Tag Archives: ken gortowski

fox river sunset

Why I Quit Fishing

There are a few reasons why I quit fishing, but the main reason is pictured above.

My favorite time of the day to go out fishing was always the last three hours of the day. Sunsets seem to last longer. Now I still go out for the last three hours of the day, but with a camera rather than a rod.

I didn’t fish much and never a river before I turned 40. After that, fishing the Fox River and the creeks that feed it became an obsession. For 19 years that’s all I really cared about doing.

It was all about the fishing and even though I was out on the water during hundreds of sunsets, there were fish to be caught. If I stopped for a second I might get off a half way decent shot of the sunset, but I had to get back to fishing. I was losing my light.

19 years later and 10,000 smallies caught, give or take a couple of hundred, enough was enough. This would have been my 20th year, but I didn’t see any point and going out to catch one more fish.

Now I go out at those same hours of the day and pace back and forth in one of many areas where I know the sunset could be spectacular. It doesn’t always happen, but the anticipation is worth it. I get to watch the light slowly wane and change and glow and reflect off my surroundings. Something I never did when catching a fish was the point of being out there.

To me, being in the right spot to photograph the sunset pictured above, along with the 70 or so other photo’s taken that evening, was much more important than being on the other side of the river, behind the island, drifting lures in the fast and slow running water. All to catch smallie number 10,000 and one.

Standing and pacing and watching the play of light is much more rewarding.

Over those 19 years I’ve also cruised many, many miles on back roads all along the river and to it’s creeks.

back road

It was rare that I ever stopped very long, maybe long enough to get off a quick shot. I had a fishing spot to get to, fish to be caught.

Now, I cruise those same back roads during those same last 3 hours of daylight. Only now I don’t hesitate in stopping if something catches my eye.

landscape

Now I go out looking for the perfect sunset clouds.

silo

the barn

Or I’ll head out if it looks like a good storm will be passing through.

the barn

I think it’s time better spent than chasing still another fish and letting my surroundings go ignored.

I have no clue if my photo’s are all that great. I don’t know if I care one way or the other. But like fishing once was, I now can’t imagine being out there and not trying to capture something.

For those that have followed along with all that I’ve written over the years, why I quit fishing probably seemed inevitable. My writing and the photo’s that went with them never really had anything to do with fishing. At least I tried to give that impression, but in my head I had to be there for the fish. Now I want to focus on the photo’s and all those spots I walked and drove right by.

If anything comes of that, that would be nice. If not, that would still be nice.

In an effort to take this new direction seriously, I’ve already started a Facebook page for Ken Gortowski Photography where photo’s have been going up.

I also have a website up and running called kengortowski.com that is still under construction as I figure out the design and then populate it with all the photo’s I’ve taken over the years.

I’m looking forward to how this all pans out.

In the mean time, in my spare time, I’ll still be out wandering around those last few hours and minutes of daylight. Revisiting back roads I breezed down in the past, heading out to the river and creeks and concentrating on the details I passed up over the years.

And, just like when I used to fish, I’ll stay out to the very end, for that last little bit of light, for the perfect conditions.

And, just like fishing, you have to stay to the very end.

The very end tends to produce the best results.

sunset

A Minimalist goes Wandering

A minimalist goes wandering is a nice summary of what I wound up with in terms of photo’s, but that’s not how things started.

The sky was filled with fair weather clouds when I headed out the door. Skies, anytime really, but around sunset is better, and water are two subjects I go purposely out to shoot. Then things change while I’m out at times.

This day the clouds weren’t cooperating. I guess that’s a way to say I was uninspired.

But the mostly blue sky and the intensity of the late spring green had me searching out other things. I don’t look for anything in particular. I let the colors, objects and surrounding space determine if I find something interesting. Nothing predetermined goes into this thought process. That looks interesting… is enough to get me to raise the camera. A lot of failures, but others that I find intriguing.

Since the sky failed me and I didn’t feel like scrounging low down to find fungus and there was no water around, I settled for everything mid ground, mid view, whatever you feel like calling it.

Basically, I walked around and looked at stuff till something caught my eye.

A Hike in the Woods

Going out fishing was really an excuse to get out for a hike in the woods.

There was more skim ice on the bird bath Sunday morning, I think that’s 4 days in a row and one of those froze it solid.

This has done a pretty good job of stopping the smallie migration up the creeks in it’s tracks. Water really cooled down fast. I didn’t expect to catch anything inland on one creek and I didn’t.

Saved the day on another creek and fishing closer to the mouth. Wound up going 7/1 with one of those being the smallies sluggish cousin.

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I would probably be pretty good at Tenkara fishing. As it is I find myself fishing with 10 to 12 feet of line out and swinging my usual small lure into little pockets of water. One of the nice things about fishing like this is that smallies of all sizes tend to hit with the same amount of power. You don’t know till you set the hook with a sharp snap of the rod what size fish you might have on.

Was doing this in a small spot where I recently pulled out a smallie that was a good 16 inches. With my go to rod still in two pieces, I switched to an older rod that I had retired. This one too once had a fast action tip, but the top six inches was sacrificed to a sliding van door years ago. Now it’s a medium action rod and it’s been a good three years since I’ve bothered using it.

Remember, I also only use braided line, no stretch.

So, with 10 to 12 feet of line out I get a hard smallie hit. I set the hook with a sharp snap of the rod and the next thing I see is a smallie about 6 inches long come sailing out of the water, still hooked, and sails over my head, landing in the water behind me, still hooked.

Oops, sorry about that. You hit bigger than you were.

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I went inland on the first creek mainly to see if the big flood plain was filled with flowers like usual. A few more days will have them looking better, but I can’t get there in a few more days. I thought they didn’t look half bad today. Not sure what I’m trying to achieve with the shots in the gallery below, but I’m fascinated by how this flood plain gets covered with these flowers this time of year.

Their presence is fleeting. Barely a two week window of opportunity to see this before the flowers fall off and the plants are eclipsed by the undergrowth.

Came across a lone skunk cabbage plant. I believe it was Mary Anne from Alaska that asked if they smelled like skunk. Since I never bothered finding out all these years, I took off a tip of one of the leaves and inhaled deeply.

Smells like earth, but also has a distinct skunk like smell to it, but without the gagging produced by a hefty whiff of skunk.

Also checked out the one spot where I know morels grow. No morels yet, but all around the same area quite a few other mushrooms were starting to poke their heads out from under the leaf clutter.

Had two more mornings of skim ice and frost since Sunday. Getting a little tired of that. Evenings are supposed to start warming up soon and that’s what will finally get the smallies moving up the creeks.

Guess I’ll have to go Wednesday after work to find out.

There was a Point to This

There was a point to this, all these pictures, but I’ll be damned if I can remember any more.

When I head out fishing, taking pictures is somewhere in the back of my mind, but they happen hopefully between catching fish. Or maybe of the fish if the fish is picture worthy.

When I head out wandering around with my camera, the point is to take pictures. Sometimes that’s a failure and I’m totally uninspired.

Usually I wander around with a running dialogue in my head that gets filled in by pictures. Or maybe the pictures start the running dialogue. Or some combination of both.

This goes back to my painting days 30 odd years ago when I would write on my paintings. A little description or dialogue I guess that I thought went well with the painting.

The problem with walking around taking pictures and having a running dialogue going is that I tend not to retain words very well. It all sounds so good while I’m out wandering around, but by the time I get home and find the time to sit down and do anything with all the pictures, I’ve pretty much forgotten all the words.

Sometimes I can’t remember what I had planned on doing with the pictures.

If I find the time to do something with words or pictures within 24 hours, things seem to go okay. Last week within 24 hours I put together the panorama shots I had intended and put up a post. The other 130 or so pictures sat and languished all week. I had already gone through and picked the ones I wanted to use, no doubt these had words associated with them last week, but this week, I got nuthin’.

Nothing but the pictures.

Best I can come up with for words is that it was sunny out on a weekend, which is rare.

Temperatures were tolerable.

The sunset was better than I expected.

That pretty much sums it up.

Sunset Panorama Test

I’ve played around a little with making panorama’s in Photoshop, but never one of a sunset. So I thought I would do a sunset panorama test.

I already knew the software could handle sharper, brighter images, but I was curious if it could handle the more muted tones and less sharp edges of a sunset. While out Saturday evening watching the sunset at Silver Springs State Park, I took a few shots with making panorama’s out of them in mind.

So far so good and I’m pleased with how they are turning out. Of the six that I tried, only one failed. The software couldn’t find enough of an edge on one I guess in order to merge them correctly.

Once the images are merged and I figure out how to crop them, on three of them I wound up with images that are 13 X 29 inches and 240 ppi. That means I could double it’s size to 26 X 58 inches and still have enough resolution to get a decent print out of it at the bigger size. Only seems appropriate to go bigger on panoramic sunsets, but I could see them working at 6.5 X 14.5 inches or even smaller.

Ideally I want to see them at 26 X 58 feet, but that’s a different story and sunset panorama test.

The three images that wound up at that size were all shot with the lens at 18 mm. It’s an 18-55 mm lens.

The other two shots you’ll see in the gallery below were shot with the lens at around 30 mm. If I try to get as much image as possible out of the merged images, that gave me final sizes of 14 X 24 and 13 X 26. Not enough width to my liking, especially when shooting here in Illinois out over an expansive area of basically prairie. They still look decent, but some of the expansive feel is gone.

I’ve always known that my horizontal peripheral vision goes beyond 180 degrees and I recently heard that peripheral vision can go to almost 210 degrees. I haven’t looked up what it is vertically.

Which will eventually bring me to my next sunset panorama test. I know I’m losing a lot of sky vertically, my vertical peripheral vision is much greater than what the camera can do. So next time I’m going to shoot vertically and pan for 5 shots. I already know the software can merge 5 horizontal shots with pretty good end results. Now to try it with vertical shots. I’m hoping to wind up with final shots that feel like how I see things. I’ll probably have to use a tripod to accomplish this. The times I’ve tried before shows that it’s a bitch to try to pan evenly horizontally over 5 shots.

The math in my head is telling me that shooting vertically and merging five shots will give me a final image of about 20 X 60 inches and 240 ppi. Which means in theory I could do a print of 40 X 120 inches and still get decent results.

Of course, I want to do a print of that at 40 X 120 feet. I have that all figured out with even more details, but that’s a different story I’ll tackle later.