Good Neighbors

Every year our little Roberts, aka Bobtown,  has a festival like a lot of other small towns around Wisconsin looking for an excuse to get out, gorge, play ball and listen to music and parade downtown Main St. on your best tractor, float and classic car-it’s excellent and a huge slice of Americana after the suck of winter.  This was brought to mind when I was going to the gym the other morning and side-tracked to take pictures along the little lakes on the way. I was respectful of a walker, did my happy neighbor wave and when she caught up with me still behind my lens a bit down the road she asked if I was “into birds”? Uh YES! They are some of the best and most challenging models.

She was kind enough to invite me on to her property around the corner where I could  get pictures easier and see the wildlife. Well, ok – trust goes both ways and I was respectful as all get out. After 40 minutes of nirvana of finding out I could access what I always could see but not reach with my lens because it was on private land and that it had an abundance of critters, all posing for me!  April Fool’s Day idjit, I forgot my memory card and didn’t have spare equipment – I was just going to the gym, remember? No pictures for me 😦

I went back early the next weekend and brought the hubby along to help me out and see what I was so happy about! Below are a few of the pictures from morning.

I am glad this lovely woman was a good neighbor and shared! Extra bonus I discovered there is a local birding club so I can learn about new species and resources. I never did make it to the gym but I was so happy I got my butt moving that morning and just went with the flow.

Backyard and Lazy Days

Some days you just need to unplug and do what you want to do instead of what you feel is needed or must get done because no one else is going to do it for you. Sometimes its actual adulting but sometimes when you think about all the stuff you MUST get done, you realize you created the stupid list and will it really end the world if you don’t do a load of laundry right now?

I’m usually my own victim of creating too much stuff to do and then I swing too far the opposite direction but frankly I’d rather have a messy house than a pissy family. So long story short, sometimes I compromise with myself and edge out time to ‘fiddle’ or such or go play with the camera. After a series of misadventures on Saturday, Sunday saw me in my pajamas well past lunch and trying different camera settings and such in the backyard. Who knew Wisconsin birds were such brave little flying super models?!

I was working on macro pictures on the woodpile next to my birdfeeders and much to my delight, they (birds, not wood you sillies) kept sneaking up on me to check out what I was doing. I got such enjoyment paying hide and seek with the chickadees that hours flew by only broken by the dog who would trounce over and give me a nudge to make sure I didn’t forget he was there and make sure I was still breathing-probably in that order as we almost missed feeding time. I jest but there is no bigger actor or drama queen then a Labrador at past their dinner time. So below for your amusement are some flying feather hams and sparkly wood. I have shuffled them into the Wildlife section as well.


Day Trip to Menomonie, WI

We are getting pretty good at these little 1/2 day hops in any direction. This time I thought we should go East and I wanted to check out the Red Cedar State Trail and my back-up destination was Hoffman Hills Recreation Area.  Also, yes, I always have one main point of interest and at least two back-ups scouted so I wouldn’t have wasted a drive in case of closures, constructions or general suckage.  This was a double whammy as the Red Cedar is on my list of rivers to kayak so we could check it out and the put-ins and outs. It was a short adventure, albeit a lovely, flat trail, well maintained with a soft clay like surface and ideal for runners and bikers that did parallel the river. It was pretty boring for us slow bipeds-Plan B!

Hoffman Hills Recreation Area:

This is a neat little 707 acre area with a 60 foot observation tower. I would highly recommend a late Spring or peak Autumn visit for leaf watchers and bloom voyeurs but if you a bird brain like I am the meadow and prairie trails look to be prime for bird watching in the summer. Either way, we enjoyed a nice PB& J picnic in the truck as it was a bit cold yet and wandered our way up to the tower. The trails were well marked, nicely mapped and divided into ‘Easier’, ‘More Difficult’ and ‘Your Momma is a Mountain Goat’ aka ‘Most Difficult’. It was late so we wussed out on the easiest and really enjoyed the diverse topography and variation of timber as we hoofed it up. Spectacular 360 views for about 20 miles make it worth while and I plan to go again! Check out some of the snapshots from this weekend below. My favorites will be sent over to by this weekend and sorted into their respective galleries on here but I have an oil painting to start for my favorite daughter and psyanky eggs to make! Love the creativity of Spring.



Don’t Overlook Wildlife Areas

This last adventure was chosen by the mister who had a good idea and was determined to set me on some wildlife not of the aviary persuasion, namely deer. I was game, pun kind of intended, and we tromped of to a local wildlife area. I was pretty keen on this as I wasn’t prepared to people at the State and County Parks or go back to the rivers quite yet.  The area he chose was heavily wooded but also interspersed with a lot of clear, open wetlands and marshes so I had high hopes for a diverse afternoon! WI DNR Wildlife Areas

I’ll jump ahead and say that we saw lots of fresh deer sign, everywhere, the four-legged car diving wily nitwits stayed just out of sight snickering like it was hunting season. It was windy enough that all but the hardiest of robins stayed inside watching HSN. Patience, patience, patience, ran through our heads like a mantra however we went almost 5 hours without seeing another  person, the sun was shining, the air was fresh, woodsy and had that little bit of bite to keep you moving along and any day in woods is a good day to me.

Then we heard, loud, echoing, coming from all directions, one single strange call on the edged of a marsh… Hear What We Heard

We scared up a sandhill crane, the first I’d ever seen or heard quite so close. Herons, yes, sandills within a mile, not so much. That made the trip even better and I’m determined to go in the less traveled areas a bit more and see what else is there. Also, 5 miles logged in heavy boots, sucked but I was thankful for the ankle support as there weren’t trails, benches, outhouses or other amenities so if you go a bit wilder too – go prepared.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day! 17% off

img_6864 St. Paddy’s Day always seems to me the harbinger of Spring being around the corner, or maybe it’s just the sea of green giving me hope! To celebrate the day, everything on my site: prints, coozies, postcards etc.-ALL of it, 17% of for the weekend. use coupon code: GEBTVT

The above picture was taken at Pattison State Park, WI last Autumn – I cannot wait to get outside this weekend  but would you believe I have taken so many photos that I have misplaced a slew them somewhere? I’ll be making my own luck this weekend and organizing my equipment and SD cards apparently.

I always loved this day because I was able to go and visit my Aunt Carol and Uncle Bob at the old Bob Inn Saloon on Marquette in Davenport. I went looking for an old image or mention and came back empty which got me to thinking. Dangerous, yes? It’s actually the reason I love photography. I have seen so much go by that I wish I had memorized better, faces I should of insisted on taking pictures off. The regulars at that bar,  always had quarters for the little girl to feed the juke box and some advice regarding darts or shuffle board and as much as I wished to play pool I couldn’t reach the table! So many years looking at the mirror behind the bar, the tin panel ceiling and the interesting faces that went along with it. This is what today reminds me off, whether you drink or not, it’s about friendship and tall tales, off-key singing and everyone being Irish today.

Take a New Look

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The Sinister Mister knew I was planning on heading to the waterfront this weekend and insisted in being my bodyguard, I also think he’s getting into these wee adventures. However, he was not feeling great on Sunday so we kept it short, but it was great! We made good use of our time, got fresh air and stretched our legs-I forgot how much you miss that when your kid centric. (Look, cool buzz word!) Point is, go for a damn walk once in awhile.

We went to St. Paul to a spot of particular interest to me on the Mississippi. I had been seeing gulls swooping and diving all week, lots of eagles and geese too and wanted to get my snaps in before the ice left. I didn’t care less about the gulls-at first. Seriously, they are the squawking squeaking shopping lot lesser sea-gull cousins right? Nah. They captivated me with their aerial shenanigans. They’d turn and be in a dive in a blink, making a splash envious of any Olympic diver, and then be back out wings spread with a small snack in their beak. We probably stood there an hour cheering them on!

That got me to wondering, what other critters have I disregarded because their personality or character wasn’t obvious?   What’s next then? Supermodel spiders? Probably not. I will however being looking at the everyday things I see with a different perspective.

As usual, favorite prints go to my sister site for purchase Fine Art America Renata Johnson


Such Newbie Things

I often find that I forget the basics when I get excited about the new things I learn and in my passion to drive forth I lose a bit off to the side. I have a pile of filters, graduated neutral-density filters that block out light and are helpful for landscape. I forget about them and usually just use a clear UV to protect the lens, if that. I never used to use a lens hood but after a day of sun reflections obliterating good photos I learned my lesson, now I never take it off as it doubles as lens protector too, usually, from curious wet labrador nose.

Looking at the landscape photos I was disappointed on how some were not as rich in-depth and color as I preferred. Also, I have tried to not, absolutely not, use Photoshop or other post-processing as I didn’t want to use it as a crutch to bring an inferior picture up to par and chose to focus and learn the basics. What do these have in common? If I had remembered and pulled my filters out I would have had less ice glare and more of the result I wanted. Reading tonight I also was reminded on how taking two exposures and combining them when you have a stark contrast between sky and ground has some amazing effects. Below are two from yesterday that I decided to experiment on. They say walking around with a giant bag and the camera name strap makes you look like an amateur tourist but I was ok learning to plan ahead and take only two lenses and to learn my camera’s abilities better. I don’t care if I’m a walking billboard on the strap as long as I am comfortable and my pictures speak louder than any initial impression a stranger may have of me.

The rest of  you who know me already know I am strange. I want to read more photo journals but now I m afraid I’ll forget what I learned just yesterday. Sigh. I love the battle though!!

Is there a basic you struggle with? Which do aesthetically prefer=left or right?

Soaring Sunday

See the bulk of photos in Wildlife

As you know my goal this weekend was wildlife photos but no waterfowl. That can be a bit of a challenge in February however we were blessed with two 50+ days and this Sunday I thought it would be a good idea to see some eagles. Some friends used to live in Wabasha, MN and mentioned lots of eagles nest on the Mississippi near there so after a little research we were on our way.

Just before lunch we headed South on 61 on the MN side with plan of stopping at 3 lookouts on the way (

I was getting worried although the scenic Lake Pepin looked grand iced over there was nothing in the sky but I recalled in my research The National Eagle Center in Wabasha and if I got the lead we’d make the 1pm presentation.

Seriously, great idea. There was every demographic covered, old,  young, middles and lots of littles and we were all excited to meet the resident of the day, juvenile eagle Hoksida.

Very good presentation, I thought I was well versed in raptors but came away with new knowledge. There are 3 other bald eagles and a golden eagle in resident at the center-all who could never survive in the wild and were rehabbed to enjoy there roles as ambassadors.


We did see some wild eagles from a distance as we were right on the Mississippi and the viewing decks and spotting scoped were helpful. Time to eat! We found our way to Nelson, WI and the Nelson Creamery

Great googly moogly! Gorgeous old stone building, lots of wine, ice cream, cheese and atmosphere.  The mister and I had simple, delectable sandwiches=my ham and brie on French baguette with mustard was yummy and I loved, loved, loved the German sausage and potato soup. Our day was filled so I pointed the nose North again. Not far away as we  zipped along I spotted a young eagle in a roadside tree, conveniently next to a pull-out. (I giggle each time I type that) Finally! An eagle , wild and up close!! As soon as that guy flew away Mister saw two more in a aerial “dogfight” above the cliffs. See my Juvenile Eagle Photos


The day exceeded our expectations and then we found more eagles further up the road on Lake Pepin and some additional scenery. Including one picture the Mister snapped of me and wouldn’t you know, 3 miles from the house we spot one right in the cornfield! I have never, ever, seen so many eagles-much less in ONE day!

Winter on the St. Croix

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It’s starting to warm-up, by that I mean the above freezing without the wind chill. For the most part there is usually some open water near Hudson, WI on the St. Croix where waterfowl is usually able to spotted. It was supposed to be a balmy 38 degrees but the wind was vicious and every where walked around either looking like the Unabomber or Kenny from Southpark. No in-between but it is the height of Midwest Fashion ‘Not Hot Couture’ versus haute couture. To be fair, I care more of Randy Couture than fashion. I suppose it’s also the reason you don’t see catwalks out side in January in MN. It’d just be a parka and UGG boot fashion show. You’d only be able to tell the difference between men and women by the coffee cup they are holding. Mug? Man. Caribou? Woman. Don’t laugh-you’ll see it someday.

While me and a few other brave souls sashayed around I found trumpeter swans! I didn’t remember how big they were and from a distance. I thought they were ice flow chunks as they sat on the edge of the ice so I wandered down to get some bridge pictures only to hear a very strange traffic jam. It sounds like traffic honking from far away and I was intrigued! I sat for hours as still as the boulder I grabbed and watched, listened and let them check me out. So much zen it was worth the runny nose and frozen toes! I’m getting better at focusing on the fly and catching movement. More practice!


Up, Up and Kind of Away

img_6629img_6613img_6597img_6572img_6604Hudson, WI has the annual Hot Air Affair where we are treated in February to a plethora of hot air not related to politics. Launching is dependent on weather but they generally will all inflate for everyone who braves the cold, and should definitely be checked out in the moonlight. Hudson Hot Air Affair

Unfortunately, it was a bit too windy for some of the events but the Mister and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Torchlight Parade and Fireworks on the river front. The looks on the kids faces s always worth the cold cheeks. We went to Dunn Bros and filled up on java and basked in the warm the topless baskets put off.