Buttermilk Springs Road

Buttermilk Springs Road Spring

I got lucky when I made the right turn east off Arkansas Highway 8 while traveling north bound to Norman, Arkansas. This the namesake spring on Buttermilk Springs Road near Caddo Gap north of Glenwood, Arkansas

Cool clear water

Norman Arkansas library

Click the pic to see the Norman, Arkansas in all its homespun glory.

Call it fate, blind hog finds acorn, and/or Divine guidance but sometimes you just get lucky and frankly, I’d rather be lucky than good any day of the week. I had returned to the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains in the neighborhood of Glenwood AR Friday afternoon to be in nearby Norman in morning hours to photograph the front of the Norman library. I got the afternoon light the previous Saturday. See what I got last week at Weekly Grist, July 19, 2015. And see what I got this week on the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot-com.

Cool clear water “on the charts”

In 1947, the Sons of the Pioneers recorded Cool Clear Water, a ballad that reached number four on the country charts that year. The tune and lyrics conjured up thoughts of two men struggling in the desert to reach “Cool clear water.”

Back to getting lucky

I had decided to take a gander at the Norman library, my main target for the next morning, in early evening light. I struck out from Glenwood late Friday afternoon on the short trek to Norman. On the way, the little voice said “turn right dummy,” after he picked up the visual signal my big browns had sent to the receptor system upon personal observation of a street sign that said “Buttermilk Springs Road” — which headed east from Arkansas Highway 8, the route from Glenwood to Norman.

The first few miles were nice, but nothing to write home about, and then all of a sudden on my right was a craggy-face near-vertical cliff grounding out less than 15 yards or so from the road bed. I could barely make out the top of the cliff being physically impeded by a fence and visually impeded by a growth of trees. Despite these interferences, the cliff appeared to be about six stories tall give or take a few randomly scattered standard deviations.

Rock cliff on Buttermilk Springs Road

Before I arrived at the spring, I happened across this, I’m guessing 60-foot-high-plus cliff grounding not far from the road bed. You look to the right and all of a sudden, there’s a cliff.

Not far from from the cliff, I found the spring. Some good soul had run a pipe into the spring output to direct the steady stream of cool, clean H2O to be conveniently caught by thirsty visitors. And yes, it had a good taste.

Rock cliff on Buttermilk Springs Road

Forklift pallets create a makeshift walkway from the roadside to the outflow of the spring. I walked with extreme caution. The cool clear water was a sweltering afternoon natural treat.

I happened across a local resident a mile or so past the spring. He takes care of the premises by weeding and picking trash droppings left by unappreciative visitors. To the best of his knowledge, local legend has it that the spring has been flowing steadily for more than 200 years. He said the water had been analyzed and was brimming with beneficial minerals. He also told a story of a man whose diabetes was allegedly cured by quaffing the spring outflow for several weeks.

Barn on Liberty Road

I eventually made my way back to Highway 8 via Liberty Road where I found this neat old barn broadside to the road.

Elderberry field

This is a holdover from last week. At the time I did not know what the crop was. A number of friends on facebook informed me that I was looking at an Elderberry field, my first such exposure. Since it may be your first look at a field of Elderberry, I included it this week. No extra charge.

There you have it. Blind hog roots out an acorn or two one more time. Ain’t life grand!

Thanks for looking,

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

Meandering about the Ouachitas

The Norman Arkansas Library

The small library at Norman, Arkansas is a favorite target of Arkansas photographers. This is the nicely lit back which means that the favored front view was pitifully in the shadows. So here you were able to see the other side.

This may come as a surprise to many non-Arkansans, but our state has two, count-em, two mountain ranges. Almost everyone has heard of the Ozarks, few have heard of the Ouachita Mountains and national forest. The latter is southwest of the former and is and are the settings for our exploration today. I set out from the intergalactic headquarters of the Dempsey operations in Pine Bluff to an area west of Hot Springs, Arkansas with the small town of Amity as my jumping off place.

Red barn

Click on the barn for more pictures and the starting point for this story.

I proceeded from there to Norman to photograph their miniscule library, a favorite target of Arkansas photographers. From there, I made the short trip to to Black Springs and from thence into the boondocks, eventually emerging at Big Fork. Between Black Springs and Big Fork I found an isolated country church and cemetery and a small bridge which were great picture fodder. Let’s pause here and send you to the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com to see a nice red barn, the aforementioned country church cemetery, cool cattle, and more. We’ll wait here for your return.

Small bridge south of Big Fork Arkansas

Just before breaking out of the woods at Big Fork, I came across this small single truss bridge. I had never seen anything quite like it.

Joe Dempsey on a bridge

It’s not often that you find a bridge, the trusses of which,  are not much taller than you. I am at my truncated height of 6′-3″ so the trusses of the bridge are around eight feet tall. You don’t see that a whole heckuvalot.

From Big Fork, I made my way through Mena, Arkansas, and drove north on US Highway 71 to Arkansas Highway 28 and turned east.  Highway 28 is rife with neat barns and nice old stores at Bluffton and Gravelly,  I also found some cattle coolin’ it the best way they could.

Not in the cards

Mad Dog Hill Lane road sign

I had expected to see an old abandoned house behind this sign.

It’s what I didn’t find that was not in the cards. Normally on trips like this, you never know what you will find, but having traveled Highway 28 before, I had some expectations. They were not to be.

Old house on Arkansas Hwy 28

Here’s what I expected to see. The old house, probably a little worse off than this last picture I shot in 2011.

I was tooling east on 28, listening to some good ol’ foot-stompin’ southern Gospel music and looking forward to another photo encounter with the old house at the junction of 28 and Mad Dog Hill Lane.

Adorned with some fine Victorian roof décor, I’m certain at one time it was the pride and joy of its owners. When I arrived at the junction I blinked twice. The site was level. No old house. The lot is completely overgrown with knee-high grass.

Old house on Arkansas Highway 28

Here it is without bushes or signs obliterating the view. That is, there it was.

I photographed it first in 2009 and again in 2011. I was not the only one. The old house was a favored target for many photographers. Goodbye old house. Even in your most decrepit condition, you provided pleasure to thousands.

Movin’ right along

Having completed our requiem for the old house, here are a few more of the observations we made on our swing through the Ouachita hinterlands.

Capped off water well

This is an old dug well, capped off to prevent, children, pets, idiots, and drunks from plunging to the bottom. The shelter is a hold-over from the days of its usefulness.

Possum Hollow street sign

You’ve probably heard countless hillbilly jokes about places like this. Now you know they really exist. There’s a problem. They missspelt “holler.”

Nola, Arkansas

Nola, Arkansas reminds me of a childhood friend Nola Caudle Slack who is now a Facebook friend. This Nola is on HIghway 28 in Arkansas. The other resides in Texas with her family.

This trip was a reflection of our lives more or less. We expect the unexpected and get our way. We expect the expected and strike out. Go figure.

Thanks for looking,

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

Daylight for the un-selected

sand trap blast shot

The trick in shooting sand blast shots is to depress the shutter the instant the player begins his downswing. Actually a micro-second before would be cool , but most golfers do not want to hear a shutter snap before the downswing starts and most courses will not tolerate pre downswing shots. In this case, following the rules, I managed to grab a couple of Jimmy Hendrick’s shots with ball and sand splatter. Fun stuff.

Cool rejects

In sports photography many, many are shot – but few are selected. I shoot, editors edit. No argument there. A lot of the time, the rejects aren’t really rejects, but cool shots which were not selected. Today you will see the unselected from a recent tournament assignment at Harbor Oaks Golf Club in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

golfer blasting from sand trap

One frame past the first sand blast shot..

Golfer blasting from sand trap

Click the picture to see more from this shoot

I have this thing about catching the ball in the air, so you are about to see several. You can see even more from this shoot on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. Click go, and we’ll wait here for your return.

Speaking of catching the ball in the air, in most sports shots, the general rule for me is to push the shutter button just a bit before the action starts.

In noisy team sports that is not an issue, but in golf, the sound of shutter click is not welcome preceding the start of the player’s downswing. It will get you some nasty stares and in some venues, a forceful admonition to vacate the premises.

golfer making approach shot

Keeping his eye on the ball during a nice approach shot,

Close in iron shot

It’s always fun to capture the ball just inches from the club.

Chip shot close to the green

Here’s another close-to-the-club chip shot capture.

Same dude with a down-side-of-the-berm approach shot to a the green just a few feet away,

Same dude with a down-side-of-the-berm approach shot to a the green just a few feet away.

Chip shot to the green

This shot gives the impression that our favorite dude has just laid an egg.

golfer making tee shot

Here’s my friend Greg Walker, with his driver, his tee, and his ball – a microsecond after they became one.

Well, there you have it. 15 minutes of fame for the previously unpublished. There is no moral of the story or deeper meaning.  Unless you can conjure one up. See you next week.

Thanks for looking,

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

Back to Saracen

Fireworks over Saracen Lake

Due to lingering flood damage in the traditional area where the Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Independence Day fireworks are normally deployed, the display was launched from a baseball complex next to Saracen Lake in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Though these fireworks were billed as the the main event, the spectacular sunset immediately prior was more than a mere warmup act.

Fireworks came from two sources in the 2015 annual Independence Day celebration in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The area in our large regional park where earthly combustible fireworks are traditionally launched suffered recent flood damage which precluded a repeat performance on that site for the 2015 extravaganza. Since the show must go on, local officials running the event moved the display launch site to a baseball complex next to Saracen Lake.

Saracen Lake sunset.

Click the picture to see more sunset and fireworks pictures at Corndancer dot-com

A half-hour before the earthly fireworks were touched off, the Almighty put on a celestial show of His own over the lake in the form of an eye sunset. Since the sun is a fireball, it is safe to say that the sunset was the fireworks before the fireworks.

The pictures here are not the only ones we put on-line from these events. We suggest that you pause here and visit the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com and see more sunset and fireworks pictures from these two events. We’ll wait here while you look.

Just before sunset on Saracen Lake

About thirty minutes before the earthly fireworks started, the sun began dropping below the clouds in a spectacular swan song for the day.

Sunset on Saracen Lake

Seconds later the sun bade a fond farewell to Pine Bluff, Arkansas on July 4, 2015.

fireworks burst over Saracen Lake

Following the solar warmup act, earthly fireworks lit the sky and reflected on the lake. You get the double-whammy on this picture as a few dregs from a previous explosion are still visible.

double fireworks burst over saracen lake

Big and skinny is closely followed by short and compact. Both reflect nicely in the lake.

When I arrived at the lake early, knowing what was about to happen before the earthly fireworks, only a few people and cars were present. By the time I left, in anticipation of the fireworks display, the crowd was growing. Few of those bothered to observe what was going on in the western sky. They finally came in droves for the sparks in the sky but were too late for solar extravaganza. They’ll have to wait 12 months for the next display. There’s a good chance the sun will do a repeat performance tomorrow.

Thanks for looking,

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

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


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