Monthly Archives: July 2016

Fireworks and Smoke Over Chicago: The Tall Ships at the Navy Pier

The Festival of the Tall Ships came to Chicago this last weekend. Touring the Great Lakes this summer, the Tall Ships are large, traditionally rigged sailing vessels, some of which are replicas of historical ships. Despite the heat and forecast of rain, we headed to Chicago to see the ships for ourselves and compare their sailing adventures to ours on Lake Superior.

We booked a nighttime sail on the Appledore IV, a “gaff schooner” (whatever that means) to watch the Festival fireworks. Although the evening threatened rain, the night came in with a cool breeze and calm seas. On the Navy Pier, we boarded the Appledore with about 25 other people. Once we were in the open waters of Lake Michigan, the Captain and crew raised the sails. I brought my camera but not a tripod, as that was not permitted.

Photographing fireworks from a sailboat cutting across the water in darkness was a challenge. Not having a tripod made it even harder. And because the ship was turning and coming about frequently, I had to change sides of the boats so that I was facing the city. Several times I tripped and stepped or fell on other passengers. Fortunately they were good humored about it.

The photos I feature here are my favorites. The featured photograph shows the scene after the fireworks ended, when smoke from the explosions blew over the south lake shore, illuminating the city. The photograph below shows the fireworks. I’m not sure why, but the photo appears darker here than it does in Lightroom.

Smoke and Fireworks

Fireworks for the Tall Ships




Weekly Photo Challenge-Cherry on Top

Last night I went to the Dane County Fair to photograph the rides and lights under dark skies with long exposures. The Cherry on Top for my adventure is shown here in the photograph of the YOYO and Ferris Rides. The Cherry is the circle arcing around the YOYO. That circle shows the riders at the height of the ride and is when they’re having the most fun. Unless they’re scared out of their minds, like I would be if I actually took a ride.

Below is a photo of the riders caught by a faster shutter. Additional photos  I took at the Fair can be seen in my blog post: Midnight Voyageur Journal: Nighttime at the County Fair at

YOYO Riders in the Sky

YOYO Riders in the Sky


Midnight Voyageur Journal: Nighttime at the County Fair

Last night in the steamy heat that has settled in over the Midwest, I headed to the even hotter Dane County Fairgrounds for the annual fair. Not many people were there (smart!) so I had ample room to set up my tripod and take some long exposures. I loved capturing the light on the rides and had a hard time choosing among the photos for this blog. One of my favorite detail in the two landscape photos of the YOYO is the big ring over the ride. That ring is the riders in mid-flight! (You will need to open the Gallery to see this.)  My patient husband hung out with me, acting as my production assistance to carry the tripod and camera bag. Just when I felt that I had taken enough photos and captured the scenes I liked, he said “I’ve had enough!” And we headed home.

Ferris Wheel

Ferris Wheel


Midnight Voyageur Journal: 4th of July Parade


July 4, 2016

In the early morning of the 4th of July, I hauled my camera and running shoes to a rural community named Mineral Point, about an hour’s drive west of where I live.  Mineral Point offered a day of festivities for the celebration of Independence Day. Events started with a “fun run” up and down the hills of the city, followed by a parade through the historic downtown, and then afternoon soft-ball games. Finally, to conclude the day,  a “steak feed” was held to make sure no one went home hungry. While I took no selfies during the fun run, I photographed the parade and the community to capture the feel of the day.

Mineral Point is one of the oldest cities in Wisconsin, settled in 1827 by Cornish immigrants who mined the  lead and zinc in the hills along Brewery Creek. The historic cream-colored sand stone buildings in the town center attest to the city’s prosperous past.  Today, however, this city is not much more than a village, with about 2500 residents. For the 4th of July, many more people from surrounding communities joined these residents, filling the city streets and parks.

Mineral Point’s main street is only a few blocks long so space on the curb for parade watching came at a premium. By mid-morning, people had started to stake out their space by parking camp chairs (often occupied by the grandparents,) together with coolers.  By late morning, when the parade started, thousands of people lined the street, all in a festive mood. Rain threaten to spoil the day but fortunately, it just remained overcast.

When I think of parades, fancy floats and extravagent costumed revelers come to mind. But Mineral Point’s parade had no floats and presented nothing fanciful or pretty. But it offered marching bands, patriotic displays of the flag, clowns and many Knights of Columbus and Legionnaires marching with guns. And fire trucks and ambulances from all the surrounding towns. The crowd watching loved it all and had great fun.

In my photography, I noticed and tried to capture the seriousness and intensity of the participants as they march along, contrasted with the jubilance of the observers.


Midnight Voyageur Journal: Abandoned Schoolhouse on South Shore of Lake Superior

Yesterday, we drove along the South Shore of Lake Superior, heading home after a short week on our sailboat in Cornucopia, Wisconsin. In the midst of vast fields of silky grasses and on the edge of the forest bordering the Lake stood an abandoned schoolhouse.  I persuaded my husband to stop and explore it. The King School, per the sign, dates back to 1916 and was last used in 1948. The Cloverland Community Club operated in the building for some time after that but also was eventually left behind.

Walking up to the building, I was surprised to find its doors open.  The three room interior appeared rotting and unstable. Some of the furnishings remain from its days as a schoolhouse.  The glass windows are broken and milky white in places but flooded the rooms with light. The wooden floors were both soft and tilted in different directions. I felt like they would give out at any time.  The Hammond piano sat silent, casting a shadow on the chalkboard. I loved the handwriting on the wall and chalkboard for its reflection of families who visited the school over the years. But even on a bright and sunny afternoon, the schoolhouse felt eerie and forgotten

In the photo taken outside of the school house,  you can see a woman in the window on the right, with a flash of sunlight on her face. I did not know she was there or even in the building at the time I took this photo. It was only today when I uploaded and reviewed the photo that I saw her. I do not know who she was or what she was doing there. There was another family at the schoolhouse just checking out the premises when we arrived, but they left soon after and I never saw this woman. While I doubt that I captured a ghost, the woman in the window looking out at me is a mystery.

Abandoned School and Community Center,  South Shore Lake Superior

Abandoned School and Community Center, South Shore Lake Superior

Opposites of Exposure: Crowds and Hot Air Balloons at the Green County Fair

A couple Saturday’s ago, I went to the Green County fairgrounds in rural Wisconsin to photograph hot air balloons. I planned to capture the glow and intensity of the balloons, using low ISO and longer exposures with a tripod, somehow thinking the experience would be like photographing, say lighted architecture at night. It never occurred to me that I would be vying for space with thousands of people enjoying the spectacle of the balloons.

As darkness fell, fires under the dozen or so balloons were blasted randomly, lasting only a few seconds. The crowds stampeded to each balloon as it was being lit, where they took selfies, drank beer and let the children run. It was a mob scene and I was fascinated.  I made the split second decision to photograph the balloons as I had planned with long exposures to gain the clarity and brilliance of the night. And in doing this, I sought to capture the energy of the crowd by the blur of the individuals’ movements rather than through fast shutter speeds freezing each’s position. I think this represents the concept of “opposites” by not only light/dark and still/movement but also for the dynamics of the exposures required for these photographs.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Opposites