Tag Archives: photography

Photo Favorites: South Dakota

Although I have lived in South Dakota nearly all my life, before this summer I had only been out west to see our most famous attraction, and at that time I was so little that I didn’t even remember the trip.  So when the family went to Rapid City to visit our niece for her birthday, I made sure that the Lovely Wife, Little Guy, Baby Girl and I went to see The Shrine of Democracy at Mount Rushmore.

I don’t pretend that my picture is any greater than others taken, but seeing it in person makes the photo special for me.  Make sure to click on the full size version, so you can see the fissures and lines in the granite.

A visit is highly recommended as no two dimensional photo can really do it justice.  There are two things about the carving that I especially like.  Washington’s visage, stoic but determined, seems to me to capture what he must have been like as a general and president.  The other thing is Jefferson’s positioning.  Originally the faces were all supposed to be side by side, but the rock didn’t cooperate, which is why you see the staggered placement.  I think it adds something to Jefferson, though–looking out over Washington’s shoulder, seeing the possibility and potential future of the United States.

Worth the trip is also the Black Hills themselves, known to the Lakota as Paha Sapa.  It is easy to see how this would be considered sacred ground.

And of course, although not finished, be sure to visit the monument in progress depicting Tasunke Witko, better known as Crazy Horse (a better translation is His Horse is Spirited).  Crazy Horse Memorial is massive.  I am probably not the only one who wonders if it will ever be finished.

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Summer Dreams

Aberdeen, South Dakota

Image via Wikipedia

It’s not even officially winter yet, but I have found all these great pictures that had been seemingly misplaced in the digital ether.  I am already ready for summer already.  If you are from South Dakota or the near vicinity, you understand the redundancy of that last sentence.  Winter hits hard around her.  There isn’t always a crazy amount of snow, but typically once it is here, it is here for the long haul.  A few years ago we had our first snow on October 1, and the last one on April 30.  But more than the snow, it is always fairly cold, and verywindy.  If it weren’t for my great love of South Dakota springs and falls, I would have been outta here years ago.

I took this photo at Arnolds Park Amusement Park, Arnolds Park, IA, on 09/06/2009 according to the info on the picture–must have been the last weekend of the park season.  Insects don’t bother me too much (at least not as much as spiders), but I have noticed that the closer you get to them, the more grotesque they seem to become.  Not so with this dragonfly.  I think that all of his (her?) intricacies, colors, and symmetries make it quite beautiful.

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Found some old pictures and couldn’t resist sharing.

Seems like this is becoming a part time photograpy blog.  Oh well, I guess that is OK with me.  Here is a Canada Goose, Arrowhead Park, Sioux Falls, SD, May 2009

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For some reason I am having issues writing a post–

–so, for today here is another photo favorite.  Taken July 4, 2008, Arnolds Park, IA

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A Photo Favorite from My Camera

Moon as seen from Mt. Rushmore, August 2011

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So, it’s been awhile…

Just wanted to share this, if you read my post The Elusive Quest.  Well, I was able to make headway on one of the two quests that I mentioned:

Now, it’s not quite the resolution that I wanted, but it is a start.  I had almost given up.  Truth be told, the previous two sentences describe my other quest as well.  That is a story for another day.  Welcome back readers, if you are still there.

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Ch-ch-ch-changes

An interesting phenomena has come over me in the week since I have decided that I would devote more time to writing–suddenly I have nothing to say.  No blog posts, no journaling, no progress on the novel that I started, no tweeting even.  It is an odd feeling for someone who can easily punch out 500 words before my brain can even catch up.  Right now it seems I have to strain to even eke out more than a couple of sentences.

I think that perhaps it our nature as humans to resist change.  I remember the first time that I consciously remember what seemed to me to be a major life change.  The school that I first attended was a small parochial elementary school that was run by the Episcopal Church.  Originally it had been a boarding school for the daughters of Episcopal missionaries, and had opened in Dakota Territory a few years before statehood was granted to North Dakota and South Dakota.  Therefore, it was steeped in tradition.  I remember lining up to go to chapel every morning before classes started for the day.  We learned French starting in Kindergarten.  Class sizes were so small, that it was possible for students to move up or down a class for individual subjects to fit their educational needs.  There was an annual May Day celebration.  At the end of the year, the flag that flew near the school was presented to a graduating sixth grader. 

Beyond all those traditions, the actual buildings were beautiful.  They were built from pink quartzite blocks taken from local quarries.  The classrooms had hardwood floors.  The playground area was huge, and unlike most elementary schools, was covered in grass rather than asphalt.  The chapel had Tiffany stained glass windows, given as a gift to the bishop that had established the school.  Carved entryways and railings abounded.

The small class sizes that had been such an asset would turn out to be the undoing of the school.  Faced with declining enrollment and a lack of funds, the church made the decision to shutter the school.  My parents enrolled my sister and I to a well established Catholic School a year before the school that holds such a fond place in my memory closed for good.  The new school was of course a fine school in its own right.  Having a much larger enrollment coupled with a much larger Catholic presence in our community, there were more resources and opportunities at our disposal.  But somehow, the cinder block walls and vinyl floor tiling just seemed to make the place seem dystopian compared to what I had left behind.

The closed school remained empty for several years.  It wasn’t torn down, however, as the “Main Building” was on the National Historic Sites register.  Eventually additional buildings were erected and the campus was turned into a retirement community.  I visited the Main Building recently, and it is still so beautiful that it puts an ache in my heart,even though the change that took place was ultimately a good one.

When I think of the years that it took for the school to be repurposed, perhaps a week to take a break and access my transition from business man to writer doesn’t seem that out of line.  I realized today that not only had I not been writing, but my creative endeavours in the visual arts had come to a stand still as well.  No painting, no photography, no ideas, really.  So today I started to re-engage that creativity, as I think that creative energy flows into my writing.  My fascination with clocks, along with my appreciation for music led to this:

I know, Neil Diamond doesn’t sound like my normal fare.  A guilty pleasure.  In addition I got some modeling clay.  Lovely Wife can vouch for me being a champion Play-Doh sculptor, so I thought I would try my hand at something a little more permanent. 

Of course, anxiety plays a part in my hesitant transformation.  However, I think that the more that I am able to write and create, the more anxiety will dissipate. 

WEDNESDAY FUN: Our New Tenants

Photo credits on this one go to Lovely Wife:

Mama Robin set up shop next to an outdoor lighting fixture.  I can’t wait until her babies are born and hopefully get a good photo.

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Just Photos

 
We had a great Easter weekend, and I got some great photos as well.  For today, I thought I would just share some of those favorites.
 
 
This is an old tractor on my in-laws’ farm.  If you look at the tires you can tell it hasn’t been used in some time.
 

This is the cat hideout, formerly known as the chicken coop.  Sometimes I like photos with high color saturation, sometimes I don’t.  It usually doesn’t work out for me, but I thought this turned out well.

Wind vane with a beautiful blue sky as a backdrop.

A woodpecker at my sister’s house on Sunday.  I had to hurry before a squirrel chased him away.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures.

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What’s in a name?

Have you ever sat back and pondered if your name makes you part of who you are?  I once heard it said that the thing that people most like to hear is the sound of their own name. 

Growing up I would think about this.  I liked my name.  Ryan.  Even if others had the same first name, it branded me as an individual.  Although now it appears to have been gaining popularity when I received it in the 70’s, it still seemed unique enough to me growing up.  My middle name (I will only share my first, sorry) was more traditional, but it had meaning to me as a place in my family.  It was the same as my favorite uncle’s first name, and the middle name of both of his sons, my cousins.  For an adoptee, it tied me into a history of sorts.   Of course my last name created even more of an identity.  It officially made me part of a family, of a tradition.  Almost a reference point for my life.  It made me proud to share it with my family, as I am proud now that it is carried by my wife and children.

An interesting discovery for myself as an adoptee searching for my roots was the discovery of my name given to me by my biological parents.  In fact, learning my name was an impetus for making the search.  Originally I had petitioned the adoption agency for my medical and non-identifying information.  Part of the information that agencies give for non-identifying information is the adoptee’s original name (minus the last name, of course).  So, as I pored over the information, there it was in black and white.  My first name was Stephen.  Somehow, it felt like I always knew that.  I remember thinking back to grade school, when the teacher asked each of us if we were to give ourselves a name, what would it be, and why?  Stephen is the name that I picked out, but I don’t remember the rationale.  My Mom and Dad had also mentioned that they had considered calling me Stephen before settling on Ryan.  Was it preordained?  It turns out that I, like many that would go on to be placed for adoption, was named after relatives.  My father’s name is Steven.  A small difference that is philosophically interesting.  A small change that ties me to him, yet makes me different.  It is almost as if it acknowledges the “good” parts of his personality, while giving me a clean slate to wipe away the “bad”.  Although I don’t think this is what they had in mind.  I can think of three more likely reasons.  Being Catholic, it would have been more traditional, i.e. my patron saint would be St. Stephen.  It may have reflected the family heritage of my mother’s side of the family–it being a more traditional spelling given my ethnicity.  Finally, my mom also has a brother that is named Stephen.  Of course, it could be none of these things.  I also think about the possibility that if I hadn’t been placed, I may have gone by “Stevie” as a differentiation from my father, at least while I was young.  I like that too, even if it is total conjecture.

My middle name was so unique, I was almost certain that it was after someone else.  Actually, it was one of the puzzle pieces that led me to finding my mom.  It was my grandfather’s name–although he went by a nickname.  The first time that my mom wrote me back she confirmed this–I was named after my father and my grandfather. 

My last name was a mystery, though.  I had found my mother’s maiden name, and I was pretty sure what my father’s last name was (I was right).  Which would I have been given?  I tended to like my mom’s.  I tried them both on, saying them to myself in my head.  When we did meet, she placed a piece of paper in front of me and said “Here, look at this.” although I was sitting down and she was behind me, I could hear the smile on her face.  It wasn’t my official birth certificate, but one of the commemorative ones that the hospital gives to new parents.  I did have her name.  As I have gotten to know my siblings, I find it interesting that they all seem to strongly identify with her side of the family.  Perhaps, having two different dads, it is the thing that ties all four (now five) of them (us) together, in spirit and in genetics.  An unbreakable fraternal bond. 

I have always kicked around the idea of writing a book, and thought that if I did so I would write under a pseudonym.  I could never think of one that I liked.  It turns out that I have the perfect one, and it isn’t “pseudo” at all.

FRIDAY FUN: Photo Favorites

Sunset over a rural Iowa skyline.

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A Spike in Creativity

The last week or so I have experienced a huge surge in creativity, especially a desire to delve into the visual arts.  In the past my outlets have mostly included writing and music, with a recent interest in photography.  Perhaps it is the uptick in the success of my photographs that I am wanting to branch out.  Perhaps it is because I am in the process of redefining myself and therefore not letting me hold my creativity back.  Of course, maybe it’s the medication.  

So I found myself yesterday at the hobby store throwing a bunch of different things into my cart. 

The first project I tackled was the simplest, and perhaps the most rudimentary.  I made a necklace for Lovely Wife.  Although this didn’t amount to much more than picking out the materials and stringing them together, I am rather pleased with the results.   I know that Lovely Wife will appreciated it due to the effort (however small) that was put into it, but I hope the she finds it aesthetically pleasing as well.

The second project is a clock that I will place in the man cave.  I have always been fascinated with clocks and watches (which I plan on discussing in an upcoming post) This I am also not going to build from scratch–I bought a movement, and therefore I just have to do something with the face.  Because I am really unsure how I want the end project to appear, I may put this one off for a while until inspiration truly hits.  Right now I am envisioning somewhat of a minimalist approach, with only a few or no numbers.  It will be interesting and satisfying to see how it turns out.

The last will be the most challenging and exciting for me.  I bought three small canvases, some oil paint, and an assortment of brushes.  It is exciting because my brush will take me to places that my camera cannot go.  It also gives me the opportunity to be less literal.  Objects won’t have to necessarily behave the way that they do in real life, or have the correct proportions.  However clichéd, I think that my first painting will be a boat, perhaps leaving the stormy waters behind and drifting towards the sunrise.  I think that it perhaps sounds a little corny, but it captures my mood (or at least my aspiration), and I have always been fascinated by the water and the sea.  I sometimes think that I should have joined the Navy or the Coast Guard, but then again, if I had I wouldn’t have met Lovely Wife.  In any event, however the boat picture turns out, whether a clipper at full sail or a fisherman in a rowboat, this will be going up in the wall of the man cave as well.  The second painting that I would do will hang in out kitchen/dining area.  My wife has collected various wine and vineyard themed art works since we have lived in the house, and I like the idea that I could contribute to this as well.  So far no concept has jelled for the final canvas.

The idea of painting is challenging because I am a complete neophyte.  I do remember in 8th grade or so painting a small scene with a mountain and a river.  While I didn’t think it was a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, I remember getting a C on the project and being a little disappointed.  As long as I did the assignment as per the instructions, isn’t grading art a little subjective?  Maybe this is why I haven’t painted all this time.  In any case, I think that the rawness of my technique may be an asset to my vision rather than a liability.

WEDNESDAY FUN: Photo Favorites

Yesterday evening I was outside playing with the kiddos when I spotted this first sure sign of spring.  Nobody poses for photos better than Mother Nature.

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