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Little Hawksbill Crag, Ozark National Forest, Arkansas
Little Hawksbill Crag presents a dramatic view overlooking the White River in Arkansas. Situated directly across the river from the small town of Calico Rock, the overlook is easily accessible without hiking, which makes it a popular place for picnics and bird watching. Finding it can be a little tricky. Drive south on Highway 5 from Calico Rock until you cross the river, take the first road on your right, Culp Road, and in two miles you’ll see a pull-off with boulders blocking access to the edge of the cliff. (You used to be able to drive right to the edge!) The lookout is situated on the eastern edge of the Ozark National Forest covering over a million acres of the rugged Ozark Mountains. A predominance of hardwoods creates some of the best fall color you’ll find anywhere.
Northwestern Arkansas is a wonderful place to visit in the spring and autumn months. Daytime highs are in the upper 70s and overnight lows in the 40s. A light jacket or raincoat provides all you need for a full day of photography. Spring has frequent rain showers while autumn is mostly dry. The winter months, mostly December through February, have temperatures averaging around 40 degrees, making it a great time for hiking. The summer months of June, July and August are hot and humid, with temperatures routinely in the 90s.
I produce landscapes in large fine-art prints, so I need the sharpest high-resolution image possible, especially when capturing the remarkably detailed colors of the fall landscapes you’ll find in the Ozarks. My camera is a Phase One IQ180 digital back mounted to a Cambo Wide RS technical camera. For wide-angle shots, I use a 40mm ƒ/4 HR Digaron-W lens and my Schneider 72mm ƒ/5.6 Apo-Digitar L lens for most everything else. When traveling, I bring the Nikon D800E DSLR with the excellent Nikkor 24-120mm ƒ/4G VR all-around zoom lens as backup. To keep vibrations to a minimum, I use a Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Versa Series 2 tripod with TA-2-LB leveling base. An Arca-Swiss Cube geared tripod head allows me to precisely fine-tune the composition and rotate for panoramic stitching. To remove glare from water, I have a B+W circular polarizer, as well as a Lee 8-stop IRND filter for making creative long exposures.
Little Hawksbill Crag is best in early morning or just after sunset when the crag glows as it’s pictured here. The Ozark National Forest has plenty of subjects to keep you busy photographing all day long. I travel the globe pursuing my photography, but always come home for spring and autumn in northwestern Arkansas. April and May bring lush greens and several hundred waterfalls in a small geographic area. Autumn is equally special, with crisp, clear mornings and fantastic hardwood colors peaking from mid-October to mid-November. If that isn’t enough, every 10 to 12 years, Arkansas will have a wet fall, combining the incredible color with all of those waterfalls—I can hardly wait!
Contact: Ozark-St. Francis National Forests, (479) 964-7200, www.fs.usda.gov/osfnf.
Heliopan Circular Polarizer Multi-Coated (SH-PMC) Filter
Even in a world of incredibly powerful postprocessing tools, polarizers remain one of the most useful pieces of gear for nature photographers. The effects aren’t easy to simulate digitally, and if you’re photographing water, a polarizer gives you incredible control over the glare and reflection. This is particularly helpful in the fall when you’re capturing autumn colors reflecting in the water.