Tag Archives: indiana

Sandhill Cranes

wpid13712-C59F6002.jpgIt is funny who something you will be doing or watching will trigger a memory and then I find myself wondering whether it is something that has appeared on the blog or not. The longer the blog runs, the harder it is to remember whether it was going when something happened or whether I have had a previous time when I thought I should cover something older. The sandhill crane migration is one such event.

wpid13720-C59F6270.jpgThe first time I came across the cranes was when we were driving through Nebraska. The fields were full of birds although, for a while, we didn’t realize that was what they were. From the interstate as we zoomed along, there was obviously something in the fields but we couldn’t tell whether it was a plant or a creature. Then we saw a lot more of them flying and it became clear. We were making a lot of distance on that trip, though, so we didn’t stop to investigate.

wpid13700-C59F5675.jpgI later saw individual cranes at various spots within reach of Chicago, often up in Wisconsin but sometimes in the northern edge of Illinois. However, these were usually one or two at a time. I was advised by my friends, though, of the big migration that comes through Indiana. The place to go is Jasper Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Area in Indiana. This was a couple of hours or so from home and you wanted to be there for sunrise so it was an early start.

wpid13698-C59F5654.jpgThe location is popular with the migrating birds and they hang out in the fields in huge numbers. As the sun comes up, they get more active and start to take to the wing. It is early in the morning so the light can be really good. Added to that is a viewing platform that is positioned so put you up sun from the birds. It can be a touch chilly and sometimes breezy so dressing warmly was a big deal but it was worth it.

wpid13718-C59F6166.jpgYou could either watch the individual birds as they flew or appreciate the huge numbers as they flocked together. They were everywhere. The noise was impressive too. Compared to visits that my friends have made, I think the birds were staying away a bit while I was there so a lot of this was long lens work. Even so, there were still quite a few that flew close to us. Forgetting the photography for a moment, the spectacle of some many large birds taking wing is something not to be missed if the opportunity presents itself.

Team SHAR

wpid7576-AU0E2766.jpgI have spent time with Art Nalls and his Team SHAR at various events over the years but it had been a while since we had last crossed paths.  Therefore, it was good to see Art and the guys again at Gary for the Chicago Air and Water Show.  This year has been a busy year for the team.  Not only have they got themselves well established on the show circuit but the lack of military participation has meant a relatively modern fast jet is in high demand to fill the gap left by the normal front line fighters.  Add to that, the difference that a Harrier brings and you can see why their calendar has been filling up.

wpid7580-C59F4939.jpgI caught up with Art early in the day and ended up running some errands with him for a while.  However, I didn’t want to miss other acts on the ground so left them for a while to do some other stuff.  I did get back later in the day and chatted to the guys for a while and watched the launch and recovery.  With the jet on the ground, I also took the time to get some shots of it while no one was working on it.  On the final day of the show, I did head back to the beach to try and catch it in action too.

wpid7592-AU0E3939.jpgIt was, as always, great to hang out with the team.  They did a great job and closed out the show nicely.  I hope it isn’t as long before I next see them!

Chicago Air and Water Show

wpid7588-AU0E3590.jpgMiddle of August means the Chicago Air and Water Show is back.  This year’s show, like all other shows in the US, was always going to be a bit different since the US military was not going to be taking part.  That means a shift in emphasis from normal with a lot more civilian acts.  With no headlining team this year (normally the Blue Angels and the Thunderbirds alternate), there was a question as to whether the attendance would be significantly reduced.  It is a free show so you might think it isn’t that big a deal but the sponsorship is important and that requires people to show so it was going to be interesting to see how things shaped up.

wpid7543-AU0E0739.jpgThere were some jets to add some noise and speed to the proceedings.  Art Nalls brought his Sea Harrier and Paul Wood brought the A-4 Skyhawk.  Both displayed twice on the show days to add a hint of military jets to things.  Of course, these are not operational fighters and are nursed a little more carefully than a front line jet which the pilot can swap for another if he breaks anything.  However, they still are able to up the tempo a bit.

wpid7559-AU0E1772.jpgI mixed my time between the flying on the beach in Chicago and Gary airport where everyone was staging from.  It is fun to get the mix of the actual displays and the activity around launching and recovering the planes.  The shots are a mix of those.  I got to spend a lot of time with Team SHAR and will have a separate post about that in due course.  From what I saw and heard, the attendance on the beach was pretty strong, if a little down on previous years.  It looks like the show does indeed go on!

More Cormorants and Swallows

wpid7512-AU0E8691.jpgHaving recently posted about both cormorants and swallows, it would appear a little repetitive to post about both together.  Oh well, that isn’t going to stop me.  While in Indiana for the powerboat racing, I was sitting on the harbor wall for a while.  This was a popular place for the local bird life too.  We had a cormorant swimming nearby and I couldn’t resist a shot of him (or her – I am not a specialist on these things).

wpid7514-AU0E8742.jpgAlso, the local swallows seemed to be enjoying the air currents over the waves.  When watching them, they seemed to spend a lot of time almost in one spot as they soared on the wind.  Of course, trying to get a long lens on them was less straightforward and suddenly it was apparent just how much they were moving.  Still, got a few shots off.  It certainly provided some practice time between the races!

wpid7518-AU0E8807.jpgwpid7516-AU0E8755.jpg

Powerboats

wpid7491-AU0E8232.jpgMy friend Joel is always a good source of interesting things to do. He recently came up with a great day out. Michigan City in Indiana plays host to an offshore power-boating race. The offshore boats are substantial boats that are capable of operating well out in the water. In this case, though, the course was set close in to shore so it was easy for spectators to watch.

wpid7499-AU0E9075.jpgOffshore powerboats are pretty impressive beasts. They are big boats and come in a variety of designs. The most obvious distinction is whether they are a monohull or a catamaran. That seemed to make a big difference on this course which had two straights with a pretty tight turn at each end. The cats seemed to be far better suited to making the turn than the monohulls and that advantage was not to be overcome in the races.

wpid7481-AU0E7495.jpgThe boats have two crew on board. For those that are not familiar with this type of power boating, one is the driver and the other is the throttle man. Driving seems pretty self explanatory but the throttle job is a lot more nuanced than you might guess. These boats have very big engines and deliver a huge amount of power to the props. If they were racing on a smooth surface, all might be okay and you could set your power and go. However, the water is not smooth and so the boat tends to jump around a lot. The trim of the boat can be set by flaps on the back but, every time the boat gets airborne (and they get airborne quite a lot), the props can come out of the water.

wpid7479-C59F3626.jpgThis is when the throttle man earns his cash.  A powerful engine that suddenly goes from pushing against a propeller in water to pushing against air is liable to accelerate very rapidly.  In days gone by, the outcome of this was a cooked engine.  Apparently, the limiters on the engines now work pretty well but it is still an art to maintaining the power when in the water but pulling it back as the props come clear of the surface.  There is a lot of cycling on the throttles during a race.

wpid7493-AU0E8298.jpgThe part that the crew like the least is, conversely, the part that the spectator likes the most.  As I go through images, the ones that look the most dynamic are the ones when the boat is out of the water.  Look at a shot of a powerboat low in the water and it is hard to appreciate that it is really moving.  See it in mid air as it launches off a wave with the props spinning in nothing much and you know that it isn’t hanging around.  Being in the air is bad for the crew for more than one reason.  With no prop in the water, there is no thrust.  Admittedly, the air resistance is less than they get in water but, when up on the step and with the prop doing its work, they are best able to move on.  Of course, the thump that is the return to the water is not comfortable, even with the shock absorbing seats they have, and it slows them down a bit too.

wpid7483-AU0E7696.jpgIt would be remiss of me to not mention that there were some aviation themed opportunities at the races too.  A helicopter was filming the races and a couple of planes were flying by during breaks in the racing.  However, they will get their own posts another day.  Thanks for the suggestion and the company Joel and it was good to meet Chris as well, an ex-pat Welshman with an aerospace background!  We Brits get everywhere!

Indianapolis Fireworks

wpid7181-AU0E4673.jpgWe took a trip to Indiana which was primarily based around the visit to the Exotic Feline Rescue Center as I shall be posting about here at some point.  While the center is near Terre Haute, we decided to stay in Indianapolis.  We have been to Indy before and had a great time as well as staying at a nice hotel.  That trip got a write up here if you are interested.  This time it was the 4th of July and the city was due to have a firework display so we thought that might be a good add on to the trip.

wpid7177-AU0E4569.jpgOriginally, we had looked up the park where we could view the fireworks.  There were supposed to be a number of things going on in the park and it was not a long walk from the hotel so we had figured on taking some chairs and heading there.  However, the weather forecast was looking a little like a storm might roll in.  This made us wonder whether a change in plans might be in order.

wpid7175-AU0E4567.jpgOur decision was made easier when we checked in and found we had a 32nd floor room overlooking the downtown.  Now we could watch the fireworks from the comfort of our hotel room and, if it rained, we would be fine.  As it happened, it didn’t rain.  However, our choice proved to have an additional benefit.  Not only did we see the main display, there were many displays happening all around the city.  From our vantage point, we could see them all.  We sat by the window and watched fireworks close by and far off but going off all evening.  It was great.  I did shoot the fireworks but my approach is always to fire a cable release while just watching the display.  Consequently, I primarily get to enjoy the display but also, hopefully, get some shots at the same time. wpid7179-AU0E4594.jpg

Gary South Shore Show

Only a short distance south of Chicago across the state line to Indiana is Gary.  They hold an air show there every year that is over the lake along one of the beaches.  For one reason or another, I have never been to this show.  This year was expected to be no different originally.  I had decided against going since the attendees list – while good – was a little shorter than in previous years.  It was also supposed to be unbelievably hot!

My buddy, Joel, was going and he offered me a ride down if I wanted to go to the twilight show they hold on the Friday evening.  I figured I would go since the opportunity was there so we headed down.  Although not part of the twilight show, the USAF Thunderbirds were performing on the Saturday and Sunday and were scheduled to practice on the Friday afternoon, not long before the twilight show started.  Therefore, we got a full show plus whatever else they planned to check out as part of their practice efforts.

Then we got the displays for real.  The heat was pretty intense but the performers did not allow this to affect their displays.  Unfortunately from a photography point of view, there was quite a lot of haze which hurt the visibility and the wind had died down which meant that smoke from the displays did not disperse quickly and could obscure the following passes in places.  This meant that the photo opportunities had to be grabbed when they could.

The hope was that, as the sun dropped down, the golden light would arrive and it would be possible to get some more unusual shots than would be the case at a normal day show.  Unfortunately, while this worked a bit, it wasn’t as successful as I had hoped.  The sun sets a long way north at this time of year so, as it got lower, it got further behind the performers.  Not back lighting but certainly not illuminating the front of the aircraft.  Also, the haze I mentioned before meant that the dropping sun became more obscured so the strong evening light never really came along and we got something more diffused and weak.

This was a shame but not the end of the world.  The show was still enjoyable and the people I was there with made it all the more fun.  Thanks to the team at South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority for hosting us.  I hear that the two main show days at the weekend were very popular and went well.

Some Minor League Fun

A recent work trip took me to Indianapolis for a few days.  A client was down there at a facility and I was meeting with them on a number of topics over a few days.  Since we were all staying away from home, we had free time at the end of the day when we could go out and see what the local area had to offer.  The first night I was there, the rest of the guys had already worked out what they wanted to do so I was happy to tag along.

Indianapolis has a minor league baseball team, the Indians.  They are based at a nice ballpark close the the heart of downtown.  For those that have been following this blog for a while, you will recall that Nancy and I had a weekend in Indianapolis last year when the baby elephant was first appearing in public at the zoo.  The hotel we stayed in was very close to the ballpark and from one end of the building you got a great view of it from above.

This time I was going to get to see the inside of the park and enjoy an evening of baseball.  It should be noted that I am not much of a baseball fan.  I know some imports like me that are huge fans of the game but I have never really got into it.   I used to think that it was something you had to grow up with but that is obviously not the case given the friends I have that have got into it.  For me, it is another sport I am happy to watch but one that doesn’t get me passionate.  As with many sports, though, seeing it in person is so much more fun than watching it on TV.

A trip to the ballpark is a social experience for me.  You get to hang out in a (usually) good-natured crowd, watch some sport, eat some food that you wouldn’t normally bother with and drink some beer.  On a warm evening, there really isn’t much to complain about with that.  If you don’t know either of the teams, you tend to root for the home guys and, in this case, that worked out pretty well since they won convincingly.

I took my camera along because I knew that we were heading to the game before I left home.  It was an evening game and the stand was blocking the sun from the west so light was always going to be an issue.  As the game wore on, the ISO settings went higher and higher.  Looking at the shots at full zoom, they really show the impact of the noise.  However, since these are small versions of the shots, they shouldn’t look too bad.  They were never intended for publication so it is far better to have clarity of the shot than to have a lot of blurry shots with low noise!

I was shooting with the 100-400 which is not a great low light lens at the best of times but it did reasonably well.  I also took along the fisheye zoom since a sports stadium is an interesting shape for that type of lens.  The park allowed you to walk all around the perimeter so I did take a stroll at one point to see what everything looked like from other parts of the ground.  It was nice to see the different perspectives.

I did try shooting from directly behind the batter’s position as the pitcher faced me.  The netting is a problem here, of course.  A faster lens may have better allowed me to take the net out of focus but it was already pretty dark by then so I was fighting on a few fronts.  It didn’t really matter of course.  I was doing this for fun and if the shots are not quite Sports Illustrated standard, I am not going to lose too much sleep.

A fun night out and a win for “our” team.  In the end, that was enough and getting to take a few pictures along the way only made it better. Thanks for the idea guys.