Posted by: kerryl29 | July 8, 2013

The Rest of the Spring

As the last few posts have surely implied, my main photo opp this past spring was my trip to the Smokies in mid-April, but I was able to get out with the camera closer to home on a few occasions and I thought I’d share a few of those images.

Virginia Bluebells

I was wandering around the Morton Arboretum, located about 20 minutes from my Chicago-area base in DuPage County, Illinois on an unseasonably warm day in the first half of April.  This was very, very early in the spring blooming season, so as the trail I was on that traverses the Arboretum’s East Woods snaked its way along, I was treated to a mostly brown and gray landscape.  There were some small, early wildflowers in bloom, but not many.  This was, in any case, not a photo excursion; I didn’t have my gear with me.

Virginia Bluebells, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Virginia Bluebells, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

During that hike, I spotted a large patch of green–which stood out like the proverbial sore thumb–well off the path, and I wandered over to take a look.  I had to hop a small stream, but I was able to get close to the sprouting plants, and I could tell that these were Virginia Bluebells in a very early stage of growth.  I was aware of several stands of Bluebells in other parts of the Arboretum, but I’d never known about this stand.  This was a far larger spread of plants than the other areas I was aware of, and I made a mental note to check back another time, when they were likely to be in bloom.

Virginia Bluebells, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Virginia Bluebells, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

I left out one small detail–this hike took place in the first part of April, 2010–more than three years ago.  When the East Side Woods Bluebells were in bloom later that spring, I was out of town.  The next year, the same thing happened–I checked back around the 20th of April, and the Bluebells were further along than they had been during my visit the previous year, but they were still more than a week away from peak.  Guess where I was when they peaked?  Not in the Chicago area, that’s where.

Virginia Bluebells, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Virginia Bluebells, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

So what about 2012?  Those of you in the eastern half of the United States will remember that last year, spring ran about a month early.  (I saw bees flying around outside in Indianapolis on January 31, 2012.  Bees, for crying out loud!)  I had planned to be in the Chicago area to shoot the East Side Bluebells when they would normally be at peak–the last 10 days or so of April–but they peaked around the end of March.  I wasn’t around when it happened.  By the time the last half of April rolled around, the blooms were gone.  Shut out again.

Daffodils, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Daffodils, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

This year, I paid a visit to the Arboretum shortly after returning for the beginning of a two-week stay in the Chicago area around April 18 or so.  The Bluebells were up and were just starting to flower.  Based on the weather forecast, I anticipated that they’d be in great shape for photography around April 22 or so, well within my stay.  The weather forecast called for overcast skies and minimal wind–in short, perfect conditions for flowerscape photography.

Apple Blossoms, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Apple Blossoms, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

I arrived that day, shortly after the Arboretum opened.  The skies were, indeed, overcast, and I made a beeline for the East Woods.  A few images from that shoot–and another trip I made to the Arboretum later the same week to take a few pictures of other subjects that I had noticed while wandering around, accompany this section of the entry.

Early Budding Trees, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Early Budding Trees, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks

I met my friend Tom Robbins for a morning of photography in north central Illinois at Starved Rock and Matthiessen State Parks in early May.  I’ve shot at these locations with Tom on a number of occasions and this one was a bit of a challenge, as it followed a period of severe flooding that closed parts of both parks.  In fact, many areas were still closed when we were there, but we made the the best of it.  We spent some time wandering around the Upper Dells area at Matthiessen and in Illinois Canyon at Starved Rock.

Spring Reflections, Matthiessen Lake, Matthiessen State Park, Illinois

Spring Reflections, Matthiessen Lake, Matthiessen State Park, Illinois

The shot I’m most pleased with was of Lake Falls at Matthiessen, which you can view below.  There was a very slow moving swirl in the shallow pool below the falls itself, and I slapped a polarizer on the lens, dropped the ISO to the equivalent of 50 and employed a three-stop neutral density filter to obtain a slow enough shutter speed to produce the visual effect you see in the image–this is a 20 second exposure.

Lake Falls black & white, Matthiessen State Park, Illinois

Lake Falls black & white, Matthiessen State Park, Illinois

There was very little color of interest in the image, so I converted it to black & white using Nik Silver Efex Pro, with some custom contrast tweaking of my own added for good measure.

Anderson Falls

Anderson Falls is located in a small county park about 10 miles east of Columbus, Indiana, in Bartholomew County.  I’ve been there a couple of times, but this was my first visit in seven years–I distinctly remember stopping at Anderson Falls on my way back from a long day trip to Clifty Falls State Park in southeast Indiana back in May, 2006.  I had just started shooting with the D200 at that time.

Anderson Falls, Bartholomew County, Indiana

Anderson Falls, Bartholomew County, Indiana

This day in the second half of May this year was cloudy, with a threat of rain–pretty much ideal for waterfall photography.  Anderson Falls is always running, and it had been a very wet spring in central Indiana so I was sure that the water flow would be fine.  I wasn’t disappointed.  I didn’t do a lot of shooting that day; between losing the light and having to deal with some other visitors to the falls, the available shots were limited, but I have included one image from that shoot.

*                     *                     *

While it’s never the focus of my shooting itinerary, I do try to make some time, each season, to get some shooting in close to home.  I rarely come away with a ton of great material, but I almost always bring home something I’m pleased with and shooting in familiar locations forces me to spend some time working on approaching known subjects from a new perspective.  It’s an exercise that I always find worthwhile, if not in the moment, then down the road.


  1. How great to have such a gorgeous place within twenty minutes of your home! I really enjoyed the bluebell pics…and those apple blossoms are beautiful! (Reminds me of Washington state, where my mom grew up.)

    • Thanks very much. I have to say, that while the Morton Arboretum is a wonderful resource, one of my biggest regrets has been finding myself stationed in places that have very limited access to inspiring landscapes. Of course, the definition of “inspiring” is, to at least some extent, in the eyes of the beholder…

  2. The flowers and blooming trees are beautiful, but that water swirl is amazing. Most of the time that I have seen folks use a neutral density filter, it has been to blur water falling horizontally–I’ve never seen one used like this. It’s a really cool look.

    • Thanks, Mike. The value of an ND filter is, of course, to slow shutter speed without the expense of making unwanted adjustments to aperture and/or ISO. I’ve used this approach for water swirls a number of times. (You can see another example here; scroll down to Example #3.) The trick is seeing the potential for the shot, because it’s not as though these patters are discernible with the naked eye. You have to look for some evidence of a repetitive circular motion in the water. (This happens, on occasion, with fallen leaves in autumn.) The trick then is to figure out the best timing for the shot. Some of that will come with experience, but a lot of it is trial and error…and it’s a lot more satisfying to employ this approach with digital capture than it ever was with film.

  3. Another super series Kerry! I can relate to missed opportunities due to weather or being at the right place at the wrong time. Even with research, whenever we go away it seems we are either two weeks early or two weeks late. So the quest continues!

    • Thanks, David. Regarding timing–absolutely! A lot of my out-of-town trips are for spring bloom or fall color and I’m always making a best guess (based on historical norms and minimal knowledge of the impact of conditions leading up to the season in question) and holding my breath. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s not so big a deal when you’re dealing with locations close to home, but if they’re distant spots it’s almost always a roll of the dice.

  4. How lovely to see spring now in the heat of summer, Kerry; I feel cooler already. The Spring Reflections at Matthiessen Lake is simply bewitchingly beautiful – oh my! The Virginia bluebell stand is spectacular, one of my favorite native plants. Hard to capture that blue against the green sometimes – your images do that superbly. I just got a set of ND filters, mostly for shooting video, but I do hope to try them out soon on some local waterfalls. As always, I am inspired by your artistry and commitment to detail.

  5. […] The Rest of the Spring […]

  6. Gorgeous photos! (I agree that the waterfall one is the most spectacular.) Another part of my own country I now want to visit one of these days!

    • Thanks very much! If you’re ever in the area, give me a holler.

  7. Beautiful photography! Looking forward to following… 🙂

    • Thanks, and welcome!

  8. The seasonal carpets of bluebells are something I still haven’t witnessed. I really must at some point, and this post makes me want to even more. Well captured!

    • Thanks very much, Matt.

  9. Beautiful shots! I love carpets of bluebells…and if the air is still, they emit a wonderful fragrance as well. There’s a nice section of bluebells at Knoch Knolls park in Naperville as well. I have a couple pictures at the tail end of my blog post slide show at this link.

    • Thanks very much. I’ll have to remember to check out Knoch Knolls Park at some point. I’ve never been there, but I have done some shooting at Springbrook Prairie, which is nearby.

      The best stand of bluebells I’ve seen in northern Illinois is at Illinois Canyon in Starved Rock State Park. The flooding that took place there this past spring knocked things back a bit but when things are full it’s quite a sight to see:

      BTW, I spent some time poking around your blog; you have some marvelous work displayed there!

      • Thanks, Kerry! I’ll definitely have to make it out to IL canyon next spring! Of course it’s beautiful in fall and winter too…

  10. […] on.  There’s an extensive patch of Virginia Bluebells in the East Woods at the Arboretum; I first discovered these flowers–which are visible from a trail, but not the road that winds through the Arb–in 2013.  […]

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