Monday, September 15, 2014

Waterfall, The Smokies

As I drove over to the far eastern side of the Smokies in the Spring, I stopped to capture a few images of the water coming down the side of the mountain next to the main road.
In previous posts you may remember my frustration photographing water. In this setting, there were at least a dozen cascades coming down in varying directions with tons of 'noise' all around. By noise I mean broken branches, twigs and well, in this case, one too many cascades that only lend to distract the viewer. Too many distractions can hender the overall composition of an image. Cropping is usually the order of the day to help fix some of these problems. It is so difficult getting the composition, the sharpness, the highlights, the low lights and the water flow itself all working together in unison. And I'll say it again, it is so difficult. I believe photographing water is what some photographers call the madness that is photography. I hope you enjoy this image. ENJOY!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Elk, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

On my visit to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park earlier this year, I drove to the far eastern side of the park where the Oconaluftee Visitor's Center is located, right outside of the small town of Cherokee. I had hoped to catch a glimpse of the Elk herd that had been seen in the fields the previous evening. I waited next to the field where the Elk had been the night before, but no Elk appeared.

So I moved on down to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center in hopes of seeing them. One lone female Elk made an appearance that evening while I was there. And luckily, this she came out of the woods and moved almost all the way up to the edge of the Visitor Center. So I was able to get a few images, with my 300mm. As you can see, this Elk was not only tagged, but also bears a radio collar to track her movements. All of the Elk in the Smokies, both near Oconaluftee and in Cataloochee Valley were reintroduced into the park about ten years ago.

When I first arrived at the center, one of the park rangers standing at the edge of the parking lot mentioned to us that there was a possibility that the Elk may not come out to graze, as it was the height of the birthing season, and many of the female Elk were giving birth to new calves.

In the past, when I have photographed the Elk, it has been in Cataloochee Valley, which is also part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but is quite a distance from the main park boundaries, and is actually located in North Carolina. Aside from the added drive to reach this area of the park, the drive up and around the mountain to gain access to Cataloochee Valley itself is long and winding and, at times, arduous as you are hugging the side of the mountain. To make matters worse, the road is not paved, but gravel. So having an opportunity to see even one Elk on my trip, without having to make that drive to Cataloochee, was worth the waiting. I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend. The weather here has cooled off and will be in the 60's and 70's for the next week. Did I mention how happy that makes me. ENJOY!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Soaring by Elder Heart

As we approach the most colorful of seasons, I wanted to share an image I captured in Brown County, Indiana, in the small arts and crafts community of Nashville, this past weekend. Beautiful blue skies, fluffy white clouds, calm breezes and plentiful warm sunshine with a much cooler temp made for the perfect day to visit Nashville.

On the patio of the town's Visitor's Center, I captured a few images of the new art sculpture 'Soaring' that stands eighteen feet tall created by Southern Indiana Veterans, Elder Heart, under the guidance of local artist, Jim Connor. Elder Heart is a Veteran's organization that participates in many public and private projects around Southern Indiana. The metal sculpture featured huge colorful leaves, with single leaves at the top, and multiple leaves at the bottom, seemingly depicting falling leaves. It was the perfect image to bring you my favorite quote for Autumn by Albert Camus. ENJOY!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ducklings, Holland State Park

An evening walk out onto the beach at Holland State Park in Michigan earlier this Summer, I noticed several Mallard Ducks floating on Lake Michigan near the large rocks along the breakwater.

And then I noticed this one little Duckling who decided to climb way up on top of one of the rocks. Not sure Mom was real happy about that as she looked on.

The water was such a wonderful blue that day.

There were quite a few Ducklings staying close to their parents that afternoon. I never really thought about Ducks and Geese having offspring later in the Summer, but apparently they do. The state park was really the perfect place to go swimming and sunbathing. It even had a huge concession stand. And Big Ben Lighthouse was right across the inlet so it was great for picture taking also. Thankfully the heat has dissipated and while tomorrow will be around 90, it hopefully, will be the last 90 degree day we have this year. Things I've noticed recently that you may have also made note of . . . pumpkins, mums, Halloween decor, talk of cool nights and Fall foliage changes coming. Oooohhhh. Love Fall. ENJOY!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Scarlet Cockscomb

As luck would have it on my journey today, I crossed paths with a very large scarlet Cockscomb blooming near a shop I visited. Today was the first day in many many weeks that I got outdoors to take photos.
Visiting Nashville, Indiana or as we locals call it 'Brown County' is a treat at the end of Summer and before Fall gets going in full swing. Most of the Summer's flowers are still blooming and the leaves haven't turned yet. Coupled with all of the colorful shops in the small arts and crafts town, well you guessed it. It's a fantastic place to take photos. And the icing on the cake is most of the Fall decor is out on display for fresh pickins'. The large Cockscomb plant I photographed was covered in 'bugs' in all shapes and sizes. In particular there were many 'lightning' bugs all over the blooms. Today was the first day in many weeks the temperature was a comfortable mid seventy and there was no humidity and my schedule was finally in my favor. And for that I am grateful. Back soon. ENJOY!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Varigated Hydrangea

Oh my how I love Hydrangeas, but this one in particular was absolutely gorgeous. This particular Hydrangea bush was blooming next to a black wrought iron fence that surrounded the tiny Visitor Center at Saugatuck, Michigan's downtown harbor area.

And even more beautiful...

I don't even have to ask if you agree. Surely, you must. Have a lovely Labor Day weekend all. Stay safe and if you are having a heat wave such as we are in Kentucky, stay cool. ENJOY!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Nesting Trumpeter Swans

In the summer of 2006, conservationists from Kellogg Bird Sanctuary, located in southwest Michigan, in partnership with the staff and volunteers of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, released eight pairs of Trumpeter Swans at an undisclosed location. As I drove the route that traverses the Dunes on my trek north in July, I caught sight of several Swans out of the corner of my eye. Making a quick turnaround, I drove back to the marsh where I spotted the Swans.

Strangely, this marsh sits directly to the east of the Dune Climb at Sleeping Bear Dunes. The marsh was peppered with beautiful yellow lotus flowers. It was late in the day, but I still managed to capture a few images of the nesting pair, albeit not the best lighting.

I read online that in the thirties there were 33 Trumpeter Swans in the entire continental United States and none in existence in Michigan. Thanks to conservation and reintroduction efforts, the Swans are plentiful again, not only in Michigan, but also throughout the United States. And it appears the conservationists at Sleeping Bear Dunes were successful in their hope that the Trumpeter Swans would imprint on the Dunes marshland making it their nesting site each Summer before migrating south for Winter.

Being quite a distance from the Swans, these images were the best I could do. I stood and watched the nesting pair for quite some time hoping one might lift off and give me an image of their beautiful wing span, but no luck. The entire time I watched them the Swan on the left never once lifted its head. I'm thinking an afternoon nap.

I took various images of the marsh itself before I headed back to the car to continue on to Empire Bluffs that day. I love marshes. And why I love marshes is easy for me to explain. I love the sharp edged cattails sticking up out of the water and blowing in the breezes. I love the brightly color lotus flowers that bloom amongst the lily pads. I especially love all of the waterfowl you can find on any given visit.

Speaking of waterfowl, this female Wood Duck was plying the waters in the marsh just over from where the Swans' nest was situated. And while you can't see it in my photos, there was one Great Blue Heron fishing on the opposite end of the marsh not far from the Swans. When I planned my trek to Michigan, I had no idea I would encounter such a beautiful lakeshore with gorgeous blue water, gulls and wood ducks and swans, stunning red lighthouses, blueberry and cherry farms galore, tallships sailing in the bay, and dunes as tall and as far as one's eye could see. But I did and it all so refreshing. I have a few more photo ops to share coming up. I hope you have enjoyed the trip so far. I would love to hear your thoughts. ENJOY!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Roses in a Saugatuck Garden

While on my trek in Michigan back in July, I captured several images of the Roses blooming in an old fashioned flower garden sitting next to a bank on the corner of the main street that ran through the tiny town of Saugatuck. I have a fondness for Roses but especially love Cabbage Roses. It reminds me of the Rose bushes that bloomed along the fence line in my childhood home.

This courtyard filled with flowers is one you might encounter in England as opposed to a tiny tourist town like Saugatuck, but there it was with its black wrought iron fencing at least 10 feet tall and a beautiful oval topped gate.

I don't believe I have ever seen blush colored Roses actually blooming in a garden before. Although I have seen them in florists. I love there faint color of pink.

Just as I made my way to the end of the garden path, I found this muted pink rose shining in the sun. I tried to find out more about this courtyard flower garden online, but came up empty. All I can figure is it is owned and maintained by the Chemical Bank that is situated next to it. I am praying the oppressive heat wave we have been under since last week will die out this week as it was rather difficult to get anything accomplished when everything you try to do outdoors leaves you sweating profusely. I read on another blog that the snowline is creeping south up in Alaska and wonder just how much summer is left in the higher altitudes. I can feel Fall is not far away now. One of my favorite seasons. ENJOY!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ahh . . . Cherries!

As I traveled the rural road from Leland to Empire, Michigan, on my way to hike the bluff trail at Sleeping Bear Dunes back in July, I stopped to capture a few images of the ripe cherries hanging heavy on the trees at an orchard I passed.

There were blueberry farms and cherry orchards galore everywhere I drove along the route that traversed Lake Michigan, not to mention the many wineries and tree farms. I gotta tell ya, Michigan knows their fruit.

Truth be told, I had never seen a blueberry farm or a cherry orchard, so it was a treat to get to see both. In the Bluegrass State, we're accustomed to thoroughbreds, bluegrass farms, bourbon and tobacco. Yes, we do gave an occasional apple orchard here and there, but Michigan is much more heavily into their fruit.

I think half the fun of cruising around America is the local flavor you find as you travel the rural roads. It's where you find real America wrapped neatly in the farms, orchards, factories and small towns that dot the landscape. The cherries in a local farm market I stopped at outside of Holland had the usual bright red cherries, but they also carried a larger dark seedless cherry. After a quick taste test, I have to say I like both. When I returned home to Kentucky, I went grocery shopping since I had made sure not to leave anything much in the frig before I left. Lucky me, I found fresh cherries at the Fresh Market and bought a bag. I had never bought fresh cherries before. I think it's because I don't like cherries on top of my sundae or milkshakes. So I guess I thought I wouldn't like fresh ones. Turns out, I was wrong. Did I mention I ate my fair share of blueberries after visiting that farm market. Oh, you heard me right, no cherries on my ice cream. I cannot have anything interfering with my ice cream eating experience. Did I mention I am also a huge 'chocoholic'. Yep, and don't even think about getting between me and my chocolate. ENJOY!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Windmill Island Gardens

Windmill Island Gardens is nestled right at the edge of downtown Holland, Michigan. The windmill that is located in the middle of the tulip gardens is 250 years old and is still a working windmill called DeZaan, meaning graceful bird. There are 36 acres of manicured gardens. The windmill itself is 125 feet tall from the top of the blades to the ground. You can actually buy the stone ground flour that is made at the windmill in the Dutch Village Gift Shop that sits next to the windmill.

The evening I visited the Gardens had closed for the day, but visitors could walk or bike back to the Gardens and Dutch Village. So off I went, albeit a cold front had come through the previous evening, and boy was it a chilly walk, but I persevered.

It was about a one mile hike back to the Dutch Village which housed various shops, a carousel and a conservatory. I snapped images of the back of the windmill as I walked the main road. In Spring there are over 115,000 tulips blooming in the Gardens around the windmill. Seriously, can you imagine 115,000 tulips blooming in all colors in one garden?

The Dutch Village was so quaint and colorful. The main building called the post house is an exact replica of a 14th Century wayside inn. I loved the dots of color on the buildings.

This last image is a smaller replica windmill that sits at the opposite end of the Dutch Village. The Gardens were immaculate and so perfectly manicured. Sadly, I didn't get to see the front of the windmill. I was loosing light fast and had to walk back to my car at the entrance. I seriously underestimated the city of Holland and what it had to offer what with Big Ben Lighthouse, the Windmill Island Gardens and Holland State Park with its huge beach. And Saugatuck and Douglas, the two small beach towns I wanted to visit were only about ten minutes from Holland. It was a great location to set up shop for the week. ENJOY!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Macatawa Bay

Boating Michigan! That's what this post should be called. Of all of the bays, rivers and lakes that I encountered, Macatawa Bay in Holland was one of the most beautiful. The bay literally separates the town, with Downtown Holland situated on the south side, and residences and the Mall on the north side. There are numerous yacht clubs, marinas and parks along all the shores on both sides of the bay.

This is an image of the beautiful Macatawa Bay Yacht Club. There were boats in every size and shape in the marina. I captured this image as I walked back from my half mile hike to Big Ben Lighthouse. I just learned from Google that Macatawa Bay Boat Works is located in Holland which explains why I kept seeing wooden boats coming in and out of the inlet. What is not to love about wooden boats. They harken of bygone days to me.

One of the smaller sailboats I kept seeing in the bay was this orange and white striped sailboat. It was a perfect day for it to as a cold front had come through the day before and made for some great sailing weather.

All along Lake Michigan from South Haven to Leland, the towns I ventured in and out of were very small, so quaint and absolutely charming. The area is virtually unspoiled and free from commercialism like you typically find in other beach towns.

And if you aren't into the Dunes themselves, there's beautiful lighthouses to explore all along Lake Michigan. What I found that added a distinct flavor to the area were the blueberry and cherry farms. And, while I was there, the berries and cherries were ripe and ready for the picking. The tiny, tiny farm markets that sat along the side of the road were so adorable. I wished we had more of those here in Kentucky. If I had had more time, I would have loved to check out the Peninsula northeast of Traverse City where the vineyards and wineries are the big attraction. Stay tuned, as I have more posts from Michigan coming up.

-Ripe Cherries in the Orchard
-Holland Windmill and Dutch Village
-Saugatuck Chain Ferry
-Sauagatuck Courtyard Flowers

I won't be gone long, so check back in soon. ENJOY!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Hope your week is off to a great start. I captured this image at a marsh which sits just to the east of the Dune Climb at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. I loved the reflection in the water. ENJOY!