Archive for December 2014

Mountain Monday: 2014’s Favorite   12 comments

Despite 2014 being the first time in years where the amount of photography I did actually decreased, I had a pretty tough time picking a favorite mountain image.  A bunch are more spectacular and dramatic than this one.  But I really like the perspective and light, so this is the one!

Captured from the edge of String Lake in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, you see three peaks, the center one being the tallest one in the range, Grand Teton itself, at 13, 776′ (4200 m.).  The one on the left is called Teewinot Mountain, after the Shoshone word for “many pinnacles”.  This peak is very nicely highlighted by the light from the setting sun, which is streaming down and bouncing off the walls of Cascade Canyon.

I was just returning from a great hike along the range-front past Leigh Lake and to the sunny, empty shore of Jackson Lake, where I had a nice warm siesta.  I went off-trail for a couple hours and saw moose (including a baby), elk and deer.  I had been rushing to get back before dark, but when I came to String Lake, not far from the trailhead, the sun was getting ready to set.  I wandered off-trail and along the shoreline.  I was actually more in wildlife mode, with a long lens on.  But when I saw the light on Teewinot, with the Grand behind it, I began to look for good landscape compositions.

String Lake has plenty of rocks and logs along the shore, but I thought the partly submerged grass in this spot where a small creek entered matched the mood of approaching evening.  The light reflecting off the water looked beautiful filtered by the grass.  It’s been said that pictures will come to you if you let them, and that’s what happened this time.  The framed composition just appeared while I was awkwardly trying to keep my feet dry (I failed).  I set up quickly while the light lasted.  The vertical composition was so obvious to me that I didn’t do a horizontal.  I usually try to do both.

I named it The Sentinel because that’s what Teewinot reminds me of here.  Although I have a number of very nice images of the Tetons, this might be my favorite thus far.  But tell me what you think; don’t be afraid to be honest either!  I hope you are enjoying your short work week!

Teewinot Mountain and Grand Teton from String Lake.

Teewinot Mountain and Grand Teton from String Lake.

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Friday Foto Talk: Post-Processing – Part IV   10 comments

The aptly-named Blue Lake in Washington's North Cascade Mtns.

Aptly-named Blue Lake in Washington’s North Cascade Mtns.

This continues my mini-series on post-processing.  Check out Parts I through III here.  The goal is to get you started, not to give blow-by-blow instruction on specific post-processing techniques.  For one thing I don’t consider myself qualified to go into detail on any computer-based skill.  For another, I don’t think I’d like the way my blog would look with screen shots of software instead of pictures.

Once you’re more or less proficient in Lightroom, and have managed not to lose too many images (remember after importing any image into LR, never ever do anything with that image outside of LR!), you may want to explore extra software programs.  You don’t have to of course.  Lightroom is great as a start to finish solution.  But it can be a nice option for select shots.

I hesitate to recommend some of what I’m about to say.  There is, I think, entirely too much following going on in popular photography.  Has it always been this way or is it just the internet?  Choice of subject is only one way we ape one another (sunrise at Mesa Arch in Canyonlands, for e.g.).  The way we edit our photos is a minefield as well.

A recent shot from Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico.

A recent shot from Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico.

I’m not saying you should avoid using a technique you picked up from a fellow photographer, one that is enjoying popularity at the moment.  But I am saying you should only use it if it helps the image reflect your own aims and style.  As with life in general, I think the easiest way to pursue your own style and not follow someone else’s is to keep things as simple as possible.

That said, for a few select images, you may want to…

TRY OTHER SOFTWARE

Depending on the image, you can try other editing techniques (let’s call them “extras”) to get the specific look you want.  All depends on the mood you want to create.  Oftentimes you’ll need to apply one or more extras just to get an image to look like what you saw and experienced.  With many images this can be accomplished with standard editing in Lightroom or Photoshop.  But with others extra treatment may be called for.

Many people think the more you work with an image the further from reality it gets.  That’s not necessarily true.  If you’re not careful and thoughtful about your approach, you can certainly “overcook” any image.  But you can do that with very little work as well.  Also, as mentioned in Part I of this series, images often come out of the camera looking more dull and flat than the scene appeared at the time.

I'm so pretty: impala in the Luangwa Valley, Zambia.

I’m so pretty: impala in the Luangwa Valley, Zambia.

And so editing is needed simply to bring life back into a digital image.  This applies much more with digital than with film, which is one reason some still think film yields a more natural look than digital.  But this doesn’t have to be true.  All it takes to avoid the lifeless and flat look of digital is to use a purposeful approach.  Lightroom can get you there in many cases.  But if you find yourself, at least with some shots, spending an inordinate amount of time in Lightroom’s Develop module, trying a variety of presets, banging your head against the wall, and still not getting the results you’re after, it’s time to look at other programs.

I thought I'd throw in a photo to prove it's not all about nature with me.  I call this one, "take that tough boy"

I thought I’d throw in a photo to prove it’s not all about nature with me. I call this one, “take that tough boy”

Close in to Tumalo Falls, Oregon.

Close in to Tumalo Falls, Oregon.

WHAT ROLE PHOTOSHOP?

I recommend taking an image into Photoshop (or Photoshop Elements to save $) if there is complex cloning to do: taking out people or power poles and lines, for example.  Also use Photoshop to merge two or more images into a composite.  A composite is when, for example, you take that great portrait you got and then move just the person into a beautiful natural scene you shot last summer.  Or when you want to add a dramatic sky to a more interesting foreground.

Photoshop can do a whole lot more than this of course.  But it takes real time to learn how to become both proficient and time-efficient with Photoshop.  By the way, if you’re wondering whether or not to go for Photoshop or PS Elements, it depends on how serious you are, especially about printing.  The full version of Photoshop CS works in 16 bit color while Elements is in 8 bit.

In other words when you go from Lightroom into Elements you are cutting the color depth of your image in half.  The fuller color depth can yield slightly smoother color transitions in some images, noticeable by discerning viewers on large, high quality prints.  But you almost certainly won’t see any differences, especially on digital displays.

A tree, by itself, that I liked.

A tree, by itself, that I liked.

There are other differences between PS CS and PS Elements, but you might be surprised at how many advanced functions are shared between the two programs.  One more factor to consider:  Elements is still available as a stand-alone program, whereas Photoshop CS is only available as a cloud-based program, where you pay monthly.

Only you can decide how deeply you want to get into Photoshop.  I will say that many (or most) pros have made the transition to Lightroom for the lion’s share of their post-processing.   A lot of people still love Photoshop, and it is certainly powerful.  But if you aren’t already proficient, and of course if you don’t want to become a graphic designer or digital artist, Photoshop is a bit like using a full complement of tractors, plows and other farming equipment to work your little backyard garden.

That’s it for now.  Next week (I promise!) we’ll go into the wonderful world of plug-ins.  Have a wonderful weekend, and keep up that holiday spirit!

 

Good night!

Good night!

 

Merry Christmas!   8 comments

A cold winter's dusk just after one of Crater Lake's typical heavy dumps of snow, followed by a moonlight ski back.

Weather starts clearing on a cold winter’s dusk after one of Crater Lake’s typically heavy dumps of snow, followed by a moonlight ski back.  I miss skiing and I miss Oregon!

Mountain Monday: The Other El Capitan   6 comments

On some Sundays, I like to go behind the scenes of a shot for Single-image Sunday.  Work yesterday prevented me from posting.  So I had an idea.  Mountain Monday is one of those themes you see for posting pictures on the internet.  One example is Throwback Thursday).  But instead of just posting a mountain picture on Mondays, I’m going to start a little semi-regular series.  I figure, at the very least, for those times when I miss Single-image Sunday, it makes a good fall-back.

And so I’m combining Mountain Monday with the idea behind Sunday’s posts.  That is, I’ll post one image and briefly tell a story about it.  It’ll be a story of what I find most fascinating about the subject of the photo, and how I chose to photograph it given the conditions at the time.

I don’t like to go into detail about the settings and equipment I use while shooting; I don’t think it’s very interesting or illuminating.  But I do think it’s cool to see how other people see a given subject, what they find interesting about it.  In particular, I think it can be instructive to see how other photographers take what’s given in terms of light, weather and other conditions, and exactly how they choose to showcase the subject through their images.

When shooting, it’s always my goal to (first) put you right there as if you’re seeing the subject in real life, and at that moment; (second) to hold your attention long enough for a little story or emotion to come to mind; and (third) to make you see and appreciate some of what I love about the subject.  For me, this is the real purpose of photography.

So now, finally, to the image (they won’t all be this long!).  This is a mountain in west Texas that I recently bumped into.  I didn’t even know about another El Capitan.  I thought that “El Cap”, the one that overlooks Yosemite Valley in California was the only one.  You know, the one that is scaled by those incredibly limber rock jocks.

This El Capitan lies in west Texas near the New Mexico border.  It was, in the old west, a well known landmark for travelers.  In the 1700s and 1800s, it was a beacon for Spaniards and then white Americans pushing into the American desert southwest, heading for Santa Fe or California.  It was also an important landmark for native Americans in pre-historical times, going back at least 12,000 years.

Geologically, El Capitan is part of the Guadalupe Mountains, which is the uplifted portion of a long, mostly buried limestone reef.  This reef was alive in a warm sea 250 million years ago, in the Permian.  It was created by sponges, algae and solitary corals seeking sunlight.  And it supported, as modern reefs do, a huge community of bottom-crawling and free swimming critters.  Coiled-shell ammonites, a squid-relative that is survived today by the reclusive pearly nautilus, were especially abundant.

Imagine time-travel (of the deep variety): the soft-muffled sound of small waves washing across a shallow bank of brilliant white sand; iridescent shades of turquoise blue water spread in layers across a subtropical seascape, a warm breeze, and no other humans within millions of years of you.

What the years have done to it!  The Chihuahuan Desert is one I haven’t properly explored yet.  I began to on this little trip.  I found a great variety of succulents, including cholla, prickly pear, and several different varieties of agave (including century plant), plus various kinds of yucca.  What they all have in common is the ability to hurt when you bump into them.  The yucca pictured is called the Spanish bayonet!

For the picture, I scouted this area the day before.  I saw (and felt!) that the slopes bordering a major wash had plenty of plant diversity, plus a great view of the mountains.  Next to El Capitan is the highest mountain in Texas, Guadalupe Peak at 8751 feet.

Next morning was cold, windy and very clear.  Most landscape photographers, you may know, hate clear skies.  But it was so darn clear that you could see halfway across Texas (not really).  The clarity of the air itself was attractive to me.  So I dragged myself out of bed and wandered through the pricklies.

For the foreground, I wanted either an endemic, cool looking plant or an interesting outcrop of limestone.  The background was a given: El Capitan & the Guadalupes in the first rays of the sun.  The extreme clarity of the air meant that using a wide angle lens and moving very close to the foreground would, despite the lack of clouds, add some sense of depth.  The lesson: don’t always assume clear, cloudless conditions equals a flat, boring photograph.

Though this isn’t an award-winner, and certainly won’t secure many “wows” on the internet, I think it’s the kind of image that both depicts this place as it is and also shows it to good advantage.  What more can a photographer ask for?

Yucca and the Guadalupe Mountains, west Texas

Yucca and the Guadalupe Mountains, west Texas

Wordless Wednesday: Jeweled Chamber   11 comments

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Friday Foto Talk: Post Processing Part III   17 comments

Wordless Wednesday: Foggy Morn   Leave a comment

Revisiting the Leaves   1 comment

I so rarely re-blog, but this is one that struck home. Thanks Jakz!

Life As I Pretend To Know It

While taking a walk through the neighborhood, stepping along the sidewalks strewn with fallen, crunchy leaves, I found my mind repeatedly drawn back to a somewhat absurd thought.

I think I wouldn’t mind being a leaf.

In their earliest of days, leaves break forth from their buds touting vibrant colors. They bring with them fresh life and the hope of spring, despite arriving in the slowly receding gray days of winter. They instantly greet life fully, welcoming the warmth of the sun as they reach for the skies above. They dance in the wind and let the rain splash across their surfaces. They embrace their life and where they were placed in this world.

As their days progress, slowly, steadily, they mature. They grow broader, hardier, and their reach extends further. Their ability to shade the world from the harsh sun increases, just in time for summer’s grand appearance. During the…

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Posted December 9, 2014 by MJF Images in Uncategorized

Friday Foto Talk: Post Processing – Part II   9 comments

Portland, Oregon is nicknamed Bridge City for a reason.

Portland, Oregon is nicknamed Bridge City for a reason.

I’m a shooter first, editor second.  But the modern era has provided such great variety of different software programs to use that it’s impossible to ignore the obvious:  post-processing is important.  We have available to us a virtually limitless supply of different editing treatments, and images can be manipulated to a degree never imagined by photographers of the past.

You can add or subtract major elements to your photo, merge as many different exposures as you wish, overlay all sorts of treatments that can make it look like a painting, etching, ancient film photo, etc.  Oh, and you can even strive to faithfully replicate what was in front of you.

Before you read this post, you may want to check out Part I.  It goes into the things you need to think about before deciding how you wish to approach post-processing.  Editing software costs real money, and it will take real time to learn it.  More time will be spent editing your photos.

It’s important to be realistic about how much time & money you want to invest, and to get a handle on what sort of payoff there might be.  For example, if you decide you want to learn Photoshop, how proficient do you want to get?  Do you want to become an expert, and how much time will that take?  More important, how much of a difference will it ultimately make to the quality of the sorts of images you want to make?

I’m going to recommend an approach here that in my opinion keeps things simple, and yet allows you a lot of room to explore your creative side.  In no way am I trying to convince you this is hands-down the best way to go.  One thing that has always bugged me about education in general, and photography education in particular, is that so many teachers try to pretend they are presenting things in a totally unbiased way.

That’s nonsense.  We all have biases, and no matter how much we try to remain impartial, those biases remain the moment we open our mouths.  I think it’s best to be honest about that.  If you’re pushing one way of doing things over another, fine.  Just don’t be self-righteous or ideological about it.  If you’re pushing a product or service you really love, just admit it and move on.  Honesty is always the best policy.

Sugar snow.

Sugar snow.

JOB ONE: GET ORGANIZED

What is the first thing you want to do with your photos after they are recorded onto a memory card (SD, compact flash, etc.)?  Make them look pretty?  Share them?  You may choose to shoot in Jpeg and share you photos instantly via Instagram.  Of course that’s fine.  In fact it’s very popular.  But it’s also a fairly casual approach.  If you’re more serious about your photography, I recommend doing the following before you do much (if any) shooting.

BUY LIGHTROOM (LR):  Most professionals either use Photoshop Lightroom or Photoshop CS or a combination of the two.  To start out you only need Lightroom, which is currently in version 5.  Optionally you can add Photoshop Elements (the cheaper pared down version of Photoshop).  Lightroom is the best general purpose software program made for photographers.  You can also use Aperture, which is similar but not quite as versatile.  Some Nikon shooters swear by Capture NX, which is that company’s in-house program.  

A winter moon.

A winter moon.

TO CLOUD OR NOT?  For better or worse, Adobe is trying to push us all onto “the cloud”.  In fact, the latest version of Photoshop CS is only offered on the cloud, as a pay-per-month service.  For Lightroom, you can still buy the standalone program for about $135, $79 for students & teachers.  Photoshop Elements (version 13) is also available in non-cloud form, for about $80.  How long will Adobe continue to offer these two in stand-alone form is anyone’s guess.  They’re having a lot of success getting people to switch to the cloud.

Buying the cloud version means you get free upgrades whenever the new versions come out.  You can also store files online and work on them from a different computer.  But this isn’t strictly cloud-based software.  You still download the software to your computer like normal, so you don’t need to be online to use it (a common misconception).  You do need to have web access at least once every 4 months to confirm your subscription.

Another common misconception about the cloud is that you’re automatically sharing your work with strangers online: not true.  While sharing is a breeze, you can still save any or all of your images on your own personal hard drives.  Cloud storage actually makes a handy option for backing up your edited selects, though speeds aren’t quite to the point where it’s a realistic offsite backup option for RAW image catalogs.

You can get both Lightroom and the full version of Photoshop CS  as a cloud-based package for $10/month, which isn’t such a bad deal if you’re the type who’s likely to buy the latest version anyway.  I haven’t jumped to the cloud yet, mainly because I don’t do a lot in Photoshop and don’t always upgrade when a new version of Lightroom comes out.

Classic buckboard wagon, Death Valley, California.

Classic buckboard wagon, Death Valley, California.

LEARN LR BASICS & SET UP A FILE STRUCTURE:  Learn something of how Lightroom works to organize your photos.  Learn about catalogs and the Library Module.  You can learn about the Develop Module (editing) and all the other stuff LR does as you go.  Decide on and set up a file structure on your computer.  Make it simple and make sure it fits your way of thinking.

Make sure you have enough storage space for the first year or so of image files plus their (multiple) backups.  Depending on your camera, images take up more space than you might think.  If you’re going to shoot video as well, that takes even more space.

Also decide on how you will be naming your photos.  The names your camera gives them are just meaningless numbers.  Books on Lightroom cover naming and file structure, but it really is a personal thing.

SET YOUR CAMERA TO SHOOT IN RAW:  This will enable you to edit and save various versions of the image, all the while keeping the original file untouched.  You’ll also have greater latitude when it comes to editing.  You can also shoot in RAW plus Jpeg if you want.  Always choose the highest quality and for color space choose either Adobe RGB (or ProPhoto RGB if it’s offered), not sRGB.  Later, after editing, you will convert to the narrower color range of sRGB if the image is to be displayed on a digital screen.

To get to this little cabin in southern Utah, you need to get your (or your horse's) feet wet walking through a beautiful canyon.

To get to this little cabin in southern Utah, you need to get your (or your horse’s) feet wet walking through a beautiful canyon.

UPLOAD & BACK UP

This is something you should do as often as possible, preferably after every shoot.  Memory cards do fail (or get lost), and you don’t want to experience the frustration of capturing a great image only for it be lost before it can even be viewed.  Save the original RAW files to a hard drive separate from your working drive, which is the one that runs your software.  You might make this drive a fast, solid-state drive, in which case it’d probably be too small for an image catalog anyway.

Back up these files to a separate hard drive onsite, then mirror that to another drive, giving you three copies of each image file.  You can keep this drive offsite or make yet another copy (for a total of four) and store that offsite.  If your internet speed is fast enough you can consider cloud-based offsite backup.  In most places that’s impractical, so what do you do if you’re traveling?  Of course this limitation will disappear soon enough.

Next time we’ll continue with what to do once your images are uploaded to the computer.  Have a great weekend!

After stormy weather in the Grand Canyon, water pockets at Toroweap on the north rim are full to the brim.

After heavy thunderstorms in the Grand Canyon, water pockets at Toroweap on the north rim are full to the brim.

Ouachitas & Ozarks Part II   8 comments

The Ozarks are a land of limestone and blue-green rivers.

This post continues a mini-series on the Ouachitas and Ozarks that I started last Friday.  Check out Part I before reading this one.

HOW THE OZARKS CAME TO BE

So let’s continue with the geology of the Ozarks.  If you’ve been to other places in the world with a lot of limestone caves, and if you’re observant, you’ll recognize a distinct type of terrain in the Ozarks: karst topography.  Karst is made up of steep but not very high mountains.  Most all karst lies in lower latitudes, so it tends to be forested.  Caves, sinkholes and underground rivers are very common in this kind of terrain.  You may at first glance find it hard to recognize karst in the Ozarks.  But because of their great age, the karst here is more subtle than that of, for example, the Malay Peninsula or southwestern China.

This classic karst terrain in southern Thailand is obvious because it is young.

This classic karst terrain in southern Thailand is obvious because it is young.

Still, karst topography anywhere is not easily missed.  In the middle Paleozoic Era, some 350 to 450 million years ago, the Ozarks were what geologists call a carbonate platform, a sandy seafloor interrupted occasionally by shallow reefs.  But “carbonate platform” is too dry a term for me.  It was in fact a warm, tropical sea, filled with marine life and dotted with islands.  To put it even more simply, it was one of the many pre-human paradises that have existed on Earth.

Like today, the marine life was dominated by tiny planktonic (free floating) organisms.  But there was also a very abundant sessile community (seafloor-dwellers like clams, etc.).  Finally there were free swimmers like early fish and many squid-like creatures.  Early sharks, which came in a variety of weird forms, patrolled the waters.

Most of the life in that ancient sea made their shells out of calcium carbonate, pulling CO2 out of the seawater and in the process helping to keep the world from warming up too much.  When these little critters died they drifted down and accumulated on the sea floor.  The limy sediment piled up, later to form limestone rock thousands of feet thick.  The world’s largest lead-zinc mines occur in the Ozarks in what’s called the Viburnum Trend.  Abundant lead and zinc occurs characteristically in thick stacks of limestone.

Limestone, originally laid down in a warm sea, lines the Buffalo National River, AR.

Limestone, originally laid down in a warm sea, lines the Buffalo National River, AR.

While the Ouachita Orogeny buckled and broke the land to the south, thrusting up high mountains, here in the Ozarks it simply lifted the carbonate platform straight up into a shallow dome-like plateau.  (It also lifted up the entire southern part of the Great Plains.)  When the limestone was lifted, it began to be subjected to the effects of a groundwater.

The water table is always changing with time.  In wetter climates the limestone bedrock lay submerged in mildly acidic groundwater, which slowly enlarges fractures, dissolving out cavities.  In drier times the rock was above water table.  This is when familiar features like stalactites and stalagmites would form. The evolution of caverns only halts when erosion of the land above reaches them and they dry out.  But without these often well-hidden openings, the Ozarks wouldn’t be one of the best places to go caving in North America.

A river you can boat on runs deep into this limestone cavern in the karst of southern Laos.

TRAVEL BASICS

As in much of the U.S., renting a car is the only realistic way to see much.  A regular two-wheel-drive sedan will do fine in this part of the country.  Flying in you can try to get a relatively cheap flight to Fayetteville or Little Rock, Arkansas.  Oklahoma City (4-5 hours by car) or Dallas (7 hours to the Ozarks, 4 to the Ouachitas) are also options.

Often when you’re looking at exploring a region, you can save money by flying relatively cheaply to a town that relies on tourism.  There’s a good chance you’ll be able to score a cheap rental car too, then you can skip town and drive to your preferred (less touristy) destination.  It works well as long as your tourist-town gateway isn’t too far from where you’re going.  Las Vegas, only a few hours away from Zion National Park, is a good example.

A stream running through a cave in the Ozarks drops into a pretty little pool.

A stream running through a cave in the Ozarks drops into a pretty little pool.

For the Ozarks, try looking into the town of Branson, Missouri.  Lying smack dab in the Missouri Ozarks, Branson has gambling and country music and you either love it or hate it.  You might be able to get good flight and rental car deals to and from Branson.  A flight to Dallas will still probably be cheaper, but remember to factor in gas and time when making a decision.  For the Ouachitas, try Hot Springs, Arkansas.  It isn’t as hot a tourist destination, but there’s a National Park.

Once you arrive and have transport, there are numerous potential base-towns that offer anything you may need, plus a great diversity of lodging.  A couple larger ones are Hot Springs, Arkansas (home town of former president Bill Clinton) and Fayetteville, AR (home of the Razorbacks – college football is big in this area).  Small towns are quite numerous, and fairly cheap motel rooms can be had in most of them.

Camping is possible in the Ouachita National Forest.  Simple and basic as always, National Forest campsites here are often located beside lakes stocked with fish.  Good state parks can also be found.  Magazine Mountain State Park in Arkansas hosts an excellent state park with great hiking trails, camping and a beautiful lodge with outstanding views.

Campsite: Oachitas, AR

MAGAZINE MOUNTAIN

I went to Magazine Mountain because it was the highest peak in the Ouachitas.  While you can hike a short trail to the summit, trees prevent much of a view.  What you will see up there is an amazingly large map of Arkansas made of stone!  Better views are found along the ridge-lines leading from the summit.  A few miles south of the turnoff to the lodge, along Hwy. 309, a small scenic overlook beckons you to stop.  From here you can walk the trail a hundred yards or more for even better natural stone viewing platforms.

A large picnic area off the east side of the road just uphill from the overlook makes a good place to eat lunch, and is also a good spot from which to go hiking.  The lodge at Mt. Magazine is on a side road that takes off west of Hwy. 309.  At this intersection there’s a small but nice visitor center.  Stop and learn something of the local plant and animal life, get maps and hiking tips, and fill up a water bottle.  The lodge is pretty luxurious.  I don’t know the prices and they’re not listed on the web, but Google them and call or email.  There are cabins, rooms and suites, all with splendid views.  A restaurant that serves good basic meals is onsite as well.

Magazine Mountain is the highest peak in the Oachitas at just over 2800 feet, and this is a view from near the summit.

Magazine Mountain is the highest peak in the Oachitas at just over 2800 feet, and this is a view from near the summit.

The Benefield Loop, Bear Hollow and North Rim trails have the best views at Mt. Magazine.  Don’t forget the camera; you’ll have many photo opportunities at both large and small scales.  The sandstone here is harder and more resistant to erosion than surrounding shale, so it stands up, forming stunning overlooks (see above).  It’s tempting to put a friend/subject/victim out on one of these and photograph them looking heroic.

The rock outcrops also host very interesting lichen and moss, and in summertime beautiful wildflowers spring from its crevices.  You may find your macro lens getting a good workout at Mt. Magazine.  Keep an eye out for deer on the roads of course, and watch for snakes too, especially as it warms up in spring.  There are venomous (but not deadly) copperheads here.

Ancient sandstone in the Ouachita Mountains is typically encrusted with moss and lichen.

Ancient sandstone in the Ouachita Mountains is typically encrusted with moss and lichen.

I best leave it there.  The next installment will highlight some of the region’s cultural history and describe a few nice spots to visit and photograph in the Ouachitas and Ozarks.

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