Posted by: kerryl29 | January 18, 2021

The Story Behind the Image(s): Thanksgiving Sunset

There are few, if any, things left untouched by the ravages of Covid-19.  The malady, caused by the SARS-CoV2 virus, has seeped into just about every aspect of human endeavor, some of massive consequence, some of relatively modest significance.  In the greater scheme of things, the story related here falls into the latter category, but I believe is worth telling nonetheless.

As I noted some time ago on this blog, after approximately 16 years of traveling back and forth between the Chicago and Indianapolis areas every two weeks–a journey of about 3 1/2 hours each way by car–I began dealing with the need to travel back and forth between the Chicago and Houston areas…a trip of approximately 1100 miles each way by road…beginning in the summer of 2019.  The decision was made to make the trip by air approximately once a month, and that’s what I started doing in the second half of 2019.  I had just begun settling into a routine when the pandemic hit.  I flew from Houston to the Chicago area in the middle of February, 2020, and haven’t been on a plane since, due to the risk of contracting the virus (and potentially spreading it to others on both ends) as a function of being on a crowded plane and/or in crowded airports.

After returning to the Chicago area, I stayed put for approximately 5 1/2 months, and then a mini-crisis back in the Houston area made it necessary for me to return to Texas at the beginning of August.  I had to figure out a way to do so safely, so I contrived a means of driving down there with almost no chance of coming into contact with anyone along the way.  I was able to accomplish this by, in part, attempting to catch some sleep overnight in the car at a rest stop in west-central Arkansas.  It–the sleeping part–did not go well, but I did avoid face-to-face contact with anyone over the two-day drive.  When I returned to the Chicago area about four weeks later, I drove straight through…1100 miles in 17-18 hours.  I held up pretty well–I never felt as though I was falling asleep and made the trip without incident–but I don’t recommend it and I have no intention of doing this ever again.

As I mentioned in one of the lead posts chronicling my October trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, part of the rationale of making that autumn trip was to use it as a kind of dry run for making a two-day drive from Chicago to Houston later in the year that included staying at a motel.  Could it be done safely?  I had reason to believe it could and the UP experience would be a test of that assumption.

This was all part of my broader belief that traveling during the pandemic could, in some instances, be done safely.  The key was establishing an itinerary and modus operandi that involved assiduous avoidance of direct contact with other people.  Travel by car meant avoiding sitting on a plane with scores of others; it also meant avoiding potential contact with thousands of people at airports.  Gas could be purchased at the pump; copious use of hand sanitizer would be helpful in that regard.  Food and water could be brought with me from the outset.  The big question for me was the motel part and, in both Wisconsin and Michigan, I proved to myself that, with a bit of research, it was possible to find places that could be relied upon.

I used this experience to assist me when I returned to the Houston area in late November.  On the morning of Thanksgiving Day, when I knew interstate travel would be light and crowds at motels would be non-existent, I made the first leg of the trip, with the plan to stop at a lodging in east-central Arkansas after driving about 550 miles.  Everything went smoothly and I pulled into the motel parking lot in Forrest City, Arkansas about 30 minutes before sunset.  After the contact-free check-in I entered the a room that hadn’t been disturbed in more than two days.

What has any of this got to do with photography?  Hang on.  As I was moving my things into the room I noticed that the sky to the southwest was quite nice with a smattering of clouds and the sun sinking towards the horizon.  This had a chance to be a nice sunset; nothing epic, but nice.  I had my camera equipment with me, so I thought I’d try and take advantage of the conditions.

I had nowhere to go; I didn’t know the area at all and, even if I had known of a great location relatively nearby, I almost certainly wouldn’t have time to drive there.  By the time I’d gotten my tripod and camera out and ready, the sun was less than 10 minutes from setting; it was here or nowhere.  The area I was in was filled with unattractive clutter:  buildings, brightly lit signs, vehicles, power lines, you name it.  But on the far side of the nearly deserted motel parking lot was an interesting–to me–tree, nearly bare, and I was easily able to position myself in a manner to take advantage of it while excluding all of the objectionable stimuli.  The sunset cooperated and I managed to produce two compositions which, despite being made from almost exactly the same place with the same lens and only a minute or two apart, produce a very different feel from one another.

Add another couple of images to the parking lot portfolio.

Sunset Silhouette, St. Francis County, Arkansas

Sunset Silhouette, St. Francis County, Arkansas


  1. Yay for the parking lot opportunities! Nice silhouetted tree against the colorful sky. Shhhh…we won’t tell anyone they weren’t shot in a more comely environment.

    • Thanks, Ellen. I think I’ve already let the cat out of the bag re the nature of the surroundings. 🙂

  2. Bare trees … a gift of winter! Nice!

    • Thanks, Denise!

  3. Both photos are captivating!

    • Thanks, Jane!

  4. Yeah it’s been hard all these COVID restrictions. I drive to Chicago once or twice a year from Dallas. Those drives can be nice or sometimes brutal. I couldn’t imagine doing it from Houston as frequently as you did. The photos of the trees are beautiful.

    I was in Chicago recently, while there I walked all over the city photographing it after a snow storm right before New Year Year’s Eve:

    • Thanks. The drive back and forth between Chicago and Houston isn’t much fun. I don’t go through Dallas (it’s longer and the run on I-45 is between Dallas and Houston is miserable), so that means navigating east Texas through a series of U.S. and state highways between Texarkana and the Houston area. Also no fun.

      Nice work with the Chicago street photography; you definitely caught the city at a unique–hopefully singular–point in time.

      • Lol yeah East Texas can be a crazy drive, I used to live out there, got out as soon as I could. Thanks a lot! Yes I agree, I hope it is a singular point in time.

  5. […] There were a number of mature trees scattered around an L-shaped open field, surrounded by all sorts of dwellings, a high school (a major complex, across the street to the east of us), utility poles, power lines and other representations of development.  In some respects, it was reminiscent of the experience in Arkansas a few weeks earlier that I blogged about in a prior post. […]

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