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Smalltown USA

I grew up in a very small town in Michigan. I didn’t think much of it while growing up until I moved out here to the DMV area (Washington DC, Virginia, Maryland). It was then that I realized how tiny my area is and how rural it is. I do enjoy going back to visit but I could never live there again. My parents are still there so I do end up in Michigan 2-3 times a year. I wish it was more but alas, life.

The kids and I were there for Christmas this past week. I did not have very much time for photography and didn’t have any time to get out and hike. There are a couple of small trails I try to go to while there but just didn’t have a chance. My father is not quite home bound but he can’t walk for very long and uses a walker. It does make me sad because the love of the outdoors was instilled in me by my father. He used to always go for walks – long ones. There are train tracks near the house and he’d walk down those any chance he got.

The photos I took this past week are rural photos. They showcase the county where I grew up and the history.

First, THE Polar Express. The Pierre Marquette 1225 Steam Engine was the model for the movie The Polar Express. Each year, you can buy tickets to ride it from my hometown up to another small town where they have a Christmas village. They try to make your experience like the movie so they have bells and hot chocolate. It runs right past my parents’ house so I always try to get a photo of it. I am incredibly happy with my photos this year and am featuring one below. I just ordered a large metal print of this and am excited to receive it.

train smoke bw 2
Pierre Marquette 1225

As I was out driving around, I came across what I thought was an old chapel or church. I did some research and found out it is actually one of the first schoolhouses in my county. It was built around 1849 for $166. I love that fact. $166… the money was from the taxes. I found out it is privately owned. If I would have had more time, I might have called the people and asked to photograph the inside. In all my years growing up, I had never seen this.

schoolhouse
Dewey Schoolhouse

I really enjoy photographing barns. In the right setting, they can be beautiful. And one thing is for certain, there are numerous beautiful barns in Michigan. I had read about an octagon barn in the area and really wanted to see it. Like a dork, I had driven the wrong direction and missed it. My sister stopped in to see me and said, “Hey! I know of a barn you might want to take pictures of.” and told me about the same barn. She told me exactly where to find it and I took off. I have to say it is a wonderful barn. The country roads near me are often empty so I was able to park and take as many pictures as I wanted. I took many barn photos on my trip but this one is my favorite.

octagon barn
Octagon shaped barn in Shiawassee County, Michigan

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with the photos I took. I really wanted to get to a Wildlife Management area while there but, as mentioned, I ran out of time. Note to self: Save up more vacation hours. I feel like I was truly able to capture the feel of my county. Wide open fields. Barns. Bare trees in winter. I’m going to share one last photo below. I saw this tree with shoes hanging from it. It felt very random because there is nothing near this tree. Maybe a farmer in the area started it? No idea but it was humorous.

shoe tree
Shoe Tree

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Outside with my Son

If you have read my site regularly you’ll know that I have had issues getting my son to get outside with me. He always loved to go hiking and exploring with me and then this past spring he announced that he didn’t like it at all and only went with me to make me happy. While it is sweet he wanted to make me happy – it also stung.

Last weekend we had a free afternoon. His soccer game got canceled so I announced to him that he was going with me outside and that was it. He couldn’t say no. He said, “Okay.” and gave no other argument. I feel like that is a small win. I didn’t have big hiking plans. I honestly wanted to get outside, take some photos, and wander around. Some of our most fun times have been when we just wander from spot to spot.

Cows

Mooooooo

We ended up at Sky Meadows State Park in Delaplane, VA. We’ve been here a few times and I promised him he could go fishing at the pond. We first stopped and visited the cows. I like cows and think they are funny creatures. I wasn’t too successful and getting them to moo as I usually am but it was fun taking their photos. We headed down a nearby path and honestly, we turned around. It was boring even to me (I had thought it was a different trail). This is what happens when you’re so confident and decline a map.

Strolling in Fall

Walking the trail

We decided to drive to a different portion of the park. If you leave the main area and go back to the road, you turn left and there is an old farm across the road with more trails. It is called the Lost Mountain area. We parked there and headed down a path. I guess if I really wanted a nice, pleasant walk I would return to this trail. It was flooded from all the rain and muddy. That really wasn’t an issue but it made it difficult to walk and, again, not much to see. So we turned back, again. I will make a note, though, to return and hike to the top of Lost Mountain.

black white barn

The old barn

I took photos of the barn and we headed across so my son could go fishing at Turner Pond. As we drove up, a man was taking photos of a large bass he had just caught. That gave us hope that he would also catch something similar. So we fished. And fished. And moved around. The older man kept catching fish and we caught nothing. But it was a lot of fun trying.

Fishing at Sky Meadows State Park

Fishing at Turner Pond

Again, we wandered down a trail that is marked as the start of a 5K. I was more interested in the barns behind the trail and wanted to see if I could get a good photo of them.

small barn

The larger barns were nice but I preferred this

As I headed back, my son was on one of the ParCourse things (sections along a trail that allow for exercises). He was trying to balance on a pole and I finally saw glimpses of the boy who really loved the outdoors. He yelled at me, “Quick! Take my picture!” He reminded me of a photo I took years ago at Scott’s Run Nature Preserve where he wanted to “meditate in nature”. I was more than happy to take his photo. We ended up exploring and wandering for about 1.5 hrs and that satisfied me. I love spending time with him outside and seeing how excited he gets. I don’t think he realizes how much he likes it. He commented that the sun was too hot and he didn’t enjoy that. And so perhaps as it cools down he’ll be more open to going with me.

david one with nature

Inside he is telling himself not to smile and let me know how much fun he’s having. haha

If you haven’t visited Sky Meadows State Park in Virginia, definitely put it on your list. The views are beautiful. They have wonderful trails and you can hike on the Appalachian Trail.

Wandering Around

August has literally flown by… I can’t believe that it is almost September. I sound like my mom right now. She always is commenting how fast time goes and I usually agree with her. But August was something else… I guess having two Spartan Races, a family party, with just one free weekend does make the month go by lightning fast.

I had two photo shoots scheduled for this past weekend. The weather forecast changed by the minute and I ended up re-scheduling both of them.  And, of course, the weather turned out perfect for both time slots I had scheduled.  Incredible.  It did leave me with free time yesterday.  I’m still struggling with getting my son to want to do anything outside of the house. I have attempted a few things: beach, exploring, fishing, taking a friend… nothing works.  I try very hard to not be offended or hurt…but I honestly still am. Since he wanted to stay home, I gave him a list of chores to do while I was gone.  I supposed I could force him to go but then we’d both be miserable. One of the issues I have with leaving him home is that I don’t like to go anywhere I don’t have service.  That means no hiking in Shenandoah or Sky Meadows State Park or other close areas. So… I drove around.

I put 90 miles on my car yesterday. I stopped at a few favorite spots but they didn’t produce too much in the way of photos.  And then I found country roads in Loudoun County that were just blissful. I thought I would find random barns (I found a couple) but instead I think I found where all the wealthy horse farms are in Loudoun.  The pastures were just amazing.  I found an area where at least 15 goldfinches had taken up residence. I drove past a milkweed plant with butterflies galore.  I saw cows and horses and fawns. Because it was a one-lane, dirt road, I basically could stop anywhere to take photos. Only once did a truck come down the road which left me scrambling to try and move my car out of the way.

Eventually, I grew tired and decided to finally go home. I was gone for 4.5 hrs and while I didn’t have a ton of photos to show for it, I did have peace of mind. I had calmed down and wouldn’t return home angry and hurt (well, still a little hurt). I was glad to see so much open space in the south-western part of Loudoun County.  There is a new county plan and it really doesn’t allow for much green space. The focus is on building, building, building and growth.  I do hope that the protest and comments people are providing will cause them to re-think the plan and keep these open spaces.

These area a few photos from my day.

white barn bw

Barn along a country road

pink wildflowers

Wild Phlox

dragonfly on lotus flower

Dragonfly on white water lily

 

Small Town, Michigan

Over Thanksgiving I traveled home to be with my parents for Thanksgiving. I enjoy taking my camera and seeing what I can discover while I am there.  I had a list of places I wanted to go for photos and I made it to almost all of them.

One plan I had was to photograph some of the dams that make up part of the Shiawassee River.  This river flows through my town and there are various dams along its path. I had originally wanted to photograph a few of these.  I was able to accomplish… one.  Sometimes when I’m home there just isn’t enough time.  But the afternoon I arrived I bugged my dad to show me where one of the nearby dams was and we headed out there even though it was cold.

This particular dam is in Corunna, MI.  From the photo you can see the cement portion of the previous dam. There used to be a mill at this location and that is what is left.  Apparently, in the summer, they will be re-doing this whole dam and removing it. Instead, they will be placing large boulders.  To me, that sounds good because I imagine it will cause a cascade-type effect which would be far prettier to photograph.  I did not make it to other Shiawassee Dams but maybe I will in the future. Another item on my list was barns. I was told that barns sell well at shows and so I had a plan.  Thankfully, there are numerous bars around my hometown.  I took photos of a bunch while my daughter drove.  A few didn’t turn out as good as I would have hoped but I got one that is perfection. Funny enough, I shot it with my phone. I hadn’t grabbed my camera yet and I couldn’t pass it up.  I’ve already sold two prints of it.

 

 

 

 

I also wanted to photography my downtown.  Owosso is a quaint town that has seen a bit of a revitalization as of late.  There are now some really cute shops and one fantastic coffee place.  Fosters Coffee has some of the best coffee I’ve had anywhere.  At this visit I simply got a white mocha latte. The best part is it isn’t overly sweet (like some places). The flavor is subtle and you still have the richness of the Espresso. We took our time to support Small Business Saturday in town and I loved taking photos of the architecture.  Much of it has remained unchanged since the early 1900s.

 

 

 

 

On Thanksgiving we headed to my brother’s house in Holland, MI.  After sufficiently stuffing ourselves with incredible food we headed to Mt. Pigsah. I had never climbed this “mountain” so I was excited. It consists of 239 steps and once you reach the top you can see Lake Macatawa to the east and Lake Michigan to the west. There is a trail that continues through the area but we did not have time to take it.  We, instead, headed to Holland State Park to see the sunset.

 

 

The wind was whipping pretty hard at the beach. It wasn’t long before I couldn’t feel my face or fingers. I had hoped the sky would clear a bit for the sunset and instead it cleared completely. And while that is nice, it does mean less drama. I took photos of the Harbor Light (Big Red) and the golden tones on the beach. I felt pretty happy with my advancement of my photography skills to take some cool longer-exposure shots of the sunset. I wasn’t quite sure how they would turn out but I am pleased with them.  When we finally got back to the car, my whole body was frozen (keep in mind the temperature was only about 44 so it wasn’t even that cold. Yes, I have lost all ability to survive Michigan winters).

 

 

 

 

The last item on my list was The Polar Express.  You may wonder about that because don’t a bunch of cities have rides on trains that they call The Polar Express? Yes. However, none of those are actually on the very train used as the model for the movie The Polar Express. That steam engine lives right in my hometown and can be classified as THE Polar Express.  The last time I tried to photograph the train I failed miserably. I didn’t know what I was doing so I was excited to try again.  Because we missed the morning trip, we headed down to the train depot around 5:00 pm.  The sun was setting so this makes for a difficult shoot.  Low light and fast train.  I found a good spot to set up my tripod until a vehicle came and parked right in front of it.  Words were exchanged and it was declared that I owned that whole parking lot so they eventually moved.  The trail started and I shot off a bunch of photos hoping at least one would be good.  After it left the station I hopped back in the car and raced back to my parent’s house.  Please note that “raced” is a liberal term I applied to going 22-25 mph behind a car that was going the exact place as me and there was no way to get around them.

We got to the train tracks down the street and I jumped out, ran across to a brush area, and had just enough time to pop my camera on the tripod before it flew past us.  I felt pretty confident about these photos because I had positioned my car to shine its headlights on the train.  I’m pretty pleased with a few of the photos.  Next time, I will take a large light and only be at the tracks down the road and have someone shine the light as I take photos (or, you know, catch the morning train when there is light).

 

 

Overall, it was a great trip.  I love my photos.  I think that I really captured my hometown and the rural area where I grew up.  If you’d like to see all of my photos please click on the link below.  Prints area available (just comment here if you’re interested).