Arkansas - April 2019
Traveling to focus only on photography and with people I met on Instagram might sound a little crazy but doing something you enjoy with people that have the same interests as you is a great way to push back the edges of your comfort zone and will invariably add a few more tricks to your artistic skill set.
Recently I’ve come to the conclusion that photographers are just wired a bit differently – they’re ok with having to arrive hours early to a spot just to set up a shot; they’ll wade through mud and muck and; challenge poison ivy to get to an opportunity to observe an eagle’s nest; and they’ll sacrifice sleep just so that they can shoot from sunset all the way through to sunrise. Photographers by nature don’t mind waiting for something interesting to happen whether it is to see if the sunset will produce amazing colors or to study the patterns in rushing water to create interesting abstracts. Slowing down and observing the details most people walk past allow them to create and freeze a scene that changes from one second to the next.
I met Lin, Jon, and Chris a couple of years ago when I invited a small group of DFW Instagrammers to a photography meetup. Inspired by an image I had seen posted on Instagram, the group met there with the hopes of finding autumn color. The consensus was that it was a bonafide thumbs down location but after a couple of beers and a burger followed by good conversation friendships were forged. A couple of photography trips outside of our respective home turfs have all been fun and successful and this lined up a third road trip to coincide with celebrating Jon’s birthday. There is always lots of laughing, learning, and zero opportunities to catch up on sleep.
Michael and Cody, two new Insta-friends joined us and the six of us set out on a long weekend to explore Petit Jean State Park located between the Ouachita Mountains and the Ozark Plateaus in northern Arkansas. Arkansas’s nickname, “The Natural State” was initially created for state tourism advertising and I can attest that Arkansas did not exaggerate its beauty.
Arkansas is refreshingly easy on the eyes. Beautiful rolling hills and plenty of tree-covered mountains make you wish you had access to a porch and a comfortable chair. In Petit Jean SP, miles of hiking trails lead you to some of the prettiest scenery. Under the forest canopy there are so many opportunities to pull out your camera. Sounds of your own footsteps as you crunch through fallen leaf-covered trails are the way to the good stuff. Lichen, moss, gnarled tree stumps, heart-shaped leaves, purple-I don’t know what they are called flowers are tiny but you can’t miss them because they stand out in all the greenery, and delicate spiderwebs become interesting subjects to nature and macro photographers.
Our visit in early April included several cloudy and drizzly days but the landscape popped with bright pink blossoms from Redbud trees and a handful of Dogwood blooms sprinkled among the forests signaled that spring was just beginning in Arkansas. Recent rains had the creeks, streams, and rivers flowing and the sounds of a good waterfall drew us to it like a bee to a flower bud. With spring at its feet, the forests are full of ferns unfurling, wildflowers popping through the soil, and fungi doing its thing in the cool moist air. Trees in Arkansas seem to stand a little taller and their bark seemed a little more interesting to me or maybe it’s because I actually stopped and took the time to really look at all of its jagged edges and unique patterns. And, the jade-colored water in Falling Water Falls . . . that alone is worth the eight-hour drive from Austin. Time sort of pauses while you wander and explore.
A little exploration past the Haw Creek Falls, led us to a beautiful stream lined with ferns and peppered with wildflowers. Big moss-covered boulders make beautiful subjects and are a little slippery under the dappled forest canopy if you aren’t extra careful. Equipped with specialty filters and remote timers we all enjoyed playing along the water’s edge. Rushing water plummeting down a cliff makes me smile because I know how to stop it in its tracks and turn it into a silky smooth artistic blur.
Every evening, we pulled out our laptops and worked on images. Ideas, suggestions, and camaraderie flow freely in these editing sessions. There is no better gauge for getting to know another photographer than to watch her/him work. Looking at the same subject, sometimes standing shoulder to shoulder – everyone sees the same thing so differently. Artistic interpretation is what you decide it to be. And, for me, that is why I enjoy shooting with other people. I always learn more about this art form when I shoot with better photographers than me. I hope that you find people that inspire you to chase a few waterfalls and venture outside your comfort zone.