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. ūüôā



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.



Cherokee Prairie

Cherokee Prairie

Each spring, I look forward to visiting Cherokee Prairie, an Arkansas Natural Heritage Site. There are a number of pieces of land in Arkansas similar to this; allowed to grow naturally, with only foot traffic allowed.
This spring, I’ve been able to make several visits to the Prairie, and here’s some of what I’ve seen – and photographed.
Among the first wildflowers to bloom is Indian Paintbrush. I visited once and they were just beginning to show color; a later visit and the Prairie was nearly covered with the colorful red flowers.

Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea), Cherokee Prairie, near Charleston, Arkansas

Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea), Cherokee Prairie, near Charleston, Arkansas

Then, in the midst of the red flowers was this yellow version.


A yellow version of Indian Paintbrush

A yellow version of Indian Paintbrush


Here’s another image (my favorite)¬†of the same¬†yellow flower, juxtaposed with the red ones in the background.

Yellow Indian Paintbrush, Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, AR

Yellow Indian Paintbrush, Cherokee Prairie near Charleston, AR


Next, a few weeks later, the Purple Coneflowers covered the Prairie:

Purple Coneflower Duo

Purple Coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), Cherokee Prairie, Charleston, Arkansas


Purple Coneflower 03689

Purple Coneflower framed by Doll’s Daisy, Cherokee Prairie, Charleston, Arkansas

Large patch of Purple Coneflowers, Cherokee Prairie, Charleston, Arkansas

Large patch of Purple Coneflowers, Cherokee Prairie, Charleston, Arkansas


There are other wildflowers there; these are some of my favorites.

And, the visitor can also¬†see some other “flying flowers”, such as this Eastern Tailed-Blue.¬† This was a first for me, and I appreciate our friend, Anne Sayers, helping identify it…

Eastern Tailed-Blue, Cherokee Prairie, Charleston, Arkansas

Eastern Tailed-Blue, Cherokee Prairie, Charleston, Arkansas



These images were all made with the Sony Alpha77, a Minolta 100mm macro lens and, more recently, a Tamron 180mm macro lens, Manfrotto tripod and Really Right Stuff ball head.¬† And, all the water drops were there before I was…¬† ūüôā



Black Bass Lake

Every two years, the Photographic Society of Northwest Arkansas (www.psnwa.org) hosts the Mid-America Photographic Symposium (MAPSYM). This year, for the first time, I was able to attend the weekend event, held in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. Kudos to the PSNWA for putting on a first-class event, aimed at photography enthusiasts and professionals alike.

One¬†outing I joined was an early morning “Nature Hike” at Black Bass Lake.¬† Even if you’ve ever been¬†to Eureka Springs, a small community built on a steep hillside, I doubt you’ve heard about this lake. At least, I hadn’t, and I overheard another participant, from the area, say the same thing. ¬†So, we drove down a steep hill on a gravel road, to the lake, and it was like going to another world; right in the middle of the community, we were suddenly in a wilderness.¬† It was so cool! (Are we supposed to say “cool” any more? I can’t keep up, so I just say what I feel.)
The morning was typical spring for this area; cool and damp. The lake had some misty fog hanging over the surface, and fortuitously, there were two fishermen in a small boat…

Two fishermen on Black Bass Lake, in the misty fog.

Two fishermen on Black Bass Lake, in the misty fog.


Walking one of the trails around the lake, I photographed this C-curved blade of grass, with a dew drop hanging on.¬† Those that know me, and especially those that have sat through a class with me, have heard me stress simplicity…

C-dew drop

Dew drop clings to a curved blade of grass, alongside Black Bass Lake, Eureka Springs, Arkansas


There were also a number of these purple flowers; according to Don Kurz’s Arkansas Wildflowers book, it’s called¬†the Leather Flower.¬† Cool flower…

Leather Flower (Clematis versicolor)

Leather Flower along Black Bass Lake, Eureka Springs, Arkansas


So, it was an interesting weekend.¬† I learned a bit about how Hanson Fong takes portraits, saw & listened to Nikon’s Mark Kettenhofen deliver an awesome keynote presentation, and more.¬† Glad I went.¬† ūüôā


Camera used was the Sony Alpha 77, Sony 16-50 f/2.8 (I love this lens!) and Minolta 100 macro, Manfrotto tripod with Really Right Stuff ball head.


Garvan Woodland Gardens

In April this year, I visited Garvan Woodland Gardens, in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  My first time there, although it is a place high on my want-to-go-to list for some time.  Mid-April was a little late for the tulips, which are reportedly spectacular, but there was still lots of colorful flowers covering the grounds.

So here are a few selected photos.  Hope you enjoy!

Rhododendrons by the waterfall.


Garvan Woodland Gardens, small waterfall with rhododendrons.

Some remnants of tulips in front of red flowers (no – I don’t remember what they are.)

Tulip remnants with red flowers in the background.

Tulip remnants with red flowers in the background.

Along a path, there was a late blooming river of tulips.

A River of Tulips

A River of Tulips




Here is a tight crop of the tulips from the “river.”

The river of tulips, Garvan Woodland Gardens, Hot Springs, Arkansas

The river of tulips, crop, Garvan Woodland Gardens, Hot Springs, Arkansas

Closeup of rhododendrons.

Closeup of some rhododendrons, Garvan Woodland Gardens, Hot Springs, Arkansas

Closeup of some rhododendrons, Garvan Woodland Gardens, Hot Springs, Arkansas




The Gardens have flowers in bloom throughout the spring and summer, but are well known for their tulips displays in early spring.¬† Maybe next year…

Photos were all taken with the Sony Alpha 77, and the Sony 16-50 f/2.8 lens and the Minolta 100 f/2.8 macro lens.



Red Reflections

I first saw reflections in water drops in a magazine Рprobably Outdoor Photographer.  The photos were fascinating, and I decided it was a subject/technique I needed to learn.  There were a number of failures over the years, until this photo.

On the day I took this, I¬†was visiting¬†Cherokee Prairie Natural Area.¬† In fact, I had been there for a while, searching the Prairie for just the right combination of water drops, grass tangles, flowers, and light.¬† I had no success, and was walking back to my truck, when at the very edge of the parking area was a perfect arrangement.¬† I set the tripod up in the short grass of the parking area, and made a number of exposures…

One of the problems with making these photographs is that all of the vegetation – grass, flowers, shrubs, briars – is connected!¬† Setting a tripod up without causing the water drops to fall is sometimes impossible.¬† Often, I get it almost just right, move the tripod – or the camera & lens – and bump or pull something, causing the water drops to disappear.¬† So, finding this at the parking lot was exciting!¬† Ever since that day, I always look around the parking area before heading off into the grasses of the prairie…

Wild rose reflected in water drops on grass

Wild rose reflected in water drops on grass
Cherokee Prairie State Natural Area, near Charleston, Arkansas

I have always like the sharpness of this image, but would like to have the same situation again; I think it deserves some different compositions, and would like to shoot it with¬†one of today’s¬†higher resolution cameras.¬† However, photographs are the reflection of a moment, then it’s history.¬† As much as we might wish to relive our past, we cannot…¬† ūüėČ


Minolta Maxxum 7D, Minolta Maxxum 100 mm macro lens, Manfrotto tripod.


Each spring, I look forward to going out to locate, and photograph dew drops reflecting, preferably, a wildflower.¬† Of course, any breeze, even one barely felt on skin, is the enemy.¬† So, we hope for no breeze, large dew drops easily photographed, and a colorful wildflower behind…

On this morning, I found a spiderweb covered in dew, and in the background was a black-eyed susan wildflower.  However, there was a nearly imperceptible breeze Рjust enough to move the spiderweb.  I took several photos, trying to time the exposure for the least movement.  Here is one of the best, but because of the air movement, I was unable to keep all in sharp focus.

Dew drops on a spider web reflect the black eyed susan flower in the background.

Dew drops on a spider web reflect the black eyed susan flower in the background.


I took this photo at Cherokee Prairie Preserve State Heritage Site, near Charleston, Arkansas, using the Sony Alpha 700, the Minolta 100 mm macro lens, Manfrotto tripod.  The shutter speed was 1/320th second, in an attempt to freeze the movement from the breeze, at f/8.

Christmas Honors

Christmas Honors

In 2009, the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce started a program to honor the veterans buried in the Fort Smith National Cemetery.¬† Inspired by Arlington National Cemetery and¬†“Wreaths Across America,” the¬†goal was to lay a Christmas wreath upon each grave in the cemetery.¬† It has been a huge success.¬† The community has joined together and each year, over 1,000 volunteers have assembled the wreaths in a remarkably short period of time, then the veterans’ families, scout troops, veterans groups, and Jr ROTC units have placed the wreaths on the graves.

Most of the photos shown here are from 2011, and one from 2009.

Wreaths by the road

After being assembled, the wreaths are placed in groups along the cemetery road, waiting to be placed on the graves. Family members are the first to place the wreaths, and everyone allows them time alone with their departed loved ones.

Wreaths were covered with frost

That morning in December 2011, was very cold, and the wreaths and red ribbons were covered with frost

An area of Unknown Soldiers' graves

In an area of Unknown US Soldiers’ graves, local Jr ROTC troops place the wreaths

Jr ROTC trooper salutes the grave of an unknown

After placing the wreath on the grave of an Unknown US Soldier, the young cadet salutes the grave headstone, to honor the fallen

Snow on the Wreaths

In 2009 – the first year for Christmas Honors – we received a snowfall on Christmas Day.
Understand this… it never snows on Christmas Day in Fort Smith, Arkansas. ūüôā
This is only one of probably at least a hundred thousand photos taken before the snow melted…

These are only a few photos, and others have taken more and better.¬† But,¬†this is a story about a community that¬†came together and worked together to honor our fallen brothers and sisters.¬† I think it’s a good thing they’ve done…

Great Blue Heron

This is about a photo taken a long time ago…

About 25 miles from Fort Smith, along the south side of the Arkansas River, is a Corps of Engineers campground called Citadel Bluff. Wooded and seemingly removed from civilization, this small park has long been a favorite spot of mine for birds and wildlife. I have seen numerous bald eagles, pelicans, cormorants, and more. And, I have always seen great blue herons.

On this day, I walked down the trail which parallels the river, through the woods to a stand of cane. Just beyond the cane is a small cove. I came out of the cane, and the heron flew from just a few yards away. After I recovered from my surprise, I raised my camera and took two photos: one with his wings upraised, and another on his downswing. I like the simplicity of the photo – just the heron, its reflection, and the Arkansas River.

Minolta Maxxum film camera, Tokina 400 mm f/5.6 lens – both are no longer made…

A Morning at the Nature Center

The Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center, actually.¬† That’s a mouthful; so those of us in the area simply say “The Nature Center.”¬† Regardless, it is a marvelous nature resource for the Western Arkansas region.

Recently, Jim Nieting and I spent a few morning hours walking some of the trails at the Nature Center, with cameras in hand.¬† Once again, I was amazed at the resource this is for us.¬† We saw or heard a number of bird species, numerous butterflies, a cottontail rabbit, and more…

At the Visitor Center, the staff has installed housing for Purple Martins, and it is very active.  Here are a couple of nestlings looking for their parents.

Purple Martin Chicks

Looking for their next meal on the wing

Also, near the Visitor Center, are a number of Canada Geese.¬† Most of us have more photos than we’ll ever need of this species, but I usually cannot resist taking another.

Canad Goose at the Nature Center

Canada Goose at the Nature Center

From the Visitor Center, we headed out on the Beaver Creek Trail, where we heard and eventually found probably the highlight of the morning: ¬†a pair of yellow-billed cuckoos.¬† Here’s one of them.

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo, with snack

Lots of butterflies, including this Pipevine Swallowtail:

Pipevine Swallowtail

Pipevine Swallowtail, enjoying the sun

On the Wells Lake Trail, we found this Cottontail Rabbit, very near Wells Lake.  He posed for us for quite some time.

Cottontail Rabbit

Cottontail Rabbit, near Wells Lake

Among the butterflies, we saw Hummingbird Moths.¬† Hard to photograph, because they never stop moving – and they move fast!¬† ūüôā

Hummingbird Moth

Hummingbird Moth at the Nature Center

Finally, as I was heading home, I saw this Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher on a high-line wire.¬† Technically, not at the Nature Center, but close enough to count as part of my morning adventures…

Scissortailed Flycatcher

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, near the Nature Center

The Janet Huckabee Arkansas River Valley Nature Center is one of 4 the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission has built across the state of Arkansas.¬† In Western Arkansas, we are¬†appreciative of and thankful for the facility.¬† As you can see, there is a large variety of fauna as well as flora to be seen here; I’ve only touched on a small portion of it.

All photos were taken with a Sony Alpha 77, and a Tamron 200-500 lens.  Yes, I used a tripod, built by Manfrotto.

Also, a big thank you to my fellow photographer, Jim Nieting. Definitely a better birder than I; several he saw and identified before I knew they were around. ūüôā