Tag Archives: going for a walk

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A Walk in the River

A walk in the river is all I expected. After a few weeks of casting practice in sterile creeks I gave up and hit the Fox River. Levels were abnormally low for spring, perfect wading conditions instead of nearing flood stage.

As I stepped into the river I parted a massive school of bait fish. This told me where to cast when I got around to it. On the opposite side of the river the gravel bars on the upstream side of the islands glowed white. Can’t recall ever seeing that before.

With the winter we had I hear a massive amount of salt was dumped on roads. Along the river it eventually has to wind up in the river. Up close, it sure looked like salt crust. And yes, the next two shots are in color.

I’m used to seeing water lines on rocks with the rock beneath the line a lighter color from being washed by the river. But I’ve never seen this.

If it is salt deposits, I wonder if it will have any affect on the fish. Two fish caught and three fish missed later, I would have to say no so far. They were all hanging around the rocks along with a bunch of jumping carp. Where there’s carp there’s smallies. Maybe they like salt.

Paired up geese were everywhere. The smart ones were already nesting on the islands. Smart move. Fewer ground dwelling predators.

The ones nesting on shore are already regretting that decision.

A mini waterfall was explored. No matter how dry it gets, this always has flowing water. I’ve known of it for 15 years now. I have never looked for it’s source.

The walk was made that much more brutal by the constant rush of wind. I heard later it was over 20 mph with gusts up to 40.

But it’s not so bad inside a duck blind, blocking the wind and a long bench to stretch a back on.

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A Walk Down to the River

It was starting to snow and 14 inches were being called for within the next 36 hours, I thought now would be a good time to take a walk down to the river.

On the other side of the river is a huge field ringed with trees. There are no homes in that stretch. Three deer could be seen in the field. They looked like they were playing in the snow. They would run, then stop. Then run again. Whenever they would stop they would look across the river at me. I had to be a good 150 yards away, but they were still cautious of this lone figure wandering down the hill toward them. Then they would go back to playing.

The river was pretty empty. A few geese were in the open water and I counted a half dozen blue herons spread out and hunkered down on the edge of the ice. Hunting I assume.

I got to the edge of the bluff, still a good 30 feet above the river and started wandering down the thin tree line. In one of the tallest trees that hangs out over the river were a couple of adult eagles. Of course I had to see how close I could get to them.

One didn’t like that and took off. The other didn’t seem to mind so much.

Debbie Granat and her daughter pulled up on the side of the road and I wandered over to talk. Her husband Larry started the Facebook page The Kendall County Bird Page and I rely on him for all things eagles in this stretch of the river. One of these days I’ll have a better camera and I can quit asking him for eagle images. Or, I’ll never tell him I got a better camera, keep borrowing eagle images and give him the publicity he deserves.

That sounds better.

After they left I turned around and the skittish eagle was back. I tried stalking up to them again, and again the skittish one took off. Decided to leave them alone and head downstream.

Off on the island was another eagle. In that short period of time, more geese were coming down to the river and a couple of hundred of them were circling the area.

I live about 80 feet away from a pretty heavily wooded ravine. I walked along the top of the bluff, heading for the mouth of the ravine. The tracks of deer, squirrels and what I assume are either coyote or fox were all using the ravine like a highway. I tracked them to the top of the bluff overlooking the ravine.

On a good day wandering down the steep slope of the bluff is a no brainer. Conditions did not make this a good day. All I could imagine was gravity taking over and suddenly finding myself in a heap at the bottom. The tracks being seen were all old, I convinced myself. No point wandering down there.

A juvenile bald eagle drifted overhead and landed in a tree a hundred feet away. This one was on to me, it took off long before I could get any closer.

In that short time, hundreds more geese had arrived. The honking was starting to echo down the river valley. The only ducks I can recognize from a distance are mallards, but I can see that others are different even if I can’t identify them. I saw a couple of other different types of ducks mixed in with all the other waterfowl.

The other day while out shoveling snow at sunset I stopped counting the geese flying overhead when I got to 500. Today, the geese weren’t coming in from north or south. The bulk of them were coming straight down the river out of the west.

This is what I’m going to miss when I move at the end of the month, that ability to wander down a hill and see such a variety of wildlife. Granted, I’ll still be living two blocks from the river, but it’s slightly more urban. There will still be plenty of geese and ducks around, but for the deer and coyote and the bulk of the eagles I’ll have to walk a good half mile downstream.

Maybe a little less.

I’ll try to think of that as a motivating factor, hiking that extra half mile.

I could use the exercise.

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It’s 7 PM and I just came in from wandering around while smoking a cheap cigar. It has to be about 30 degrees out there, no wind, the snow is falling straight down and the neighborhood is dead quiet.

Down on the river a few geese were honking and at the mouth of the ravine, coyotes were howling.

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Picture Rejects

For as long as I can remember I’ve been dealing with images on some level. This started with the simple reading of comic books and their frame after frame of wonderful images. Then drawing, then taking pictures and then off to college.

I wound up in college for six years. I took art history classes all six of those years. Three years of studying architecture. Three more years of art and painting and drawing and making sculpture and taking pictures.

I would absorb art history books and books on individual artists. Then there were art magazines. I would get them all and read everything and stare at the pictures. Then there were the gallery crawls. Every month for years wandering from gallery to gallery in Chicago, absorbing everything.

Then there was the endless shows at all the major and minor museums. I even went to a Picasso show in New York where his painting called Guernica took center stage. I had studied all of his working drawings and working paintings that eventually culminated in this one painting. When the show closed the painting was being shipped to Spain now that Francisco Franco was dead and I knew this would be my last chance to see it in person.

Then 4-5 years of working in picture frame shops matting and framing hundreds of images of every imaginable kind.

Then 30 years ago I got into the graphic arts industry. Over the years I’ve dealt with images on a daily basis, images by the thousands. Sizing, cropping, sometimes increasing the size by one percent because it made a difference. Sometimes moving the image less than 1/32 of an inch up, down, left or right because it made all the difference in the world.

Through all of this, especially when dealing with the art, I’ve always had one question lingering and nagging in the back of my head… what makes this good?

Because of that I’m my own worst critic. I’m never satisfied with the pictures I take.

Last weekend I went for a walk and took a handful of pictures of the changing fall colors. I put them at the end of what was a fishing post.

The Last Fishing Trip of the Year

In order to settle on the pictures for that post, I went through my usual routine.

Open them all in a Mac program called Preview. By hitting the down arrow I can cycle through all the images. I never spend more than three seconds on any one image. Less if it’s a down right piece of shit that leaves me wondering what the hell I was thinking of when I took that picture. I single out the images I want quickly. I have no clue how or why I’m making the decision. Either the image strikes me as interesting enough to post or it doesn’t.

Then I take the ones I’ve settled on and open them in Photoshop. Highlight, shadow, contrast, color correct and saturate the colors a little to make them close to what I thought I saw. Takes all of about 10 seconds per image and I’m done. I rarely crop images. I go with whatever is in the frame.

What got me thinking about this was the fact that I was out the day before on a walk at Silver Springs State Park. I took 116 pictures. When I went through them that night, not a single one jumped out at me. Every day for the past week I’ve been going back to that folder of 116 pictures and looking through them. Still nothing. Slight possibilities, but it’s taking far too much thought. There had to be a reason I was taking those pictures. I took 116 of them.

So I went back to the folder of the walk I went on that resulted in that post. There were 38 images. I opened all the ones that didn’t make it into that post and actually gave them some thought.

Why did these get cut?

What is there about them that I didn’t see for those first three seconds I looked at them?

What in my brain rejected these outright?

I have no real clue.

All I know is that for some reason the following pictures are a disappointment. I’ll probably jack up the view stats on this post and the last one all by myself by going back and forth all week while trying to decide.

As I put these up and look at them for the last time, if a reason for their rejection hits me, I’ll put it under the picture.

Just bland.

A carpet of leaves, cute.

The diagonal on the right and the horizontal near the top annoys me.

Colorful reflections in a pool, I get it.

I hate pictures of bridges, unless my daughters are posing on the bridge for me, which they’re not.

The horizontal log along the bottom is too easy a setup.

The diagonal bright streak of light bothers me.

It’s a trail through the woods on a bright fall day. Awwww.

Bright color on drab color. This is one of those ones where I thought… why the hell did I take this.

See what I mean about my own worst critic.

Once upon a time a friend and I used to get kicked out of galleries. A few beers, the inability to hold ones tongue for the sake of sparing the feelings of the artist on display… but those are different stories.

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Last Fishing Trip of the Year

Got out Sunday morning for what will probably be my last fishing trip of the year.

Well, maybe, but all indications are that it will be my last.

The first indication was the night before. I’m still down my car and I didn’t bother loading up the wife’s car with my fishing gear. Very unlike me when I know I’m going to go out fishing. I must have still been thinking about it.

Sunday morning I open an eye, reach over to the clock on the night stand and turn it around toward me, 5:42. I turned it’s hideously glowing red numbers away from me.

What seemed like a few minutes later the wife stirs and gets out of bed.

What the hell ya doin’?

“I gotta pee like a race horse, I’m surprised you’re not out fishing.”

I’m thinkin’ about it.

I reach out and turn the clock toward me, 6:45. I’m obviously sleeping like shit. Maybe I should go fishing.

Somewhere between 2000 and 2005 I fished the Fox River every month of the year determined to catch a smallie each month for as long as possible. Eight months out of the year that’s an easy task. Come January, not so much. One January I almost got skunked, but managed to catch one on the very last day of the month. After four and a half years of doing this, I gave up. I had made my point and proven I could do it, no point beating a dead horse.

I got out of bed and got the coffee going. I could tell by how I was moving that I didn’t care about getting out one way or the other. I knew it was around 26 degrees out there, but it had been in the 50’s on Saturday and it was going to be in the 50’s again today. Maybe there was a creature a stirrin’ out there.

But I was still dawdling.

By the time I got the car loaded up, out to the fishing spot, suited up and in the water it was 8 AM. That all took about 45 minutes longer than it usually did. The picture at the top shows what I was up against. The river was already getting it’s winter level and clarity and it wouldn’t be long before that sun was on the water and the fishing would go to hell in a handbasket.

In a short time I did manage to catch five smallies.

I also foul hooked a couple of carp and one shad. The rolling of lure over carp was endless. In with the countless carp I got two hard, powerful hits and brief fights with heavy fish, but landing them never worked out.

On my way down the river channel three deer on the opposite island decided I was a spectator sport and stood and watched for awhile. I never did find out if the deer on the islands can be hunted. A brother-in-law wants to give this a try too. What makes it so intriguing is that these deer must never see humans come out to their little homes. When I was done fishing for the day I cut across the island and walked right up on the three deer. Every time I do this on every island I cross, the deer just stand there and watch me. I couldn’t get a good shot of the deer, the brush was too thick and the camera wouldn’t focus, but they let me walk within 50 feet of them before they decided to turn and walk away. They don’t even bother running.

Back at home I spent some time winterizing the house. By 1:30 I was done. Sitting down for a few minutes didn’t work. I could feel that flushed feeling coming over me. Crap sleep, cold air, a long walk in cold water apparently wore me out.

It was take a nap or go for a walk.

I opted for the walk.

Came across this little guy, barely six inches long, sitting in the middle of the trail.

He had a little cut in one side, probably from one of the other many hikers using the trail that thought he was just a stick. He was very happy to be relocated to the leaves and quickly disappeared beneath them.

An Interesting Series of Pictures

Well, okay, they’re an interesting series of pictures to me.

I know enough about cameras that you shouldn’t point them directly into the sun to take a picture, but I do it all the time. You just never know what you’re going to get.

It doesn’t help to have a simple point and shoot camera, a good one, but a point and shoot none the less.

The controls are limited, banding of colors is likely, lens flare… but as I said, I do it all the time and at times things work out well.

In this series of pictures something odd happened.

I can explain away the dot of light in the upper left of these images. About a year ago I dropped my camera and put a tiny ding off to the side on the glass that covers the lens. But even then, after many, many pictures taken I’ve never seen it show up in another image.

The rest, no clue.

I was at Silver Springs on Sunday for the last two hours of daylight. I thought for sure the sun was going to come out, but the cloud cover moved in and made for a less than spectacular sunset.

At the very end the sun slipped below the clouds along the horizon and I thought for sure it would light up the whole underside of the clouds. That didn’t happen. Instead I got what follows.

I took one shot about every 30 seconds or so. After each shot I would look at it on the small screen on the back of the camera. I never saw what I see in the bigger images. Granted, it’s a tiny little screen, but still.

The third image is the one that creeps me out the most, but the whole progression just seems so odd. Even the wife looks at them and with her cynical attitude has to agree that they are a little creepy.

She calls it an angel. She thinks it means someone I know is going to die soon. I’m hoping she’s wrong.