Cheap Thrills

Rainbow in a storn on Wilbur West Road near Pine Bluff Arkansas.

Rainbow on Wilbur West Road, southeast of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. A friend called me and told me where it was. Fortunately I was mobile when I got the call. I rolled up to the location squeezed. off one burst of seven or so exposures, and poof — the rainbow  was history. Got lucky on this one — for a little time and gasoline. Cheap tickets for the good seats.

Flying in the face of popular, even legendary opinion, the best things in life (in my humble opinion), are not necessarily free. Realists will agree that anything of value has a price tag. Fortunately f0r many experiences, the quality far outweighs the pittance put forth to put ones self  in the belly of opportunity.

Observing Mother Nature at work with her dramatic skies, sforzando storms, and calamitous clouds comes at or near the top of that cheap thrill list for me.


Click on the storm to see more weather pix.

Speaking of cheap thrills, there are even more to see on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com.

Go there to get a glimpse of a dramatic storm shot, golden crops in the field and a morning sun blasting its rays through dramatic clouds. We’ll wait here while you take the trip.

As I was leaving  the all-toof-brief encounter with the rainbow, the late  afternoon sun peeked around the clouds as the storm hit my driver’s side window with a bucket of high velocity rain drops. Opening the window guaranteed a good Nikon soaking which puts the guts of the camera at great risk. Fortunately, with a freshly washed window, I was able to get the shot below, a free-will gift and offering from my Good Friend Above.

Rainwater on truck window

This is the way to see a storm —  safely surrounded by a full-sized pickup truck whose radio is spitting ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man,” into the cab.

The last of August, 2013, vestiges of Hurricane Isaac were rumbling through our neighborhood. Fortunately Isaac was a mere shadow of his former self when he made his visit. I did a bid of radar tracking and figured the cloud formations over Saracen Lake here in Pine Bluff would be worth a look-see. I was right. Isaac was leaving town and headed north. He made an ordinary fishing pier look special, another cheap thrill.

Fishing pier in storm on Lake Saracen in Pine Bluff Arkansas

Hurricane Isaac’s tailings make a nice setting for the fishing pier on Saracen Lake in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. Other than a bit of wind and a few boomers, the hurricane’s visit was a non-event. I suppose by the time the Old Boy dropped in on us, he was a mere tropical depression.

birds on street light arm

These birds have an apparent pecking order and always look just about the same, day in and day out.

Though lacking in drama, the pecking order of these birds who consistently occupy the arm of this street light at South Hazel Street and I-530 here in Pine Bluff do provide some comic relief when one harkens back to the “Talk-a-little, peck-a-little” song from the 1962 hit movie, The Music Man.

Aerial photography is not a cheap thrill, but grabbing a few personal shots on the way home after the money shots are “in the can” is. This is a view of a mostly industrial and recreational area in my home town, Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The water you see is the former channel of the Arkansas River which was diverted through an artificial channel north of this scene. The result is a slack water harbor and a fine recreational area.

Lake Langofer Pine Bluff

To the far left is the Pine Bluff – Jefferson County Regional Park. To far right is the Pine Bluff Harbor Industrial District. Fishing is great in these waters. Angler Rick Clunn won the 1984 Bass Masters Classic with a fish caught in the waters to the far middle left of this picture.

With Mother Nature, most of the time, the good seats are also the cheap seats. Even if you don’t venture out, there is plenty to see. All is costs is a look. Take a gander the next chance you get.

Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind.


They ain’t lilies

Water lily bloom and bud

This is not really a water lily. It is an American Lotus, with a scientific name of Nelumbo lutea. However, since I am a card-carrying denizen of L.A. (lower Arkansas), I am yielding to the lexicon of the land and will refer to the poesy as a “lilly.” You will see more of it.

Water lily bloom with a bug

Click on the flower to see and read more at Corndancer dot Com

The home waters for this water lily are at one of the busiest intersections in this neck of the woods. I’m hoping this post gets a lot of local heads nodding, “Yep, ah’ve seen them flares,” but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it. The jury is still out.

Regardless of notice or scorn, the flowers are interesting. I shot all of the pictures for this story in three days. During those three days I noticed an accelerated life cycle. I shot the picture above on day one, not knowing then that I was at a starting point.

Before we go too much further, may I suggest that you go to the Photo of the Week Page at Corndancer dot com and see more pictures and how this story started. We’ll wait here.

Water lilies

This is the same bud and same flower as the top picture in different light and a slightly different angle, a little less than 24 hours later. That’s a lot of life cycle in a short period of time. Notice the stem of the former bloom in the fold of the leaf. Scroll up for comparison

Overnight, the big bloom dropped its leaves and the bud bloomed. The dots at the top of what’s left of the big flower are seeds which comprise the next generation. The next step is below. The yellow pistil (I’m recalling biology 101A here, so forgive me if I have er, ah . . . misnomer-ed), will turn green, enlarge and disgorge its cargo of seeds for the next generation. Perhaps this is not terribly strange since enlarging is common among soon-to-bear-young creatures. All the while, the pod, nee pistil, is facing the sun. That changes too.

Enlarged water lily seed pod

A few days ago, this was a yellow pistil. Is it now a s “seed pod?” Who knows? It still has a drop of water clinging from an overnight thunderstorm.

In the final stage, the pod is empty, dried, turned brown, and returned to the “full upright position.” Once this happens, interior decorators cast their eyes on the spent pods to include in their collections of dried sticks and leaves. If you’ve ever wondered what those weird looking things were, now you know. American Lotus skeletons.

Water lily seed pod

The final stage. It’s mission accomplished, the plant will finally wither and drop into the pond with its ancestors. That is, unless an enterprising supplier to the interior decoration business harvests it first.

According to what I can find out, most of the plant is edible, particularly the tubers in the plant’s root system. The same source says that the plants were originally confined to the southeastern lower 48 and that as Indians migrated north, they brought the plants with them as a source of food.

Grasshopper on water lily

It is said that migrating Indians brought the lilies from the southeastern lower 48 and a source of food. This grasshopper looks convinced.

October 15, 2012 – See how the pond has changed

Since I see the pond at least twice daily, most of the time more than that, I can observe subtle changes which in aggregate a month later are not subtle, but dramatic. The lilies are gone. All of the giant leaves, save a scant few, have withered and turned brown. Most have fallen into the pond.

The ubiquitous yellow flowers of a southeast Arkansas fall have replaced the lilies at the edges of the pond. This afternoon, the pond was like a mirror and the mid-October afternoon sun bathed the pond in irresistible light. I captured three images to show what most people miss when driving past the pond.

Pond at I-530 and Hazel

You can see how close I-530 is the pond. Not much more than “rock-throwing” distance. The diagonal in the middle of the picture is the access road from the 1-530 / Hazel Street exchange.

Traffic sign reflecting in pond

This is the pond and sign reflection from the fence down. The colors of fall are developing, emphasized by the golden light of a setting sun. A few remaining lily leaves are on their last legs in the background along the fence.

truck from interstate highway reflecting in a pond

Since still photography does not record sound, I’ll have to fill you in. Despite the serene appearance, the pond is inundated with interstate highway noise, which is the price we pay for convenient transportation modes. This 18-wheeler reflected in the pond as it sped by. Finally got it timed right after about 40 shots.

Yellow wild flowers

A sure sign that fall and cool, crisp mornings are not far away.

While one plant is biting the big one, others, harbingers of coming fall, are peaking out. Here in LA, the roadways burst with yellow flowers in the waning weeks of summer.

rainbow at the end of a road

A few seconds later, the rainstorm obliterated the rainbow. This is the only shot.

Last week, a good friend called to advise me of a huge rainbow on the east side of our fair city. I beat a path to what I figured would be the best place to shoot it. The accompanying storm was crashing headlong to the same location. I arrived a few seconds before the storm and squeezed off one barely acceptable shot before the storm obliterated the rainbow. I am grateful for that one shot.

And I am grateful you dropped by.


Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

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