Self Portrait in the Landscape 2Have just a few minutes on this here Saturday morning to say my piece. Or my peace? (Actually it is piece but I like that either one could change the context of the sentence).

Why just a few minutes? Well – I’m getting in the car shortly and making the run over to Bloomington. Indiana. And while Bloomington, IL is so much closer – the show Kev and I are going to see tonight is in the Eastern Time Zone. So we’re gonna race over there, see the show – featuring one of Kevin’s former theatre students at Indiana University – and then race back tomorrow morning. This of course throws yet another wrench into the “we need to take the Christmas tree down” scenario but it’s becoming a point of pride with me in seeing how long we can leave it up. But Kev has literally been that busy. Show last week and then she had auditions for the next TWO shows this week – which carried on until about 8pm last night. And then she was up at some unholy hour this morning to do homework for her graduate class where she sits – sounding pretty tired – right now. And, as I think I’ve mentioned before, the choreography of putting the tree away is better left in her hands – until it actually comes down to physically taking the tree apart and packing it away. Then, and only then, will I get involved. So we’re off to see Marat/Sade tonight (nice light themes) in Indiana. On the plus side, Kev does get Monday off for President’s Day – thank goodness – because we haven’t seen last week’s Lost yet. No one say anything.

A few follow-ups from previous posts: the guy who won the Democratic primary for Lt. Governor – the one who had a sketchy past where it concerned alleged violence against a girlfriend – was browbeat into withdrawing from the general election a few days ago (actually gave a mini press conference from a SuperBowl watching party with his family nearby). The state Democrats – who don’t want anything getting in the way of their mismanagement of things – guilted him into it. The $1,000,000-plus he spent out of his own pocket to win the silly race – yeah – sorry – you’re outta luck. Now the Dems will pick someone. I’ve heard talk of Tammy Duckworth which I would support – so that probably dooms any chances she’ll get selected.

Oh – and the plumber woes continue. After making it out here for a looksee  on Feb. 4 – the plan was for them to come back out here and do the work this past week. No work. No calls. Nothing. So now I gotta further bust their chops for totally failing to show up. Maybe by March.

And in other random wanderings – I’ve become enamored of vege sushi from of all places Kroger. I cannot explain it but I like it. Add a little wasabi and wow. And I swear I had about eight things to update when I started this entry but now I’ve forgotten at least five of ’em so – lamely – I must sign off – go shower and pack – and head to Indiana.

And before I go, I’ve done quite a few self-portraits lately – but I think I’m done for now. Please enjoy this fellow (above) – standing in a very cold corn field in January. Only in Illinois – or maybe Iowa. Here’s one more from the same chilly day (slightly different lighting set-up):

Self Portrait in the Landscape 1

Not Quite

I think “Catching Up” could be the title of almost any blog post this year – and now I’ve gone and used it up at the beginning of February. Not sure that’s my best plan. In fact this blog post could have been titled something like “Living In A Small Town” or “F*** Yes They Need to Reform Health Insurance – THOSE IDIOTS” – but no – “Catching Up” will do.

The funny thing about living in a small town (and we don’t even really live “in” the town) is the oddball way things happen around here. Two things to remember. On Tuesday night I spent FIVE hours in a Tazewell County Zoning Board of Appeals meeting. A “local” business wants to install an asphalt plant about 2800′ due west of us, on Springfield Road. The three subdivisions that hide out here encompass a little over 100 properties and some 300 people. And I think most of ’em showed up at this zoning meeting in Pekin. And like all small local government boards in action, it was painful at best and a little contentious at worst. Almost everyone at the meeting was there in opposition, but the people seeking a variance had a lawyer. This was an administrative hearing – so the lawyer was trying object to things he couldn’t object to etc. We don’t want the noise, the smell, or the sight of it all. I won’t go into all the details (but if any of you are out this way, when you turn off of Springfield Road at Tullamore Road, you’d be just a couple hundred feet from the proposed site) but suffice to say the Zoning Board – after hours of testimony (I think the other side was trying to bore us into leaving the hearing) – did not reach a decision. They were a little buried in paperwork from the lawyer – and will take a month to study this before possibly rendering a decision (they could come back with more questions). Most everything points to them denying the request but the way politics works – well they may not deny it… Then you can come out and see our asphalt plant. More on that in March.

The other funny thing about living in a small town is getting local service. We’ve been debating installing a small inline water filter in our house – in front of the water heater and water softener – to collect some sediment. I called the plumber here in town on Jan. 25. We finally got in touch however on Jan. 28 because the person in the office simply takes the information down and then has a scheduler call you back. They called me back on Thursday to tell me the scheduler would call me on Friday. Finally, it was decided they’d be able to get out here on Monday (this past Monday) to LOOK AT THE JOB before deciding how they’d do it. This install is so simple I would do it if I could solder with any consistency. Cut a section out of some pipe, put some threads on either end of the junction and solder them in. But Monday came and went before they finally called around 4pm to say they couldn’t come. They said they’d call back Tuesday but it was this morning before they called again – and now it’ll probably be next Tuesday before they’re out here. In reality it may be March too before this is a done deal.

Kev’s 46th birthday came and went yesterday. A typical week in her life works like this. On Tuesday we both went and voted in the Illinois primary – at about 6:10am. She then went to work and then left early (about 5pm – she has a show opening TONIGHT) to drive to Pekin for the zoning meeting where she lasted until about 10pm. No dinner. Nothing. She then was back on the road around 6am on her birthday (after getting up a little after 4am) and had a final dress rehearsal last night. We didn’t get home until about 10:30pm.  Some birthday huh? I got her a pretty necklace/earring combo from Re: in Peoria (all recycled materials – nice stuff too) and the entire cast/crew sang Happy Birthday to her (badly) at my insistence. But yeah… The show goes tonight, Friday, and Saturday. But she did get almost 110 “Happy Birthdays” on Facebook which is pretty cool.

Yeah – so our election out here on Tuesday. Just a primary. All the guys I voted for on the Democratic side lost. Not a big thing – they’re all about the same – which is too say I didn’t like any of them. Of course we’re voting for a new governor. The last one – good old celebrity “Blago” – was arrested on all kinds of corruption charges in 2008. His replacement – Pat Quinn – is running for his own term against the state comptroller. Both of the Dems are Chicago guys who I wouldn’t trust. The Dem running for the Senate seat held previously by Obama is a banker (oh great) who has some connections through his bank with people who I also wouldn’t trust. But that’s Illinois – the state with the second largest deficit in the country (behind only California). I’m not optimistic. The Republicans might get this seat too – not that it matters because the Senate Dems are fairly useless with or without a filibuster-proof majority. The guy who won the Democratic race for Lt. Governor – a position with no actual job description other then to replace the governor should something happen (like getting arrested on corruption charges) is a pawnbroker (or something close) from Chicago who was arrested on domestic violence charges – he alledgedly held a knife to a girlfriend’s neck. Can we pick ’em or what. I did not vote for Lt. Gov – because a) they’re all the same; b) I think we don’t need the position (when Blago was impeached we didn’t replace the Lt. Gov. because there is no process to do that); and c) see a). Really makes one an optimist for the future of our state… not that I don’t appreciate them. Some things seem to work pretty well in Illinois – they must be farther removed from the political process…

Not too much else to report. I’m just selling, taking, trading, hawking my imagery. I’m fighting for health insurance – which is not going well – and my COBRA runs out at the end of June. Can’t wait to see how much this will cost. I’m trying to stay warm. The sun did come out for a few days last week – but is gone now. I could use a little spring – no doubt about it…

Thanks to all who wished Kev a happy birthday. We’ll catch up some more in a few weeks.

Art Guild Triptych

For the last few months, we’ve been teaching a number of kids from one of the Peoria Alternative schools all about photography – or as much as they can learn in 90 minutes one day a month – when they drop by the Art Guild. These kids however are great kids – and if I had a tough year last year – I would posit that it was easy compared to some of the crap these kids must surely have gone through in their time. And yet they are totally into it. We wandered around the gallery space today, and everyone had digital cameras that we gave them about five minutes of instruction on. And then we turned ’em loose, with a little guidance here and there. And they rocked. We ended up back downstairs to look at everyone’s work on the computer and they were really into checking out each other’s work. And they turned out quite a few decent shots – in fact I may eventually feature them over on the Photoblog. But I really like working with ’em. We sent ’em home with disposable film cameras today – and next month we’ll print contact sheets and start making prints in the wet darkroom. Eventually we’ll have a small exhibit for them.

So the title of this post should tell you that it’s been cold here lately. We went through a good week of mostly zero degree days and -10 degree nights. And it is just getting old. I can see why older folks – well older then me – head to the warmer climes. I have no concrete plans to head to warmer climates yet, but I can see the reasoning – oh yes I can. I’m downright thrilled that we’ve climbed up into the 20s this week – and are headed to the 30s for the weekend. It’s pretty sad when the 30s are considered a break.

We had a great time over at the Illinois State Theatre Festival last weekend. Kev’s kids did a great job putting on their show – twice on Friday – to good audiences in the intimate and slick Westhoff Theatre on the ISU campus. We saw a top-notch performance of Urinetown as part of the all-state show – it was pretty amazing for the age and experience of the performers. They did great. These kids really eat the festival up – she had 42 attendees this year (I think 3-4K attend the entire festival over 2.5 days) – and it was right up their alley. She also had five seniors auditioning – and I think they all did a pretty good job. The festival attracts all kinds of colleges – who recruit – and do auditions to see what kind of chops these kids have. A neat experience for me too – first time I ever got to attend…

On Friday morning I spoke to a group of about 40 Illinois Agribusiness folks down in Springfield to encourage them to take better photos. The presentation went off pretty well – I was happy enough with it – and they asked me to come back next year so I guess they thought so too.  I’m heading out the door as soon as I post this for a brief shoot tonight, and then back to Normal for a shoot Friday afternoon. And in between we have our annual Peoria Football League dinner – where we collect our winnings. We were so poised to have a big year – and both Dad and I fell just a tiny, tiny bit short. Oh well – just eight months to draft day…

And I’ll end this post with three photos – OF me – taken by others on flickr. Just a little something different.

Thanks Stacy

These two shots were taken on the same day. The one above was courtesy of Stacy Hanna – as we had a little no-look shootout in an alley on the Southside of Peoria. Definitely a different look for me since most of my face is outta frame.

Thanks Tim

This outing was part flickr outing and part class urban landscape outing. Tim Sheets, another of my Peoria Flickr group admins, took this shot with his Lensbaby Composer (a selective focus lens). I like the shot and I like the exposure.

Thanks Bill

And this one was taken by my ol’ buddy Bill Shaner, when he accompanied the Landscape Expedition class up to Matthiessen State Park a few months back. That water was chilly, and I probably made my student – Mitzi – stand there too long. I’m not sure she’s forgiven me yet…

Too Easy To FindThat’s right. I need a plan. For this blog.

And actually I think I have a plan – to get back to one of its original purposes which was to help me remember what the hell I’ve been doing. The plan is pretty simple – daresay it may even be a goal – a goal for 2010. The plan is this: try and blog twice a month – about every two weeks.

As plans go it’s not very ambitious but I need to have a few plans for 2010 so I’m not complicating matters. So 25 posts at a minumum this year – not counting this one. We’ll see if it leads to more – but it doesn’t have to. It should however lead to 25.

Good luck to me. Back in a few weeks as I’m spending this week prepping for my presentation on to the Illinois Specialty Crops, Argitourism and Organic Conference on January 8.  The topic – as they describe it – “Picture This,” Increase Marketing Impact with Photography”. My job – give participants some help in taking better photos.

Oh – and I’m back to hating Central Illinois weather. About -9F here this morning. Up to a stunning +5 now. C’mon Spring – get here.

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Underneath All That Holds Us UpWell, I thought it was time to finally write something “Friday Fourish” over here. Why it was just last Friday that I published… no wait – it was two weeks ag- ummm okay. Nevermind.

So what’s going on? I’m good. How are you? Wonderful. I gotta tell you – it’s been a repetitive couple of weeks for me since mid-October. Literally a case of same-shit, different day. But into the muck a few half noteworthy things have crept (am I a salesman or what?).

In no particular order – just as I think of ’em – here we go.

I spent a good amount of time cheering on Kevin’s fall play – a production of A.R. Gurney’s The Dining Room. Not only did they all do a great job – but the play was invited to the Illinois State Theatre Festival in January and will be seen by students and theatre educators from all over the state – in TWO productions at Illinois State on Jan. 8. It means a lot of extra work for the aforementioned Spouse of the Year (and she is) but she’ll make a beautiful corpse so… more power to her. I’m looking forward to seeing this group perform in a fantastic space over at ISU – the Westhoff Auditorium. Very cool space.

I’m even accompanying Kev and some of the crew to Chicago tomorrow. SPotY (see you can make a good nickname from almost anything) scored 20 tickets to see The Addams Family with Nathan Lane and Bebe Neuwerth – which is in pre-Broadway, work-the-kinks-out mode in Chicago. Driving up in the morning (Kev gets to drive one of the little, nee short, buses – very exciting), seeing the show and driving back. Whirlwind day.

I wrote the first draft of the annual Christmas letter the other day. Absolutely worst thing I’ve ever written I think. Whatever you end up seeing will in no way resemble what I wrote a few days ago. Wow. On the bright side I did come up with my 40 pictures of the year, most of which will walk their way into the letter. No where to go but up.

I’ve been photographically busy lately. We just finished up classes at the Art Guild for the year. I taught three this fall – it was busy but fulfilling. Lots of getting out and shooting with people who want to be there and who want to learn. I’m also teaching an ongoing once-a-month class to a couple of disadvantaged teens who trek down to the Guild. And I gotta tell you – they were totally, I mean totally, into it in our first class – where they learned how to do Pinhole Photography. They’re back on the 16th, and we’ll head back into the darkroom to finish their pinhole projects. Then they’re getting a few disposable cameras to take home for their next project. An awesome group of kids – who’ve had it rougher then I ever have.

One of my adult students happens to own the big scrap yard on the south side of Peoria, and we arranged a big photo outing down there through the Peoria Flickr group. I gotta tell you – it was freaky awesome. The things that are there – unreal. It’s supposed to be almost all cars – but the other things that sneak in and fill these huge piles of scrap are quite unexpected. I took the picture featured today under the overpass next to the scrap yard – but if you wanna see the main victims down there, look no farther:

Red

I’ve also started a new project called the 10×95 project. Details are over on the photo blog (and on facebook and twitter) but basically it’s one image. Ten prints. $95 framed. And when they’re gone – they’re gone forever. First one is an iconic nighttime black and white shot of the Peoria skyline.

Lastly on the photographic front, I’m headed to Springfield the morning of Jan. 8 to give a talk to farmers – about how to take better (re: marketable) photographs. Should be a very interesting 45 minutes – and hopefully my love of agricultural photography will translate. We can hope.

And last – but not least – well maybe least – I had my first root canal ever a few weeks ago. And was it painful – on my wallet. The procedure however was completely painless and didn’t even take very long. And the guy who did it was a budding landscape shooter who wants to learn more. I’ll invite him to a workshop in 2010 and then stick a big lens in his mouth over and over…

Good luck with December. Finish the year safely and I’m sure we’ll be blogging again next Fri- okay – next year.

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If you wondered why I turned out the way I am – this little video might explain things…

I guess this means retirement agrees with the old man. And I think more of his work needs to end up on YouTube. I’m just sayin.

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you can simply leave a comment here. After the credit check and the background check we’ll email you the special word. Or we won’t.

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Working OT - Tremont Grain Co-Op

At the rate I’m going I’m going to have just five or six blog posts a year. On the bright side, I’ve written over 135 blog posts on the Central Illinois Photoblog this year – so my energy is still there – it’s the focus and direction that are out of balance.

And what’s worse – I suppose – is that I’m just going to post two crappy cell phone pictures here today because it’s indicitive of the focus and direction of my life. Back on the second Sunday of August (around the time I last blogged here. Gulp!), we had some of the theatre kids out for our annual Tech Camp. The canoe made an appearance in the lake that day and we left it sitting on the dock when we were all done. We usually leave it flipped over to avoid gathering rainwater but we did not. My folks were in for a visit a couple days ago and dad remarked that the canoe was swamped and somewhat sinking (along with part of the dock). I went down there on Wednesday and it was bad (in fact worse then this picture). I went back down this morning to bail it out – we’ve had four inches of rain since Wednesday – and the added rain seems to have been enough to sink it more and actually spill some of the water out. I’m sure it had something to do with bizarre geometric angles and the Orionid Meteor showers but… instead of bailing this morning I was finally able to just flip it over (the other day it was so full of water there was no way I could flip it).

So – the before and after – via the Blackberry:

before

ugg!

yay!

yay!

The lake is stunningly high again today. You could hear the water pouring out of the dam all the way over at our place this morning so it must be cooking.

And the photo on top. Somewhere around midnight last Saturday night over in Tremont and the Grain Co-Op. Harvest is WAY behind this year because of all the wetness (more the moisture content of the corn then the mud in the fields) and what corn has come in is running through the dryers 24×7 – making for some nice nighttime images.

See y’all in December?

Party CentralSince I did have a few more items in my original list of 20… let’s dust off this old warhorse.

1. So it’s been what? A year? Yeah – a year without “television”. I leave it in  quotes only because we’ve seen our fair share of TV. We’ve been watching the current seasons of “The Closer” and “Burn Notice” and – well okay – that’s about it for new stuff. When Season 2 of “Dollhouse” returns we’ll probably return to it as well. Otherwise… it’s the DVD life via Netflix. We just finished watching the last three seasons of “The West Wing”. We had watched the first four back in the day, and then writer/creator Aaron Sorkin left the show and we thought – meh – it will go downhill. Overall, however it held up pretty well; just a few made-for-TV moments. The characters were so good that infrequent bad writing didn’t hurt that much. It was worth it. On deck, season three of “Heroes”; season nine of “CSI”; season five of “Numb3rs”, and season five of “House”. THAT should hold us for awhile – especially because our summer watching rules have expired now that Kev is back in school.

2. I’m on a quest this year to get to every canyon up at Starved Rock State Park. Back in July, the moderators of the Peoria Flickr group (minus one) trekked up to French, Wildcat (pictured), and LaSalle canyons. To complete my mini-quest, I still have to set foot in Kickapoo, Sac, Aurora, Pontiac, Basswood, Lonetree, and Hennepin Canyons. That’s two – maybe three – trips up there before the year is out. I need to get busy. And man – was the park ever dry when we hiked in.

3. It’s the big fantasy football draft this weekend for the 15th season of the Peoria Football League. I dropped out of my second league (over in Indianapolis) to save a few $ and to concentrate on the locals. So it’s off to Draft Central (in Washington, IL this year) on Saturday for eight hours of good times with 13 of my closest buds – real and virtual (but mostly real).

4. And a Happy Birthday to the old man yesterday – as Pops turned 72. And any year that is divisible by 12 has to be a-okay. I’m hoping he makes it to the SuperBowl in the PFL this year – where he, tragically, loses to ME! A guy has to dream.

Another RoadA couple of Illinois barns – definitely not a place I’ve lived before but a place I’m constantly drawn too.

Speaking of places I’ve lived… I ended up in Peoria’s West Bluff yesterday a couple of times, and ended up driving down my old street at one point when I saw our old house was for sale… again. It’s changed hands a few times since we sold it just about six years ago. I chatted with a few of my old neighbors and the notion is that not much has changed at the house. They did some clean-up/repainting of the outside and they (wow!) added Central Air inside but the lot is still only so-so and back yard looks just awful. But when they mentioned the list price I about fainted.

Here’s the MLS listing on the realtor’s site. Good luck to them getting their asking price – it will require a small miracle – especially if you go look at the very public record of sale prices on that house since 1990. I’ll spare you the details with the more or less: $28K in 1990, 41K in 1992, 80K in 2003… I have no idea what it’s sold for since we sold it in October 2003 – but wow. $125K. Wow.

Oh – and the pictures on the website – well they could use some help from a professional. Just a suggestion.

Chicago Skies 2

What’s behind the windows? How about protected posts?

I’ve got a couple topics to blog on in the near term that I would rather exclude from the Zeitgeist. So, if you’d like to read ’em, just leave a comment indicating as such on this post and I’ll send you an email with the password in it. It won’t change and you’ll be able to get “behind the windows” as they start to appear.

Now – back to it.

Sunset with Spouse - Lake Michigan

I guess that “surfacing thing for a moment” in my last blog entry took.

In the spirit of some communication, I’ve been ruminating on a list of 20 or so things worth blogging about. I’ve worked it over in my head many times but I always stop at about three. We’ll see how far we get. Twenty may be more of a metaphor when we’re all said and done.

  1. Well, since I last set keyboard onto this blog, I passed the big 47. That’s right, I’m one third of the way to 141 years of age. Man – that’s going to be a long trip. But 47 is okay so far. The jury is still out on 2009 as a whole (hint: it will come back guilty), but the turning 47 thing has been okay. At least I’m still closer to 45 then 50, even if I feel like I’m still 19 (horsin’ around age) to 34 (all the other ages that are relevant).
  2. And to celebrate said birthday, the Spouse and I wandered up to Chicago for the day. We’d both read The Devil in the White City, which was all about the 1893 Columbian Exposition (nee World’s Fair) in Chicago – and a mass murderer who worked the crowds. The fair – which was huge – took place in present-day Jackson Park on the South Side of Chicago. We went and walked bits and pieces of it to try and get a feel. Nothing is left from the fair – save one building – the Museum of Science and Industry – and it’s changed a lot. Still, the grounds are largely the same and you could get a small feeling for the scope of this giant mass of humanity and buildings. We then took our third trip on the Chicago River, this time doing the historical tour of Chicago. The tour – often crowded – was fairly empty – just four us on this large boat. It was a  pretty good time actually. We went out onto the lake too. We finished up with an evening at the spectacular Art Institute – which is running free admission on Thursday and Friday evenings for the rest of the summer. A very nice day.

    Context

    An evening at the Art Institute in Chicago

  3. As soon as I got back from Chicago, I turned around the next morning and drove up to Madison. In spite of the horrendous traffic on I-39 where it met both I-88 and I-90, I arrived – and spent about 24 hours visiting my dad – who was in town to visit his buddy John. We had a nice dinner down on State Street and took a good evening walk (and then a good morning walk the next day). We also took in the tremendously large farmer’s market that surrounds the state capitol building. An impressive array of veggies, fruit, and flowers. I drove home Saturday afternoon – avoiding I-39 completely – and took in a lot of the back roads of Illinois. I stopped at Castle Rock State Park – which has potential for a visit when the wildflowers are blooming or when the leaves are turning.

    More Pops Bokeh

    Pops - on State Street in Madison - Friday night

  4. Alright – so far so good. After I got back from Madison on Saturday, Kev and I headed up to South Haven, MI, on Monday. The main reason for the trip was to visit my childhood buddy, Bill B., but we were also going to take in the eastern shores of Lake Michigan and check out the big sand dunes up there. For something like 40 years, Bill and his family (one brother) have been staying at a place in South Haven for a few weeks each summer, so we dropped in on the entire family. I had never met Bill’s wife (Ingrid) or his kids – or his brother Jim’s wife (Rachel) and their kids. And actually it was great to see ALL of them – we had a great time. I had many parents growing up – and Bill’s folks contributed. Bill and I realized we hadn’t seen each other since 1991, but we picked up and ran with it. We’ve stayed in somewhat regular touch over the years so that helps. We camped a few minutes down the road at Van Buren State Park – and it was pretty good. We got six nights in the tent this summer and they were all pretty good. We also took in the best ice cream in all of Michigan at Sherman’s in South Haven. I suspect on our way back from Mackinac Island in October we’ll make a quick stop. The picture above – Kev walking on the beach at sunset – both nights were pretty darn good.
  5. Speaking of my darling bride – Kev got an “A” in her online class this summer – at least justifying the fact that it nearly killed her at times. Traveling in the middle of all that – not great. If only ISU hadn’t moved the class up two weeks after she registered. She started school today – at least the kids are back – she went back last week actually. Due to some scheduling changes, she’s doing a show in November (and again in January most likely as part of the Illinois Theatre Fest), February, March, and April. This will finish her off since the class couldn’t do it. It may also put a crimp in her ability to take a class until next summer.
  6. Anyone want to buy the house next door to us? It’s for sale. Built just five years ago. No online listing yet but it’s selling for a rather expensive $230K. Not sure I think that will go in this economy. The nice thing is – while next door – it’s still many hundred feet away and there’s a wonderfully tough gully between it and us. It’s a good 1/4 mile walk as the crow DOESN’T FLY. So not TOOO close to us.
  7. It’s almost fantasy football season. I’ve dropped out of my league in Indianapolis – didn’t feel like I should spend the $ on two leagues this year. But – as always – am looking forward to the Peoria festivities. Draft day is just a week from this Saturday. w00t! as they say.
  8. If we had some good cliffs – I’d be prepared to drive many of our cars off of them. Kev swerved to avoid an animal on Townline Rd., the other night and drove hard onto the shoulder, kicking up something that punched a hole in the bottom of her radiator. $528 later… Really? I need that this year? The truck has been it’s usual POS self. Another fuel leak – brought on most likely by mice or squirrels chewing on part of the fuel line. I was leaving quite a lot of fuel on the roads of Central Illinois for a few days. We’ve probably spent about $2,000 on the truck in the last 18 months. The fuel line repair was one day before an art fair – thought for sure I’d be renting again…
  9. Speaking of art fairs, I had both Sugar Creek (in Normal) and the Washington Fine Art Fair (just last weekend) in Washington, IL. Both were okay – good crowds but not a lot of buyers. And boy did it rain on both – which proved what a crappy (it was free) tent I have. Tough year in the art market.
  10. I’m teaching three classes at the Art Guild this fall. I’ll be doing my regular “Lighting with Flashes” class, as well as an “Expedition” class that is all about landscape photography. We’ll make at least three trips to do the work in the field for this class too. Finally, I’m co-teaching a low-light/no-light class that is all about shooting before sunrise, at sunset, and at night. Should be a lot of fun. And I get paid.
  11. Halfway home! We had the big Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk in July in Peoria. I was the host – and we got 46 people to come out and play. To see the top ten images from the walk (as officially selected by me), head over to the Central Illinois Photoblog. The Peoria Flickr group is sponsoring monthly photowalks now – so we’ll be doing a photowalk and photo scavenger hunt in Peoria’s Springdale Cemetery this Saturday from 9am to 11am. Details if you locals are interested.
    Kelby Photowalk Peoria
  12. Today marks the day when I officially finished off the photo studio and got all the non-photographic junk outta the room. It’s available now for shooting both product/tabletop and people. And it’s organized. Hooray. Still, I’m gonna need to work everyday for a solid month to spread the organization to the rest of the house – but I’m on a mission.
  13. I’ve been drafted by my buddy Lily to participate in a little photo project she’s working on. She’s taken the Paul Simon song, “My and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” and started photographing it – telling the story of the song in pictures. I have been drafted to play the part of “Papa” (when Papa found out/he began to shout/ and started the investigation). I’m also helping wrangle a few of the other shots. Take a look at her set (just started) – more to come soon.
  14. Did you know that in hexadecimal, that 20 is represented at 14? No. Well then.
  15. One last photo thing. I had the fun assignment (along with two others) of judging the over 400 photographic entries in this year’s Heart of Illinois Fair. I think we did pretty good – there were some strong pictures submitted. This was also an excuse to go to the HOI Fair for the first time, as my judging got me two free tickets. It’s about what you’d expect – which is quaint and weird at the same time. But at night – you can always get good shots.

    Waiting (Summer Cliche 4)

    The long slow rides at the HOI Fair

  16. Kevin had the alumni and a lot of currents out to the house for our sixth annual Tech Camp. This is just a chance to wind down summer for a lot of the theatre kids – and for us to see the alumni before they head back to college or whatever else they’re doing. It’s also an excuse to really clean the house. A good time as usual was had by all and in what is becoming a tradition, we watched a heck of an interesting movie this year after the swimming was over – “The Boondock Saints”. Very unique movie.
  17. In prepping for tech camp I had some good news and some bad news. The bad news was I found yet another batch of poison ivy. I HATE THAT STUFF. My right hand still looks like a survivor from the plague. I think I need to burn down everything we got that’s green and has three leaves. Since I can’t be sure – I say kill it all.
  18. On the plus side, we did get the remainder of the work done on the back porch. New light fixtures – which look SO much better (and from this century), all new blades on the ceiling fans – which look SO much better, and new carpeting – which looks SO much better. Of course it was a miserably hot day during tech camp so no one spent time on the porch. You’re shocked? No.
  19. In an interesting turn of events, I’m going to take part of this blog private. There are some topics for discussion that I don’t want to have in a public space so… more details on that in a subsequent post. You’ll all have to learn the password but it probably won’t ever change and it won’t take much work to get in, and I promise juicy details (or something). Thanks to my bud in Kentucky for this idea.
  20. Believe it or not  – I had a 20th topic – but in moving things around I lost track of it and have no idea what it was. But c’mon – this was a pretty decent list. I’m not kidding. I ROCK!

Hopefully I’ll be back in less then (nearly) two months. Until then, I’ll leave you with one last picture:

Lake Josephine Taxi

Glacier Park STILL ROCKS TOO!

Bowman Bald

I’ve surfaced for a moment.

The end of my last post referenced going to see some “Big Skies” and indeed I have. Kev and I took off for Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana on June 9 and we haven’t looked back since. After three days of driving we pulled into West Glacier, Montana on the night of June 11 and enjoyed a quiet park full of amazing scenery and wildlife. As of today – even after more driving, we’re recovering at the Grand Hotel on Mackinaw Island for a little rest – rest meaning a day we don’t drive 500 miles. When we get home on Monday, we’ll have covered just over 5,000 miles in 14 days and seen – almost literally – it all.

Since it comes down to fighting off a nap or recounting our trip, while sitting here in the Parlor “recovering” I might as well recount. Our drive out included a stop for the night in Sioux Falls, SD, after covering more of Iowa then I’ve ever seen. We actually visited the falls in Sioux Falls before getting back on the road – they literally sit in a park in the middle of the city. If anything, gushing water will be a hallmark of this trip as rains everywhere have led to swollen rivers and huge waterfalls. We made it across South Dakota, taking a detour through the amazing Badlands National Park. Our drive through the park was done in the rain – and the Badlands definitely profit from the sun – so I photographed little and just enjoyed the unique scenery. From there we trekked over to Sheridan, WY, to spend the night with my folks, and then raced for Glacier the next day – with another brief detour to see our friend Bill L. in Bozeman, MT. 

Glacier sits above the 48th parallel. Combining that with our nearness to the Summer Solstice and it didn’t get very dark up there at night. We hit our campsite at the Fish Creek Campground on Lake MacDonald around 9:30pm and still had plenty of daylight to set-up the site. The weather – which had been cold and snowy just days earlier – was near perfect for the entire trip in Montana – so we stayed warm and dry the whole time.

On Friday we stuck to the west side of the park. The famous “Going To The Sun” road was not entirely open yet because of snow. It’s a convenient 50-mile trek from the west end of the park to the east end but that convenience won’t begin until later in June. We drove up the road as far as it would go from the west, stopping at Avalanche Creek. We hiked up to Avalanche Lake, seeing the first of literally dozens of mule deer we’d see in the park. And by see I mean up close and personal. They are certainly desensitized to people. They’re wary but are happy to feed off the flowers just 5-10 feet away from you. There was a ton of concern about bear interaction in the park. I’m happy to report we had very little of that at least – but the total flora and fauna we saw was extraordinary. Eventually we headed back into West Glacier and had dinner at the lovely Belton Chalet. Here’s the thing about West Glacier. It’s not really a town. It’s a collection of 10-12 buildings spread out along one of two roads – but the Belton was very good dining.

Saturday took us around the south end of the park on US 2 – and over to East Glacier (like West Glacier but on the east side of the park doncha know). From there we ventured into an area known as Two Medicine to see some falls and a nice drive up into the mountains. Then we headed up to St. Mary – about 20 miles north of East Glacier – and hit Going to the Sun road from the east end. We drove up to the end of the road – at the Jackson Glacier Overlook – and saw our first glacier in the park. From a max of about 150 glaciers when first explored in the mid-nineteenth century, Glacier is now down to around 15 glaciers. It was impressive – even though we were seven miles away.

We then hiked down to two waterfalls – Hidden and Virginia. Virginia may have been the most impressive falls I’ve ever encountered. You can get VERY close at the base of the falls and when we were there – it was like standing in a hurricane. The falls are large and the water coming over them is in such volumes that you come away drenched. It’s breathtaking literally. We were able to hike a couple hundred feet down below them to photograph them but taking the camera out at the base would have been pointless. On our drive back to the west side, around 10pm, we encountered a mama moose and two calves near the road. We did not get out of the car but watched them for quite some time as they got within 30 feet of us. Eventually four Harlies rounded the bend (c’mon – at 10:15pm? Really?) and made more then enough noise to send the meese scattering into the woods. Oh well.

On Sunday we went back to the east side – this time going a little further north to follow the road into an area known as Many Glacier. Our plan was to actually take a boat ride on Swiftcurrent and Joesphene Lakes, followed by a back-country hike up to Grinnel Lake – all originating from the Many Glacier Lodge. Just as we arrived, the skies opened up to a torrential mountain thundershower – including plenty of hail – so we waited it out in the restaurant at the lodge. There’s a saying out west – which basically goes “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes” so the boat ride started on time and was lovely as was the hike to Grinnell. We walked within 15 feet of a moose and calf on the way back, as they were laying in the tall grass between the lake edge and the trail and weren’t feeling like moving. The drive home was also fantastically interrupted by a stop at an area called Goat Lick – where – yes – mountain goats come by in masses to lick the salt off rocks near a steep slope. And they were there – with plenty of youngins – so we watched them for a good hour.

On Monday, we headed up to the Lake MacDonald lodge for lunch, and then drove up to Polebridge, about 20 miles south of the Canadian border – where we saw the eagle above and explored up at Bowman Lake. While at Bowman – which is a couple miles long – we watched another impressive thunderstorm trek perpindicular to us across the lake. It was so cool.

There were plenty of other highlights at the park – I’ll save them for other posts with pictures. We drove back to Sheridan on Tuesday, and departed for Mackinac on Wednesday – with a stop in Bismarck, ND on the first night and Ashland, WI, on the second night. We spent two long hours in Fargo, ND, when our car died. Actually the battery suddenly didn’t have the juice to start the car so a call to “AAA” brought out a service truck and a new battery.And a few “grrrrrs” from me. We made our first drive ever across the upper peninsula of Michigan yesterday and now we’ll “rest” for the next 48 hours before heading home. Actually I’ll rest and poor Kev will do lots of homework for her ISU class. And that sucks…

I’ll be back in a few days – until then I feel a long nap coming on.

Chicago Skies in Color

Ahh the skies of Chicago. So often when you look up (up there) you don’t see clouds. Instead you see color and glass and brick and steel. Those are the Chicago skies I’m used to – as captured on our Flickr walk of downtown Chicago back a week or so ago.

Sunday of the artfair also went pretty well. It rained for the first few hours but that’s when everyone goes to church anyway so I never expect to sell much before noon or so. But the sun broke through in the afternoon and the crowds really picked up and all was right with the world. In the end, I sold about 35 pieces over the weekend and came away feeling pretty good about that considering the economy and whatnot. And the truck was stellar on Sunday too so it was a win-win.

And now – I’m taking a little break so – we’ll see some of you down the road a piece or two. Gotta go see some other Big Skies…

KYV on Straight 2Well, the truck started today – the first time. Day one of the Junction City Art Fair was all downhill from there. Set-up was fine, the weather was cooperative, I sold a bunch of prints, I got to store all the art work in the store I was in front of so strike today was a breeze, lunch was good, they’re buying me breakfast at Cyd’s in the morning, and man – life was pretty good today.

Heading back for day two in the morning – would be thrilled to match my day today. Let’s hope.

Kev got her hair done the other day – and her stylist straightened things out which almost always leads to a picture. All I have to say is wow. And that’s not World of Warcraft…

We set up our tent the other day to make sure that when we get out in the wilderness in a few weeks we have a clue. And I’m happy to report it went up without much of a hitch. It’s roomy, comfortable and still has that new tent smell – in spite of the fact that it’s now four-years old. We need to get more of a life… I think we’ll spend about eight nights in it this trip to come so it will finally get broken in. We’re also enjoying the lovely inflatable queen-sized Coleman mattress. It comes with a nice battery-operated pump that inflates the thing in like two minutes. Simply awesome. To really give it the seal of approval we spent Thursday night sleeping in it – on our front lawn. Our neighbors extremely vocal dogs served as alarm clock; even from a quarter-mile away they were… quite vocal. It was a little chilly for Kev – as we were down in the 50s. She’s gonna get a shock in Glacier. I talked to my folks today, who were camping over in Yellowstone for a few days – and they were experiencing temps in the high 30s out there – in a fairly empty park. I’m thrilled about the near empty park – but we’ll be a few hundred miles north of Yellowstone so I’m hoping for a minor heat wave to keep the spouse happy.

What else? Nothing. If you’re bored Sunday come to the fair…