For so long I had seen photos of this very distinctive tree here in central Arkansas called the “Atkins Bottom tree”… I figured this was as good a time as any to go check it out! Using (a pretty cool sunrise/sunset “predictor”) I saw that Friday night had a good chance of yielding a nice sunset, so I headed up to Blackwell (the tree is called the Atkins Bottom tree, but is really closer to Blackwell than Atkins). The sky was just getting darker and darker, looking pretty ominous by the time I arrived at the tree. Check it out:

Distinctive gnarled tree in front of a stormy dark sky.
First look at Atkins Bottom tree with Petit Jean Mountain in the background. Rain was obviously falling in the distance and the storm was heading my way.

Even though it was spitting rain and looking pretty dang dark, I decided to wait around a little while and see if the sun peaked out. Sunset was still about 15-20 minutes away. I could see a hint of pink in the distance and wondered if I ought to pack up and try and chase the sunset. Then, all of a sudden…

sunset over a unique tree
…this happened.

The glow of sunset began to light up the thick clouds. I couldn’t believe it! Trying to shield my camera from the fat drops of rain, I hustled out of the shelter of my car to nab some shots. And it just got better and better.

Sunset over a unique tree
What a sunset!

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a sunset with so much color. Besides adjusting the highlights and shadows, the images above are unedited. What luck!

I also managed to get out on the only really clear night of my break to shoot the Milky Way. I’m working on my post-processing techniques, and took some photos at Sleepy Hollow on the Maumelle River to work with in Photoshop to practice exposure blending. Really happy with the result I was able to achieve blending one 2-minute foreground exposure at dusk with 8 stacked 25-second sky exposures.

Milky Way over calm waters and subtle reflection.

So, though I’m a little deflated to be back at work today, I had a great time over the break and have more to look forward to this weekend– I have plans to float one of Arkansas’ water trails with some girl friends. Looks like clear skies in the forecast, yippee!

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