Anatomy of a sunset

Jefferson County Courthouse Cupola

While shooting a sunset at Saracen Lake in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, I noticed the sun was liberally painting the cupola of the Jefferson County Courthouse in golden glow in front of an angry, stormy sky. Shot at 7:52 p.m.

When all else fails, one can do a story on kids, cows, puppies, or sunsets and have a winner most of the time. Following that logic, today is a sunset day. A couple of weeks ago late on a Saturday afternoon, I looked outside and discovered a nice cloud formation in the western sky that should precipitate a great sunset at nearby Saracen Lake. Lucky me to live just minutes away from one of the best places on God’s green earth to watch and/or shoot sunsets.

Sunset over Saracen Lake

The evening of June 19, 2015, I got my first Saracen Lake sunset shots on the card at 7:59:07 p.m. A storm cloud was approaching the lake from the south.

Golden sunset on Saracen Lake

Click the picture for more Saracen sunsets at Corndancer dot-com.

I beat a path to Saracen and not a minute too late, Things were falling into place for a decent sunset. The best sunset sequences are normally no longer than about 15 minutes or so give or take a few standard deviations.

The cool part about sunset shooting is that in that short time-on-target span, most sunsets change like an amoeba with an itching problem. So one sunset will normally yield a bucketful of unique images of the same subject. At this point, we are suggesting that you check our other recent sunset shots and story on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. We’ll wait here for your certain return.

Sunset over Saracen Lake

True to form within a few minutes, the cloud formation changed as the sun went further down. Shot at 8:04:27 p.m.

Wide view of Saracen Lake Sunset

Just a few minutes later, by widening the view, we see a completely different picture of the sunset. Shot at 8:07:15 p.m.

Zoom in on Saracen Lake sunset

A zoom in on the Saracen Lake sunset reveals dramatic shades of golds and yellows set off by dark blues and blacks three minutes later after the sun has set. Shot at 8:10:37 p.m.

Wide view of Saracen Lake after sunset

As we prepare to leave, we grab a final wide shot showing the storm cloud rolling in. Shot at 8:10:37 p.m.

Even if you do not have a Sarecen Lake like place to watch a sunset, try to grab one occasionally. It’s like seeing a waterfall. You always feel better after watching some of God’s handiwork.

Thanks for looking,

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

L. A. Corn dogs

Canines in the Corn

dog hiding in corn field

I went to shoot corn and the Higher Power put this dog in front of me. After our initial contact in the road, he decided to put some distance between us.

dog in cornfield

Click on the dog to see more pictures and the first part of the story.

Sometimes I am not certain exactly what puts me square in front of a lot of what I shoot. For this trip, there was one known and as far as I was concerned, that was all that was necessary. The known was a client request for corn and corn field pictures. L. A. is a honey hole for cornfields and I decided that southern Jefferson and northern Lincoln counties had a high probability of providing the fodder to satisfy this request. I was correct.

There was plenty of corn and the light was right in the target areas. But I was in for a surprise. Before we explore that, I encourage you to go to the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com and see where this story started.

I became engrossed in shooting corn pictures before I realized that I had a four-legged audience. I looked up from the view finder and a skinny black and tan pooch, whose gene pool is wider than the Mississippi at flood stage, was eyeballing me. With no collar, he is most certainly homeless.

Dog peeking from behind corn stalks

After I offered a bit of verbal encouragement in my version of dog talk our reticent friend eased up a bit to see more.

When I aimed the camera at him, he got skittish and moved around the truck. After a few more tries, he decided that being up close and personal with me was not in his best interests. He skedaddled to the perceived security of the cornfield and from there kept his eye on me. I believe he wanted to be friendly, but decided the risk was greater than any reward that might be forthcoming.

dog under cornstalk leaf

After listening to more cajoling in my best dog persuasion, he decided to take a closer look.

Dog in cornfield looking to right

About the time we were beginning to connect, a car approached and he swung around to take a look.

dog looking at car

Then he looked even closer.

dog in cornfield watching passing car

As the car passed, he watched it. I had high hopes he would get back to me.

dog looking at camera from corn field

The intruding vehicle left the scene and the dog looked back. I thought perhaps we had connected. Perhaps not. And it was time to go.

There was a second dog, probably a litter mate to our friend above (see him in our Corndancer article). The second dog made a brief appearance and then made himself scarce. It is not a natural concurrence to find dogs who apparently reside in a corn field. Almost certainly some no-good booger-eater dropped these dogs in the vicinity and left them to their own devices, a despicable act of irresponsible cruelty.

In the not too far distant future, the dog’s hidey-hole home will be harvested. A combine will go through the field with corn stalks in front of it and corn stubble behind it. What happens to the dogs nobody knows, in the event they survive that long. It appears that this dog craves human attention. The problem is no human craves him.

On that somber note, I thank you for looking

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


After getting all wound up over the dogs, I forgot that I originally went out to shoot corn. So here is some corn.

Corn nearly mature

This corn is getting close to mature. When that time arrives, the stalk dries up and harvesting with a combine begins.

Cornfield close up

Up close and personal with healthy corn.

Thanks again,


Didn’t make the cut

baseball player with ball on his cap

I did not have a clue that I had captured the image above until I downloaded the camera card to my computer and started my image review. This pitcher was doing his warmup throws and had a nice wind up and throw routine so I fired a few series of him doing just that. Had I tried to get this shot, the odds were slim to none. Conversely, if you fire enough, sooner or later you will generally get something cool.

Shooting sports harkens back to a boy’s childhood vision pretending he was shooting a tommy-gun. Instead of holding the trigger back, one holds the shutter button down and lets the camera eat. As a net result, a good sports shoot results in substantially more images that will ever see the printed page or an electronic display. Far be it from the behavior patterns of most anal retentive photographers to cast off the unpublished images. We help keep the big-ol’-hard-drive folks in business.

first baseman and runner

The first base runner, reacting to a pick-off attempt by the pitcher is where he needs to be. We can’t say the same thing for the ball and the first baseman.

Generally speaking, except for forums like this, the photographer is not the final authority as to what will go to print or electronic display –  the editors make that ultimate decision. They make their choices on what will best mesh with the story and how it fits in their own criteria. I have no problem with that system. They have their jobs and I have mine, and all is well.

basketball players

Click on the players to see more sports pictures at Corndancer dot-com.

There are a lot procedures to select published images. Most of them start with a group of “picks,” meaning these images have possibilities. Editors, art directors, and the like narrow down the picks to become the choice. That leaves some pretty cool shots languishing in the shadow of ignominy. Along those lines, we invite you to check out the Corndancer Photo of the Week at Corndancer dot-com where you will find more previously unpublished sports images from yours truly.

All of our images today are rescued from the ignominy closet. It’s not that these images are better or worse that those which were chosen. The chosen few fit the criteria of the time best. Now, all they need is a smattering of coolness.

softball player bunting

This was close to perfect bunt. It quickly hit the ground with enough roll to cause a moment of hesitation between the catcher and the pitcher.

runner safe at first base

A long-armed, long-legged first baseman is worth his weight in Apple Stock. So is a fast base runner.

three basketball players

Six feet high.

basketball players

‘I got it,’ says the guy in the middle and then the action picked up.

basket ball players

He made the shot. Had the defensive guy been a second sooner, he wouldn’t have.

a contested jump shot

A jump shot perfectly foiled. The defender has all ball at the moment of release.

See more of our sports pictures that did not make the cut in our “Did not make the cut” gallery with 32 sports shots.

Thanks for looking,

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

LA soaked

Anti-litter sign nearly covered with water

This sign, at a boat ramp on Saracen Lake in Pine Bluff, Arkansas was covered with water a day or two later.

It’s starting to dry out here in LA (lower Arkansas). It’s about time. We’ve experienced the longest soaking we’ve endured in a long time. To make matters worse, the brethren and sisters up stream from us on the Arkansas River have experienced the same downpours. They have unwittingly sent their runoff to unwilling recipients. Us.

Bird on sign in flood

Click on the sign to see more high water pix at Corndancer dot-com

We’re not far from where the Arkansas River dumps into ol’ Big Muddy, the mighty Mississippi River, so we are the last to experience the Arkansas cresting. Fortunately that experience has come and gone. That’s not to say that Mother Nature does not have another nasty trick or so up her vaunted sleeve. It wouldn’t be the first time. Before we go much further, we are suggesting that you take a short detour to the Corndancer Photo of the Week on Corndancer dot-com where this story started. You’ll see more flood and high water pictures. We’ll wait here while you look.

The pictures you are about to see were shot a couple of days before the river crested, so as you look, in your mind, add about another foot of water. Mother Nature did it for real.

bridge over flooded river

The U.S. Highway 79 bridge over the swollen Arkansas River north of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, May 31, 2015.

bridge over flooded river

The north pier of the U.S. Highway 79 bridge over the Arkansas River north of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The river at this point was 45 feet and later crested at 46 feet. The numbers on the bridge get smaller as the water rises. They notify river pilots how much clearance is under the bridge.

Geese under bridge

These geese under the bridge are showing classic defense posture. One is the lookout, while the other one forages for food.

The river is at 45 feet in this video. A day or so later it rose to 46 feet.

flood covered road

You just saw the north end of the Highway 79 bridge. This is the road, the same day, for access to the south side of the bridge.

flooded entrance to park

Saracen Landing in the foreground is reflected in a pond that few days before was a road from the entrance to the Pine Bluff / Jefferson County Regional Park.

signs in flooded park with bird

Two days before, I shot this sign with a bird perched on it. As I approached it I wished I could get lucky again. Lo and behold, a Mockingbird flew up. Providential proffering perfection.

mockingbiird taking flight

The Mockingbird, not long after he favored me with his presence on the sign, spooked when he saw me somewhere else.

Hopefully, this time next week, we will still be rejoicing in dryness. But don’t bet the farm on it.

Thanks for looking,

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

2015 Felsenthal Bream Fest

Man, woman and dog in boat

You assuredly have a relaxed idea of fishing tournament competition when you bring your wife and puppy along for the ride. It must be a good thing working well since everyone looks happy.

The perfect storm of grim weather forecasts and reports of extremely high water stuck at the heart of attendance at the 2015 Felsenthal Bream Fest. Despite these untoward prognostications, weather for the Friday afternoon and all-day Saturday event May 23-24, 2015, was close to perfect. For those who did attend it was a fun event that was everything one would expect from a traditional southern festival: corndogs, funnel cakes, kid’s attractions, music, and the fishing tournament. Best of all, since Arkansas temperatures are a tad below normal this year, the mosquitos declined to attend.

Boy fishing from a picnic table

Click on the boy to see more 2015 Bream Fest pictures.

The water was indeed high, as in a pool level of 77 feet those days versus the 65 foot normal pool level. Despite that, the water was not murky or turbulent. It was a good day to fish and enjoy the great outdoors. Before we go much further, we urge you to check out the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com and see more pictures of the event. Because attendance was down, we do not have as many pictures of anglers this year, but the Almighty favored us with other photo opportunities. To give you an idea of how great the day was, take a gander at this short video of a trip across the lake. The mayor of Felsenthal, my friend Linda Newbury is the boat driver. I am holding down the stern and shooting pictures … and this video.

couple in fishing boat

To clear up a common misconception, the green stuff you see on the water is not slime, scum or killer algae. It is duckweed, a dainty little aquatic plant that just absolutely loves southern waters. Just a moment after I shot this the lady in the back of the boat snagged a cypress limb.

speeding fishing boat

Part of the fun of tournament fishing is to push the throttle forward and let the big engine eat. Woo-hoo!

couple fishing from boat

The high pressure competitive atmosphere endemic to larger fishing tournament is delightfully absent at the Felsenthal Bream Fest. This one is for fun.

Man and wife in fishing boat

The nature of the tournament is family oriented fun.

As we scoured the lake for anglers, we ran across a couple of photo ops not seen every day if you are not a denizen of Felsenthal.

Abandoned osprey nest

This appears to be an abandoned osprey nest. Osprey real estate birds would call it a “fixer upper, perfect for the DIY family.”

Snake in dead tree on lake

Somehow this dude made it up the tree, probably looking for an easy meal. He is about 40 feet above the lake and appears to be uncertain as to how he will escape. He’s non-poisonous.

Posing nutria apparently is not camera-shy

While tooling across the lake, we cruised in to the watery territory of a gaggle of nutria. A couple took a dive as soon as they saw us. The rest hung around to check us out just like we were checking them out. There was one who perched on a cypress limb. We gave him (or her) a good photo session.

Nutria on a cypress limb

The nutria was taking rays and apparently did not oppose our presence.

Nutria watching camera

The nutria is saying, “I see you and could care less.”



Nutria looking around tree

OK Clyde, if I ignore you, will you leave?

The festival starts Friday night with visitin,’ baggo, and music.

Baggo players

The dude who has just pitched was the numero uno baggo guy Friday night.

Boy with pringles chip

Is the boy fascinated by Baggo and boogie? Or is he contemplating his recently nibbled Pringles chips?

Dog riding on four wheeler

This pooch loves to ride with Daddy. The guy apparently likes dogs because he has another one in his lap. All three are temporary residents of the Felsenthal Camp Ground.

If you live a reasonable distance, like to wet a hook and somehow missed the 2015 Felsenthal Bream Fest, you can reprieve yourself in a 2016. If you live too far or are providentially prevented from attendance, we will report again next year.

Thanks for looking,

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

138 years and still counting

Civil War reenactment widows

Reenactor Civil War widows place flowers at the base of the new Battle of Marks Mill historical marker at Marks Cemetery prior to the First Arkansas Infantry Reenactors firing a three-volley salute as part of the dedication of the marker. After the war Confederate widows would place flowers on the graves of fallen Confederate soldiers. After a few years, the widows noticed that there were no flowers on Union soldiers graves. It occurred to the widows that the some Union soldiers families might have no idea where their fallen love ones were and even if they did, had no way to memorialize their fallen, so they began to decorate Union soldier graves as well. That same idea is the guiding principle of memorials in and around Marks Cemetery.

One hundred and thirty eight years ago, the Marks family of Cleveland County, Arkansas held their first family reunion. A week ago, they held their 138th. The first reunion consisted mainly of family veterans of the War Between the States. The most recent one included a direct Marks descendant who is a native of Australia. You kind of get the idea that the Marks family has been serious about their reunions since the get-go. You figured right. See more of the 2015 Marks Family Reunion and ceremony on the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot-com. We will wait here while you look.

First Arkansas Infantry reenacators firing a salute

First Arkansas Infantry Reenactors Group members fire the second of three volleys at the dedication of the new Marks Cemetery Historical Marker.

Child interrupts Civil War reenactment ceremony

Click the pic to see this precocious child stroll into the dedication ceremony

The 2015 edition of the Marks family reunion coincides with the sesquicentennial celebration of the cessation of hostilities of the aforementioned war. Aside from furnishing cannon fodder for the Confederate Army, on April 25, 1864, the Marks family was unplanned host of a significant battle on their family property, the Battle of Marks Mill. The Confederates scored a big victory in the battle but it mattered for naught in the overall scheme of things since the surrender was a few days shy of 12 months away. On a local basis, the results of the battle caused the Union forces to reconsider where they would deploy troops.

Civil war reenactors reload after firing a salute

First Arkansas Infantry reenactors re-load for the third and final volley.

As part of the Civil War sesquicentennial observation, the Arkansas Heritage Commission encouraged and partially funded new historical markers recognizing a Civil War event in each county. In Cleveland County, the Battle of Marks Mill was the choice and the location selected was Marks Cemetery.

It was a good choice since the family has turned the area around the cemetery into a jam-up fine outdoor museum of the battle – and life in the mid 19th century. See our Marks Mill Battle and Cemetery Gallery  for a good look at what they’ve done. The first Arkansas Infantry Reenactment Group of Pine Bluff, Arkansas provided its troops and family members to participate in dedicating the historical marker. You may also want to check out our previous posts on the reunion, cemetery and battle: Our first post was on June 9, 2009; our second post was on June 6, 2011.

Edgar Colvin unveils a historical marker

Edgar Colvin, husband of Sue Colvin, a Marks family descendant unveils one side of the new Battle of Marks Mill Historical marker at Marks Cemetery. One side provides information on the battle. The other side describes the battle impact on and actions of the Marks family and is covered with a Confederate flag. Colvin is the de-facto curator and main worker-bee of the outdoor museum which comprises the Marks Cemetery area.

The memorials and markers in the park honor the memory of fallen soldiers on each side with no preferential treatment.The reunion had an international participant. Thomas Maynard of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, a direct Marks descendant traveled to visit relatives in Pine Bluff, Arkansas and participate in the dedication as a part of the First Arkansas Infantry Reenactors Group. We’re guessing there ain’t many other Aussie reenactors.

Thomas Maynard of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Thomas Maynard of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, a direct Marks family descendant and participant in the dedication ceremony as a First Arkansas Infantry reenactor.

If you really want to learn how to do a family reunion in the right way, contact the Marks family. They know how to do it right. Don’t even think about keeping up with them. You are 138 years behind at the get-go.

Thanks for looking,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

Birds and cows, an unlikely alliance

cow and cattle egret

There’s about a 1,299 pound difference between the average cow and the average cattle egret, but that staggering difference does not seem to dampen their symbiotic relationship. The preferred cattle egret diet leans toward obnoxious invertebrates who prefer cows as a big part of their diet.

Just for grins, let’s say that the average beef cow weighs in at 1,300 pounds. With the same smirk, let’s say that a medium sized cattle egret hits the scales at around a pound. Despite that substantial difference, the two critters make pretty good partners since the bugs which cows attract make what most egrets agree to be a tasty treat.

two cows at a fence

Click the pic to see the curious cows at Corndancer

Speaking of cows, we suggest that you take a look at the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot-com where we observe cows in their curious mode. We’ve noticed this phenomenon on more than one occasion and provide pictorial documentation of the behavior and make patently unscientific observations. Back to the cattle egrets. Turns out these birds are not native to the North American continent. They are natives of Africa who made their way to South America in the late 19th century and arrived in the lower 48 in the early forties. They began nesting and breeding in the USA in the early fifties. Apparently the American romantic environment was conducive to making more little egrets since they have spread exponentially. In this case, not a bad thing.

cow and egret

This egret is sizing up a bug bugging the cow. The cow apparently considers this to be a routine and beneficial occurrence.

Cattle herds are egrets favorite partners. They pick ticks and other untoward and unwelcome guests from the cattle and glom down the insects that get stirred up as cattle stomp around the pasture.

cattle egret and cow

The new egret probably hopes where there’s one bug, there’s two. With this big ol’ cow I’m betting there’s plenty to go around.

The cow and egret are eyeballing each other. Perhaps this is the egret's favorite cow – or vice versa.

The cow and egret are eyeballing each other. Perhaps this is the egret’s favorite cow – or vice versa.

Cow closeup grazing

There’s no bird with this one but is is a good up close and personal cow munch-out portrait.

cattle egret and cow

You can run, but you can’t hide.

Cattle and cattle egrets are living proof that critters as different as daylight and dark can get along very nicely by concentrating on the mutually beneficial aspects of their relationships. Perhaps we should take us a few busloads of politicians, opposing extremists, and sign-carrying stooges out to few cattle pastures to observe this behavior and see if they get any good ideas. We can dream.

Thanks for looking,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.