The Sandhill Crane

This stained adult Sandhill Crane is currently visiting some soy fields near St. Louis.

“Our ability to perceive quality in nature begins, as in art, with the pretty.  It expands through successive stages of the beautiful to values as yet uncaptured by language.  The quality of cranes lies, I think, in this higher gamut, as yet beyond the reach of words.”

-Aldo Leopold

“A Sand County Almanac And Sketches Here and There”

“Stained Adult Sandhill Crane”

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera,  EF400mm f/5.6L USM lens, ISO 400,  f/5.6, 1/500 sec

The Fabulous Water Mills of Jim Lalumondiere

Several weeks back Sarah and I jumped in the N.E.V. and decided to go put a few more Missouri Ozark water mills on our list.  Armed with a copy George Suggs’ “Water Mills of the Missouri Ozarks”, we decided to go after a few that were closer to home.  The first on the list for the day was the Byrnesville Mill.  After doing some location scouting on Google and Google Maps, I decided to just tell the GPS to take us to the town of Byrnesville, then I would go from there.  Of all the cool things, the GPS led us directly to the mill!  If only all my destinations were this easy.  We pulled into a large drive and I realized quickly we were on private property, with cool farm, pioneer and ruin type structures all around us.  Looking around I see a white-haired gentlemen coming out of one of the buildings.  We strike up a conversation and I let him know what we are looking for.  He goes on to tell us some fascinating stories about the buildings and particularly the Byrnesville Mill.

“Byrnesville Mill, June 2012”
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 35mm, ISO 100,  f/14, 1/13 sec

Jim had bought this mill in 1976 and converted it into a home where he raised a family.  I couldn’t think of a better place to grow up!  This was one of a dozen or more mills along a rather short stretch of the Big River.  Elaborate dams, like the one pictured above, and other containment structures were built with most of these mills in order to efficiently harness the water’s power.  The Big River is a remarkable waterway for Smallmouth Bass fishing and apparently it doesn’t get much better than right outside Jim’s back door.  Talk about envy!  Jim was most gracious and let us walk about the property, including his own personal bridge that the railways used to cross the Big River.  The image below shows some of the fascinating objects one can find by exploring the property.

“Mill & Stone Ruins”
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 47mm, ISO 100,  f/13, 0.8 sec

Further conversation with Jim led to the discovery that he also owned the nearby Cedar Hill Mill, which we had planned on visiting as well.  Jim had purchased this mill in 1982 with plans on using it to generate and sell electricity.  This plan did not work out and he has been doing a pretty good job of maintaining it since.  They are currently brainstorming ways that the structure could be used for business.

“Cedar Hill Mill, IR, June-2012”
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 82mm, ISO 640,  f/10, 120 sec

I told Jim about the boom in micro/craft beers and brewery/restaurant style establishments in St. Louis during the past several years.  This building is four stories with part of a river running through it.  Would this not be the perfect place for a little micro brewery and pub!?!?

“Cedar Hill Mill Workings I”
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 23mm, ISO 400,  f/10, Photomatix-HDR blend of 8-images

Seriously, just relocate the several thousand mud-daubers and the swallows, but leave everything else as is.  I’ll even name the first brew: Cedar Hill Mill IPA.  Easy.

It is interesting to read and hear about the changes that went through the life cycle of these water mills as diesel and electricity became much more efficient sources of power.  This mill, built in 1876, was first built to mill grain for human consumption.  Jim told me it was also used to mill grain for the pet-food trade and the energy captured was also utilized in the production of ice.

“Cedar Hill Mill Workings II”
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 21mm, ISO 320,  f/8, Photomatix-HDR blend of 7-images

“Cedar Hill Mill & Big River Dam, IR, June-2012”
Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 32mm, ISO 640,  f/10, 90 sec

The majority of the water mill structures along this popular stretch of the Big River have fallen to time and ages.  Likewise many of the dams have been breached as can be seen in the above picture.  This was a popular spot on this Sunday afternoon as dozens of people swarm to this spot to swim and fish.  Just as Jim allowed us access inside his mill to take photos, it comes as no surprise he allows his neighbors to use the dam and the river along his property.  With the magic of long-exposure photography, you can see no signs of the several people who were moving along the dam when this image was taken.

Even though Sarah and I could not find a great place for a meal (always a goal of mine during travels) during this trip, meeting Jim and taking some images I’m somewhat happy with was a great way to spend the day.  I can’t wait to visit Jim again, give him a print or two as thanks for allowing us to explore his properties and hopefully make some more memories.



Hey Kid, Boogie Too, Did Ya?

Do I have a man-crush on David Essex?  You’re damn right, and I’m not apologizing.  I know a lot of people have strong feelings about what they want done with their bodily remains following their last breath.  My personal philosophy was put very nicely by the comic, David Cross, “…I don’t care, because I can’t.”  If I have any loved ones when I die, I hope they do whatever they think is best and most convenient for them.  However, if they want to go through with a lot of trouble, instead of spending all that money on an over-priced box and funeral home and burial plot and deli sandwiches, here is something at least I would be entertained by.

I once read about a procedure that the hipsters in Europe are doing as an alternative to cremation.  Lyophilization.  This is just the fancy term for freeze-drying.  In this hypothetically more environmentally friendly procedure, the body is freeze dried then thrown into a hopper filled with heavy ball bearings.  Then the hopper is shaken by a giant paint shaker type apparatus until the remains are basically a fine powder.  So, everything but the water is gone and I helped by slowing my carbon’s escape into the environment!

Okay, so if 60% of a human body is water weight, what to do with the 60 lbs of powdered Bill?  That’s a great question.  Here is what I think would be nice (no, snorting or ingesting of said product will not be considered).  On a pleasant evening near sunset, hall my ass up to Elephant Rocks in as many Thomas Coffee cans as needed, gather whoever desires to be present and play David Essex’s “Rock On” on a boom box or giant speaker wall or whatever is handy.  Then you can spread Bill-dust across the landscape while Rosie Perez screams “Billy!” over and over, a la White Men Can’t Jump.  Like I said, I don’t really care what happens after I die, because I can’t.  But, if nobody has any better ideas, I’m thinking this would be a pretty cool way to be sent off.

Here is a photo…

“Walled In”

Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 24mm, ISO 100,  f/14, manual blend of two exposures


My Country ‘Tis of Thee

Part of my Missouri Ozarks grist mill series, this image shows the Dillard Mill in late afternoon light, watching over the Huzzah Creek as the small river works it’s way through a series of man-made impoundments.  There has been a mill structure on this location since 1853, the current building was completed in 1908.  This was the last stop of the day in a day trip Sarah and I took this spring.  Although warm, the setting was perfect.  The quaint, old, warm structure set against last years hay bales in the field immediately behind, the contrasts in water as it rushed down rocky barricades, stopping in motionless, clear ponds, and the chatter of birds like the Belted Kingfisher made us hate to get back into the car and take the drive back to the city.

Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 32mm, ISO 100,  f/14, manual blend of three exposures

Summer at the Confluence

This weekend I spent both mornings at Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, arriving near dawn and walking around the trails for a few hours before the extreme heat of the day took over.  Sarah got up early and came with me this morning. Saturday morning I was fortunate to spot this guy feasting on carcases of fish that succumbed to the poorly oxygenated waters of the shrinking, heated pools of the wetlands.  This was my first opportunity at shooting a raccoon.  Even at such an early morning hour, the back-light serves to give a sense of the heat and humidity that were already noticeable.

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera,  EF400mm f/5.6L USM lens, ISO 640,  f/5.6, 1/400 sec

One of the photographic challenges of this location is trying to get shots of the song birds that live among the tall grasses.  They usually stay pretty far from the trails and are usually hidden low in the vegetation.  This Common Yellowthroat Warbler was close enough and partially obscured by the grasses.

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera,  EF400mm f/5.6L USM lens, ISO 640,  f/5.6, 1/1250 sec

One of the pleasure one can get from a summertime visit to RMBS is watching the Least Tern.  I love watching these guys fish.  This one is beginning the plunge into the water off of Ellis Island to grab a little fish.

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera,  EF400mm f/5.6L USM lens, ISO 250,  f/5.6, 1/1600 sec

Kudos to Sarah, who took a closer look at these guys.  What looked like a bunch of tadpoles gulping at the surface of one of these rapidly vanishing pools was actually a nice-sized school of small catfish.  If rains do not come soon, these guys have no chance.

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera,  EF400mm f/5.6L USM lens, ISO 800,  f/5.6, 1/400 sec

Sarah also spotted this thistle in early bloom and asked that I take its picture.  I haven’t done a lot of macro style shooting with the 400mm, but I know that using the super tele’s to do this can work magic.  The focus isn’t perfect, but I was actually fighting the minimum focus distance.  I need to try this with dragonflies and other large insects.

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera,  EF400mm f/5.6L USM lens, ISO 800,  f/5.6, 1/400 sec

This morning there was actually a bit of cloud cover over the sun.  I decided to try a little panning blur and thought this was an apt image to go along with the record breaking heat we’ve been experiencing.  Stay cool everyone.  I am sure looking forward to all the time I’ll have to spend in the greenhouse this week.  ;=)

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera,  EF400mm f/5.6L USM lens, ISO 100,  f/14, 1/125 sec

Location Spotlight: The Canyon-land of Ferns and Waters – Hickory Canyons Natural Area

Today’s post spotlights a few images I took recently at the least well-known, but perhaps my favorite, of the Ste. Genevieve trio gem locations found in south-eastern Missouri, Hickory Canyons Natural Area.  The other two nearby locations are Hawn State Park and Pickle Springs Natural Area.  Much of the exposed rock in this area is known as LaMotte sandstone and was deposited around 500 million years ago under the Paleozoic sea, which covered this region except the igneous knobs of what are now called the St. Francois Mountains.  Unlike the other sedimentary rocks – like dolomite and limestone that compose much of the Ozarks, sandstones are generally much more resistant to erosion.  This results in rock features that are often quite spectacular to the eye and the canyons, bluffs and other exposed sandstone bedrock have become favorites for hikers, rock climbers and other travelers to this region.

“Addressing the Optimates”

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera, EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 89mm, ISO 320,  f/20,  0.4 sec

Two short hikes are available at Hickory Canyons N.A.  Both offer great views of the rock formations, including wet-weather waterfalls like the one shown below.

“The Bath House”

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera, EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 70mm, ISO 320,  f/16,  1.3 sec

The overhangs and cracks created in these box canyons, gorges and cascades provide opportunities for ferns, mosses and lichens.  In fact, these three spots mentioned above in Ste Genevieve Co are the only place the fern enthusiast need travel to in Missouri.  The well-draining, sandy and acidic soils found here are perfect for species like wild-rose azalea, hay fern and rattlesnake orchid.  White oak, hickories, sugar maples, short-leaf pine and flowering dogwood are the primary tree species found at this location.  A few trips during spring time are definitely worth it to find some of these fantastic plants in bloom set against these dripping canyons and ephemeral cascades and waterfalls.  The wild-rose azaleas bloomed about six weeks early this spring and I missed them.  Oh well, something to look forward to next year.

“The Senate”

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 28mm, ISO 160,  f/16,  2.5 sec


Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera, EF70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 93mm, ISO 250,  f/16,  1 sec

Virere Candere

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM lens @ 24mm, ISO 160,  f/16,  1.6 sec

Arboris Relictus

Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera, EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens, ISO 160,  f/16,  0.5 sec

As the glaciers of the last major ice age retreated, species that required lower temps and had higher water requirements moved back north as well.  These canyons provide cooler and wetter environments for relict species like the one pictured above, the partridge berry.  This evergreen vine-like tiny shrub can be found throughout the canyon and hollow floors along with lichens and mosses.

It’s Spring Again. Everybody Know it’s Spring Again.


Technical details: Canon EOS 7D camera, EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM lens. ISO 250,  f/11, 1/13 sec

“To the girls and boys and people above, This is the time to fall in love”

Sorry, I always turn on the Biz Markie this time of year.  It wouldn’t be spring without him.

This image and post is dedicated to my stepfather, Wally, who bought me my first camera about 20 years ago.  Wally has a birthday this month.  Happy Birthday!  It was a Pentax K-1000, a manual-only film camera in which I learned the basics of exposure.  In my opinion, this body is one of the best values of this class and generation of camera available and still underrated.  It’s too bad they don’t make a digital version of this camera today.  Having a manual-only digital body would something else.  I use manual mode about 95% of the time anyway, so I guess it wouldn’t be a big difference.

I took this photo on a recent hike in the Missouri Ozarks.  This bush must have had two dozen of these emerging leaf buds, each with a drop or two from gutation.  This phenomenon is seen when plants are growing in high humidity or in very saturated soils, like many parts of our region have been experiencing lately.  Between the low light and the high macro magnification getting a sharp image of the foreground subject was tricky.  I pulled out the reflectors to bring a little more light to the situation, but this only helped a little.