Tag Archives: Wisconsin

Colorful Tree

Colorful Tree

This has been an extremely strange autumn. In years past, the colors of the leaves seemed to peak around the first weekend of October, but we’re fast approaching week three and those colorful leaves still seems a few days away.

Last week I drove up in to almost Northern Wisconsin from Chicago and it was beautiful to watch the trees go from green, to a little colorful, to extremely colorful during the course of the five-hour drive. However, this weekend I visited my parents in rural Wisconsin and the trees there went from green leaves to leaf-less almost overnight. The southwest corner of Wisconsin struggled through a hearty drought, while the midwest portion of the state got steady rain throughout summer. The result was some places have colorful trees this fall, while other regions fall into the “not so much” category.

To gauge colors, I’ve been using The Weather Channel’s “Fall Foliage Map” for the last few years. The website seems to be only updated weekly, but it still gives a good idea of when to expect the trees to present their best colors.

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Posted in Scenic Also tagged |

Riding to Victory

Riding to Victory

Last weekend my wife and I went to the Wild West Days in Viroqua, Wisconsin. It’s a fun throwback festival to the days of saloons, straight-razor shaves, and good ol’ fashioned bull riding.

For me, one of the highlights of the evening was the local cowboy, Levi Miller, riding his bull in the “Hell On Hooves Ranch Rodeo.” Before his eight second ride began, I was able to get right alongside the chute as Levi was tying himself in. The tension was incredible. Within seconds his body would be going from sitting near-motionless on the back of a bull to getting tossed around like a rag doll. When he was ready to go, the door blasted open and he and the bull went tearing into the rodeo ring to the roar of the crowd.

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Fond du Lac Lighthouse

Built during the Great Depression, the Fond du Lac Lighthouse has become an iconic part of the city, being featured in the city’s logo, on signs throughout town, and (the obvious) marking the entryway to the Fond du Lac Yacht Club.

Inside of the forty-foot lighthouse is a winding stairwell offering visitors an opportunity to climb to the observation deck on the top (weather permitting) and get a full 365-degree view of Fond du Lac‘s Lakeside Park and Lake Winnebago.

During the winter months, the town places an image of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer on the top of the lighthouse, using the beacon as Rudolph’s nose.

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Spinning Windmill Under Bright Stars

Standing outside on a cool summer’s night, I was trying to take decent pictures of the various windmills surrounding Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. The windmills aren’t without their share of controversy, but for my sake, I was happy to find one nearby without the bright, red beacon blasting from the tip.

I really wanted to capture the windmills with stars in the background, and the blazing red beacon wouldn’t have been too ideal for what I was looking for. There is also something to be said about parking in the middle of a corn field watching a massive tower slowly turn in the night sky. As each car would pass by, I would hope it wasn’t a police officer, or worse-yet, the land owner, wondering what the creepy guy was doing in the middle of a corn field.

It wouldn’t be the first time I got in trouble with the police for taking pictures, but it’s still something I’d like to avoid none-the-less.

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Vine-Covered Barn

Exploring southwest Wisconsin is always a treat, because behind every bend seems to offer another photographic opportunity.

Months prior to taking the above picture, I was driving near Viola, Wisconsin and passed this barn. For a couple of reasons I couldn’t stop to take a picture, but recently coming home I made a point to swing by it. While, originally, the barn caught my eye because of it’s old state and the various vines growing on it, the most recent visit was even better with the autumn color changes.

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Farming in Fond du Lac

In the last ten years, the farm fields near where I grew up have blossomed into a new type of farming industry.

Wind farming.

The business of wind farming has polarized some neighbors against each other, and been a financial windfall for others. Even when I was parked on the side of the road taking this picture, a young upper-20s gentleman drove by in his Jeep and then turned around to offer me his opinion.

Like politics, religion and music, everyone seems to have a passioned opinion of windmills. I’m curious how much money each windmill brings into the land owner, and how many people got shut-out because their neighbor put up a windmill and now it’d be too close if they did it.

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Changing Trees

Autumn is here and it is in full swing!

Earlier this week my wife and I drove up to rural Wisconsin to visit some family. It is a beautiful area and I’ve done it enough times that I have a route I take past a few abandoned houses, picturesque fields, produce markets and turn-of-the-century water mills. Even if I’m going up for the most trivial thing, I’ll bring my camera along.

So in driving home, I checked on Hyde’s Mill to see how it looks with the fall foliage, but en route we passed by a field exploding with color.

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Brightly-colored Leaves

Autumn is my favorite time of the year as I love the colors of the trees and the crispness in the air. (I’m also a big fan of apples.)

I’ve blocked off a number of days this year to go out and shoot the changing colors. It’s always an “educated guess” with reserving a week or two several months out, but even the front and back end of those dates can be beautiful. Fortunately, there are a number of websites that track the fall foliage (like the Weather Channel’s) so I’ll check them regularly and pack a few energy drinks for when the timing is right.

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Posted in Nature Also tagged |

American Flags Fly

Just outside of Richland Center, Wisconsin is the American Legion Veteran’s Memorial Park. It is a quiet park not far from the main road out of town, but too many American flags blow in the wind.

The reason I write “too many” is each flag signifies a veteran from Richland County, Wisconsin who has lost his life in battle. Also located at the park is an enormous M60 A3 Tank. It was purchased for nearly $1.3 million but “will never equal the price paid for freedom.”

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Garter Snake on the Lookout

Wandering around in my parents’ garden (the size of which dwarfs my garden), I was introduced to the resident garter snake. Apparently, he hangs out and eats whatever may pass by and does fairly well himself. Knowing he was fairly docile allowed me to get pretty close for some pictures. Occasionally he’d flick his tongue out (a snake’s way of smelling) but that was the extent of our time together. I didn’t want to stay too long to freak him out and I didn’t have the patience to sit and wait hoping for him to devour something scampering by.

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Posted in Nature Also tagged |

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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Half Moon in the Night Sky

Last week I was driving along the highway shortly after midnight and looked to the east as the moon peaked over the horizon. Earth’s natural satellite looked enormous in the night sky, so I took the next exit and drove about a mile off of the highway to photograph it.

I’m surprised how quickly the moon (and sun) move in the sky. When standing outside and looking directly at it, the moon doesn’t move very much. The closer one looks the more noticeable the movement.  When framed inside my camera’s lens, every minute or so I’d have to change my composition to keep the moon in the frame.

By the way, the above image is heavily cropped. I don’t have one of those crazy big lenses to zoom all the way in to explore the moon. Once I got home and downloaded the images into the computer, it’s fun to blow up the moon’s image and look at the surface and all the craters.

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Posted in Nature Also tagged |

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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Boat and Kenosha Pierhead Lighthouse

There is a pretty cool story behind this lighthouse and it all happened in the last few months. (Normally, most lighthouse stories seem to be decades or centuries old.)

The U.S. Government has determined a number of lighthouses are no longer necessary tools for navigation and is slowly transferring ownership to other groups. Those groups include federal, state or local agencies, non-profits and/or local community organization, on the condition that they keep the lighthouse spiffy and (when possible) available for tours. In the case of the Kenosha Pierhead Lighthouse, giving the lighthouse away for free to qualified groups didn’t pan out. Auctioning it off to the public for $10,000 didn’t work either.

In May of 2011, the auction process once again commenced, but this time with a starting bid of $5,000 and anyone could get involved. Local artist John Burhan bought the space to use as his gallery.

Burhan fished off of the pier as a kid and learned to sail in Kenosha’s harbor. He felt it was a perfect space for his studio and, after renovations, plans on having the lighthouse open on select days to show off his work. All of it held within the beacon he grew up in the shadow of.

Pretty cool stuff.

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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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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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Farm Field Church

One of my favorite areas to photograph is the Southwest corner of Wisconsin.

Being from Chicago and having ten million of my closest friends and family within an hour’s drive, getting four hours outside of the big city and life changes quite a bit. A traffic jam is nothing more than a tractor puttering along down a two-lane road. There are small stands set up along the road with farmers selling their extra corn, potatoes, tomatoes or whatever else.

The roads are fun to drive, too, as they’re old roads the milk trucks used to drive to get from farm to farm. Those roads have since been paved, but a lot of them haven’t been maintained much after they were paved. Driving down the roads is nice to do with a GPS, because I can get lost and look for random fun stuff without worrying about finding my way home. On one of those drives down various roads, I came upon this small church seemingly engulfed from the surrounding corn crop.

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Busy Bee

I’m not sure spring can get here any faster.

This image was taken at my dad’s farm near Viola, Wisconsin.  On this photography blog, I’ve posted a number of pictures taken on his property. While I normally do big, expansive wide shots, it’s always nice to watch nature do it’s thing on a much smaller scale.

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Posted in Nature Also tagged |

Driftless Pond

In the Southwest corner of Wisconsin is an area where the glaciers missed.

Instead of slowly grinding along and leveling everything in it’s path, this area was bypassed and, as a result, has a lot of rolling meadows and the famous midwest range of the Ohcooch Mountains.

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Casey

I like to tell the story of my first visit to my parent’s farm after they picked up their new golden retriever, Casey.

Some time back I was scheduled to work a Chicago Bulls game on a Friday evening.  Additionally, I received a phone call to work a softball game in Iowa City the morning after said Bulls game and, mathematically, the hours in the car would make it a long drive with minimal sleep.  So, I turned the job down.

A day or two later, the phone rang again. “I really need you for softball,” said my contact.  So I agreed.

As the weekend grew closer, I found myself dreading my decision more and more.  However, I had made my bed so I must sleep in it, so to speak.  On Friday night after the Bulls game (about 11PM), I jumped in the car and made the four-hour trip to Iowa City.  After arriving at the hotel in the wee hours of the morning, I jumped into bed for a quick two hour nap before heading to work.

Work was work, but after we were finished, severe thunderstorms were going to be rolling in, with a strong potential for tornadoes.  Not being a fan of tornadoes, I decided I’d rather spend my final night alive at my parent’s house then die in a hotel room in Iowa City. Therefore, on two hours of sleep, I made the decision to head to my parent’s farm, which was about three hours away.

I pulled into the driveway exhausted and was greeted by the smallest, most adorable puppy I’d ever laid eyes on.  His name was Casey and as he ran up to me with his high-pitched bark, his ears where so big that he proceeded to trip over them. Again and again, as a matter of fact.

Casey was so young that he didn’t know how his body worked, and promptly tripped and stumbled over his own paws, or more adorably, his own ears.  We played in the yard for a long time, before I finally fell asleep for an extremely long time.  It happened to be Easter weekend, so while finishing touches were being made on a fantastic brunch, I played with the puppy some more.

That dog is one of the luckiest dogs in the world as he has nearly 50 acres to run around and call his own.  He’ll chase birds, cars, thrown balls and sticks, or just fall asleep at your feet while you watch the sun set.

In the above picture, Casey buried himself down in the shrubs and waited for my dad to throw a stick into the river. Leaping off the banks of the river and swimming out to get sticks is one of Casey’s favorite activities.

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