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Greater Minnesota #3: Interstate State Park

Welcome to the Jungle

We took a weekend camping trip to the nearby Interstate state park, located just outside of Taylor’s Falls, MN. It is relatively close to the Twin Cities, has nice facilities, access to the St. Croix River, and some fun hiking. And as a bonus, it has some pretty cool glacial potholes to explore. The park is pretty urban, however; there was traffic noise from the highway as a pretty steady background noise throughout the weekend. The river also has regular cruises going, and the megaphone on deck explaining to the passengers what they are looking at also echoes if you are right on the river. On the bright side, we were in a great campsite, with access to everything.

Once again, these shots were all taken with my phone. I haven’t gotten around to looking through the shots I took with my “real” camera yet. Settle in for a line of pictures, with no text breaks in between!

Enjoy,

T

Tenting

Meg

Wings

Light

#6

#7

Hobitat

Tall Tales

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August 2014

Flowers

Today’s post is just a quick round-up of photos from August, mostly on my phone. I’ve raved in the past about my favorite app for photography, Hipstamatic, and anyone who is into taking shots with their phone should really check it out. I take 90% of my photos on my phone with this app.

I have another post in the coming days about out Labor Day camping trip, so stay tuned for more. In the meantime, enjoy some shots from last month.

CCC

Alone

Shadows

Shapes

Fern

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Greater Minnesota #2: Red Wing

Red Wing, MN

*Note: I will say at the outset that these are all photographs from my phone; I use my favorite app, called Hipstamatic. The app allows you to program a “lens” and a “film” before you take the shot, but once it has been captured, it cannot be altered. The low resolution was a product of a new setting which I did not realize until after the trip, and the differing lenses and films used were because I used the “shake to randomize” setting, which I don’t normally use. I especially avoid this setting when I aim to tell a story of something, as the visual narrative is interrupted by the constant changes.*

The second of our summer day trips was to the town of Red Wing, Minnesota. Red Wing is just over an hour south of Saint Paul, and we arrived in town on the back of our trip to New Ulm, which you can read about in my previous post. The biggest thing in town is by far the Red Wing Shoe Co., which has been around since 1905.

Indoor/Outdoor

We arrived from New Ulm and spent the evening in the pool at the hotel. Inclement weather (which ultimately did not end up happening) kept us from camping, which had been the original plan. Oddly enough, Max didn’t complain.

Floatation

Father/Son

The next morning, we packed up and headed into town. We stopped at the Red Wing store and museum in town, which told the (rather interesting) story of the company, with a small exhibit upstairs. It also holds the world’s largest boot (size 638.5, since you’re wondering). The story of the company and its growth was very interesting; in many ways, it mirrors the growth of 20th-century America.

Size

Volume

We walked through town, which was pleasant. Certainly more people were around than in New Ulm, and the shops all seemed to be open for business during the week. We checked out a number of shops in the center of town, including the confectionary, where we acquired a few tasty treats to keep us going through the day.

Candy Wrapper

Main Street

Selfie

After working up an appetite in town, we grabbed lunch at a lovely little cafe called “Bev’s Cafe”, which had a good assortment of food and homemade pie, along with plenty of retro-cafe vibe. It was busy, and seemingly popular with both locals and tourists. If you’re in Red Wing I would recommend checking it out for a decent lunch that is priced well.

Just don’t forget to save room for dessert!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

Disruption

Finally, we hiked up Barn Bluff, which overlooks the city. Our walk out to the bluff was a bit of an eye-opener, as we walked through what must have been the rough part of town, as things took a turn from the gentrified city center we had spent the day in. In many ways, what I saw strikingly similar to what I saw in Anchorage, Alaska. The hike to the overlook was pleasant enough, despite the constant sound of trucks below. At the overlooks, we found a flag and a vantage point to see the city below, and the river.

Barn Bluff

Summit

Tired

Red Wing was enjoyable on the whole, and after our hike up and down Barn Bluff, we climbed back in the car and headed north to Saint Paul.

I’ve decided that this will be an ongoing project to visit and blog about the small towns across the state that I can visit. Some of the ones I’ve already been to–Grand Marais, Tofte, Pipestone, Moorhead, Alexandria, etc–may get a blog post at some point if I have time to go back through my archives and post them. Either way, I’m going to plan on more trips in the future to see more of the great state I call home.

Industry

Shadow Days

 

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Greater Minnesota #1: New Ulm

“The Most German Town in America”

We took two day trips to small towns in southern Minnesota this week; this post will talk about the first of them. The town is New Ulm, and is located in the southwestern part of the state. It is mostly farmland along the roughly two-hour drive from the Twin Cities–frankly, it’s not much to look at. Honestly, that’s the case with most of the southern part of the state.

Billed as “the most German town in America”, New Ulm is proud of its heritage. It was founded by German immigrants before Minnesota was even recognized as a state, and has clung to its roots. My son has been attending the German immersion school in St. Paul since pre-school, and is interested in German culture and language. That was one reason we chose New Ulm as a destination for summer vacation.

*Note: I will say at the outset that these are all photographs from my phone; I use my favorite app, called Hipstamatic. The app allows you to program a “lens” and a “film” before you take the shot, but once it has been captured, it cannot be altered. The low resolution was a product of a new setting which I did not realize until after the trip, and the differing lenses and films used were because I used the “shake to randomize” setting, which I don’t normally use. I especially avoid this setting when I aim to tell a story of something, as the visual narrative is interrupted by the constant changes.*

Cultural Exchange

After we arrived, we decided to park and head to the tourist office. The tourism center offers free coffee and cookies, and is staffed by the friendliest collection of ladies I can remember meeting. They didn’t stop smiling the entire time and seemed really enthused about New Ulm. In hindsight, they probably were at least partially responsible for setting the bar a bit too high for the town; more on that later.

We ambled through town to see the sights, among them the Heritage Tree. The heritage tree is essentially a tree-looking tower which has various models that represent parts of the heritage of the town on each level (I realize now that the picture I took of it doesn’t really explain much about what it is).

Heritage Tree

Sightseeing

Bustling Downtown

We also saw a lot of local businesses–a fair number of them were closed, but some were not. Most of them had German-sounding names, but little to do with anything actually from Germany. Most of the heritage seems to be bastardized and turned into a kitschy bit of cultural nostalgerotica for those into these types of things. That needn’t sound negative; I suppose a small town like this has to use what it has to attract tourists.

Local Offerings

Weekday Hours

The town seems to have a disproportionate amount of both banks and barber shops, of which I found multiple of each within the span of a few short blocks. Apparently New Ulm is both the banking and hairstyling capitol of the local area. We even found some shops that were open during the week, and we enjoyed perusing their wares.

Variety is the Spice of Life

We had lunch in “the most German restaurant in town”, which, as you can imagine, had my blood pumping pretty hard. We indulged in a lunch that was, shall we say, “German-inspired”. The decor was straight out of the old country, even if the menu wasn’t entirely.

The Old Country

If you’re visiting New Ulm–or in the event you’ve already been there–you have certainly heard of Hermann the German. This teutonic titan managed to unite the Germanic tribes in the year 9 AD and defeat the Romans at some battle I could google for you, but am to lazy to. Let’s just say he was the talk of the town. He has a 102-foot statue near the Martin Luther College campus, and we went to climb it and get a greater appreciation for Hermann’s feats, while also getting a bird’s-eye view of the city.

Respect for History

Hermann’s Casts a Shadow

Overlooking New Ulm

We saw the local cathedral, which was nice, and offered some reprieve from the heat of the afternoon sun. We also took in the thrice-daily Glockenspiel (which, if I lived or worked in the town, and was subjected to constantly, I could envision becoming less charming), ate some baked goods at the German bakery, saw the German-Bohemian Immigrant Monument, and visited German Park (astute readers may notice a pattern developing).

Cathedral

As we headed back to the car to depart after a long day, I noticed what looked like a minor league baseball stadium, and took a slight detour to check it out. Johnson Park, as it is called, was empty and locked up, but two of the groundskeepers noticed me looking in and offered to let me in to see it. Thankfully, I took them up on the offer; I’m sure glad that I did. Turns out it was the home of the New Ulm Brewers, who play in the East Tomahawk League of the MN Baseball League.

What really made it cool is the fact that the stadium was a WPA project from 1939, which a plaque at the base of the stand near the entrance indicates. Much of it seems to have not been upgraded since then, which lends it a sense of history and charm. This, for me, was the highlight of the day.

Johnson Park

Third Base

There is an accompanying football field, called Johnson Field, right next door. While I didn’t get inside, it looked to be about the same vintage. Following this, we got back in the car and headed off to our next destination. New Ulm ended up being a bit underwhelming–this coming from the guy who has been to Wigan, and has season tickets to the Timberwolves–but perhaps that is part of its charm? It’s a small town in southern Minnesota, which draws on its heritage to attract tourists; personally, I felt the “German heritage” bit was oversold.

Still, all in all, a nice day out.

German Street

June & July

Portrait – July 2014

Summer has flown by, and there has been yet another massive break between posts. I suppose that’s just normalcy to some degree now. Rather than drown this post with words, I’ll just stick to what makes this blog tick: photos. I do hope you enjoy them, and I hope it won’t be another two months before I blog again.

There is no theme to these photos other than having been captured these past two months of the summer. It’s a bit random, but maybe that’s representative of my life and, more to the point here, my photography at the moment.

Aimless. Wandering. Searching.

Not finding.

Baseball – July 2014

Leaves – July 2014

Red, White & Blue – July 2014

Windy – June 2014

Air Force One – June 2014

Jay Cooke – July 2014

Evening – June 2014

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May

Lake Superior – May 2014

Another month, and another post. Other commitments are keeping me from blogging as much as I used to; as I’ve said repeatedly, I haven’t been taking as many photos due to those same commitments. A recent arrival of a new digital camera has meant that I can more easily share images (yes, his was supposed to be the black and white film year, but that project had to be abandoned after reality hit. Maybe another time) and has found me shooting a bit more, but not a lot.

I’ve said before that I really have stopped caring about camera equipment. It’s true, really. I just don’t give a shit anymore what camera I’m using, or what anyone else is using. I try to find things that work for me and that’s all that I really care about any longer. The new camera I acquired is one I’ve long wanted (in theory); it’s a full-frame sensor onto which I can graft a variety of “legacy” (read: old, manual) lenses. This was recently realized as a no-longer-theoretical image-maker when Sony released the a7. So, after waiting a few months, I got one.

I added an adapter for use with my rangefinder lenses, and tried it out.

Posing – May 2014

Memorial Day weekend meant a trip up to the far norther corner of the state, to visit with family and enjoy the sunshine and warm weather. I took along the new camera, a few lenses, and my increasingly-trusty Ricoh GR to see what I would come up with. I have to say, the camera is impressive in use so far. It was a nice challenge to manually focus on the camera body, and totally different than what I’ve been used to.

Aside from the new camera, it was nice to spend time with my family. It was relatively relaxing and we got to have some quality time together. There is essentially no cell reception or Internet access, and we spent a lot of time outdoors, which was refreshing; it reminds me that we should do it more often.

Orange – May 2014

At the end of the day, I found myself gravitating to one of the lenses I brought far more than the others, and it was tricky to use at times. All told, the results were acceptable and I can’t wait to have more time with the family to just take photos, relax, and refresh.

Until next time,

-Trevor

Romance – May 2014

Harbor – May 2014

Phone – May 2014

April

Arlo

The past month has been defined by the gradual onset of spring. Winter is slowly fading, and although it hasn’t given up easily, the warmer weather and longer days are slowly winning out. This has led to an increase in the amount of time spent outdoors, which in turn has led to more opportunities to shoot. Still, I’m far from having the kind of time I used to have to get out and shoot; perhaps this is the new normal? As much as I’d prefer it not to be, I think it may be.

Evening Swing

I have been meaning to do a write-up of a camera I have been loving lately, the Ricoh GR. It has come to be my go-to camera every day, everywhere, for virtually every situation. The focal length was a bit of a problem at first, and it’s still not my favorite, but I’m learning to work around it and challenge myself; other than that, the camera is essentially perfect. If Ricoh made more of these, in different focal lengths–say, 21-28-40, or something–they’d sell a boatload. It’s awesome.

But that leads me to another point I’ve been pondering: gear. I’ve come to despise talking about gear. I spent the better part of 5 years obsessing in varying amounts about the type of gear I was using. I was fetishizing the equipment rather than what I was doing with it, and in the process spent a lot of money buying and selling various types of gear. I was a digital convert, a film purist, and Leicaphile…in short, I’ve covered the gamut of gearhead obsession and self-identification.

Sunrise

Over the past few months I’ve given myself some distance from gear-based forums. I’ve stopped following many on various social media outlets that only talk about gear. And amazingly, it all came about naturally. I just…stopped caring. I no longer care to debate the optical qualities of a certain lens, the megapixel count of a given sensor, sharpness, resolution, etc etc. I just don’t care. Because I don’t care does not mean I am on some high and mighty, holier-than-thou moralistic crusade; if that’s what interests you, then knock yourself out.

There are camera collectors, and there are photographers. I believe that due to the technical side of the art form, those two necessarily converge at some point in all those who take photographs, but how much varies. I used to be equal parts collector and user, and in some instances was more collector than user. If you take photographs of your cameras, or choose your camera as an accessory you’d like people to see, you’re in that territory as well. Like any recovering cameraholic, it has taken distance and time to be able to see that about myself.

What I’ve come to understand, only more recently, and with the benefit of space to reflect on this, is that my priorities were skewed. Yes, the addition of a new camera is always a thrill, but it’s a cheap thrill. Before long, you’re stuck in a never-ending cycle of adding yet another piece of gear to achieve the same rush again. Eventually you don’t even use the equipment you have assembled, despite your reasoning to yourself that you’re only acquiring the gear to use, and that it will help you somehow. It won’t. The ever-shorter window that you own the gear before swapping it for something else means you can’t. You don’t get to know it; rather than becoming a trusted old friend, the article in question is never more than a passing acquaintance, something you only know superficially before bidding it adieu and welcoming another.

Last Snow

Increasingly, I have spent more time shooting for myself. And if I’m honest, I can barely tell the difference in varying optical qualities of lenses and sensors most of the time unless I’m looking at them side-by-side at the pixel level. When it comes to photographs that mean something to me, more important is that I have the photos, not that they are technically perfect. When someone looks at the photos of my life, will they care if I used the Summilux or the Summicron? When I look at them in ten years, will I care? Will I even notice?

So the GR may not get a review, as I have done with previous cameras. I have to say that consistently, it is the camera reviews I have done that garner the most page views. I get more traffic from them than from anything else I have posted over the years. I guess that says a lot about others as well, and how the prioritization of gear has consumed photography for a lot of folks.

Expect to see less about gear going forward.