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Blog posts below arranged most recent at top
Leaving the place better than we found it
Seeing with my eyes closed
Thomas Jefferson on gun control
How to lie convincingly
Our hardy heartland
Breaking the cycle
You are here
Thoughts from the inside
Leveraging the internet to build our walls
Twitters from the past
And the invincibility of youth
Without ego projection
Yet another gift of the road
The charming side of obstinance
The creative part of photography
A movie critic looks in the mirror
We are not alone
As part of the system
Mastering your master
The end of Kumbaya
The wanderer's poet
Running out of dirt
Striking a balance
The Bay of Fundy, where the sea breathes
How to photograph them with anything, even your cellphone
A simple question we get every day
We may be failing to fail
And why no one should hesitate to examine them
Becoming a hero in one's own life story
A writing assignment
A new discovery of something old
Finding new eyes to see old landscapes
Hick humor
Toys for photographing wild places
Experiencing life with God
A radical thought about our radicals
Redemption with style
Hidden heroes among us
Resetting our parallel processor
A village with heart
A lesson from the road
The bullet dodged
A soul sparkles
Isolation in style
Painless ways to lose your virginity : 11/12/15
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Sunrise / Sunset
How to catch the sun's comings and goings

As waterfalls dried up in late fall throughout Arkansas, my attention turned to sunrises and sunsets. Following are some tips on taking photos of these color splashes.

With these low-light conditions, you will need a tripod, or at least to set your camera on something.

Positioning yourself so the sun rises or sets over water gives you more reflections to work with, but clouds are more important. Without clouds, you'll still get a warm orange/red glow, but only a few angular degrees above the horizon -- about the height of your outstretched hand and thumb. If you find interesting foreground that high, say a crooked tree in the distance, you can zoom in with a lens (100 mm or greater) to frame that and then a cloudless sunrise or sunset may work.

With clouds, things can get more spectacular, but you'll need a gap between the horizon and the clouds. The sun sinking into ground fog or a marine layer is a fizzle. With that gap below thick cumulus clouds or just a smattering of wispy cirrus clouds, the sun's reflected rays pick up color from land, water, and all that extra air it has to pass before painting the undersides of the clouds.

Keep in mind that this cloud reflection lasts as short as 10 minutes after the sun dips below the horizon. If you're behind buildings or in a valley, much of it will be hidden behind the mountains.

A sunrise/sunset without interesting foreground is a kiss on the cheek instead of the lips. Almost any foreground can do, and you just have to let your creative juices flow and see what is available. Sunsets are a bit easier for this since you're scampering around looking while the sun is up instead of tripping around in the dark before the sunrise.

The foreground should usually work as a silhouette, with the details your eye can see gone, but there is a trick to overcome this if you know how to superimpose images. I will often take a shot with some fading foreground detail, even if that shot overexposes the sunset itself, and then merge the two shots later in Photoshop. The result is closer to what your eye can do, that amazing camera with more dynamic range using Jello than the ones Canon and Nikon have built with their billions of research bucks.

Post-processing goes beyond merging shots, for example, vibrance, contrast, saturation, and brightness adjustments, filters like NIK's detail extractor, and Gaussian blur to lose the cloud noise, but that's a whole other topic.

A great way to practice is to watch sunrises and sunsets, but first forming a mental image of how you expect it to go, and then watching to see how your predictions turn out. See how long things take, usually faster than you'll expect once the show gets underway.

Safety tip: staring at the sun, even near the horizon, will toast the rods and cones of your eyes. Mucho bad. A quick sideways glance through sunglasses is all you'll ever need.

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Pinnacle Mountain and its reservoir

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Pinnacle State Park

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Morning fog flows in the valleys

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Swamp cypress reaches to touch the fog

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Cypress knees pay attention to mom

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A vulture grows happy over something's demise

For more pictures of Arkansas, click here.

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