A Day At Osage Hills State Park

A Day At Osage Hills State Park

My father passed away on Tuesday, March 26, 2019, and the past few days have been hellish. Thursday was the viewing and my stress level was ridiculous. @scottf and I have found that when we are hit with extremely difficult times getting outside helps us keep our heads on straight and enables us to recharge and be able to focus on the important things. We decided to take our Grand George @akacarl with us and help him get away from the constant talk about my father’s passing.

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Heading out to Osage Hills State Park.

One of the things that Scott and I do at every state and national park is taking a photo of us in front of a park sign. We have been encouraging our Grand Georges to take the same type of sign photos so when they are older they will have a photo to remember this memory by. Sometimes this is a rather difficult thing, but not at Osage Hills State Park. The sign is on a natural sandstone platform and shows the type of geology you will find all over the park. The park is at the most southern end of the area called the Osage Hills, but are also called the Flint Hills in Kansas. The Osage/Flint Hills reaches from Oklahoma and into the middle of Kansas (you can find more information HERE).

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Enjoying the view.

We took Carl for a hike, hoping the sun and fresh air would do him some good. The Overlook Hiking Trail we started on is approximately three miles, but we only went a half mile in. Begging to go play in the river, we knew we had to get to the boy to the nature trail that runs along the river. So we turned and headed towards lower ground where the trail is much easier. That is a good thing for me!

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I guess he gets his love for cliff edges from me!

Sand Creek meanders through Osage Hills State Park showing the limestone and sandstone floor. Here you will find round river rocks that are perfect for throwing and skipping. Carl and I spent an hour throwing many rocks against the large limestone wall directly across from us. This was a very therapeutic activity for us both. I was feeling angry with myself for not being there more often to see my dad more often, while my little man was frustrated and angry as well. It was a moment we both needed and it helped us both, I do believe.

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@akacarl loves the water and is willing to share it with anyone in his way.

March is not always the best time to play in the water when you live in Oklahoma. But this boy loves to play in the water, this day was no different than any other. The wonder and surprise to find such a beautiful place could be seen in his face as he surveyed the small falls. His questions were mixed with laughter as he slid on the slick limestone. “Do you know how deep this place gets?” “Can I play on the rope swing over there?” “Where are all the snakes?” I just thought my ears were going to fall off.

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Taking time to get a photo of us three together.

By the time we made it to Carl’s home we were all exhausted, but we were feeling a little stronger and better to deal with the path we have the coming days. Grief does not heal quickly, but days like this help to heal the soul.

Early Morning at Lake Keystone

Early Morning at Lake Keystone

The view from my front porch.

One of the things I looked forward to when we moved out to the lake was the opportunity to do more photography. I’ve done a fair amount of landscape photography, but the weather has not been cooperating for night photography.

This last Saturday morning I got my chance. It wasn’t ideal, but it was good enough. The Moon was a few days shy of full, but was going to set a little after 4 AM. With the time change that gave me a bit over 2 hours before twilight. Being mid-March the core of the Milky Way would be rising about the time the Moon was setting.

I’ve talked before about the need for dark skies when doing astrophotography. How dark you need depends on what you are trying to do. We are only a few miles from Tulsa, and we certainly have plenty of light pollution, but there are still lots of possibilities in these conditions.

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The Moon Setting over Lake Keystone

I got up about 3 Am and bundled up. The temperature was about 31 degrees. The key to being comfortable in cold weather is to wear lots of layers. One tip I’ve learned when photographing in cold weather is to pick up some hand warmers from HotHands. I cannot work my camera with gloves on, and having frozen fingers seriously diminishes my enjoyment. Toss a pair in your shoes and they keep your toes warm as well.

The Moon was still up, so I headed a few miles down the road to a small Corps of Engineers park named Cowskin Bay to get a photo of the moon setting over the lake.

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Highway 412 Bridge and Keystone Dam

We live on a peninsula in between two branches of the lake where the Arkansas and Cimarron Rivers enter the lake. A few miles east there is a bridge over the lake.

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Highway 412 Bridge and Keystone Dam

From the bridge, you can see across the lake to Keystone Dam. Just above the road is a tall ridge, and ever since we moved out here I knew I wanted to get a picture from that ridge of the bridge, lake, and dam. It was more difficult to get to than I expected, I was carrying a camera and tripod, and the grass was covered in frost, making it a little slippery, but I made it to the top without falling.

If you look closely you can just make out the Milky Way rising over the bridge, but it’s mostly lost in the light pollution.

The light trails from the traffic add a nice touch.

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The Milky Way Rising in my Front Yard

It was getting close to twilight, but there was one more photo I wanted. A few days before when I was heading out the door to go to work, I noticed that the Milky Way was rising right outside my door. I didn’t have time to do anything about it then, but I wanted to see if I could get a good photo that morning.

This was going to be a challenging shot. There is a lot of light outside our trailer, and it was going to be difficult to get enough light to image the Milky Way without overexposing the lights in the yard. Fortunaly there are tools to help with this.

I took a total of six photos exposed to avoid overexposing the landscape. Then I loaded them into some free Windows software called Sequator. If you are going to do astrophotography, then you want Sequator. I told it which parts were sky and which were land, then set it to align the stars in the sky, to reduce light pollution, and automatically adjust light levels. Essentially it stacked all six photos, giving me an effective exposure of about 2 minutes for the sky, but only added enough of the landscape to reach the proper exposure. It also reduced noise in the photos to produce a much sharper image. By stacking photos and aligning the stars, Sequator lets you do much longer exposures using an ordinary tripod than you could without it. And it’s Free.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. We really appreciate it.

Some Nighttime Photos

Some Nighttime Photos

ISO 2000, 147 mm,
F6.3 2.5 seconds

We’ve been rather busy lately with the move and the medical issues, so I haven’t been posting much. I have still been taking pictures though, and I was editing some of them this evening. Here is just a quick look at some of my recent night photography.

Last month we had a lunar eclipse. This was my first time to try and photograph a lunar eclipse, and it was touch and go if the clouds were going to clear out in time. Fortunately they did. I took this about half an hour north of Tulsa.

I recently purchased an IOptron StarTracker. This rotates the camera at the same speed as the stars rotate in the night sky and allows longer exposures and higher focal lengths without star trails.

We had a new moon, which is the best time to take night photos, but it was pretty cloudy in Oklahoma, so Ren and I headed back up to Salina KS where it was predicted to be clear that evening. The predictions proved accurate. I found a dark area NW of town and spent the evening learning how to align and use the tracker.

This was mostly about learning to use the new tool.

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The Andromeda Galaxy.
ISO 2000, 55mm
f/5.6 165 seconds

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The Nebula in Orion

ISO 800 55 mm
f/5.6 225 seconds

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Since we have moved to the lake, I expect to spend a lot more time at the lake taking photos. This is sunset at Keystone Dam.

ISO 100 12 mm
13 seconds

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Also shot at Keystone Dam
ISO 100 12mm
1/120 seconds

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Let It Go

Let It Go

I like to think of myself as a good person. I try to do the right thing, to make good choices, and to help others when I can. Being a fallible human being, I don’t always succeed, but I do try. For the most part I am pleased with the person I have become, and I work to improve.

That has not always been the case. I have lived a long life and I have done, stupid, hurtful, shameful things. If we are being honest, I think all of us have done things that we look back on in shame. It is part of being human. I would hate to be judged today based on the worst things I have done in my life. I would hope that people would look at my life in context and recognize that I have learned from my bad decisions and have worked to become better. I would hope that people would judge me, not on who I was, but on who I have become. I am not asking that people excuse the bad choices, just recognize that that is not the person I am now.

If I want that consideration for myself then it is only just that I extend it to others. This idea seems very out of step with our culture today.

The newest obsession is to pour over the lives of public figures looking for stupid or hurtful things they have done, then try and use it to destroy their careers and their lives. It doesn’t matter how long ago the offence was, or how they have lived since. If ever in your life you have said something racist, sexist, or homophobic, there can be no forgiveness. In our zeal to show how open minded we are, we must not tolerate anyone who falls short, no matter how long ago.

I think it is a part of human nature to want to tear down those we perceive as being elevated in some way. If you put someone on a pedestal, someone will come along and try to knock them off of it. It’s not hard to do. Everyone has shameful things in their past. We all have feet of clay. Like jealousy, it is one of our baser instincts, and one we should fight to overcome.

This is not to excuse bad behavior. We can acknowledge that these things are and were wrong, but we can also allow that the person who did these may have grown and learned better. Assuming of course that they have in fact grown over the years and ceased the bad behavior. If the person in question is still doing these kinds of things, then by all means let’s make it clear that this is no longer acceptable. How someone reacts when old offences are brought up, is current behavior that tells us who they are now, and is fair game. To put it in religious terms, there can’t be forgiveness without repentance.

When someone’s life demonstrates real change and growth, it is hurtful and counterproductive to continue treating them as if they are still same person they were before the change. Condemn bad behavior, but when the person ceases the bad behavior, acknowledge and encourage the good behavior.

You have a kid who will not clean her room. You lecture, punish, and complain and it’s still a mess. One day she cleans the room without you telling her to. You can thank her for cleaning the room, make sure she knows you appreciate it and her, and maybe you get a clean room more often, or you can snap at her, “Why didn’t you do this the last 10 times I told you to?” and entirely undermine all the work you did to try and get her to change.

Encourage the change you want to see. Stop attacking people for bad behavior after they have outgrown it. Quit dredging up crap from decades ago, quit rewarding those who do. Stop granting them the outrage they seek.

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Chasing Arkansas Waterfalls

Chasing Arkansas Waterfalls

Scott and I are collectors. We love to collect things, but because we are trying to live travel-ready, we do not want to collect things. When we decided to move into an RV to start Park Hosting, we thoughtfully decided to start collecting experiences instead of objects. So, now instead of object collecting dust in our home, the back of our SUV collects road dust from all the places we have been. Our collections range from collecting counties to state and national parks to specific special places. One of these are waterfalls in the state of Arkansas. With over 200 waterfalls in Arkansas, this gives us plenty of time to explore and see what amazing places there are in this natural state.

Scott and I downstream from Natural Dam

One of the places we love to visit in Arkansas is the Ouachita National Forest where you will find the Ouachita Mountains. Granted these are not the type of mountains you find in the Rocky Mountain, Great Pyrenees, or the Andies, but they are mountains to us and one of our favorite places. We have often found ourselves thinking about living within the area, but there is still so much more to visit so we must not stop here! On this trip, we decided to specifically find as many waterfalls as we could. We found four of the named waterfalls and plenty of little cascades that are found all throughout the area.

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There are so many beautiful places in Arkansas.

Crooked Creek Waterfall is one of the first waterfalls we came across in our travel into the Ouachita National Forest. At first, we were not sure if we would find it flowing strong, but as we drove through a stream just above the falls, we were pleasantly surprised. It seemed to be an area that many people loved to camp and visit. Because I am not always very sturdy on my feet, I stayed up above the falls with Cordie. Because there had been recent rain, the river stone was slippery.

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Crooked Creek Falls in Ouachita National Forest.

The colors of the trees were just breathtaking. I was afraid we had missed the fall foliage, but it seems we were just in time. There were not as many reds as I would l have liked, but we still saw red here and there. Scott had wanted to travel into to the Sand Gap area in Arkansas, but we would have had to camp and I was still a bit nervous about the weather. Fortunately, he is rather forgiving and never put it in my face that they were having record colors if that is even a thing. As we drove through the forest from waterfall to waterfall we had all but forgotten Sand Gap. It was well worth it, I would say.

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The Little Missouri Falls that is located at a trailhead within the Ouachita National Forest.

The Little Missouri Falls was more of a cascade than a waterfall, however, it was well worth the stop. This is the location of a 7,000-year-old campsite where archeologists found many artifacts. This is also the area where you will find mainly shortleaf pine and plenty of black bears. The CCC build up this area with a viewing area and steps leading down to the rivers edge.

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Blaylock Falls sits at the crook of the river and provides wonderful views of history.

Blaylock Falls was, in my opinion, the best fall of them all. Here you were able to see the way the rock was folded under great pressure when the area now known as Texas was pushed up against the area. This forced the mountains all around the Ouachita area to rise. When I first learned about this process, I was stunned and could not imagine what it would look like, but here you can actually see what happened! If you would like to learn more about this process, you can view our video HERE for more information.

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Taking early morning photos of Rich Mountain on the Talimena Drive.

The trip to the capture many of the Arkansas waterfalls was fun, but definitely not long enough. We visited one other “waterfall” but it was most definitely more of a cascade. The park was beautiful and it will be one we visite again, but when the days are not quite so cold. I found this river to more like Perdanelas Falls in Texas with the giant smooth river rocks that created the rolling river. This is a spot that kayakers love to ride and it is a place I would love to experience again soon.

Thanks so much joining us on another adventure.

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Scott’s Friday Photo – Sequoyah Park, Tahlequah Oklahoma

Scott’s Friday Photo – Sequoyah Park, Tahlequah Oklahoma

On our way to Arkansas to enjoy the fall colors, Ren and I stopped at a small city park, Sequoyah Park, to stretch our legs and take the dog for a short walk. This is a pretty little park near downtown, and the trees were in fine color, so naturally, I took some photos. It was on a Friday morning so we pretty much had the park to ourselves. I thought the contrast between the trees, the grass, and the clouds made for some interesting compositions.


Scott looking to make sure his shot was perfect; taken by Ren.

We were afraid we had missed the peak of fall colors, but, here in the Cherokee capital, it seems we might have chosen the perfect weekend to do our seasonal color trip. This park runs right along the Tahlequah Creek which runs into the Illinois River just east of the town. There are two historic WPA bridges crossing the small creek which gave it a great composition.

Ren often looks for the shots with her phone’s camera so I can see what she’s talking about. This is one of those shots.

One of our favorite places in Oklahoma and Arkansas is the Talimena National Scenic Byway. We have taken it many times, but this year we decided to just do the mountain range this amazing drive between Talihina, Oklahoma, and Mena, Arkansas. The Ouachita National Forest was where we found ourselves searching out many waterfalls.


Little Missouri Falls on the Little Missouri River in Ouachita National Forest taken by Ren.

Our total mileage was 557 miles to find some amazing colors and waterfalls. Most of the mileage came because we had driven so much within the National Forest, but the trip one way was approximately 215 miles to get into the forest. All in all, you don’t always need to travel to distant or exotic locations to get a good photo. Sometimes you just need to look around you and imagine the possibilities


One of my finished photos of the park.
Safe Travels
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Scott’s Friday Photo – Keystone Dam Oklahoma

Scott’s Friday Photo – Keystone Dam Oklahoma

Most of my photos come on our travels, but we can’t travel every weekend. For various reasons, we have been staying closer to home recently. When we can’t travel I try to find good subjects for photography in my local area.
Keystone Lake is just a few miles upstream from Tulsa on the Arkansas River. With Oklahoma subject to periodic droughts, the Keystone Dam is often not very impressive, with just enough water flowing to generate power, but Oklahoma has been pretty wet this year, and there have been very heavy rains upstream, so they are running a lot of water through the dam right now.

We got up early to try and get a photo of the Moon setting over the dam, I had the location planned correctly, but I messed up on the timing. The Moon was setting just as we drove up, and I could not get the camera set up in time to get the shot. Still, we had some interesting light, and there was a strong mist from the dam that developed into a heavy fog. We stayed for a few hours and I took pictures in the changing light. Ren is very understanding and patient with my early morning photo jaunts.

The area below the dam was filled with birds, thousands of them. The Pelicans were passing through on their annual migration. As the sun was rising they began to feed.

As we were leaving we found that most of the flock were on the lake side of the dam. It was hard to tell in the fog but the lake was covered in Pelicans for as far as we could see. This photo only captures a tiny portion of them.

While I did not get the photo I was after, I am still pleased with the photos that I did get.

 

Safe Travels
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The Cherry Street Farmer’s Market on an September Saturday

The Cherry Street Farmer’s Market on an September Saturday

So often Scott is the photographer between the two of us. I tend to be the scout; the one who finds the moments and places in time for him to capture with his Sony A6000. However, there are times I feel a need to take photos. Unfortunately, I take photos with my Sony A5100 so rarely that I forget how what buttons do what on it. I have been trying to be better at this, but it is just so much easier to take photos using my Samsung Galaxy 9.


I decided one Saturday morning during the Cherry Street Farmers’ Market it was time to pull out my actual camera and practice taking photos. Normally, I meet my daughter Amber at the coffee shop just feet from my apartment, but she was unable to walk the market with me this Saturday so I had no excuses; it was going to be a perfect morning to take photos and I really needed the practice.


Grabbing my fabric bags to put produce in and camera bag, I set out at just before sunrise to decide where would be the best place to start snapping photos of this magical event. Our local Cherry Street Farmers’ Market starts up every spring on the first Saturday of April and ends the third Saturday in October from 7:00 am until 11:30 am. The street for three blocks is shut off to traffic and people wonder about cheerfully. It is where the community comes together to purchases their weekly produce, samples the treats, and celebrate the beautiful Oklahoma mornings.

 

 

 

 

Our farmers’ market is not like what you will see in the movies or on television, it is only has four, maybe five vegetable vendors, maybe two or three artists, a couple of food trucks and a smattering of prepared food vendors. It is pretty small, but it is perfect for our square mile community. We all like it this way because most of the vendors know what each customer is looking for and they even know our names! Often my daughter will pick up my produce when I am not able to attend the market due to Scott and I traveling and the vendors know that she is mine and shopping for me. Yes, I do love our farmers’ market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of my favorite things about the Cherry Street Farmers’ Market is that there is live music being played every weekend. One weekend it will be the Falsey Twins who play the blues, another weekend the piano man will be banging on his upright piano (an actual wooden upright piano) while his wife belts out a ballad, and yet another weekend there will be an old-timey musician playing causing everyone to break out in shared song and dance. Everyone seems to enjoy the music, no matter the genre; they are extremely generous when they toss money in the bucket of appreciation.

 

 

Most importantly, the best thing you will find at this little Saturday farmers’ market are the people who have made it possible. There is so much work that goes into putting on such an event. Someone has to get up before 5:00 am, set up the closure signs, get vendor spots set up, take care of the city permits, and all the other things no one really sees as they wander through the market tasting, buying, and enjoying. They are amazing people who are dedicated to being on our little bit of heaven every Saturday from April until the middle of October no matter the weather. Yes, they are what makes this event so magical.

 


I was able to take so many wonderful photos that September morning while the morning light was still low and making everything golden. I am not able to tell you what my settings were on the camera, but I can tell you that it is days like this that get me excited about taking photos and maybe making someone smile. Even though the Cherry Street Farmers’ Market is gone for a short while, I can look back and remember the magical morning I had.

Thanks for spending time with me today,
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All photos in this post were taken by me and are my property

Cedar Hills State Park – photography project

Cedar Hills State Park – photography project

Cedar Hills State Park is a Texas State Park located on Joe Pool Lake within the Dallas metropolitan area. When Ren and I lived in Fort Worth it was about a half an hour from our home, which made it convenient when we wanted to get outside during the week without a long drive. Back when I was first learning photography Cedar Hills was often where I went to practice.

Being a new photographer, I went through a period where I was obsessed with sunsets, and Joe Pool lake often had some spectacular sunsets.

At this time I was using an old Nikon D70 I borrowed from a friend. While it was an older camera, it was still capable of some very nice photos.

Some of my favorite photos were taken with my phone, proving that it is not the quality of the gear that makes a great photo.

Later when I upgraded to my Sony camera we still came here often and I kept trying new things.

This is a composite of several photos looking North across Joe Pool Lake at the Dallas Love Field airport.

If you are learning photography, don’t be too obsessed with gear at first. As the saying goes, the best camera is the one you have with you. The best way to learn is to get out and shoot as often as possible and keep trying new things.

Safe travels,
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Scott’s Friday Photo – Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Scott’s Friday Photo – Rio Grande Gorge Bridge

Located on Highway 64 ten miles northwest of Taos, New Mexico, the Gorge Bridge is 1280 feet long and spans the Rio Grande River and is one of the highest bridges in the country. Sources disagree over just exactly how high the bridge is above the river, with some saying 600 feet and others saying 650 feet. The gorge is particularly deep in this area because the river flows through a continental rift zone. This is an area when the continental plate tried to tear it’s self apart millions of years ago, then stopped before the separation was complete.
It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is both a National Monument and a State Park. The bridge is something of a tourist attraction with parking available along with restrooms and an observation deck. The bridge has a pedestrian shoulder so you can walk across it if you like.
Ren and I visited in August. We had not heard of the bridge, but the manager of our hotel told us we should go see it while we were in the area. I’m so glad we listened. This was my favorite part of the entire trip. If you are in the area it is well worth seeing, and if the Bus Stop Ice Cream and Coffee Stop are there, you should absolutely treat yourself. Ren loved the frozen coffee.
These photos were taken with my Sony A6000 using the SEL1850 lens. The panorama above was stitched together from 3 photos.

 


*Looking South From The Bridge *
Safe Travels
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