Archive for the 'Illinois State Parks' Category

Fridays are Golden


140425_022_n1_p_e_1It has been a long week.  After work I moved some flower pots around the backyard and enjoyed seeing what prairie plants are popping up in my backyard.  Then for a little relaxation in the big chair in the living room.  Two episodes of Duck Dynasty to set the mood for the rest of the evening.  Grabbing camera I headed for Spitler Woods State Park.  The woodland flowers are coming up all over.  Bluebells, trout lily, dutchmans breeches, and red trillium are what you can see.

Not long before the sun set, I was looking for something that had the glow of the setting sun on it.  Most of the forest floor was in the shade.  Gold, I see.  Great light on the flower and background.  Getting the legs spread out to get my tripod on the ground, I lay down on the ground.  Then the unthinkable.  Coming down the trail are a mother and young son.  I just took all the effort to get down here and they show up.  I gave in and moved some and they gave in and walked around me.  I am grateful for that.

Back to the flower, getting out a reflector to add more light and time to capture light.  That is what photography is all about.  Capturing light.

Heading home, I put the canopy over the swing in the backyard.  I took it down for the winter.  Then I sat in the swing for an hour listening to all the sounds and spending some time reading a book on my phone.

The end of the week was great.  I found the pot of gold in several ways.  I hope you enjoy the one part I can share and I hope it brightens your day.

Short Time at Spitler Woods State Park

I took a short jaunt at Spitler Woods tonight.  The flowers are really popping out of the ground now.


I am not sure what the above plant is, but they were all over.  Soon, I will probably know when they start blooming.  As of now the only thing blooming is the Dutchman’s Breeches.  There are not many, and the cold had an effect on them, but they has started Spring at the park.


The weekend looks to be nice.  I am hoping to spend more time outside.  Going to spend time with family celebrating Christ this Easter.  I hope everyone’s weekend is full of Christ’s Blessings, family and friends along with some time to relax.

New Year for Heron Rookery

Heron Rookery View

Heron Rookery View

Every Spring I look forward to getting out to see nature coming to life.  There are several Heron Rookeries that I visit.  This rookery is a large on with over 160 nests.  It has maintained a constant size for the last few years.  Even though the rookery is a beautiful site, imagine the mess that over 300 birds can make.  Imagine when the chicks come along.  I am looking forward to the noise the chicks make when they are active.  Visit this page at “All about Birds”   and listen to the sound clip called “Begging Young at Nest”.  Now imagine over 300 of them squawking at the same time.  It is a sound you never forget.

Great Blue Herons Pairing Up at Nests

Great Blue Herons Pairing Up at Nests

Here is closer view of the herons at the nests.  They are paring up and soon will start mating.

Getting out there now allows the nests to be counted, as the leaves make it impossible to view all the nests.  Soon leaves will fill in the holes you see and only a few nests will be visible to the eyes.  The young will be born, and the parents will have their “Beaks” full taking care of the little ones.

Great Blue Heron Sitting in Tree

Great Blue Heron Sitting in Tree

For now it is the adults that I share in my blog.  Soon I will return, and a new generation will reveal itself.  I hope you come back to see more of my adventures with camera.

Remote Airplane Show

Saturday I visited Horseshoe Lake near Collinsville, IL on my way home from a trip.  It has been a place that has produced some nice bird images in the past, so I thought I would take a look.  The area has a road to drive around the lake with a levy you can drive on that bisects the lake.  There were plenty of people with fishing poles sitting along the bank.  I saw a kid catch a small bass and run from dad to grandpa to show off his catch.

Driving farther around the lake the smell of BBQ filled the air.  Families and groups were filling the air with a smell that summer brings.  I was hungry before I drove into the park,and this was making me hungrier.

I was about ready to give up on photography, since no birds were in sight, when I happened upon a group of gentlemen who had their own bird taking flight.  No these weren’t pet birds, these were remote-controlled airplanes.

Remote Control Airplane at Horseshoe Lake

Remote Control Airplane at Horseshoe Lake


Sitting on the ground I spent an hour tracking the planes in flight with camera.  I had never watched remote planes before and this was fun.  These guys were doing all sorts of things with these planes.

When things slowed down I went over and talked with one of the men.   He had been flying planes for a while.

R.C.'s plane at Horseshoe Lake near Collinsville, IL

Plane at Horseshoe Lake near Collinsville, IL

He had some stories to tell.  He told of some of the planes he crashed while learning to control these birds.  He mentioned that one of the motors is sitting out there in the lake.  It was a nice motor, but not worth much now.  I mentioned that it was cool that he had a pilot in his plane.  Not all the planes had pilots.  He mentioned he thought about switching pilots.  He had a crash dummy he thought about putting in there.  I told him he probably would had a tough time getting the dummy in the cockpit if he saw the way he flew the plane.  He got a smile on his face and a few of the others around gave a little chuckle.

He then told me about another place that people were flying planes.  A mile or two up the road was a field that some club members were playing around.  I decided to give it a visit.

Pulling into the parking area, I saw this was an official club site.  I was entering the grounds of the “Midwest Air wing R/C Club”.  More planes and some of them bigger.

Remote Control Plane Landing on Grass Runway at "Midwest Air Wing R/C Club"

Remote Control Plane Landing on Grass Runway at “Midwest Air Wing R/C Club”

After taking pictures for a while, I struck up a conversation with one of the members.  He had been around the club for some time.  He talked about his being involved years ago, and also that he used to own a hobby store that sold remote controlled planes.  After closing the store he took a rest from the hobby.  A year ago he got back into flying planes again.

This Plane Spent More Time Upside Down...

This Plane Spent More Time Upside Down…

He mentioned that last year there was a plane on the field with a 24 foot wingspan.  He talked about the different sized motors in the planes.

These guys were good at flying these things.  One fellow kept his plane upside down much of the time, while another liked going into near stalls.

Everyone was having a good time including me.  It was fun to take some pictures and ask a lot of questions about a hobby that was new to me.

Maybe another trip will be in future plans for a different kind of bird photography.



Grasshopper and Gold

Grasshopper and Goldenrod – Guzy Prairie – Shelby County, Illinois


Just north of the Findlay blacktop on the West side of Rt. 128 is a tract of land that is a pot of gold for photographers.  The site is called Guzy Prairie and in the summer will flourish in wildflowers.  A prairie so rich, but know by locals as the Shelby Weed Patch.  For those who drive by daily, in a hurry to arrive somewhere, this must look like a bunch of weeds.  But stopping, and looking around, a feast is in store for those who slow down.  Taking a camera can be rewarding even after the peak of wildflower display.  Goldenrod fills the area and as the picture shows, grasshoppers inhabit the land.  Every step you take sends dozens of hoppers to a new site to continue their quest of survival.  If you are patient and don’t move too fast, you may even have one sit and join you for  a photo session, rich in color and life.  If I would have taken more time, I would have found more to enjoy, I am sure.  Even 20-30 minutes is rewarding for those who see beyond the unmanicured site.  A pot of gold is hidden in plain site in a small weed patch in Shelby County, Illinois.

Young Buck – Lake Shelbyville

Buck In Velvet – Wolf Creek State Park – Lake Shelbyville, Illinois

Wolf Creek State Park, was the destination on Monday.  After photographing a few other places, I headed to one of the places you can always see deer.  Driving though the park, you can see them feeding in the prairie.  I came upon this one and pulled over to photograph it for ten minutes or so. Other people came along and watched as I photographed.   Heading on toward the boat ramp I left the buck behind.   There were a few people there standing around talking near the ramp.  I thought about waiting for the sun to set, and do some photography with the water, but I wanted to stop by and see someone before heading home.  Heading back out, I came across the buck again.  It was in the same spot grazing away.  Stopping again, I took a few more images.  Then I drove off letting it continuing to enjoy dinner.

It is always fun to watch deer.  When I started photographing them, I would have gotten out of the vehicle and tried to slowly approach it to get a better picture.  sometimes that works, but I find many times all it does is scare them away.  Sitting in my vehicle and using it as a blind let me and others after me become part of its world for a short time.


Shelbyville again

It sure seems like I am spending a lot of time at Lake Shelbyville.  I have spent more time there this last month that normal.  Last Saturday I went camping to give me more time to photograph around the lake.  Saturday night I arrived and drove my truck around to photograph deer.  There were many to be seen.  Just driving through the park on the main road you are almost guaranteed to see some.


There were a lot of does and some fawns.  There were even a few bucks to be seen.  This one was close to the campgrounds at Wolf Creek and I spent about ten minutes photographing this it.  The truck makes for a great blind.

After photographing the buck, I set up the tent and went into Findlay to eat at Stan’s Steakhouse.  Having a full belly and some nice pictures, it was time to head to camp.  Off to sleep it was.  Laying there listening to the sounds of nature, I heard the hoofs of a deer sliding around on the concrete fire pad next to the tent at one point.  The deer walk around the campground throughout the night along with raccoons and other critters.  Don’t leave a bag of potato chips out.  Been there and done that.  The raccoons love you for it and the sounds you hear are expressions of their gratitude while getting their fill.

Sunday morning I awoke to the sound of a pack of coyotes howling.  I love waking up to that song.  They did not last long, but they gave me the treat I hoped for.  It was up about thirty minutes before sunrise thanks to the coyote alarm clock.  Time to eat a snack bar for breakfast and off to look for more deer and there were more to be found.


Later on I looked toward making landscape images.  I walked down a small hill to the lake a little area that I will call the beach.  Right now the whole lake is a beach.  With the water being low there are some great beach shots to be found.  The lake is a feast for a photographer right now.  I hope when the leaves turn colors this fall, desert will be served.

Sitting on the sandy ground I shot away.  Changing compositions and moving around.  A treat in this image is the deer track in the lower left hand corner of the picture.


More towards noon I headed to photograph a small island in the lake.  This scene has given me several great images.  There is something about the island the attracts me.  Maybe someday I will take a trip out to it to explore it a little.  Hopefully I won’t get stranded 🙂

Yes the picture was taken around noon.  Lots of people would be disappointed with cloudy and drizzly weather.  I enjoy it.  It gives me the opportunity to photograph all day if landscape is the subject of the day.

_DSC8640_n_p_wOn the way home I stopped by some other places.  This one was at the end of the Old Depot Road.  This area would be fun to canoe.  This area and up river would produce great images.  The lake is still a little wide here, but you are getting into the up river area of the lake.  Things are more secluded here and it has the feeling of a backwoods area.  There were a lot of herons and egrets in the area, but they were to far away to photograph.  So I stayed with capturing landscapes.

Lake Shelbyville is unique for Illinois.  It has the feel and look of a more southern lake with the high banks.  Table Rock Lake and others like it have rocky cliffs for the banks.  Shelbyville has high banks made of dirt and sand.  When the water is low, there are rocks, and downed trees exposed to photograph.

The day was over and time to head home.  Who says you can’t play in the rain and not get wet.  The proof is in the pictures.

Fish Hook

I became a little restless this afternoon and went for a drive to Fish Hook.  Fish Hook is a wildlife management area on Lake Shelbyville.  Talking with the Corps of Engineers earlier this week there was a possibility of some shorebirds in the area.  I was hoping to photograph some, but no luck.  There were none to be seen.  It may have been the dove hunting on top of the hill had scared them away.  Also, the area had a large group of people down by the water talking and enjoying the sights.

Looking areound, the mud flats had a lot of shorebird tracks and some raccoon tracks also, so the area has been holding a lot of birds.  Hopefully I will have better luck next time.


 That being said, I worked with what was available.  The trees and scrub brush has always intrigued me the few times I have been here.  I wanted to take a walk down the bank, but the mud was really soft.  So I took some images from the area around the parking lot.  I talked with a some fishermen and a family walking some dogs.  They agree the area is a great resource for recreation.


 The sun had set behind the treeline and was starting to give off it’s photographers glow.  Reflections and rocks are always a plus.


Even the drive home gave up some beauty.  This was taken south of Sullivan near one of the marina’s.  The light was going fast, so I had to work fast to get this one.

This was a great way to end a three day weekend.

Monarch and Lake

 The backyard has not produced many butterflies this year.  I saw two monarchs one day a few weeks back.  They must have been productive.  Yesterday I was able to photograph this caterpiller.  I looked for it today and did not see it.  I will look again tomorrow. 

Monarch Larva in Backyard

I have been wanting to get out and do some landscape photography lately.  I took off for Lake Shelbyville tonight to see what I could find.  The water is still up from what I would like to see.  The trees along the bank that I wanted to photograph were still underwater.  I talked with a Consevervation Officer at one of the places I photographed and he said the place this lake picture was taken had just opened up.  The lake had been high enough that they had the gate closed to keep people out.

Walking the bank was fun.  The sand on the bank was still soft and gave way a few times.  The sounds were great to hear.  Only the sounds of nature and a boat only once or twice.  One of the other dirt boat launches I stopped at had one truck and trailer.  I imagine that is who I heard.


It seems like fall.  The weather is cool and great.  I love this kind of weather.  I will take this anytime of the year.  Keep it coming.