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Dawn’s Early Light

Dawn’s Early Light, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

It’s always a challenge an hour before sunrise figuring out whether or not it’s worth shooting and what location is going to produce some wonderful photographs. It was cloudy today – very cloudy, with a good chance of socked in overcast. But there was enough of a break that I felt it was worthwhile. It turned out to be a bonanza of opportunities!

It’s just a short drive up through Deer Valley Resort to Empire Pass and on to Guardsman. This time of year sunset is late – around 7:30 a.m. So there are always bike being unloaded from cars for the ridge ride.

Today I started at Empire Pass, scaring away a pair of deer hunters in a pickup. Shooting was good – very good. But it would get even better. Leaving Empire I passed another photographer with two tripods setup shooting south. The sky to the west over Guardsman looked especially inviting.

I stopped at four or five different locations, all producing great shots. But all of a sudden I turned around and looked east. The sun was piercing through the clouds shooting a bullet of light to Earth.

After shooting some closeup verticals of a single ray, the sky all of a sudden lit up with a series of sun rays.

The key to the photographs, though, is HDR – high dynamic range. This photograph is actually a series of three shots, each one exposure stop apart. It’s a simple HDR, processed with Photomatix, that worked very well – capturing the brilliance of unlit golden leaves with the menacing dark sky.


Blog General

What Rotary Really Means

District Governor Penny Atkinson, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

I’ve been a Rotarian for over 20 years. Our club is lighthearted and fun loving. Simply attending our weekly meetings is an experience you won’t forget. As program chair, I’m proud of our weekly speakers. But a few times a year there are those really special meetings – the ones that leave you with a great feeling in your heart for what we do as Rotarians in the Park City Rotary Club.

We hear about Rotary often. But sometimes the words don’t penetrate. Rotary is about eliminating polio. It’s about building schools and libraries in underserved villages. It’s providing water for kids. And it’s about making our community an better place to live.

At our meeting this week, Rotarian Larry Warren, now manager of our community radio station KPCW, decided to spice up an otherwise slow fundraising hour with a Rotary challenge between the two clubs in town. In an hour where he normally raised just $500, our two clubs pitched in nearly $7,000!

Problem is, our club was about $675 short of victory. So when Sergeant at ArmsĀ  for the day Rabbi Josh came to the podium, he did a little fundraising on his own. And in the space of two minutes, we topped another $700 from the room. Boy were we proud!

One of the more projects we undertake each year is recognizing members of our community as Citizens of the Year. Our community has a great history, as a mining town and a resort. Recently, our Park City Museum had a major facelift. It now offers an amazing trail through our past for the thousands of visitors who walk Main Street every year. But the re-creation of our heritage wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the amazing work of two Park City women who spearheaded an $8-million+ fundraising drive, Sydney Reed and Lynn Fey, our Citizens of the Year. Sydney and Lynn are examples of why this is such a great town.

A few years ago we also began honoring professional work to benefit our community. It was a very proud and emotional club member Jerry Gibbs who was able to honor his longtime colleagues Destry Pollard and Kent Cashel for their amazing work on our Park City Transit system.

Somehow we managed to find just enough time to hear from our District Governor Penny Atkinson, whose husband Kelly was governor just a few years ago. If there were any tears of pride left in the room, they were gone after hearing from Penny.

She told us about how Rotary International approached the World Health Organization in 1985 and said, ‘we want to eliminate polio.’ The WHO laughed. They aren’t laughing now. Today, thanks to Rotary’s Polio Plus program, there are only four nations in the world with polio cases (possibly dropping to three soon). And total cases are down from 300,000 to just a few hundred. Rotary made a difference.

She told the story about visiting a village in South America and seeing a young boy with a bottle of what looked like apple juice. It wasn’t. It was his drinking water. A neighboring village had had a water system installed by Rotary some years earlier. A villager stopped her and said, ‘thank you for what you did. Our children aren’t dying any more.’

And finally there was the story of the young girl from Russia – one of 22 Rotary exchange students Penny and Kelly have hosted. Each month the students got $100 from Rotary. It could be spent on clothes, electronics, fun things or daily needs. But the Russian girl didn’t rush off to the mall. And she didn’t say much about what she did with her $100 each month.

What she did was save it. After all, it was more than her parents made in two months. And her father was dying. She saved it all and took it home to help pay for surgery – a surgery which gave her father five more years to live. Today, she’s emigrated to Utah to be with the friends who helped to make that possible.

From the work we do in Park City to our projects in Central America to what we contribute to the good of Rotary International, there are many reasons to be proud to be a Rotarian. We felt them deeply in our hearts this week. Rotary does make a difference.

And I’m sure that as I’m writing this this morning, our friends at Park City’s Sunrise Rotary Club are matching our own fundraising efforts for the good of our wonderful community.

Welcome to Rotary.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Blog General

Driving the Beartooth

Clouds over the Beartooth, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

Red Lodge hadn’t been in our plan. Neither was the Beartooth. But as we left Teddy Roosevelt National Park for Custer Battlefield National Monument, my Facebook friends (yes, I was online) changed my mind. We headed to Red Lodge for the night and the trip over the Beartooth. Snow was not something we had in mind!

The Beartooth Highway is an amazing road. Charles Kuralt called it “America’s Most Beautiful Road.” It was not really on our radar. But it is now – one of the most breathtaking 62 miles we’ve ever driven.

Arriving in foggy Red Lodge at sunset, the Beartooth was bedecked in clouds. “Not sure it will be open,” said the front desk manager. Snow was falling in August and the plows were out. At the summit, a full mile above the Montana border village, heavy snow was falling.

We hit the Beartooth at 8 a.m., twisting and turning up the switchbacks. The sun was breaking in and out of clouds, just starting to light the tips of the peaks straddling the Wyoming-Montana line. It was cold – mid 30s – as we made our way to the summit.

Just as friends had said, it took forever – stopping for photographs at nearly every turn. Turn by turn it became more and more spectacular. The sun touched into mountain valleys, while starting to bathe the peaks in morning light.

It was the first light to touch the 4-6 inches of fresh snow, blanketing wildflowers and covering a moonscape of rock at the 10,947 foot West Summit.

Dropping over the summit to the Cooke City side, we encountered the first traffic from the west including motorcycles that had to scramble for lodging when snow kept them from the crossing the evening prior.

The descent into Yellowstone was bittersweet. The scenery turned from breaktaking above-the-treeline skyscapes to heavily forested mountainsides.

The small collection of buildings in Cooke City marked the end of the Beartooth and the beginning of Yellowstone’s Lamar Valley, with buffalo at every turn.

I imagine that every time you drive the Beartooth you are greeted with new scenes. And one thing’s for sure, once you drive it you’ll be counting the days to your next drive.


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Menacing Midwest Storm

Menacing Storm, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

One of the things we really miss about the Midwest are the storms. A few days ago I blogged about the amazing lightning storm in Hayward. On our I-94 drive across western Minnesota, we watched a mid-morning line of powerful thunderstorms form in front of our eyes for over a half-hour. We pulled over to document the massive clouds that had formed.

In this scene, taken along a corn field on I-94 east of Fergus Falls, we watched a series of parallel, horizontal lines of layered clouds suddenly come together in this huge mass of weather.

It almost looks like a massive tornado bearing down on this small farm nestled in the protection of a grove of trees. Soon, we were wrapped in the clouds with wind and rain before it passed to the southeast.

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Tornado Warning Sky

Tornado Warning Sky, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

One of the things we miss living in Utah are the thunderstorms and freakout weather that can hit the Midwest. It was dark a bit early Saturday evening, with nearly pitch black skies just after 9:00 p.m. Ben and Meghan called us out to the deck to watch a lightning show above. Then, Ben’s fire pager went off: ‘potential tornado at Nelson Lake (8-10 miles)’ and it was heading our way.

Being in the calm of a storm is like a trance. The air was still, but the sky was electrified with seemingly thousands of bolts of cloud-igniting lightning every second. We looked to the north to see an eery sky.

The next 15-20 minutes bounced from fascinating to scary, not knowing the patch. Weather radar showed its path heading just east of us, likely over Round Lake and the Chippewa Flowage.

The sky boiled in the darkness with its menacing green tone illuminated by the flashes of lightning.

We gathered first on the deck, then the driveway. I clicked away, making photograph after photograph of the pitch black sky – using the lighter digital images to showcase the story of the terrifying sky.

Soon, it was calm again with the lightning storm passing to the east. It was reassuring to the young kids, who didn’t know whether to watch in amazement or fear.

Such is the power of mother nature!

Blog General


Trumpeter Swans, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

No one really knows how to pronounce Totagatic. Our friend Kathy, whose family had a cabin in the Totagatic wilderness, calls it Tobatic. I’ve always known it as Togatic. But whatever you call it, this sprawling wilderness extending from between Hayward and Cable, Wisconsin west to Minong has always attracted me.

When I lived in the Northwoods, it was one of those mystical places to take the fishing boat, navigating lily pads and cattails, with northerns comping for a spoon on every cast.

Sunrise photos were hard for me in the Northwoods this trip – too many trees and early morning clouds. So Saturday morning I retreated to Totagatic, ever mindful of bear (none) and deer (plenty) around every corner.

Arriving at the rustic boat ramp, I spotted two trumpeter swans floating lazily amongst the reeds, just cruising at their own tempo. Birds flew overhead as the sun crept over the trees, illuminating the steaming, foggy swamp.

This is what the Northwoods is all about on a peaceful August morning.

Blog General

Deep Fried

Deep. Fried, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

There are very few questions to be asked at a Wisconsin fish fry. When our perennial schoolteacher turned waitress Darlene comes by our table at The Waterfront near Hayward, the only thing you have to say is ‘deep fried.’

Friday Fish Fry is a Wisconsin tradition. We schedule entire vacations around it. It’s so popular at spots like The Waterfront on Grindstone Lake, that lines are already forming by opening time of 4:00 p.m. Six hours later, as many as 400 people may pass through the tiny Northwoods bar.

The menu is simple: deep fried cod, french fries, cole slaw and rolls. For the record, you can also choose broiled fish and baked potato (or twice baked). But that would not be in tradition. Nearby Pine Ridge is also now including chicken – sacrilegious yet popular.

There are many legends on the origin of Friday Fish Fry. Being Catholics, we tend to believe that it grew out of the former ritual of no meat on Friday (now observed only during Lent). Friday Fish is a popular church or civic group meal even today.

Each community has its favorites. And those favorites change! When I first arrived in the Northwoods in 1977, my memory is going to fish at Dick-Sy Manor on highway 77. A few years later it was Lost Land Lake Lodge. And we spent many a Friday at Trailways.

In more recent years, our son-in-law’s family’s restaurant, The Waterfront, has led the way in Hayward.

The Friday of our Hayward vacation we thought we would beat the crowds by arriving before 5:00 p.m. There wasn’t a single parking spot in the lot, and boats were arriving like a flotilla. An hour wait – not bad, actually. By 5:30 p.m. there wasn’t a square inch of space on the bar or out on the patio.

In the tiny kitchen, Diane was rolling through the orders while another cook kept the deep fryers going with batch after batch of beer battered cod and fries. As always, Darlene kept one step ahead of us on beers and fish, snaring a plate of extra deep fried fillets for the table to share.

Fish fries are more than just the food. It’s about socializing and sharing stories, watching the kids jump off the dock to swim and relaxing with a Leinies while watching the sun set over the lake. It’s talking about the Badgers and Packers, while trash talking the Vikings and Bears at the expense of the tourists.

You leave stuffed but rejuvenated, with a reminder of the hospitality that made Wisconsin famous.

Wisconsin Fish Fry Resources

Fish Fry Wiki

Classic Wisconsin – Fish Fries

Wisconsin Fish Fry Blog

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Memories of the Merrimac Ferry

Merrimac Ferry, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

Any visit to my hometown comes with some kind of drive in the country. Madison is still surrounded by the same rings of farmland and small villages which have kept their character for many decades. Some of the close-in areas are now populated. But get out to places like Mt. Horeb, Waunakee, Lodi and more, it’s still like I remember growing up.

One of our favorite trips was always up to Devil’s Lake via the Merrimac ferry. I remember the days of Colsac I, a wooden ferry that held either four or six cars. It was clearly sketchy! It was retired in 1963.

We spent many a Sunday in the lineup stretching a mile or more on the Merrimac side, anxious to get across to Okee – counting cars to see how many ferry loads it would take.

Today, it’s pretty much a drive-up and on – especially weekdays. What’s amazing is that it still exists, offering free passage on highway 113 across the mile or so of Lake Wisconsin – 24/7 all summer long! It was even added to the National Register of Historic Places recently.

There’s still enough of us to keep lobbying for the service to continue, bringing back memories of a more peaceful time, when travel was measured more by the experience than how the GPS routed you.

The kids were initially mixed on the journey, but eventually thought it was pretty cool to stand on the deck. It wasn’t only about the memories, it was introducing yet another generation to an old form of travel that still serves a function today.

P.S. GPS databases don’t treat the ferry route favorably – they route you dozens of miles away.

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Bee on Final Approach

Bee on Final Approach, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

Our Tour de Heartland has landed us in Wisconsin, with an entirely new set of weather and wildlife from our native Utah. While, yes, we are the beehive state, there’s a bit more pollinating to be done in the Midwest.

Today’s journey took us to Token Creek Park outside Madison. It’s a wonderful preserve that was initially built about the year I left town in 1977. It was my first trip, although mom and dad went out there often.

Our short hike took us along Token Creek (named for an Indian Taukanee) through amazing vegetation ripe with monarchs and other flying creatures.

This particular set of wildflowers was brilliantly lighted against a dark backdrop – perfect for a closeup photo. But what I hadn’t planned on was the bee activity.

While I have an entire set of great photographs, this shot of the bee on final approach was special.

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Paddlewheeler on the Rock River

Paddlewheeler on the Rock River, originally uploaded by tomkellyphoto.

It was a long day for Tour de Heartland, starting at 6 a.m. in Kansas City, then an eventful nine hour drive to Dixon, IL for Brandon and Charlotte’s wedding reception, then two hours to Madison. To make it a perfect day, we took the scenic route.

The water is amazingly high in the Midwest. We took a beautiful route for sunset from Dixon to Rockford along the Rock River. Sadly, our timing was a bit off as most of it was post-sunset. So when we initially passed this paddlewheeler, I didn’t even stop.

But young Naomi kept talking about how nice the clouds looked in the sunset afterglow. So I spun the Audi Q5 around and went back, just in time to catch this paddlewheeler lazily strolling upstream with the clouds in the backdrop.