Photography Places

Gardens at Twilight

Here it is, the week before Labor Day weekend and I only now find out that the Missouri Botanical Gardens have been open to 8pm every Wednesday between Memorial Day and Labor Day. At least last night I was able to go and attempt a little dusk photography–helped along by finding the part that attaches from my camera to the tripod.

The Gardens are undergoing its sprucing up in time for the big festivities: the Japanese Festival this weekend. I’m not sure if the lights outlining the pools have always been there, or were added specifically for this event, but they added a lovely touch to the waterlilies and dragonflies.

Garden Lights

Dragonfly at Dusk

I don’t know if I’ll go to the Japanese festival. It has all my favorites: the Candy Man, the Taiko Drums, Bon Odori, and this year, Sumo wrestlers. But I have work to do, and I’m still feeling peaky. However, the food is fantastic, and the presentations wonderous. Perhaps if I work especially hard tomorrow.

I have come to really appreciate the Gardens this year, particularly since because of finances and problems with heat and bugs I haven’t been able to go out to the trails as much this summer. No matter how busy it is, I can always find a quiet spot to sit, just sit, and I have been almost desperate for such lately. Now, more than ever, we should grab these moments when we can, as often as we can.

Waterlily at Night

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Yesterday started out with mist. From my hotel room, I could see the building that houses the Welk shows, and beyond that, the mists over the river leading away from the Table Rock Dam.

Morning and Mist in Branson

When I got to the Dam, most of it was closed, as it was too early. I found one place that wasn’t closed for security reasons and was able to get a picture of the dam. There wasn’t much water running down the dam–most likely due to the drought, again.

Table Rock Lake Dam

The fog was thick, and oddly layered. I could look down into it and saw, barely, the image of a man fishing, noticable more from his bright orange hat than anything else. Driving further down the road I found a spot where people could park and fish the river below the dam.

I walked down the wooden steps to the beach area, by the overflow stream. Seeing them in the fog was a rather amazing experience. They each had their own space, quietly casting their line, and winding it back, only to re-cast it again.


Warning: but what if you're deaf?

The trip back was very quiet, and primarily overcast, but no rain, luckily. The only real excitement I had was when I spotted a small turtle crossing the road in front of me. I wasn’t going to run over a turtle, so I slammed on my breaks, hard enough to leave markings on the road and smell burning rubber. I watched in horror as the little guy disappeared underneath the car, but didn’t feel a thump.

I sat there in the road, trying to see if the guy was walking around. I couldn’t leave the car parked in the road so all I could do was inch forward until I could see this small, black turtle shell reflected in my rearview mirror. I stopped again and watched, anxiously, until the turtle extended out its legs and head and took off for the side of the road.

Later, I came over a hill to see a row of fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances, driving slowly along with their lights on. It was a funeral procession, most likely for a fallen firefighter, though I couldn’t find anything in the news. I slowed down, but wasn’t sure what to do. One of the firetrucks pulled out into my lane, which made the decision for me, so I pulled over, as did a couple of cars and a truck behind me. I managed to get a few photos, though none were that good.

I stopped at only one place on the way back: Alley Spring. Unlike my last trip, the trees were in full leaf, and the day was overcast — perfect conditions for photos.

Alley Spring Basin Gate

The Mill is run by the federal government, and they provide people who answer questions about the Mill in the Summer. The lady who was on duty when I arrived told me about how the farmer’s would bring in corn or wheat, and dump it on the floor next to the rollers (used for grinding grain). It would drop through to the basement where it would be weighed and the miller take his cut. From there, a conveyor belt with little cups would haul the wheat or corn to the upper story, where filters would sift out the larger wheat from the smaller. From there, the corn would go to the corn roller, and the larger wheat to one machine, the smaller to another.

Water-driven Grinding Machines for Wheat

Alley Spring Corn Husker

The corn was ground up for making moonshine, the wheat for flour. It was considered a modern marvel of the time at one point, but it only ran 20 years — the Ozarks in that area aren’t good farming land. Luckily, the State bought the Mill in 1920 to preserve it, and aside from some minor wood replacement, it’s all the original materials. They even run it twice during the day, though not the day when I was there.

The hostess was very friendly, as were all of the people I ran into on the trip. At Hodgson Mill, I ran into a couple from Theodosia (isn’t that a pretty town name) who were out looking at mills. They showed me the water line of the Flood of ’93, and I told them about Bollinger, which still ground grain, after a couple of hundred years.

Of all the mills, Alley Spring is still my favorite. The hostess told me that a bobcat had taken a rabbit drinking from the Spring just a couple of days before, and the week before that, a forest ranger had a big black bear pass in front of his truck. I may yet meet my bear face to face this year, and get a photograph.

Favorite view of Alley Spring Mill

Insects outdoors Photography Places

Last call

I’m off tomorrow into the wilds of the Ozarks, into that part of the state new to me. There will, of course, be photos when I return, but maybe code, too, as I like to work on code when I’m in a hotel room — gives me something familiar.

Today, though, I went to the Botanical for another chance to get photos of the water lilies. Last chance, really, as the summer is waning and you can see this in the richness of the trees, and the activity of the insects. Particularly the insects, as the garden was ripe with butterflies today; so with yet more water lily photos you’ll also be getting yet more butterfly pictures.

Next time: code, I swear. And pictures of something different, I hope.


Still, I don’t think I can or ever will, get tired of being surrounded by butterflies and water lilies. It’s like you’re in the middle of a cartoon drawn by a young child with a new box of Crayolas. Everywhere you turn, you see another bright splash of color.


In the Spring, the insects are lazy, shy, and elusive. Today, though, you could almost reach out and hold them they were that close. But they were moving, constantly, which made getting a photo a little challenging. Now is the last chance for the bees to get nectar for the hive; the butterflies to store up energy to finish the migration; the dragonflies to, well, I don’t know why the dragonflies were frantic.

Not just the bugs, the photographers were out in force today, even at the 7am opening of the garden. Of course, the weather was going to be hot, and the sun isn’t that good for photography, but I must have ran into a dozen photographers within one hour. Most had tripods, a few were like me — just winging it.


Today’s bright and busy activity reminded me of years ago when I would go to a bar, and the bartender or band would announce last call. The lights would come up in the place, and people would scurry about, making good on the last few moments before having to head out into the night.

This girl would run up to her friends and whisper something into their ears and they would giggle and leave; that young man would be writing a phone number down in a match book. Of course now everyone carries pocket computers and cellphones and numbers would be jotted down into some kind of electronic device, but it’s not the same.

Friends would come together and split apart, some for home, others for another party somewhere, yet others to go to breakfast. And not just a small breakfast, either. I don’t know what happens now, in this Atkins Diet time, but back then, it was large, it had eggs, and it had potatoes and butter. Mega-cinnamon roll was optional.

There was one place in Seattle that was famous for the after hour breakfasts they’d make: huge plate size omelets covering a bed of crisp, perfectly done hash browns, served with good, hot coffee–all accompanied by thick, buttered toast and real preserves. The place was small, and people would be lined up for a block to get in, it was that popular. We’d sit there and laugh about the night, none of us wanting it to end–caught up in that perfect moment that’s not quite morning, but not evening either.


I remember a morning just like that in Salt Lake City, walking all night with friends, greeting the dawn with outstretched arms. The last of summer, and summer’s golden light.

This is a good time of year. The roses and other flowers have started to wilt, but in doing so they let out their richest scent. The leaves are at their darkest green, just before they begin to turn. Birds are everywhere, no longer bound to nests or to mating, and free to fly, and sing, just for the joy of it. It’s warm, but we’re starting to get a cool breeze now and again. And of course, all those butterflies.

I did like to walk among them today. They’re not shy of you at all, unless your shadow falls on them and then they take off into the air. As I walked by the rows of flowers, butterflies would leap into the air behind and around me, as if I were a June bride. My last chance to be a June bride, really, as I’m of an age with the summer.


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Blazing sunshine

A two day trip to the Ozarks can seem like a week, and I mean that in a good way.

Sunday I drove down I44 to 63 and then eventually to a series of back country roads where the only company I had was the ubiquitous white pickups and motorcycle riders. The recent rains have saved the Ozarks and by the rich green color, I think we’ll have a good fall, at least in the hills. And I didn’t kill one creature as I covered the windy, hilly roads, which we can count a good thing.

Sunday ended up being hot and like other Missourians impacted by the high gas prices, I kept the windows down the the air conditioner off. I developed a habit of driving one handed, the other resting on my door, which I think makes me look rather wordly, especially when the wind is blowing through my curls and I’m wearing my Big Sunglasses. Of course I ended up with a truck driver tan–one arm burned a deep brick red, while the other is a pale honey color. Or dead fish, if you prefer.

Fish. Fish was the operative word this weekend, as everywhere I went I talked with people who told me stories or who fished. Can you imagine a better weekend?

I stopped first at Rockbridge Mill, arriving in the early afternoon under 90 degree sun. Few of the pictures came out but I got a couple: one of the mill, and one of a very lucky angler.

Rockbridge Mill

Success comes in wet packages

The water was low, which wasn’t surprising for this time of year and the drought we’ve had, but it was high enough for the trout to move, and as I got to the falls, a lady who was fishing had just pulled in what looked to be a monster fish. She was kind enough to pose for the picture, which was one of my favorite from the trip.

She said she’d gone out for a relaxing hour or two of fishing, but no sooner had she put her line in then a fish caught it, and she was finished in 10 minutes. She was pleased at catching the fish, but since the river is ‘catch and keep’, she had to stop at the point. I think she was disappointed at having success come too quickly. There are people who fish to catch fish; then there’s the lucky bastards.

From Rockbridge I followed more windy, hilly back country roads to Hodgson Mill. I had read it was under restoration, and was pleasantly surprised to see it fully restored. The sun, though, was just too bright and I really couldn’t get a good picture, and had to settle for a photo of the watercress growing along the spring.

Watercress and Waterfall

From Hodgson to Dawt, where the place was full of innertubers, but I had a monstrous headache by then, so I didn’t stay long, and headed to 160 to Branson.

I was lucky to have light traffic my entire trip, which was good because 160 is nothing but 35MPH corners, which can be fun to drive, but can also be exhausting at the same time. Happily Branson is odd enough and colorful enough to wake the dead, much less a tired driver.

What can I say about Branson? It is a town that is based on early tourism because of the nearby lakes, such as Table Rock lake. As it grew, though, it morphed into something really different: a town carved into the hillside above the lake, full of hotels and inns all decorated to a theme, full of shows. Each hotel, inn, store, has a videoscreen that displays bits of the shows currently playing. And neon lights, of course. It’s like Vegas, but without gambling.

I got lost twice, because I would be driving along, mouth open as I was blasted by all the videoscreens, and would miss a turn. When I finally got to the hotel where I was staying, Welk Resort, it was late afternoon and just starting to rain.

The hotel clerk was exceptionally nice, and when I told her I was out ‘milling’ she told me about the mill in use at the College of the Ozarks (more on this in a separate post sometime). As we talked, I could hear a tapping against the window and we were both surprised when we found ourselves in a monstrous storm. I quickly unpacked my car and in my room watched as we were hit with hail, and microbursts grabbed the poolside furniture and tossed them about. It was a really nice show.

I walked around downtown Branson for a little while, taking a few pictures. They don’t do the place justice. It is a one of kind place. I wish, though, I had grabbed a picture of the Peace Frogs Cafe. Next trip, it’s on my must see list.

I’ll cover the next day in a separate post.

Insects Photography


The rains finally came this last weekend. They blew in strongly on Saturday and took out the power for half the city, but I don’t think anyone minded.

I did lose my internet for several hours on Sunday. When I called in, I finally got through to a lovely woman with a charming Kentucky accent who told me that the reason I didn’t have service is that the power box for the cable was hit by lightning; the only reason the cable was still working was that a cable company worker was down at the station with a power generator in the back of his truck, keeping the cable going. The internet, however, required much more power.

With the rains has come cooler weather, and I’ve been able to get out for walks. However, with gas prices being the way they are, the walks are close to town. When did someone find the secret of alchemy and turn gold into gasoline?

I don’t mind walking close to home, though. There’s a gentle feel to the air — a softness we’ve been missing all summer. It’s almost as if we’re having a second Spring. During Monday’s walk at Powder, under a canopy of dripping green leaves, I came upon a half dozen bucks; to see one antlered deer is uncommon, and to see several at once was an unexpected treat.

And today I found the monarch butterflies. After all these years with trips carefully planned to Shaw and other places, without any success, I finally find my monarchs where I least expected them. Purely by accident — I had a couple of hours to kill before picking up my roommate at work and decided to go to Busch Conservation Area to take pictures of geese. When I arrived, the fields around the main lake were full of a delicate, pink flower (milkweed), freshly bloomed from all the rain, and busy among the flowers were hundreds of monarch butterflies.


I grabbed my camera and raced from flower to flower taking pictures, sometimes stopping just to let the butterflies and bees fly around me, close enough to almost feel the movement of their wings. No one else was about, though I could hear creatures in the grasses and in the water of the lake next to the field. It was worth the summer, all dead and dry and hot bit of it. All of it was worth those few hours with the butterflies.

Needless to say, I have a lot of photos. Be forewarned.


What was particularly funny was the interaction between the butterflies and the bees. The butterflies would usually have their wings folded up. As a bee approached, they would suddenly open their wings, *thwack*! And there would go the bee.


Came home and watched two wonderful movies: Strictly Ballroom and IQ. Strictly Ballroom is an Australian film about ballroom dancing, and would seem to be the usual boy and girl against all odds movies, but it has some wonderfully campy movements. And I love Spanish guitar, not to mention the dancing.

What I liked in particular with Strictly Ballroom was the ending, which I won’t give away, other than to say that the dancing is all that matters.

And IQ, well, it’s sweet and gentle, and isn’t it a wonderful time to be alive? Wahoo.


(The above is a swallowtail butterfly — it wouldn’t stop moving, and kept fluttering it’s upper wings. Really graceful and beautiful creature.)