Tag Archives: Des Moines

After The Fair

The Iowa State Fair is over for another year.  Yesterday I made my third trip to Iowa State Fairgrounds in Des Moines in a month.  The first trip was to attend the awards ceremony for the Photography Salon, the second to attend the fair and finally a third trip to pick up my photos and the blue ribbon.

This trip I made alone and while driving to Des Moines, approximately 130 miles away, I was trying to concentrate on all the opportunities for some serious photography. But instead of images, my head was full of words and I’d wished my notebook and pen were with me.  Words and writing?  I had been excited about spending a day in the city and urban photography.  Why was my mind focusing (no pun intended) on words?

As I drove onto the Iowa State Fairgrounds it felt like arriving home.  This was my fourth trip this summer to the fairgrounds.  This time different as the grounds were in disarray and in places they looked abandoned.  The barns are now closed and no livestock in sight.  Scattered around the grounds were ice chests that had been used by the food vendors.  It was as if they had been strewed all over the grounds, but having just been there a couple of weeks ago, I knew different.  In my mind I recalled some of the food vendors I visited. Most of the rides had been dismantled and gone for another year.  I had all my camera gear with me and as I looked around the grounds only words came to mind.  No images.

I went to the Entry Department in the Administration Building to pick up my photos and blue ribbon.  I almost forgot to take that precious yellow card with me!  By now it was lunch time and I headed to Gateway Market and Cafe.  Earlier in the week I asked for recommendations on social media for a quick and casual place for lunch.  This location was recommended by a few people and was perfect.  An establishment I will certainly be a patron of in future visits to Des Moines.

Terrace Hill Historic Site

Still wanting to be inspired for some photography, I headed to Terrace Hill Historic Site.  The Governor’s mansion.  I arrived late but they were giving one more tour.  I watched a video and then was going to pay for the tour.  One problem, they only accept cash and I only had plastic.  I stated this was an unplanned stop and would come again for the tour.  The tour guide asked if I was from there and I said no and explained my trip to Des Moines.  A couple who were going to take the final tour offered to pay for my tour, but I graciously stated it was very generous and couldn’t accept their offer.  I hoped they weren’t offended, but I should have been more prepared and had cash with me.  I felt the need to accept the consequences of my lack of planning.  It was mid afternoon and there was another location I wanted to scout.

My journey continued on to the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge and the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden.  The bridge spans the Des Moines River and is a focal point of The Principal Riverwalk.  Currently the bridge is being repaired and the potential black and white photos with strong contrast, as it was mid afternoon and the sun still high, were quickly discarded.  I drove through the parking lot of the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden.  The garden is just north of the Iowa Women of Achievement Bridge.  Due to time, I chose not to stop.  Can you imagine I passed on an opportunity for macro photography of flora and fauna, usually my favorite genre?  Again, I only wanted to write.

One more stop in Des Moines, actually in Pleasant Hill.  Over The Top for a mid afternoon treat.  A family owned and operated shop with over 30 super-premium homemade ice cream flavors.  A perfect treat for a late summer Saturday afternoon.

Then back on the road towards home.  But two more stop on the way.  First the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge to try to catch a glimpse of the approximately 75 bison and 25 elk that call the refuge home. The refuge is restoring the tall grass prairie and oak savanna ecosystems which covered most of Iowa at one time. My second trip to the refuge and the second time trying to see the bison and elk escaped me.

Only one more stop, Jaarsma Bakery in Pella for Dutch letters.  My absolute favorite pastry!  Even at 4 o’clock on a Saturday afternoon you can expect to wait in line.

Back on the road to go home.  My head wanting to spew the words onto paper that were filling my head of the day trip to Des Moines.  Words instead of images to describe my day and the feeling of being home at the Iowa State Fairgrounds and in Des Moines.

Tomorrow marks two years of living in Iowa.  Am I finally feeling at home or only when in the city?  Or, because I have made multiple trips to Des Moines in the past month and has become familiar?  The answer?  Unknown for now.


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.