Town & Country

Recently, David traded in all his Canon camera gear and with the trade-in money, he bought a Nikon D850. Where the Canon set up made a little more sense to him, it was more logical to go Nikon because of all the Nikon lenses and gear that I have in my kit. Also, David isn’t a big fan of reading camera manuals and understands things better by being shown how to do something with the camera.

That’s where I come in. I am one of those people that likes to sit down with the manual in one hand and the camera in the other hand and go step-by-step down the menu options, clicking on the buttons and rotating the dials just to see what they do and how I can program them best to use them to my advantage. My reasoning is that I have this expensive piece of equipment, a little computer sitting in my lap, so I best make the most of it. So, I read the manuals and then explain everything the best I can to David, hand “talk” included.

The D850 is an amazing camera. I can take a picture with it, upload it to Lightroom and barely have to adjust the image, except for a few minor tweaks. Usually just clicking on the “Camera Profile” tab in the top right corner in the “Develop” module will do the trick. (Incidentally, that’s a marvelous little feature to customize on your camera if you don’t already know about it. In Nikon speak, I have all my cameras set to “Picture Control Standard”. When I click on the profile tab during editing, Lightroom applies that same profile to my picture so then the image becomes what I saw on the back of my camera, more or less. I shoot RAW and the little thumbnail on the camera’s LCD screen is JPEG, so there’s just a slight difference in appearance, but I can then tweak what I need to and move on to the next image. For all you Canon shooters it’s called “Picture Style”.). The D850 is sharp, renders colors beautifully and, like I said above, barely needs any re-touching, which is how I like to edit. I’m not a big fan of, what I call, “Instagram-y” images, the pictures where the shadows are pulled way up to make it look vintage and faded or the “film” look which is huge right now. I like my photos to look clean, colorful and rich, just as I saw the scene in front of me.

Like I said, I’m kinda a camera nerd.

Image overlay applied in camera.

Last Saturday we finally had a day free of obligations and decided to try out the D850 around Fayetteville. I brought my D5 and flash because I’m always wanting to get more experience using flash outside. The sky was overcast when we set out, so throwing the speed light in my bag made sense.

We first tackled the entertainment district of Fayetteville with its large colorful murals adorning the walls of apartment buildings and restaurants. There’s a wonderful bridge just west of the district which leads up to the university. The bridge was built in 1901 and is a popular spot for portraits, so naturally I had David pose for me so I could get his photo.

We meandered about taking pictures of various things, stopping for lunch and deciding to head down to Boxley Valley to see if we could see any of the elk that live there. I was a little doubtful that we would, seeing that it was the middle of the day, but David reminded me that by the time we got there, it would be close to evening, so why not?

We weren’t disappointed. When we got there, there was a pretty good size herd of elk grazing in one of the cow pastures, with the bull elk sporting a massive pair of antlers. We stayed for a good 45 minutes, taking turns with my camera photographing and marveling at the animals. When we finally decided to pack up and head back home, the sun was well on her way to setting, her lovely light spilling over the valley, highlighting the farm animals and barns along the highway, casting soft, quiet golden light over the world.

 
 

McClard's Bar-B-Q

Truly the best BBQ anywhere

Every great success has a story behind it! Well known for our barbeque sauce, McClard's Bar-B-Q Restaurant in Hot Springs, Arkansas is no exception.

Westside Tourist CourtIn the twenties, Alex and Gladys McClard owned Westside Tourist Court, just a few blocks west from the current location of McClard's Bar-B-Q Restaurant at 505 Albert Pike, Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas.

When a down-and-out traveler could not come up the the $10 he owed for his two-month stay, he asked the couple to accept instead a recipe for "the world's greatest bar-b-que sauce". Since something was better than nothing, the couple accepted the recipe. To their great surprise and delight, they tasted the truth in the traveler's claim.

Carhops hung trays of ribs and sandwiches on automobile doors.In 1928, the Westside Tourist Court became Westside Bar-B-Q with goat as its star menu attraction! In 1942, McClard's moved into the current location - a white-washed stucco building.

For many years, drive-in service was provided for a horn toot or blinking lights. Carhops hung trays of ribs and sandwiches on automobile doors while the driver dialed in the radio to catch the tunes from the neon jukebox inside. Today goat has disappeared from the menu, and the carhops from the curbside.

In the kitchen is still the McClard family: 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generations of McClards continue the traditions set by Alex and Gladys. In the kitchen, though, is still the McClard family: 2nd, 3rd, and 4th generations of McClards continue the traditions set by Alex and Gladys. Each week they serve 7,000 pounds of mouth-watering hickory-smoked beef, pork, and ribs. Alongside go 250 gallons of spicy bar-b-que beans, 250 gallons of cole slaw, 3,000 hand rolled hot tamales and 3,000 pounds of fresh-cut potatoes french-fried to perfection.

And over the crusty-on-the-outside, fall-away-tender-pink-inside smoky bar-b-que, in handy bottles on the side.... is the sauce. The famous sauce that started it all. The priceless sauce whose $10 recipe now sits locked away in a safe deposit box in downtown Hot Springs.

- - - History of McClard's BBQ Restaurant

down a dirt road

I grew restless and bored Tuesday afternoon, so I grabbed my camera, got in my car, hit Highway 16 and headed west towards Oklahoma.

I drove past Lake Wedington and spotted a man stand up paddle boarding on the quiet water. 

I passed cows in pastures with their new calves, all huddled in the shade avoiding the heat, tails swishing in each other's faces in an attempt to keep the flies away.

The clouds billowed like towers over the hills as I drove along the winding road.

The radio played in the background of my thoughts, me not really thinking much, just watching the scenery going past my windows.

I find the dirt road I want, but drive past it because ahead there is a bridge I've always been curious to drive across to see what's on the other side. I continue to drive west until Highway 16 intersected with Highway 59 and I decide that I didn't want to go north or south, so I turn around and head back east to my dirt road I picked out and turn on to it.

Clouds of dust and dirt fog up behind me, and I tell myself that I'll need a carwash later this week. I stop periodically to take pictures, but none of them really do justice to the beauty of an Arkansas afternoon in the country.

I glance at the dashboard clock and see that I need to head back home. I had told Meghan that I would come over and help her begin packing up her apartment in preparation for her move this coming weekend to a cute new apartment off the Square downtown. 

I get to her place and am greeted with hugs and smiles from her. We always seem to pick up right where we left off the last time we were together. I'm so happy she is a just stone's throw away from home.

Her cat wraps himself around my legs, purring and incessantly meowing. He complains a lot, but he's a good boy for the most part.

He's also quite a ham, sticking his tongue out when he sees my camera pointed down at him.

Meghan and I sort her clothes, dividing and conquering her closet, then we sit and talk about everything and nothing at all, as we usually do, until almost seven in the evening. I give her a final hug, pet Sam, telling him to be a good boy, and walk down the stairs to my car.

It was a good day for a drive down a dirt road.

A Quick Trip To Paris

Meghan and I took off for the bright lights and big city of Paris Saturday afternoon. We thought we needed a good strong dose of arts and culture, see how the beatniks and ex-pats were doing, so we loaded up my little Crosstrek and hit the road for Paris . . . Arkansas, that is.

Had ya going there for a minute, didn't I ?

Paris, AR. is about an hour or so south of Fayetteville, in between Ozark and Clarksville. We decided to skip the interstate and take the Pig Trail, so named because of all the University of Arkansas students heading south to Little Rock to see their mommas and daddies on long weekends. It's a gorgeous roadway, full of curves and scenic overlooks, and a lot of fun to take David's motorcycle on. You can get lots and lots of tummy tickles as you wind your way down the mountain.

Paris is a sleepy little Southern town, once full of life, i'm sure, but now the downtown square is deserted, all businesses having moved to the outskirts of town or being driven out of business altogether by Walmart. The courthouse and square really look like they're straight out of a movie set, and the surrounding neighborhood is full of white clapboard houses with long screened in porches, covered in shade by big elm trees and maple trees. The few people that we ran into all spoke with a long, Southern drawl, as if the heat itself made talking difficult. They were as nice as could be and I could've sat and listened to them all day long. There's something really comforting and soothing to a good Southern accent, and Southerners do like to hear themselves talk.

Meghan and I wandered around the square for a bit before getting in the car and driving over to a coal miner's museum and memorial. There was a blacksmith shop and a miner's house, completely furnished with pieces from the time that the house was built, probably around the early part of the 20th century. The caretaker was the nicest woman, full of stories about the furnishings and the family who donated the house. In fact, she was your typical Southern lady, talking to us for a good hour and a half; I felt as though I was visiting with my grandmother. 

Visiting these kinds of places, experiencing the sleepiness of a quiet town square and the peacefulness of a warm spring afternoon where you can only hear the far away hum of cars and the very close hum of crickets brings out the daydreamer in me. I imagine what a town like Paris must've been like in its heyday,  the square coming alive with farmers coming in on market day, local women catching up on the latest gossip, kids running around up to no good, I'm sure. Then the long lazy summer evenings, families and neighbors gathering on long porches, swatting at the flies and murmuring in quiet voices, lightning bugs dancing amongst the tree branches. Just think how quiet it would've been, how connected everyone was to each other, no emails, no social media, no Netflix. It was just neighbors reaching out to other neighbors. Doesn't that sound wonderful? I think it does.

I think I was born in the wrong era.