Taken with a FujiFilm GFX 50s and 32-64 lens, ISO 200 hand held 5 part horizontal panorama.
Calico Rock has to be one of the best places in Arkansas to go and grab a panorama and feature both wonderful scenery and the White River. Just down stream on the White River you will find the town of Calico Rock and in this photograph the town is visible just off in the distance. You can spend the whole day here and the scene is always changing. On this day, I was there around 5:00 p.m. and there were no clouds in the sky at all. Many times I have been there and just had a huge blue sky with no clouds. For such a shot, clouds to me make it much more interesting, period. However on this day just as sun was starting to go down, a line of clouds rolled in and the moon rose over them. I could not have asked for a better scene.
On this evening I was shooting the Fujifilm GFX 50S, which is Fuji’s new entry into the Medium Format range of cameras. Fuji is using the same 50Mp sensor from Sony that has been used by Phase One, Pentax and Hasselblad. But this is the first large format camera from Fuji ever, as before all of their cameras have been APS-C. More about the camera in later reviews, but I have to say I am totally impressed with what can be done with this camera. I knew that the sensor had a lot of range since I used the Phase One versions, but never hand held. The Fuji GFX is both considerably lighter than the Phase One XF and the 120mm lens has image stabilization something that no Phase One lens has. Normally I have taken this in 15 exposures, 3 for each segment but with the GFX, I just took an exposure for the middle of the exposure range and pushed up the shadows and pulled down the highlights. Neither of the extremes were blown out. In fact the shadow recovery rivals the Nikon D810 and in fact may be just 1/2 a stop better. But the real amazing facet was just how sharp the 120mm lens was, outstanding optic.
This image has shadow push in several areas, the entire lower half of the left and right sides were pushed at least 2 stops and the middle of the image which was not in the sun was push at least 1 stop. The sky on the far left was pulled down 1 1/2 stops and the sky on the far right was pulled down 1 stop.
I took these Fuji Raw files straight to a panorama in Lightroom first, and then worked on the image in both Lightroom and Photoshop with several Topaz tools.
Overall the color and clarity is excellent throughout, and I have attached a couple of full sized crops below to show this. The first is the lower right side featuring the bluff and the trees along the river. This part of the image was pushed as much as 2 stops and I still have a nice green color in the trees that are just starting to leaf out. The other crop is from the center of the image where the sun was shinning and again you can see that the amount of fine details is very impressive.
Written for PhotosofArkansas by Paul F Caldwell
Taken with a Phase One IQ100 back and Phase One XF camera @ 35mm LS lens, @ ISO 100 Single frame with a lot of push in the shadows.
The view of the White River from Calico Rock is one of the best in the state. Here you have a huge sweeping bend in the river and a beautiful valley that is full of deciduous trees that can produce a wonderful fall color display (however this did not happen in 2016). This spot on the river is just above the town of Calico Rock and you can easily see the town from this spot. I prefer to work this spot in the early morning or late evening. In the late summer to early fall the sun will set just off to the left of the frame and allows for a wonderful afterglow. In the winter and later fall the sun will be too far to the left to be really much of a part of the shot.
If you come to this spot in late May to the end of June the sun will set right over the lone pine tree and will give you a lot more illumination on the river and trees below the bluff. Calico Rock is also a great spot for night photography as there is not very much local light pollution that will effect your shot. However be warned that during most nights, the river fog will quickly rise over the top of the bluff and start to block out your view of the sky. It’s a great thing to watch as the fog starts to build up upstream and then starts to roll down the valley, eventually filling everything up. You will have to continuously watch the front of your lens as it’s very easy for the outer element to fog up.
Just another great spot to spend an afternoon in Arkansas.
Taken with a Nikon D810 and 14-24 Lens, @ 24mm in 3 vertical shots, stitched together in Lightroom
The view from the summit of Mt. Magazine offers some amazing vistas, and one of the best is looking out to the due south towards Blue Mt. Lake and Blue Mountain behind it. This shot was taken last year, in late October and I was able to catch the rising sun hitting the rock and old tree in the foreground. Mt. Magazine is the highest place in Arkansas and has a lot to offer the visitor. There is a wonderful lodge where you can spend the night and enjoy a great meal after hiking around on some of the trails. The area is also a favorite for rock climbing and hang gliding.
I like to work this particular spot on Mt. Magazine year round, but the spring and fall are my favorite times. The sun will only come into the frame during December and January, but you can still get great photographs during the rest of the year. The play of light is amazing here.
Mt. Magazine’s summit is 2,700 feet high, and is the highest place in Arkansas. You can see for many miles off in pretty much any direction. The lodge offers a higher vantage point so when you visit make sure stop by.
The view from Mt. Magazine’s north side is just as impressive, so make a point of driving over to that side also. There is a one way drive which has several pull outs for viewing. During the fall you can expect a lot of traffic and a bit of congestion, especially during the weekends. The lodge will be booked up a year in advance for the best dates in the fall so plan accordingly.
This image was taken with aid of a tripod, in 3 vertical segments with a Nikon D810 and 14-24 lens. I used the 24mm focal length and F8 with the base ISO. I did not use a polarizer since I was panning across the scene and knew that would cause problems with composition later. I used Lightroom to work on the raw files, and also to make the panorama. The fall colors were just a few days before peak when this image was taken.
Taken with an Phase One IQ100 @ 35mm LS lens, ISO 50 and circular polarizer for both sky and cutting glare on leaves.
This is the time I like to start working the Buffalo River, as fall is just around the corner, and as can be seen in this shot, is actually started on the Buffalo.
The Buffalo River at Roark Bluff is one of my favorite spots to photograph and I work it as often as I can, but the drive up and back has started to slow me down. I was hoping for a few clouds to help break up the sky and there were there, but only towards the far side. The sun was playing hide and seek most of the afternoon, and when the sun finally came out the wind started to blow ruining the reflection. There are a lot of spots on the Buffalo to catch a reflection but this is my favorite.
This was taken in one exposure, something I never could have done before with a Phase One CCD back, the 100MP CMOS chip does have some excellent range. This type of shot is one of the most difficult as you are working directly at the brightest part of the subject. This means that anything not illuminated by the sun (in this case the left side of the river) will be in deep shade. You want enough exposure to be able to pull this area up some and not leave it black, but you also have to be very care not to blow out the sky, especially the left side. The use of a polarizer was needed more for the glare on the leaves to the right. Without it the colors would not have been as nice and clean, you have to be careful when working such a scene to see that you keep the polarized effect as even as possible on your sky, so you may need to try a few exposures.
After waiting for almost an hour, the sun popped back from behind the clouds and the wind died down long enough for this shot.
Taken with a Fuji X-Pro2, ISO 400, 35mm F2.0 lens, at F9, Panorama taken in 4 vertical images, each segment 3 exposures for a total of 12. Worked up in Adobe LR
Calico Rock, is one of the more interesting spots on the White River in Arkansas. You can drive right to it and when you arrive, you have a sweeping view of one of the larger bends of the White River. The bluff is about 150 feet above the river and you really cannot see much of the bluff itself. However there is one vantage spot where you can look to the west an there is a small out cropping that adds a lot to the photograph. Many call this “little Hawksbill Craig” after the larger feature up on the Buffalo River. However I just like to photograph the valley. If you look downstream, you will see the town of Calico Rock on the left hand bank of the river.
This shot was taken in a series of vertical segments, 4 total and for each segment I exposed 3 images. I then worked each of the 3 shots into a HDR balanced image in Lightroom. After that, I took the final 4 images and created a panorama. It’s very important to realize that you do not want to do any work on the individual HDR segments before the panorama merge. I prefer to use the boundary warp feature of Lightroom also as most of panoramas in taken like this will only work in a spherical format and thus your top and bottom edges will have some problems.
The Fuji X-Pro2 makes this very easy with it’s automatic bracketing shutter, where you only have to press the shutter once to fire all 3 brackets.
I have found that Fuji made some very good positive changes to the dynamic range of the X-Pro2 as can be seen in this image. Also Adobe must have done a bit of tweaking to their X-trans conversion for the X-Pro2.
You can get to Calico Rock from Little Rock, in about 3 hours and the drive is quite beautiful.
Taken with a Phase One IQ100 and 35mm LS lens, 2 part horizontal pano. Taken in 4 shots to merge later for foreground and background in Helicon Focus
Arkansas has many great streams to hike but one of the best is Falling Water Creek, which is well named as it has a large number of waterfalls it’s entire length before emptying into Richland Creek. Falling water creek has an upper and lower half, and some of the best spots to photograph are on the lower half. There you will find creek wide ledges like 6 finger falls. 6 finger falls, named for the cut outs the creek has made in the ledge, is quite a wonder. It offers great photographic opportunities year round but is best in the fall and spring. You will be lucky to find any water in the creek in the fall and if you do consider yourself lucky. The banks are lined with deciduous trees that offer a great display of fall color.
You will also like the fact that for most of it’s length, falling water creek has a forest service road that parallels it’s length and so offers quick access. This of course means in Arkansas you can expect to find all types of folks here on a good weekend, so plan your trip during the week if at all possible. The forest road is number 1205. Heading due north on the road, falling water creek will be on your right for the upper half, and then after you cross it on the left. For a portion of it’s length, the Ozark Highland trail is just above the road on the right, below the bridge. This is great day hike also.
Make sure to include a trip to the mouth of falling water creek at Richland Creek campground. Richland is the crown jewel of creeks in Arkansas and is also protected as a Wilderness Area, so you can enjoy a day without hearing a 4 wheeler.
Taken with a Pentax K1 in three vertical segments of 4 exposures each, LR used for HDR conversion to 3 vertical segemnts, Stitched in Lightroom into single 3 part panorama, ISO 100, F11 Pentax 15-30mm Lens @ 17mm.
In the late summertime of September, the Arkansas skies can surprise you. Many times you will find a pure blue sky about 1 hour before sunset, only to see some light cloud cover roll right as the sun sets. On this evening, I was able to catch some of this at Sam’s Throne. I had hoped to have clear skies as I was going to stay for a while after dark and work the Milky Way with the Pentax Astrotracer feature, but the sunset was a added bonus for sure.
Sam’s Throne is one of the premier climbing spots in Arkansas due to the bluffs that run for over 1 mile. The rock is a type of sand stone and and during the sunset will take on an orange color. The rocks are also covered with a bright orange lichen, one that I have really only found in this part of Arkansas. So at the times of bright and intense light, the rock of the bluffs can really stand out. I like to work from a spot where you can catch both the true throne (the smaller peak in the center of the image) and pick up the bluff line. During the late summertime the sun will set just off the bluff through the trees and can add a wonderful effect as it will accent the pines at the top of the bluff line.
This photograph, is quite a composition as it was taken in 12 frames, 4 from each station in a short panorama. I then blended each segment with Lightroom’s HDR tool into a 3 dng files, that were then combined into a 3 part panorama. This allowed me to capture both the brightest highlights in the shot and keep the noise out of my shadows. The green of the trees was just perfect on this evening, just a bit of yellow starting to show up in the tops. There were a few trees already starting to go into a full color display, but these were more towards the top of the bluff.
You can pick any of hundreds of spots to work at Sam’s. In this shot, you can see on the left side the same bluff line as it has worked around the hillside. I sometimes like to work from that spot also as you can still capture the sunset and you have a different perspective of Sam’s.
It takes about 2.5 hours to get to this part of Arkansas from Little Rock, and the drive north from Russellville is well worth it, especially in the Spring and Fall when the trees take on very unique colors.
08/22/16 Featured Arkansas Landscape Photography–The washing machine on the Cossatot River Southwest Arkansas
Taken with a Canon 5D MKII and 24mm TS-E lens, with a CL-PL and ND 0.9 filter installed, exposure time approximately 1.5 seconds.
You can find some excellent photographic opportunities on the Cossatot River, along with some of the best Arkansas whitewater. Go down there anytime the river is running over 500 cfs (cubic feet per second) and you can expect to see a lot of kayakers running the falls.
I like to hike the 6 falls when there is about 100 to 400 cfs max running the river. This allows you to make easy crossings and you can still get down close enough to the river to get some great angles. The river will run muddy right after a rain storm due to the massive amount of timber clear cutting in the area, so plan on heading down a day or so after a big rain.
You can easily hike down the entire left side (left side facing downstream) and there are 6 separate ledges which the river cuts through. Each has a unique rapid and name:
Cossatosser, Eyeopener, BMF, The Washing Machine, Whiplash, and Shoulder bone.
If you make it down there, remember that the sun will move across the river from left to right so the some of the best photograph will be early in the morning. The falls run due south. There are a ton of huge rocks that line the river and each of them will allow you a spot to setup for some great photos. The washing machine, featured in this photo has some of the best angles up on top of the ledge, but you need to cross over right above this small rapid. If the river is running too high, this can easily become a hazard so be careful. All the rocks are covered with slim moss and will be slick.
The rock is sandstone or something close and in the sun will take on a wonderful red-orange hue so try to make it on nice sunny day.
08/21/16 Featured Arkansas Landscape Photography–Storm Clouds over Buffalo Point, Buffalo National River Arkansas
Taken with a Phase One IQ100 and Phase One XF/35LS lens, at ISO 100, F12 for 1/40 of a second on tripod, single exposure.
This was taken back in early August 2016 on the Buffalo River in Northwest Arkansas. This part of the river is known as Buffalo Point, and is one of the more popular spots on the river. It features one of the larger campgrounds on the Buffalo along with hundreds of miles of hiking trails. Within 9 miles of Buffalo Point, you can driver over to Rush Arkansas which is an old mining town which dates back to around 1917. There is not much left standing at Rush, but it still offers some nice hiking.
This image shows just how fast conditions can change. I walked down to the river before sunrise. This particular bluff is on the east side of the river, thus will not get any sunlight until mid day. It’s a great spot to catch a sunset if the clouds lineup, but you also can expect to find hundreds of people wandering around the beach which just add confusion to both the scene and water. On this morning I was hoping to catch the area to myself, and for about a magic 40 minutes I had just that. There was almost no wind blowing, so I also was able to get a very nice reflection of the bluff. This bluff is about 80 feet tall and the face about 35 feet or so and it’s one of the classic Ozark bluffs made 100% from limestone so you can expect to get some interesting color from the rock.
I worked the area up and downstream, but this spot was the best as a early morning storm rolled in. When I first arrived there were no clouds in the sky at all just a bit of river fog, but within 30 minutes the top of an old thunderhead came over the river and really added to the shot. The heat and humidity were intense but the photographic opportunities were excellent.
This is single exposure from an IQ100 Phase One digital back and I have to say that the overall dynamic range of this back is impressive. The ability to finally cover a shot with just one exposure, knowing that you have room to work up shadows without a bracketing series of exposures is a great feature and long overdue from Phase One.
Taken with a Phase One IQ100 and 35LS lens, no filters @ ISO 100 for 1/40th of a second F12 and Phase One XF.
While on a trip to the lower Buffalo River, I was able to spend the night at Buffalo Point Campground. This is the first campground that was built on the Buffalo, and dates back to the WPA and CCC days of the late 1930’s in Arkansas. Here you are pretty low down on the river as there is only about 20 or so miles left before the river runs into the White River. Buffalo Point is a very popular spot on the river as it has an excellent campground, and there is a great swimming hole below the large bluff on the far side of the river. From here you can take a quick float down to Rush which is about 8 miles or do down river. It’s a great float to take in the fall to enjoy the fall colors as most often there will be enough water for floating year round.
I was hoping to catch the early morning light burning off the fog but there was only a small amount of fog. However there was a large cloud bank moving in from the west and sun managed to pop the lower clouds along with the fog rising up towards the top of the bluff. I had the place to myself, which on this river is a rare event so I was able to have almost 45 minutes before the first floaters started to come down from Hwy 14 and break up the great reflection on the river.
The Phase One XF and IQ100 worked together very well on this occasion. I was using a tripod due to the slower exposure times and the fact that the 35LS lens is so heavy. The camera controls on the back of the IQ100 LCD made working with this scene very easy. I ended up shooting several manual brackets but due to the impressive dynamic range of the IQ100 sensor, I was able to create this image from one exposure. The 35LS lens performed quite well, giving me excellent details throughout the image.