military

Prairies, Weird Rocks, Atomic Canons, and the Oz Museum: Another Kansas Photo Road Trip

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!

Dr. Tom photographing the sunrise at Tall Grass Prairie Preserve. © 2011 Terry Ownby

Sunrise on the prairie. © 2011 Terry Ownby

Star trails at Rock City, Kansas. © 2011 Terry Ownby

Star trails with gift shop at Rock City, Kansas. © 2011 Terry Ownby

Journey into the Land of Oz. © 2011 Terry Ownby

 

Panoramic overlooking Fort Riley with its M65 Atomic "Annie" Canon. © 2011 Terry Ownby

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Military Photo-J

I’ve had a very interesting photographic career. Even though for two decades, I shot food for advertising and other commercial assignments, I was fortunate to simultaneously pursue photojournalism while serving in the U.S. military. After looking at my blog, one of my Army buddies asked me where were my PJ shots? Good question, since more than half of my 22 years of military service was as a photojournalist. Even though I’m posting an image today, I may very well devote an entire page on this site to some of my more memorable PJ shots.

This diptych comes from my last tour-of-duty in the República de Panamá. We were based at Santiago, in the Provincia de Veraguas, which is located in west-central Panama; roughly a 6 to 8 hour ride on an old school bus! My best friend, Koby, and I were sent to the north-western corner of the province, in the mountains up near Provincia de Bocas del Toro, to provide newspaper and TV coverage of humanitarian work by U.S. Army National Guard engineers. They were rebuilding a clinic in a small mountain village. Our only access to this hinter region was by air, so we hitched a ride with a flight of Vietnam-era Huey’s from the Illinois Army National Guard. After completing our mission, our flight decided to practice “nap-of-the-earth” flying along the Río de Jesús, which had a real pucker factor, but that’s another story for another time!

© 1992 Terry Ownby, Huey’s flying along foothills of the Ande’s in western Panama.