& Video - Almost All Points
This discussion assumes you are either a
serious amateur or a hard-working pro out to capture more than the standard vacation snap
shots. Since most serious photographers are short on time, our goal here is helping you
save time in location and light timing selections.
In General - With the
exception of macro subjects the challenge facing any serious photography effort here in
the Ozarks is trees and brush. Trees block views in all but a few locations. Nature
photography is difficult due to thick brush or forest. There are few wide open scenes like
what one sees out west. You have to get in close and be patient with wildlife.
Wildlife - With rare
exception your wildlife shots will be in very close, as within a few yards. Trophy animals
rarely expose themselves. Doe appear in fields in wide open views, but trophy buck rarely
do. Black bear hang out here in heavy cover, as do wild boar. You won't set up on a ridge
top somewhere and photograph them with a long zoom as is done out west. Instead you'll
need to scout likely locations, set up a blind, and wait. This is a long, time-consuming
However, if you have the time to master
patience and persistence in this country, you'll get unique shots. The wildlife
photography market is flooded with shots taken out west and in other areas with much
different backgrounds than what you'd have in shots made here.
Driving the back roads looking for animals is
pointless. They hear you coming from miles away and therefore avoid roads. The Sylamore is
heavily hunted so the animals are all very shy. Yet despite heavy hunting animal
populations remain high. This is because the Ozark hills are so rugged and difficult to
get around in most hunters never penetrate the interior. The big trophy animals are smart
enough to literally head for the hills. The only sensible way into the interior is by mule
Birds - If you are looking
for places to use your long zoom, hang out on the lake shores, river banks, and creeks.
The water channels are the only place trees will not be in your shot. Birds hang out
around the water. Bald Eagles inhabit the White River and Norfork Lake. Since they are
used to boats and people, you can get reasonably close without stressing them. Rent boats
for either the lake or river, and then take your time exploring the shores. When on the
river you'll need a faster than normal shutter speed to compensate for boat motion. The
boat can be floating on flat, smooth water, but it is still moving.
Landscape - It takes a lot
of driving to scout out attractive scenes. The best thing to do is plan on a day or two of
nothing more than driving about to scout out the type of scene that captures your style.
Then go back to your scenes morning, noon, and afternoon to see how light affects your
choices. Because the hills are close together there will be shadows just about any time of
day. These shadows can work for you, or against you, which is why you have to watch the
Photographing any scene with a tree-lined
road running through it means you'll get your best light between 12 noon and 2pm. Of
course this goes against any common sense regarding prime light conditions. However, any
other time of day shadow patterns caused by the trees are too dense for well-balanced
exposure. The sun needs to shine straight down on the road to eliminate shadows. You'll
need a good polarizer or ND filter to tone down the over-exposed light reflecting off the
road surface. This gets real tricky!
Macro Subjects - This is
where the Ozark hills offer a long, rich list of subjects. If you shoot for textures
you'll find an endless array of barks, sands, rocks, leaves, pebbles, etc. All the creeks
offer hundreds of spots for water and rock shots. Mushrooms, moss, and ferns can be found
in the creek cuts. In many places are what we call "mini slot canyons" which
offer all kinds of weird and interesting shots. These are little canyons barely large
enough to walk through. The Ozarks were formed by water action, not fault line upheavals
so you'll find a wide range of smooth, water-worn rocks and slews.
Wildflowers - We have
personally photographed 122 different wildflowers in the Sylamore, including an extremely
rare member of the orchid family. The majority of the best wildflower colonies are found
beside roads, but it also pays to explore deep dark wet creek bottoms. Forest trails will
also reveal a lot of color. Of course the flowers attract many butterflies and other
Insects - The Ozarks are
loaded with a broad range of colorful insects. Butterflies, dragon flies, moths, katydids,
mantis, spiders, beetles, you name it, they are here. Beautiful green and blue damsels can
be found along the creeks. Dragon and damsel flies are also found in numbers in the lake
creek arms in the mud flats where creeks flow into the lake.
Reptiles - You'll find
several snake species, lizards, skinks, newts, and salamanders. There are timber rattlers
here, in fact some of the largest rattlers in the world. Copperheads are common. Water
moccasins are here as well. Pigmy rattlers are here but are rare and endangered. We have
seen all of these snakes in our own efforts. The rattlers are very hard to find as they
are well camouflaged, timid, and quiet. They come out mostly at night.
Water moccasins tend to be down in the creek
bottoms in the more remote areas. Several non-venomous snakes are easier to find. But
again, they are shy and tend to run - and fast! Banded water snakes can be found in almost
any creek, and along the lake shore.
Several species of turtles live in the lake.
You can find them almost anywhere sunning on logs and rocks. You'll also find them on the
forest floor as several species don't inhabit water.
Fish - Look closely in
shallow, clear water. You'll see a surprising number of rather colorful minnow-sized
species. The water is "gin clear" so you can photograph fish with a zoom lens
and get very good underwater creature shots. Crayfish are everywhere as well.
Fall Foliage - This is hit
and miss. The Sylamore area is right on the edge of the area in the United States that can
predictably boast of great fall colors. Some years we have fantastic foliage, other years
it is unremarkable. However, in good years, you'll get fall color shots here that are
unique and distinct compared to northern fall foliage. If you want some very good macro
work, walk the forest understory in fall foliage. You'll an amazing range of colors and
textures 2 to 6 feet off the ground.
Video Audio Is The
Of course all of the above subjects work for
video. The big challenge with video in the Sylamore is the sound tracks. To capture pure
nature sounds we've used sensitive parabolic mics only to hear a constant collection of
undesirable background noise. Motorcycles with no mufflers can be heard for miles in these
hills, as can barking dogs.
The area also has a heavy concentration of
high altitude jet flights. Even at 2am in the morning when we were attempting to record
owl calls we had a problem with jets. All of these sounds are noise one normally pays no
attention to, in fact most people never notice them. But they sure wreak a video audio
In these cases it is easier to record the
audio separate from the video and then put the two together in post. For subjects like
close-in bird calls, frogs, and creek water sounds, it works to use a good shotgun mic.
Finally, much of the time we just turn the audio off all together. When we luck out and
are able to record good audio without background noise interference, we do so and use it
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