John K Clark: Blog en-us (C) John K Clark [email protected] (John K Clark) Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:52:00 GMT Mon, 16 Mar 2020 06:52:00 GMT John K Clark: Blog 120 90 Great Balls of Fire I’m sure you’re all getting tired of the same old images that I share like waterfalls, mountains, wildflowers, etc.  Well, here’s something a bit different so don’t change the channel just yet.

One of my friends had this brilliant idea.  Let’s go out, put fire on a rope, swing it around, and take pictures.  Now, it’s not a new idea.  In fact, you can google it and find plenty of images of this type of photography, but it was new to me. 

I met up with four friends and headed out to our first location.  We thought Potters Falls would be a great place to mix our fire experiment with water.  We set up at the lower waterfall and waited for the light to fade.  I spent the time taking pictures of the waterfall until the sky darkened enough to start the show.  One of my friends went up on top of the waterfall and the other friend went low to the side.  They ignited their fireballs and began to spin fire.  I started capturing images, but only got one before the show ended abruptly with the loud sound of a “thunk”.  Seems the friend on top of the waterfall hit himself on the head with the device which sent the flaming ball of fire shooting off into the air as indicated by the bright glowing orange line in the picture.  Thanks Daniel for the great picture, sorry about the mark it left on your forehead.

Lower Potters Falls on Fire

We decided to leave and head towards the abandoned train tunnel in Nemo, our original destination.  We got there and parked on the outside of the half mile long tunnel.  Nemo Tunnel is pretty neat by itself in the daytime but at night it’s quite different.  We set up for yet another go at the fireball experiment, this time inside the tunnel.  After trying glow sticks with disappointing results we broke out the steel wool.  We stuffed steel wool into our homemade devices and got ready for the show to start.  We were in a confined space with walls surrounding us, about to light a fireball, what could go wrong?

Me in Nemo tunnel Me in Nemo Tunnel

The resulting images were made using different techniques.  Overhead, in front, two people, three people, walking around, and just about anything else we could think of at the time.  A few burning embers landed on us but overall I consider this experiment a huge success.  It was well after midnight by the time we used up all 120 pieces of steel wool which ended the show.  Now I know what it feels like to be either an arsonist or pyrotechnic technician.

Big Bear at the circus.


[email protected] (John K Clark) Fireball John Clark Photography Pyrotechnics Steel Wool Sat, 08 Aug 2015 02:24:55 GMT
Mt Rainier Wildflowers A recent trip to the Pacific Northwest included one of my favorite National Parks, Mt Rainier.

I was on a week long photography trip which included The Palouse, Mt Rainier, The Columbia Gorge, Thor's Well, and Mount St Helens.  After spending two days in the Palouse my sights were set on visiting Mt Rainier.  I hoped to capture a few good shots of  the mountain reflecting into the glass like water as if it were looking at itself a mirror.  "Mirror, mirror, on the wall who's the prettiest Mountain of them all"?

Mt Rainer Wildflowers    Mt Rainer Wildflowers

However, while driving from the entrance of the park towards the Paradise area I started noticing a few wildflowers sparsely populated along side the road.  The further I drove, the more wildflowers we saw, leading me to believe the bloom was early this year, very early.  The peak bloom for most wildflowers in the area is the last week of July through the first week of August.  This year it was six weeks early.

Mt Rainer Wildflowers    Mt Rainer Wildflowers

I knew the best place in the park for wildflowers so I headed that way.

Mt Rainer Wildflowers    Mt Rainer Wildflowers

After leaving Mt Rainier I continued my trip to the Columbia Gorge and Thor's Well.  Knowing Mt Rainier wasn't far off my return itinerary, I decided to stop by one more time on my way back to Prosser. This is the best I've ever seen the wildflower bloom in Mt Rainier.  I only wish I had more time to hike some of the trails.  I'm sure there was a bonanza of wildflowers waiting to put on a show for me.  Have you been lucky enough to see a "carpet" of wildflowers?  I have, more than once and it's very special.  I'm not sure any image can do it justice, but I tried.  

Mt Rainer Wildflowers    Mt Rainer Wildflowers


Sorry for those of you planning a trip to Mt Rainier for the wildflowers this year.  You will get to see them, but in their deceased state.  :-)

Mt Rainer Wildflowers

Lucky Big Bear out..


[email protected] (John K Clark) John Clark Mt Rainier National Park Photography Tipsoo Lake Wildflowers Sun, 26 Jul 2015 20:59:34 GMT
Stephens Gap Cave i told most everyone on the planet that I wasn’t going to be hiking during the hot and humid days of summer here in the land of Gnomes.  However, when opportunities present themselves for a cave exploration how could I resist?  Besides, I know that caves maintain a temperature of approximately 54deg F year round so I wasn’t expecting anything too brutal.

After picking up one passenger and meeting two more, I plotted the course into my NAV system and we headed south.  Stephen Gap Cave near Woodville, Alabama was our destination on this fine sunshiny day of 98deg F temps and like Daniel said, “1000% humidity”.  The gage in my Jeep actually read 100deg F at one point.  

Once at the trailhead we placed the permits (yes, you need one) in our windows, packed up, and started heading to the trailhead when I realized I didn’t have my phone.  Now we all know it’s an appendage we can’t live without.  It’s tethered to most of us like a third arm.  After searching and having another person call my phone (which was on vibrate), I suddenly realized it was on the top of my Jeep.  I had put it up there for safe keeping.   After that debacle we started off on what I though was a very short hike to the cave entrance.  Now some might say a mile is short but when my face is literally melting off, anything over 50 feet is a long hike.

Trail Sign

Step by step, we followed the path closer to the cave.   I felt as though I was creating my own weather system.  Sweat dripping, no, pouring down my body soaking every piece of clothing as if I had interrupted the rinse cycle in the washer.  We arrived at the split in the trail where the information said was the half way point, I call B.S.  Up the dry creek bed and then the hill, profusely expending fluids with only one thing in my mind, “the cave will be cool”!  Arriving at the cave entrance, there were two.  We assessed both and determined one was for the more hearty and brave souls who would rather trust their lives to a piece of rope and rappel down into the abyss, the other  was to make our way over slippery rocks down a steep incline about 200 feet into the darkness.  Guess which one we chose?

Stephens Gap Cave Entrance You could feel a cool breeze emanating from the mouth of the cave.  It began to get a little chilly after descending only a few feet into the cave.  I think our sweat soaked clothes and the mist from the waterfalls inside acting as swamp coolers had something to do with it.  The light slowly faded into darkness with every step we took.  Making our way downward until reaching the last “safe area”, I stopped and started setting up.

Stephens Gap Cave

Stephens Gap Cave

I took several images of my fellow explorers standing on a precipice under the number one opening.  I then continued taking photos both horizontal and vertical trying to show just how big the cavern was and also the coolness factor.  It was like Mordor from “The Lord of the Rings” without the volcano.  The mist and dankness of the cave was very refreshing.  The light was such that long exposures or HDRs are a must, I did both.

Stephens Gap Cave

Exiting the cave was less than fun.  Not because of the climb out, but because I knew what was waiting for me.  Popping my head out of the ground like a prairie dog, the heat and humidity enveloped me and I once again was looking forward to the other end of the path.  My air conditioned Thunder Jeep was waiting for me a little more than a mile away.  Once at the Jeep, I shed my wet clothes for dry and off we went.

Another spectacular trip with friends and good times.  

Overheated Big Bear out... 



[email protected] (John K Clark) Alabama Cave John Clark Photography Stephens Gap Cave Mon, 20 Jul 2015 00:51:20 GMT
Brushy Mountain State Prison Preface from Wikipedia.


Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary opened in 1896 in the aftermath of the Coal Creek War, an 1891 lockout of coal miners that took place in Coal Creek and Briceville, Tennessee, after miners protested the use of unpaid convict leasing in the mines. This labor conflict was eventually resolved in favor of the coal miners, with a bill passing the Tennessee state legislature to abolish the convict labor system, to be replaced by the Brushy Mountain Mine and Prison.  The mountainous, secure site was located with the help of consulting geologists, and Brushy Mountain convicts built a railroad spur, worked the coal mines on site, operated coke ovens, or farmed. At the end of all the state's convict lease arrangements on January 1, 1896, some 210 of those prisoners became the first inmates of Brushy Mountain.

The original prison was a wooden structure also built by prisoner labor. It was replaced in the 1920s with a castle-like building constructed from stone mined by prisoners from a quarry on the property.  As of 2008 Brushy Mountain was the oldest operating prison in Tennessee.

The prison is nearly encircled by rugged wooded terrain in a remote section of the Cumberland Plateau, adjacent to Frozen Head State Park and Natural Area. Escape attempts were infrequent and almost always unsuccessful. Perhaps the best-known escape attempt occurred on June 10, 1977, when James Earl Ray, the assassin of Martin Luther King Jr., escaped with six other inmates by climbing over a fence. Ray was captured less than two days later in a rugged mountain terrain less than three miles from the prison.

The prison was closed in 1972 after a strike by prison guards protesting unsafe working conditions. It reopened in 1976.  Brushy Mountain was the only unionized prison in the state. The union worked closely with state legislators to improve the working conditions for correctional staff across the state. Under governor Lamar Alexander attempts were made to squeeze the union out of existence but his efforts were fruitless. Additional attempts over the years were attempted but they proved fruitless also. Many efforts to close the prison were attempted long before the 2009 closure. In 1998 Brushy Mountain Prison was administratively joined with Morgan County Correctional Complex. With the joining of the two institutions both prisons became unionized.

In the 1980s Brushy Mountain ended its long-standing function as a maximum security prison and assumed a mission as a classification facility.  In its final operations, it had a capacity of 584 and was used as the state's reception/classification and diagnostic center for East Tennessee. It housed all custody levels of inmates, although it retained a maximum security designation due to the ninety six bed maximum security annex contained within the prison walls. These ninety six beds were used to house the state's most troublesome inmates. The last warden was Jim Worthington.

The prison closed June 11, 2009.  Its functions were transferred to the Morgan County Correctional Complex. Morgan County officials hope to convert the facility to other uses, including a museum and a jail to serve Morgan and surrounding counties.

A small historical museum on the prison property displays old record books, photos, and news articles.


Met up with some friends for a day of photography.  After a couple of waterfalls we decided to head towards Brushy Mountain State Prison in Petros, TN.  We joined up with a few more friends in Wartburg and headed out.  After a few detours we arrived at the prison only to find the gates were locked and there was no way to get a decent shot of the prison.  Looking around, I noticed what looked like a service road cut into the hillside that continued towards the prison, but you had to negotiate (bypass) a large metal gate in order to get up on the cut.  I picked up Ronnie and off we went, around the gate, up the hill, and headed straight for he…..

We got more excited the closer we got, wondering if we would be the newest inmates at the nearby Morgan County Correctional Facility.  I parked the jeep so it could not be seen from the main road and we quickly got out and took a few pictures.  Thinking we only had minutes before the po po showed up, we hurried back to the jeep and started back.  

Brushy Mountain State Prison

Safe and sound back at the parking lot, but unsatisfied.  Ronnie said we should go to a nearby home and see what we could find out about getting “in” to the prison so off we went.  Since when do people ask about getting into prison?  I didn't say we were the sharpest bunch of tools in the shed.  Asking a nearby homeowner, we were told that no one really patrols the place and even though they could not give us permission it was probably okay to go in, so off we went.  Picking up Gail on the way in, around the gate and up the hill once again, but this time we drove right up to the front of the prison.  The others had joined us and we all began taking pictures.

It was nice to see most everything still intact and not vandalized yet.  No graffiti, receivers still attached to the phones, sinks, mirrors and lights not shattered to pieces. 

Bathroom Visitation View from Guard Tower Guard Tower

The main building was locked up tight.  Every door to the building and yard were secured with gates and cables, the kind you need a torch to cut.  However, most of the guard towers were accessible as were several of the other buildings on the grounds.  There were two external buildings with cells and a chapel.    After taking many photos of these buildings we decided to leave vowing to return after obtaining permission to enter the main building.


After making contact with someone from the new ownership of the prison, my excitement began all over again, being told that I would be contacted the next time he returned to the facility and would let me photograph inside the main walls.  Well, after bugging him for a few weeks I finally got access and was able to shoot inside for a short one and a half hours.  I arrived at the front gate and met up with my contact.  We drove back the single lane road and parked in front of the main building, after which he provided a short tour of the facility before leaving me to myself and thoughts about what it was like to spend time here as an inmate.  I could have done without his last piece of advice which was to watch out for snakes.  He said it was probably too early for them yet but they were all over the place, even the ceilings.  Like I said, "I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT THAT".

Front Gate

I had little time to keep track of my progress throughout the facility.  There will be more images contained in this blog than normal, but I think you will enjoy them.  Let's start off with some cell block images.  

Cell Block Cell No. 41 Cell Block Cell

After walking quickly through the cell blocks on the upper and lower level searching for anything unusual inside the cells, I found a couple of interesting murals (let's just call them that for now) on the walls in a couple of cells on the lower level.

This first one would have looked much nicer before someone defaced it this year.  Now I'm not sure if the "SS" was part of the original artwork or not.  I'm guessing not, because it looks like the original might have been done in pencil and the other in ink.  The second image is one of my favorites and once again, I'm not sure if someone "added" a few days to this guy's timeline. The marks closest to me look like they might have been added more recently.  I'm not sure if the marks indicate the number of days he spent in prison or the number of times he used the toilet but either way, it was too long or too many.  These were the only two cells I found with any kind of markings, but I'm sure in my haste to get through the place I missed others.

Marking the Days

After walking through the cell blocks I came upon a large room with murals on every wall and column.  I was told this was the cafeteria and all the artwork was done by the inmates.


Next up, the laundry room, Chapel, and Solitary confinement.  Even though there has been some vandalism, it's been minimal and for that I'm very thankful.  My contact told me that no matter how hard they try to lock it down, people cut through cables, climb walls, and even camp inside.  I think it would be really neat to spend a night in one of the cells, but not alone.  

How would you like to spend some time in "The Hole"?  The stairs to the left in this first image below led to this forbidding deep dark place where many inmates did some definite soul searching. This room looked like it might be 5 ft wide by 8 feet long with only a few holes in the door for light to pass into the cell.  I had to use a large light source to illuminate this area and I don't think any amount of light could breach the outer walls to to find it's way into this area, nor do I think it would want to.  It was truly a place where only monsters were kept.  Ironically, these cells were directly under the building that housed the Chapel.  

Chapel The Hole Laundry Room

I wonder if the mailman was packing when he came to pick up the mail.









The new owners plan on turning this into a location with restaurant, water bottling facility, RV park, and other attractions.  I'm glad I was able to gain access before the restoration. The owner told me that Sci-Fi's tv show "Ghost Hunters" filmed here recently and others contact him daily for access.  I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to photograph this location.

I have many more images of the prison but will save those for another day.  


Until next time, Big Bear signing off.

[email protected] (John K Clark) Brushy Mountain Brushy Mountain State Prison Cell Blocks Photography Prison Sun, 24 May 2015 17:58:24 GMT
Thunder Falls Last weekend was a special trek for me.  Accompanied by Ronnie “Waterfall Man” and Amy “Goldilocks”, we set out to find a new unnamed waterfall.  This was finally my chance to actually name one if found.

We started out looking for wildflowers, specifically the elusive and rarely seen yellow lady slipper.  Ronnie had good information as to where we might find a batch so we met him at this undisclosed location.  After searching the area we could not find even one.  We determined that it might still be a bit early for them so we gathered our packs and headed back to our vehicles.  A short drive later we found ourselves at the Piney Trail in Rhea County.  

I was on a tight schedule and when Ronnie said it would be around 5 miles each way I had my doubts about being able to do the whole trip.  Needless to say we headed off into the sea of green leaves and fragment aromas of nature.  

The trail was very pleasant and easy to navigate except for the numerous downed trees across the path that we had to negotiate over, around, or under.  After almost 30 minutes of playing follow the leader on this single wide path we had clicked off a mile, maybe farther.  If Barry Cole was leader we would have been at least a quarter mile further, at the blistering pace he likes to hike (jog).  After another mile or so I was thinking to myself, I’m not gonna (yes, southern slang) make it all the way before I have to turn back, when the sound of silent footsteps on the trail was interrupted by Ronnie’s declaration “we’re here”.  We had made it to McDonald Creek.  Let the torture begin.  Here's Ronnie in his best Lewis & Clark pose.

Ronnie Phipps best Lewis & Clark pose

McDonald Creek is a small tributary flowing into the Piney River, full of boulders and downed trees.  We left the nicely groomed path and started making our way upstream.  Little by little, step by step, we climbed over boulders and debris.  There was the occasional small water feature or cascade, but we were here to find something much bigger.  As Amy would say, “ginormous”.  You might ask yourself as I did, is “ginormous” really a word?  Although first used circa 1948, it didn’t make the dictionary until 2007 according to the internet.

Climbing McDonald Creek Me climbing the hillside

After crawling upstream for a few hundred feet I spotted the waterfall through the dense growth.  It was still a ways off, but I now had my destination locked and loaded.  Thinking it would be easier, we decided to exit the creek bed and scale the steep banks surrounding us.   Ronnie had beaten us to the base of the waterfall and had already begun taking pictures, but it didn’t matter.  There it was, 35 feet of free falling water rolling off the ledge and crashing into the rocks at our feet.  The light was just starting to make its way onto the top of the falls so I quickly setup and started shooting.

Thunder Falls Base of Thunder Falls

After taking many photos of the waterfalls and other items of interest we assessed our return route and decided to climb up the hill and skirt the bluff before heading back down to the trail.  On our way back there were several opportunities for using the butt slide technique which Amy demonstrates very well.  After returning back to the Piney Trail we made our way back to the vehicles and decided to try our luck at finding some red lady slippers.  We did manage to find a few wildflowers along the way, including this Pitcher Plant.

Amy clearing the way. Pitcher Plant

Earlier I mentioned and unnamed waterfall.  Well, it isn’t unnamed any longer.  Ronnie let me name this one.  I guess after the previous 15 he’s found and named, he could afford to let one go.  Fact is, he’s that nice of a guy.  After submitting the location, description, size, etc. to the appropriate folks we found out that it did in fact qualify for a new waterfall.  You already know the name.   It’s the title of this blog entry.  Now my buddy Thunder will forever have something named after him, it doesn’t get much better than that.  Okay, maybe a National Park or even a comet, but I’m content with a waterfall.

Tennessee Landforms entry It’s not easy to get to, but if you ever do, say hi to my buddy when you stop by.

Thunder @ Crater lakeThunder @ Crater lake

Until next time, Big Bear signing off. 


[email protected] (John K Clark) Nature Outdoors Photography Tennessee Thunder Falls USA" Waterfalls Tue, 05 May 2015 00:43:05 GMT
Savage Gulf State Natural Area This day was not unlike the many other hiking treks I’ve been on since my arrival in Tennessee over a year ago.  Today was my second trip to Suter Falls in the Savage Gulf State Natural Area of the South Cumberland State Park, on the South Cumberland Plateau.  Are you confused yet?  Don’t feel bad I am too.

Three weeks ago, a coworker and I paid a visit to Greeter Falls which I had seen in the waning part of summer last year.  I remember how hot and humid the day was, finding out just how much water I could lose through my pours and still function properly was something I don’t recommend to anyone else.  This time was different in that I did the entire loop, seeing two additional waterfalls and Blue Hole, but in more moderate conditions.  

First up, Greeter Falls.   It’s a fairly easy hike to all the waterfalls on this loop, but the unique feature about this one is the metal spiral staircase which lets you safely descend down the 25’ bluff without having to butt slide or use ropes.  The creek flows over this 50’ plunge type waterfall, my favorite kind.

Greeter FallsNikon D750: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO: 400 1/4sec @ f//22    Metal sprial staircase at Greeter FallsApple iPhone 6 Plus: Apple 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO 40: 1/40 @ f/2.2

Next was Upper Greeter Falls.  This one is just upstream from Greeter Falls (did I really have to tell you that), and drops 15’ before heading downstream to the main waterfall.  This one is very nice, but most of it was obscured from our side of the river.  Lucky enough for me I had decided to wear my boots which allowed me to wade out into the water far enough in order to position myself for a decent shot.  The water was running high and fast, providing other areas to photograph which would normally be dry.  Flowing over what looks to be a manmade wall, horizontal and vertical lines look like someone might have tried constructing a dam at some point, but closer inspection reveals nothing to support that theory and only the force of nature could be at work.

Upper Greeter FallsNikon D750: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO: 50 0.4sec @ f//22    

Upper Greeter Falls close upNikon D750: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO: 50 1sec @ f//22    Upper Greeter Falls wallApple iPhone 6 Plus: Apple 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO 32: 1/220 @ f/2.2

My next stop was Boardtree Falls.  This is easily accessible from the trail and it too was flowing better than average.  This is a nice cascading waterfall that has two tiers, one of which you can stand and get a nice spray of cool water.  The reflecting sun in the mist generated from the water droplets colliding on the rocks provided us with a multicolored rainbow to gaze upon.  We then visited Blue Hole which is basically a large swimming pool and not very picturesque.

Boardtree FallsApple iPhone 6 Plus: Apple 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO 32: 1/350 @ f/2.2

The last stop in the area was the Greeter Homeplace.  Occupied into the late 19th century there’s not much left but a few rock walls outlining what once looked to be a cabin and possibly another building nearby.  I liked the look of the old stone stairway.

Greeter Homeplace stone stairsApple iPhone 6 Plus: Apple 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO 32: 1/40 @ f/2.2

We then headed to Suter Falls, after all it was on our way home.  Arriving at our first sign it said the falls were another 1/3 mile.  We encountered another sign which said Suter Falls was yet another ¼ farther.  Wait a minute, we just hiked what we thought was about 1/3 mile from the first sign.  Those nasty sign trolls are at it again.  We passed Lower Suter Falls, but were up on the side of a bluff and it was basically a ravine down to the water.  Arriving at the edge of the woods we came upon a narrowed path under a rock ledge.  Directly in front of us you could see where there had been a recent rockslide which took out the 4x4 posts and cabling that use to be a handrail.

Suter Falls trail rockslideApple iPhone 6 Plus: Apple 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO 15: 1/80 @ f/2.2

Walking along the bluff and under the ridge you could see Suter Falls the entire way.  I noticed a small skull and crossbones sign along the trail.  It’s never a good sign of things to come if you ask me, but we forged ahead ignoring all personal regards to safety.  Once at the bridge (I use that term very loosely), we crossed one at a time and began setting up for pictures.   I took a few from directly in front of the waterfall as well.  It’s amazing how much wind is generated from the water falling, hitting the rocks below.   I have placed this waterfall in my top five favorite waterfalls in the area.  

      Suter Falls trail skulls & crossbones signApple iPhone 6 Plus: Apple 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO 50: 1/30 @ f/2.2 Suter Falls bridgeApple iPhone 6 Plus: Apple 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO 32: 1/40 @ f/2.2


Back to the present…

Meeting up with a few other waterfallers at the Collins West trailhead in Gruetli-Laager, TN we started our hike to Suter Falls.  This time was pretty much as before only the temperature and humidity would be much higher than my last visit.  I wanted to check the distance on the sign again to see if it still indicated 1/3 mile to Suter Falls.  Yep, no change, those darn trolls.

Hiking past Lower Suter Falls and then on to Suter Falls, I noticed the volume of water had increased greatly since my last visit.  We found another location as to which to shoot the falls from the side.  After that we headed into the abyss, towards Lower Suter and Horsepound Falls.


Suter FallsNikon D750: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO: 200 0.8sec @ f//22 Suter FallsApple iPhone 6 Plus: Apple 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO 125: 1/430 @ f/2.2 Suter Falls trailApple iPhone 6 Plus: Apple 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO 40: 1/60 @ f/2.2

I decided not to make the descent to Lower Suter Falls, but instead save my energy for the trek to Horsepound Falls.  The sign had said 2.2 miles from the beginning but after what seemed like an eternity of hiking over boulders and negotiating many switchbacks I figured those dam sign trolls were at it again.  It was a pleasant walk through the forest.  Everything was bright green due to the recent rains and the farther we descended into the valley the more wildflowers could be seen spreading out like a red carpet being rolled out for a celebrity at the Grammys.  Continuing onward we heard the sound of rushing water only to find out these were false alarms.  The waterfall princess was definitely having a good time with us today.

Suter Falls trailApple iPhone 6 Plus: Apple 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO 32: 1/125 @ f/2.2


Finally, the sign I was waiting for.  Horsepound Falls, that way -->   Horsepound Falls signApple iPhone 6 Plus: Apple 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO 32: 1/120 @ f/2.2

The water was raging, trees normally dry and out of the water were now engulfed.  Rocks which had been used to bathing in sunlight were now submerged, but it was awesome.  I climbed down the back and continued to take pictures until the sun had decided to shine itself onto the water making it almost impossible to get and even exposed image of the water without having overexposed areas, thus bad images.

Horsepound FallsNikon D750: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO: 50 0.3sec @ f//22

Packing up after a protein bar and a bottle of water we started the trip back.  Part of the group decided to check out some more waterfalls a little further down the trail.  I on the other hand decided to start back.  Somewhere in the back of my mind a little voice was saying “remember all those switchbacks on the way DOWN”.  And my answer was yes, I do and I know I have to go back UP those same switchbacks.  Onward ho, step by step, up, up, up.  I did stop often to take pictures of the wildflowers I had passed on the way down and some trail shots.

Getting back to Suter Falls I knew I had it about licked.  Just under a mile to go and one more hill to climb.  I met a guy at the falls who had a UAV like mine and we talked for a bit.  I’m a little too skittish to take mine into state parks as they have been pretty much been outlawed everywhere until the FAA has released their new regulations and guidelines for operating “drones”.

Once back at the trailhead my Fitbit registered 8.5 miles.  Those dam sign trolls.  Group photo taken, farewells taken care of.

Group Photo Suter Falls trekPhoto credit: Gary Conquest

Until next time, Big Bear signing off. 


[email protected] (John K Clark) Greeter Falls Horsepound Falls Photography Savage Gulf State Natural Area South Cumberland State Park State Park Tennessee USA" Waterfalls Sun, 26 Apr 2015 22:30:37 GMT
Piney Falls State Natural Area Did someone say Lower Piney?

Going back to December 2014, I was alongside Ronnie (Squatchie) and Dan (Lt. Dan), about to descend into the bowels of hell after a visit to Upper Piney Falls in the Piney Falls State natural Area near Spring City, TN.  The side trip to Lower Piney Falls is off the main trail and immediately has you going down a steep muddy grade.  We used one section of 100 foot rope, making it safer going down and easier coming back up.

After the descent we had landed at the top of the falls.  We crossed the shallow stream and started bushwhacking around a bluff.  This is where it gets good.  While traveling in Ronnie and Dan’s footsteps, I grabbed onto a tree limb which decided it couldn’t hold my weight and broke.  I fell backwards, landing over the top of one leg, resting precariously on a small sapling which stopped me from continuing my uncontrolled descent down the remaining 120 feet.  At that point I was having trouble getting up as my pack was weighing me down and the position in which I landed restricted my movement.  Dan and Ronnie turned around and were amazed (I think) that I was an expert contortionist and yoga guru before coming to the conclusion that I needed help.  I think Ronnie might have even snapped a picture.  My first thought was a hyperextended knee, but figured I had made it this far so we continued onward even though it did hurt, A LOT.  We came to an opening where we again tied off another section of 100 foot rope in order to lower ourselves the remaining 120 feet to the base of Lower Piney Falls.  I roped and butt slid the rest of the way down but then decided to stay in one place and take my pictures.

Upper Piney FallsOlympus E-M1: Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8: ISO 100: 4 sec @ f/20.0 Lower Piney FallsOlympus E-M1: Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8: ISO 100: 4 sec @ f/22.0

It’s funny how you don’t think about things when they’re important but after getting to the bottom I realized that I had to climb back out.  Ronnie graciously offered to carry my pack but unbeknownst to him it was packed with rocks, or at least that’s his story.  We made it out although much slower than going in.  Prognosis of injury, three partially torn ligaments and a meniscus tear which needed surgery to repair.

Fast forward a few months after knee surgery, physical therapy, and healing of the three partially torn ligaments, someone says “let’s do Lower Piney”.  Seems Daniel has wanted to do this trip for the past six years.  Needless to say, we got a group together and hit the trail last Saturday.  There were seven in all, one person forgot about the time zone difference and didn’t make it (DJ).  ☺

It was cool enough for a light jacket with the sun beginning to rise after the lunar eclipse earlier that morning, I feared the sun would ruin the our pictures with hotspots and blowouts but we had a bucket list item to complete so onward ho!  We decided if we had any chance of getting good images of Lower Piney we would go there first, so at the junction we tied off 100’ of rope and made the descent.  Hmmm, starting to sound familiar? 

Piney Falls TrailApple iPhone 6 Plus: Apple 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO 50: 1/15 @ f/2.2 Amy on the ropesApple iPhone 6 Plus: Apple 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO 32: 1/40 @ f/2.2

Down to the top of Piney River, we looked for a spot to cross.  The water was knee deep in places and the current was swift.  We decided the best way to forge the stream (river) was to send someone across with rope and tie off to the other side so the rest of us could use it to assist in the crossing.  Who better to sacrifice but Lt. Dan?  So we tied a rope to Dan and sent him on his way.  He made it across without hesitation, tied the rope to another tree and we were set.  One by one we crossed the Piney River.  After four of us made it safely to the other side, the remaining three decided to try and find an easier spot to cross or take pictures from downstream.

Lt. Dan crossing Piney RiverApple iPhone 6 Plus: Apple 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO 32: 1/50 @ f/2.2 Piney River CrossingApple iPhone 6 Plus: Apple 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO 32: 1/40 @ f/2.2

Now the fun part was just about to begin.  We bushwhacked our way around the bluff and down the remaining 120 feet of ridge line to the base of the waterfall.  I remember this section well and even found the broken limb where I took hold and the branch gave way.  I gave thanks to the small sapling that save me.  We continued around the bluff and found a place to secure yet another 100 foot of rope and headed down.  The last 20 feet beyond the rope’s reach required butt sliding (group photo to prove it).  We all had made it without injury and started setting up our gear.  The sun had decided to bless us with its presence and while it really doesn’t help for good waterfall pictures it did create a spectacular rainbow for us.
Butt SlideNikon D750: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO 200: 1/200 @ f/11.0

I didn’t really scout around for other shooting locations since the sun wasn’t cooperating I figured I wanted the rainbow in all of my shots so I stayed put.  Satisfied with the images captured on our memory cards, we started the ascent.  We all took different routes back up until we hit the rope then followed the line until it ended.  There was still another section to climb and we did so with little trouble.  I, on the other hand took a limb to the face and ended up with a nice cut which decided to drain about a half cup of blood from my body.  I’m batting 1000 for injuries on this trip.

Lower Piney FallsNikon D750: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO 50: 0.8 sec @ f/22.0 Amy ascendingApple iPhone 6 Plus: Apple 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO 40: 1/30 @ f/2.2

Once back to the river crossing we again used Lt. Dan to tow the line back across the current after the rest of us made it safely.  We managed to make it back to the junction where we took a couple of group shots and parted ways with most of the group.  Three of us headed to Upper Piney Falls and the others headed back to the cars.  It must be almost a half mile to the upper waterfall from the junction and we made good time.  Amy needed to go to work so we were on a tight schedule. 


Upper Piney Falls was much nicer than Lower Piney due to the lack of sunlight hitting the water.  We took several shots from both sides and behind the waterfall before packing up and heading out.

Upper Piney FallsNikon D750: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO 64: 1.3 sec @ f/22.0 Upper Piney FallsNikon D750: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO 50: 1.6 sec @ f/22.0 Behind Upper Piney FallsApple iPhone 6 Plus: Apple 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO 32: 1/350 @ f/2.2

Lastly, we took Daniel’s ninja trail back up to “save time”.  I’m not so sure we saved time but I do think Amy was about to hit one of us with her tripod by the end of the trek.  Lt. Dan and I have said it before but this time we mean it, “NOT DOING THIS ONE AGAIN”.

Piney Falls Group ShotNikon D750: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO 200: 1/500 @ f/11.0

Until next time, Big Bear signing off.

[email protected] (John K Clark) Lower Piney Falls Photography Piney Falls Piney Falls State Natural Area Spring City State Park Tennessee Upper Piney Falls Waterfalls Mon, 06 Apr 2015 22:55:48 GMT
Cloudland Canyon State Park I was planning on resting up this weekend after the brutal hike to Virgin Falls last weekend, but did someone mention a hike?  So here I am again, wondering what I've gotten myself into.  The decision was to meet in Cloudland Canyon State Park and do the Waterfall Trail.  This park is located south of Chattanooga just across the border in Georgia, on Lookout Mountain.  

I left Oak Ridge at 6:00am for the two hour drive.  As the morning progressed and my travels took me further south, the temperature continued to climb.  The sky was clear and vacant of clouds, not the best for waterfall photography, but I was assured the waterfalls were in the canyon and should be okay.

After meeting up with the others, we headed down into the canyon.  I had stopped at the visitor center on my way in, where they informed me there were 627 metal stairs to climb (yes, one way).  Now I'm not saying I wasn't up for it, but it did weigh on my mind.  We hiked down a considerable number of those stairs and headed towards Cherokee Falls.  Walking alongside the river was pleasant and peaceful.  How come all these waterfalls are just around a corner?  Seems like every waterfall is around a bend of sorts.  Cherokee Falls is no different and is just impressive as all the others when seeing it for the first time, heck anytime.  

Cherokee FallsOlympus E-M1: Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8: ISO: 100 2sec @ f/22.0

Located in Dade County, Georgia, Cherokee Falls is a 60' plunge type waterfall.  The pool is a nice bluish green color surrounded on three sides by steep vertical walls with the runoff forming Daniel Creek and continues flowing into the canyon.  Boulders form a line at the water's edge from where most photo opportunities exist and while yet very slippery due to the morning ice, it made for the creation of spectacular images.

Cherokee FallsOlympus E-M1: Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8: ISO: 100 1sec @ f/16.0 Cherokee FallsOlympus E-M1: Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8: ISO: 100 3.2sec @ f/22.0

We departed Cherokee Falls and headed towards Hemlock Falls.  After a short hike, down more stairs we found the entire walkway to be covered in a sheet of ice.  A few hearty (crazy) souls decided to pursue their goal, others (myself included) made the decision to stay behind and live to fight another day.  We made our way back up to the top and waited for the others to return.  We did find out from a group of passing Scouts that there is a road at the bottom where you can park a car and ferry people back up to the trailhead.  Hmmm, nothing was said about that in the visitor center.  It took around 90 minutes before they appeared and we found out more than one of them took a spill due to the conditions.  They also informed us they couldn't get to a satisfactory vantage point because of the brush and or river.

Cherokee FallsOlympus E-M1: Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8: ISO: 100 4sec @ f/22.0

I have included several pictures of Cherokee Falls from various locations so you get an idea of the area surrounding the waterfall. Oh yea, the stairs.

Stairway to He...Apple iPhone 6 plus: Apple 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO: 50 1/120 @ f/2.2

[email protected] (John K Clark) Cherokee Falls Cloudland Canyon Georgia Photography State Park Waterfalls Sun, 08 Mar 2015 20:10:25 GMT
Virgin Falls
There had been messages circulating about getting a group together for a hiking trip to Virgin Falls in Scott's Gulf Canyon along the Caney Fork, on the Cumberland Plateau.  Kelli Lewis grabbed the reigns, set a date, and invited all pertinent parties in order to make this an epic adventure.
The Crew at Virgin Falls TrailheadPhoto Credit: Barry Cole First, the cast and crew.

Kelli "Ginger" and front running trail dog of the year, Ella. Keli is an excellent trail companion and photographer. She usually wields her tripod Big Bertha but borrowed one of my lighter tripods on this trip and I now know why. 

Jessica "Pinky" small in stature and quiet but has a huge, bubbly personality and always wears a smile. Her selfies display a confidence and attitude only she could achieve.

Ancil, a Floridian who is a hiking monster.   I don't think anything could affect his level headed attitude or ability towards hiking.

Barry & Vikki Cole, like an Almond & Mounds candy bar. One is nuts, the other, not. I'll let you figure it out. I was hoping when Vikki said she hadn't hiked in almost a year I had a chance of not being the "slow poke". Alas, this was not the case.

Daniel (Ninja Trail Guide) & Bones. Daniel spent his return trip accompanying me back to the trailhead. Great trail talk ensued even though I found it hard to gasp for air and talk at the same time.

DJ and faithful companion Daisy who we had just met the day before when she turned up at Cumberland Mountain State Park after realizing she was a day early for the hike. What a ball of fire. I think she had stored up energy for a month prior to the hike.

Thomas "Honey Badger" and John "Hillbilly Gnome", two freak'in mountain goats who never seem to get tired. Both look as though they've been friends since birth and are most adventurous in spirit and health.

The adventure began with everyone meeting at the trailhead, 8:00am sharp. After waiting a bit for the final participant we took a group photo (this was probably a record photo just in case someone went missing or didn't make it out alive), then decided to start down the trail. While stopping at the kiosk to read the posted information and warning signs we heard the sound of a car arriving. Behold the lone holdout, DJ and her dog Daisy.
Off we went like Snow Red (Kelli) and the nine dwarfs. We covered the first mile in about twenty minutes. I think Barry was trying to hurt us before even getting to the strenuous part. After the 1.5 mile mark we started encountering ice. Slipping and sliding along the way with the occasional butt slide (Jessica), our first waterfall was Big Branch Falls. This waterfall reminded me of Stair Step Falls in Graysville, Tennessee.  Water making it's way down a trellis type of stairway to the pool at it's base, what a beautiful, peaceful waterfall.
Still making our way precariously along the ice covered trail we came upon some spectacular ice formations where more than one person in our party took a spill. I was prepared for ice as I had donned my Yactrax in the beginning of the trek.  These are like car chains for your boots.
Ice FormationApple iPhone 6 Plus: 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO: 40 1/30 @ f//2.2 After a mile or so of walking on ice, the roaring sound of water crashing down upon rocks filled the air. Up ahead was a bend in the trail.  I very much expected to be face to face, looking directly at a large waterfall but instead found Big Laurel Falls to be 100 feet or more below me and 900 feet away. We needed to do some rock hopping, scrambling to get down this portion of the trail (where was my rope).   As you can see from the picture, I'm in the green shirt up top and have yet to start my descent.  Did I tell you I had knee surgery less than a month ago?
Photo Credit: ??? Big Laurel Falls is quite impressive. The waterfall spills 40' over the edge then turns 180 degrees and runs backwards into the limestone cave behind the falls. The river then continues to Sheep Cave Falls. I found a nice vantage point from which I captured this nicely framed image of the waterfall.
Here's a group shot at Big Laurel Falls.  I figured we took this before anyone was too tired to stand up straight for a photo.
Big Laurel Falls Group PhotoPhoto Credit: Jessica Whitehorn Not fatigued yet and moving onward, we hiked through a section of moss covered boulders before arriving at Sheep Cave Falls. Along the way there were numerous downed trees across the trail as if someone was trying to say "none shall pass". Some were mere obstacles, others more like road blocks and took some maneuvering to get through. Good thing Barry has his trusty trail saw. It came in handy on more than one occasion. Sheep Cave Falls isn't very accessible from the main trail and is not entirely visible either, but when you have seasoned (crazy) people like John, Thomas, and Ancil you can bet they aren't going to skip out on a chance, no matter how dangerous it might be, to get the full effect of Mother Nature's essence.  Even though I had rope, yes rope, I chose to admire the falls from a safe distance.
The last leg of the trip was easy except for all the trail blockages we had to maneuver through.  Walking through the campsite at Virgin Falls the distinct thundering sound of water in the distance became louder with every forward step I took.  Louder and louder, the sound was almost deafening and in a moment she was in sight, displaying all her glory.  Virgin Falls, I had made it!  I think we all breathed a sigh or relief, for we had arrived at our destination.  
The water was running better than most had seen on previous trips.  The shear power of each drop combining to form torrents of water emerging from one cave only to disappear into another was a spectacular sight and one of natures wonders.  There was a study done to discover the origin and destination of the water from Virgin Falls. A dye test was performed in 1974 and did produce results for the output but no water source was found.  Although less than satisfactory results were achieved, a new previously unknown cave system was discovered.
After all possible shooting locations had been exhausted by the group, we woke Vikki up from her nap in the hammock, and watched Diane & Daisy, Thomas, and John navigate their way around the top of the waterfall then started the long arduous trek back.
The hike back was a constant uphill battle, drizzle started to pick up and the mist caused by the temperature change began to fill the air.   Remembering every step on the way down, I knew what was in store for me on the return trip and felt the anguish set in, but wait, hey Dummy, look where you are. Majestic waterfalls, strewn boulder fields, and mist filling up the valley, a very magical place.  
Daniel and I took up the rear, the others slowly becoming more faint in the distance as we continued onward. I welcomed the camaraderie we shared even though I knew he could have ditched me at any point. He didn't and I'm thankful.  
I do enjoy hiking by myself at times.  Every whisper, leaf falling, twig snapping under my foot, the nearby stream cascading downward, transport me to another place.  No cars, telephones, voices (except the ones in my head), or any other man made obstacles to prevent me from gradually falling into my own little world.  Then BANG, I'm back at the trailhead.  Reality has once again permeated my senses and left but yet another fantastic day of hiking with friends and nature to but a few hundred images mentally and physically.
At the end of it all my FitBit told me I had hiked 14.08 miles and climbed the equivalent of 110 flights of stairs.  I can't describe the level of exhaustion I felt nor the cramping I had after my two hour drive back home, but in the end it was the best hike I've been on in the last few years.


[email protected] (John K Clark) Big Branch Falls Big Laurel Falls Caney Fork Cumberland Plateau Hike Scott's Gulf Sheep Cave Falls Virgin Falls Virgin Falls Natural Area Waterfall Sat, 07 Mar 2015 01:11:59 GMT
Water Drop Photography I recently entered into the realm of high speed photography.  My focus is on water drops or other types of medium colliding in mid air.

My setup consists of the MJKZZ three valve premium water drop kit, a Kickstarter project, and a frame made from 80/20 materials. The MJKZZ kit is all inclusive and consists of three tanks (reservoirs), a controller board with remote control, and various other pieces and parts. Assembling the various bars, connectors, and joining plates remind me of when I was creating new and exciting things on the living room floor of my grandparent's house with my erector set.  You don't necessarily need the frame for the one valve setup, but you'll need something more substantial when using two or more valves.

Nikon D750: Nikkor 105mm f/2.8: ISO: 200 1/8sec @ f//14

The three tanks are mounted on a bracket connected to the top of the frame rail. There are three valves mounted below each tank on another horizontal rail and connected by a length of tubing also included in the kit, these are small Shako valves with solenoids. I use three or sometimes four Yongnuo 560III speedlites for flash units. Although I have good Nikon speedlites, all four of the Yongnuos cost about half of what my one good Nikon flash units cost. I clamp a sheet of clear plexiglass from Home Depot onto each side of the frame for splash control. Seems the collisions can get a little out of control at times.

Nikon D750: Nikkor 105mm f/2.8: ISO: 200 1/8sec @ f//18   Nikon D750: Nikkor 105mm f/2.8: ISO: 200 1/8sec @ f//18

I purchased an assortment of containers for the drops to form into a "jet". I'm always on the hunt for something new that might be better suited for the application. I recently attended the Wilderness Week in Pigeon Forge, TN and found some handmade pottery that it just about perfect for this application. The valves, master flash unit, and camera shutter release are all connected to the main controller board (the magic board). With the remote control unit I am able to change all the pertinent settings on the controller board.

"Golfer"Nikon D750: Nikkor 105mm f/2.8: ISO: 200 1/8sec @ f//18

After filling the tank and making sure the pool and valve are both leveled, I'm ready to start. It’s imperative everything is level or you run the risk of the drops not colliding properly with the jet. This "jet" I refer to is actually a Worthington Jet. This effect is caused when a drop impacts a liquid surface and produces splashing. In the splash regime, the impacting drop creates a crater in the fluid surface, followed by a crown around the crater. Additionally. A central jet, called the "Rayleigh" or "Worthington Jet" protrudes from the center of the crater. If the impact energy is high enough, the jet rises to the point where it pinches off, sending one or more droplets upward out of the surface. You can see this happening in several images where the collision occurs above the jet.

Nikon D750: Nikkor 105mm f/2.8: ISO: 200 1/8sec @ f//20

There are numerous settings for achieving good results, first is Camera Lag. This isn’t that important but it should be set to the correct value for your specific camera, next is Drop Size. The value for the first drop affects the height of your jet and resulting collision with the second drop. Flash Delay is important in capturing the point in time which collision occurs. One millisecond variation in time can be the difference in getting an exceptional shot or a poor one. And finally we have the Delay setting (delay between drops). The Delay value is the time between drops and also measured in milliseconds.

Nikon D750: Nikkor 105mm f/2.8: ISO: 200 1/8sec @ f//14

Everything has an impact the Worthington Jet and subsequent collision. If you’re using more than one valve (for multiple colors of collisions), then you have a Sync (delay between valves) setting as well. Using multiple valves becomes more complicated. However, I thought using one valve was very challenging but with the help of a kind gentleman in Edinburg I was able to progress much faster than I would have on my own and probably kept me from being admitted to the local metal health ward.

Nikon D750: Nikkor 105mm f/2.8: ISO: 200 1/8sec @ f//18

I usually start with one drop and substantiate the jet height, then start introducing the second drop. By adjusting the flash delay you capture the collision at different stages. It’s pretty amazing how many different formations you can create by adjusting the flash delay one or two milliseconds. By adjusting the Delay you can capture the separation of the jet and how it collides with the second drop. By changing The first and/ or second Drop Size the formations change, taking on a whole different look. This all sounds easy, and it is compared to having to do this by hand or without the controller. However, it’s still very frustrating at times, especially with multiple valves. 

Nikon D750: Nikkor 105mm f/2.8: ISO: 200 1/5sec @ f//16

I have experimented with various solutions and mixtures such as water, milk, windshield fluid, anti-freeze, xantham gum, glycerin, rinse aide, and nature clean. The hardest part was coming up with a proper mixture and ratio for what appealed to me most. My latest effort has been focused on Nikon D750: Nikkor 105mm f/2.8: ISO: 200 1/8sec @ f//14 creating my own custom backgrounds of different colors and patterns to compliment the collisions.

[email protected] (John K Clark) Art Collisions" Drop High Speed Photography Water Water Drop Photography Wed, 04 Feb 2015 00:19:36 GMT
Benton Falls I was invited to go hiking with a friend and her companion Ella this weekend near Chattanooga, TN.

Kelli & EllaNikon D750: Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8: ISO: 400 1/13 @ f/11.0

Saturday we met at the ranger station near the entrance to Benton Falls.  Our first shooting location was the old Brush Creek Bridge built on the old 2-lane alignment of U.S. 64, abandoned and left in place when new alignment in 1967 was built higher, 1/4 mile downstream.  

Brush Creek BridgeNikon D750: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO: 400 1/80 @ f/9.0

Next stop was Goforth Falls.  This waterfall is alongside the road.  We actually passed it and had to turn around.  This picture isn't of the actual named waterfall but I liked it better.

Goforth FallsNikon D750: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO: 80 1.3 sec @ f/16.0

After that we headed to Benton Falls.  A seven mile drive up Chilhowee mountain, the falls are an easy 1.5 mile hike from the parking area.   We came upon a husband and wife team returning from the falls when he stopped and asked if I hiked with the Ronnie Phipps crowd.  I said yes and he then proceeded to tell me he was a relative.  We chatted for a bit and parted ways.  Never figured I had a reputation here yet, hope it's a good one.  "And that's about all I have to say about that".  

The waterfall itself is 65 feet high and has an excellent assortment of boulders, rocks, and trees to use as foreground and framing objects to enhance your shot.  It's a great waterfall and even with a bum knee I didn't do too bad.

Benton FallsNikon D750: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO: 80 1.6 sec @ f/16.0

Later in the day I assisted Kelli with taking photos of her friends wedding proposal on top Lookout mountain.  Actually I was hiding Kelli so she could take pictures of the event without being discovered.  I'm not a "stealthy" person so I'm glad her friend had never met me before.  I tend to be recognized as you've read previously in this blog.

The next day was a trip south to The Zahnd Natural Area in Walker County.  This area covers some 1,380 acres of the Cumberland Plateau. Zahnd sits on the eastern edge of Lookout Mountain and across McLemore Cove from Pigeon Mountain.

Zahnd Natural AreaNikon D750: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO: 200 1/25 @ f/10.0 Zahnd Natural AreaNikon D750: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO: 200 1/6 @ f/16.0

The Zahnd family donated the original 163 acres to the state in 1940. Another 1,208 acres were bought in 2003 from the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia.

The original tract contains a number of spectacular sandstone rock formations similar to those found in the better-known Rock Town at Pigeon Mountain. The newer tract has large sandstone bluffs on the brow of Lookout Mountain, several waterfalls (except during dry periods) and three caves.

Zahnd is dominated by the oak-hickory forests typical of the Cumberland Plateau, but it also has drier pine stands and more moist hardwoods. Rare species known from Zahnd include the Ozark bunchflower and green salamander, both state-listed as rare; the mountain witch-alder, which is state-listed as threatened; and granite gooseberry.

It was a very foggy morning with a slight drizzle but that just made it better.  We parked alongside the road where Kelli remembered from past visits.  It appears as though they are in the process of developing a parking lot for the trailhead.

A short distance from the road, sandstone formations start to appear in the fog.  There really isn't a defined trail yet but there is evidence of prior visitors.  Large slabs of rock are littered everywhere, it's a good kind of liter.  There are tons of leaves lying on the ground so I'm guessing this is the best time to visit if you like seeing the rock formations and not just fully dressed trees. 

Zahnd Natural AreaNikon D750: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO: 200 1/15 @ f/11.0

There are a few rock houses or shallow caves, trees growing on top of the slabs, in the slabs, or morphed alongside the slabs.  There are weird circular semi spherical shapes in the face of the slabs as well. I'm sure it's some kind of geological feature. 

Zahnd Naturtal AreaNikon D750: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO: 200 1/8 @ f/11.0 Zahnd Natural Area CaveNikon D750: Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8: ISO: 400 0.3 sec @ f/18.0

I always say look for the picture inside the picture.  Well, This was a nice little find that Kelli pointed out.  If you have a creative mind you will see a sea turtle swimming on the log.

Swimming Sea TurtleApple iPhone 6 plus: 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO: 40 1/60 @ f/2.2

Kelli let Ella off leash for a bit and she turned into a banshee, running around like her ass was on fire.  You could tell she was having a great time.  She even took time out of her rampage to pose a few times for us.

EllaNikon D750: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO: 200 1/50 @ f/5.6

Definitely a return trip is in the near future.  I thought I heard the rumblings of a waterfall in the distance, but it was outside park boundaries.  I was reminded this was Georgia and people don't take kindly to others snooping around, especially the chemists and farmers of illegal substances.



[email protected] (John K Clark) Benton Falls Bridge Brush Creek Bridge Ella Fog Goforth Falls Kelli Lewis Landscape Nature Outdoors Sandstone Formations Scenery Waterfalls Zahnd Natural Area Wed, 31 Dec 2014 01:38:35 GMT
Dead Horse Point State Park           The Legend of Dead Horse Point

Dead Horse Point is a peninsula of rock atop sheer sandstone cliffs. The peninsula is connected to the mesa by a narrow strip of land called the neck. There are many stories about how this high promontory of land received its name.

According to one legend, around the turn of the century the point was used as a corral for wild mustangs roaming the mesa top. Cowboys rounded up these horses, herded them across the narrow neck of land and onto the point. The neck, which is only 30-yards-wide, was then fenced off with branches and brush. This created a natural corral surrounded by precipitous cliffs straight down on all sides, affording no escape. Cowboys then chose the horses they wanted and let the culls or broomtails go free. One time, for some unknown reason, horses were left corralled on the waterless point where they died of thirst within view of the Colorado River, 2,000 feet below.

Sandstone CliffsApple iPhone 6 plus: 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO: 32 1/2300 @ f/2.2

A visit to Dead Horse Point State Park is planned every time I visit Moab, Utah.  The scenic beauty although surrounded by the sadness of its mysterious legend always calls me back atop its sandstone cliffs.
I have experienced all four seasons here, Winter being my favorite.  The Colorado River seemed more green in color with ice chunks meandering down around its horseshoe bend.  Cold can not adequately describe what it feels like to be standing out on the point at sunrise on a frigid January morning, but having the jeep a few hundred feet away certainly kept me from becoming a frozen statue.
Thunder accompanied me several times and I was able to snap this shot of him on his first visit.   And yes, it's a 2000 foot drop to the right of where he's sitting.  My mom was terrified when I showed her this picture but I had either trained him very well or he was frozen in fear.  Either way, he made it back alive.
I thought one of my first images taken here in 1997 was the best I could achieve until this recent trip where I had Mother Natures cooperation with her spectacular display of cloud formations.  There are many different shooting angles and subject matter of interest on the peninsula, all within a short walk of the parking lot.

        Not many people visit here, instead the pass by on their way to Canyonlands National Park.  I think the $10 daily entrance fee is steep for this           state park but the view is worth a million.

Mushroom RocksNikon D800: Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8: ISO: 200 1/500 @ f/8.0

The next time you visit Arches or Canyonlands (Island in the Sky District) National Parks, plan on stopping by Dead Horse Point.  You will be glad you did.


[email protected] (John K Clark) "Shafer Trail" Colorado River Dead Horse Point Landscape Nature Outdoors Sandstone Cliffs Scenery Utah State Park Sat, 20 Dec 2014 01:39:52 GMT
Lost Creek Falls / Dodson Cave Another great day was had exploring what Tennessee has to offer.  I made a return trip to Lost Creek Falls with one minute difference.  This time I would hike to the waterfall inside Dodson Cave.  This was also a location used to film Disney's live-action version of "The Jungle Book".

I found some "tree graffiti" near the parking area.

Lucy & PoohOlympus E-M1: Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8: ISO 200: 1/40 @ f/2.8

Lost Creek Falls is a short hike down from the parking area while the cave entrance is a few hundred yards away, opposite the falls.  Lost Creek emerges from a small cave at the top of this 60 foot descent and disappears into the Ste. Genevieve-Gasper limestone at the base of the falls and are thought to be the source of the waterfalls inside Dodson cave.

Lost Creek FallsNikon D750: Nikkor 12-24mm f/2.8: 2 sec @ f/22.0

After taking pictures from just about every angle and vantage point we headed towards the cave entrance. The entrance is a very large opening in the rock face on the hillside. If you turn around from inside the cave entrance you can get a nice shot of Lost Creek Falls.

Dodson Cave EntranceOlympus E-M1: Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8: ISO 200: 1sec @ f/11.0


View from inside caveOlympus E-M1: Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8: ISO 200: 1/5 @ f/16.0

I was told the hike back to the falls inside the cave was a half mile so we donned headlamps and started our journey.  

There were several areas more difficult to navigate than others, climbing over rocks and making our way back amongst all the modern day graffiti left here by the Krylon tribe certainly kept us entertained along the way.  Notice the figure throwing rocks down on the animal from above (my favorite).

Krylon tribe cave markingsApple 6 Plus: Apple 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO 64: 1/4 sec @ f/2.2

We had almost gotten to the falls when we arrived at a 12 foot ledge almost straight down.  There was a slab of very slippery rock that we needed to use in our descent.  Yes, the rope came out.  I used the "butt slide" method while holding onto the rope and made it down with ease.  This obstacle would prove to be quite a challenge on my return trip.  This isn't the "slab" but still impressive.

Me and Ronnie Phipps Photo by Barry Cole

A long exposure with headlamps produced a neat photo.

Headlamp paintingOlympus E-M1: Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8: ISO 100: 60sec @ f/20.0

The faint sound of water could be heard in the distance so we knew we were getting closer.  As we rounded the corner and yes, there are things "just around the corner", the Waterfall(s) suddenly appeared.  These are Dodson Falls, 40 feet high and running very well during our visit.  It appeared there was an overflow running as well so the area we were standing was very wet with water and mist completely enveloping us.  It was almost impossible to get a good shot of the waterfalls due to the lack of sufficient light and the amount of mist in the air.

Dodson Cave WaterfallApple iPhone 6 Plus: Apple 4.15mm f/2.2: ISO 400: 1/4 sec @ f/2.2

After capturing some images and videos we departed Dodson Falls and headed for the exit.  We had walked a few hundred feet when I said "I don't remember it being this easy".  Sure enough, we had taken a different route on our exiting the falls so we turned back and found correct junction.  Now where were all those painted "out" arrows that we saw on our way in.  Not far into our return trip we encountered that 12 foot high rock slab.  This proved quite the challenge for me but after staking rocks for a stepping stool and a lot of assistance from a friend forming foot hold with his hands I made it out.

This is definitely one of those "been there done that, no need to repeat" trips.

Group Shot at Lost Creek FallsPhoto by Ronnie Phipps


[email protected] (John K Clark) Cave Dodson Cave Fall Creek Falls Graffiti Hiking Landscape Lost Creek Falls Nature Scenery Tennessee Waterfall Sat, 15 Nov 2014 18:20:48 GMT
Abandoned Chattanooga Facility Have you ever wondered what it looks like inside of one of those abandoned commercial factories you see when you drive through a town like Gotham?  I recently had the chance to join a couple of friends and take a scenic tour of one in Chattanooga, TN.  In order to protect the not so innocent I'll call them Ginger and Sparkles.

Sparkles & Ginger

I met Ginger in a gas station parking lot where we contacted Sparkles who was out scouting the location for access and sentries.  Ginger and I made our way down an old unused set of overgrown railroad tracks until we met up with Sparkles who proceeded to escort us onto the property.  The first building was interesting with an operations room and several administrative offices.  I the old control panel was especially interesting to me as I have seen these before in my line of work, except the ones I've seen are always operational.

Control Panel

Plant Telephone

The next building was much better having everything from a small scale laboratory, which I'm guessing was used to test samples of the product for quality control, to large open areas where product might have been stored prior to shipping.


There were loading bays for tractor trailers and a room with a large steel door that looked like some kind of vault. There was graffiti everywhere, some very artistic and some not so much.  



We found old plant telephones, documents strewn on the floor, stairways, and about anything else you can imagine except dead bodies which I thought might be a possibility considering the stench in certain areas of the plant.



I found a locker room in one corner of the building. I don't think many people had found this area since there were still some boots and an open padlock hanging from one of the lockers.  Ginger likes boots so I had to locate her and tell her of my find.  We then proceeded to photograph some of the newspaper clippings, cartoons, and writings we found on the inside of the locker doors.  Ginger and Sparkles found a few signs and decided to pose for a few pics with them before climbing up to the roof where we found some nice reflections.

Locker Room

Graffiti Reflection

The last building we entered was a very large silo of some sorts, maybe for grain storage. It was very dark inside so we played a little with light and shadows. Ginger posed for a few shots.


Storage Building


Overall the trip was worth it even if we had to be stealthy and sneak into the facility, hoping not to get caught. Yes, I can be stealthy without a ghillie suit.  I just hope Ginger doesn't forget the masks next time.  I'll leave you with what I found on the inside of a locker door.

[email protected] (John K Clark) Abandoned Facility Commercial Plant Urban Scape Thu, 09 Oct 2014 02:20:55 GMT
Polecat Falls Trek I went on yet another waterfall trek with Ronnie Phipps and the Bubblegum Gang. This time the green shirt gang (more on that later), consisted of Ronnie the Group Leader, Jack the Equipment Man, Kelli the Ginger and her faithful companion Ella, Lieutenant Dan, and myself (no, I can't give myself a nickname).  We all met at the local morning hangout in Dayton, TN.  Hardee's must be pretty darn good here, the place is packed.  After short introductions we departed and headed for the trailhead in Graysville, TN.  

You know you're in the south when directions to the trailhead include "turn right just past the chicken houses".  The start of this hike is relatively flat and easy for a mile or so before veering off to the right and climbing uphill for some time.  After crossing one creek we came upon Polecreek Falls.  Water flow was very low but that made it easier to walk up the creek bed instead of bushwhacking on the banks.  Besides, The creek bed has no poison ivy or hidden SNAKES.  After getting a few shots we proceeded upstream looking for more photographic opportunities. Ronnie scouted ahead to Skunk Tail Falls, but reported back there was no water running over the falls so we left and put our sights on the next waterfall.

The camaraderie was typical of my last trek and made the trip very enjoyable.  Even though myself and Kelli were somewhat new to the group they really didn't hold back much.  Well, maybe they did.  Kelli has a dog name Ella and I liked having a dog with us on the trails again.  Ella photobombed Kelli a few times, but seemed to have a great time and probably covered 5x the amount of ground we mortal humans did this day.

Polecat FallsPhoto by Ronnie Phipps

Flora falls was our last stop of the day and it too was so unimpressive that we decided to call it a day.  I asked if there was anything nearby to photograph and before you knew it we were on our way to Buzzard Point in the Laurel Snow Pocket Wilderness.  Ronnie lives nearby and has access to this area by means of his, well Gail's ATV.   We headed to Ronnie's house where we joined Gail "Danika" as she's better known for yet another unforgettable buggy ride.  It was a fairly long hazardous ride, but I'm sure it was better than taking the six mile hike from the nearest public access point.  There were several complaints from the backseat riders about no back rests, no seat cushions, airbags, seat belts, etc. I did feel bad that Ella was trying to claw her way up into Kelli's lap the whole trip.  

Buggy RideApple iPhone 5s: 4.12mm f/4.0: ISO 32: 1/20 @ f/2.2

The view from Buzzard Point was exceptional. Amazing viewpoint overlooking the Laurel Snow Pocket Wilderness.  Here is a picture of the group from a buzzards perspective.  Kelli mentioned the shadow from the drone looked like a cartoon person falling from the sky.  I would have to agree.We explored a bit and I had the chance to pull out my drone and get some still shots and video.  I want to go back when the Fall colors are arrive this year. 

Buzzard PointPhoto from Drone

Buzzard PointPhoto from Drone

Oh yea, everyone showed up at Hardee's wearing green shirts. I of course, was odd man out with a bright red shirt. My thought process was not to be confused with a large mammal some hunter or poacher would want for a trophy. However, I was prepared and had several other colored shirts in my jeep.  I changed into a green shirt during the drive to the trailhead and thus the name "Green Shirt Gang".  I know Ronnie will always be wearing his green " Tennessee Photography" shirt on these treks so I'll conform and follow suit. 

Photo by Ronnie Phipps

Even though not much water was seen today I had a blast and every day hiking with good folks and being out in nature is a day better than doing anything else.

[email protected] (John K Clark) Aerial Photography Buzzard Drone Hiking Laurel Snow Pocket Wilderness, Nature, Outdoors, Scenery, Tennessee, USA, Water, Waterfalls, Point" Polecat Falls Mon, 06 Oct 2014 02:18:44 GMT
Waterfall Adventure #1 I was very excited to go on a waterfall adventure hike today with some people from Dayton, TN.   After meeting Ronnie, Dan, and Elmer at the local Hardee's, we all piled into one truck and headed for the trail. We arrived at the gate where we met Ronnie's wife, Gail.  She would be shuttling us to the trailhead in her buggy, a two seat atv with a bench in the back.  I got to ride shotgun and the other three had the pleasure of riding the bench. The trail was pretty narrow and had many low hanging branches, thank God I was in the front. Gail about scared the boys to death on the four mile ride into the woods.  She found a mud hole and performed a couple of expert maneuvers (donuts) before dropping us off.  The buggy felt a little top heavy and I'm pretty sure Dan had a few choice words, that's all I'm going to say about that.

Elmer, Dan, Gail, John, Ronnie (front)Photo by Ronnie Phipps

Our first feature was a natural bridge/ arch, I'm told the only one in Rhea County.  You had to climb down by way of rope into a narrow slot.  When you got to the bottom and turned around, Bam! It was right in front of you. I have a full frame Nikon DSLR and the famed 14-24 f/2.8 lens still couldn't manage to capture the entire bridge.  

Gooch Creek ArchNikon D800: Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8: ISO 1600: 1/30 @ f/6.3 Gooch Creek Arch is a natural sandstone arch in Rhea County, Tennessee. It is 45 feet (14 m) high with a span of 78 feet (24 m), making it one of the largest arches in Tennessee.  After climbing back out, we headed towards our first waterfall of the day.  

Gooch Creek ArchNikon D800: Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8: ISO 800: 1/60 @ f/2.8

It was a short hike to Hidden Falls. We all took up spots around the waterfall and started shooting.  This was a very easy waterfall to photograph and there were a multitude of vantage points to acquire unique angles from.

Hidden FallsPhoto by Ronnie Phipps

Hidden FallsNikon D800: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO 64: 2.5 sec @ f/22

We then descended into the Laurel Snow Pocket Wilderness.  Climbing down a pretty rugged, steep, rock strewn trail.  Well, they called it a trail anyway.  The weather had been cooperating all day but upon our arrival at Laurel Falls the clouds decided to part and let the sun find its way down to us.  We chose a shaded spot under the trees to have lunch.  We dined on Gail's pb&j sandwiches along with some chips.  She had made enough for a small army and Ronnie was packing it all.  As we were enjoying the sound of the water free falling 80' straight down before crashing on the rocks below.  A man suddenly appeared, his name was Ed.  He was a slim, older fellow and had a bloody arm.   I think he might have had a fight with a bobcat or something before he found us.  He asked some questions about the trail and then vanished just as quick.  We resumed our enjoyment of the surrounding beauty and jovial camaraderie.  Not much time had passed when Ed showed back up, asking if he could follow us back down.  We obliged, packed up our gear, and started our descent.

Laurel FallsNikon D800: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO 50: 8 sec @ f/22

We ran into a couple of unnamed falls or cascades on our way down.  Ronnie was in the lead but for some reason had an aneurism at one point and took Ed's advice on direction.  There wasn't much of a trail in this area and we followed Ed's directions straight into a dead end with the exception of a small opening between two very large boulders.  Dan was in front with me following.  Note to self; it's really not a good idea to have the smallest guy test the rabbit hole for fit.  Dan made it through with ease then it was my turn.  Surprisingly, I somehow managed to squeeze through.  Sure am glad I've lost all that weight.  Ed then proclaimed he didn't come that way and we found ourselves surrounded by downed trees, large boulders, and lots of poison ivy.  I still remember asking Ronnie at Hardee's if I should put jeans on and his reply "no, it won't be that bad" (a phrase we'd hear over and over again that day).  Well it was that bad.  Bushwhacking and butt sliding through all of the ivy, I knew I'd pay for it later.  Finally exiting the bush, we got our shots of the cascades and continued onward.  I managed to get my feet wet crossing the raging river from taking photos of the last cascade.  We noticed Ed had disappeared at this point.  Not sure if something dragged him off or he decided to leave on his own. Onward ho!

Cascades #1Nikon D800: Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8: ISO 50: 13 sec 1/50 @ f/22

Cascades #2Nikon D800: Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8: ISO 50: 25 sec @ f/22
















We finally made it to the "developed" trail which my feet, knees, thighs, and respiratory system all thanked me for.  This was apparently an old coal mine area "back in the day" (yes, I'm learning the local slang).  We passed one old mine entrance and a stone wall that had been erected without the use of any binding agent such as concrete, mortar, mud, or super glue.  We came upon the ruins of another mine entrance where Ronnie came to an abrupt stop and asked who wanted to visit Monkey Head Falls.  Dan was pretty quick to decline and Elmer was right behind with a resounding "No". That should have been my clue as well, but I'm a freak'in nut and said yes.

Abandoned Coal Mine EntranceApple iPhone 5s: 4.12mm f/4.0: ISO 40: 1/40 @ f/2.2

Our fearless leader then proceeded to make a sharp left turn and head straight up the hill.  No, not the type of hill you're thinking of but the kind you have to use ropes in order to make the ascent safely.  After summiting the first ridge I was informed there was just one more to go with a section of a narrow ledge to traverse in between.  After all that, we used the rope once more to lower ourselves down into the creek bed.  I probably didn't need them here but they did make the descent much easier.

Monkey Head FallsNikon D800: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO 50: 13 sec @ f/22

After Ronnie and I captured numerous shots of Monkey Head Falls we backtracked to the main trail. Then it was a short hike back to the parking area where Dan and Elmer were waiting for us at the truck.

After approximately five miles hiked and five waterfalls visited, I was spent.  It was a great day.  Mother Nature lifted her vail and displayed all her beauty to us on this grand day.

[email protected] (John K Clark) Hidden Falls Hiking Laurel Falls Laurel Snow Pocket Wilderness Monkey Head Falls Nature Outdoors Scenery Tennessee USA Water Waterfalls Tue, 23 Sep 2014 02:15:39 GMT
Bryce Canyon Bryce Canyon is located in the southwestern part of Utah. Nothing much has changed since my last visit except for more people in the park.

Inspiration Point is one of my favorite locations in the park.  There are numerous vantage points from which you can obtain images.  The second image is an excellent example of what I always tell people,  "Look for the image within the image".


Inspiration PointNikon D800: Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8: ISO 200: 1/200 @ f/11.0

Inspiration PointNikon D1X: Nikkor 105mm f/2.8: ISO 200: 1/125 @ f/11.0


Thor's Hammer is location on the Navajo Loop Trail.  The best angle isn't from the viewpoint on the ridge but rather down lower on the trail a few hundred feet. Thor's HammerApple iPhone 5s: Apple 4.12mm f/2.2: ISO 40: 1/5000 @ f/2.2


The next image is also from the Navajo Loop Trail but from on top of the ridge.  The one big cloud makes this image pop for me.

Sunset PointNikon D800: Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8: ISO 200: 1/80 @ f/16.0


Sunset Point pretty much describes the image I captured here a few years back.  The colors are amazing, and it was even better being there in person.
Sunrise PointNikon D600: Nikkor 16-35mm f/4.0: ISO 200: 1/4sec @ f/11.0


Natural Bridge was always a very hard shot for me until I purchased my 14-24mm lens and put it on a full frame body.  Now I can get the Bridge and surrounding area.  However, there are limited angles from which to capture the shot so most everything you see from this area will look pretty much the same,.

Natural BridgeNikon D800: Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8: ISO 200: 1/400 @ f/11.0


This next image is from "Wall Street".  This is one of my favorite places in the park.  Even though it's a moderate to difficult trail, mainly because of the elevation change in such a short distance, it still attracts many people.  The trail is 1.6 miles in length and traverses through Wall Street and past the Twin Bridges before completing the loop.

I see most people walk right by these lodgepole pines and don't think twice about looking up.  Others take shots with their phones or point and shoot cameras and never get images as dramatic as this.  

On my last trip, there was a family from Australia taking photos next to me.  The woman had a Nikon so I volunteered to let her borrow my wide angle lens and showed her how to capture the image.  I hope she got one like this.

Wall Street


I finally made it to the Mossy Creek area where there is a cave and waterfall. There really isn't a cave here but instead what people in Tennessee call a "Rock House". The waterfall isn't very picturesque but it's still worth a visit.

[email protected] (John K Clark) . Bryce Canyon Geology Inspiration Point Landscape National Park Nature Navajo Loop Trail Scenery Sunset Point Thor's Hammer USA Utah Wall Street Wed, 20 Aug 2014 23:04:05 GMT
Wheel Barn Some history about the barn and wheel fence first:


Frank Wolf, whose family still farms in Uniontown, built the barn in 1935 for Jack Dahmen and his family who used it for a commercial dairy operation until 1953 when it was purchased by his nephew Steve Dahmen and wife Junette. 

Nikon D800: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO 200: 1/100 @ f/11.0


Both Steve and Junette had an interest in fine art for years. Junette has been working as an artist since the early 1980s, and Steve has made a public display of his artistic skills by building the surrounding wheel fence over a 30 year period. It all started with his building a gate of rake tines, and after friends began contributing wheels, the fence quickly grew. Says Junette Dahmen in a history of the wheel fence, "Every wheel has a story from the smallest to the biggest. There are wheels from every kind of machine, an antique baby buggy, threshing machines, push-binder wheels, sidewinder or delivery rakes, old hay rakes and gears of every kind, large and small." Today the fence exhibits over 1000 wheels. Steve also designed the antique weather vane and installed it on the barn roof in 1990, and fashioned some metal "greeters" - a farmer holding a pitchfork and nippers, and a wire-eared dog you meet as you approach the entrance to the barn.

Nikon D800: Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8: ISO 200: 1/25 @ f/22.0


I feel the fence is much more interesting than the barn itself and most I think would agree with me.  The barn has been converted into a retail and operating artisan barn where there is a retail store along with space for artists to create their masterpieces.

Nikon D800: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO 200: 1/125 @ f/8.0


There are numerous photographic opportunities for unique angles and framing of images as you can see from the few I have included in this blog. 

Nikon D800: Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8: ISO 200: 1/160 @ f/8.0


The yellow field behind the fence is canola.  I have asked several people and all told me that this is the first time they can remember this field being planted with that crop.

Nikon D800: Nikkor 28-300mm f/3.5-5.6: ISO 200: 1/30 @ f/22.0


This panoramic view of the fence is only a part of the fence but I feel as though it conveys just how much hard work was put into its creation over 30 years.

iPhone 5s 4.12mm f./2.2

[email protected] (John K Clark) Barn Canola Field Dahmen Barn Farm Fence The Palouse Uniontown Washington Wheel Barn Wheel Fence Wed, 09 Jul 2014 21:34:03 GMT
The Dance of the Fireflies Synchronous fireflies (Photinus carolinus) are the only species in America whose individuals can synchronize their flashing light patterns.  Fireflies (lightning bugs) are beetles.  You know, we are all guilty of going out and catching them when we were kids, putting them in glass jars to watch them glow.  They take from one to two years to mature from larvae, but will live as adults for only about 21 days.  While in the larval stage, they feed on snails and smaller insects.  Once they transform into their adult form, they do not eat.

Synchronizing Fireflies


Their light patterns are part of the mating ritual.  Each species of firefly has a characteristic or flash pattern that helps it's male and female individuals recognize each other.  The males fly and flash and the usually stationary females respond with a flash.  The production of light by living organisms is called bioluminescence.  This process involves highly efficient chemical reactions that result in the release of particles of light with little or no emission of heat.  Fireflies combine the chemical luciferin and oxygen with the enzyme luciferase in their lanterns (part of their abdomens) to make light.  The light produced is referred to as "cold" light, with nearly 100% of the energy given off as light.

Synchronizing Fireflies


Enough of the scientific stuff.  I arrived at the parking lot around 6:30 pm and waited to board the shuttle for a six mile ride to the Elkmont area in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  Departing the first shuttle of the day afforded me the opportunity to scope out locations for the best viewing possibilities.  After settling down in a hallow with small swaths cut into the woods in three different directions, all I had to do now was wait.  And wait I did, for the next two hours.

Synchronizing Fireflies

I saw my first flash of greenish yellow light around 9:30pm and the flashes continued multiplying until I realized there were hundreds of flashes and they were all synchronized.  What an incredible sight!  Hearing the blaring horn from the shuttle bus told me it was time to start heading back to the staging area for the return trip.  I was on the last returning bus.


Synchronizing Fireflies

No one is sure why the fireflies flash synchronously.  Competition between males may be one reason: they all want to be first to flash.  Or perhaps if the males all flash together they have a better chance of being noticed, and the females Canaletto better comparisons.


Here's a composite I did from multiple frames.

Synchronizing Fireflies

[email protected] (John K Clark) Elkmont Fireflies Great Smoky Mountain National Park Nature Synchronizing Fireflies Tennessee Fri, 06 Jun 2014 17:50:00 GMT
Tennessee Wildflowers I'm not sure if the wildflower bloom this year is normal or more abundant, but it was quite nice.  I visited several locations in and around the Oak Ridge area looking for "color"

The River Bluff trail downstream from Norris Dam is a prime location for spotting trillium, dutchman's britches, and a host of others. Walking the three mile round trip will definitely give you ample opportunity to see and photograph many types of wildflowers. 

Twin Leaf


Other trails in and around the area are also very nice. Even though most of the wildflowers are small in size they more than make up for that aspect in quantity. 

Dutchman's Breeches Phlox


The UT Arboretum is only a few miles from me and very easy to access. I visited this location several times in hopes of capturing a good image of the elusive Lady Slipper. I was actually asked not to divulge the location as there aren't many and I would guess people would be wanting to pick them.

Lady Slipper


There are many other wildflowers at the arboretum which had a fantastic bloom this spring as you can see from the accompanying images. The daytime temperatures are starting to rise and the colors are beginning to fade. Looks like summertime is rearing it's ugly head.



Other flowering Plants at the UT Arboretum were very beautiful while they were blooming.


And finally, while exploring the area I ran across an old abandoned town called Calderwood.  On the site there where foundations, sidewalks, and fire hydrants. Life had left here long ago.  I came across this bloom from a tulip poplar tree. 

Tulip Poplar

Spring has passed and everything is green here.  I'm waiting for the Rhododendrons to bloom in the Smokies...

[email protected] (John K Clark) Tennessee Wildflowers Sat, 31 May 2014 02:03:29 GMT
Petroglyphs I'm trying to finish processing the more than 10,000 images from my latest trip so there will be several Blog entries added in a relatively short time.  This one includes several petroglyphs I found during this trip and a few other, but all are from the same local (the state of Utah).  The first is one of my favorites, Newspaper Rock State Park.  This Park is located off US-191 between Monument Valley and Moab.  The first carvings were made over 2000 years ago.

Newspaper Rock State Park


This next petroglyph is from Capitol Reef National Park in Utah along Highway 24.  These were made by the Fremont people between 600-1300.


This panel depicts bighorn sheep running or jumping with other animals.  I think the rock formation has as much to do with me liking it as much as the petroglyph itself.  This one is located near the Eye of the Sun Arch in Monument Valley.  The only way to visit this location is to hire a local Navajo guide.

Monument Valley Petroglyph

Monument Valley Petroglyph


This Pictograph is from the House of Many Hands in Mystery Valley.  This area is located within the Monument Valley Tribal Park. 

House of Many Hands


These next panels are from Sego Canyon, located about 80 miles west of Grand Junction, Colorado off Interstate I-70.  There are numerous petroglyphs in a small radius and easy to access.

This site features three styles of rock art: Barrier Canyon, Fremont, and Historic Ute. The oldest art, the Barrier Canyon Style, is well known because of the fantastic alien anthropomorphs and glyphs. The Fremont culture carved their petroglyphs on the same wall and subsequqntly on top of the older Barrier Canyon art. 

Sego Canyon Petroglyph

Sego Canyon Petroglyph


Sego Canyon Petroglyph

Sego Canyon Petroglyph


Sego Canyon Petroglyph

[email protected] (John K Clark) Petroglyphs Pictographs Fri, 16 May 2014 16:27:25 GMT
Utah Wildflowers April is one of my favorite times to explore the National Parks and surrounding areas of Utah.  Capitol Reef, Grand Staircase Escalante, Monument Valley, Goosenecks, Arches, Canyonlands, and Dead Horse Point were all included in my itinerary as were some lesser known spots.  This trip however was different.  The conditions over the past month or so must have been perfect for the wildflower display this spring.  There were so many more spectacular, colorful displays this year than any other in the past.

I found myself pulling over to the side of the road quite frequently and stopping along the trails to stop and smell the flowers".

The following images are from this recent trip.  I have attempted to name them with what information I could find, hopefully I did a good job.


This Indian Paintbrush was on the trail to Strike Valley Overlook in Capitol Reef National Park.

Indian PaintbrushStrike Valley Trail Indian Paintbrush


On the Hickman Bridge trail I found this Scorpionweed and Common Globemallow.

Scorpianweed & GlobemallowHickman Bridge Trail Scorpianweed


At the bottom of the Burr Trail Switchbacks there were several.  This Utah Penstemon was very colorful in the midday sun. Utah PenstemonBurr Trail Switchback Utah Penstemon


Stinking Milkvetch

Stinking MilkvetchBurr Trail Stinking Milkvetch


And on the way from Capitol Reef to Monument Valley I came across these Claretcup Cactus.

Claretcup Cactus Claretcup Cactus


Vernal Daisy

Vernal Daisy


Prince's Plume

Prince's Plume


Hurtleaf Woodyaster

Hurtleaf Woodyaster Hurtleaf Woodyaster

Golden Pea

Golden Pea


Evening Primrose

Evening Primrose





These are several examples of the numerous wildflowers that I came across.  It was truly amazing seeing so many during my travels this time around.  Hopefully you get an idea of the bright and wonderful colors each one displayed.  I wonder just how many I missed if I was able to find this many.


[email protected] (John K Clark) Cactus Claretcup Common Globemallow Evening Primrose Golden Pea Hurtleaf Woodyaster Indian Paintbrush Prince's Plume Scorpionweed Stinking Milkvetch Utah Utah Penstemon Vernal Daisy Wildflowers Tue, 13 May 2014 23:08:43 GMT
Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest After another long week at work I decided to find some place for an overnight trip. I wanted to stay away from the Great Smoky National Park due to the congestion, but wanted to find somewhere not too far away and less crowded.  I decided on the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest near Robbinsville, NC.  I left Thursday after work and headed south for three hours going by way of Bald River Falls and the Cherohala Skyway.

It was mid afternoon so the light wasn't the best but I did manage to capture a decent image of the falls.  The waterfall is very easy to access alongside the road.  I think evening light would be best so a return trip is a must.

Bald River Falls


I arrived at Joyce Kilmer around 5:00pm and found only one other vehicle in the parking lot.  The occupants where having a picnic nearby so I would be the lone hiker in the park.  I started the two mile hike and found it very tranquil being away from the sounds of the city and other people.  At the beginning of the trail you cross a stream where the rhododendron are plentiful although none where in bloom.  

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is an approximately 3,800-acre tract of publicly owned virgin forest in .Graham County, North Carolina, named in memory of poet Joyce Kilmer (1886–1918), best known for his poem "Trees". One of the largest contiguous tracts of old growth forest in the Eastern United States.

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

About a mile or so into the trek you come to the intersection of the upper and lower loops.  The upper loop is where the main groves of large 400 year old poplar trees reside.  It's a very mysterious place under the canopy at sunset.  You can hear the wind making it's way through the leaves with the occasional limb falling from above.

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

I stayed in the nearby town of Robbinsville, NC and made my way back to the park at sunrise the next morning where once again I was the only person in the park.  Sunrise was similar to sunset as far as the lighting conditions.  I made my way through the park once again, hiking the two miles.  I found a millipede and toad this time as well as some wildflowers.  


Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest


On my return to the parking lot I found it full of cars and people, seems as though it was "clean up day" in the park where volunteers were cleaning, trimming, and sprucing up the park.  On the trail they were cleaning underbrush away from the trees and the trail.  No mechanized devices are allowed in the park so all handsaws and trimmers were seen being used.  In fact, there where some cases in 2010 where they used dynamite to down trees. 


[email protected] (John K Clark) Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest North Carolina Wildflowers Sat, 10 May 2014 16:34:10 GMT
False Kiva I always try to find new places to explore each time I visit a place I've 
been to previously and this time was no different. In this case my trip took me to Canyonlands National Park, Island in the Sky District.

False Kiva is a Class II site. I found it online while researching new places to photograph during my visit.  I stopped by the visitor center where I inquired about directions and condition of the trail. The park ranger informed me that while they do not "advertise" the False Kiva they do provide basic details and directions when asked.  So here I was, asking. He pulled out a book from under the counter with four or five photos with titles. These were used to find the path and location of the Kiva by means of landmarks. I took pictures of them with my phone and took down notes.  After all, it was about 1.6 miles each way and I was by myself. The main thing I took away from the ranger was when he said "if you get disoriented or lost, head East and you will eventually come to the main road".

I drove to the start of the trail which was a pile of dead juniper trees lining the road. The unmarked trail wasn't hard to find, and I made my way into the canyon. I kept Teapot Dome in front of me just like the ranger told me.

Teapot Dome


Along the way, I came to this strange set of fossilized circles on top of a boulder.  I'm not sure what they were, and the park ranger had an opinion but could not offer a definite answer.


After a bit of hiking on solid ground and slick rock, I made my way down along the outside of the rock outcropping into the base of the alcove.  As you can see from the photo below I had to do some rock scrambling for the last half mile or so. False Kiva Trail


A mile into the trek I came around the frontside of the cliff and could see my destination in front of me. The alcove where the Kiva is located was now above me. After doing a bit of rock scrambling I made it to the Kiva itself.

False Kiva Alcove


I found myself alone with this spectacular view of the valley below, imagining what it would have been like to live here around 800 years ago.  


There are three circular structures here with the main one being in front near the edge and the other two along the back wall. False Kiva


The light wasn't at all good and the sky was somewhat bleached out but I did manage to get a few acceptable images including this wide angle shot. False Kiva Wide Angle

I would give you a history lesson about now, but you can do some research of your own and hopefully make the trip yourself one day. I plan on coming back for some astro photography later this year. I think star trails and the Milky Way would make a fabulous image.  

[email protected] (John K Clark) Canyonlands False Kiva National Park Utah Tue, 29 Apr 2014 23:55:58 GMT
Winter ending in Yellowstone I spent last weekend in Yellowstone National Park.  Only the northern road in the park is open throughout the Winter to car traffic.  Up until a week prior to my visit you could take a snow coach or snow machine into the park to different locations but they are currently preparing the roads for over the road vehicles so all interior park roads are closed.  I was a little disappointed, but how can you be upset spending any time in a place like this.

Bighorn Sheep

After flying into Billings, MT and renting a car, I was on my way.  After checking into the hotel in Gardner, MT I made my way into the park.  For the next three days I would spend most of my time capturing winter scenes, animals, and exploring the different areas inside the park that were still accessible.  I quickly found areas where bighorn sheep and bison congregate.  


Trees are a favorite subject of mine as well.  I captured these two, one in Mammoth and the other in Lamar Valley.

Mammoth Tree Lamar Valley Tree

Mammoth Hot Springs and the Terraces there are very picturesque.  Here's an aerial shot taken from my UAS.  I have also included a video.  You'll never see shots like this.

Mammoth Terraces   

The northern road runs from Gardner to Cooke City, MT.  From Gardner it passes through Mammoth Hot Springs, Tower Junction, and Lamar Valley.  This is a favorite area for people with spotting scopes to wait and watch for bears and wolves.  There are several attractions along the way including Undine Falls and Soda Butte.  There are some great Winter scenes along the river as well.

On day three I did some exploring outside the park which I had never done in any of my past trips.  I was directed towards the small town of Chico, MT between Gardner and Livingston, MT.  It was an old mining town and is now somewhat of a resort, tourist attraction.  I was amazed at how many older trucks were just out in fields or on the side of the road.

Chico, MT  

And since I like windmills so much, I found this beauty alongside the road.


Overall, this was a great trip.  I really had my sights set on a particular Winter scene with a particular tree, but was unable to get there this year.  I hope the tree is still there next January.

[email protected] (John K Clark) Bighorn Sheep Bison Chico Lamar Valley Mammoth Hot Springs Mammoth Terraces Soda Butte Winter Yellowstone Fri, 21 Mar 2014 20:00:47 GMT
Tennessee Waterfalls Recently I accepted a temporary work assignment in Tennessee, working on a project for the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  Winters are mild here compared to Calgary where I spent the last two years.  It’s much easier to adventure out and explore the area this time of year.

My first weekend here took me to Burgess and Upper Piney Creek Falls.  I found a local Jeep club and rode with them to Bald River Falls on Weekend number two.  These waterfalls were frozen just two weeks prior to my visit due to one of our polar vortex systems coming through.  Where is Al Gore and his global warming theory now.

Burgess Falls

Both Upper Piney Creek Falls and Middle Fork Falls are nice and I visited them during our cold spell where I found some ice still lingering on the trails and along the waterfall's edges.

Middle Fork Falls Upper Piney Creek Falls

On another weekend I visited Frozen Head State Park and hiked to Debord Falls.  These were very nice falls and I could position myself at the base of the falls.  There were some larger rocks there which made for some nice foreground objects.

DeBord Falls

This past Saturday I followed the procession of 27 jeeps to Ozone Falls.  The group isn’t much into photography so the stay was short but now I know where the falls are located.  The falls are quite nice and plunge 110 feet into a pool which usually disappears underground then re-surfaces downstream.  However, due to the recent rain and snow the pool is overflowing and looks like a normal stream

. Ozone Falls

On Sunday I went to Falls Creek State Park.  The first waterfall I came upon was Cane Creek Falls.  It was fairly obscured by trees so no pictures were taken but I enjoyed the view none the less.  Falls Creek Falls itself is a double waterfall.  Timing was bad for pictures of this waterfall but I plan to return.  The last waterfall was Piney  Creek Falls.  The view from the overlook was nice but distant.  I noticed people on the rocks above the falls and it hit me, there was a sign in the parking lot pointing towards a suspension bridge.  So off I went.

  Fall Creek Falls

I took the trail and arrived at the bridge.  Not too thrilled, but knowing what was on the other side I decided to cross.  The further out I wandered,  the more the bridge was moving.  Up and down, side to side.  I was very relieved when I finally made it across only to find the trail leading to the falls was even worse.  For almost a half mile I found myself climbing on wet rocks, ledges, and through thick brush.   Piney Falls

When I finally made it to the falls I found myself standing at the top of the precipice where free falling water made it’s way 95 feet downward until it crashed onto the rocks below.  What a site!

After spending time admiring the beauty, I started back and then I realized.  Oh crap, I had to cross the suspension bridge again.



[email protected] (John K Clark) Debord Falls Fall Creek Falls Frozen Head State Park John K Clark Ozone Falls Piney Creek Falls State Natural Area Tennessee Waterfalls Fri, 07 Mar 2014 16:02:47 GMT