Category Archives: Nature

First Crack

I took my first crack at some fall pictures during my lunch break today. I wasn’t 100% pleased with anything. However, I will go back out for my lunch break tomorrow with a guy holding an umbrella. That guy is Jesse. It is good to have him back at the mine.

Hopefully I will be able to get what I’m looking for tomorrow. I’ve made a commitment to only eat out for lunch one day a week in an attempt to eat healthier and save some scratch. This has been going pretty well and it opens up my lunch breaks to pursue my other interests.

Below is the best of what I captured today.


10-19-07

10-19-07

10-19-07

10-19-07

New Toy

In the ancient history of the family Bennett there has been one family that has stood by its side as friends. That other family is the Herricks. What I’m getting at is that Amy Herrick an old family friend (her dad and my dad were friends) is getting married very shortly. For reasons unknown to me, she has asked me to do the photography for her wedding. Now I am a lot of things (brilliant, funny, dashing) but skilled portrait photographer is not on the business card. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t mean to give a game effort.

However, when I was taking stock of the situation I realized that I was missing one ingredient that I would need to even give this thing a shot. A decent flash. That is correct, I do not own even a passable flash. So I went out and purchased one. Then I went out to Ledges to run some tests, also known as playing. What unfolds before your eyes below is what I captured.


09-09-07

09-09-07

09-09-07

09-09-07

09-09-07

The color saturation in some of those pictures is off the charts and I dig it!

Yes I know there is an obvious flaw in my test, my “top” photo assistant has already made me aware of the situation.

Pufferbilly Day Photo Contest Entries

I believe I received feedback from over 20 people during the second round of voting. That was awesome and I appreciate all the time that everybody took to voice their opinion. In the end, I could only enter six pictures in the Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest. So I now reveal the six pictures that advanced and a little bit about them.

I did not actually spend much time considering the names for each picture, so in the end the names are admittedly pretty lame. I can deal with it if you can.


Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest - 2007
Wheel

The first image is from when the #844 stopped in Boone on its Midwest tour a couple of months ago. I took this picture in the Boone train yard while it was on display. The train was surrounded by other people so I made a conscious effort to find interesting angles to shoot the train while trying to keep the other humans around out of the shot. This picture was originally captured in color, but I converted it to black and white as the palette was already quite monochrome.


Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest - 2007
Last, Loveliest Smile Redux

This second image was created sort of out of a collection of follies. I had been wanting to take a hammer to a negative and then scan the negative with my home scanner, but I have never really found the time, proper negative, or hammer for the task. However, I do have a job where I get paid to play with printers and scanners. I had a copy of “Last, Loveliest Smile” hanging on the wall over my desk. I had printed this a long time ago with a Canon 1700 when we had first switched over to that printer after the Canon 1600 had been discontinued to see if the Canon 1700 lived up to the bold proclamation on the box that it was “photo lab quality”. For the record, the Canon 1700 does not print photo lab quality. It does make a decent appointment card printer if you don’t mind replacing it every 4 months when the ink trap gets full. However, it was a decent enough print for me to put some tape on the back of it and throw it up on the wall above my computer next to “Blue Steel” and “Kentucky Appetizer” and “Grizzly McAlpine”.

A couple weeks ago one of our customers ordered a pretty decent document scanner. (Truth be known they ordered a label printer and the order was filled out incorrectly so I shipped them a document scanner) While I was testing this scanner I wondered if it would scan a crumpled up piece of paper. So I pulled “Last, Loveliest Smile” off the wall and crumpled it up. Then I crumpled it up some more. Then I threw it against the wall and jumped up and down on it. Then I uncrumpled the sheet of paper and ran it through the scanner. That is the story of the creation of “Last, Loveliest Smile Redux”. The creation of “Last, Loveliest Smile” is a whole other story.


Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest - 2007
Labour of Ages

I don’t know if there is much of a story to this picture. I was given the charge of watching over my friends Jen and Derrick’s dogs while they were off having fun in Wisconsin. While looking in on their dogs I walked past the flower garden and noticed this little flower fighting through several larger flowers to get to the sunlight. This flower had yet to fully bloom and I have always loved pictures of flowers that were not fully bloomed, although I usually find myself in the minority. I guess I believe in the end that flowers that haven’t fully bloomed yet are similar to humans. In the respect that all humans fall short and are never really fully developed. All we can do is fight through to our sunlight.

Jen worked very hard on their flower garden this year and it certainly paid off for me as I found quite a few fascinating images in their garden this year.


Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest - 2007
1900

This picture was taken of Shannon at Living History Farms. I spent about half a day at Living History Farms when I was on vacation. I had always figured that Living History Farms was one of the most boring places on Earth, but Shannon argued that nobody that loved history could be bored by such a place. So I went to visit. Shannon works at the 1900 Farm so she gave me the tour. (However, I don’t feel it was the full tour because she would not take me to see the boars.) We went up to the hayloft and the lighting up there was magnificent. Not boring flat light, but a bright beam of sunlight broke through the doors at the top of the barn and shone down on Shannon like a spotlight. I don’t want to say that it perfectly lit her, because I don’t think that does it justice. I believe that the light illuminated her. She says that she thinks the picture makes her look like an angel. I’ll leave that for the historians to decide. I did change the picture from color to black and white even though I loved the original color image because the black and white helped hide a bit of lens flare that was clearly visible across the front of her skirt. Ahh, lens flare! One of the hazards of shooting directly into light.


Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest - 2007
Faux Sunset

This picture is somewhat of a miracle. Not in the respect that it exists, but in the respect that it made it to the contest. It came very close to not making it to Round 2. In fact the only reason it made it to the second round was because of a last second phone call from Jesse Howard saying that he wanted to vote for this picture as well.

Even though it limped out of the first round of voting, it was a juggernaut in the second round. Absolutely crushing the competition in the second round. At the top of most of the pages on my website is a quote from Picasso:

“Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth.”

I don’t know if there is a picture that lives up to this quote on my entry slate than “Faux Sunset”. Most people have told me that it is a lovely sunset picture. It might be lovely, but if they were to concentrate more closely on the first word in the title, they would know that this is not a picture of a sunset at all.

I took this picture on a foggy night in Ledges back in April. The picture is of a street lamp. I became enamored with making a picture of a mysterious light in the woods. My hope was to eliminate the light source and just capture the light through the trees. I thought it would be a curiosity. What was making that light? I’m a huge fan of 50s Science Fiction. People who spend time with me inevitably end up sitting on a couch watching the original “The Outer Limits” on DVD at some point. Movies like “Forbidden Planet” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still” were my influences for taking this picture.

In the end, people didn’t find this picture mysterious at all. They saw it quite clearly as a sunset. I haven’t decided if fooling people is good enough when what I wanted to do was make people wonder.


Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest - 2007
Franklin

The final picture to sneak in is “Franklin”. This picture was taken back in June. I had committed to helping Shannon make soap, but at that time I had not realized that the soap making day was on the same day as Brian Beavers’ wedding.

I showed up to help make soap, but I had to leave early in the process to drive to Grinnell to attend the wedding. I wanted to take a few pictures of the soap making process because I thought that it made an interesting subject.

Shannon had let her cat Franklin wander around outside in an effort to make him tougher. The lessons weren’t sinking in because he spent a good portion of his time outside begging to be let inside. He stuck his head through the railing bars of the front steps and I took this picture.

There have been times in the past where I have been accused of not liking cats. Whether or not that is true, I have never denied that cats had interesting eyes. For that reason I chose to keep Franklin’s eyes in color and change the rest of the picture to black and white. I was hoping that because Franklin was already black and white a person giving a cursory glance to the image would not be able to tell that the eyes were the only part of the image that is in color. It would take a deeper examination of the image to reveal this fact.

This is a technique I have used before with “Outburst of the Soul” and “Lost Dreams”. I do like it, but hope not to over use it as its effects can be almost too obvious sometimes.

I end this entry with an e-mail I got from Derrick Gorshe. I don’t want to say that I rate or rank the correspondence I have with my amigos, but I would say that this e-mail he sent me is one of my favorite e-mails I have ever received. He was casting his vote in the second round:

When Storm Thorgerson of “Hipgnosis” (the man and company responsible for most of Pink Floyd’s cover art)was questioned about his design of the late sixties albumn “Atom Heart Mother”, he said that that particular photo of a cow was the most perfect cow photo ever. No photo before and probably ever would convey “Cow” as much as that particular photo, and while it really had nothing to do with the source material within the record, that was enough to make it memorable.

It is this reasoning that leads me to my two choices.

“Franklin” is truly a picture of a cat. And while that statement says very little in and of itself, that is enough to make it memorable. The other choice falls between two of the other photos.

I really like “Clouds with Color” for the same reason….it is the ultimate picture of clouds and as such is very memorable, but I also really like “Faux Sunset”. It may not be the definitive picture of a sunset, but it really is quite beautiful, and conveys a feeling of peace and a quiet end of the day. A little mystery remains with that sunset though. The day has closed quietly, but the night remains open to unlimited possibilities and anything is possible. Good or bad, it’s an evening you likely will never forget.”

The People’s Choice – Round Two

I appreciate the input from the ten people who answered my call to help select my entries into the Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest. Thank you.

After one round of feedback, 4 pictures have been overwhelmingly voted into the Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest. However, I can enter 6 pictures. So I’m looking for feedback on those last two pictures. I have placed the 5 pictures that all tied with the same amount of votes for 5th place. Please take the time to select two of those 5 pictures that you think I should enter into the Pufferbilly Days Photo Contest. The five contenders are:


2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Cloud Sans Color

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Faux Sunset

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Franklin

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Darrell’s Place

2007 - Pufferbilly Days Contest Nominees
Clouds with Color

One last request. Please don’t vote for both cloud pictures. It might muddle the issue.

Flood

Before I went to the gun show on Saturday I went to Ledges to check out the flooding. It wasn’t the most impressive flooding I’ve ever seen, but I stopped and snapped off a few photos to mark the occasion. The pictures below are those photos.


08-25-07

08-25-07

08-25-07

08-25-07

08-25-07

08-25-07

08-25-07

08-25-07

Unloading

What this entry lacks in substance it makes up for in size.

Just a few things to get off my chest, including some random pictures without a description.

A couple of weeks ago the American Film Institute released their list of the 100 best American movies of all time. The thing that pleased me most about the list was the removal of “Dances with Wolves”. However, this is not a complete endorsement of the list, but just an opportunity to make my own list, in no particular order. Let us start with AFI’s list:

RANK/FILM/1997/CHANGE 

1. CITIZEN KANE 1 0
2. GODFATHER, THE 3 1
3. CASABLANCA 2 -1
4. RAGING BULL 24 20
5. SINGIN’ IN THE RAIN 10 5
6. GONE WITH THE WIND 4 -2
7. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA 5 -2
8. SCHINDLER’S LIST 9 1
9. VERTIGO 61 52
10. WIZARD OF OZ, THE 6 -4
11. CITY LIGHTS 76 65
12. SEARCHERS, THE 96 84
13. STAR WARS 15 2
14. PSYCHO 18 4
15. 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY 22 7
16. SUNSET BLVD. 12 -4
17. GRADUATE, THE 7 -10
18. GENERAL, THE N/A
19. ON THE WATERFRONT 8 -11
20. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE 11 -9
21. CHINATOWN 19 -2
22. SOME LIKE IT HOT 14 -8
23. GRAPES OF WRATH, THE 21 -2
24. E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL 25 1
25. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD 34 9
26. MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON 29 3
27. HIGH NOON 33 6
28. ALL ABOUT EVE 16 -12
29. DOUBLE INDEMNITY 38 9
30. APOCALYPSE NOW 28 -2
31. MALTESE FALCON, THE 23 -8
32. GODFATHER PART II, THE 32 0
33. ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST 20 -13
34. SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS 49 15
35. ANNIE HALL 31 -4
36. BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI, THE 13 -23
37. BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES, THE 37 0
38. TREASURE OF THE SIERRA MADRE, THE 30 -8
39. DR. STRANGELOVE 26 -13
40. SOUND OF MUSIC, THE 55 15
41. KING KONG 43 2
42. BONNIE AND CLYDE 27 -15
43. MIDNIGHT COWBOY 36 -7
44. PHILADELPHIA STORY, THE 51 7
45. SHANE 69 24
46. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT 35 -11
47. STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, A 45 -2
48. REAR WINDOW 42 -6
49. INTOLERANCE N/A
50. LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING, THE N/A
51. WEST SIDE STORY 41 -10
52. TAXI DRIVER 47 -5
53. DEER HUNTER, THE 79 26
54. M*A*S*H 56 2
55. NORTH BY NORTHWEST 40 -15
56. JAWS 48 -8
57. ROCKY 78 21
58. GOLD RUSH, THE 74 16
59. NASHVILLE N/A
60. DUCK SOUP 85 25
61. SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS N/A
62. AMERICAN GRAFFITI 77 15
63. CABARET N/A
64. NETWORK 66 2
65. AFRICAN QUEEN, THE 17 -48
66. RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK 60 -6
67. WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? N/A
68. UNFORGIVEN 98 30
69. TOOTSIE 62 -7
70. CLOCKWORK ORANGE, A 46 -24
71. SAVING PRIVATE RYAN N/A
72. SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, THE N/A
73. BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID 50 -23
74. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, THE 65 -9
75. IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT N/A
76. FORREST GUMP 71 -5
77. ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN N/A
78. MODERN TIMES 81 3
79. WILD BUNCH, THE 80 1
80. APARTMENT, THE 93 13
81. SPARTACUS N/A
82. SUNRISE N/A
83. TITANIC N/A
84. EASY RIDER 88 4
85. NIGHT AT THE OPERA, A N/A
86. PLATOON 83 -3
87. 12 ANGRY MEN N/A
88. BRINGING UP BABY 97 9
89. SIXTH SENSE, THE N/A
90. SWING TIME N/A
91. SOPHIE’S CHOICE N/A
92. GOODFELLAS 94 2
93. FRENCH CONNECTION, THE 70 -23
94. PULP FICTION 95 1
95. LAST PICTURE SHOW, THE N/A
96. DO THE RIGHT THING N/A
97. BLADE RUNNER N/A
98. YANKEE DOODLE DANDY 100 2
99. TOY STORY N/A
100. BEN-HUR 72 -28 

The next step is to eliminate the 15 movies on the list that I have not seen:
 

1. The Searchers
2. The General
3. Bonnie and Clyde
4. Intolerance
5. Nashville
6. Duck Soup
7. Cabaret
8. Tootsie
9. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
10. All the President’s Men
11. Sunrise
12. Easy Rider
13. Swing Time
14. Sophie’s Choice
15. Yankee Doodle Dandy 

I assume that these are decent movies, but I don’t wish to talk about movies I haven’t seen. 

The next step is to eliminate the movies that don’t belong on the list: 

1. Star Wars – If you remove the iconic score from this movie, it compares unfavorably with “Ice Pirates”.
2. E.T. – A childhood movie that didn’t age well.
3. Annie Hall – I’m so glad I’m not from New York so that I don’t have to pretend that Woody Allen is funny.
4. Shane – Keep riding Shane, don’t come back to a tragically bad child actor.
5. Lord of the Rings – Okay, but nothing particularly special.
6. The Deer Hunter – Who knew a movie with DeNiro and Walken could be so boring?
7. M*A*S*H – This movie is so overrated that it makes the television show look not overrated. Even the the television show is actually overrated as well.
8. The African Queen – Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn and it still just isn’t very good.
9. The Wild Bunch – Landmark cinematic achievement for violence, but that is about all you can say about it.
10. Platoon – Pales in comparison to other Vietnam movies.
11. Bringing Up Baby – Cary Grant as a nerd? I’m not buying it.
12. Pulp Fiction – If Tarantino was any more overrated, he would be his buddy Rodriguez.
13. American Graffiti – Proof that George Lucas can be overrated in more than one genre.
14. Shawshank Redemption – A good movie, but not one of the 100 best.
15. Spartacus – It hurts for me to put this on the list, but this was not one of Kubrick’s best efforts. 

So this leaves 30 slots to fill. Wow, that suddenly sounds like a lot of slots to fill. Lets see what I can come up with: 

1. Alien (1979) – Simply one of the best science fiction and horror movies ever made.
2. Beauty and the Beast – Still perhaps the best animated film of all time.
3. Braveheart (1995) – Most likely left of the list because of Mel Gibson’s most recent run ins with antisemitism.
4. The Breakfast Club (1985) – One of the most beautifully crafted screenplays of all-time. Doesn’t get its due because it is a teenager movie.
5. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) – Over 50 years old and the social commentary is as relevant as ever.
6. Gladiator (2000) – Ridley Scott at his best and making me wonder how he can even be related to Tony Scott.
7. Glory (1989) – Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington together. That is all you really need to say.
8. Good Will Hunting (1997) – Proof that Ben Affleck was good for something.
9. The Hustler (1961) – Proof that Paul Newman is the coolest human to ever live.
10. Inherit the Wind – Spencer Tracy vs. Frederic March. One of the greatest plays of the 20th Century.
11. L.A. Confidential (1997) – Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, and Kevin Spacey. That is casting.
12. The Manchurian Candidate (1962) – Simply brilliant.
13. Marty (1955) – I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a movie that nails the friendships of single men better.
14. Memento (2001) – Every night before I go to bed I pray that Christopher Nolan doesn’t throw away his talent making Batman movies.
15. My Fair Lady (1964) – Slightly sexist ending, but this is Rex Harrison and Audrey Hepburn at their best.
16. The Night of the Hunter (1955) – During WWII my grandpa shared a bunk with Robert Mitchum. My grandpa hated Mitchum because he was such a “lazy bastard”. That being said, he is perfect as the embodiment of evil in this movie.
17. Night of the Living Dead (1968) – Remember when horror movies could be intelligent and filled with social commentary? Doesn’t seem like Hollywood does either.
18. The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) – If you love Henry Fonda in “The Grapes of Wrath” (which if you want to continue to be my friend, you do), you need to check him out in this movie about a lynch mob.
19. Paths of Glory (1957) – Kubrick and Kirk Douglas at their best. Watching this movie will do more for cultivating your anti-war sentiment than all the listenings to “Give Peace a Chance” you can muster into one day.
20. Planet of the Apes (1968) – Second best surprise ending in movie history.
21. A Raisin in the Sun (1961) – You ever been in a poor family and had to worry about money? Then you can relate to every second of this movie.
22. Rushmore (1998) – Sometimes it is hard to swallow that Wes Anderson would go on to make “The Life Aquatic” after making the most original comedy of the last 30 years.
23. Shadow of a Doubt (1943) – Playwright Thornton Wilder teaming up with Alfred Hitchcock. Throw in Joseph Cotton and Teresa Wright, what else could you possibly need?
24. Stand by Me (1986) – Who would have thought that the fat kid would go on to have the most successful career?
25. The Sweet Smell of Success (1957) – Perhaps the most clever dialogue ever put together in a film.
26. Touch of Evil (1958) – It saddens me to think of all the other masterpieces Orson Welles could have put together if the studios would have just gotten the hell out of his way.
27. The Usual Suspects (1995) – Proof that even if a movie has a Baldwin brother in it, it still might be worth watching.
28. Reservoir Dogs – Tarantino without a budget. He actually was as good as they say at one time.
29. Harvey (1950) – If you can’t love a movie with Jimmy Stewart and an invisible rabbit, then I don’t know what type of person you are.
30. The Exorcist (1973) – This movie is madness and I love every second of it. 

That pretty much takes care of my list. 

RATATOUILLE 

I went to see the movie “Ratatouille” today. I can’t recommend this movie highly enough. It is the first good movie I’ve seen this year and the first great animated movie I’ve seen since “Monster’s Inc.” It was the first time since I saw “Pan’s Labyrinth” that I left the theater and considered seeing it again and thought about how I can’t wait for the DVD to come out. This is the first “big” movie of the summer that wasn’t a complete and utter disappointment.
 

That being noted, I can’t guarantee that it will entertain children. It might have been too adult in the storyline for some small children to maintain their interest. It is worth the risk though. 

A VIDEO 

My friend James sent me this video. I’m not telling you how to think or act politically, but I do support my friends and the causes they support. So enjoy this small video about the Matthew Shepard Act.


 



 
If you want to take action to help support the Matthew Shepard Act, click on the link below: 

The Human Rights Campaign 

All that is left for this little outburst is to share some pictures from my recent travels. Once again, there is no commentary because I will not write about my adventures until I finish the 14 Chapter blog on the events of May 9 –May 19. A new chapter might be coming this way soon. Here are some random pictures for you to figure out on your own. I will let you know this much, some of these travels were only as far as a few feet out the backdoor.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Minutia – Chapter 4: Failure

Chapter 4: Failure

Thomas Edison failed on his first 100 attempts to invent the light bulb. When asked if he was upset with all of his failures he responded that they weren’t failures. He had learned 100 different ways not to invent the light bulb. I think of that story at times when I need motivation and I can’t seem to make the picture in my head and the picture on the screen the same. Then I also remember that Thomas Edison used to publicly electrocute cats and dogs to show the dangers of Tesla’s competing style of electricity. That reminds that the distance between genius and insanity is measured by success.

I had just got home from Ames. I had a belly full of Club sandwich. I had invites to not one but two swinging parties burning in the back of my mind. One party was in Des Moines. This party was to celebrate Nate and Ryan’s birthdays. If I attended this party I would get to see Ryan. He is the recognized master of the high five. This was a strong selling point.

The second party was for Sara H.’s graduation. She had recently graduated college and was having one last shindig before she left for North Carolina for a stint with Habitat for Humanity. While Ryan is an acknowledged master of the high five, Sara is an acknowledged master of profanity. Perhaps the only one I know.

Sara H.’s party was in Ogden. Nate’s party was in Des Moines. I considered my options. Then I considered that the sun was quickly fading in the sky. It had been a while since I had felt the Maxxum 5D in my hands, if you hadn’t counted the pictures of Bethany and her new camera I had taken an hour or so ago.

I was feeling restless. I grabbed the camera and loaded the car up with fake flowers. I hit the road. I had a general idea of what I wanted to do, but I just didn’t know where I wanted to go. Plus, I was going to need an assistant.

There was really only one man for the job of assistant. With apologies to Baier, if I were an artistic genius like Van Gogh, Jay would be my Gauguin. This is for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that Jay would look great with a mustache. The second reason is that Jay is always riding me for being lazy.

Any time that I say that I should put up a tripod, but that I won’t do it because it is too time consuming, he is right on my back calling me lazy.

I dream that someday Jay and I can have a confrontation where he tells me that the only thing he can tell by looking at my work is that I work too fast. So I can get right back in his grill and tell him that he “looks too fast”. If this happens I would prefer that Jay was wearing red pants.

I had drove around aimlessly for awhile before deciding on giving Jay a call. He answered his phone and sounded a bit like a man that had been beaten down. I’m sure he had. He had probably spent 10 hours at work.

Without trying to sound pushy I asked Jay if he might be interested in helping me with a little photo project that I was working on.

“When?”

“The sooner the better.” In reality I had some disposable time, but I wasn’t in the patient mood.

“I’ll need to take a shower first.”

“It would be better if you didn’t.”

That sentence kind of hung there for awhile.

“What do you want me to do?”

“It might involve you getting wet.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“I want to go down to a stream and then you are going to throw these fake flowers into the stream. It might involve you actually getting into the stream, plus we might have to cross the stream, and you might have to help me find the flowers if they get lost. Plus there is always the chance of mud.”

“I can’t take a shower?”

“I wouldn’t see the point. You are just going to have to take a shower after we are done.”

“I really stink.”

“We both are probably going to stink before this little exercise (in futility) is over.”

“Why me?”

“Because you are my Gauguin!”

“Wasn’t he kind of a prick?”

“It would be better than being my Signac?”

“Yeah, that pointillism joker with his ‘scientific method’.”

“Yeah, screw that guy.”

“Screw pointillism too.”

“So you’re in?”

“The deal is that you can’t complain that I stink.”

“I wouldn’t think of it.”

I swung by Jay’s pad and picked him up. I had a basic idea of what I wanted to do. Although I knew this was going to be entirely a test run for a later photo, I needed to make the test run as soon as possible. The deadline for State Fair Photography Salon was quickly approaching and I wanted to be able to place my order with Adorama with plenty of time to spare. That way I would get the pictures back with plenty of time to discuss my matting options with Monica. After all, Monica is my matting expert because of her vast knowledge of the color wheel. Plus she can put a picture on different colored mattes and say “that looks good, it really brings out color X.”

I’m not at liberty to discuss what I am trying to do with this picture. Only Monica gets to see the four pictures I enter to the State Fair Photography Salon before the reception the Tuesday before the State Fair opens. At that point, Sara J. gets to see the pictures. Then, I might post them on my website. That is if I do well. If I don’t do well, I just pretend like I’ve never heard of the State Fair Photography Salon.

Jay got in the car. I didn’t smell any stench on the man. Which means he was either grousing for no reason or he had made haste to take the White Trash Shower. I didn’t smell an excess of cologne on him, so I think that he was really just trying to buy time until he could think of a good reason not to wade through a stream with me. His plan failed.

I turned the radio up and we headed towards McHose Park.

I had chosen the stream that ran behind McHose Park. Perhaps it isn’t the most sanitary stream in the world, but it had three things that I prized above all else.

The thing I wanted the most was solitude. I knew that if I was hanging around this stream, I would most likely be able to do my work in peace. As opposed to Ledges, where there would be people crawling all over the place. McHose Park is always busy on the front side, but not many people hang around the backside, unless they are engaging in an illegal narcotic based activity. If I ran into such people, we would leave each other alone.

The second thing that I liked about the stream behind McHose Park is that while it isn’t deep, there are sections of it that are fairly deep. The water can get as deep as 3 to almost 4 feet deep. Finding one of these deep spots would be key to my artistic pursuit on this day.

The final thing that appealed to me was clear water. Unlike portions of the stream at Ledges or Squaw Creek, the water that runs through this stream is very clear. At least in the parts of the creek that have a sandy bottom.

One of the sad truths about McHose Park is that despite being one of the largest and most beautiful City Parks in the state, it has come into disrepair lately. The main paved road that cuts through the park has huge sections where the term pothole seems to hardly even be appropriate. The gravel back roads are eroding away and the city does not seem to be interested in grading them. A couple of the bridges on the backside of the park are well past being called safe.

I drove down the one gravel road that is still passable for somebody in a sedan. I stopped and parked a few hundred feet past Turtle Pond. I parked right in front of the Water Treatment Facility.

There are no words that adequately describe the smell that first attacks your nostrils when you smell the air outside of the Water Treatment Facility. If Jay was worried about any body odor, this smell should have put him at ease. I don’t know the person that can produce an odor that can compete with this smell. For purposes of intellectual honesty, I should admit that I do know a couple, but nobody that I would ever allow in my car.

Years ago McHose Park had a road on its very backside that you could drive through. It was a gravel road that allowed you to drive through the stream on a couple of occasions. For some reason, the City closed down this road. Although you can’t drive on it any longer, it is still there. Slowly eroding away and being reclaimed by the forest. We walked down what is left of this road.

When I originally envisioned this project, I thought about a part of the stream that is on the very south edge of McHose Park. A part of the stream that was almost all the way to US30. There was a small waterfall at this part of the stream and a stretch of the stream that was a decent depth. However, we were quite a ways away from that part of the stream, so I decided to just make do with the first decent part of the stream I came across. After all, these were just test shots. It didn’t need to be perfect.

Those were the thoughts that crossed my mind as walked down the road, past a crane and a Bobcat that blocked part of the road. Those were the thoughts that crossed my mind as we approached a section of the road where the stream crossed the road.

Jay looked at me and said, “Now what?”

My plan wasn’t terribly thought out. I told him what I knew.

“You are going to stand down here. I am going to walk down there.” I said while pointing in the general direction of downstream. “When I give you the signal, I want you to throw the fake flowers in the stream.”

“That is it? You drug me out here to throw fake flowers into a stream?”

I saw that he had brought with him his particular brand of insolence.

“Yeah, that is pretty much it.” I conceded.

I decided to take on the stream barefooted. I loathe sandals and do not own a pair or their bastard offspring the flip flop. I can’t even bring myself to say flip flop. Last time I bought a pair, I made Olivia refer to them as “water related footwear.” Those “shoes” ended up in the bottom of the channel that separates Lower Cullen Lake and Middle Cullen Lake. It was either lose the “shoes” or go underwater with the Maxxum 5. Today I chose to go barefoot.

I do not know if Jay thought what I was doing was stupid, but he didn’t ask me any questions. If Jay knew what I was about to do was stupid, he has been conditioned in past encounters to let me make my own mistakes.

The other theory that I can operate under is that Jay might have noticed that I was wearing hiking boots. He may have considered the possibility that I didn’t want to get my hiking boots wet or muddy. They might have been my dress shoes. After all, we did have a friend that was vacationing in Spain that tried to pass hiking boots off as dress shoes on more than one occasion.

Whatever Jay’s motivation for not pointing out my stupidity, what I was about to do was a very stupid thing. I was going to try to make my way through a series of concrete blocks and rocks to a part of the stream that was just sand. These concrete blocks and rocks stuck out of the stream at weird angles. These concrete blocks and rocks were intermittently covered with algae.

I took off my boots and socks. I waded into the stream. The cool temperature of the water gave me an initial shock, but that gave way to a sensation of pleasure. The water was rather refreshing.

I inched my way off the road and onto a concrete block. My first step was decisive. Then I stood there and realized I didn’t really have a good second step. The rocks and the blocks were at funky angles. While I would have no problem handling this situation with two hands free, one hand was clutching the Maxxum 5D. True I could have left the camera dangling from its strap around my neck, but quite frankly I don’t believe in the camera strap. I believe in my right hand.

I was standing on a concrete block. On all sides of me was rushing water. About a foot a way was the bank. I could have stepped to the bank and walked about 20 feet and hopped into the stream in a place that wasn’t occupied by a mishmash of rocks and blocks.

It is possible that what crossed my mind was that taking the bank would have been a wimp’s way out. I would say the way of the pansy, but I have since learned that the pansy is actually a very hardy flower and does not deserve to be compared with people that are feeble or cowardly. The iris on the other hand . . .

In actuality I don’t think I ever considered the bank. I made a few more tentative steps. It seemed like I was going to make it. I made a few more steps. It seemed like this plan was going to work.

Then I tried to step up on to a concrete block. I placed my foot on top of a rock and began to push off. The rock was covered in algae. My foot slipped right off. I lost my balance and started to fall face first towards the concrete block.

I had an option though. I could put a couple of hands in front of me and stop my fall or at least push myself off to the side of the concrete block. The only problem was that I held the Maxxum 5D in one hand. If I tried to use it to help stop my fall it would surely be smashed into several no longer functioning pieces or it would have ended up in the stream. Then it would have been in one no longer function piece.

Out of my peripheral vision I realized that I still was only a few short feet from the bank. I tossed the Maxxum 5D in to a growth of grass and continued to let gravity take its course.

I put my hands out and pushed against the concrete block. My face was saved. My body shot upwards, but I was still not in equilibrium. I fell to the side and landed in the water.

“You alright?”

Jay’s concern was heart warming. I pulled myself and what was left of my dignity out of the water. I walked over to the bank to find the Maxxum 5D. It was sitting on top of the grass, looking as if it had not been flying through the air a few moments earlier. I picked it up. I looked it over. I tested it. It was fine.

I sat down on the concrete block and looked myself over. The camera was still in one piece. My face was still intact. There was a throbbing pain in my left foot though.

This term is not used with any kind of medical training. I believe that I hyperextended my left foot. When I was falling on the rock, all my weight went on the front of my foot and my toes bent upwards well past where they are supposed to stop bending. The result was a dull throbbing pain on the bottom side of my foot that felt like a bruise, but there wasn’t a bruise to be found. Further examination of my foot revealed a decent sized gash along the side of my big toe.

“I’m fine,” I answered. “Just a little cut.”

“We calling it a day?” He asked, but he already knew the answer.

I just gave him the look. The look that indicated that I wasn’t an iris, I was a pansy.

“Want your boots then?”

“Yeah, that suddenly sounds like a real good idea.”

Jay threw me my boots and I made the rest of the journey without incident. I stopped at a bend in the stream that was about 100 feet from Jay. It seemed like a good spot because on the west side of the stream there was a clearing on the bank. Plus on the outside part of the stream’s bend, the water was at least 2.5 to 3 feet deep. I gave Jay the signal.

He began dropping the fake flowers into the stream. I waited. He kept throwing them in. I waited. He had thrown them all in. I waited. I waited. I waited.

“This isn’t going to work.” He yelled downstream at me.

“Why not?”

“They’re sinking.”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“Doesn’t matter what it makes, they all sank.”

I began to walk upstream. Sure enough, not even 20 feet from Jay I found all of the fake flowers. They had all sunk. Fake flowers don’t float. This didn’t make sense. The flowers were made out of plastic, which floats, and silk which I would assume isn’t heavy enough to sink. I had reckoned wrong. I reckoned that maybe that the part of the stream where Jay had thrown the flowers in was too turbulent for proper floating. I grabbed all the flowers and headed back to my bend.

I dropped the flowers into the calmer area of the stream. They floated for a second and then they dropped to the stream bottom.

This sucked. I looked up to call out to Jay. I wanted to tell him that this sucked, but he was gone. It was like that moment in the horror movie where two people are in the woods and one of them disappears. Either the person that disappears shows up moments later for a “fake scare” or their body shows up in the third act all distorted and mutilated.

This wasn’t a horror movie though. Jay showed up moments later. He had wandered off and collected some small real flowers.

“This sucks.” I was finally able to verbalize, but I had lost some of the venom.

He ignored me and threw the flowers into the stream.

“Real flowers float.”

Which was great, but not real helpful. If I was going to use real flowers for my picture, I would need a flower with a much larger bloom than what Jay was finding. I saw a grouping of the type of flowers that Jay was throwing into the stream and I took a few pictures of them so that I could identify them later.

I came back to the stream and tried to get what I could out of the sinking flowers. I figured it was good enough for a test run.

I walked back to Jay, got out of the steam and walked the uncomfortable walk of somebody with wet boots. While I was walking in these wet boots to the car I decided that I didn’t really feel much like going to a party. I felt like getting out of these shoes, taking a shower, and playing with Photoshop. This would be my Saturday night. Not exciting, but I would get plenty of sleep and be able to start up my church streak again. Plus I would be plenty rested for the next day’s graduation festivities.

When we got back to the car I came to the sad realization that even though this was a test run, I hadn’t learned how to take the picture that I wanted. I had learned a way not to take the picture that I wanted.



Broken Bridge of McHose Park

05-19-07
Back of the Crane

05-19-07
The Deceptively Tricky Rapids


“You should have worn your shoes and I would look smashing wit a mustache.”


The Small Flowers on the Bank


Coming Back from the Bend

05-19-07