Category Archives: Scenic

Sailboat Reflections

I have always grown up near water and spent a lot of time on or near boats. Just recently, I discovered I really enjoy taking pictures of them. Floating in the water, dry-docked for a cleaning or tied up in the harbor. One thing I particularly enjoy is the sound of the wind whipping through all of the boats’ lines.

In Kinsale, Ireland, the place my wife and I stayed was right near the water, so walking to or from town included a nice stroll along the harbor filled with boats. As the sun was setting and the air was getting cooler, the wind all-but-died. During our entire stay, I don’t think I saw the water get this calm again.

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Clouds Over Stonehenge

I have been asked several times if I thought Stonehenge was cool, and I’m not really sure how to answer. Am I happy I went? Absolutely. Would I ever go back? Maybe not.

I’d love to go back at sunrise or sunset one day and spend a great deal of time taking colorful pictures with the sun majestically lined up behind the famous rock formation, but I don’t have the luxury of time right now.

In London, England with a few extra hours to spare, a co-worker and I made plans to meet in the hotel’s lobby at 6AM the next morning to take the London Underground 45-minutes away to catch a two-hour bus ride to the famous stones outside of Amesbury.

On our drive there, the rain began pouring down and I was disheartened to think that my visit to Stonehenge would be marred by crappy, overcast skies and pouring rain. About a half-an-hour out the rain let out and the clouds began to clear.

The weather conditions made for great photographs, and I happily spent an hour walking around the site taking pictures from various angles.

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Sunrise from Montrose Harbor

For something different, I set out to watch the sun rise over Chicago, Illinois from a different location. Normally I try to include the sun in the image, but this time I wanted to focus on the city and not the sun.

Sometimes the sunrise can illuminate things in an unusual way, and in this case, it turned everything above Chicago a bright pink. It’s not a color one see’s often above the city. Also, this picture was taken late enough in the morning (6:30AM) that a number of people were waking up to head out for work, thus, a lot of the lights in the windows are brightly-lit, helping add additional color to the photograph.

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Early Morning Old Capitol

Spending some time in Iowa City, Iowa, I realized on this particular morning the moon would rise directly behind the Old Capitol Building. I woke up extra-early to make sure I was in the right location for the moon to line up with building’s tower. When I looked out the window of my hotel room, the moon was still extremely high in the sky and I figured my timing was off and went back to bed.

Not so much.

Apparently I forgot about all of those things we learned in geometry about angles and such, and from my height in hotel room, the moon was still extremely high in the sky. In reality, the moon was just peaking over the horizon and I barely missed my desired shot.

I didn’t really like any of the moon pictures I took that day, but luckily the Old Capitol Building in Iowa City is still an extremely beautiful building.

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Fortifications of Xi’an

Built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644AD) to protect the city from intruders, a massive wall surrounds Xi’an, China. Today the city has expanded to, seemingly, dwarf the towering wall, but it still stands as a testament to how afraid of invasions the various kingdoms were throughout history. (There is a much more famous wall that goes through the entire country of China, much less just around a city.)

Today, tourists and locals can pay a small fee and wander around the wall surrounding Xi’an. A majority of it is lit up at night, giving an almost theme park look to it

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Early Morning Fog

Some days I get up really, really early and drive for an hour to shoot the sunrise. Other days, like with the image above, I walked ten feet from the front door to take pictures.

Over the years I’ve spent a lot of time in rural southwest Wisconsin. The region is referred to as “The Driftless Area” because years and years and years ago the glaciers missed this region leaving an abundance of rolling hills. Given the flat land that makes up most of the midwestern United States, it’s a welcome change to see hills roll off into the distance. Early on several mornings, the fog gets trapped in the low-lying valleys.

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Evening Fisheye of Buckingham Fountain

One of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, the Clarence F. Buckingham Memorial Fountain in Chicago, Illinois was completed in 1927. From that time through 1980 the water was manually operated by two engineers located on site working 12-hour shifts. A computer system was eventually brought in to automate the water flow, but the fountain still operates it’s every-hour-on-the-hour twenty minute sound and light show while the fountain is in operation (8am through 11pm daily, weather permitting).

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John Hancock Standing Tall

This so wasn’t the blog image I was planning on posting today.

This week’s self-impose theme was to take a random image and write up the story behind it. From slowly rowing across the Yamuna River to stumbling across a car accident, my goal was to really go into deep detail about an image that may not be too impressive.

However, as I was writing the blog post for today’s image, it ended up becoming quite the long batch of text. Similar to last time, I pulled the photoblog in hopes of selling it to a travel magazine. (You can read the blog post from the last time it happened on the Vagabundo Magazine website by clicking here.) So, in a few months, hopefully I’ll post the link to an article on the aforementioned website about traveling through the mountains of Bhutan.

In the meantime, very much not the Himalayas, today’s blog post is an image of one of the greatest skylines in the world.

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Motoring Down the Chicago River at Sunrise

The caption for this picture is “A boat motors down the Chicago River shortly after sunrise in Chicago, Illinois.” That’s is the short version. The long version is after taking this picture I continued my way South, walked down the sketchy looking staircase to ground level and moseyed along the river for a bit. It was a beautiful September morning and I was just wandering around the Chicago River to see what I could find photographically.

There is a stairwell at Columbus Drive going up a couple of street levels. The first level is Lower Wacker Drive and up another level is Upper Wacker Drive. As I climbed the steps to Upper Wacker Drive, I heard an extremely loud sound.

You know the sound of a dump truck unloading gravel? That sound of gravel scraping followed by a loud “thud” of the back door swinging closed on the truck’s bed? Basically a “scraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaape, THUD.” I heard exactly the opposite of that sound near the top of the steps.



Arriving a street level I was immediately surprised to not see whatever dump or garbage truck made the noise. Perhaps the mystery truck hit a pot-hole and the bed of the truck bounced? (Plausible as we do have some ferocious pot-holes in Chicago.)

Oh wait. There is a car upside down 50 feet beyond another car with the front end sheered off.

The sound I heard was that of the two cars connecting and the overturned car scraping along the roadway. The flipped car eventually came to rest against a large concrete abutment.

The driver of the overturned car quickly got out of her car screaming “OhmyGod!OhmyGod!OhmyGod!OhmyGod!…” while the driver of the other car wasn’t really getting out of his car. I went over to him while the others attended to the screaming woman.

After helping the gentleman from the car missing its front-end, the man called his wife and simply told her “to call the insurance company.” His chest hurt (hopefully from the blast of the airbag), but I was happy he was standing outside of his car under his own power talking.

Within minutes the Chicago Fire Department rolled up and a large fire truck stopped in the middle of the intersection. The firefighters got out and looked at the man and I standing in the road next to the destroyed car. The first firefighter said “How we doing?”

“His chest hurts and she has some other issues,” pointing to the overturned car.

“Oh [expletive]!” said the firefighter and off he and a few others went.

I didn’t stay much longer at the scene. I took off once the firefighters had arrived and everyone received the appropriate attention. It kind of rattles you, however, when you’re walking along and everything is going well, and then, not-so-much. Luckily everyone was okay, but it still made me want to go home and hug my wife.

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Lighthouse Protecting Boats in the Harbor

Previously I’ve written how I think my weak spot for lighthouses comes from the growing up near the Fond du Lac Lighthouse. (You can read that blog entry by clicking here.) So recently when I visited Fond du Lac, Wisconsin for a few days, of course I had to swing by the lighthouse.

This image was taken shortly after the sun cleared the trees, giving everything a nice, soft glow in the morning light.

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Generating Power Under the Night Sky

Growing up in Wisconsin we had two enormous wind turbines not far from the house. They quietly stood on top of a small hill next to the expressway churning out electricity. As the years passed more and more wind turbines popped up, until there are now nearly 50 in the area I grew up.

Many of the giant wind mills have a red light on top and they’ll blink simultaneously with other nearby wind mills. Other times, because there are so many turbines, a few will have the red beacons turned off as not to send the local residents in complete disarray with all of the blinking lights.

I’ve been meaning to get over to one of them on a pleasant day and I did just that this past week. However, as I was snapping a few images of the wind turbine in the sun, I thought it’d be fun to come back at night and shoot some under the stars.

So Tuesday night, leaving the house at 10:30PM, my brother and I made our way to a wind mill I had already checked out earlier in the day (I wanted one not moving and off on a quiet road as to not have ambient light from passing cars showing up in the pictures).

This is one of the pictures taken that night. I’m surprised how peaceful and quiet the night was, and how slightly creepy the wind mill was as it ever-so-slightly turned itself around.

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Tour Boat Under the Chicago Skyline

For the past few weeks I had been plotting to go out on a boat and shoot some images of the Chicago skyline. Last week I did one of the boat tours launching from Navy Pier, but I had to specifically do it Friday because of the boat’s schedule, my schedule, and the sun’s location in the sky.

I ended up walking away with a bunch of pictures I really, really like, but with as busy as this weekend has been, I haven’t been able to make my way through the images.

This is the first picture I landed on while I was importing the photographs to my computer.  I like the brightness of everything in the picture and am looking forward to going through all of the images.

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The Old Hyde Mill

It had been a few years since I stopped by Hyde’s Mill in rural Wisconsin. It isn’t the most convenient place to get to, located an hour outside of Madison about ten minutes off of a main road. Then, when you get there, the old mill is a difficult place to photograph because it is shrouded by trees and doesn’t face East or West. (It will never get that “perfect” morning or evening light.)

It is, however, a wonderfully tranquil location with deer roaming the nearby fields and the sound of water falling over the dam.

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Bike The Drive

A Memorial Day weekend tradition in Chicago is when the city shuts down Lake Shore Drive to motor vehicle traffic and opens it up only for bicycles. It’s called “Bike the Drive” and it’s a fun event each year to mark the beginning of summer.

Having taken a few years off, my wife and I decided to register and peddle our way up and down one of Chicago‘s most famous roadways. We ended up riding from end to end, about 30 miles, before getting back home just before the summer heat kicked in.

A lot of people were out, including families of all ages, and it’s nice to mosey down the lakefront on a bike, instead of the usual racing by in our cars.  Going slower allows one the time to notice how beautiful Chicago can be.

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Old Pier Near Evanston, Illinois

Last week I posted an Instagram’d image onto my Facebook page of the same location as picture above.  I had gone out to scout for some early-morning sunrise locations, and I’ve found it’s much easier to explore when the sun is up than when it’s not.

So, just North of the Grosse Point Lighthouse is this small pier that has fallen on hard times. Currently the pier is just a collection of weather-beaten posts sticking out of the water, but it can still make for an interesting foreground.

This image was taken about forty-five minutes before the sun peaked over the horizon.  It was supposed to be partly cloudy on this morning, so I was hoping for more colors from the sun reflecting on clouds in the sky, but it obviously didn’t work out that way.

However, I still very much enjoy the image, and the tranquility it offers.

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Quiet Chicago River at Night

A few years back I sat for an evening and just watched boats quietly glide up and down the Chicago River. It was extremely peaceful, but a super-hot night as well.  I spent most of my time waiting for a boat to come through, so I had more time to think about how hot I was than actually take pictures.

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CTA Trains and Soaring Trump Tower

Yesterday I made it out of the house for my first “Photo Safari” of the year.  After shooting a bunch of images in other countries and states, it was nice to get out and explore my own city again.

I forget how much I love Chicago, and how much there is to see and do.  Even for a 70 degree weekday, there was still a good number of people out exploring The Bean, Michigan Avenue and everything else Chicago has to offer.

Yesterday I chose to walk along the Chicago River and see what I could find.  This image has nothing to do with the Chicago River, nor can you even see the river in the picture, but it was the first picture I took after getting off of the train to start my journey.

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Early Morning at Montrose Harbor

Something I always enjoy about getting out to shoot the sun rising in the sky, is I’m never sure what I’m going to get.

Only after I’ve made my way outside and climb in the car to I actually see what condition the sky is in.  Sometimes it’s light and wispy clouds; sometimes it’s heavy clouds with overcast skies; sometimes it’s clear.

On this particular morning (obviously it was clear) I made my way out to Montrose Harbor in Chicago to shoot the sunrise.  There are always some people fishing around this area, but since this was a weekday, there were only a few casting their lines.

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Iowa’s Old Capitol Building

I spent last weekend in Iowa City for the Big Ten Men’s Gymnastics Championships.  Normally I make the drive to Iowa in the dead of winter and am either trudging through a snowstorm or trying to re-gain feeling in my feet from the frigid temperatures. Sometimes both at the same time.

This trip to Iowa, however, was beautiful.  The trees were coming alive with springtime and the sun was warm and bright. I was genuinely excited to go out and capture some images because so often I was in town with foul weather or the dark of night.

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Chicago Harbor Lighthouse and Boats

The Chicago Harbor Lighthouse has to be one of the more photographed locations in the City of Chicago.

It’s located just off of the Eastern end of Navy Pier, which is Chicago’s most popular tourist destination.

In 2005 the Coast Guard offered to give the lighthouse to any group or organization who would be willing to take on the lighthouse and keep it up and running.  Because of it’s location on the narrow Lake Michigan breakwater, no suitable offers were made and, after a lengthy transfer process, the Coast Guard offloaded the lighthouse to the City of Chicago.

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