Archive for the 'Macon County Conservation District' Category

Ordinary Can Be Beautiful


The other day, I took some time to look for some deer trails at Rock Springs that were located close to a parking lot.  Deer frequent the area, and I was looking for a well used trail that would have great evening light.  The place I was investigating, may have good light a little later in the year.  The sun would have to come through some trees at an earlier time of day to also be the right angle for great lighting.  I hope to return soon and get some great images.

After scouting the area, I sat on a bench and watch the wetlands.  There was not much activity, but it was nice to get outside.  I had my camera, but had not really taken any pictures as of yet.

Suddenly, the light was starting to glow, and normal everyday grasses became interesting.  The grasses had the golden light of the last part of the day and the side lighting was giving them color, texture and depth.

Laying on the ground I lowered my tripod and waited for a lull in the breeze.  Click, Click, and Click again, the shutter was tripped.  I tried different compositions, and lens effects, to produce an image I am pleased to share.

It was a good day.  I found some trails for the future, that I would like to work.  I found some time to relax in the fall sun, and listen to the sounds of nature.  And I was open to seeing a treasure in an ordinary place.

Sometimes ordinary can be so beautiful.

Flashing with Flower Photography

This weather is great.  It reminds me of Fall (my favorite time of year).  Friday, it drizzled and Saturday it was perfect weather, great temps.

I spent an hour at Rock Springs with a flash taking pictures of flowers.  As I said above, I was flashing with flower photography.  Why use flash you say?  It was less than an hour before sunset and I was either in the woods, or at a wildflower garden with the sun hidden behind trees.  My shutter speed was anywhere from 2-3 seconds.  With the slight breeze going, I should have packed up and headed home.  With ambient light all I could get was unpleasing pictures of flowers with lots of movement.


Instead I broke out the flash.  Setting the flash off camera and putting a diffuser in front of  it, the small flash became a big soft light.  That makes great lighting.  I also put a silver reflector into the combination.


Photography is all about light.  You need light to create a picture.  The quantity and quality of light determines the type of picture you create.  In this case, the low light created a blur that was not worth setting the camera up to record.  Adding and controlling the light, brought a pleasing picture that was fun to take.

Maybe next time, I will add some other light and create more contrast on the flower.  Experimentation is the fun of playing with the camera.  Flowers and flash – what do you think?  Does it work?…

Waterlogged Chimney

We humans think chimneys and water don’t mix.  Nature tells us a different story.  This evening after work I spent some time at Rock Springs around the “Rodney Miller Wetlands”.    There was a lot of wind blowing, so I had to be selective.Crawfish Chimney in Wetlands at Rock Springs

Crawfish Chimney in Wetlands at Rock Springs

Walking along I almost stepped on it.  A chimney here in the middle of a wet field.  Crawfish dig in the mud to make their home.  Moving the dirt from underground they make balls of mud, stacking them around their exit to create a chimney.    Crawfish need to keep their lungs moist to survive.  Their home underground is flooded with water.  During a drought they will pull the chimney back into their doorway to seal it off and to help maintain water in the underground halls they make.

No smoke from this chimney, just an entryway to a flooded underground castle.

New Years Eve Day in the Snow

Happy New Years Eve to everyone.  Today I spent more time in the blind photographing birds.  I have been hoping for snow, and it came today.  Bundled up, I sat on a cooler (really) and waited for the action to happen.  After a few minutes the sparrows came in.  There are plenty of them around.  They can eat you out of house and home.  I took a few pictures of them while waiting for the birds I wanted to photograph.  I could hear them around me, but could not see them.  Cardinals were chirping and putting out their call.  It is a pretty sound they make.  Some people would not enjoy sitting in a blind, with the only comforts, a cooler to sit on and a soda pop to drink on a cold day.  For me, that is a whole lotta fun.  Soon the cardinals came in.  There were five at one time.  Everyone thinks of the bright red male cardinal, but the female is just as pretty.  She has softer colors.  They work really well with the snow as a background.  She is a soft, but eye-catching sight.

Female Cardinal and Snow

Female Cardinal and Snow

Soon, I could hear the Blue Jays.  Three or four would come in at a time.  The cardinals came in for the oiled sunflower seeds.  Blue Jays enjoy peanuts in the shell.  You don’t want to feed them the kind you buy at the grocery store that you enjoy eating.  You want raw and not roasted peanuts.  It was fun to see them land on the feeder and pick up a shell.  They would peck a hole in it most of the time.  I guess to see if it is full or empty.  Sometimes they would peck at it several times and it would sound similar to a woodpecker rapping on a tree.  Then they would put the whole peanut shell in their mouth and fly away.

Blue Jay in Snowy Bush

Blue Jay in Snowy Bush

As you can see the cardinals came back for more.  Thy would land in the bush next to the feeder and look around a little before hopping on down to the ground feeder.  The sound or the birds chirping and the sounds of their wings as the fly by are a great way to drift away from the schedule that fills my day.  Soon I hear what sounds like a hawk, but none of the birds scatter.  It must be a blue jay.  They will mimic a hawk.  Soon they are back with the sparrows, cardinals, chickadees, wrens and others fueling themselves with energy to stay warm tonight.

Female Cardinal Sitting in Bush with Snow

Female Cardinal Sitting in Bush with Snow

After spending a couple of hours in the blind, I headed to Rock Springs Nature Center   It was beautiful.  The snow blanketed the ground.  It would crunch as I walked the trails.  The sound of the woods in snow is quiet.  You will hear a bird once in a while, but silence is what snow brings.  First I headed to the old homestead.  During the warmer months they have people who give tours and talk about how people lived here.  There is no heat other than a couple of wood stoves.  I would guess they could keep it toasty in there.  A snowy day in a warm cabin sounds like fun.

Old Homestead on Snowy Day - Rock Springs Conservation Area

Old Homestead on Snowy Day – Rock Springs Conservation Area

Then I walked to the pine tree forest.  Seven deer ran across the path ahead of me.  I imagine they are the same ones I saw when at the homestead.  They were across the way at the pond.  They ran up the hill in the prairie.  Two of them stopped to watch me for a little while, and I watched them.  There was someone else with a couple of kids who enjoyed watching them also.  A minute or two went by and I was back on my way to the forest.

Survival Hut - Rock Springs Conservation Area

Survival Hut – Rock Springs Conservation Area

It was getting dark.  The sun had just went down.  There was this shelter in the middle of the forest.  Many times these are built by school children when they take group tours of Rock Springs  It is a teaching tool and the kids have fun.  I would be thankful to have a shelter like this if stranded somewhere, but I am really thankful for my nice warm home.

Playing in the snow is the best way to spend New Years Eve.  It made my day, and I had fun with the camera.  Have a Great and Blessed New Year.

A Trip To The Pond

Praying Mantis in Prairie at Rock Springs Conservation Area – Macon County Illinois

This morning I broke away to do more photography.  The temperature was great after all the hot days we have experienced lately.  The sun was out and very little breeze was blowing.  After driving around in my truck looking for some butterflies and not having any great luck, I pulled into Rock Springs Conservation Area.  As you enter the site there is prairie along your right side.  Stopping along the drive, I saw many dragonflies, but none would let me get close enough to photograph.  Then I saw a shadow on one of the grasses.  When I investigated, it turned out to be a praying mantis.  So the dragonflies were out and the mantis was in.  For about twenty minutes I photographed it.  I needed the time too, as the wind was blowing softly and to get a focused image, I had to be patient.  No problem there, I was here to relax.

Driving on, to another part of the site I parked my truck and took a short walk to one of the ponds.  Again, I was looking for dragonflies.  Again, they were everywhere.  I would sit in one spot waiting for one to come back to its perch.  Nothin doin, but that was ok.  I sat and listened to the birds and frogs sing their soft songs.  Listening to them, watching fish swim in the clear waters, and sitting in the sunlight was relaxation at it’s best.

Eastern Tailed Blue Butterfly Sitting Next To A Pond On The Mud At Rock Springs Conservation Area

Suddenly a little movement a couple of feet in front of me caught my attention.  There was this little bitty butterfly flying around landing close by.  Then there were two of them.  This is the first time I have seen this one.  They are common, but I have not done much macro in the past so I have not looked for them.  The Eastern Tailed Blue butterfly is only a half to three-quarter inches tall.  So camera comes off tripod and I am laying in the mud on my side a belly to photograph this one.  It looks like things are getting better after a slow start today.

After moving around some trying still to photograph some dragonflies, I was ready to go home.  I was sitting on the ground and less that two feet from my feet I noticed a Pickerel Frog sitting a foot from the waterline.  I have no idea how long it had been there as it blended in well.  Slowly I scooted closer and closer moving my tripod with me to make the frog look bigger in the picture.  This frog was great.  It sat there as I slowly moved closer and closer.  I spent maybe thirty minutes working this thing.

Pickerel Frog At Rock Springs Conservation Area

The frog at first seemed to be laughing at me.  It would open it mouth and nothing would come out.  Several times this happened before it calmed down.  Inching closer I captured more images.

Pickerel Frog At Rock Springs Conservation Area

As I started moving to get up and go home, I moved my tripod away from Pickerel.  He turned sideways, and was making it easy for me to get another angle.  Slowly I moved the tripod back into place, stretching the legs to make it sit lower.  I did not plan on spending this much time photographing and did not bring an extra memory card with me.  I had two pictures left on the card.  Time to start deleting some of the play around shots I took to adjust exposure earlier.  Now I have fifteen images available on the card.  That is all I needed.  Another view of the frog at the pond.

Pickerel Frog At Rock Springs Conservation Area – Macon County, Illinois

Not a bad day considering how it started out.  I was driving around looking for things to photograph.  Then changing things around, I went and sat next to a pond.  Soaking up the sights, sounds and sun, my photo subjects came to me.  Yes it was a good day.  After all this, enjoying nature, and relaxing, I then spent the evening at church praising the God who made the sights, sounds and critters that brought me joy today.

Flowers at the Roadside


Friday after work, I took some time to spend with my camera searching for some flowers to photograph.  Headed to one of the conservation sites to photograph along the road.  There were many flowers along this area with easy access.  There were photo ops all over.  Many were non-native including the lilies in the background.  I will be heading back soon.

By the way watched the International Space Station go overhead after dark.  Stopped by a friend’s house after photographing and he told me it was going to fly overhead.  I have heard people talk about it, but never saw it.  I will look for it again.  It was a treat.

Critter in Backyard

My small prairie patch in the backyard is showing all kinds of life.  I am not sure what this is, but it is interesting.

This summer should be full of some interesting subjects.  Some flowers have been planted already, but I purchased more last night.  We are putting in host plants for butterflies along with the nectar plants and also some Salvia for the hummingbirds.  More to come.