David Ottenstein PhotographyDavid Ottenstein Photography


The Drive to California

November 10th, 2011

We had some challenging driving between Denver and Grand Junction Colorado, especially in the ski areas near Vail. Arches National Park was amazing and the 6 inches of snow that fell as we drove to the Grand Canyon produced a spectacular setting for photographs. At Noah’s repeated urging, I persevered on our 6 mile hike on ice, snow, then mud, down the Bright Angel Trail 3 miles into the Grand Canyon (and back to the rim 5.5 hours after we started).

The following photos are from my always-in-my-pocket iPhone until I have time to edit my real pictures.


near Vail, CO

Utah landscape

Arches National Park

Monument Valley, Utah

Monument Valley, Utah

Grand Canyon

me at the Grand Canyon

On My Way Home

June 25th, 2011

After almost a month, I am on my way home. The final leg of my trip is central Pennsylvania. I was out shooting today with Bill Coleman (http://www.amishphoto.com/gallery.htm). As we always do, we enjoyed sharing stories of our experiences photographing, comparing technique and approaches and discussing light. We went to some of our usual locations and explored some new roads and towns as well. A country church, a barn, a general store. An auto junkyard and a gorgeous clearing at the edge of the woods along a mountainy road.

By tomorrow evening I’ll be back in New Haven, ready to begin processing my pictures – in the darkroom and at the computer. Next step: begin to plan my next western trip.

Thiessen Farmstead

June 22nd, 2011

The Thiessen farmstead that I came across yesterday in Tama county was a pleasure to photograph. I first met Roger Thiessen who’s own farm is just down the road. He was busy working on one of the barns. He thought it would be OK for me to take pictures, but said I should really check with his son, Darren, who recently purchased this farm and would be back in a little while. Darren was as excited as I was about my photographing the place. He intends to demolish the house which he feels is too far gone to save. He’ll keep most of the other buildings, including the summer kitchen that he’ll let a friend renovate and use. Darren, like so many other farmers I’ve met in Iowa has a strong sense of history and proud awareness of the significance of the old farm structures. He’s invited me to stop back whenever I wish and photograph inside and out of any of the buildings.

Later that day I met Don Anderson who owns the land along Richland Creek that I have photographed repeatedly over the years. He, too, was pleased that I’ve been using his gorgeous piece of Iowa to make photographs. That morning, while taking pictures of a windmill (that I later realized I had photographed many times before), Gary Dolezal, spotting me from up the hill where he was working, drove down to see what I was up to. We had a long conversation during which he explained that he will be the last of four generations to farm this land. He has no children and his nieces and nephews who will inherit the land have no interest in farming. I hear this or a similar story quite often.

Perfect Day for Taking Pictures in Iowa

June 22nd, 2011

Heavy storms overnight produced a dramatic, fast moving, cloud filled sky this morning that lasted until sunset on this, the longest day of the year. I was busy racing around northern Poweshiek County and southern Tama County taking advantage of the exciting light and dramatic clouds. I was reminded why I love being in this place so much – the varied green landscape of fields of young corn, soybeans just emerging, and hay interspersed with uncultivated waterways can be simply breathtaking. Richland Creek, where it crosses G Avenue in Tama County, is one of my favorite spots to photograph in Iowa. The landscape there was posing for me today, just as it seems to do almost anytime of year I stop by to shoot. A creek, an old barn, cornfields, a fence, pasture, and usually a group of cooperative cows – all the elements I need for capturing Iowa. Here it is in February 2010 and again today.

I also found a really nice farmstead southwest of Tama and spent almost 3 hours photographing inside and outside the farmhouse and numerous out buildings. More about that tomorrow. Below are a few of the hundreds of landscapes I shot today.

On to Grinnell

June 21st, 2011

This morning after breakfast in Hamlin with Dennis and some local farmers, including a man who demolishes old farm buildings (!) for part of his living, I proceeded on back roads to make my way to Grinnell while hunting photo opportunities. The gravel roads were very soft and sometimes treacherous because this part of Iowa got another 2 or more inches of rain the previous night. I was out early, and the sky, still boiling with clouds from the storm was quite dramatic.

I spent much of the day in Guthrie County again and found some nice landscapes. Finally got back to the farm outside of Grinnell around 4:00pm.

Long Road from Omaha to Grinnell

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.

Floods, Steel and Baseball

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.

Iowa Landscape

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.

Hiking with Cows

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.

Visiting Day

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.