late summer.  (I can hardly wait!)  The apps I referenced earlier are great for helping us plan.  Feel free to contact me if you have questions – or search the internet for more information.

Wishing you good light!

2015 Favorite Photos

2015 Favorite Photos

Selecting favorite photos from the past 12 months is a fun exercise, and also an opportunity to see where my interests have taken me.  And, sometimes a way to measure one’s growth.  Mostly, however, these are the photographs that bring a smile to my face when I remember pressing the shutter release…

So, here we go, roughly in chronological order:

Trout Lily

This is one of my favorite flowers, as it is one of the first signs of spring in Arkansas.  This one reminds me of a sea creature…Trout Lily 1767


Devil’s Den State Park, Arkansas

After a short hike on the Devil’s Den Trail, you will find yourself at Twin Falls – unless it is the dry season.  This is the west falls, with photographer for scale…

Devil's Den-02417


Wild Rose, Cherokee Prairie

Cherokee Prairie, near Charleston, Arkansas, continues to be one of those locations I return to regularly.  This wild rose was past its prime, but I liked the patterns, color, symmetry, and its friend.  I hope you notice the antenna that mimics the flower petal lines…

Cherokee Prairie-02591


Colorado National Monument

In June, I traveled to the Eastern Sierras of California to attend Derrick Story’s photography workshop.  (You can read about it here.)  The road trip included a one-night stop at the Colorado National Monument, near Grand Junction, Colorado.  I would definitely camp there again.

Colorado NM-02747


Great Basin National Park

From Colorado, my next stop was Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada, home to 13,063-foot Mount Wheeler.  This mountain stream was near my campsite…

Great Basin NP-02862


Yosemite National Park

From Bridgeport, CA, where Derrick’s workshop was based, I drove into Yosemite National Park via the Tioga Pass, highway 120.  Road construction stopped me from driving to the Valley; while stopped for the roadwork, I made this photo…

Yosemite NP-02967



Mono Lake, California

This has got to be one of the most unique places in the U.S., and I made hundreds of photos there…

Mono Lake-03277


Antique Airplane Fly-In, Oologah, Oklahoma

Closer to home, some friends and I visited Will Rogers’ Birthplace Ranch for the annual Antique Airplane Fly-In.  Dozens of planes and antique autos were on display, and their landings and departures were a sight to see.  The whole day was fun!


Autumn, Arkansas

Our “fall colors” were not the best this year, but we always try to make the best of it.  😉



Natural Dam, Arkansas

This rock shelf creates a natural “Dam” with an 8-foot tall waterfall.  I am not the only photographer to visit, and – like many others – I have made hundreds of images over the years.  Just a few days ago, this was the scene just before sunrise on a cold, frosty morning…

Natural Dam 05909


“Frost Flowers”

Although I had heard of this for many years, it was only a few days ago I made my first photos of Frost Flowers.  Sometimes called “Frost Ribbons”, apparently they happen on cold, frosty mornings, when vegetation still has moisture in its stem.  The moisture freezes, and forces its way out forming these ribbon flowers…

Frost Flowers 05964

Best wishes for a Great 2016:  Sweet light, peace, and joy…

Favorites for 2014

It is the end of another year!  Although it seems that I did not do as much photography as the previous year, when I reviewed our libraries, it was difficult to narrow down to a reasonable number of favorites.  But with no further to-do, here are my dozen choices for the past year, in chronological order.  Note:  click on the image if you want to view a larger version…

During the winter, it seemed we had an unusually high number of goldfinches at our backyard feeders.  They are fun to watch!  In February, while snow was falling, a number of them would pause on the same branch, and wait – impatiently – for their turn at the seeds…

Goldfinch in falling snow

Goldfinch in falling snow

1/750 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400  Sony Alpha 77, Tamron 200-500mm, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

A bit later in February, my friend Mike Leonard and I hiked down to the Glory Hole.  There was ice and snow, and frozen waterfalls all around.  I took this photo to illustrate the conditions, and the environment.

The Opening to the Glory Hole, Ozark National Forest

The Entrance to the Glory Hole, Ozark National Forest

1/15 sec. at f/22, ISO 100  Sony Alpha 77, Sony 16-50 f/2.8, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

In April, as the redbuds and dogwoods began to bloom, and temperatures were rising, I visited the Jack Creek Recreation Area in the Ouachita National Forest.  As the sun rose over the ridge, light danced across the cascade.

Sunlight on Jack Creek at sunrise

Sunlight on Jack Creek at sunrise

 1/2 sec. at f/22, ISO 100  Sony Alpha 77, Sony 16-50 f/2.8, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

Wildflowers begin to bloom in April, also; Indian Paintbrush is one of the first.  Here are two photos I made at Cherokee Prairie State Natural Area, near Charleston, Arkansas…

Paintbrush Trio Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, Arkansas

Paintbrush Trio
Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, Arkansas

1/20 sec, f/5.6, ISO 100  Sony Alpha 77, Tamron 180 f/3.5 macro lens, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.
Paintbrush Family Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, Arkansas

Paintbrush Family
Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, Arkansas

1/60 sec, f/8, ISO 100  Sony Alpha 77, Tamron 180 f/3.5 macro lens, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

Who has not ever blown dandelion seeds for fun?  Here are some seed pods that were caught up in a spider web.

Dandelion Seeds, caught in a spider web

Dandelion Seeds, caught in a spider web

1/45 sec, f/3.5, ISO 200  Sony Alpha 77, Tamron 180 f/3.5 macro lens, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ball head.

One photograph I continue to try to perfect is of dew drops with a background image refracted in it.  Here is one I photographed in June, at Cherokee Prairie State Natural Area

Dew Drops reflecting Black-eyed Susans Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, Arkansas

Dew Drops reflecting Black-eyed Susans
Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, Arkansas

1/125 sec at f/5.6, ISO 200  Sony Alpha 77, Tamron 180 f/3.5 macro lens, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

Mid-year, Gayle gave me a new camera:  the Sony Alpha 7R.  A “mirrorless” camera, it carries a full-frame sensor, and has great dynamic range.  I had always wanted to photograph the Milky Way, and after researching for “dark sky” locations, I visited Lake Hinkle near Waldron, Arkansas, for my first attempt.

The Milky Way above Lake Hinkle, near Waldron, Arkansas

The Milky Way above Lake Hinkle, near Waldron, Arkansas

20 seconds, f/2.8, ISO 6400  Sony Alpha 7R, Minolta 24mm f/2.8 lens, Sony LA-E4 lens adapter, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

In October, we took part in Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk.  It rained.  In Van Buren, the city still hosted the “Fall Festival and Craft Show, and I found this umbrella on the street.

Colorful umbrella on the street, Van Buren, Arkansas

Colorful umbrella on the street,
Van Buren, Arkansas

1/250 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400  Sony Alpha 77, Sony 16-50 f/2.8 lens handheld.

October signals the start of fall foliage, although we did not have exceptional color this year.  In Devil’s Den State Park, the canoes were ready for visitors.

Canoes at the ready,  Devil's Den State Park

Canoes at the ready,
Devil’s Den State Park

 1/30 sec at f/11, ISO 200  Sony Alpha 7R, Minolta 50mm f/1.7 lens, Sony LA-E4 lens adapter, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

In October, near Waldron, Arkansas, this spider web was sagging under the weight of the dew drops, creating a pearl necklace…

Necklace of spider-web and dew drops Near Waldron, Arkansas

Necklace of spider-web and dew drops
Near Waldron, Arkansas

1/30 sec at f/11, ISO 200  Sony Alpha 7R, Minolta 50mm f/1.7 lens, Sony LA-E4 lens adapter, Manfrotto tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

On Christmas morning, I visited the Fort Smith National Cemetery, at sunrise.

Fort Smith (AR) National Cemetery at sunrise Christmas Morning

Fort Smith (AR) National Cemetery at sunrise
Christmas Morning

1/3 sec at f/16, ISO 400  Sony Alpha 7R, Minolta 24mm f/2.8 lens, Sony LA-E4 lens adapter, Manfrotto, tripod, Really Right Stuff ballhead.

A look back, but now we look ahead to 2015.  As always, we hope and expect to make new photographs to enjoy.  Have a Happy New Year!


Frontier Rendezvous

Frontier Rendezvous

As a young man, I read many books of western exploration and adventures.  In school, the history books fascinated me with stories of Fremont, Bridger, and others.  In September, a small frontiersman rendezvous was held nearby at Dwight Mission, and I accompanied other members of the Fort Smith Photographic Alliance on a Saturday to the gathering.

Axes and woodpile

A wood pile and axes at the frontier rendezvous, Dwight Mission, Oklahoma, September 2013



Snoods, 18th and 19th century hairnets, available for purchase, frontier rendezvous, Dwight Mission, Oklahoma, September 2013


Mirror Reflection

One of the tee-pee tents is reflected in a mirror hanging in another tent on the grounds at the Frontier Rendezvous, Dwight Mission, Oklahoma, September 2013



Fur Trap

Fur trap hanging outside a tee-pee tent at the Frontier Rendezvous, Dwight Mission, Oklahoma, September 2013



Throwing the Axe

A rendezvous frontiersman reenacts throwing an axe at a target during a competition, Frontier Rendezvous, Dwight Mission, Oklahoma, September 2013




The day was a lot of fun for all of us.  The rendezvous/reenactment was a relatively small one, and it was the first time held at Dwight Mission, but the spirit of the time was obvious in all the participants.  (I even tried my skill at the axe throw, but with little success.)

If anyone has the opportunity to be involved with a photography/camera club, I encourage you to do so.  Most groups will have outings such as this, as well as classes and workshops, competitions, and social gatherings.  If you are in the Fort Smith Arkansas region, the Alliance is a great place to visit!

The photos here were taken using the Sony Alpha 77, the Sony 16-50 lens, and the Tamron 70-300 lens.  In many cases, I also used a polarizing filter.


Another Visit to Cherokee Prairie

Most years, the vegetation at Cherokee Prairie is pretty much dry and dead by September, as is most flora in our region.  This year, though, was different.  On September 2, Labor Day, I drove by and saw late summer flowers and grasses.  Walking through the tall grass, I found flowers, spiders, butterflies and caterpillars.  It was a great, productive, and fun-filled couple of hours that morning…

Pearl Crescent butterfly; late summer

Pearl Crescent butterfly; late summer


Pearl Crescent Caterpillar

In the background, you may have noticed a Purple Gerardia, aka Purple False Foxglove, (Agalinis purpurea).  There were a number of these flowers in bloom.

Purple Gerardia (aka Purple False Foxglove)  Agalinis purpurea

Purple Gerardia (aka Purple False Foxglove) Agalinis purpurea

An aster with a Crab spider in residence

An aster with a Crab spider in residence

Bicyclist passing by Cherokee Prairie on Highway 60

Bicyclist passing by Cherokee Prairie on Highway 60

Equipment included the Sony Alpha 77, Tamron 180 macro lens, Manfrotto tripod and Really Right Stuff ball head

Butterflies, spiders, insects

This spring and summer, I’ve done a lot of macro photography, mostly of flowers, but I’m always ready for other subjects that make an appearance. Here are some surprises thus far this year…



“Yellowjacket Flies” – on a wild rose


Eastern Tailed-Blue, Cherokee Prairie, Charleston, Arkansas

Eastern Tailed-Blue, Cherokee Prairie, Charleston, Arkansas

OK – I’ve shown this before, but it was also a surprise. 🙂



Green Lynx Spider, on the back of a Sunflower.  You have to look on the back of flowers, as well as the front.



Another Lynx spider, just not as green.  This one was on a yellow coneflower at Cherokee Prairie.



This is another fly, but is really tiny.  The real surprise here is the dew drop on its back, that I didn’t see until I downloaded the images.  There is an image of the same flower you can see in the larger dew drop.


All images shot with the Sony Alpha77 and Tamron 180 macro lens, on a Manfrotto tripod and Really Right Stuff ball head.


Van Buren Main Street

Here are some images I shot on an early morning of “Historic Main Street” in Van Buren, Arkansas – just some glimpses of where we call home.

Magenta Staircase in Van Buren

Magenta colored stairs behind a metal gate lead up to a private residence in Van Buren, Arkansas


Antiques sign in Van Buren

Antiques sign below a roof in downtown Van Buren, Arkansas



Red Bicycle Wheel Van Buren

Red bicycle wheel in a store window in downtown Van Buren


Street windows Van Buren

A trio of windows facing Main Street in Van Buren, Arkansas


Van Buren Door

A door off Main Street, Downtown Van Buren, Arkansas



Flower Bouquet

One of several along Main Street, Van Buren, Arkansas



Ice Cream Parlor bench

Bench in front of the Ice Cream Parlor, Van Buren, Arkansas



Three Windows

Another trio of windows on Main Street Van Buren, Arkansas



My intentions were to look for and photograph patterns and the color red; downtown Van Buren has plenty of both…

I used the Sony Alpha 77, Sony 16-50 and Tamron 70-300 lenses – and the Manfrotto tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.