Last week I had the opportunity to take some ISU (Idaho State University) photo and video students to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks for a photography roadtrip. And, by design, two of my close friends (Robert Breshears and Tom Mitchell) from the photography department at the University of Central Missouri, were there at the same time with several of their students. It was a great rendezvous of kindred photographic spirits! Our combined students had an opportunity to exchange ideas, photograph together, and for some, enjoy bison and elk burgers in Gardiner, Montana at “The Corral“. For our group, we stayed at the Yellowstone Studies Center, which is part of the West Yellowstone Economic Council and is located in West Yellowstone, Montana. This is a great resource for universities when they bring students to Yellowstone National Park for their research and creative activities. Here’s some shots from our week at YNP and GTP!
Finally, I had some time to get away from the photo history book I’m writing and got out to make some environmental landscape shots. Jackson, Wyoming is only about 2.5 hours away, so I drove up before sunrise to explore possible shooting areas for when my friend and prior university colleague, Wilson Hurst, arrives next week. The forecast was for partly cloudy skies, but unfortunately, it was crystal clear….which also meant it was cold! Right after the sun broke between the Teton peaks, the temps dropped to about -3F (-19C). One visually exciting result was the concentrated hoarfrost on all the trees and steaming rivers.
This week my Photo Communication class and a few folks from my Advanced Photography class headed up into the Portneuf River Valley, about an hour southeast from the university, for some panoramic fieldwork. The valley was beautiful this time of year, situated between the Bannock and Portneuf mountain ranges at 5,446 feet (1,660m) elevation. Our fieldwork site was the Mormon ghost town of Chesterfield.
Situated along the Oregon Trail, Chesterfield began as a village settlement during the early 1880s. However, after the turn-of-the-century, this rural community began to suffer the effects of drought, harsh winters, and the construction of Union Pacific’s rail line a dozen miles south at Bancroft. By the late 1920s and into the ‘30s, Chesterfield continued to fail due to the Great Depression and Dust Bowl affects throughout the Intermountain West.
With cameras and tripods in hand, the ISU photo students tackled their work with much enthusiasm! Dividing into small teams, they conducted photographic survey work of the old town site. Using a variety of photographic methodologies, they crafted images ranging from multiple-image panoramic landscape shots, to detailed close-up interior architectural views within abandoned structures still containing home-preserved jars of fruits and vegetables.
Late in the afternoon, we drove over to the Chesterfield Reservoir to scout future sites for nighttime astrophotography; specifically, star trails. Afterwards, we headed out of the valley to Lava Hot Springs, where we enjoyed a hearty dinner at the Chuck Wagon restaurant. Below are some shots of my students engaged in their fieldwork at Chesterfield, along with a few of my interpretations of the experience.
This past week I made my annual photo trek to Kansas with Wilson Hurst and had interesting adventures. Typically, we roam around the Flint Hills and photograph on the prairie, but this summer we decided to explore new terrain further west…as in almost to the Colorado border! Being out on the west side of the state was like being in a completely alien environment when compared to the calming prairie. The western side of the state is raw and harsh. High temperatures, gale-force winds, and limited visibility from blowing sand marked our three-day sojourn.
Home base was Oakley, where we stayed at a local motel run by a pleasant Indian family, complete with their Hindu alter on the check-in desk. Although, I had tried to get us a room at the Annie Oakley Motel, but unfortunately it was booked solid for a family reunion. But, our base of operations worked fine after Wilson figured out I didn’t know how to properly run our air conditioner!
Landmarks photographed during this expedition included Castle Rock Badlands, which is about 30 miles south of Quinter and only accessible by gravel roads. Our favorite place where we shot star-trails two nights in a row was the well-known Monument Rocks, or the Pyramids, as the locals call them. At a distance Monument Rocks gives the impression of Stonehenge, except magnified. The exposed gypsum columns rise 70 feet (21 meters) in the air, making them rather impressive! During the long hours of photographing star-trails, we saw several meteorites, satellites, and a US Air Force KC-10 refueling a C-17 cargo jet. The moonless nights provided an inky backdrop for the stars, which were incredibly bright and the skies remarkably clear, considering the violent winds that would not abate.
Below are a few shots from that trip. Enjoy!
Last Friday morning we spent time walking across the Brooklyn Bridge. Afterwards, we made our way around the Brooklyn Bridge Park, where I shot this panorama. The Brooklyn Bridge is to the left, while to the right is the Manhattan Bridge. Once we finished photographing along the waterfront, we went over a couple of blocks and had an incredible New York style pizza at Grimaldi’s, which is famous for their pizzas.
So over the past few years, my colleagues and I have taken groups of students on short two or three-day photo road trips over into Kansas and the Flint Hills region. Usually we do this over Spring Break and it’s cold, windy, and generally unpleasant. This time though, we decided on an autumn trip, which gave us much better weather and the opportunity to shoot star trails at a very unique location.
After an uneventful drive to Emporia on Friday evening, we gathered the whole gang for diner at Montana Mike’s Steakhouse. Our next morning would take us to the Tall Grass National Prairie Preserve before sunrise…a challenge for most college students…but ours were up to the task! We were rewarded with great light and interesting cloud formations. Once the sunrise light had faded to mundane morning light, we split into three parties and hiked separate trails until our rendezvous around noon back at the farmhouse. Lunch was enjoyed at yet another gas station (this seems to be a recurring theme in our trips!) that also doubled as the Flint Hills Restaurant in Strong City.
By late afternoon on Saturday, we arrived in central Kansas and checked into our rooms in Salina. Now the excitement was about to begin! We descended en masse upon a lonely Subway shop with only one employee working and then packed our suppers into our camera bags and headed north to Rock City, near Minneapolis, Kansas. This was Wilson’s and mine second trip to this otherworldly spot of sedimentary rock “concretions”. The stars (and the Milky Way) were stunning. Other heavenly bodies also appeared: shooting stars (or are they falling stars?), man-made satellites (two), high-altitude jets, and finally a nearly full moon.
Sunday morning we all had a leisurely breakfast at IHOP and then we headed east to Junction City to climb the ridge to shoot panoramas of the Atomic Canon and Fort Riley army base. Here the students and faculty parted ways and we (the faculty) sought other adventures at the Oz Museum and abandoned 19th century one-room structures near Wamego, including the nearby Beecher Bible & Rifle Church! The afternoon was rounded out with a nice find of 19th century photographs (including a carte-de-visite by famous Wisconsin photographer H. H. Bennett) from an antique shop in Alma. Below are photos from our road trip…enjoy!
Recently I had the privilege of a day trip with three of my friends from the university, to the Konza Prairie Biological Station. This is an incredible venue for all types of photography, but especially panoramas. Although my colleagues are into this type of photography rather seriously (they’ve custom made or bought expensive pano heads for their tripods), I tend to be more low-tech. In other words, I hand-hold my camera and use and framing device similar to my colleague from the Art Institute of Colorado, Angela Faris. She describes a similar technique in her latest book, which I highly recommend, The Elements of Photography: Understanding and Creating Sophisticated Images. I hope you enjoy this latest blog entry and I would enjoy reading any comments you might wish to offer.
© 2008 Terry Ownby, Konza Prairie 1.