Harvest Time in Iowa

This was submitted to a magazine in Iowa, however, since they haven’t responded I decided to post on my blog.  The photos are from my trip to Iowa last fall.

I grew up in rural southeast Iowa and now live in the big city of Phoenix.  After graduating from high school, I attended college in northeast Missouri.  During my years in college, some of my family moved to Arizona.  Upon college graduation I decided to follow them and moved to Phoenix.  Because we all know there are more opportunities in the big city than rural Iowa.  Today I would consider the opportunities different, not necessarily more.

Autumn Blaze Maple Tree

When planning my trips back to Iowa to visit family, they are usually planned during harvest time.  This year I drove back instead of flying.  No worrying about how many bags to check in at the airport or how much they weighed.  I could travel with all of my photography gear as I anticipated capturing what I miss most about Iowa.


What I miss most about Iowa is harvest time, the rural landscape changing right before my eyes.  Fields once full of crops now empty and waiting for the next planting.  Everything is changing, the landscape, the angle of the sun, the air is now crisp.  Yes, everything in the country is changing.  However, growing up I always felt like everything stayed the same.

Harvesting corn at sunset

Harvest time, a time when the once quiet landscape of summer is now full of hustle and bustle. The landscape is dotted with combines, tractors pulling wagons full of gold.  The rural roads have traffic, farmers taking their bounty to the elevators or moving equipment from one field to another.  Even as busy as the farmers are, they wave when passing.  Unless they are driving a very wide combine on an old narrow highway and come to the bridge I’m standing on making photographs of the fall color along Big Creek.  I’m sure that farmer thought I was some crazy lady.

rolling field of hay bales

Hay bales in the early morning fog

Harvest time, a time of community.  Farmers helping each other pick the crops, hauling the crops to the elevator or even getting in a final cutting of the hayfields.  And sometimes the farmers are what I call temporary farmers.  Temporary farmers you ask?  The family members and friends who offer a helping hand during this busy time of year.



Harvest time, the beginning of the holiday season.  After all, the first Thanksgiving was an autumn harvest feast.  Cornstalks, Indian corn and pumpkins used to decorate yards, porches, front doors and fireplace mantels.

Country road lined with autumn color

Harvest time, when leaves turn from green to yellow, orange and red.  I miss driving down my favorite country road or through my favorite park to see the amazing change of color.  Or maybe a Sunday afternoon hike through the woods to fill my lungs with the sweet earthy aroma of fallen leaves decaying and becoming compost.  Watching squirrels gather and bury fallen acorns. Waking up to find frost covered fallen leaves that look as if they were coated with sugar overnight and are ready to decorate a cake.

Sugar Coated Maple Leaves

Sugar Coated Maple Leaves

Yes, there are crops to be harvested and fall color in Arizona.  But it’s just not the same as in Iowa.  My family has now moved back to Iowa as they wanted to be closer to family which makes me miss Iowa even more.  I followed my family to Arizona, maybe one day I’ll follow them back to Iowa.

What Went Wrong?

Yesterday I left home at 5:30 a.m. to go shoot in the Kachina Wilderness near Flagstaff, AZ.  That meant my alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. and I do not consider myself a morning person.  However, the Aspen trees were at peak fall color in this area, so getting up that early was not difficult.  I was excited to do some landscape photography, as most of my recent work has been macro, and the day would be spent with a new photography friend!

The plan was to hike the Kachina Wilderness trail in the San Francisco Peaks.  The elevation is approximately 9,000 feet and hiking a few miles at that elevation with all of my photography gear was a bit concerning.  However, once in the cool mountain air and exploring a new location, my energy level was quite high.

aspen trees in autumn


I had planned on only using one lens, my 50 mm 1.8 to challenge myself with composition.  It didn’t take long for me to realize how many macro shots I was seeing along the trail and quickly switched to my 105 mm 2.8 macro lens.  Even my 18-135 mm kit lens came out of my bag for a cliché image I wanted to make for myself.  As I was laying on a large flat rock, I saw something different  A vertical shot instead of the typical horizontal shot while looking up and behind.


After hiking and shooting for several hours, we decided to head back to the trailhead and take a break.  We both had packed lunch and our camp chairs, however, at 4:00 p.m. it was more like a very early dinner.  We then headed down the mountain for the golden hour.  The aspen trees turned an amazing yellow-orange and was quite a sight to see.  Unfortunately those images won’t be shown.

aspen trees with fall colorSomething went very wrong yesterday, I am not happy with any of my macro and very few of my landscape images.  What went wrong?  A combination of factors played a role.  First, for the last several months all of my work has been macro so my vision for landscape had disappeared.  My macro shots from yesterday are not artistic in any way, probably due to being mentally prepared to shoot landscape.  The color and light were fabulous, but my images are anything but fabulous. Who knows, maybe I’ll let them “rest” for a while on my hard drive and look at them another day and see something different.

aspen trees with fall color


Ironically my last photo of the day is my favorite, which is the image to the left.  The image above and to the left were both taken at the beginning of the blue hour and handheld.  The shutter speed was too long for handheld sharp images, however, perfect for artistic images.  Some will say they are blurry photos and not see the artistic vision.  And maybe the more artistic, instead of traditional sharp images, is my style when it comes to shooting Aspens in the fall.



Click on the images in the below gallery to see a larger image.