Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge

This morning I loaded up my camera gear along with my rain gear hoping to make some images of dramatic weather today.  Today was the day I would be driving to Des Moines to submit my photos for this year’s Iowa State Fair.  After seeing the images chosen for display and the images that won awards, it is a touch competition.  Last year I had one image on display and am hoping to at least attain that this year.  Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge is located about 20 miles east of Des Moines and today was the perfect opportunity to check it out.

I have seen several images made from this location and was curious to see it for myself.  There is a road through part of the refuge where the buffalo roam.  Today I was not fortunate to see any of them.  The clouds were building as I was driving to Des Moines and I was hopeful that dramatic weather images could be made. The process of submitting images to the Iowa State Fair is well-organized and goes quite fast.  Only a matter of minutes, at least when I was there.  Then I decided to skip some places in Des Moines that I considered going to today and drove straight to the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge.  Knowing there was a prairie and wildflowers would be blooming, I didn’t know how long I might want to stay there.

It wasn’t my day to see the buffalo roam with the refuge, but this is definitely an are I will visit again.  The milkweed was just starting to bloom and there were wildflowers starting to bloom too.  And the bugs were so colorful and fun to photograph.  If Madison hadn’t been with me, I would have unload all of my gear and played until it rained.  And even then I probably would have tried to get some photos of the rain, especially raindrops on the wildflowers and all the other plants and grasses.

Below is a gallery of images from today’s tour of the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge for you to enjoy.

West Fork In Autumn

While going through old files yesterday, I came across this image that had never been processed.  The image was made in October 2012 and I happened to be hiking with my husband that day. West Fork trail just north of Sedona, Arizona, in Oak Creek Canyon was one of my favorite trails to hike while living in Arizona.  It is the most hiked trail in the state.

An iconic spot along the trail, this image was made while hiking back to our car.  Fabulous light shining through the trees and the water was still, creating a mirror image reflection.

At this point in my life I had no idea where my path was headed.  After working for several years in the corporate world, I left as I was terribly unhappy with happiness not in sight.  A stressful year beginning with my dad’s passing after a long battle with leukemia.  For years I had wanted to hike this trail in autumn as I had seen numerous beautiful images.  However, in this canyon, cell phone service is basically non-existent. Knowing I would receive a phone call to catch the first flight back to Iowa due to my dad’s terminal illness, I chose not to travel anywhere without cell phone service.  In fact for several years my camera gear just sat in a room untouched.  Photography had been calling me for years and I thought it was time to find out what it was really like to be doing nature photography full-time.

As much as I enjoy being in nature, it is not a realistic path for me for multiple reasons.  No regrets as now I will never have to wonder what it would be like to be traipsing around the desert, the woods, a canyon, or a prairie.  Do I miss the corporate world?  Somewhat.

West Fork in autumn, a stunning time of year to hike this trail.