Posted by: kerryl29 | November 6, 2017

Great (Unrealized) Expectations

My part of the Midwest suffered from an extended period of drought in the late summer and early fall of this year.  During an eight-week stretch that covered most of August and September, the Chicago area received less than one inch of rain–no more than a tenth of normal precipitation over that stretch of time.  The Indianapolis area was scarcely any wetter.  As a function of this development, I anticipated a poor fall color season in the region.  A spasm of rain beginning in the first week of October–and still ongoing as of this week–was enough to break the drought (in fact, there’s been a fair amount of flooding), but far too late to do anything about the quality of fall color.

Despite the dull hues of the foliage, three consecutive days of rain that opened the last full week of October, following several weeks of extensive rainfall, gave me reason to anticipate that the many ephemeral waterfalls that inhabit the numerous canyons of Starved Rock State Park in north-central Illinois would be flowing generously and, even if the fall color wasn’t great, should still make for an enticing canvas upon which to immerse myself…and my camera.

I’ve written about my forays to Starved Rock numerous times, most recently this past spring, and I’ve often extolled the advantages of my relative familiarity with this place.  But on this occasion, I was disappointed.  After making the roughly 100-mile drive from my Chicago area base, timed to arrive at around daybreak on October 26, I found the color to be–as expected–mediocre to poor, depending on the specific spot.  But when I found the water flow to be no better than mediocre following the roughly two-mile hike to the head of LaSalle Canyon…well, that wasn’t expected.  I’m still not sure how the flow could have been so poor after so much rain, but there it was.

I was faced with having to deal with the less than optimal conditions.  And, given that I’ve done that before, why should it be that difficult to do it again?  If you check out the linked entry in the previous sentence, you’ll see that I make the following suggestion:  “Adopting an attitude of making lemonade out of lemons–or lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness, if you prefer a proverbial expression–will maximize the likelihood of obtaining satisfying images since it will free one’s mind up from expecting a certain type of image.  Give yourself the chance to make the best images that conditions allow rather than fixating on the best images that theoretically could be made.”

Perhaps I should have taken my own advice, but given that I was expecting one thing–consciously or not–and was greeted with another, I was thrown for a bit of a loop.  I did eventually try to make the best of the situation, though it took more doing on my part than it should have.

LaSalle Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

LaSalle Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

LaSalle Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

LaSalle Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Note the heavy emphasis on foregrounds in these images.  That was, at least partly, a function of a comparative lack of interest elsewhere.  Remember, the water flow wasn’t very good (as you can see–compare that with the flow that I experienced in the same place earlier this year) and the color on the trees was sub par as well.

I ended up using a similar approach during my forays into Tonti and Illinois Canyons.

Tonti Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Illinois Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

As a function of the days of rain, the best color–even if it wasn’t that great–was on the ground, not on the trees, so that became the center of interest.

St. Louis Canyon–my last stop on this day–was an exception.  There weren’t a lot of fresh leaves on the ground near the head of the canyon and the tall, straight form of the St. Louis Canyon waterfall would make it a tough subject to incorporate with leaves on the canyon floor in any event.

St. Louis Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

St. Louis Canyon, Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Regardless of specifics, there’s a lesson to be learned–or relearned–here, and it’s the same moral that’s laid out in the “making lemonade from lemons” blog entry of six years ago:  try to keep expectations to a minimum lest they blind you to real time opportunities.

Next:  I’ll begin documenting my early fall trip to Colorado.


  1. Despite the lack of water, as so beautifully captured in your earlier post, these are splendid images, particularily your technique of showing true fluidity to the moving water. The leaves on the ground certinaly conjure up the autumn perspective. Nice. M ;-0

    • Thanks!

      I don’t believe I mentioned it in the accompanying text, but all of the images in this post–save the horizontal St. Louis Canyon shot–were accomplished via a focus stacking technique (from two to four focus bracketed frames per image). In most of these shots I had the tripod set up very low to the ground and there was simply no way to obtain the necessary depth of field from front to back without resorting to multiple images.

  2. Even though the water wasn’t flowing like you hoped, I love the angle in which you captured the fall landscape. Well done – beautiful images!

    • Thanks very much!

      Disappointed though I was in the lack of flow, I’ve been to Starved Rock at times in the fall when the waterfalls were bone dry–not even a trickle–so I suppose I should count myself (somewhat) lucky.

  3. You make some really good lemonade. 🙂

    • Thanks, Carol!

  4. Despite your disappointment, I found the images lovely. I’m a great fan of leaves, and wet leaves especially, so it makes sense that they’d appeal. As for your final bit of wisdom: of course. If I’ve learned anything since I started to carry a camera, it’s that there’s always something to see. It may not be what I expected, or what I hoped for, but it will be there. So, I model myself after the bear that went over the mountain and head out — just to see what I can see.

    • Thanks very much.

      I wasn’t really disappointed with the results–just the conditions…though it’s worth noting that the conditions had a lot to do with the relative dearth of images made that day, which itself was kind of disappointing.

      The thing about the moral at the end of the piece…I think that, if one is able to successfully fight the urge to produce expectations in the first place (easier said than done) it’s a lot more likely to find “what’s there” than if it’s necessary to pivot from the unmet expectations conundrum. As I noted, easier said than done…

  5. […] I’ll discuss this point more thoroughly in a thematic piece later in this series, but my recent entry covering my day visit to Starved Rock State Park in Illinois is instructive, I think.  At least […]

  6. Beauty

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