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Scenic Drives, Attractions, Activities, & Services
Between Mountain Home & Mountain View Arkansas
Sylamore Area is Norfork, Calico Rock, Allison, Fifty Six, Sylamore National Forest, White River, North Fork River, Norfork Lake, Sylamore Creek National Scenic River Corridor, Leatherwood Wilderness Area

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of the Ozark Mountains

 

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Photography & 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 process.

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 or horse.

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 light.

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.

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 Challenge

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 track!

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 in post.

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