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.
I’ve been going through and reprocessing some of my older photos. Just a couple at a time. It’ll be a journey, that’s for sure. Anyway, I’m looking through a couple photos that I have never published and came across this one. It’s similar to another that I have published, but that one is more “bright”, while this one was more subdued. I played around with some settings in Lightroom to tone down the overall shot even more and boost the saturation which brought out the oranges while keeping the subdued areas.
I kept looking at it and it really strikes me. The more I look at it the more I like it. This one just might end up on the wall… and I’m thinking metallic paper.
This shot was taken 10 years ago this month. I did an overnight sleep study and they woke me up at 4:30 and kicked me out (standard procedure). I then went and sought a place for some winter sunrise shots and found this place. I have not been back since, but maybe I should.
So, Missy and I are tooling down US 41 heading away from Marquette, looking for a place to eat, and eventually Bond Falls and home, when we spot Ruth Lake and a “moonset” and a lot of mist on the lake. It was really quite pretty, so we stopped. It was one of those scenes where it looks pretty to the eye, but it just doesn’t come across in the camera. There was a Japanese family already there taking pictures, a young couple, an older gentleman, and a kid in the car looking bored out of his skull. After I get my tripod set-up, the two younger people took off down the lake shore, and the older gentleman was left, and he kept giving me dirty looks, as if I was going to rob them, or something.
As I’m getting ready to leave the older gentleman comes up and mentions my Iowa license plate, says he went to college at the University of Iowa (about 40 miles away from me), and is basically all chatty all of a sudden. It was like he’d found a long lost friend.
But I digress.
Anyway, we leave and head just a short bit down the road, and pull into a closed motel to turn around and see the scene in this photo here. All that time spent on a scene that I don’t think has much potential, and we literally stumble on this one. With the sun rising I had to work fast, but it was worth it. This scene has the silhouette, reflections, rays through the trees, mist, a boat dock… just a really cool vibe to it. And in just a few minutes it was gone.
The trip, that is. Some things were planned, some things we stumbled across, some things were done on a whim. When I attended a photo workshop back in 2008 some of the things were easy. For example, the leaders of the workshop knew the better places, had connections to private property owners, and so on. When doing a trip yourself some places are obvious… lighthouses and waterfalls, for example… but many are not. You’re on your own. Lakes for tree reflections are not quite so obvious. You take your chances.
In this case I needed something to do for a morning shoot, so I looked on a map and found a lake. My hunches said it had possibilities, and some online photos looked promising. So, we got up before sunrise and headed out, about 30 miles from our hotel.
We weren’t disappointed. We kept to a relatively small area at a public boat ramp and worked it pretty good. The sunrise itself wasn’t anything to speak of, but the reflections and other aspects were indeed worthy. The fence was an added bonus.
Missy and I did another road trip this weekend… 20 hours and 591 miles… with Wesley… specifically to go see this tree. The unofficial story behind the tree goes something like this…
Back in 1850 a surveyor cut a cottonwood sprout to use as a walking stick, later planting it in the ground to mark a section corner. The roads were no doubt not there in 1850, but since roads are commonly laid out along section lines, the tree ended up in the intersection. Why the tree was allowed to stay is a mystery, but allowed to stay it was.
It grew into the massive tree that still stands there today. The trunk is roughly 12 feet in diameter. There are no markers, no signs directing you to it, but it is not all that hard to find. I will say that the quality of the roads are questionable, though, especially after a rain and doubly especially after a rain and at 3:30 am. It is at the intersection of 350th Street and Nighthawk Avenue, on the county line that separates Cass and Audubon Counties. It’s also only about an 1/8 of a mile from I-80, and Nighthawk Avenue crosses the interstate, but there is no interchange. You cannot see it from the interstate, though, as there is a hill in the way.
As far as layout, it is not conducive to good composure for photography. We made an effort to get there before sunrise, not really knowing what we would find, and I got some decent shots, but nothing that really wowed me. This shot was done with my 15mm rectilinear fish-eye lens. It has the obvious curved perspective, which in this case I kind of like, so I left that part alone. It helps add a sense of presence and location that is otherwise missed with “normal” lenses that I also used. With this shot you really can see that the tree is truly in the middle of the intersection.
I’m going to have to think about this location and the shots I took for awhile. I may decide to re-visit some more shots and thoughts here in the future. And, please feel free to leave some feedback. I’d be interested in your thoughts and perspective.
Leave early for work or your appointment, especially if you’re going to be driving around sunrise and/or sunset. Always take you camera gear with you. Maybe not everything you own on every trip, but the basics… camera body, tripod, a couple lenses and/or a versatile zoom lens. A polarizer filter is always handy when you need one, as is a remote release of some kind. Personally, I also like to carry a bubble level that attaches to the hot shoe to help me keep things level. (Tilted horizons are one of my two biggest pet peeves.)
Because, if you do, you can get shots like this when you see them, instead of driving on by figuratively kicking yourself for leaving your gear at home. And trust me, I have certainly done that more times than I care to count.
I shot this series handheld and bumped the ISO up to 800 purposely to get a slightly grainy effect. I thought that would help with the moody feeling of the scene.
This particular photo was taken just after sunrise on a nice foggy morning. It is the Calvary Cemetery just south of Ryan, Iowa, on State Highway 13. I will have to stop there more often. It’s a neat little cemetery.
Missy and I took a road trip yesterday. Our primary goal was a long abandoned one-room schoolhouse near Waukon, Iowa. We did get some nice shots of that, and will share them later, but the best shot of the day, in our opinion, was the one shown here.
We’re tooling down… or, up, if you follow a map and the north arrow… on Hwy 150 between Vinton and Independence when the sun was coming up. I did my patented “screech stop” and proceeded to capture some very nice sunrise shots.
You never notice how fast the sun rises until you want it to hold still for a photo?
Anyway, as you can see there was a low cloud ceiling, which gave it an interesting appeal… and also limited my available time. When we set out I was not specifically interested in a sunrise shot. We had the schoolhouse as our goal, but when you see something good you can’t help yourself, but to stop.