Posted by: kerryl29 | April 17, 2012

Midwest Spring, Part II

On April 5, I met my friend Tom Robbins for a day of photography at Matthiessen and Starved Rock State Parks in north-central Illinois.  The parks are a rare combination of canyons and dells near the Illinois River, amidst the otherwise largely flat farmland of the area.  I’ve been there many times but I’m a novice compared to Tom, who knows both locations like the back of his hand.

The unprecedented early spring that I mentioned in my last post has certainly afflicted these parks.  The bluebells in the flood plain of Illinois Canyon at Starved Rock were at absolute peak on April 5, a solid three weeks ahead of their normal pace.  It had been relatively dry in the weeks leading up to our outing, so the waterfalls weren’t flowing as freely as they ordinarily might in early spring, but there were photo opportunities to be had.

We shot at Matthiessen first thing, before we lost the light–which happened much more quickly than expected.  I concentrated on some tight shots of the upper tiers of the waterfall above Giant’s Bathtub.

Giant's Bathtub Waterfall, Matthiessen State Park, Illinois

Our next stop was Illinois Canyon at Starved Rock, where the immense stands of Virginia Bluebells were, as mentioned above, at peak bloom.  There was just enough cloud cover to provide controllable, dappled light.

Bluebell Forest, Illinois Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

There are multiple stands of Bluebells in Illinois Canyon, and some allow the photographer to take advantage of the majestic canyon walls.

Canyon Bluebells, Illinois Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

A relatively recently collapsed block of canyon sandstone has provided the material for some interesting semi-abstracts of sand and detritus.

Sand & Leaf Water Abstract, Illinois Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

We spent a bit of time in the early afternoon in Ottawa and Kaskaskia Canyons, which were partially shaded from the now full-out sun.  I’d never shot in either place, but Tom took the time to show me around.

Kaskaskia Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

I pulled out the ultra wide angle lens for the modest waterfall at the head of Ottawa Canyon, to emphasize the lines of the wall.

Ottawa Canyon Waterfall, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

The arching “roof” of the Council Overhang provides a treasure trove of abstract opportunities.

Council Overhang Abstract, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

It was a good shoot, albeit too brief.  At least I had the opportunity to get out with the camera a few times during our early spring in the Midwest this year.



  1. Very interesting post – thanks!

  2. I love them all, but that first photo is absolutely exquisite!!

    • Thanks very much!

  3. A great outing, Kerry. The first is classic, and the third is right behind in my book.

  4. Excellent work, Kerry.

  5. Beautiful photos. I really love the third photo with the rock wall behind the bluebells, but they are all fantastic photos.

    • Thanks, Angeline.

  6. I love the giant’s bathtub, the abstract and the starved rock. Nice effect with the ultra wide angle lens. I’m going to try that with a place I know around here.

    • Thanks, Angela.

  7. I really like the composition of the fallen tree and the moss-covered rock. Like the ultra wide angle shot too.

  8. I loved them all, and I had no idea such places existed in Illinois.

    • Thanks. Yeah, there are a series of places in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio that have similar terrain. I don’t want anyone thinking that this is typical of the northern half of any of these states, but places like this do exist.

  9. I love your photography….wow….I never knew Illinois was like this…beautiful:)

    • Thanks very much. Not ALL of Illinois is like this. 🙂 The vast majority of the northern half of the state is flat farmland; these state parks are very much the exception to the rule. (The southern half of the state is quite hilly.)

  10. I couldn’t choose – they each hit a different nerve. I echo previous comment. Had no idea Illinois harbored such beautiful landscapes!

    • Thank you. Hmm….there seems to be a recurring theme here (i.e. surprise about what Illinois has to offer), which isn’t surprising. I may have to blog on this subject down the road. 🙂

  11. The sand and leaf water abstract is different for you, from what I’ve seen of your work thus far. Very nice, Kerry…all of them…thank you.

    • Thanks, Scott.

      • You’re welcome.

  12. Wow super photos Kerry!! It’s difficult to pick a favorite!

  13. These are fabulous–they are just wonderful.

    • Thanks very much, Lance.

  14. What absolutely gorgeous photos. I particularly like the first one with the waterfall and the swirling water. Brilliantly done.

    • Thanks so much!

  15. Excellent work Kerry! I met Tom about a year ago while photographing in Illinois Canyon. Very nice guy, and I’ve enjoyed following his work as I do yours (found your link from NPN). Hoping to get to Starved Rock and Matthiessen first week of May for a 4 or 5 day stay to shoot. Seeing these really makes me excited to get back there.

    • Hi Derek; thanks for stopping by. Yeah, Tom is definitely a good guy.

      Re your trip to Starved Rock, the bulk of the spring flowers will be gone by early May, but if you get a good hard rain while you’re there the waterfalls will be flowing for you. In any case, there are always some good photo ops at Starved Rock/Matthiessen. Best of luck with your trip.

  16. […] of comments made regarding the images I posted of Starved Rock and Mattiessen State Parks in my previous entry.  The remarks, frankly, aren’t surprising. St. Louis Canyon Waterfall, Starved Rock State […]

  17. Very nice!

  18. I haven’t been here in a month … and wow, as gorgeous as ever (not that that’s surprising).

    • Thanks very much.

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