Council Bluffs, Iowa. I’ve been planning this photograph for quite some time now, and all the necessary elements converged a few mornings ago. Thanks to the handful of drivers who unknowingly lent me their headlights/brakelights to create the rivers of light. I’m also excited to announce a new show that’s opening this Friday (September 2, 2016) from 4-8 pm at Everything Electric (5170 Leavenworth #200), a small gallery in Omaha, Nebraska. The show is called Vanishing, and it will feature a selection of my photographs that depict foggy sunrises around Council Bluffs and Omaha, most of which I’ve not yet shared on my website. A portion of any print sales will fund future print donations to Summer Bash for Childhood Cancer. I’ve donated prints for auction the past few years to help support this important fundraiser, whose goal is to support children with cancer and their families.
My daughter and I went on a riverfront hiking adventure a few nights ago, and this is one of the photos she was patient enough to let me stop and take. She was much more impressed by the soft river sand high on the bank than the pedestrian bridge or Omaha skyline. We started around sunset and stayed until we needed our flashlights to navigate our way back through the budding shrubs. And few things impress a four-year-old more than a flashlight, so needless to say, we had a great time. We’re planning on many more local adventures as the weather gets warmer.
This was taken last Thursday in Badlands National Park, during the new moon, near the area known as yellow mounds. I'm not going to bore you with all the obsessive planning/obsessing that has led up to the small series of photos I captured during our (ie, Teri's, Gavin's, and my) latest twelve-hour visit to the park. If you know me well, you already know how much I love the Badlands and how much I talk about visiting the park, and you're probably tired of hearing about it. I'll start the series with this photograph, taken around 1 am mountain time, that I will always look back on and smile because that wonderfully still night, adorned with distant calls from howling coyotes and mystery rustlings and the profound stillness between, seemed to last forever.
This one is dedicated to my good friends Rob and Maggie Schlautman, who tied the knot last Friday. I took this photo with Rob last month just east of Council Bluffs while waiting for the no-show Northern Lights. The only light was from the rising moon and the glow of the building midnight fog.
So I recently spent a week with my wife, daughter, and grandparents in South Padre Island, Texas. The trip marked an important return to normalcy for Teri and me, since it served as a resumption to our pastime of semi-distant travelling (ie, the type that is far enough from home to merit a plane ride). We had taken Gavin on roadtrips to the Black Hills and Rocky Mountain National Park, but keeping an active two-year-old restrained in a carseat for the 1200-plus-mile trip from Iowa to South Texas seemed excessive, so we took to the friendly and expedient skies instead. As Gavin’s first airborne experience, I’m happy to report that she handled it very well. There were a few minor hitches, of course, but adversity is a necessary spice in the dish of enjoyment. Plus, her antics were amusing to our fellow passengers. Every time she got restless in her seat, she feigned the need to go number two. “I need to poop” uttered over and over in her cute little voice was great comic relief for the travelers within earshot, especially when Teri or I had to take her to the potty each time because the risks of inaction far outweighed our incredulity. Gavin knew it, and so did everybody else.
Needless to say, this wasn’t exclusively a photography trip, but it also wasn’t typical of our “family” trips of the past in which Teri usually accompanies me during my wanderings to take photos. My photographic experience in South Padre Island this past week was much more solitary than normal as not to disrupt Gavin’s sleep schedule. Every morning, just about an hour before sunrise, while everyone else was still sleeping, I headed out to explore the island alone. I also managed to get away for an afternoon to shoot pelicans during Gavin’s naptime and a couple of evenings for some sunset photos, and these were also solo excursions.
I’m used to wandering backroads and taking photographs alone, so this wasn’t any shock, but looking back through my photos, they are suffused with a resulting sense of isolation that belies the typical ambience of South Padre. Indeed, the island is a travel destination known for its party atmosphere, and there was no scarcity of people around, even during the early mornings and few evenings when I went out and despite it being off-peak travel season. Fishermen and beachcombers were present at all hours.
Adding to the deserted mood in many of my photos was a stubborn fog on the island that blew in from the gulf the morning after our arrival and that persisted with minimal relent through our departure six days later. Not that I’m complaining. If you know me, you know how much I love to take photos in fog. Gone was the opportunity to take spectacular traditional beach sunrise and sunset shots every day, but I was more than happy to substitute those for the moody, ominous ambiance inherent to foggy landscape shots.
There were only two sunsets and one sunrise in which the sun was even visible, and I took advantage of those opportunities as best I could. One of my favorite mornings was spent in Port Isabel across the bay in the dense fog on the second-to-last day of the trip, but I’ll save that story for later.
So without further ado, let’s start from the beginning to set the scene… the oceanside view from our condo balcony upon our arrival at the island. Pacificos in hand, a mostly full moon rising above a misty Gulf of Mexico, we travel-weary travellers enjoyed the sixty-degree gulf breeze well past our normal bedtime on a Tuesday night. Cheers!
Here's a time-lapse image (ie, long exposure) of the crepuscular goings on in Council Bluffs as viewed from the Lincoln Monument. In the background, of course, is downtown Omaha, looking like a distant lady in a sparkly dress.
Here's a higher-resolution and unFacebooked version of this image. I like to keep things positive, so I will just say that the image uploading process here on my site is much more gentle to images than in Facebook. The difference is more apparent in some images than in others, and this is one of the more dramatic examples. To judge for yourself, compare the image below to the one here. Enough about technical hangups.
I took this about a week ago on clear night from the Lincoln Monument here in Council Bluffs, Iowa. From this vantage, and with the sun setting so far south, the Omaha skyline is backlit by a luminous orange glow, and the long exposure (about 10 seconds) accentuates the background colors.