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.
Taken with a Canon 1ds MKII (16MP), multishot bracket for exposure, Canon 24-70 @ 24mm F 11 iso 200
This an example where it pays to work with older files, in this case, way back 2004, with more modern software. I have taken a lot of sunsets at Sam’s Throne, however this is still one of my all time favorites. When I purchased my Canon 1ds MKII, which had 16MP, I started retracing many of trips to places I loved to go as I felt that 16MP would be about the maximum in resolution for a long time to come. We all know that changed pretty quickly. However on this evening, I found the best shot was after the sun set as it painted a wonderful afterglow in the sky. Sam’s Throne was just starting to change for fall but there was plenty of color around. To make the shot perfect, the couple of clouds that rolled into the frame helped to breakup the solid sky.
Sam’s Throne is one of premier climbing spots in Arkansas but it’s also one of the best for photography. You have a huge bluff line that runs at least 1/2 mile or longer and allows for wonderful views of the Big Creek valley. In this view you can see the Throne itself and all the rolling hilss that work their way off into the distance. The forest here is a good mix of both pine and deciduous trees, mainly Oak, and Gum but there are also some nice Maples scattered though the valley. One of the best aspects of Sam’s Throne is the fact that you can drive very close to the bluffline and you only have about a 1/8 of a mile walk to get started. Sam’s Throne is a great place to camp also as there is now a primitive campground with about 10 sites.
As this series of shots was taken with an older Canon Digital camera, the noise in the shadows was excessive. The 1ds MKII was not noted for extreme dynamic range. Back in the day, I shot almost everything in brackets knowing I would need multiple shots to get the exposure coverage I needed without excessive noise even at base iso or one step up. I had worked this image many times with various HDR software toolsets, but never really received the output I was looking for. Now that Adobe Lightroom has an excellent HDR tool, I decided to go back and try this shot again. The result was impressive and I found a much better overall image. The big advantage to HDR in LR is that Lightroom leaves that output as an .dng, in essence a raw file. This means you have all the flexibility of a raw file but with the added exposure blend, and you can still use the excellent Lightroom Toolset. I have started going back to a lot of my early Canon photography and working it back in LR and the results have been impressive.
Taken with a Phase One IQ180 and Arca rm3di with Schneider 43mmSK lens, iso 100 @ 1/125th and F11. This was a interesting evening as there was a wedding going on at the same time. I was pretty amazed to see anyone trying to get married in a wind that was blowing as much as 30 mph at times. I kept trying to move to stay out of their way, however they wanted the bride and groom to stand where they could be in the sunset. Oh well, I am sure they don’t remember me with good feelings. Something to remember if want to have a wedding in a public spot. This shot for me was a winner and I was impressed with the Phase One IQ180 which I was blessed to use on this day. The conditions were less than perfect as I was shooting into direct sunlight and the wind was blowing close to 30 mph at times and really never stopped, which can be a common occurance at Sam’s anytime of the year.
To make matters worse, I was using a CCD Phase One IQ180 and knew that I was going to be limited in the shutter speeds I could use. I also knew that I more than likely would get some massive flare since I was shooting directly into the sun. I have seen that the Schneider’s don’t create as much of a damaging flare as the Rodenstock lenses do. At the time of this shot, I was using a Rodenstock 28mm and the Schneider 43mm. I knew I wanted the wide range of the 28mm, but I also knew that I would pay for the use of the Rodenstock with massive damaging flare. So I used the Schneider and was very happy with the result.
I did not use a CL-PL as I was concerned that I limit the amount of available light and thus create too much noise. Instead I took a series of bracketing exposures. I took this shot in a vertical series, but the Schneider is not noted for a great amount of hyperfocal range ever with tilt, so I figured I would not use the lower parts. After looking at the shot, I liked the center segment the best and just went with it. It’s going to be hard to see in this shot, but I was able to stop most of the motion at 1/125 of second shutter speed. The Schneider created a wonderful solar flare, which reached all the way through the shot. Many times such flares are faked later on Photoshop, but this one came from the aperture setting of F11. There were some contrails to contend with, but overall the colors I was able to pull from this shot still make me pretty happy.
Taken with a Fuji X-E1 18-55 lens @ 18mm and F11 iso 200, image taken in 3 vertical series and converted into 1 horizontal image. I can never get enough of the vista from Sam’s Throne in Searcy County, Arkansas. This spot is surround by red/yellow sandstone bluffs that really will catch the setting sun. In this view, the sun had already dropped below the hills in the distance, however there was still plenty of light available. This day had started out with a cloudy and overcast sky, which as the day wore on, started to open up. By sundown only one large storm was still visible way off in the distance and the light hitting it really made the thunderheads pop. One of the most beautiful things about Sam’s Throne is the way the hills overlap off into the distance. This is the valley of Big Creek which is one of the largest tributaries of the Buffalo National River. The bluffs around Sam’s Throne are a favorite for rock climbers in the state. It’s a great place to spend the day. I took this shot my my camera in the vertical orientation in 3 segments, and then stitched them into 1 image that is in the landscape orientation. This allowed me to have much greater overall resolution.
This actually happened in Mid 2013, but I never got around to writing about it. They finally finished the improvements and created a formal campground status for Sam’s Throne. This spot is a climbers paradise and for me a photographic wonder. I work this area year round and love to work the bluffs of Sam’s after dark. If you have not ever been here, it’s worth the trip up Hwy 7 to the Hwy 123 Junction. Take Hwy 123 for about 10 miles north and then start looking for this sign. You won’t find a bunch of RV steps here, and it’s a very informal campground, but it now has facilities and that’s a big improvement. Sam’s Throne is one of the most famous climbing spots in Arkansas and is featured by a over 1 mile long bluff line made from primarily sandstone. You can also look off the bluff to to the rock prominence that is the actual throne. The road down to the bluffs has been dramatically improved since the early day’s when it was just a logging road. Sam’s throne campground is pretty much on top of the bluff and you can get a great nighttime sky from there. Once you get down to the bluff line looking northward you get a great shot of Red Rock and the valley of Big Creek. Looking south towards the throne gives you a great view of the rolling hills moving off into the distance.
I have photographed Sam’s in pretty much all types of weather and as I mentioned above love to work it at night. It’s not a bad compromise as you won’t be too far out from your car. This area does get some rough folks driving by at times during the week, and I would not consider leaving a car alone at the trail head after dark unless there are some folks camping near by. During the summer months and peak climbing season you can expect to have people there. At the Bluff line you can walk along the top of the bluff in either direction and find great subject matter for your photography.
This shot is one taken during the night after the moon had set at the campground. There was a group that had started a huge bonfire and the way it was lighting up the trees really caught my eye. This shot was taken as single long exposure for about 30 minutes and during the time I had the shutter open a group of people walked by with head lamps on, and I really liked the effect they created.
Sam’s is a great spot to take the family and spend the entire day, be aware that there are sharp drop offs everywhere so if you are taking young children be careful.
Taken with a Canon 1ds MKIII, Pentax 35mm FA lens, Zork adapter, iso 100, F11. Sam’s Throne is one of the more iconic spots in the Arkansas Ozarks. It’s geology is also a bit unique in that most of the exposed rocks are sandstone. Sam’s Throne is the large hilltop in the left of the frame. There is a long exposed Bluff line that runs for about 1.5 miles opposite Sam’s and this bluff line is one of the premier climbing spots in Arkansas. I like to work Sam’s throughout the entire year, but this wintertime shot was a rare opportunity. Arkansas had a major snow event the night before and as I got to Sam’s the clouds were just starting to clear. I was blessed with a bright blue sky poking through the clouds and a great coating of snow on everything. It would have been great to be there early in the morning when the trees were still lined with snow. I took this shot in a series 3 vertical segments with a Zork adapter and a Pentax 35mm FA lens and then I stitched the images together. You can get to Sam’s by traveling north on Arkansas Hwy 7 to the Junction with Hwy 123. Stay on Hwy 123 for about 12 miles, the turn off for Sam’s Throne will be on the left.
Taken with a Phase One IQ-180, Schneider 43 Super Digitar lens, F11, iso 100, exposure time 1/30 sec. This was a strange day, as the wind was blowing about 20 to 30 mph and just standing around trying to take the picture was a bit dangerous. Sam’s Throne is a great place to spend a day and or night as there is now a informal maintained campground. Sam’s Throne is the single large hill out in the distance but the entire valley has some wonderful views. I like to try and catch a sunset there working to catch the sun illuminating the throne in the background. This area is frequented by climbers so be prepared to watch some interesting activity on the rocks. The rocks are mainly sandstone and will take on a deep orange yellow color with the sun shining on them. The valley is surrounded by oaks and hickory trees which tend to have great display of fall color.