Tuesday, June 26, 2012

It's Good to be Home

Sunset over Green River, Wyoming

It's hard to describe the feeling I get when returning to my hometown, but I look forward to it each visit. I don't get the opportunity to visit as much as I'd like, so I try to take advantage of it as much as possible. This year I've challenged myself with taking the time to get out and take some meaningful photos. It's tougher than it sounds because my primary reason for visiting is family and it's hard to sacrifice time with my grandparents, aunts, and uncles - who I only see once a year - to go out shooting photos.

Nonetheless, my wife, kids, and I spent most of the day exploring the wonderful landscape surrounding Green River, Wyoming scouting for good photo opportunities. This day, we concentrated on the area east of town where the Green River winds it's way south leaving the town behind it. My plan was to file away some spots that I would later return to during more ideal shooting hours. In fact, most of my shots early in the day were with my iPhone just trying to put together ideas.

It was pretty hot during our midday excursion, so we decided to give the kids a break, but agreed that we'd come back in the evening after it cooled off. Returning to the river around 7:00, we walked along the bank looking for wildlife. I wasn't fully in photographer mode, instead trying to help my kids enjoy being able to explore an area they're unfamiliar with. It turned out to be an absolute gorgeous night. I snapped a few pics here and there, but wasn't completely satisfied with most of them. After some time, we decided to call it a night, but at least I had a few more ideas to return to.

As we started back toward my Grandma's house, my wife asked about an area I mentioned earlier in the day. I told her we were very close and asked if she wanted to cruise that way for a bit and she agreed. I knew we couldn't get to the exact spot I wanted before sunset and didn't really want to attempt it because it would've made for an interesting drive back to town in the dark. Had it just been me and my wife, then maybe. But with the 3 kids with us, I didn't want to take any unnecessary risks.

The dirt rode was horribly rutted from someone else's poor decision to tear up the road sometime earlier in the year when it must've been sloppy with mud. So, it was very slow going as I navigated to keep everyone from bouncing out of their seats (the kids were enjoying it!). I finally mentioned that we couldn't make it to where I wanted and that I'd turn around. But my wife told me to at least go down around a bend she could see explaining that we could possibly catch the last of the sunlight over the town. I continued on and have to give her credit because the view back toward the west was spectacular. Actually, the views in all directions were pretty impressive. I stepped out of the car, crouched down, and snapped the picture you see here. Not bad considering I was still in "scouting" mode and we'd taken an unplanned detour.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Freshly Baled

Freshly Baled

I couldn't resist photographing the hay field with fresh bales scattered about.  I've always loved hay fields and farm fields, in general.  There's something about them that I find nostalgic and a little romantic.  The fact that they can be quite beautiful helps, too.  Obviously, Kansas has plenty of farm fields, sometimes as far as the eye can see - and beyond!  It's known as The Wheat State for good reason and it's been a very early harvest so far this year in regards to the hay and wheat.

I hold a high amount of respect for anyone that earns their livelihood farming or ranching.  My Grandpa has ranched his entire life and shows no signs of stopping.  Some of my fondest memories are from the weekly visits to the ranch to visit him and my Grandma.  I loved when he or my uncle would call and invite me to help gather cows or stack hay and it's something I dearly miss.  Anymore, the smell of a freshly cut hay field or the raunchy smells of cow and horse manure immediately take me back and make me wish I could visit more often.

In that sense, this photo is very fitting since my family and I are leaving this weekend for our annual trek back to my hometown.  This work week can't end soon enough.  And, although my wife and I go through a little bit of hell on earth traveling with 3 young kids and over 2000 miles round trip, the first time I see my grandparents and then later stand on their porch as we watch deer come of the river into the alfalfa field, believe me when I say it's worth the price of admission!


Saturday, June 9, 2012

Struggle to Survive

Robin Chick

I first ran into this little robin chick early in the week as I walked across the property toward my in-laws' house.  I'm surprised I saw it at all as it sat motionless just inside the edge of the grass.  I know better than to mess with mother nature, but I'll admit that my first reaction was to look up into a nearby tree for a nest.  My hope was that one was easily accessible so I could return the little guy (or gal?) to a safer environment.  I'm sure no one would argue that its chance of survival are far less on the ground as they would be in its nest, especially when there are no less than 5 cats roaming around - all accomplished bird hunters.

I slowly crouched and moved closer to see if it might be injured and it finally let me know I was close enough by giving out several loud chirps and hopping away.  With that "alarm" signal sent out I was suddenly bombarded by two adult robins trying to draw my attention away from the little bird.  I grinned and complied with their request and felt better knowing that the little bird's parents were at least close by and looking out for it.  But, as I walked away I couldn't help thinking that its chance of making it through the night were pretty slim.

Fast-forward a couple days and I happened to be walking by the same area where I'd originally noticed the bird.  Much to my astonishment I once again saw it sitting motionless in the grass.  It'd only been a couple days, but already I noticed that the bird had changed a bit and seemed to be doing pretty good.  I wasn't tied up with anything important, so I headed back to the house to grab my camera and figured I'd better hurry since it was getting close to sun down.

When I returned, the bird was gone - at least it appeared that way.  I knew it couldn't fly, so I began slowly scouring the grass and nearby bushes without luck.  Just about the time I was going to give up I heard a small chirp and looked in its direction.  There it was, perched upon the rusty wheel of an old farmer's push cart.  I smiled and thought about the struggle this little bird was facing for survival.  So far, it was beating the odds!  I dropped to my stomach and crawled as close as I felt comfortable without scaring it from its "safety" perch.  After snapping a few pictures, I thanked it for its cooperation and slowly backed away and left.

It's now been several days and I haven't seen the little bird again.  My hope is that it made it to a safer area and is doing fine, but reality makes me think this story has an unhappy ending.