June 21st, 2011
I left Omaha Sunday morning, fully intending to return to Grinnell by late in the afternoon. I only made it as far as Harlan, Iowa, (go check your map – it’s not very far), but enjoyed Father’s Day with friends and found some good material to photograph. I was a couple hours late visiting my friend Ruby in Macedonia (who, over the years, has come up with some really nice places for me to shoot) because I got sidetracked by the Fairview Chapel on my way there. A farmer passing by on his tractor stopped to see who I was and what I was doing. Turns out he’s Ruby’s husband’s cousin. He called his brother who came over with a key to let me into the chapel. There was also a nice barn and old windmill nearby.
Later, I made it to Harlan in time to catch the tail end of a Father’s Day cookout with my friends Dennis and Linda who, beginning with my first visit to Iowa in 2004 have brought me to many good sites. After supper, we – me, Dennis, Linda and some of their family – got into two pickup trucks and toured the county chasing a few more places to shoot before dark.
June 19th, 2011
I spent a long day checking out the city of Omaha, Nebraska with my friend Mike, who I met in the small town of Chadron, Nebraska two years ago while I was returning from Montana and he and his gang were on their way to Sturgis, North Dakota for the annual, massive gathering of bikers. Mike escorted me around Omaha in his shiny black Hummer. We photographed the flooding Missouri River at the Mormon Bridge (I-680 crossing from Iowa into the northern part of the city), a steel fabricating plant, the decaying Burlington Rail Station, and enjoyed the new TD Ameritrade Park baseball stadium for part of the College World Series game between Texas and Florida.
June 18th, 2011
Today I drove from Grinnell to West Des Moines to deliver prints for my show that opens July 22 at the Olson-Larsen Galleries (http://www.olsonlarsen.com/exhibits.cfm). Then I headed west on I-80 for Omaha. Part way there, I got off I-80 in favor of the gravel roads through Guthrie County, which I have always found one of the most beautiful counties in Iowa. Eventually, I got back on the interstate and crossed the flooding Missouri River into Nebraska. When I arrived at my friend’s house, interesting storm clouds were forming, but the storm passed by with only a few raindrops.
June 17th, 2011
This morning I hiked through wooded and steep hills that form one of several large pastures my friends Barney and Suzanne use for grazing their cows. It was much harder work than I anticipated: the ground was soft from so much rain, the long grass provided lots of resistance, and the steep slopes and 85 degree sun added to the challenge. The cows kept a significant distance between themselves and me, so most of the time I felt pretty alone in this peaceful, pastoral setting. There was an odd intrusion, however, for part of my hike – the sound of cars and trucks on Interstate 80 which this land abuts on its northern boundary.
After my hike I headed southwest to check out two tiny towns someone recently suggested (Tracy and Attica) and stopped in Oskaloosa at Big Ed’s BBQ for a delicious sandwich. I didn’t find anything in the towns I wanted to photograph, but driving back to Grinnell saw an old farmstead and photographed the two barns I’ve included here.
Had a delightful dinner with my friends Jon and Karin and one of their daughters. We ate on their deck which overlooks Rock Creek Lake. Observing the view on this warm almost-summer evening, it was difficult to imagine that on my last visit we hiked across the frozen, snow covered lake in bitter cold Iowa wind. For dessert we had Cool Whip, with fresh berries hidden somewhere at the bottom of the bowl. It seems that this family, from whom I’ve learned so much about locally grown, and healthful, organic eating, and community supported agriculture, consumes Cool Whip by the ton. They buy it in 80 gallon drums! OK, I’m exaggerating, but I really got a kick out of discovering this family secret.
June 16th, 2011
Today I didn’t shoot much. Instead I spent the entire day visiting friends in and around Grinnell. Breakfast with my dear friends, Howard and Sue, with whom I have stayed for some part of 9 of my 11 Iowa visits. Next was lunch at The Phoenix with Jon Andelson, the Director of the Center for Prairie Studies at Grinnell College with whom I have worked since 2005 when we successfully won a grant from the Iowa Arts Council to support my project here. The Phoenix is a wonderful restaurant in Grinnell with a black bean soup that was out of this world. Next I found Harley McIlrath in his office on the Grinnell campus and left with a copy of his recently published book, Possum Trot, an evocative collection of his stories about life on his family’s nearby farm and about growing up in Iowa.
The rest of the afternoon I hung out with Barney and Suzanne and their adorable, just-turned 3 year old son Gabe at their farm south of Grinnell. Quite a few of my photographs – of the feed wagon, the barn, the scenic rolling hills that comprise the farm – have been taken here, but today I photographed only the new farm hand as he enjoyed mud puddles from last night’s heavy rain, tormented the dogs and chased the cats.
Supper back at Howard and Sue’s featured grilled steaks from Howard’s own Texas Longhorns – always a great treat that any regular visitors to this farm look forward to.
June 15th, 2011
I left Maquoketa this morning and quickly found a deteriorating farmhouse, included here. The gnats were tormenting me again so I worked as quickly as possible. The church rising from the hill made a nice frame for the red-winged blackbird swooping by in the foreground.
I stopped for lunch at a favorite restaurant in Iowa City (Z’Mariks Noodle Cafe) and walked around town in the strong but comfortable breeze (and to get another Starbucks iced coffee). Drove west on I-80 for a while but lost interest with the interstate as I usually do here, and drove the rest of the way to Grinnell on Highway 6. Stopped at the Ladora Bank (that I first photographed in 2004 prior to its rebirth) hoping to find that the bistro there was still in business – and it is.
I arrived at my friend’s house outside of Grinnell and settled in. This has been my base in Iowa for all my trips since 2005. It will be nice not to unload all my gear each night only to return it to the car in the morning. We took a drive to the pond hidden back in the cornfields surrounding the farm and fished for bass and sunfish. I came up with an empty hook, but others with me did much better! I also learned this evening that applying vanilla (as in extract) will keep the gnats away. I haven’t tried it yet, but I will as soon as the gnats figure out where I’m hiding.
June 14th, 2011
I try to get to Iowa twice a year. Because of back troubles over the past year, it’s been 16 months since I’ve been here. This morning, as I cruised with my windows down along a small highway and then dusty gravel roads, it really hit me how wonderful it was to be back. The unique landscape, the friendly people, and the opportunity to see and photograph beautiful farms and towns, rivers and fields, reminded me again, how fortunate I am. Read the rest of this entry »
June 13th, 2011
I started my day in Prairie du Chien, then made a big loop north along the Mississippi River (visited Lock and Dam #9) to about 24 miles south of La Crosse. From there I headed east into the very hilly country of Crawford County – lots of trees, small rivers and creeks, and numerous farms with happily grazing cows. In the tiny town of Seneca I was thrilled to find a bar open and serving lunch (rare for a Sunday)! I wandered south and east, then took a county highway west back to Prairie du Chien. From there I crossed the Mississippi into northeastern Iowa and revisited McGregor, a favorite town that I last visited in 2005. Waited patiently (sort-of) for the light rain to stop so I could photograph the huge grain elevator there. Read the rest of this entry »
June 12th, 2011
Today began on a disappointing note – 3rd consecutive day of heavy overcast and extraordinarily uninspiring light. However, I came across a stunning 1874 country church about 5 miles south of Mineral Point and a house from 1834 that was once a stagecoach stop. I met Sandy, a painter who is using the church as her studio and gallery. The grey light was reasonable for photographing these buildings. Lots more driving through this southwest part of Wisconsin that the glaciers failed to visit, thus steeply rolling hills, winding roads and lots of cows grazing in lush green pastures. In the later part of the afternoon the clouds finally started breaking up, and at about 6:00 the sun came out. Around 8:00 I found my 3rd country church of the day – Castle Rock Lutheran, perched high on a hilltop overlooking Hickory Grove. With the assistance of thousands of maddening gnats I photographed the church before heading west for Prairie du Chien for the night.
Read the rest of this entry »
June 11th, 2011
My plan for yesterday was to head north from my starting point in Darlington, WI. I didn’t get very far in that direction before I was rerouted south on the suggestion of a maintenance guy I met at the Lafayette County Courthouse. He sent me to Hazel Green, WI, with the suggestion that, along the way, I go see an old concrete silo that has been converted into a lighthouse. I was intrigued – couldn’t imagine much of a need for a lighthouse in this part of Wisconsin [see photo below, even though you probably can't see the deck furniture in it!]. In Hazel Green I met and photographed Stephen Symons at his Auto Center (aka old Texaco filling station). He sent me east to New Diggings which didn’t offer me much to photograph, but the people I talked to in the bar there sent me further south to Council Hill Station, Illinois. I was there taking pictures until around 7:30 when I decided to go see Galena, IL (even further south), since everyone I spoke to that day also mentioned it. After a nice Mexican dinner I headed back north for a motel in Platteville, WI, only to discover that all the rooms in town were booked because of a quilting convention. (I hadn’t had phone reception or internet for a day and a half – thanks AT&T – and therefore had no way of knowing this in advance.) So, I drove 24 miles back east to the motel in Darlington where I had started 14 hours earlier.
Here are some photos from my trip. Read the rest of this entry »