Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Winter Morning Meanderings

Snow Tree and Fog
On most weekends I get up before sunrise (not very hard to do in the winter months), look out the window and if I see some hints of clouds (and is not extremely cold), I go out to catch the first rays of sunlight. If I see the stars (ie, a clear sky), I try to go back to sleep. Well, a couple of weeks ago I got up, saw the stars, got back into bed and spent the next hour tossing and turning. Since sleep was a loss cause, I dressed up and went out for a drive along the Fox River. I didn't spot any eagles but as I drove by the Fabyan Forest Preserve, I saw fog rising from the river. I spent the next hour or so walking along the riverbank washing the fog come and go. The fog eventually cleared and I headed back to the car and when I was about to climb in, a bald eagle flew over me.

Fabyan Lighthouse and Winter Fog

Fox River Winter Scene

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Rural Winter Sunset

Millbrook Farm Sunset
Sometimes it is hard to predict how the day is going to end. I left Starved Rock with a heavily cloudy sky. It was so cloudy that I couldn't tell where the sun was. Needless to say, there was no indication that I would be able to experience a winter sunset.

I drove home on Rt. 71 which passes through many farms in the Lasalle and Kendall County. On several areas, the road provides far reaching views of these farms. As I entered Kendall County I reached one of these spots and saw a break in the clouds and some orange color starting to show through.

A few minutes later, the golden sun dropped below the clouds and the landscape lit up. Since Rt 71 is mostly rural, there aren't that many places to turn. I made the first left turn available and stopped along the road in front of a farm house to photograph the field.
Farm Winter Sunset
I spent the next 30 minutes driving up and down the road stopping along the different scenes as they presented themselves. I could tell that some of the neighbors were watching me. They probably were questioning why I would drive a few hundred feet, stop the van, open the hatchback, stood there for a few minutes, close the hatchback and repeated the process. Finally, on the last stop, someone drove up to me and asked if I was alright. Once they saw the camera, they understood…
Sunset Strokes

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ice Sculptures

Wildcat Canyon Ice Formation
Starved Rock continues to be one of my favorite places to visit during the year. In winter, nature sculpts beautiful ice structures that hang from the limestone walls. This winter, with its prolonged periods of extreme cold, has produce very large ice structures and ice climbers can be found on several of the canyon attempting to tackle the formations. Although some of these climbers make it look easy, it really isn’t. I saw several climbers loose their picks, gloves and needless to say their footing on the ice. Ropes and helmets are a must.
Ice Picking
Wildcat Canyon from the Top

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Following the Flow

Big Rock Creek Bend
With temperatures warming up (we made it to the 20s!) and the head cold that I caught in early January finally clearing, it was time to get out of the house for a hike with the camera. Bald eagles have been spotted in our neck of the woods so I decided to make the short drive to the Fox River between Oswego and Aurora. A couple of weeks ago I saw over 10 eagles in the trees along the river but with the cold spells, the river was mostly frozen solid and the eagles were no where to be seen.

Instead of going back home, I decided to follow the river and photograph anything that looked interesting along the way. This was the first time I tried following the river on its southern journey so for the most part I had no idea where I was. This didn't bother me as every time I got off the car to look at a scene, a friendly passerby stopped to make sure I was fine (and I had my trusty GPS to find my way back home).

In either case, my plan to photograph the Fox River did not pan out, at least not in this trip. Although I found some great scenes, the river surface was mostly frozen and covered in snow. In some places the ice was so thick that people were running snowmobiles on it. However, searching for a gas station I stumbled upon Big Rock Creek just before it flowed into the Fox River. The creek had a good flow of water as it wound its way through the snow covered terrain.   
Big Rock Creek in Winter
At the end of the day I had hiked a few miles, driven over 200, found a Caribou Coffee in an unlikely location (yes, I'm not a Starbucks fan), visited a few of my favorite winter locations and experienced one of the most beautiful winter sunsets that I have seen since I picked up a camera. More to come...