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

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

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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…  🙂

 

 

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.  🙂

 

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.

 

Red Reflections

I first saw reflections in water drops in a magazine – probably 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…  😉

 

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

Reflections

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 – just 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.

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!  🙂

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. 🙂

Of Waterfalls and Wildflowers

In late March, I took a week off from work.  The first day, I went to see a waterfall along the Mulberry River.  It’s one of those only showy during the rainy season, and the week before, we had substantial rainfall; unfortunate for those on spring break, but a nice set up for waterfall hunters.  🙂  Three years ago, my friends Mike Leonard (www.michaelleonardphotography.org) and Jim Anderson showed this particular waterfall to us, and Gayle and I were fortunate to sell some prints from this location.

So, I drove there again this year.  Here’s what I found.

Image

To get to this spot requires a climb of about 150 feet up the side of the steep hill.  I think it’s worth the effort.  After a series of photos at this spot, I moved to the other side, and further up the hill:

Image

What I didn’t notice in this image were the white wildflowers at the lower left.  My excuse is that I was concentrating on the waterfall and on not falling!  It was steep and slippery…

So, recently, Mike Leonard was printing this photo for a display at Bedford’s, and pointed out the flowers to me.  I looked them up in Audubon’s Guide to North American Wildflowers on my iPhone.  They are “Eastern Shootingstar.”  I’d never taken a photo of them.  But – they bloom from April to June, so a few days ago, I went back to see if they had bloomed again.

Back up the hill.  This time, the waterfall was only a trickle.  No shootingstars bloomed.  Not surprised, but I was disappointed.  However, the spiderworts were in full bloom and everywhere!  🙂

Image

Spiderworts have long been a favorite of mine, and I seldom pass on an opportunity to photograph them.  After this photograph, and others, I headed back down the hill, then the short walk back to where I had parked.  Beside the road, so close that my tripod was partially in the road, was this little flower.

Image

Looks to me like a freshly bloomed Eastern Shootingstar!  There was only one bloom, but to the left are several buds.  I didn’t see any others in the area, nor during the walk back to the car.  So… my biggest disappointment that morning was that the enemy Time passed far too quickly.  🙂

All photos were taken with the Sony Alpha 77.  For the flowers, I used the Minolta 100mm macro lens; the waterfall photos were shot with a Tokina 11-16 f/2.8 and a Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 lens.