A courthouse and a blue sky

Clock Tower, Delaware County Courthouse, Manchester, Delaware County, Iowa

If you remember the photos of the farm near Dundee that I posted on 6/25/2017, and of the winding road in Backbone State Park that I posted on 6/23/2017, you’ll begin to catch a theme here.  This photo, of the clock tower of the Delaware County Courthouse in Manchester, Iowa, was taken on the same road trip, and was also taken with my Pentax 67II medium format camera.

As I was pulling into Manchester I spied the clock tower across town and made a side trip to go look.  It was a little later in the morning than would have been ideal.  The scenery at ground level I thought was distracting, so I decided to isolate the clock tower itself.  The lamp post, which is actually across the street, added a nice piece on interest and context to what otherwise would probably have been a boring photo.  I also used a circular polarizer filter to help bring out the deep blue in the sky.

The richness of the colors, and the perspective, have always appealed to me.  Is it surprising that this one hangs on my wall, as well?  Seems this was quite the productive road trip.

Longing for home

Farming countryside, near Dundee, Delaware County, Iowa

This photo was taken on the same day as the previous photo.  I was on the way to Backbone State Park and spotted this scene just outside the park, so I stopped to take a few shots.

There wasn’t any one thing that drew me.  I cannot point to any single aspect that jumps out at me.  It’s just the totality of the scene, in an overall sense.  To be honest, it doesn’t necessarily inspire me, either, but it does scream “farm country”, and apparently several other people think so, too.

I posted this shot when I first started my website roughly a decade ago, when I hadn’t yet built up my portfolio of digital shots and I needed to put something up to fill out the website.  Somewhat to my surprise, it has sold reasonably well.  It sells mostly to native Iowans who now live out-of-state.  They tell me it evokes a nostalgic-like feeling in them, and makes them long for “home”.

I can understand that.  I have many photos of the Rio Vista Bridge in California and I certainly have nostalgic feelings there.  Nostalgia makes us think of other times.  Not necessarily better, but could be.  We are the totality of our life’s experiences.

The long and winding road, the sequel

Winding Road in Backbone State Park, near Dundee, Delaware County, Iowa

The obvious Beatles reference notwithstanding, I do seem to be on a winding road kick the last few posts.  That’s ok.  A good photo is a good photo.

Anyway, right after I moved to Iowa I asked around for some good places to shoot.  Backbone State Park was a common response.  So I packed up the gear, looked it up on a map, and took off for the park.

This was back when I still had film cameras, and this shot was done on film.  With my Pentax 67II medium format film camera, to be specific.  I sold it along with all my film equipment several years ago as I felt I was becoming a “jack of all photo trades, master of none”.  I felt that by trying to do too much I was losing my focus (no pun intended).  Hence, I decided to take the financial loss and focus solely on digital.

I do not regret my decision one bit, but I will admit that I do miss this camera and a couple others I had.  Sometimes I feel like I should buy another film camera because I feel it would help me keep my skills sharper.  It’s easy to get lazy with digital.

And here I am… all digital and going through older photos and finding some nice ones that, for whatever reason, I didn’t do anything with before.  I guess you could say that this is a Reader’s Digest version of my own photography long and winding road.

Road Trip: The Covered Bridge

Fisher Covered Bridge, Deerfield Nature Park, near Mt Pleasant, Isabella County, Michigan

This past weekend brought Missy and I to Michigan again.  Just a few months ago I had found a photo by another photographer of the Fisher’s Covered Bridge in Deerfield Nature Park, near Mt. Pleasant in Isabella County in Michigan.

It was about an hour drive from our base, and we enjoyed a fantastic sunrise that morning.  Just enough cloud cover to catch some orange hues as the sun rose.  We didn’t stop for any sunrise shots, though, as nothing jumped out at us.

According to the link above the original bridge was constructed in 1968.  I say ‘original’, because it burned in 1995 and was reconstructed in 1996.  It is on a steel and concrete structure, so I seriously doubt it has any “legitimate” old-time original purpose, and was maybe constructed simply for the park for aesthetic reasons.  That’s my guess, anyway, and it IS just a guess.

I will also add that Deerfield Nature Park is a very nice facility.  Hiking trails, a river, and other amenities are available.  I would highly recommend it.

Speaking of recommendations, afterward Missy and I went into town and found a local mom-and-pop restaurant for breakfast.  Stan’s (aka Stanley’s Famous Restaurant) is located downtown, and we cannot rave enough about it.  The place is busy, and for good reason.  Even while busy, we never felt neglected nor did we detect anything less than positive attitudes from the staff.  This was probably the best place either of us have experienced.  It’s basic breakfast fare… eggs, pancakes, hash browns, and so on… and it is simply fantastic.  I cannot say if we’ll ever be back to town, but if we are we know where to eat.

All of this is what makes a good road trip… good photos, interesting locations, and yes, even experiencing new places to eat.  It’s all good.

Scouting

Trees in silhouette with downtown in background, Des Moines, Iowa

Yesterday was a rainy and windy day.  Missy and I had been planning a road trip for over a week.  I had decided that I wanted to look and try to find some wildflowers and/or prairie that might make a good shot.  We decided to take the road trip in spite of the weather.  Packed up the car, packed up the gear, packed up Wesley, packed up Missy, and off we went, into the wilds of Iowa.

We didn’t take a single shot, it was too rainy and windy, but that didn’t matter.  We found a really cool old cemetery in Rochester Township near Tipton.  It was a very charming place, both old and new, and still maintained.  If a cemetery can be charming, this was it.  We did stop and look and scout, and Wesley had a great time… especially when we visited Missy’s work and dogs are allowed.  It was still a fun day and we made plans to go back when the weather is better.  It takes only about 45 minutes to get there.

Since we didn’t take photos I don’t have a new one to share, but I will post some when we go back.  The photo here is a sunset photo in Des Moines from a couple years ago during another road trip.

Another information source for the cemetery can be found here.

Let the Road Trips begin!

Gravel road and tree, near Andrew, Jackson County, Iowa

Yesterday was the first official road trip of 2017, and I have some random thoughts about it.

Random thought #1:  Being from California, I am used to spring starting in February.  Weather-like, I mean.  By the time April comes spring is in full bloom, literally and figuratively.  In Iowa, in April you’re still prone to be in winter mode, and even possibly have another big snowstorm lurking around the corner.

Gravel road and tree, near Andrew, Jackson County, Iowa

Random thought #2:  Here in Iowa, this is probably the least pleasing time of the entire year, aesthetically.  Everything is boring and stark and dull.  Downright unattractive, really.  You don’t have the subtle hues or the soft lines of winter, and you don’t have the blooms and the greens of spring.  You’re in-between.  It’s just… blah.  Hence, there’s not much to shoot, although you do occasionally stumble across something worthwhile, and that’s exactly what happened yesterday.

Missy and I, after attending a Toastmasters Contest earlier in the day, are tooling down Hwy 62 in Jackson County and I spy this scene down a rural gravel road.  I immediately have visions of a stark black-and-white image flash in my mind.  So, I turn around and head back.  While Missy is walking Wesley I get out the gear and take a few shots with specific post-processing in mind.

As I’m doing the post-processing I get my black-and-white version and it looks good.  Then, just for fun, I start playing with a color version… and I like that, too.  It was overcast, which I didn’t think would matter in black-and-white, but it’s fine in the color version, too.  So I am publishing them both.

Please tell me which one you like better and why.  Same photo, just one color and one black-and-white.  Which one appeals to you over the other?

 

Upside down

Boathouse and autumn reflections at Backbone State Park, near Dundee, Delaware County, Iowa

Is it strange to showcase a fall color photo when spring is just around the corner?  Meh, maybe, but not necessarily.  This is a good time of year to catch up on undone photo processing, so that makes this a previously unpublished photo.  As I said in a post recently sometimes you come across a photo that you hadn’t really noticed before but it sticks out at you this time.  This is another one of those photos.  I liked it, but wasn’t really sure what to do with it, and tonight I had the inspiration.

This is from a road trip that Missy and Wesley and I did about a year and a half ago.  It was a fantastic day.  I have photos of Missy and Wesley taken just after this one that always make me smile when I see them.

The upside-down reflection… without the actual building… is what grabs me here.  It draws you in and makes you think just a bit, but at the same time there are enough elements right-side-up that you know it’s not upside-down.  (Boy, that was long-winded.)

Anyway, Backbone State Park is Iowa’s oldest state park and is only about an hour away.  We need to go more often.  There are also trails and so on to be explored and shot, as well.  It’s almost spring.  It’s almost spring.  It’s almost spring.

 

The Old and the New

The old and the new, near McCallsburg, Story County, Iowa

This photo has always been a favorite of both Missy and I.  We took this about three years ago near McCallsburg, Iowa, in Story County.  The image evokes kind of a nostalgic feel and nicely contrasts the old and the new.  That and the quality and richness of colors is what makes it so appealing, I think.  This photo is yet another example is stumbling onto something when you least expect it.

In our case, we had attended an all-day Toastmasters meeting in Ames.  We chose to take an indirect route home, avoiding the main highway and using still-nice, but rural, county roads.  Took longer, but we had the luxury of time, and we did purposely want to see new places both with photography in mind and simply just to see new things.

What’s strange, to me at least, is that in spite of how much we like this photo, we haven’t done much with it, and I cannot explain why.  I’ve never put it up on my website for sale (that will change soon).  I’ve never really displayed it, except a couple incidental publishings, and I think I entered it into a club contest once.  This needs to go on my wall.

Goals, new stuff, and 2017

Trees along ridge near Ely, Linn County, Iowa
Trees along ridge near Ely, Linn County, Iowa

New beginnings.  Not only is that the monthly contest theme for my photo club this month, Linn Area Photo Club, but it is a good theme for today’s entry, and a good way to kick off the new year… and we’ll talk about the featured photo, too.

The photo:  I realized last night that the last NINE featured photos are from Michigan.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with that.  Michigan is a beautiful place, and Missy and I have been spending a lot of time there the last half of 2016.  It only stands to reason that many of my more recent photos would be from there, and let’s be honest, it’s easier to be excited about more recent shots than it is about something from eight years ago, no matter how good that old shot is.  Plus, we are IOWA Landscape Photography, so here you go.

The coming year: Some random thoughts…

  • I have updated both my website and my blog.  It needed a refresh.  Now, all I did was change the colors around a bit, went for a lighter background.  I didn’t get all crazy and change everything up.  I reserve the right to do so at any time, though
  • I am going to start marketing in a couple new areas.  Postcards and office wall art.  I feel that my work is well-suited to tasteful Midwestern-themed wall art, and this could work well.
  • I have already started to a small degree, but I am going to dedicate 2017 to reviewing and re-working all my images.  I have scores of images that have never seen the light of day.  Some will be brought out, and some will be permanently deleted.  That last part I know will be tough.
  • And, of course, more shooting.  A couple dedicated photo road trips.  Not sure where yet, but I’d like to expand my spring and winter options, especially.  Plus some Iowa waterfalls, etc.  Missy and I are also talking about a long weekend in Chicago, and do some exploring and shooting in an urban environment for a change.

Back to the photo and the present:  The above photo was on a day trip that I took locally in August 2015.  This one is one that has never before been published, and it needed to be.  It has a minimalist quality that appeals to me.

I have an almost identical photo of the same trees from the same vantage point in winter from a few years prior.

So many trees, so many roads…

 

Hwy H-58, Alger County, Michigan
Hwy H-58, Alger County, Michigan

So many trees, so many roads, so many road views of trees.  On the one hand, this type of shot can be very good.  On the other hand, this type of shot can be overdone.  You also have to resist stopping in the middle of the road every time you see a scene that might have potential.  Shoot, if you did stop for everything, you’d never get to your destination and you’d never get shots of all the landmark places that is the purpose of your trip.

We got this shot while driving from Grand Marais and Sable Falls and Munising on County Hwy H-58.  This was also AFTER the four state police vehicles got fed up with the slow driver in front of me and passed us all like the proverbial bat out of hell.

Anyway, they may be common, and they may be somewhat cliche, but I like shots like this, and I like this shot in particular.  There’s something about leading lines that draws me in, literally and figuratively… and, of course, the colors.

Stay tuned for some upcoming waterfall shots.