This is a story that was published in the February 2015 issue of 501 Life magazine. Editor/publisher Sonja Keith asked myself, along with local photographers Bill Patterson and Todd Owens, to photograph one area over four seasons. The article that includes the other stories and photos can be found here: http://www.501lifemag.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4566&Itemid=12
In the 20 years my family has lived in central Arkansas, I’ve grown to love Petit Jean. From family hiking trips, anniversary cabins and motorcycle rides when I could steal away for a couple of hours, it’s become a favorite destination of mine.
When it was decided that 501 would feature a “Seasons” feature where three photographers would cover one spot in the 501 area code over four seasons, I knew without hesitation where I wanted to choose.
Fall was the first season I documented, as it fell nearest the beginning of the project. I made a hike to Cedar Falls when I felt like the colors were right. In reality, the mountain seemed almost like cheating, since it is such a beautiful place to begin with. It really wasn’t that difficult to find spots along the way to capture the color as the cooler weather approached.
I try to make a trek up the mountain every fall, and generally find myself making the hike to the falls. There are so many spots to stop along Cedar Creek to capture the colors lining the steep ravine that carves itself out of the middle of the park.
For the first time, I made a visit during snowfall. I missed several opportunities, but a late winter storm and a couple of days off from work gave me the motivation to capture snowy scenes from Stout’s Point on the mountain’s east side. It felt like I was the only one in the park, and the snow had silenced the entire world.
I photographed there and tried to get some shots of Davies Bridge over Cedar Creek, missing one shot I had envisioned due to a fallen tree that could not bear the weight of the ice coating it. I moved along the creek to photograph limbs that had ice formations clinging to them created by the rushing waters of the creek.
It seems like only a short while after that my wife and I made a drive up the mountain again, this time to capture the dogwoods that began blooming all over the mountain to usher in spring. I tried in vain to catch other wildflowers blooming on the mountain but just never could coordinate my schedule with theirs.
Summer was the most difficult. The death of my sister limited my trips to the mountain until July when I decided it was time to watch a moon rise. A “super moon” rose one evening, and my family joined me to watch it rise. It was a wonderful time to spend with my wife and daughters. There were several other photographers who had decided the same vantage point was ideal, so there was some jockeying for position while we all waited for the moon to rise.
Once the moon began to creep above the horizon, it was clear that it would not be a large moon but was sufficiently bright. In addition, a tugboat pushing several barges slowly chugged into view on the Arkansas River, which helped balance out the composition nicely. I took several photos until the light dropped low enough to prevent decent exposures and the boat moved out of the frame.
Despite finishing the project, I still expect to make trips up the mountain at every opportunity. In fact, I found myself with a few spare hours this weekend and made a dash on my motorcycle up to Stout’s Point just to clear my head. It’s a destination that is almost in our back yard yet feels worlds away and in my opinion one of the most beautiful places in the state.