Thursday, December 31, 2009

Photographing Birds in Florida: Viera Wetlands

Like the Blue Heron facility in TItusville, the Viera Wetlands (recently renamed the Ritch Grissom Memorial Weltands) is a facility designed to store and recycle water used in the area. It is a 200 acre facility divided into four ponds or cells. There are roads around each of the cells and they
offer opportunity to view Florida's native wildlife and vegetation. Viera Wetlands can be
reached by driving south on Interstate toward the Melbourne area. Exit at the Wickham Road
exit and follow the signs to the wetland. A map of the facility is available on the website for the facility and as you enter the facility.

I have visited this site numerous times as part of the Space Coast Birding Festival conducted in January. I have some great shots of feeding snowy egrets, mating Great Blue Herons, ibises,
Sand Hill Cranes, and others. On one trip I saw an eagle and I understand that there is a pair of nesting caracaras in the area (though I've only seen them in the distance). Enjoy this facility.

If interested, the Brevard County Zoo is only a short drive away.

Photographing Birds in Florida: Blue Heron Water Reclamation Center

The Blue Heron Water Reclamation Facility is located just outside Titusville along state route 50.

It is a water retention facilty where storm water runoff is confined into six settling ponds. Around the edge of the ponds is an elevated berm with a one-way road where photographers can photograph birds that are in those ponds.

The entrance to the site is located about 1/4 mile west of Interstate 95 on Route 50. As you travel west toward Orlando, you will see a sign for a golfing resort on your left. You will need to turn left there (make a U-turn) and head back toward Titusville. About one block after the U-turn the
entrance road will be on your right.

As you enter the facility there is an entrance gate. Pass through the gate and park in front of the first building on your left. You will need to sign in. They welcome visitors from 7:00-3:30 Monday - Friday (weekends will require a phone call to make a reservation). You sign in as you enter and must sign out when you leave.

By the sign-up sheet is a photo book of photos taken by visitors to the site; I'm proud that in that book is an image of a Great Blue Heron with a huge frog in its mouth that I took there during one of my early visits (see images at the bottom of this page).

From the administration building you drive on toward the berm (well-marked). Once on the berm just drive around the ponds (approximately two miles) and the birds will on your driver's side.
As is usual, the numbers and types of birds present where vary by time of year, time of day, etc.

Some trips are very productive and others not so much. I sometimes visit in early morning and return later in the day for a second time. Overall this is site you should visit when you are in the Titusville area.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Photographing Birds in Florida: Merrit Island National Wildlife Refuge

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge has become my favorite place to photograph wildlife in Forida. I have photographed in the Everglades, Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, St. Augustine Alligator Farm, Fort Desoto State Park in St. Petersburg and many other Florida sites. All offer their strengths, but my trips to Merritt have been the most consistently productive photographic trips I've taken.

My advice is when you enter the refuge go to the Visitor Center and find out which roads are open and which are closed. You can also ask them about birds or wildlife spotted in the area recently. There is a quarter-mile walking path (boardwalk) behind the center which will take you to a pond and prairie area. I have never had a great deal of luck in spotting birds on this walkway (though there may be some osprey nesting at certain times), but I have photographed butterflies at certain times of the year.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge is on the same island as Cape Kennedy and thus is closed when shuttle launches occur and when they return to the Florida landing site, but these are rare (and will be more so in the future). The most popular bird photography site on the refuge is the Black Point Wildlife Drive. This one-way road takes you on a winding five mile journey throughout the refuge. Along the drive you will pass freshwater marshes, shallow saline beaches, and (depending on the tide) various depths of water. The result is often a plethora of wading and shore birds. The birds encountered depends on time of year (whether migrants are present or not), time of day (early morning and late evening usually the best), tide changes (depth of water determines which birds can feed there at any given time). At time you will have water on both sides of the road and something to photography on both sides. While it is a one-way road which is rather narrow there are pull-offs at intervals and even in the in-between areas if you pull over to photograph, other cars can get by.

About two-thirds of the way through there is a pull off area with restrooms, an elevated Observation deck and a five-mile loop hiking trail (the Cruikshank Trail). I have never hiked the entire trail, but often hike short distances to "stretch my legs".

As you near the end of the drive, you will encounter a fork in the road. To your left is L-Pond Road and to the right is the road to the exit. IF L-Pond is open, take it. You will wind got another two miles or so. Here the road is not paved and is very narrow; there are places where two cars can barely pass each other (L-Pond is NOT one-way and sometimes fisherman enter and are driving toward you). Usually you can see each other coming and one of you will find a wider area to pull over to let the other pass. Along this road, there are many instances where there is water on both sides of the road. L-Pond is open about half the time I visit the island. If closed just follow the right fork to the exit to the Wildlife Drive.

Another site where you can photograph from your car is Biolab Road. This is a three mile road which runs along the edge of Mosquito Lagoon (on your left) and other fresh-water ponds on your right. I have spotted shore birds along the Lagoon shore and wading birds in the freshwater ponds.
This used to be my favorite site (it is less-traveled by regular tourists), but it seems that recently its
productivity is down. Near the end of the road you can see the launching pads for the Shuttles.
Perhaps my favorite photography road now is Peacock Pocket Road. It is a sand (and often poorly maintained) road which winds for seven-miles around the edges of a bay called Peacock Pocket. It is a very narrow road and is not usually heavily traveled. This is an area where two cars will often have very limited space to pass (often one will have to find a "pull out" and wait for the other). In recent years this has been my best source of photos. One time when I took the seven-mile drive and counted over 80 alligators sunning themselves along the canals that you drive by. I often take a couple of hours to make one trip along this trail. To access this road, after crossing the drawbridge from Titusville and passing the entrance to the Wildlife Refuge, turn right on the first road on your right.

For those inclined to hike and photograph there are some walking trails that you may wish to try (I do NOT count myself among those who like to hike and photograph). Again consult the map to locate those trails.
I have spent many hours exploring and photographing this site....for photography it truly is an island with Merritt!! Have a blast.

MIndmeld Photography: Looking Ahead to 2010

As 2010 begins my plans for Mindmeld Photography are to continue seeking publishing and presentation opportunities.
Thus far I have received ten requests for presentations in 2010. One I am very much looking forward to making a presentation before the St. Louis Camera Club in mid-April. I will continue to pursue publishing opportunites as well.
In late January I will again attend the Space Coast Birding Festival in TItusville, Florida. While Arthur Morris will not be present this year, bird photographers Milton Heiberg, Reineir Munguia, and Joanne WIlliams will return and I have signed up for in-the-field workshops with them. I am also
going to participate in a workshop lead by Robert Ameruso. I plan to go to Florida near the middle of the month to do additional bird photography in the area.
I have five presentation scheduled for February (four on Abraham Lincoln). In March I will have my third Photography Display at Rock Springs Environmental Center in my hometown.
In April, I will make a presentation on "Bird Biology and Photography" to the St. Louis Camera Club in St. Louis, Missouri. The next morning I will leave for my 41st Elderhostel program in Santa Fe, NM. The theme of the program is "Tony Hillerman: Author". I am a major fan of his mystery novels which involve two Navaho Tribal Policemen who solve crimes on the Navaho Reservation.
Having participated in three Elderhostels involving learning about the tribe, while reading the novels I can relate to the places sited and think to myself "I've been there". Mr. Hillerman's daughter is scheduled to appear to talk about her father as part of the program.
On my way to and from Santa Fe, I plan to visit and photograph sites along the Santa Fe Trail.
While going TO Santa Fe I plan to take the "mountain" trail over Raton Pass in Colorado; I hope to return FROM Santa Fe via the Cimarron River (Desert) branch of the SFT. I look forward to his adventure and have been reading about the sites I will visit.
In May I will return to Florida as I participate in my 50th High School Reunion program for
Lyman High School. I only lived in Florida for my senior year in high school and have missed previous reunions. In recent years I have reestablished contact with some of my classmates and met with them a few times over dinner during my Florida visits. I look forward to seeing even more of my classmates at this celebration.
Of course while in Florida I will do some bird photography. I will likely visit Gatorland Zoo in Orlando and/or St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoo in St. Augustine, Florida. These sites are noted as great bird nesting sites in Florida with great access for photographers.
Later in the summer I hope to do some Elderhostels in the West (maybe back to Montana where I've done six (Glacier National Park?).
I am looking forward to another great year for Mindmeld Photography.

Mindmeld Photography: A Summary of 2009

In 2002 I began thinking of organizing a photography business. My goals were to write and publish magazine articles, to make PowerPoint presentations on various topics to local groups, and to sell photos. In 2009, I continued working toward those goals.

"Business" Achievements:

My 10th article entitled "The Santa Fe Trail in Missouri" was published in the September / October issue of AAA Midwest Traveler magazine
In 2009 I made 28 slide presentations. Of these presentations 12 were about Abraham Lincoln (understandable since we celebrated the bicentennial of his birth), nine were about bird/wildlife photography, and six were about some aspect of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
One of my most unique presentations was given at the Illinois History Conference on "Using Photography to Teach History in the Classroom". There I spoke to an audience of 40 history teachers. I had hoped that the presentation would stimulate requests for presenting the program locally to more teachers, but as yet that had not occurred. In September I made a "Lincoln" program presentation to about 120 at the Heart of Illinois Investors Conference in Springfield. I also made my second presentation to the Missouri Nature and Environmental Photographers club in St. Louis.

Elerhostel Programs:

In 2009 I attended five Elderhostel programs (bringing my total to 40).
In January I learned about the wildlife of Florida at an Elderhostel in St. Petersburg. While there I was able to photograph birds at Fort DeSoto State Park a well-recognized bird photography site in western Florida.
In March I attended two Elderhostels in Lafayette, Louisiana. While participating I learned much about the history and food of the Cajun culture and had the opportunity to photograph wildlife at Lake Martin and other sites in south-central Louisiana.
In May I participated in an Elderhostel in Chadron, Nebraska and learned about the history and culture of the Lakota Sioux tribe (including a visit to Wounded Knee). On the way to this site, I stopped at Valentine, Nebraska to photograph wildlife at Fort Niobrara and Valentine National Wildlife Refuges. I also stopped at a number of steamboat museums along my journey.
Finally, in September, I traveled to the Cincinnati, Ohio area for an Elderhostel on the history of Cincinnati, Steamboating, and the Ohio River. On my way to this Elderhostel

I revisited Abraham Lincoln sites in Indiana and Kentucky.

Other Activities:

In other activities. In January, I attended the 12 Annual Space Coast Birding Festival in Titusville, a five-day celebration of birding and bird photography. While there, I participated in in-the-field workshop by such noted bird photographers as Arthur Morris, Milton Heiberg, Reinier Munguia, and Joanne Williams. I also attended classroom sessions by these photographers an others. I plan to return to this festival in 2010.
In September I attended the 12 Santa Fe Trail Symposium in Arrow Rock, Missouri. There I learned much more about the history of the Santa Fe Trail. This has stimulated me further to want to complete and photograph this historic trail (I have already done so for most of the Lewis-Clark Trail, California-Oregon Trail, and Mormon Trail).
Also in 2009 I had my second Photography Show at Rock Springs Center (and have been asked to another in 2010).

Overall, 2009 was a very productive year for Mindmeld Photography and Don Chamberlain. I also have many opportunities to visit with and photograph my beautiful granddaughter. Throughout the year I took more that 2000 photos of her.
I thoroughly recommend retirement (providing you take advantage of the freedoms which come with it).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Visiting Independence and Kansas City, Missouri (Sept. 27-28, 2009)

After completing the Santa Fe Symposium in Arrow Rock, the next morning I continued west. I visited and photographed more SFT sites from Grand Pass to Independence, Missouri. When I arrived in the area on Sunday afternoon, I drove through Independence into Kansas City, Missouri to visit the Arabia Steamboat Museum. On earlier journeys I had visited steamboat museums in Keokuk, Iowa; Sioux City, Iowa;
DeSoto Wildlife Refuge near Blair, Nebraska: Brownville, Nebraska; Louisville, Kentucky; and Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Arabia Museum was by far my favorite.

The museum discusses the recovery of the wreckage of the Steamboat Arabia. It displays much of the cargo which was on board when in sank in 1856 along with some of the actual remains of the steamboat itself. It is all displayed in a very interesting educational way. I strongly recommend this museum!!

While there I asked for directions to a Lewis and Clark monument was installed on a high bluff overlooking the confluence of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers near where Lewis and Clark camped on their journey to the west. I located and photographed that site before returning to Independence for the night.

In Independence I stopped by the National Frontier Trails Museum. Since I was scheduled to visit the site the next morning, I visited the Chicago and Alton Railroad Station located just behind the Trails Museum. It was open and I took an interesting tour of this 1879 station. My volunteer guide was informative and enthusiastic and made the tour very enjoyable.

The next day I was to tour Independence, Missouri historic sites. As a result of my article on the "Sante Fe in Missouri" article mentioned in an earlier blog, I was contacted by the Media Relations Director for the Independence Tourism department (I won't mention the names of my guide because I did NOT ask their permission to do so). She arranged for some local one-on-one tours with the directors of the sites for Monday morning, Sept. 28).

First I visited the National Frontier Trails Museum. I had visited on my own two or three times in the past and found it to be a source of a tremendous amount of information of the trails which passed through Independence (which included Lewis and Clark, the Sante Fe Trail, the Oregon-California Trail, and the Mormon Trail). The director took me around the facility and discussed its history, how it is organized, and even took me to an area housing collections that are not always accessible to the public.

From there I traveled to the 1859 Jail, Marshall's Home and Museum near Independence Square. Again the Director (who was also Executive Director ofthe Jackson County Historic Society) gave a wonderful tour telling the history of the facility which included housing Frank James and William Quantrill for brief times.

Outside of the Jail and Marshall's Office I boarded a covered wagon for a historic tour of Independence offered by the Pioneer Trail Adventures. I had taken the tour in the past and highly recommend it for anyone visiting Independence. On the journey around Independence Square and beyond we passed Truman sites, historic trail sites, Independence Civil War battle sites, and heard stories about the fascinating history of this community. It was a great tour. They offer a CD of the narrative of the tour; I bought one on my last visit and again I strongly recommend it for history buffs.

Following my Covered Wagon trip, I was treated for lunch at Ophelia's on the Square, a wonderful bistro on Independence Square. During the wonderful lunch the Director offered to take me to the Truman Library for a personal tour. While I had not originally planned to visist Truman sites on this visit, I could not refuse. She did a wonderful job of showing me though the museum and its grounds.

It was a WONDERFUL day. Independence, Missouri has so much to offer. I have visited three times previously, but there are still many interesting sites that I look forward to visiting. Believe me, I will be returning to Independence early and often. THANKS to all who contributed!!

2009 Santa Fe Trail Symposium: Day 3 (Sept. 26)

On the third day there were three morning speakers for the symposium

1. Kathryn Red corn is the Director of the Osage Tribal Museum in Pawhuska, Oklahoma
She talked with us about the history and present status of the Osage tribe which was one
the major tribes in Boonslick Country during the SFT days. Her talk was entitled "The Osage Tribe: the
Boonslick's First Nation".
2. Dr. Maryellen McVicker, a local Boonslick resident and history professor discussed "Don't Forget the
Boonslick in the Rush to Santa Fe". She discussed research she had done on the life and family of
a local Santa Fe Trail trader about whom little was known. She gave us insight about the challenges and
successes she had while seeking information about the family.
3. Dr. Timothy Baumann an anthropologist and former resident of Arrow Rock talked about the historic
restoration of the John Sites Gunshop in Arrow Rock. His talk "Guns Along the Santa Fe Trail: The John
Sites Gunsmith Shop in Arrow Rock, Missouri".

Again following lunch we took another tour. This morning my group toured sites West of Arrow Rock along the Santa Fe Trail (from Arrow Rock to Grand Pass, Missouri). Due to recent rainy weather we were unable to take our new bus to a couple of the more less accessible site along the route.

We began by walking to the Todd's Ferry site a few hundred yards behind the Lyceum Theater. Research suggests that this site is where an early ferry boat was used to cross the Missouri River during the early years (it is likely where Becknell crossed during his trip west (though the ferry was NOT in operation at the time). Local resident and SFTA board member has purchased the land and is the process of restoring the site.

He has brought in replica wagons and placed them along the site (including the chuck wagon on the left).

Following our visit to the Ferry Site, we boarded the bus and traveled to various sites with DAR SFT markers along the SFT Trail. We saw markers at Chestnut Hill, in Marshall, Kiser Spring, Malta Bend, and at Grand Pass.

At a cemetery across the road from the Grand Pass marker we were able to see wagon swales traversing the lawn.

We also visited Van Meter State Park which hosts Missouri's American Indian Culture Center. This is a small museum with displays discussing fourteen or fifteen of the tribes which were inhabitants of Missouri before the coming of the European settlers. It was a fine museum.

We then returned to Arrow Rock. We had dinner at the historic J. Huston Tavern before adjourning to a tent on the Huston Tavern lawn for an evening of awards and goodbyes. Another local artist entertained us with period fiddle music.

All in all it was a very interesting and informative meeting. I hope to attend the biennial Rendezvous next fall in Fort Larned, Kansas as well as the next symposium to be held in 2011 in Dodge City, Kansas.

2009 Santa Fe Symposium: Day 2 (Sept. 15)

Next morning I drove from Boonville back to Arrow Rock for Day 2 of the SFT Symposium.
The morning schedule featured two excellent speakers.

We met in the Arrow Rock Lyceum Theatre. Formerly a Baptist Church in Arrow Rock, it now is the site where professional troupes present plays throughout the season.

After a welcome and official opening by SFT Association leaders, Jim Denny gave a talk about the history of the Boonslick region ("The Boonslick: A Unique and Special Region"). It gave a great deal of perspective in understanding the trials and tribulations of the early area settler. Dr. James Harlan followed with a lecture/PowerPoint program entitled "It's All About Geography: The Impact of the Missouri River on Settlement Patterns and Santa Fe Commerce". Dr. Harlan has studied land surveys past and present throughout the state of Missouri and discussed their challenges and historic significance. After the morning talks we enjoyed a boxed lunch at the theater before boarding buses from tours of the area. This morning I was on the East Tour which took us to Franklin, New Franklin, Boonsville, and the Boon's Lick Salt Spring State Historic Site. At the site of Old Franklin we visited the location of the historic town where the Santa Fe Trail officially began in 1812. At that time, this town was the second largest community west of the Mississippi River in Missouri. Town resident, William Becknell left to seek western trade. A few weeks later following trading in Santa Fe, he returned with bags of Spanish coins. Word of his success spread and Santa Fe Trail commerce began.

However in the 1820's Franklin was destroyed by massive Missouri River floods. Today all that remains are a flagpole and some plaques honoring the past importance of this site.

We then drove along Route W toward the Boone's Lick Salt Spring historic site. As we traveled along this route, it was the same route followed by Becknell and those that followed him until Franklin disappeared. We arrived at te Boone's Lick Salt Spring Historic Site and hiked down the hill to the actual site of the spring. Not much remains of the equipment used to remove salt from the water in the spring (an excellent diorama of the mechanics of the salt spring is on display at the Arrow Rock Visitor Center).

From the Salt Spring we drove the New Franklin, Missouri. When "Old Franklin" faced flooding problems, some of its residents moved a few miles north of the river and established this town. It's downtown area features a DAR SFT plaque which says
"Beginning of the Santa Fe Trail". We visited that site.

We also visited the nearby "Hickman House" which is the oldest surviving building in the Boonslick County. Local members of the historic Society provided tours and treated us to lemonade and cookies. We also visiting the Historic Society building in New Franklin which they opened for us. Some of the floor joists in the house are believed to have come from the remains of historic fort which was built in the area during the War of 1812.

We returned to Arrow Rock (via Boonville). In Boonville is a wonderful overlook of the Missouri River (in Harley Park). The size of our bus prevented us from stopping, but I have visited it in the past.

That evening participants drove back to Boonville for a barbecue dinner at the historic Turner Hall (again a former church). We then walked across the street to Thespian Hall (the oldest operating theatre west of the Allegheny Mountains. There we were treated to a performance of a play seen in the SFT period entitled "The Lion of the West". We were also entertained by two excellent musicians who again played period music.

2009 Santa Fe Symposium: Day 1 (Sept. 24)

In 2006 I attended an Elderhostel program in Council Grove, Kansas. One of the themes of this Elderhostel was the Santa Fe Trail since Council Grove was one of the last outposts of civilization before heading toward Santa Fe, New Mexico (then a Spanish colony). After reading about the history of the SFT I decided to take an extra few days while traveling to Council Grove. I visited and photographed important SFT sites throughout Missouri and eastern Kansas. As a result of this endeavor, I wrote an article about "Traveling the Santa Fe Trail" in Missouri. That article was published in the Sept.-Oct, 2009 issue of AAA Midwest Traveler Magazine (this was my10th article to be published.

In Sept., 2009 the Santa Fe Trail Association held its 12th Symposium in Arrow Rock, Missouri. The symposium was entitled "In the Beginning....Boonslick and Beyond" because the first trips to Santa Fe originated in Franklin, Missouri (in the middle of Boonslick country). On Thursday, September 24,
I drove from my home to Boonsville, Missouri and then to Arrow Rock, Missouri.

Arrow Rock is a wonderful historic community with wonderful sites which date to the early to late 1800s. I spent the afternoon exploring the town. They have a wonderful Visitor Center with one of the finest small museums describing the early history of the area that I have visited. Arrow Rock is in the center of Boonslick region. Members of the Daniel Boone family discovered a nearby salt spring and built an operation for removing the salt and shipping it east toward St. Louis and St. Charles the largest Missouri
communities of the time.

I walked aroud the town and visited some of shops and such historic sites as the Huston Tavern where many SFT travelers found rest and food, the Big Spring where SFT travelers watered their animals and themselves, and the site of the Missouri River landing where steamboats stopped for rest, wood, and passenger services.

This is an overview of the downtown Arrow Rock community.

Here is the historic Big Spring (also called Santa Fe Spring).

In the afternoon, I joined a one-mile hike dow the "Arrow Rock Historic
River Landing Trail". The trail took us by the original landing site
and finally to the Missouri River itself (left). Gradual movement of the river now puts it a mile away from Arrow Rock.

In the evening there was a "get-acquainted" social at Prairie Park, an antebellum
mansion built and owned by William Sappington who was involved in the SFT trade.
During the evening we samples hard hors d'oerves, toured the mansion, and enjoyed period music by local quintet.

I drove back to Boonville for the night.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sept. 20: Covered Bridges of Indiana

This morning I decided to make the 100 mile trip from my home to Parke County, Indiana. Parke County has over 30 covered bridges. During the second and third weeks in October, the county hosts an annual Covered Bridge Festival when thousands of tourists visit the county experiencing its covered bridges and the many yard sales/ flea markets which abound during the festival.
I have attended the festival previously (including attending an Elderhostel program during the festival last year), but this year I wanted to avoid the crowds. The question each year is "Will the festival correspond with the change in foliage so typical of the midwest in early fall?". This year I hit it almost right. Due to a great deal of construction along route 36, the trip took a little longer than the usual two hours. In the morning I visited bridges in the northwest corner of the county which included Turkey Run State Park.

The first bridge I visited was Melcher Bridge. In past years the vegetation
along the approach road to this bridge made this very good photographically.
This year was OK, but not great.

I drove and photographed throughout the northwest county in the morning.
Sugar Creek is a large creek (river?) which flows under many of the bridges in
this part of the county. Here I photographed Sugar Creek from inside the West
Union Bridge which the longest bridge in the county.

One of my favorite bridges to photograph in the county is Bowsher Ford
bridge. The approach road winds around the valley before entering the
bridge providing many photographic opportunities as you drive toward
the bridge.

Around Turkey Run State Park are three covered bridges. My favorite is
the Cox Ford bridge just west of the entrance to the state park.

While most of bridges are traditionally painted red with white trim,
Jackson Bridge is all white. In this photo I captured a family as they
passed through that bridge.

Following lunch at Rockville, Indiana the county seat of Parke County, I explored six or seven bridges in the southern part of the county.

My destination included the Bridgeton Bridge in Bridgeton, Indiana.
This bridge is the centerpiece of the county's collection of these historic
structures. A few years ago, this bridge was destroyed by an arsonist. The
people of Bridgeton and Parke County immediately began seeking the
money and resources to restore it soon as possible. Today it has
been completely rebuilt.

For the day I visited 20 of the bridges in the county and took over 150 photos. The weather was cool, sunny (not always the best photographically) and very pleasant. The crowds were gone so my photo journey was relaxed and very enjoyable.
I encourage any of you in the area to make plans to spend a day or two visiting the Covered Bridges of Parke County. It is a trip worth remembering.

Monday, September 14, 2009

In Search of Wildlife Photos in central Illinois (Friday, September 11, 2009)

Awakened this morning and decided to explore some state parks and nature centers I had visited before. I first went to Camp Canfield Nature Area south of Sullivan, Illinois. While teaching biology in the past, I had
taken teams to the site for some ECO-Team activities. The site consists of a wooded area on the bluffs along Lake Shelbyville. It also has an area of Prairie Plant restoration. My goal for this morning was to explore the prairie to photograph butterflies and dragonflies. Wind was a little gusty and not too many butterflies were present (and NO dragonflies at all). After an hour of walking the prairie, I got plenty of sunshine, fresh air, and one or
two photos of Yellow Sulphur butterflies.

I left site #1 and drove south on Route 32 toward Stewardson. Along the route was the turnoff to Hidden Springs State Forest (also accessible from Shelbyville, IL). I had visited here before and was attracted to two small ponds at the site where I again had photographed dragonflies, butterflies, and frogs (and occasionally some shore birds). Today.....not much. Again an hour of walking around two of the ponds netted a few frog photos.

From Hidden Springs, I drove farther south (via Route 32 to 33 to 128 S to 40) to Altamont, IL. Located near Altamont is the Ballard Nature Center. Earlier this summer our camera club had visited here. On that day we saw water snakes, dragonflies, crayfish, turtles, frog, and a few butterflies. On that day the wind was a challenge and the wildflowers were not yet blooming. I thought I would give it another try. This time a little less wind and A LOT LESS WILDLIFE. No snakes, no dragonflies, and few butterflies. I came away with a couple of frog photos and some photos of milkweed pods covered with milkweed bugs. Very disappointing. A drive of 80 miles directly from my home and so little for it. So far the entire trip was very disappointing.

Heading back north to Shelbyville, I decided to take a detour from my
wildlife photography. A few miles east of Cowden, IL, is one of the few covered bridges in Illinois - The Thompson Mill Bridge. I had not been there for a while so I decided to stop by. I took a number of shots and as I was firing away, I made a mental note of how much better the photos might be in a few weeks when the trees behind the bridge had their fall colors as a background. Need to return here at that time.

Drove back to Shelbyville and had my first meal since breakfast. From Shelbyville, I drove to Wolf Creek State Park along Lake Shelbyville (near Findley, IL). I wanted to photograph some deer in the early evening light. Saw a dozen or so deer during my journeys along the road, but my photographic opportunities were limited. Took a few shots like the fawn to the left.

Summary for the day: 250 miles traveled, eight hours in the field and less than 100 images captures. I started to feel a little sorry for myself, then remembered how lucky I am to have the health, time, and resources to spend an average day driving around central Illinois just looking for wildlife photography opportunities.
Is this a wonderful country or what??

Friday, August 28, 2009

Back at Home (August 28,2009)

I've been at home for a week now. After ten days on the road photographing Lincoln Historic sites in Indiana and Kentucky and attending my 39th Elderhostel program in Cincinnati, it is good to be home. As always I learned a great deal and took almost 1000 photos on my journey. Now that I'm home it's back to doing the more mundane, but necessary things that make up a shopping, lawn care, housecleaning, visiting, etc.

What else have I been doing since I returned home? In the past week, I've added a new Elderhostel: Cincinnati photo album to my webpage. Using ProShow Gold, I have prepared CDs with about 125 photos from my Cincinnati program. I will send one to any Cincinnati participant who would like one. On the CD I selected a few photos from each day's activity schedule. I hope that the CD with be a nice reminder of our experiences together in Cincinnati. On our last day, we had a banjo player who strummed "period songs" while relating tales from Cincinnati / Ohio River history. Following his performance, I bought one of his CDs and asked permission to use some of his songs as a background to my CD. He allowed me to do so.

A neighboring camera club asked me to serve as judge for a Nature Photography contest that they were having. They sent me about 80 images (70 digital and 10 photo slides). So in the next few days, I'll be dealing with those. I am also doing last minute adjustments for three slide (PowerPoint) shows that I will be doing in September for groups in the region. There will be one on Lincoln, one on the Everglades, and a new one on photographing wildlife in Cajun Country (Lafayette, Louisiana). I enjoy doing the shows. Being a former teacher, it allows me to "keep my connection" with the classroom (plus I often received some payment which I put in my granddaughter's college fund).

Which reminds me, I was able to spend a day with my granddaughter after returning. She lives about 120 miles from me, but that's close enough to get down there every couple of weeks.
The most beautiful granddaughter in the world!

Well, back to the "regular" life. Next different adventure? In late September, I'll be attending a Sante Fe Trail symposium in Arrow Rock, Missouri. I've traveled and photographed parts of that trail from Franklin, MO to just west of Council Grove, KS and have read a great deal about travelers on the trail. I want to learn even more about it. One of my goals is to eventually complete the trail.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Thursday and Friday in Cincinnati

Following breakfast on Thursday morning, Dan Hurley a local writer and television personality discussed the historic Ohio River flood of 1937. He used film clips and eyewitness accounts to help us understand the problems which occurred as the river rose to a level 80 feet higher than usual.

We then boarded our bus and drove the Rising Sun, Indiana, home to the Grand Victoria Casino and Resort on the Ohio. We enjoyed a wonderful buffet lunch and spent time shopping or having a brief gaming session in the casino. The food selection was diverse and delicious.
We then drove on to the riverside town of Rising Sun, Indiana (so named according to one version, when early settlers witnessed a beautful sunrise over the Kentucky Hills across the Ohio River). We went to the local Ohio County Historical Society Museum. When we arrived three members of the society allowed us to play "Liar's Club". Historic relics were displayed for all to see. Then each member described a "use" for the relic. Two descriptions were lies; one was factual...and we had to decide which. We then toured the museum including a room of record setting race boats built and raced by local resident J.W. Whitlock.

At the local riverside park, Dan, the museum director, related more stories on the history of Rising Sun and the Ohio River.

In downtown Rising Sun area, we visited "Harps on Main". This is a working shop where harps are manufactured. While there we heard samples of harp music from instruments made on sight and wandered through the facility. We then returned to our motel.

Following dinner at the motel we were taken to the Majestic Showboat on the Cincinnati waterfront. The "Majestic" is the last floating showboat in the nation.

Once seated inside the floating theater, we were treated to a performance of the black comedy, "Crimes of the Heart".

Friday morning was our last program. Our presenter was Banjo Bob Poe. Banjo Bob is a licensed riverboat captain and banjo player par excellence. He related stories of river history and his own personal stories about his experiences on riverboats as a musician. He was great.

We then had our traditional Elderhostel "closing ceremony" with closing comments, graduation certificates, and bittersweet good-byes. It was a great Elderhostel with a great group of participants from all over the nation. Thanks to Pauline, Barbara, Lorenzo and other volunteers for a great Elderhostel experience.