Fireworks in August

One of the nice things about the end of August besides the hot summer days ending, is the St Anthonys Catholic Church Celebration weekend here locally…and they have a fireworks show each year on Saturday night…

Gold and Green Pinwheel

this year I captured a nice gold and green pinwheel, one of those chance shots, you either get it or you don`t….

Multi Color Burst

and this year I almost missed it, they started 30 minutes earlier than normal, since it was totally dark, and only lasted about fifteen minutes total….

Red and Gold Burst

…so I had to grab my camera and run up to the city park where I could get a clear view of the bursts and shot with the basketball court and baseball field below it…would have preferred to have shot it from the overpass instead, but oh well…

Multi Color Burst 2


Gold and Blue Burst

…sometimes you just get what you get.

Miller Mtn Mine and Fireworks over DeGray Lake…

My third day of vacation started late, I slept in after the long day of driving and then fireworks the night before, so Missy and I got a slow start to Miller Mountain Mine north of Hot Springs, arriving mid morning instead of early morning…and on arrival found only about half a dozen diggers already there digging away.

West End of Pile Sunday 0704

….the guy in the middle of the photo here, is Mark from the Joplin area, he and his wife Carol, were digging in the small pile next to me most of the day there and removed several nice single points from their pile, while I took several small clusters and plates, including a few smokies, from my pile…here is one of Mark`s finds…

Mark`s Cluster in Clay side view


…and some of mine….

Crystals All Over Top of Yard Rock


Crystals on End of Yard Rock


This One Found in Layer of Dust


One Plate Found


Beautiful Small Cluster

I only meant to dig about five hours at the most, as my parents were driving down and I knew they would arrive about 4 pm and want to go to dinner by 5 pm…but I began finding so much great stuff, I wound up sticking around til 5 pm…and as soon as I got down off the mountain, my cellphone rang and my parents told me they were headed to dinner. I was at least an hour drive away so told them to go ahead and I would catch up later, I hadn`t even switched over to the other hotel yet and would have to clean up as well. I was very happy though, having filled four bags full of quartz crystals.

I drove back to Arkadelphia and saw my parents as soon as I pulled into the Quality Inn by the interstate, to check in for the remainder of the week. My parents were spending one night only, they would be staying at the DeGray Lake Resort Park Lodge the rest of the week for the family reunion, and I would have too, except for the fact that the Lodge doesn`t like pets inside. I showed the Manager and my mom some of the quartz that I found, seems the Manager of the Hotel is a big fan of quartz crystals too and mentioned that he had found some in his native country of India as well. From the way he talked, I believe he felt that quartz has healing powers too, as many Arkansans do as well.

I got checked in and cleaned up and then went across the street to Mickey D`s and got some supper and then headed to DeGray Lake to find a spot to shoot the fireworks that evening. I stopped at the Corps of Engineers picnic area by the Highway 7 Support Dam/Bridge and decided to shoot from there. I prob should have driven over to the Lodge and shot it from their grounds, but hindsight is always 20/20.

As it was, the only real problem shooting from my spot was that it seemed that very few bursts gained any real elevation, and its likely that I wouldn`t have thought that if I had been shooting from the Lodge lawn.Here are the boaters gathering on DeGray Lake prior to the sunset and fireworks show….

Boats Gather on Lake Before Fireworks Show

and I set up on the end of the peninsula there, close to a houseboat pulled up to the shore, which became part of my next sunset photo….

Houseboat Sunset

and as I waited for the setting sun to fade out, I was talking to a Hispanic family who had driven up from Hope, Arkansas…we talked til the sunset finally faded from the skies….

Waiting For Total Darkness 2

and then the show began…this show is set off by hand by members of the Bismarck Fire Department and other neighboring fire departments from one of the small islands behind DeGray Lake Lodge…but it was a very pretty show too…




and this one came out nice, the blur on the bottom left is a big party barge houseboat that was moving back and forth across the water all during the show…


he didn`t show up in all of my photos, wouldn`t have bothered me tho, I like motion like that….


and this one shows quite clearly the elevation problem, the lower one looks like it went off right on top of the shooters….


and more for your enjoyment….













Fireworks in Hot Springs, Arkansas…

Well I drove on down to Arkadelphia after my shoot with Derek and Nick at Jolly Mill and forgot what a long drive it is across Highway 40, plus I hit rain about the Missouri / Arkansas line and finally made it down there…being the 4th of July weekend, I had made reservations at the Super Eight Motel there, reserving a suite for six nights as I had a family reunion at DeGray Lake nearby and had Missy with me, so didn`t think anything about it. I arrived around 4 pm and stopped to check in..boy was I in for a rude surprise…I always call and make reservations and I always ask for a confirmation number when I make that call, had that when I walked into the motel office, and had problems right off the bat, trying to understand the guy behind the desk…when I made the reservations three weeks prior, I had talked to a young lady who spoke good english, and this guy did not speak it well at all. 

I`m not a racist by any means and I have nothing against people from other countries coming to ours for a better life, thats originally how our country started out, but if you move here, learn the language and follow the rules ! Thats what we would have to do as Americans if we moved to your country, wherever it may be, so that should apply to anyone moving to the US.…plus he was talking very loud and excitedly, which made it even more difficult to understand him…another couple came in behind me and waited, prob putting pressure on him, but then he finally tells me that their outdated computer system crashed on them and they had cancelled all reservations and given my suite to someone else…about that time, the female I believe I spoke to, came in and told me the same thing, in better english though. I wasnt too happy at this point, and then she offers me a room, at a much higher rate than the suite I was quoted for, and I explained that to her and she said that was the best she could do, at which my reply was, your best isnt good enough….and out the door I went…luckily I had spent some time online the past few weeks looking at lodging in the area, so I had a good idea for motel choice two and three, but being as it was the 4th of July, I thought I might be sol too…but there is a lot of National Forest around there, figured if nothing else, just pull over and camp out in the truck, those Chevrolet Colorado Crew Cab pickups are nice and comfy on their own.

Took me about an hour, but after checking a few places and going thru some rude and pushy clerks, as well as one or two nice ones, I finally found a room, and had to pay extra for Missy, but also found a nice hotel that didnt have any rooms available that night, there also happened to be a baseball tournament in the area that weekend…but when I told the manager what had just occurred to me at the other hotel, he was very nice and understanding and offered me a great rate for the other five nights I would be there, so after looking at a room that he took the time to show me, I accepted his offer and told him I would be back the next day. He spoke good english and you could tell he ran a very clean business there, the Quality Inn.

As soon as Missy and I got cleaned up at the pricey Comfort Inn, we headed north to Hot Springs, and I called Randy, one of my Hot Springs models, to let him know I was headed up to scout a parking spot and shoot spot for the fireworks over Lake Hamilton that evening and then headed to Coltons Steakhouse for a good steak dinner. They are an excellent place to eat at and I usually try to eat there at least once or twice when down there, great food and great atmosphere !

As I drove through Hot Springs and across Lake Hamilton on Highway 7, I noticed there were already several people lining up along the bridge to wait for the fireworks, but still plenty of places to park at as well. The Clarion Hotel management had graciously given me permission to shoot from their parking lot, but I wasnt allowed to park there since I wasnt a guest there, and believe me, it looked like they needed all the parking space they could get, they had a band playing out by the pool by the lake and quite a crowd there…I wasnt worried, though, it was only about 6:30 pm and there were still a couple of hours before they would start the show…drove up to Coltons in the middle of town and left Missy in the truck with the ac on, yes I left the truck running and the ac on for her, and went inside to have a good steak dinner….they were a bit full inside, but the bar was wide open and since I was alone, they offered me my choice of seats and I stepped right up to the bar.

I hadn`t been in there ten minutes and some gal came up to me and asked me if I had the pretty Colorado pickup out in the parking lot…I said yes, and she said ” hey mister, do you know you left your truck running and locked ? “…I started laughing and she asked what was so funny… I asked her if she had bothered to look inside and she said,  well I tried but your windows are kind of tinted dark ….then I told her there was a black Border Collie inside and I was doing my best to keep her cool on this hot, hot day…and then she gave me a hug and said ” bless you hun, I`m a dog lover myself. ” 

 I take my responsibilities seriously when it comes to my dog, she goes almost everywhere I do, and on hot days, I leave my truck running and the ac on full blast for her, I love her to death, she`s my buddy girl.

I met up with Randy after dinner, he was tied up and couldn`t join me, but he took me out south of town to show me a beautiful waterfall he had found, that he thought would make a great photo shoot location, and after arriving and looking it over, I thought he was right…

Cool Pool Falls

As you can see it stairsteps down twice…in the upper pool there are actually three waterfalls…and a four foot deep pool beneath them…then it runs down over the Navaculite ledge about thirty feet to the next drop and there are two falls there, and a ten food deep pool under them…then a three foot deep stretch to a little manmade dam…some of Randy`s friends were there and I shot a few pics of them having fun in the water…Randy showed me the benefits of this location on a hot summer day real quickly….

Sliding Down Falls Again

…and then I scooted quickly back to Hot Springs to set up for the fireworks show.

Got back to the Hwy 7 bridge and parked on a side street, there were police officers directing traffic and it looked like people were parking on the side streets now, so I joined them…pulled in next to some people and asked if it was alright to park there…talked to them a few minutes, they were up visiting from Mississippi and said they would watch my truck for me…I left it running and the ac on for Missy and took my tripod and walked over to the bridge…found an open spot and set up my tripod there…figured as full as the parking lot was at the Clarion Hotel, it would make more sense for me to shoot from the bridge, plus they had a boat dock that would have been in my way too….

Now I have shot the fireworks from the Eads Bridge at St Louis and my own city park in Sullivan, and during the lull and wait for skies to get dark enough to shoot the fireworks, one normally gets eaten alive by the mosquitos…and I had left my spray in the truck…but there in Hot Springs, not sure what it was, but not one time did I get bit or even notice one flying around…and no one around me complained either….I was amazed…talked to some nice people there on the bridge while waiting for the show to start, lots of people visiting from Mississippi and Alabama and Texas, no one near us was from Hot Springs except for the police officer directing traffic right behind us, who was very nice and had his hands full at a very busy intersection I might add. Here is the bay out in front of me…

Darkness Approaches

…the dock area across and on the right side of the photo, is the Power Boats docks, where the fireworks were shot from…Power Boats puts on the show each year I am told…and in the past few weeks getting ready to drive down there, I had researched and tried to find photos of past fireworks shows and could only find one or two photos of fireworks there…totally blew my mind. I had contacted Jessica of the Hot Springs Convention Center, and she put me in touch with Power Boats and then they suggested I contact the Clarion Hotel for permission to shoot from their property…..and thats how I wound up down there that evening…I love shooting fireworks photos.

Well it started getting darker and darker…more boats showed up for the best seat in the house…

Finally Getting Dark


Nightlights Across Bay

….as it got darker, I noticed how many boats were sitting out in the bay by the bridge in front of us…their lights made it easier to count the number of them…and boy were there a bunch of them out there…

More Reflections

Pretty soon they fired off a test burst and it went well, so shortly after that, they fired up this rocket volley that sounded like an automatic rifle and looked like waves of red, white, and blue….

First Color Burst of Show

and then the show really took off…there was music with it, and it sounded great, seemed to be a computerized show much like the Fair St Louis Show….

First Starburst of Show

Beautiful Burst and Rockets

and saw some different color combinations at this show…

Beautiful Bursts Above Water


Bright Red Bursts Over Bay

Bright Blue Bursts Over Bay

and green…

Green Bursts Above Bay


Green and Purple Bursts

and even saw some deep purple colors…

Deep Purple Bursts

and some reds and golds….

Red and Gold Bursts Above Bay 2


Red and Purple Bursts

even had a shot of a massive fireball at the base of one burst… prob a good thing the Hot Springs Fire Department had a truck there…

Massive Fireball Launch

but the red burst prob gave off the best color in the sky above the water, def gave me better reflections too…

Bright Red Bursts Above Bay


Red Bursts Over Bay


and yet I still liked the rocket volleys they had that night, lots of them too throughout the entire show….

Blue and Gold Rockets

blue and gold rockets here, then bursts on top of the rockets….

Blue Rockets and Starburst

and a few multi color bursts as well…don`t ask me how long the show lasted cause I couldn`t tell ya, I was having a blast photographing it, it was one great show that night…

Multi Color Bursts Over Water

Single Starburst Above Water


Purple and Teal Tips

After the show was over, it only took about 30 minutes to get out of there, which I didn`t think was too bad. Next night was the fireworks show over DeGray Lake, see the next story for that one.

Arkansas Family Reunion and Quartz…

Hey All, just got back from a week in Arkansas near Hot Springs…drove down for the July 4th weekend for a family reunion and some hiking with my dog Missy, and took my family quartz crystal hunting as well. I had a few shoots along the way at some pretty waterfall…one of which was Grand Falls, seen here at sunset Friday the 2nd of July….the widest waterfall in the midwest and very pretty at anytime of year, fed by Shoal Creek on the west side of Joplin, Missouri.

Grand Falls At Sunset

I left Joplin the next morning and drove southeast to Jolly Mill, just west of Pierce City and south of Highway 60, and photographed the old building which has been restored by community members and the millrace dam and stream, which is now a trout stream popular with flyfishing enthusiasts. I like old mills too.

Mill and Creek

Streamside of Building


Dam and Stream Behind Mill

This mill is hard to photograph from the mill side of the stream, one almost would need to don waders and wade out to the middle of the stream or the far bank to get a really good shot of it, as the land on the opposite side of the stream is posted and private. There are also two old steel bridges on each side of the mill, one is part of the Jolly Mill Park and open to walk across and the other is privately owned and upstream from the mill. I decided to try to do some rockhunting on the way down Hwy 71 south of Neosho, stopping along the roadcuts near the Pineville exit to confirm reports of dolomite and calcite but I couldn`t locate anything on the west side of the cuts just south of the exit. I didn`t have time to turn around and check the east side cuts on the northbound side at the time, figured I would catch it on the way back, but that idea didn`t work out for me at all. I arrived in Arkadelphia, where I spent the week and drove over to meet some friends in Hot Springs for supper and they showed me a new waterfall south of town called the Cool Pool Falls…..

Cool Pool Falls

  ….and then I drove back to Hot Springs and prepared to photograph the fireworks over Lake Hamilton there. After checking the area, I decided to photograph the show from the Hwy 7 bridge on the south side by the Clarion Hotel, who had graciously given me permission to shoot the show from their parking lot and boy was it a nice and colorful show over the water.  I set up on the side of the bridge among many tourists from all over the country, there for their first time and while it wasn`t my first time to visit Hot Springs, it was def my first time to photograph the fireworks there, as I usually photograph the fireworks at the St Louis VP Fair by the Arch. I set up my camera and tripod around 8 pm and waited with everyone else for darkness, and several people showed up on both sides of the bridge for the best seat in the house, in their boats.

Darkness Approaches

….and eventually even more boaters showed up, and as darkness fell, it became apparent that there were hundreds of boats on either side of the bridge, lit up by their parking lights.

Nightlights Across Bay

Even More Lights

….and right before the show began, it became downright crowded on the water….

Finally Getting Dark Alot More Boaters Gather

…...but as I said, they had the best seat in the house, as the fireworks were fired from the peninsula on the right side of my first photo showing the boats gathering, at the Power Boats of Lake Hamilton`s boat docks. I wasn`t really sure what to expect of this show, but I can tell you one thing, I was sure not disappointed at all, a very nice show to behold and observe and photograph. For more photos, take a look at the next blog post. 

Bright Red Bursts Above Bay

Beautiful Burst and Rockets


Sunday morning, Missy and I headed over to Miller Mountain Mine to scout it out and find some quartz crystals.

East End near Rock Office


West End of Pile Sunday 0704

I paid my ten dollar fee and started digging in one of the fifteen new piles that the bucket driver brought up from the mines that morning and right away, started finding smokey colored crystals. I also found a couple of clusters nicely sized…

Cluster Found In Clay


Softball Cluster Needs Cleaning

A couple next to me introduced themselves as Mark and Carol and turned out to be from the Joplin area. Mark took me over to his truck and showed me a nice large cluster he found in the clay in one of the piles that morning before I arrived, that had several large points sticking out of the clay…

Mark`s Cluster in Clay side view

….and a closer view of it…

Mark`s Cluster in Clay side view

They were pulling several nice single points and small clusters out of their pile all day long.

Mark and Carol Digging in Middle

I originally intended to stay til about 2 pm, but had so much fun and found so much material, I stayed and dug til 5 pm. Finally around 4 pm, I got up and took my second walk around and found so much more small clusters and single points up on top of the pile than I had found digging in the pile all day. While there, a few families came up that had started their morning off digging at Ron Coleman`s mine and found only a few crystals after four hours of digging. Three people told us that in three days time, not one new load of dirt had been brought up out of that mine for anyone to dig through and one guy had been there all three days. He said he had found more in three afternoons at Miller Mountain and would return the next time to it instead. I filled four bags on Sunday,  with high hopes for Tuesday. As I headed back to the hotel, and crossed De Gray Lake over the dam, I saw some very interesting looking clouds and a rainshower…it looked like an approaching storm, so I turned around to shoot it as it was coming in across the lake from the west….

Stairway to Heaven and Rain Cloud Over DeGray Lake

I then put a filter on my lens to make the clouds stand out more….

Approaching Storm Filtered

On Monday, we took family reunion photos at the rear of the De Gray Lake State Park Lodge, which provides a very scenic area in which to shoot from and around in as you can tell from the following photos…..

Group Shot Second to Last Taken 2

this is most of my mom`s side of the family, with relatives from both her mother`s and father`s side there for a few days of visiting. The island in the background is where the fire departments there, shoot the fireworks display from on July 4th. All of the larger lakes down there host their own large fireworks display each year, shooting them on different nights so folks can travel around and enjoy them all. While we were out there shooting, we had to take a few breaks for speedboats and water surfers whizzing by….

Speedboat and Water Surfers

This is my Mom with her sisters and brothers….

Sisters and Brothers

…and my Mom with my cousin Vanessa, and the reunion cake….

Mom and Vanessa With Cake

On Tuesday, twenty of my cousins loaded up with my parents and we caravanned to Miller Mountain Mine for a day of crystal collecting…Bill and Faith, the caretakers there, gave us a group discount on the adult price, with several from California and Wisconsin along this year that had traveled down for the reunion.

Thomas Family Rockhounders At Miller Mtn Mine


Thomas Family Rockhounders Turned Loose

One of my California cousins is a water specialist for his city and he brought his Honda truck so he could load it down with quartz for the trip home. I helped him locate a few yard rocks for his rock gardens and he actually found some nice specimens as well while there.

John With His First Finds At Miller Mtn Mine

The weather down there all week was hot and steamy, and Tuesday was no exception, it got hot real fast and several of our group tired of the heat and left by noon. One of my uncles is a retired geophysicist, who taught at Washington University in St Louis, he and his wife went with us and I helped him locate a few bigger boulders so he could trim a few crystal corners off to take home. Bill was a little more prepared for the heat and dug alittle and walked a little all day like I did, and found a bag full of crystals. Here he is seen putting on suntan lotion and wearing a big straw hat…

Bill Gets Ready For the Sun At Miller Mtn Mine

Joann, his wife, also found several nice crystals and clusters and filled half a bag herself. A lot of my cousins were first timers to quartz, having traveled down to the diamond mine state park three years ago on our reunion trip at DeGray Lake Park for the first time, and wasted their time, finding very little of anything there that day. They sure didnt waste their time on Tuesday and left very happy with their finds. After helping everyone find some nice goodies, making sure no one went home unhappy, I was able to find a few gems myself. While I was walking around on top, the dozer guy came up on top and started moving some piles around, so we backed off and let him rework the piles and then sifted thru afterwards. Thats when I found these nice ones…

Crystals on End of Yard Rock


Crystals All Over Top of Yard Rock


Crystals All Over Top Sitting on End

I then walked to the west end and turned a large rock over, as Docia has reminded me several times, turn the flat ugly side over to see whats on the dirt side, and this is what I found…

Mouth of Large Yard Rock

so now I have my hands full, digging tool and bag of rocks in one hand, scoop this baby up and start walking to the truck and then I look down and see this beauty sitting on the floor of the pile in just a little bit of clay dust….

This One Found in Layer of Dust

and anyone that knows me, and knows that all I look for is pretty stuff, knows that I just couldn`t pass this one up either…so I stopped and re-positioned everything so that nothing got mashed, including my fingers…and toiled on toward the truck. Luckily I made it without any damage to anything or me. Before leaving, I purchased two baskets of uncleaned quartz crystals, one for me and one for my cousin from California…Bill helped me load the baskets and as we walked out of the cool office hut into the heat, we were both amazed to see a full size Chevy Suburban drive up the steep gravel road pulling a 35 foot long Holiday Rambler camping trailer…loaded down with a kayak on top of it and occupied by six rockhounds from Georgia no less…and no easy feat in itself at all…the road up Miller Mountain, for anyone who hasn`t been there, is up a very steep angle and no room to pass another vehicle, nor any place to turn around until you reach the top. I`m still wondering where he turned that rig around when they left. Wow…

On the way back to De Gray Lake, I came across this beautiful scene along Hwy 7 south of Hot Springs and stopped to photograph it…

Horses Near Lake Close to Hot Springs

Horse Farm and Lake Near Hot Springs

Horses Graze near Lake

Wednesday was a shopping day for those who wanted to go and Thursday was a free day for those that stayed that long. My California cousin John, went shopping with some of the others and visited a flea market in Hot Springs. John is also a collector of old fishing lures it turns out and he found several at one of the booths there. He also spotted a nice old cluster of large quartz crystals on the seller`s desk and was able to purchase it from the guy for thirty five bucks ! After he showed it to me that evening before dinner, he asked me what I thought it cost him and I estimated its worth at about one hundred fifty to two hundred, rock shop pricing wise, and then he told me what he bought it for. What a buy ! John and several of my cousins left early Thursday morning and about mid morning I stopped to visit a quartz crystal hunter and dealer friend of mine who lives in the area. I met Mike there three years ago when I was at the first family reunion at De Gray Lake and we became good friends..he gave me some great information on mines to visit and dig at in Mt Ida and some to avoid, and was able to steer me to come great locations to dig Arkansas Herkimers and green chloride quartz as well. Seems Mike had been digging and finding some very nice clusters of quartz crystals on Wednesday at one of the Mt Ida mines and showed me just a few of the eight, five gallon buckets of material he had found in one pocket. I was totally floored by the color and clarity of the crystals, and most of the clusters were medium to large in size, with a few smaller pristine clusters as well. While there, Mike told me he had a little problem…. he had too many crystals and asked me if I would help him by taking some home… only took me about five seconds to decide that I could make enough room in my pickup bed to accommodate his request. I was able to help him create some new room for his new conquests by clearing off one complete rack for him, about five buckets worth, and yes, Virgil, I wrapped them very carefully before I loaded them up in my truck. Mike even helped me wrap them.


Here is a sunset I shot from near the park Lodge Wed evening on my way to supper there….

Sunset Wed Evening

I came home Friday evening… long drive from down there… with a few hundred pounds of quartz crystals, including one enhydro crystal that Mike gave me, and plans to return to a certain mine in the Mt Ida area in October and possibly even November when I return for my fall trips. If anyone is planning a trip down to the Hot Springs/Mount Ida areas for quartz crystal hunting, give me a shout and I`ll let you know some areas to go to for great material. I`m planning to photograph my finds tomorrow and post more pics here…so stay tuned…