Category Archives: Travel

Goodbye Chattanooga

King of Chattanooga

King of Chattanooga

Here I am, sitting in a small hotel room on the outskirts of Chattanooga, Tennessee, soaking up the free wireless before heading north to the great state of Kentucky. For those who haven’t been following me on Twitter over the past couple of days, one of my longest and best friends got married last night so I headed down from Peoria to spend a few days in the Smoky Mountains to see him off on his new journey in life.

I’m not normally one who takes vacations all that often; in fact, I have more paid time off built up at work than I know what to do with. So when I started planning the nine-hour haul down to Chattanooga, I looked at my calendar, saw nothing of major importance, and decided to take my time coming back.

I scanned the map and quickly found two places I have always wanted to visit, but never had the time, money, or opportunity to: Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky and Shawnee National Forest/Garden of the Gods in southern Illinois.

My plan is to leave Chattanooga in just a few minutes and head north to Mammoth Cave, spend a few days hiking and shooting, then on to a couple of days in Shawnee, finally making back to the homestead on Friday. It has already been an amazing trip so far and I’ve captured some good material, some of which you can see scattered here in this post.I was able to visit the Tennessee Aquarium, the largest freshwater aquarium in the United States, and Ruby Falls/Rock City on top of Lookout Mountain as well.

If you get the chance to visit Chattanooga, don’t underestimate what it has to offer. The downtown is bustling and lively during the day and has an intense, charming night life while the sites and experiences are plenty as well.

Ruby Falls

Ruby Falls

Rock City was impressive, but Ruby Falls truly took my breath away, and I’m not one who easily loses his breath. I would say that claustrophobic folks might want to avoid the cave; even I was a bit on edge when the tour guide told us we were farther underground than the Empire State Building is tall.

The best part of this trip, however, was getting to see my best friend get married. I have been friends with Charlie for almost two decades and, while we may not talk for months at a time, every time I pick up that phone and call, we spend hours laughing and sharing stories like old friends do. It was great to spend time with him and his new wife this weekend as well as seeing many of my old high school friends who I hadn’t seen in eight years or more.

Anyway, I should probably get wrapped up here and get on the road; I hear the cleaning staff sniffing around my door, waiting to get in and disinfect the place. My connection over the next few days will be spotty so I’ll try to post when I can. In the meantime, make sure to drop by Twitter as I post more regular updates daily over there including sneak peeks of photos from the road.

Tuesday Viewsday: Washington, DC Lilies

It’s been a while since my last Tuesday Viewsday post and I thought I’d dive back in with an image from this year’s trip to Washington, DC. I know I’ve bored all of you with my play-by-play of the trip so let’s take a closer look at one of the images that was captured during those few days in the nation’s capital.



Let me start off by saying that I have realized over the years that I am not a nature or wildlife photographer. Yes, it’s true that I have a few images in my collection from those genres, but those are mostly from times and places where I was in the right place at the right time.

I was never passionate about capturing the natural world; don’t get me wrong, I love experiencing the outdoors, but actively seeking out plants and animals to capture with my camera isn’t where my heart lies.

So, when I’m presented with the opportunity of capturing a subject that I’m not used to, I challenge myself to use my knowledge and vision to create an image that I am passionate about. When it comes to flowers, I feel an extra set of challenges.

With this shot, aptly titled “Low,” I was inspired by a workshop I took with the great Ben Willmore a few weeks earlier back home in Peoria. As a photographer who is also not particularly excited about capturing nature, one of his suggestions for spicing up an image is to explore every angle or, as he put it, “shoot like an ant, shoot like a giraffe.”

This is great advice for photographers of all skill levels and genres. No matter what you are capturing, try to shoot from the left, right, top, bottom… get up on a ladder or lay down on the ground… stop shooting the images that everyone else is. For me, I challenge myself even further when I’m in heavily photographed places like Washington, DC, to capture images that represent that place, but most people haven’t yet seen “on a postcard,” if you will.

One little sidenote about this image… I love the use of leading lines in here as well. What does that mean? Well, take a look at the curved “line” that the row of flowers make as they move through the frame.

Do you see how your eye seems to follow from the larger, closer flowers in the foreground all the way back into the background as they recede away from the camera? That’s a leading line… it is “leading” your eye through the image. This is a wonderful composition element to use when capturing buildings and architecture as well so make sure to give it a try.

Now, granted, I did get some very funny looks when capturing these beautiful lilies, but laying down on the ground in the middle of a path in the nation’s capital will have people staring no matter what. I’d also like to think that they might be thinking to themselves, “well that guy is trying something no one else hasn’t… he might be nuts or he might just be on to something.” Remember, the line between insanity and genius is thinner than anything I know.

So, go out and try it yourself… shoot like an ant from down low or like a giraffe from up high. Let me know how it goes!

Abraham Lincoln Home

Lincoln Home - Dining Room

About a month ago now, my Dad asked me to join him for a day with my aunt and uncle and their grandkids while they showed the kids around my old stomping grounds, Springfield, Illinois. The destinations were the Abraham Lincoln Home and the Lincoln Presidential Library.

I had never been to the library before (Mike! You grew up in Springfield! Yeah… I know… right?) so that was pretty exciting. I may post about my experiences there later on, but for now, I wanted to share some images I took at Lincoln’s Home. While I had been there before, I hadn’t been there since I became a professional photographer so it was a great opportunity.

My only regret is that the lighting was even worse than I thought it would be. I ended up shooting at 800 ISO (I hate going above 400 at the most on my Nikon D60; it doesn’t handle the noise the way I wish it would, but what can ya do?), wide open at f/2.8 on my Tokina 11-16mm ultra wide lens. It worked out well enough, but I had more noise than I wanted and every room had these inconveniently placed descriptive placards (as you can see in some shots) so I wasn’t completely satisfied, but sometimes you have to take what you can get. Enjoy!

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