Another incredible sunrise at Lake Manawa State Park, Council Bluffs, Iowa. I simply cannot get enough of this place.
The Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge as viewed from the Council Bluffs riverfront. As unlikely as it may seem, the sandy shore near River’s Edge Park is one of the most peaceful places I know of anywhere in the city, despite its close proximity to both downtown Omaha and the I-480 Bridge. This is especially true during winter, when the area is all but deserted. Treasure the open access to this place while you can, because these quiet sandy banks may eventually be replaced by condominiums and shopping centers. Over the past few years, news stories have reported the Urban Land Institute’s vision of transforming the area into one of “dense urban living for young professionals,” which sounds repulsive to me. Here’s a vote for leaving the Iowa riverfront wild and green.
Second Fridays happens on January 8th, the first of 2016. I’ll be in the first-floor lobby, as usual. Come on down and say hi.
Let's play a game. Where in Council Bluffs is this? At noon tomorrow, I'll pick a winner randomly from all the correct guesses (comment below or on my Facebook page) and send them a print of this image. Specific guesses only. Okay, go. Here's the clue: It's a pocket of wilderness in one of the most developed (and busiest) parts of Council Bluffs. If you drove by here this morning, you might have noticed me taking this picture.
Wabash Trace, just outside Mineola, Iowa. I can’t imagine how many Taco Riders have crossed this bridge, which marks both the end and the beginning of the Thursday Taco Ride. This was taken on a foggy March morning, amid the eerie stillness of the freezing mist. Cheers!
Against my better judgment, I spent this morning out in the bitter cold photographing the moonset above the downtown Omaha skyline from the Council Bluffs riverfront. Some notes to self for when (if) I do this again on a subzero morning after two significant snowfalls: Wear thicker gloves, wear better boots, don’t trust the ice along the bank, and watch out for snowdrifts (some of them were at least two feet deep). Stay warm (and smart) out there.
On Saturday morning, I headed down to Gene Leahy Mall in downtown Omaha at sunrise to take some pictures of the flowering trees. I had not realized that it was the morning of Berkshire Hathaway’s 2014 Shareholder Meeting, and I was surprised by a traffic jam of attendees. Very unexpected at 6:00 AM on a Saturday. Other than that, it was a beautiful and still sunrise on the mall, and this was the view of the skyline from the park. It's more postcardy than scenes I typically photograph, but I'm a sucker for a vivid reflection in still water.
Here's another installation in my Boy Scout Island series. Lake Manawa State Park, Council Bluffs, Iowa.
Please allow me to speak in hyperbole for a moment, knowing full well that the concept of “nowhere” is subjective and that there is always somewhere more remote than anywhere declared “in the middle of nowhere.” With that said, Toadstool Geologic Park is in the middle of nowhere. Actually, Crawford, Nebraska, is in the middle of nowhere, and the park itself is twenty miles farther into nowhere. Toadstool is the epicenter of nowhere (still speaking in hyperbole). So if you live in or around Nebraska and have never heard of the park, you are not alone. Toadstool doesn’t even have its own real Facebook Page (just an “Interest” page), which makes it practically irrelevant. The gravel road to Toadstool from Crawford courses along mini-mesas and sagebrush grassland and then along vast fields of pale-yellow scrub towards a ridge of bare cone-shaped hills. It resembles the Badlands of South Dakota, but on a smaller scale. At many points, the only sign of civilization was a train that occasionally raced through the valley without notice.
When Daniel and I arrived at the park, whose parking area doubles as a treeless campground, one other car was parked near the hiking entrance. A man and his son emerged from the hiking trail, talked to us for a minute, and drove off. They stopped for a few moments behind Daniel’s car, presumably to take down the license plate number, we theorized, and left. We saw nobody else in the park for the rest of our time there.
The wind was very strong for the entire drive from Council Bluffs, and it was no different when we reached our destination. This part of Nebraska is dry, and dust whipped relentlessly at us and our camera gear every time we stopped to take pictures. However, the wind gradually waned as we hiked toward the eroded sandstone hills and then disappeared altogether as we climbed through the carved-out crevices between and below them. In that eerie stillness and silence, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the paleontological displays in the National Museum of Natural History—a walk through a thirty-million-year-old eroding landscape.
The image below was taken in the early hours of our second day there.
Here is another recent winter photograph, taken just outside Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge, near Fort Calhoun, Nebraska. My good and talented photographer friend Ben Coffman had been visiting that week, and we made the most of our limited shooting time together, first with some night photography under the Mormon Bridge and then with some early-morning photography the next day.
Here is another photograph of magical Monarch Lake, whose surface was strikingly still on the morning of our first visit. When we first got there, not long after sunrise, Teri, Gavin, and I had the lake all to ourselves. That's the great thing about early mornings; most people have a deep aversion not only to waking up early, but also to getting up and at 'em at that hour. Accordingly, it is my favorite time of the day for photography.