After many semi-local photo adventures, I thought I would update everyone on some of my travels and projects that I have done in my spare time. I really love to get out and see the areas around me, and have made it a priority to experience and photograph them. It’s only fitting that I start with January, since it’s the last time I updated.
During this time, the snow started to melt and Travis took me on a tour of the back roads of Greene County, Indiana. I saw the Tulip Trestle (commonly known as “the viaduct”) and the Yoho General Store for the first time. This area feels like a well-preserved time capsule of America’s past, which you can envision from the photos.
Speaking of the past, when I was little, my family camped at Turkey Run State Park. A few years ago, we went back to canoe down Sugar Creek for the day and hiked during the evening. I hadn’t been there since then, until this year. I’ve been there three times this year already: a day trip in March, a weekend camping trip in May and another day trip in June! The day I went in March was very cold and the ground and trails were still icy. The rock slabs near the Punch Bowl were covered with ice and I was scared to straddle the slabs in my new hiking boots because if I had slipped, my feet would go into the rushing stream underneath me. The rocks were cold and I didn’t have gloves, but with some help from Travis I was able to cross this tough part of the trail.
Then in May, a few friends and I camped for a weekend. I’m fairly certain that the first night almost hit the point of freezing but it had warmed up after that night. I even canoed down the creek that Saturday in a tank top since it was so warm. But every day we would hike tough trails all day and relax by the campfire in the evening—standard camping activities. We turned into gourmet camp chefs by cooking bacon-and-cheese covered bacon cheeseburgers, as in bacon and cheese was also infused in the burger. We did a LOT of hiking so it was worth it. We also cooked hotdogs and placed them in our grilled cheese press that we then toasted over the fire. The consensus was that cheddar beat American cheese.
But anyways, Sunday rolled along and we were about to do our last hike. We parked at the park’s inn and I started to pull out my camera from my camera bag. I knew the bag was slightly unzipped, but I thought the camera would be fine. Well, I had swung my bag a little too fast and my camera fell out. It hit the ground which broke the polarizer and LENS, a new Canon 18-135mm lens I had just bought before the trip! I was devastated, frustrated and just mad at myself. My friends sympathized with me and felt awful. The polarizer cracked all the way across, and the glass piece of the lens popped out of the lens barrel. I couldn’t bear to look at my lens for a while after that, it brought back painful memories.
So I was stuck with my Canon 7D camera and my 40mm pancake lens, not sure yet of what to do with the broken lens. The opportunity came up to travel to French Lick and West Baden with my mom and her boyfriend, Steve. I hadn’t been to that area before, so I was curious and wanted to see it, even though I only had the 40mm lens. For photos that I wanted to take with a wider lens, I used my iPhone 5, since it’s fairly nice and I still wanted to capture photos. The scale of the buildings of French Lick and West Baden are so grand that I HAD to use my iPhone, but even then it does not show how massive the dome of West Baden actually is.
After hitting up the hotels and the casino (It was my first time gambling in a casino. I lost money on slots.), we went to the German Café for a hearty lunch where we had platters of sausages and potatoes. My mom’s side is probably completely German and we have some family recipes but we don’t make the food often, so coming to this restaurant gave us a heavy dose of authentic German traditions and culture. The owners of the restaurant came from Germany and brought over as many German decorations as they could send, decorations of which they found at yard sales in their home country.
During my time in the towns of Paoli and French Lick, I learned a lot of cultural history of the area, the springs and the hotels. I thought the terrain of the area would be flat, boring and all farm fields. I was wrong. It was super hilly, lush, green and it was a pleasant surprise. Later that day, we went to Cave River Valley Nature Preserve to see River Cave which is part of the Blue Springs cave system. After a long hike down a steep gravel trail, I came upon a grassy meadow. In this area there are old abandoned cabins, washrooms and shelters where boy scouts have camped. The rushing stream runs through the middle of this meadow. I followed the stream to its source, which is the entrance to the cave atop the waterfall. It’s still closed due to the white-nosed bat syndrome. For decades the area was privately owned but now Spring Mill State Park owns it and seems to be preparing it for more public use in the future. I knew that eventually I would come back here to properly shoot it.
A couple of days later and after a lot of online research and time spent trying to finagle the glass piece and the barrel of my lens, I shared my troubles and research with Travis. We bought some tiny screwdrivers then hunkered down and got to work. He finally fixed it, and I was over joyed! The night he fixed it was the night we had made plans to photograph the Camelopardalid meteor shower. Once he put the lens back together, we were on our way to Lake Lemon to shoot the stars, and hopefully some meteors. This wasn’t the first meteor shower we have gone out to shoot; we saw Perseid meteors in Tennessee last summer as well as at the fire tower at the Charles C. Deam Wilderness Area. So we sat and watched for meteors at Lake Lemon, but we didn’t think it was as much of a shower—or storm—as news sources said it would be. This night I wasn’t lucky enough to capture any meteors, but I finally got a shot of the Milky Way, which was just as exciting to me!
With my new lens back in working condition, I was antsy to shoot landscapes on landscapes. I took photographs of my friend’s family’s property when he hosted a Mario Kart party. (It’s an awesome game but I wasn’t that good, even with my Mario Kart 64 skills. I need more practice!) His uncle has a vacation home in Owen County on a small farm in the country which offers a beautiful view of the landscape.
Then I took my camera on a trip to Yellowwood State Forest (NOT Yellowstone). Like most of the places in this post, I’ve not been there before! It was a nice, warm day and I got some great shots of Yellowwood Lake.
Next came another trip to Turkey Run, and it felt like it was coincidentally on the hottest, most humid day of the year thus far. Luckily, some of the trails went into cooler canyons and provided some great, foggy photos. I’ve trekked a lot of trails here, and a couple of trails twice at this point, but after this trip I’ve almost completed every hike in the park! It feels like a great accomplishment, I think I have only one trail left…
On July 2nd, Travis chose to hike the Peninsula Trail at Deam to Lake Monroe for his birthday. This was a trail I had been vying to go on for a couple of years, and at this rate with all of these other trails under my hiking boots, I knew I could handle it and was excited to hike it. It is 4.8 miles one way, so 9.6 miles altogether, which we had to do on a hot day! Because we are trail troopers, we made it to the lake (and back!). I had always imagined that the end of the trail would land on a pretty part of the lake looking west, and it does! It’s a rocky shoreline but fun to step on barefoot since the rocks are small and smooth.
There are camp sites dotted here and there, and someone before us had made couches out of giant rock slabs! It was realistic-looking as well as comfortable! We went on a day when the clouds were perfect, white and puffy like cotton. We both got great shots of the area including a timelapse for Travis to add to his personal timelapse project. I wanted to stay longer, but we knew we had to try to get back to the truck before sundown. We finished the night off with a Longhorn Steakhouse dinner (Travis’ favorite, and fortunately his birthday meal!) and it was so amazing and I was so hungry; rolls, salad, broccoli, buttery mashed potatoes and an 8oz. filet all eaten up by me! This day seriously couldn’t have gotten any better!
The next day we went to Solsberry to watch and photograph the fireworks. I think there’s only one stop sign in Solsberry, but these two streets that intersect were PACKED with people and cars! It’s such a tight area but it seemed like everyone in the county and surrounding counties came out to see the show. The normally quiet Yoho General Store was the epicenter of activity. It pulsed with country music over loudspeakers, and people crammed the building and surrounding area as they buzzed about and picked up food from nearby stalls and food trucks. We found a spot parallel to the store and sat on top of a hillside to best see and photograph the fireworks. The wind conditions were just right for the smoke to clear the area as the fireworks shot off, and the night wasn’t hazy or cloudy so our visibility was clear and our photos were awesome.
After that weekend, I had taken a long break from photo adventures partly due to the fact I had to prepare myself to move out of my apartment and back to my mom’s house, and then she sold our family home to downsize, so thus I moved again and helped her with that. In June, she had fallen and broke her wrist and during the time of the move she wasn’t able to lift more than 20 pounds. Once we started settling in, I went out to the lake to shoot the Perseids meteor shower and took my friend Isaiah with me. Again, we saw some meteors but I hadn’t captured any on camera. The moon was just barely full since we had a super moon the night before and I think this created too much light for my camera. Although I couldn’t shoot any meteors, we took the opportunity to create some portraits of one another. I even came up with an idea for a later photo project on the ridge next to where we were. So hopefully that is soon to come.
Last but not least, I felt like I needed a great location to capture, a photo I wanted to submit to the Kelley School of Business photo contest. The contest was open to students, faculty and staff of the school (of which I qualify as a staff member) and there were 4 categories: Travel, Landscape, Kelley/IU Life, and Miscellaneous. The contest allows you to enter one photo for 3 categories only. I had thought about what photos of mine that I should enter, but I really wanted something new and different from what I had. I decided to go back to the Cave River Valley area and shoot the cave and stream again, since I knew I wanted to shoot that location again anyways. The day I chose to go was very humid and it rained as I drove down to Mitchell, IN. I had Google Maps on my phone but I didn’t have the address to the cave, I just used my recollection of how we got there the first time and didn’t have any problems driving to it. I hiked back down the gravel path with my zip-up hoodie covering me and my camera bag, and I held onto my tripod in one hand and umbrella in the other. I made it to the stream and took some long exposure shots of it (with a new polarizer since I cracked my previous one) all while staying under my umbrella. I was very patient with moving from one angle and location to the next, since I had a lot to juggle and risked my camera getting wet by either the rain or the stream just by being there. The humidity poured out of the cave and rose above the lower stream and created mystical photos which worked to my benefit and added to the scene. The moss on the rocks and logs seemed to glow green and overall the images turned out beautifully! I chose the featured image of the blog post (it’s also the last photo in this post) as an entry to the contest.
Looking back on all of these adventures keeps me empowered; I get to see where all I’ve been and how I’ve grown and developed through the journey. I’m lucky that I get to photograph it all, share it and keep the memories in my mind and my digital scrapbook. So far, the year has brought many fun opportunities to explore and I hope that they keep coming! Thank you for reading such a long post, and keeping up with me on this trail of sorts!