A view of my world in Central Illinois and places we go.


A Day in the Alps

I had the opportunity to go to Switzerland a couple of weeks ago, and while my wife and I did not stay in the Alps, we got to spend a day enjoying the beauty of the Lauterbrunnen Valley featuring a multiple (4) cable car trip to the top of the Schilthorn. Some James Bond fans may remember this as the setting for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, featuring George Lazenby as Bond, Telly Savalas as the villian Blofeld, and my favorite, Diana Rigg as Bond’s love interest and the only woman he ever marries. We start near the bottom of the valley as hang gliders come in for a landing, but you will see several high above including when we reached the summit at nearly 10,000 feet.

Before we squish into our first cable car up, a poster of the movie.
Hang gliders coming in for a landing.
A view down from our cable car on our way up – you can see a cable car below us.
Our destination, the top of the Schilthorn and the rotating restaurant, Piz Gloria.
At the top!
And the restaurant…
But the best part is the view! On the far left is the Eiger, famous for climbers and the Clint Eastwood movie, the Eiger Sanction. And in the middle is the Jungfrau.

From the top, we took two cable cars down to Murren, then walked down to Gruttschalp, admiring the beauty of the valley and the mountains towering above us.

Hang glider above us as we walked down.
The Eiger at center top and the Lauterbrunnen Valley below us.
The Eiger in the clouds and a hang glider beneath a red canopy.
It was a warm walk down, especially as we proceeded across this meadow. But, my, the view!
The end of our walk down the valley where we met our bus.
This cow reminded me of the painted cows on the streets of Chicago.

Arcola Owlets Have Fledged

In my previous post of these owlets near my home, I mentioned they were close to leaving their nest. That was just over a week ago and on my visit yesterday, two were in neighboring trees while the third remained in the nest. A couple of photographers from Bloomington pointed out their parents roosting in a tall pine tree a short walk away. All seemed to be pretty sleepy, enjoying a sunny day and glad to not have to deal with the previous day’s cold rain and, yes, even snow.

The parents
Still in the nest
Good-sized feet for a fledgling

Great Horned Owlets

I visited a town not far from home, Arcola, Illinois, last weekend. For several years, a pair of Great Horned owls has been rearing broods in one of their parks. Every spring it is a treat to go observe – this is my first year going down there. These three will soon be fledging.

Autumn, Walnut Point State Park

Glassy reflection on a cove at Walnut Point State Park near Oakland, IL

White Park Bay, Antrim County, No. Ireland

I have literally thousands of images from two trips to Ireland and Northern Ireland the last two summers and I will not bore my followers or any other casual passers-by with too many more (which will be difficult as many visitors to the green isle will know that beyond every turn is another post card photo opportunity); but, I have to share these two of the beach and bay where we stayed for a week in 2017.

White Park Bay; the cottage we stayed in is located at the far end of the beach, one of the white buildings beneath the cliffs.
White Park Bay looking the opposite direction – Rathlin Island can be seen on the horizon.

The property  we leased is owned by the National Trust and I highly recommend people look at their properties if they are going to the U.K. and want a well-kept place typically off the beaten path, often with some historical background. For example, we have stayed in the stable apartment at  the House of Dun near Montrose, Scotland; the garden cottage at Inverewe near Poolewe, Scotland; the Ferry Cottage, Balmacara, Scotland (just off the Isle of Skye); the Butler’s Apartment at Florence Court, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland; and here, the cottage on White Park Bay.

All were clean and comfortable and each had something to offer, particularly regarding things to see and do nearby. All are self-catering, which fits our style of vacation holiday, in that we can make our own breakfast, day-trip the countryside, and return for happy hour(!) and dinner that we make ourselves. It helps to have a wife who is a great cook and enjoys cooking while on holiday. We learn the local markets and, sometimes, get to know the proprietors. This was especially handy in Montrose, when we got to know the local fishmonger and score some fresh-caught lobster. But that’s a story for another day.

Irish Sunrise

IMG_1098-2Here’s an image I took this past summer (2018) along the east coast of Ireland near Arklow (south of Dublin along the Irish Sea coast. One of the few mornings I got up early to catch the sunrise and was delivered with a nice reward.

The Dark Hedges

Dark Hedges.11x14-1Finally getting back to blogging after years of absence from WordPress. Thought I would slowly get back in the groove with a single image, one of my favorites from recent years. This photo was taken in Antrim County, Northern Ireland in the summer of 2017 while we toured the northern coast. This location has been popular for years – the trees are 200 year-old beech trees originally planted to serve as an entrance to an estate, but gained fame more recently as a set in the Game of Thrones – the King’s Road. We got there relatively early in the day and were fortunate enough to be there before the tourist buses unloaded and dozens of people crowd the scene. I converted the image from color to black and white to set a more somber mood. I think that works, don’t you?

January Weekend Visit to Chicago

To celebrate a friend’s January birthday, we like to spend the weekend in Chicago, about 2 hours drive from our home in Champaign. If you don’t mind the weather, and it is often quite cold in Chicago in January, it’s a good time to go: post-Christmas sales abound and the city tends to be less crowded. And, hotels give good deals, especially our favorite, The Drake off North Michigan Avenue (i.e., the Magnificent Mile). We got a room overlooking Lake Short Drive and a portion of the lake itself. What a wonderful view, especially at night with a long exposure.


This particular weekend, the weather was overcast and threatening to snow. It gave the buildings an eerie look and lent itself to some black & white captures as well.


The John Hancock Bldg ascends into the clouds.


Chicago’s Water Tower and the John Hancock loom through the trees.


Two crows ponder the traffic from above Lake Shore Drive.


Empty docks will have to wait a while for spring.


Crowds constantly gather around The Bean; in this case, to watch skaters on the ice below.


I got a kick out of these folks posing for a selfie reflection.


Something a little abstract.


Ornaments on Michigan Ave., and if you look close, multiple selfies.


More “abstractedness.”


Saturday morning calm on the lake and before the traffic builds on LSD.


By Sunday morning, the mood has changed with a dusting of snow and growing winds.


Waves crashing on the revetments make for a very cold spray that can sometimes reach the northbound lanes of LSD.


Reflection of waves off the revetments meeting incoming waves at right angles make for some spectacular wave collisions.


Until we return to North Michigan Avenue, this will have to do!


Warm Winter Sunset

Just one image to share, taken Christmas week here in central Illinois where it has been extremely mild for late December and prior to the copious rains we’ve had the last few days. These fields and maybe even this road are likely under water as I post this. Looking forward to a fruitful 2016! Best wishes to everyone.


A Visit to the National Zoo

IMG_8350-1This past weekend I once again accompanied my wife to Washington DC, she for business and me for pleasure. Rather than being housed near the overly-familiar Mall, we stayed at the very nice (and famous) Omni Shoreham just off Connecticut Ave and overlooking Rock Creek National Park, northwest of the central city and actually quite close to the National Zoo. So, I spent a lot of time at our nation’s zoo. Friday morning looked to be rainy, and stayed cloudy all day – this turned out to be an excellent bonus. Cool weather and overcast skies meant active animals with nice diffuse, shadowless lighting. FYI, I spent the whole day with my 400 mm lens on my Canon 7D, perfect for getting closeups – these are not cropped images. However, this lens will not allow me to get the whole animal and means you need to focus on the particular area of interest (generally the face and especially the eyes).

The National Zoo is known for its pandas, and there was a nice little audience watching them (mom, dad, and their daughter, all in separate areas), but I am always drawn to the “big cats” – see my previous blogs of visits to this and Brookfield Zoo near Chicago. These first of the tiger I especially like – his keeper was walking around outside the enclosure and this guy was keeping a sharp eye on him, possibly hoping for food. Those eyes just look right through you.

IMG_8327-1One more shot of the tiger, where you can see his teeth – the better to eat you with, my dear!

IMG_8313-1Can’t not have any lion shots! I was there early enough that all the big cats were just being released to their outside habitats. It was clear when this male lion got out. He strutted around, marked his territory, and then proceeded to bellow (it’s not really a roar) his presence to the rest of the zoo. Impressive!



IMG_8388And, here is his pride. Click on an image to see it enlarged and allow you to scroll through them. Hit your “escape” button to come back here.

I’ll finish with this, as one has to have a shot of the pandas if you’re ever at the National Zoo! This is Bao Bao, the daughter, not full grown as yet.