Country church in Oakland, Iowa. You can scour Google Earth all day long for spots with photogenic potential, head out early when the conditions seem just right (sun rising in a good position, enough clouds to make for an interesting sky), and previsualize the “perfect” angle and “perfect” lens, but it will always be the unexpected discoveries that serve as a reminder that Iowa and Nebraska (and pretty much all of the Midwest) hold so much hidden beauty and that almost no hike or drive (gravel or otherwise) goes unrewarded. A friend and I were out before sunrise this past weekend and drove by this chapel in search of other “pins with potential” on my Google Map. It turned out to be (at least for me) the highlight of the trip, for obvious reasons, although it had never shown up on my radar prior to the outing.
Boy Scout Island, Lake Manawa. This was taken a few mornings ago. The air was incredibly still during the predawn hours, and there was just a smattering of clouds inching their way lazily toward the sun. Squadrons of white pelicans were overhead as if on patrol, leaving the water’s surface perfectly calm below them. Minutes later, the squadron came down to fish, shattering the mirror. These moments are rare and fleeting, and I always feel lucky to witness them firsthand.
I originally found this "barn" several years ago along the backroads near Boyer Chute National Wildlife Refuge in Fort Calhoun, Nebraska. This was taken on a very foggy, frigid winter morning amid the type of silence that makes footsteps through snow seem eerily audible.
I say "barn" for lack of an appropriate label to put on such a building. Being a city boy, I once called every rural non-house structure a "barn" until I was regularly corrected on social media. It always went the same: "That's not a barn, it's a corn crib" or "That's not a barn, it's a machine shed." I'm not sure of the pictured structure's intent, so I'm falling into that old trap of calling it a barn pending further education (from a commenter, perhaps?).
About a month ago, I made the trip north up John J Pershing Drive/North River Drive/Road P51/Road 51, a picturesque jaunt that runs (mostly) parallel to the Missouri River, to reconnect with the old "barn" for a sunrise shoot, but it was gone! Many of my favorite "barns" have met the same fate in the past year, razed unexpectedly, leaving a sudden void where there wasn't one.
So here's to the places only I love.
Another incredible sunrise at Lake Manawa State Park, Council Bluffs, Iowa. I simply cannot get enough of this place.
Bellevue, Nebraska. This cost me exactly two dollars more than other homegrown photos. A westbound dollar and then an eastbound dollar. But watching the sunlight explode through the fog yesterday morning under the Bellevue Toll Bridge was well worth the price.
Backroads, Pottawattamie County, Iowa. Few things are more relaxing than exploring the backroads of rural Iowa, where antiquity, nature, and modernity all mingle in a slow-paced reverie. There doesn’t have to be any particular start point or end point. Wherever you are, at any given moment, is the destination, and that’s the greatest part. One mile of backroads and one hundred miles cover the same distance. The discovery, the renewal, the awakening, it’s just waiting there, all day long. You’re just along for the ride.
Lake Manawa State Park, Council Bluffs, Iowa. Lately, I’ve begun dreaming of the day when the first spot that comes to mind on a cold, foggy, windless morning isn’t the shore west of Boy Scout Island, where I’ve greeted countless sunrises since 2011. I can’t decide if my obsession with this place represents some type of photographic rut or if the near-daily visit to this spot serves as a ritual renewal of sorts, a desire to begin the day immersed in some semblance of nature. Either way, it’s one of my favorite places on earth, and even more so on a still, crisp morning, when the water is glass, making the lake and Boy Scout Island exactly twice as beautiful.
Lake Manawa, Council Bluffs, Iowa. Locals will know instantly exactly where this was taken. I’m so glad the rain has finally stopped. Happy May!
Lake Manawa, Boy Scout Island, Council Bluffs, Iowa. This was taken a few mornings ago, when the air was crisp and the water was incredibly still. Just a reminder that Art at the Rock is two weeks away. I’ll have many big prints and new work. Bring your friends. Here's the official Facebook invite.
Later this month, I’ll be participating in a special art exhibit in Council Bluffs, Iowa, which will hopefully become a recurring event for art lovers and artists alike. And it’s particularly exciting for me because it will allow me the opportunity to show some of my larger prints, which don’t ordinarily get to see the light of day because they’re too big for most of my local shows. The show will be hosted by Rock, PaPer, Scissors salon, which is located in the Smith-Davis Building (north side of Bayliss Park, Council Bluffs; 532 1st Ave, Suite 204). March 26, 2016 (the day before Easter), from 4-7 pm.
This is the official invite on Facebook with further details.
Ice on the Missouri River at sunrise. This was taken on a recent cloudless subzero morning as the sun rose behind the opposite shore, instantly illuminating every whorl and puff of steam issuing from the river. It was one of those serene moments when the spinning ice discs make enough chatter to drown out the distant sounds of Monday-morning traffic.
A windmill along Woodland Trail in Council Bluffs. Know anything about those old farm implements on the right, along the fence? To me, they look like they might be old tractor seats, but what would a city boy know?
Winter is my favorite time of the year for photography. I was starting to worry that we’d never get any snow this winter, so the snowfall over the past week has been an awesome surprise. This is one of my favorite corn cribs along the backroads east of Council Bluffs. Thanks for all the support in 2015. Have a very Happy New Year!
Wabash Trace, Mineola, Iowa. There is nothing like a cold, frosty morning in Iowa. For the procrastinators out there, our dining room has become a temporary gallery for last-minute Christmas gifts. Email me if you’re interested in stopping by to browse through the big selection of prints I have on hand. An added bonus is that you’ll see a 30X60 print of my favorite local photo, which I’ve never shared (nor will ever share) online.
Lake Manawa, Council Bluffs, Iowa. Four geese glide past the north end of Boy Scout Island. Barely visible in the shadows is a blue heron, poised like a silent assassin. Of all the mornings I’ve spent here, this is among my favorites. If you sit quietly enough for long enough, the lake forgets you’re there and resumes its normal goings-on. For the procrastinators out there, our dining room has become a temporary gallery for last-minute Christmas gifts. Email me if you’re interested in stopping by to browse through the big selection of prints I have on hand. An added bonus is that you’ll see a 30X60 print of my favorite local photo, which I’ve never shared (nor will ever share) online.
Lake Manawa, Council Bluffs, Iowa. Here's one for those among us who are missing summer. A note about prints: For delivery before Christmas, the last day to order prints under acrylic (my favorite print format) is December 7. Custom traditional and thinwraps can be ordered as late as December 16. After that, your only option will be to select from among the prints I have on hand, including a big selection of 11X14 traditional prints, several 16X20 prints, and a few thinwraps and prints under acrylic in various sizes. Please message me if you’re interested in these. Happy Holidays!
To me, one of the coolest things about social media (Facebook/Instagram in particular) is the collaborative sharing of pictures, particularly within a locality, showing various viewpoints of weather and celestial events. Supermoon? Check. Beautiful sunset? Check. Stormclouds, flooding, foot-high snow accumulation? Check, check, check. Spectacular sunrise on an otherwise mundane Tuesday in November? Thirty, maybe forty, photos in our newsfeeds from all over eastern Nebraska and western Iowa oohing and aahing over the sunrise this morning. What a fascinating time to be alive! Here's mine, tardy as usual.