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.

Sitting under a rock

Chapel Falls with autumn leaves, Section Creek, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Alger County, Michigan

I sat under a rock outcropping for over two hours to get this photo.  Not just this one, of course, I got several very nice shots.  I sat… I played with settings… I experimented… I zoom in… I zoomed out… I used fast shutter speeds to freeze the water… I used slow shutter speeds to get a silky smooth look… I used in-between shutter speeds to get an in-between look (like this one you see here).  I had the roar of the falls in my ears for all that time.  It was like being in a special room with other people around me but also being unable to hear them and having an almost unattached feeling.  And I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I think this waterfall, one of my absolute favorites, will get a “report” sometime soon.  I still have another report to do from our trip this past October, too.

In an administrative note, today I have added an email subscription form.  If you desire to get email notification of new posts, please feel free to add your name and email address in the form area at the upper right of this page.  As a devoted privacy advocate I will never share or sell your information.

Oh, and I got wet, too.

Peaceful, easy feeling

Stewart Lane, Montezuma Hills, near Rio Vista, Solano County, California

“Peaceful, easy feeling” is how this photo has been described to me.  I think that fits.  It does have a certain calmness to it.  The muted colors, the openness of the countryside, the sense that time moves more slowly here than in the rest of the world… all serve to reinforce that calm, peaceful, easy feeling.  Every time you go by it you want to stop and follow the road around the bend.

The Montezuma Hills are in the southeast corner of Solano County, along the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, just south of Rio Vista.  Historically the area had been used for what is called “dry farming”, and there’s pretty much no other reason to go there.  There are no state highways into the area, nor do any bridges cross over into the area.  If you find yourself in the Montezuma Hills it is because you went there purposely or you’re lost.  Option C does not exist.

California, in general, is known for its wonderful scenery.  A photographer’s paradise.  California is also known for its smog and air pollution.  And this day was one of those days.  I actually went out to shoot this road in the other direction, where there is a barn in a valley.  Problem was, the sky was so brown it ruined the shot.

I took a few shots anyway, then as I was packing up I turned around and saw this.  This spoke to me.  I composed the shot, purposely cropping the sky out of the picture, and here’s the result.  What’s ironic is that the smog acted as something of a diffuser and gave the scene the muted look that you see.  In this case the air pollution actually aided the photo.

I guess the moral of the story is to always keep an open mind and an open eye.  And just in case you’re wondering, yes, I do have this one on my wall.

The long and winding road

Dirt road in autumn, Alger County, Michigan

Three posts in three days.  I’m on a roll.

Here’s a shot from a workshop I went on in 2008.  First time I had been on such a workshop.  It was a week long, a lot of work, and well worth every moment.  I learned so much, and got a great many fantastic shots.  This is another one that I have not publish before and was just lying around on a hard drive waiting for me to go back in and update my photos and my site.  It really is amazing how photos can come in and out of your interest over time.

This was actually the day before the workshop began.  I got there early and kicked around a bit prior to checking into the motel.  I came across this road and the way it wound its way back into the unknown intrigued me.  The road leads you back into… what?  You don’t know.  You’re left to wonder.

Now, I did drive back there, and the road actually degenerates into nothing passable very quickly.  I didn’t feel safe taking my rather large truck any farther.  Interestingly enough, my judgment may have been a bit too cautious, because right after this somebody else in a bigger truck than mine came down from the beyond and I had to move.  Go figure!

More Bridges

Rio Vista Bridge at cold sunrise, Rio Vista, Solano County, California

Today we’re taking a small trip back in time.  The year was 2005, January… hence no snow… when I still lived in California.  I lived about a 50 minute drive from work and every day, twice a day, I would drive this bridge.   I’ve always had an affinity for this particular bridge.  It’s distinctive and stands out in the local area.  This part of the Sacramento River is a dredged deep-channel route for ocean freighters going to and from the Port of Sacramento, and it’s always cool when the bridge opens for one of these large ships.

On this cold and dreary morning I noticed the scene you see here and it struck me.  Another one of those cases where you need to have your camera with you at all times, because you just never know.  I was on my way to work, but decided to stop and take a handful of shots.  If I remember correctly, there had been a wildfire nearby the previous day so there was something of a haze in the air, and this haze is distinguishable in the photo and helped give it its unique atmosphere.  It’s really quite striking, I think.  It has a feeling of foreboding and yet also a sense of peacefulness and calm.

Yesterday I posted a photo from this past weekend, today I post a photo from twelve years ago.  At the time I took this I was formulating my move out of California, so now I look back and am in awe at how things have changed for me.  My move to Iowa is one of the best things I ever did, but I also cannot deny that there are some things I miss about California, too.

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.

To Pano or not to Pano

Beach fence, Ludington, Mason County, Michigan

Here’s a longtime favorite shot of both Missy and I.  I just got done “reprocessing” it.  Changed the tone a bit, and it comes out a bit brighter and better.  The shadows and textures make this one for me.  Zooming into the details via the panorama brings all that out.  But, what about the whole photo?  What was I trying to exclude?

Beach fence, Ludington, Mason County, Michigan

Here’s the whole photo, same processing.  I like the bluffs and an arm of Lake Michigan in the background.  Even though it’s the same photo, how you crop changes the entire feel of it.  While the detail is still there, your eye is no longer drawn to it in the uncropped version.  Now, your eye is drawn from the fallen fence to the next fence to the lake and bluffs in the background.  The layers of features in the photo draws your eye from foreground to background.

Ludington, Michigan, is a neat little town.  It has become one of my favorite places in that part of the state.  Always a lot to see and shoot… and some good restaurants, to boot.

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.

Courthouses and Musings

Benton County courthouse and bell, Vinton, Benton County, Iowa

Sunday evening seems to be my most productive time for updating blog posts and processing photos.  Which kind of makes sense, if you think about it.  The weekend is over, I’m relaxing and winding down getting ready to tackle a new work week and everything that entails.  I’ve never been one to complain about Mondays, or to get all giggly over Fridays.  They’re just days to me… though I do admit I would like to transition to a three-day work week.

You’re probably wondering what a courthouse has to do with this.  Well, in the interest of full honesty, the courthouse has absolutely nothing to do with the days of the week.  I was just randomly musing.  Some friends have described me as a “folksy” person, and I would tend to agree with that.  This is a good example.

This particular photo, however, has always been a favorite of mine.  I like the exposure, the colors, the composition, the perspective.  It all comes together for me.  This photo was shot during a photo club photo shoot.  I just happened to catch this one just right… the week before and the ween after there was scaffolding around the clock tower as it was undergoing a lengthy renovation.

Vinton is a neat little town.  The downtown area has a lot of good photo opportunities.  I need to get back there sometime soon.