If you’ve been following my blog, you probably know how much I love obscure Arkansas locations with rich history! Tall Peak Fire Tower (or Lookout) in the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas definitely fits the bill. After wanting to shoot the Milky Way there all summer, the timing just hadn’t worked out yet– until now! I saw clear skies in the forecast over Labor Day weekend, and knew this was my chance.
#2 on my quest to visit all Arkansas state parks is the Louisiana Purchase Historic State Park! (Check out my other blogs in this series here!) At only 37.5 acres, I thought for sure this tiny state park was Arkansas’ smallest. It’s actually the eleventh smallest, which means there are ten even tinier parks out there to check off my list! Despite its small size, there is plenty of history and natural beauty to soak in at this gorgeous park.
I was lucky enough to get out to one of my favorite places in Arkansas this past weekend– the Richland Creek Wilderness. If you’re okay with a little bushwhacking and probably getting wet, Richland Creek holds countless hidden gems! On Saturday I met up with new friends Dara and Brennen (aka @ozarkditchhiker — she is a fellow photographer and her work is stunning!) to tackle the 5-mile round trip hike to Richland Falls.
I live in central Arkansas, so I know firsthand how brutal summer can be. This past week we had temperatures in the high 90’s with near-100% humidity. In that kind of weather, there’s not a lot you can do outdoors. Luckily, I have a remedy– Blanchard Springs. I can’t think of any other nearby destination that has so much to offer in the hottest months.
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 SunsetWX.com (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:
As someone who is native to the Ozarks in northwest Arkansas but now living in mostly-flat central Arkansas, I often miss the expansive overlooks atop towering bluffs of the Buffalo River. Luckily there is another place to enjoy some clifftop views that’s a lot closer to where I live now– Emerald Park in North Little Rock.
If you want to, you can go nuts with planning a Milky Way shoot! I do my night shooting on the weekends (my 9-5 keeps me from staying up all night on any random week day) so I often plan obsessively to make sure my time out in the field– in the middle of the night– isn’t wasted. Unfortunately, mother nature sometimes has other plans, and all your own planning can go down the drain with just a few clouds showing up in the sky.
I use all sorts of resources to plan my Milky Way shooting excursions. I like the “Astronomy” feature on Accuweather that gives you a simple outlook for how good the stargazing conditions are. Two powerful tools I often suggest are the clear sky charts for astronomers on Clear Dark Sky and light pollution maps at DarkSiteFinder. These will help you determine how dark your shooting location will be (yellow at the absolute least, but blue and black areas will give you fabulous results!) and what percentage cloud cover you’ll encounter, among other things. I also use the StarWalk app on my iPhone to determine where the Milky Way will be in the sky at certain times, to even more accurately plan my shoot.
I was armed with all of these tools when I set out to Greer’s Ferry in Arkansas this weekend, hoping to catch the Milky Way over the lake on a gorgeous humid Saturday night. All forecasts predicted clear skies; it was a new moon and very dark; and Greers Ferry is in a green zone, plenty dark for MW viewing. I relaxed by the lake, had a couple of beers, and waited…
Only for some low lying clouds to roll in. I waited, and waited, hoping they would dissipate; but the sky only grew cloudier as the night went on. All my camera was picking up was yellow light pollution reflecting off the hazy clouds, with no stars in sight. A total bust. By 2 am I hit the hay.
I’m glad I took a bunch of test shots at dusk– I do these to check my composition and make sure the image will be sharp. I happened to catch a few frames of a lit up boat gliding down the lake after sunset– not what I had set out for, but a neat image nonetheless. I already have plans to get out on the next new moon with a group of photographers to shoot the Milky Way, and I hope there are no clouds this time!
In other news, I had been having a ton of issues with the host of my store, and subsequently cancelled my account with them. I am currently reviewing my other store options so hopefully I can get another one up and running soon! In the meantime, if there are any images you see here that you would be interested having printed, please shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can work something out. Thanks for stopping by!
I was lucky enough to get to join the Arkansas Nature Lovers’ group (find them on Facebook!) on May 5th this year on a hike up Indian Creek to the Eye of the Needle. (Most of the photos below from the hike were taken by the group leader, Jeff Johnson. Thanks again, Jeff!) I absolutely love this area, but it is particularly remote and rough, so I jumped at the chance to hike it with an experienced group.