Jan. 18, 2004

This weekend was big in several ways. It was three days long, to begin with, and the dogs and I got to have some good times out in the woods, which included Sophie's first real hike since late fall when she cut her leg. I also had some luck finding good stuff to photograph, and had fun doing it, too, even on Monday morning when it meant getting out of a nice warm bed and facing 16 degree temperatures. But I guess the biggest thing about the weekend for me was that I got to meet someone whose photographs and outdoor experiences have been an inspiration to me for as long as I've been doing this: Tim Ernst.

Now, it is no exaggeration to say that I would not be a photographer if it weren't for a fellow named Bryan Stover, who had the skill and patience to slog through thousands of my images over a period of years, and find in them things to praise, and to gently point out those things that weren't up to snuff and do it in a way that didn't crush the hope that someday I might actually be good at this. So the plain fact is I owe whatever level of skill I have attained to the mentoring I received from Bryan.

But another constant that has always been a part of my photographic endeavors is the example and inspiration of Tim Ernst. I don't know how many times I have looked at one of his images and thought, I want to take a photograph as good as that one some day. But more than that is that he more than anyone else has shown me how much beauty there is to be found in the world all around us if we take the time to look for it. He was the one who knew it was there and had the skill to bring a little of it back and show the rest of us.

And what beauty there is to see! I have been in places that have taken my breath away and left me wide-eyed and speechless, and I have learned to look for beauty in small things and in unexpected places in these old Arkansas hills. And I didn't know until Tim Ernst showed me. I want to take great photographs and be recognized for my work, but even if I never am, I have still seen such things.

Anyway, it was while I was down at the Glory Hole photographing ice formations on Monday morning that I spied Tim and his lovely wife Pam making their way down into the gorge below the falls, where they proceeded to set up and start taking pictures. Since they appeared to be there to work and make a living, I decided I ought not bother them, and went back to shooting the ice and tried to look sort of like I knew what I was doing.

Junie Moon, as she sometimes does, decided she would have to guard us from these strangers who, you never know, could turn out to be dangerous, and she went about it by elaborately pretending to be a dopey pup so as to get them to let down their guard. She did this very well, and later on she decided it might take the both of us to fight them off, so she strategically positioned herself next to me and pretended to get sleepy and curl up and take a nap. With a sentry like Junie on the job, I'm as safe as a bug in a rug.

Once I tried to warn Pam not to let Junie lick the inside of her mouth out, which she has been known to do on occasion, but from the puzzled look on Pam's face I expect she was standing close enough to the falls that she couldn't hear me, or maybe she did hear me and just couldn't believe what she was hearing. Fortunately, the Ernsts, being dog people themselves, were tolerant of her antics.

By and by, Tim came over and, to my delight, we had a brief conversation, which, due to the thundering of the falls, might better have been conducted in sign language. But I think I was able to follow things somewhat. I know he graciously tipped me off to some of the stuff he had found to photograph, and complimented me on the ice I was shooting.

Here's a link to Tim's journal where he mentions our encounter (scroll down to the entry for Jan. 19). If you've never been there before, please do your best to ignore the fact that I more or less stole the idea of doing a journal from him, and that the women on his site are prettier.