Embarrassment of riches

This summer reminds me of the first time I retired many years ago. After a satisfying 32 years of teaching I was looking forward to new opportunities.  Like  most retirees I had a long list of things I was going to “get around to” after I retired.  A good share of those things are still on that list.

One thing led to another. I was taking some advanced photo classes at Metro when I saw a help wanted advertisement for a  reporter/photographer at the Enterprise. Soon after starting to work at the paper I took advantage of an opportunity to teach photojournalism at Metro Community College as well.  A friend and fellow Metro instructor commented that my wealth of photo opportunities as news photographer was “an embarrassment of riches.” I had never heard that phrase before, but it fit my situation perfectly.

Young man performs demonstration
Science dude Peter Lux performs science demonstrations during YMCA Summer Care Mad Scientist week.

My career at the Enterprise has been rich with experiences and friendships as well as photo opportunities. As you may have noticed, my photos are still showing up in the newspaper.  The beauty of my new arrangement is that my photo assignments are pretty much by invitation.

Don Johnson laughs while a caravan of vehicles parade past the entrance to Fort Calhoun High School to recognize and thank the retiring superintendant for his years of service.

On the last day of June, the Fort Calhoun staff asked me to come down to photograph a teacher parade to honor retiring superintendent Don Johnson. I of course gladly accepted the invitation. One of my first beats as a reporter was covering Fort Calhoun Schools and Johnson was middle school and high school principal at that time. In my opinion Don was always the epitome of what a good leader should be.  I could give a dozen examples, but what always impressed me was that no matter the time of place, if there was a significant project underway Don was there leading the charge.

Dana campus landscape
Flower trees frame student center and Durham bell tower.

The last day of June also commemorated the ten year anniversary of the closing of Dana College. Preparing my column gave me an opportunity to look through my time capsule of Dana images from 2010 to the present. While Argo and Elkhorn residence halls were demolished  and others need to be renovated or removed, it is still a lovely campus. After so many false starts it is good to see that the Durham Center and Trinity Chapel have been renovated and occupied, and athletes are once again playing baseball on the ball diamonds.

While so many events have been cancelled due to the COVID-19 Virus, Arlington, Blair and Herman still were able to hold their annual fireworks displays. For me, setting up to photograph a fireworks show is kind of like Forrest Gump and his box of chocolates. When I press the button for a long exposure I never know for sure what I’m going to get.

I was particularly happy with the results from the Herman show. My intent was to capture the spirit of that small town community celebration and I think the photo on the front page of the paper communicated that pretty well.

Quilters and gardeners find delight among the colorful flowers and quilt displays at the annual Wolfe Family Country Quilt Show and Garden Walk.

Another summer event that I regularly attend is the Wolfe Country Quilt Show and Garden Walk.  On the third Saturday of July for eight of the last nine years, the Wolfe family has hosted this beautiful show as a free gift to quilt lovers and gardening enthusiasts.  I’m not much of a gardener and know nothing about quilting, but strolling through the farm yard gives me an opportunity to make images that capture the mix of people, flowers and fabric. Thank you Wolfe family.

Wolfe Quilt and Garden-4H

I don’t know about “embarrassment” but I do know that I am thankful over the years to have had a wealth of opportunities to make images in Washington County.

 

April snowfall creates silver-white wonderland

 

A six inch snow fall late Thursday and early Friday morning created a silver white wonderland in Washington County and the Omaha Metro area.  Early morning light and clearing skies made for a picture perfect walk along paths at Black  Elk – Neihardt Park and Arbor Park Arboretum in Blair.

First snow of the year

Photos of light snow icing on trees and playground equipment Wednesday Morning, Nov. 6 at Stemmermann Park and Lions Park Trail at Arbor Park.

 

 

Crane migration nears peak along Platte

Row Sanctuary reported Thursday that the sandhill crane migration along the Platte River between Grand Island and Kearney is at or near its peak this weekend. Estimates are that 680,000 cranes – plus or minus 70,000 are roosting on the river.

While the waterfowl may be enjoying the weather, the extremely wet conditions have restricted access to visitors – sometimes referred to as “craniacs” who are looking to view the spectacle.

Last Saturday night and Sunday, viewing experiences were cancelled due to vehicles getting stuck in the mud along Elm Island road which is the only access to the refuge. Reports are that the road east of the refuge is now open, but possibly problematic for some two-wheel drive vehicles. The refuge is offering refunds to those who are not able to get to the refuge due to road conditions.

Prairie chickens dance at Switzer Ranch

In making my reservation  for the Audubon Crane Fest this year I signed up for the Calamus Outfitters Prairie Chicken Tour on the Switzer Ranch at  Calamus, NE.  On a gray morning my tour companions and I boarded an old school bus to travel to the prairie chicken lek, or “booming grounds.”  We sat quietly in the converted school bus blinds listening to the sounds of the prairie coming to life on this grey morning.

As the scene slightly brightened,  a couple dozen male greater prairie chickens not very gracefully flew into the lek or mating area.  The booming and calling commenced as rival birds strutted and challenged to establish dominance.   As two and then three hens arrived the activity increased as the males danced, boomed and strutted in a frenzy to gain the attention of the females.

All in all I highly recommend a stay at Calamus Outfitters and tours to the prairie chicken and  Sharp-tailed Grouse leks.

 

 

 

Sandhill crane migration

Harsh weather throughout Nebraska has made conditions along the Platte river between Grand Island and Kearney less than ideal for both cranes and humans who flock to see them.