Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Visiting the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge

Last week I posted a couple photographs via Instagram that were captured during my family's first visit to the Old Chain of Rocks bridge spanning the Mississippi River.  The bridge is located on the north edge of St. Louis and just downriver of the confluence of the Missouri River merging into the Mississippi.  I'll try not to spew a ton of history, but a few items are noteworthy.  The bridge opened in 1929 carrying motor traffic across the Mississippi River as part of U.S. Route 66.  It's more than a mile in length, but actually has a 22 degree bend occurring in the middle of the span.  Today it carries pedestrian traffic (walking and biking) as part of a trail system.  The bridges unique (and very cool!) name comes from a 17-mile shoal called the Chain of Rocks which made navigating this stretch of the river very dangerous.  Additional info on the bridge can be found here.

Our visit to the bridge was a spur-of-the-moment decision on a Sunday afternoon.  We were out driving through another new (at least, new to us) area when my wife made the suggestion.  A couple weeks back an "Eagle Day" event was held at the bridge, so my wife figured we could visit the bridge and, hopefully, see some eagles.  Getting there required some heavy GPS navigating and a crossing into Illinois (via the new Chain of Rocks bridge) since we decided to access it from the Illinois side.  Upon arrival, a strong historic aspect was present and as we began walking across the bridge I think my wife and I both started imagining how the bridge "looked" in its heyday.  It's hard to think of the immense impact of something like this in 1929, but I'm sure it was huge.

In all, I think we spent almost 3 hours (!!) walking across and back, although it didn't seem that long.  The weather was in our favor, which was a nice deviation from the rest of this winter.  Views from the bridge, both north and south, are quite impressive.  The southern view provides a scene of downtown St. Louis and the Gateway Arch that is quite different from what one normally might see.  And, we did see some Bald Eagles, probably 20 in total!  Most of them stayed about 1/4 mile downriver on some small sandbars, but we did have one that flew very low and directly above us on its way downriver.  My kids thought that was pretty amazing.  Heck, I know my wife and I thought it was pretty amazing, too.  To end the day, we witnessed an absolutely gorgeous sunset - one of those that stays with you for a while!

I hope you enjoy this set of photos captured during our visit!  As usual, click on each photo to see larger versions.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Catching Snowflakes

When we moved to St. Louis from our home in Kansas, one thing I knew I was going to miss about our old house was the large "picture" window that looked out onto our front yard from the living room.  We spent a lot of time gazing out that window - watching the kids play, thunderstorms rage, sunrises & sunsets.  Sometimes, an entire morning might be spent with a coffee cup in hand staring out that window.

Winter always brought lots of bird activity, since we kept several feeders very close to the house.  I soon found that I could waste several hours watching birds come and go from those feeders.  We kept several bird identification books within close reach and soon learned all the common species.  And it was always a thrill to see a new bird show up.   Obviously, with the feeders so close to our "picture" window, I found it the perfect opportunity to try my hand at some bird photography and I loved it.  Now, I'll be the first to admit that this probably shouldn't be viewed as real bird photography, since the birds are only showing up because of the feeders.  I never had to work real hard to get the photos, but it wasn't completely easy, either.  Some of those birds don't like sitting in one place for very long!  All-in-all, I probably have more photos of birds stored on my hard drive than anything else, including my kids, and it's all due to that window.

So, now we're in StL and no longer have the fantastic "picture" window, which made me think my easy bird watching/photographing days were over.  However, with our new home, we ended up with a pretty amazing backyard and a deck that's almost in the treetops.  This winter, my wife threw up some feeders just off the deck and guess what happened?  Birds arrived!  What's even better is that I actually have several different vantage points to get photos, either through the double-door windows off the deck or with my camera lens sticking out my bathroom window on the 3rd floor. Just one of those small victories that shows that change isn't always bad.

This photo was taken during the largest snowstorm StL had seen in almost 10 years (it dumped about 12 inches).  Since it was a Sunday and I had nothing better to do, I sat watching the birds feed with camera in hand.  In the photo a small Carolina Chickadee calls to another Chickadee just outside the image frame.  With it's beak open and the snowflakes falling, I couldn't help but be reminded of watching children capture snowflakes on their tongues as they play in the snow. Who knows, maybe that's what it was really doing!


Monday, January 6, 2014

First Post of the New Year

It's hard to believe that it's been almost 3 months since my last post.  Those 3 months really flew by and suddenly it's a whole new year (Happy New Year!).  My photography has been a little stale lately, outside of my typical around the house photos of my family.  Stopping to think back, I can't provide a good explanation for not getting out and exploring more with my camera.  I know there were times I thought about it, but didn't make it happen.  Probably a combination of several things: work responsibilities, family responsibilities, laziness, lack of inspiration, laziness, laziness, and laziness.  Yep, that probably sums it up.

I also got wrapped up in a little G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome) when some new cameras were released late in the year that I suddenly felt like I needed in order to improve my photography.  This is odd, because I'm one of those "the best camera is the one that's with you," type of person.  I truly believe that, too.  I'd rather get the picture with whatever camera I have than miss out because I feel my equipment isn't good enough.  Yet, I found myself lusting over a couple cameras and it definitely contributed to my lack of photographic ambition.  In the end, I didn't make any purchases and I think it'll work out for the better.  I'm actually feeling rejuvenated to try getting the best out of the the camera I have because I know I haven't, yet.

That was the long way of saying that I don't have any current photos to accompany this post.  Yes, lack of inspiration coupled with laziness means no new pictures worth sharing.  But, I do have a couple from last fall that I had planned to post, but never got around to it (lazy, again!).

So, here's to trying not to be lazy.  Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Another example of the surprises offered up at St. Joseph Peninsula during our visit last spring.  This burned area was within 1/2 mile of our camp spot.  As I mentioned in an earlier post about this state park, my preconceived vision of its scenery was blown way out of the water.  I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that we could go from white sand beaches to a dense pine forest in less than 100-200 yards.

We never did find out any details on the fire that burned here.  Then again, I'm not sure we actually asked any of the park staff.  But, it didn't appear to burn too much vegetation, although there were a few buildings (at least one was someone's house) that came very close to getting damaged.  I was drawn to the intense contrast it offered from the rest of the healthy, green vegetation elsewhere in the area.


Sunday, September 15, 2013

More from St. Joseph Peninsula

I really enjoy photographing birds and, leading up to our trip to Florida, I read that St. Joseph Peninsula is a hot spot for a large variety of birds.  It definitely didn't disappoint as I saw and photographed many birds that were all new to a mid western dweller.  Although I typically like to get the "up-close-and-personal" shots, I really like how this photo turned out.  I used my 70-300 lens, standing probably 75 yards from this tree, which was right on the edge of the water overlooking Eagle Harbor.  The Cormorant looked pretty relaxed, looking one way and then the other.  It sat there for quite a while, even before I decided to frame some shots.

Conversion to black and white was an easy decision and one that went through my mind even as I was framing my shots.  The light wasn't fantastic with very harsh mid-day contrast.  The sky was also giving me fits as it wanted to simply blow out to complete white.  I backed down on my exposure enough to get the sky to not blow out and also leave some good light and detail in the bird and tree.


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Ocean is Amazing

I had to wait almost 30 years to see the ocean, finally getting my chance on a family trip to Hawaii in 2008.  Definitely not a bad place to see it for the first time.  I was shocked at its enormity!  Even now, thinking about it as I type I'm still in awe and have a hard time picturing just how big it is.  Sadly, I can still count on one hand the times I've relived the experience of walking onto a beach to take in a vista of endless water.  But, I know it's an experience and feeling I'll never forget and I look forward to more opportunities to sink my feet into sand and swim in the surf!