Posted by: kerryl29 | May 6, 2019

Enjoy the Ride

For a variety of banal reasons that I won’t bother detailing, I didn’t go out with the camera following late November’s foray to Starved Rock State Park until last week.  Due to a favorable (read: cloudy) forecast on both Monday and Tuesday of the final week of April, I made the approximately 160-mile round trip from my base in Indianapolis to McCormick’s Creek State Park, just outside the tiny town of Spencer, Indiana, in the south-central part of the state.  I’ve been to the park a couple of times before, but not in quite some time (5 1/2 years, to be exact).

McCormick’s Creek Waterfall, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Indiana

So I drove to McCormick’s Creek on the morning of April 27, expecting to have a full day in which to photograph the creek, its waterfall, and the surrounding woods filled with spring wildflowers…and, instead, I got a day almost entirely filled with sun.  Hazy sun, admittedly, during much of the day, but sun nonetheless.  I got, maybe, 25 minutes of even light.  If anything, I’m being overly generous.

McCormick’s Creek Waterfall, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Indiana

After spending that 25 minutes down at creek level, snagging a few different compositions including the waterfall, the sun popped out.  And it was never overcast again during the remainder of the day.  Having traipsed across the creek, hard against the side wall of the canyon, I set up and produced the image you see below, just seconds before the scene was blasted by open sunlight.

McCormick’s Creek Waterfall, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Indiana

While I hung around for several more hours and scouted other areas of the park, the image you see above was the final one of the day.  At mid-afternoon, highly frustrated as the skies grew clearer and clearer, I called it quits and drove home.

The forecast for the next day–which I verified early the following morning–was even more emphatically calling for cloudy skies so I made the drive back to the park the next day, eager to make good on all the scenes I’d scouted the day before.  And while there was sun on the drive to McCormick’s Creek that next day, I could see a heavy cloud bank slowly drifting in from the west.  By the time I reached the park entrance, the cloud bank was covering the sky and I began to take part in what I expected would be a fine day of photography.

I started with some shots of some particularly nice redbud trees that I’d spotted.

Redbud Serenade, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Indiana

From there, just steps away, I hastened to photograph a scene dominated by a heavily blossomed dogwood.

Dogwood Forest, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Indiana

I made my way back to the waterfall area.  Several families, with a bunch of children were down there, enjoying the creek.  I satisfied myself with a shot of the falls from just below the canyon rim.

McCormick’s Creek Waterfall, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Indiana

I figured I’d come back and check the falls out again later in the day, when there might be fewer people around.  I was in no hurry.  I moved along to check out a spot on the creek, maybe 1/4 mile above the falls, that I’d taken note of the previous afternoon.  After poking around a bit, I finally found a composition I liked and set up…and suddenly found myself casting a shadow.  The sun was out!  I took a good look at the sky and the clouds had mostly drifted away.  There were still some in the sky but there was as much blue visible as gray and white.  I waited, and after about 20 minutes, a cloud drifted in front of the sun, giving me the even light I wanted.

McCormick’s Creek, McCormick’s Creek State Park, Indiana

Mere seconds after I completed a four-image sequence to obtain a focus stack for the above image, the sun popped back out and…you know what’s coming…I never saw even light again that day.  I hung around for another two or three hours and by the time I left there was scarcely a cloud in the sky.

As frustrated as I’d been the previous day, that didn’t hold a candle to how I felt as I drove back home on that second afternoon.  In fact, I honestly don’t ever remember feeling as discouraged after a photo outing as I did on that Tuesday.  I’ve been the victim of less-than-ideal weather conditions countless times over the years without ever becoming anywhere near this despondent.  Maybe it was because the forecast had been so abjectly wrong, and two days in a row at that.  Maybe it was because of how long the trip had been and I had made it on consecutive days.  Maybe it was something else, but whatever was going on, it was gnawing at me.

What kept creeping into my mind was that time in the field with my camera has always been one of contentedness, particularly in settings like the one at McCormick’s Creek.  And here I was, not only not feeling contented…I was 180 degrees away from that sensation.  I have enough things to deal with on a regular basis that are naturally aggravating; the last thing I need was to be annoyed by the one thing that’s usually the antidote to aggravation.

To make matters worse, the next day brought almost perfect conditions for the kind of shooting I wanted to do at McCormick’s Creek.  Overcast, all day long, and no wind to boot.  And…I had absolutely no desire to go back there….or go anywhere else for that matter.

*                                          *                                                   *

Despite my concerns, the funk didn’t last all that long.  I was back in northeast Illinois the following week and found myself really looking forward to getting out with the camera.  The opportunities were extremely limited due to other commitments (and a lot of rainy weather), but finally, on May 1, I found myself with a couple of hours to check out the Morton Arboretum for the first time this spring.  Massive rains had caused a lot of flooding in the area and one side of the Arb was completely closed off as a result.  There was standing water in a lot of unusual places on the side of the property that was accessible, but I found the unique look visually stimulating and squeezed about as much light as I could out of the place that evening.

Crowley Marsh Reflections, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

East Side Reflections, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Crowley Marsh Reflections, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

East Side Reflections, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Shortly before it got dark, I wandered into a part of the East Woods that has one of the nicer displays of Virginia Bluebells that I’ve seen, and while I was probably a few days early for the peak bloom, I was still motivated to work the area.

Bluebell Forest, East Side Woods, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Bluebell Forest, East Side Woods, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

Bluebell Forest, East Side Woods, Morton Arboretum, DuPage County, Illinois

It had been a brief session, but I took careful note of my feelings as I wrapped up that day–it had been too brief.  The funk was undeniably over.

By far the most satisfying part of the photo process is the journey–specifically, the time I’m in the field, trying to tease out shots.  The destination (i.e. seeing the end result, after processing the digital flies) is always nice, but it’s the trip itself that makes the endeavor worthwhile for me and, somehow, I usually experience this sensation most emphatically when I’m in a relatively mundane place.  The last two weeks, with their downs and ups, have been a good reminder of why I engage in this craft in the first place.


  1. Very pretty photos! I must get down to that McCormick’s Creek 😍

    • Thanks. And if you do go to McCormick’s Creek, try to make sure it’s a cloudy day. 🙂

  2. Nice, Kerry!

  3. There isn’t much we can do about the weather, but having inaccurate forecasts 2 days in a row is even worse than the weather itself. The trip to the Arboretum would raise any photographer’s spirits…lovely images.

    • Thanks, Ellen. The two blown forecasts in a row…that was painful.

  4. Great images despite the uncooperative conditions. I recently went out to capture mountain scenes hoping for a good sunset. The clouds were perfect, but just as the sun went down, a cloud covered the last rays and there was no color. I got some good shots prior to sunset but not what I intended. It is so hard to go out, especially when the chances of getting out lately have been minimal, and be served up a dish of disappointment. Anyway, keep in mind it’s part of the process and a better opportunity is bound to be had.

    • Sorry to hear that the sunset fizzled. (Just went through that myself today, in central Wisconsin.)

      I’ve had photographic disappointments due to weather so many times over the years that I’ve lost count. But something was materially different this time and I’m still trying to sort out exactly why.

      • I understand. It is hard sometimes. I often think so highly and anticipate a shot so much and then the disappointment is so much worse. It’ll get better!

  5. Wonderful images and colour of the flowers!

  6. Beautiful images at the Arboretum-I was there on that day as well! The colors seemed so saturated…and it was nice that it wasn’t crowded.

    • Thanks.

      The arb was decidedly not crowded that evening (though there was a minicam from the local NBC affiliate (channel 5)) that showed up while I was photographing those reflection images (not far from the exit on the east side). The light was very nice that evening.

  7. Gardeners and photographers embrace the weather that others despair over 🙂 Wonderful set of images, Kerry. The reflection series borders on the surreal, especially the first one – a world of unexpected perspectives and a dreamlike quality. And the lovely Virginia bluebells -ahhh.

    • Thanks very much, Lynn!

  8. […] the last entry, I displayed the results of my recent experiences–frustrating and satisfying–in Indiana […]

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