In this hectic world of parenting, full time jobs, and everyday life we need to find the time to do what charges us. We all know what it is for each of us. For some, it is a visit to the library. Others enjoy a simple couple of hours at a coffee shop. For me it is photography. I enjoy sharing it, I enjoy learning about it, and I enjoy doing it.
When Corky Heller had mentioned to me about making it out to the group photography outing, loving called FYBO (Freeze Your Butt Off) at the Maxwell State Wildlife Refuge (http://kdwpt.state.ks.us/KDWPT-Info/Locations/Wildlife-Areas/Region-4/Maxwell); I wanted to go. We had made the trip to McPherson, Kansas a couple of years ago. I came back a little chilled, but with some cool images of Bison and Elk roaming the prairies of Kansas.
[Elk at Sunrise - Maxwell Wildlife Refuge]
That day, this one rolling rope cloud was the only cloud in the sky. The day turned bright and was not the greatest for some of the wide shots that I had envisioned.
[Bison with Snow Geese - Maxwell Wildlife Refuge]
Thankfully some geese took to the sky and provided some background interest for this one. Anyway, the time came closer this year and I was not settled on taking the time off from work to go. I have so much to do. Should I save the time for later in the year? My wife answered this for me and suggested that I should just go. It was more of a statement than a suggestion. So, with time off approved, I set up the arrangements with Corky.
Corky had mentioned going to see one of his friends in south-central Kansas for some scenic Kansas photos. I headed out of Kansas City, south to Emporia. A short hour and half later, I was in my old town of Emporia. I wonder back to memories of the town as I drive through. We loaded up in Corky’s car, and headed out to get something to eat. I had stopped in at Radius Brewing (http://radiusbrewing.com) before and knew they had some excellent micro-brews, and the food was good too.
I ordered the Pastrami with chicken dumpling soup and red slaw. Let me tell you, the meat had a nice tang that danced on the tongue. Coupled with the homey taste of the velvety soup… I was nice and toasty and happy by the time I was done eating. Chad Swift, the General Manager, stopped by the table to see how the food was and to chat for a bit. I’ll have to go back just to see them… and spend some more time with the camera.
[Pastrami on Rye with Chicken Dumpling Soup and Red Slaw]
We headed south through the plains, wondering closer to our goal of Sedan, Kansas. While on our way, we talked about seeing a place I had never made it to. Teter Rock in Teterville, Kansas. Now understand, the rock exists but the town has long since disappeared. We looked at the sky with the broken clouds and shafts of light… and knew that they were leaving. Our perfect, dramatic sky was falling apart. Such as life. Make the plans, get it all put together, and have them not be the way you wanted. MAKE THE MOST OF IT.
We arrived at Teter Rock to clear blue skies. The rock stands some 15 to 20 feet tall, but against the short prairie grass and the expansive sky it could not compete. I had nothing of scale to show the size of the rock. I had hoped the cattle or wild mustang horses would have been near the rock to give some perspective to the scene. Just short grass and big sky.
I shifted my view to a lone tree that was standing defiant against the cold winter wind. The strength of these trees, to withstand winds and ice and snow and winds… did I mention that the wind blows here. A LOT! I slid down to the grass and could smell the dust from the grass rise to my nostrils. Annoying, but somehow reminding me of days as a kid running around pastures and flipping rocks to see what was underneath.
[Lone Tree with Teter Rock]
We continued south and found our way to Corky’s friend, Ricky Butts. What a great host! It is so much fun to find another person who is so enthusiastic about photography. We stayed at the Quivira Boy Scout Camp in our sleeping bags and on some of the most comfortable bunks I think I have ever slept on. (It may have been that I was exhausted by the time we went to bed)
We got up just before dawn and ran down to the lake. The sun was just starting to light the clouds on the horizon.
[Early Red Clouds - Quivira Boy Scout Camp- Sedan, KS]
The frost had formed on the grass as we stood by the lake. The white on the tan colors made them stand out as wands pointing to the sky. In just a matter of minutes, the colors shifted and changed. The blue of the sky fighting the red of the clouds. The lake was waking with the sound of waterfowl. I am so glad we had permission to be there.
[Private Lake - Quivira Boy Scout Camp - Sedan, KS]
As the clouds disappeared and the sun rose, we continued our journey. Amazing what three people with creative eyes can see. Ricky escorted us to an old house that was just amazing. The hand-laid stone, placed in the days of hard work and scraping a living from the land. The chinks in the rock, from chisel and hammer. You can see the quality of work. The sweat. This was from the time of harshness. When things mattered. An now, time, weather, and lack of use has started to claim it.
[Stone Farmhouse - Chautauqua County, KS]
We said our good-byes to Ricky, and head back to Emporia. Corky had said that “Doc” Duane Henrickson wanted to come with us to the tour of Maxwell Wildlife Refuge. We hurried back to town (pit stopping for some roadside pizza and a cheese burrito that mostly ended up on Corky’s shirt), and loaded up. The three of us headed to Mcpherson. Once into town, the hotel was the first order of business. Bags unloaded in the spitting rain and now for dinner.
We met several of the photographers who would also be making the trip out in the morning at a local BBQ place. A quick buffet meal, and we headed back to the hotel. We noticed the white “castle” standing against the dark, wet night. The McPherson County Courthouse loomed in the night. We all three thought it a good stop before the hotel.
[McPherson County Courthouse]
We headed back to the hotel. The night found me and Doc talking about Lightroom, editing, and work flow. Corky zonked out and got the better rest out of the three of us. The morning came with spitting sleet, snow, a little rain, and lots of wind. We headed out into the pre-dawn darkness. Soon, our headlights joined into the stream of cars pulling toward the Maxwell. Wet sand and gravel mixed with clay made the muddy road slap against the bottom of the truck. The lot was almost full. What a great turnout! The FYBO (Freeze Your Butt Off) tour of Maxwell would have two trams pulled by trucks, and the trams would be full. Jims Griggs (https://www.facebook.com/griggsjiml) coordinated the FYBO tours and had a great showing. He has been shooting out there for years, and as he says, has the staff pretty well trained to know what photographers need and want.
The morning was completely socked in with clouds, and the sleet started in as we were loading up. The trams rattled across the gravel and up into the hills surrounding the headquarters. Soon, the elk and bison were here, drawn in by the sound of the vehicles. A couple of trucks with supplemental feed had pulled up, and the animals knew what that meant. Don’t get me wrong, these are full on wild ungulates. They do not get petted. They do not take food from the hands of small children at a fence. These are still very much wild ranging animals. Safety was the main concern around the bison, as they go where they want without much impunity. Where does the bison roam? Wherever it wants.
[Bison in the Snow - Maxwell Wildlife Refuge - Canton, KS]
The elk and bison really don’t mix well. The bison tend to be the more pushy and bossy of the two.
[Bull Elk in Snow - Maxwell Wildlife Refuge - Canton, KS]
After a snow and sleet filled morning, we headed into Canton for a quick breakfast. After fueling up, we slid north toward Lindsborg, Kansas. I was wondering if Jim Richardson would be at his gallery (Small World Gallery). We also talked about the old flour mill that was on the river there. As we drove the highway, I noticed how the snow had shifted to a cold rain. The depth of tones in the prairie when it is wet amazes me. Everything gets richer. Lichens pop with greens and yellows. The layers of brown become tangible. Stones breath with depth.
[The Old Mill - Lindsborg, KS]
[Brick Streets of Lindsborg - Outside of Small World Gallery - Lindsborg, KS]
We did not get to see Jim as he was out of the gallery that day, so we headed to another Kansas landmark that I had not been to. I had heard people talk about Coronado Heights, and had never been able to make it there. With just a couple of miles out of Lindsborg, we were soon there.
[Coronado Heights - Lindsborg, KS]
Built in the 1930’s with the WPA project, the castle is an interesting native stone structure on top of a large hill. The inside surprised me. It reminded me of a medieval castle. Two large tables and a fireplace in the corner… this would be a great shelter! It just needed a couple of tapestries and a couple of large Irish wolfhounds for it to be a kings dining hall.
[Coronado Heights - Main Room - Lindsborg, KS]
Corky had trudged by in the rain, heading to the truck, and told me I needed to check a view. He pointed me in the direction, and I set out with my 15mm fisheye lens and tripod. I walked over, saw the lichen… the rolling hills… the rolling clouds. This was a great Kansas view.
[View from Coronado Heights - Lindsborg, KS]
The three days had been long. I was tired of driving, but the photographic finds were keeping me charged. This is what I find as my recharging station. The challenges of getting a good exposure. Figuring out if I should shoot HDR, wide, close, macro, tripod, hand-held… those problems are fun for me.
I think we all should find our recharging station. Most of us know what it is for each of us… the main thing is to take the time.