Thursday, June 30, 2011


Got up before dawn and drove into the Bighorn Mountains today. I wanted to see the Medicine Wheel, a prehistoric stone circle that sits high on a plateau but the heavy snow drifts blocked the way and made the trail impassable (photo above). So I had to settle for a snapshot of this sign.

The drive was not wasted: the late spring snow melt ensured that the alpine meadows were still filled with wildflowers, plus I saw four moose on the road.

Later in the day we drove on to Cody, a town founded by Buffalo Bill Cody. Tomorrow we drive into Yellowstone!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Deadwood & Devils Tower

  The gold in Deadwood Gulch has been all panned out but the gambling and shootouts still keep this little town alive and brimming with tourists. Wild Bill Hickok was shot in the back while playing cards at Saloon #10 and he's now immortalized in every other shop window and gambling casino (of which there are over one hundred).

Just a mile up the road from Deadwood is the town of Lead, site of the Homestake mine. One of the largest and deepest gold mines in the world, it produced 40 million ounces before being turned over to scientists for research into neutrinos and dark matter.

Devils Tower was the first designated National Monument in the U.S.  Rising dramatically over the Northern Great Plains in
eastern Wyoming, this mount of columnar basalt is visible from miles away. Like Richard Dreyfuss's character in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, I was drawn to see this natural wonder for myself. Unfortunately no aliens made themselves apparent but some beautiful horses did wander into my shot!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Custer State Park

Sylvan Lake, Custer SP

Set in the Black Hills of South Dakota, this is a beautiful part of the world. Granite peaks rise from rolling prairie and stands of ponderosa pine.  The main attraction here is a large herd of bison, some 1,300 strong. They roam free most of the year. Then in the fall they are rounded up and culled to protect the grassland from over grazing.
It was here that the buffalo scenes in 'Dances with Wolves' were shot. Now camera-clicking admirers seem to out number the herd!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mount Rushmore

on a clear day they can see forever

We had to rent a car today while the Prius' windshield was being repaired, and drove into the Black Hills to view Mount Rushmore. Judging by the huge number of visitors there on a Monday morning, this is a place that stirs the hearts of American citizens. It is an impressive sculpture: each face is 60 feet high; each eye 11 feet in diameter. Like everyone else, we took lots of  photos (3-D in my case) and drove on to Custer State Park.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Bad Weather in the Badlands

Drove across South Dakota from Sioux Falls to Rapid City today under some dramatic skies.
storm clouds over the I-90

We arrived at Badlands National Park late in the day. So many lookout points, so little time.
Badlands view #1 - stereo 3D crossview

Walking back to the parking lot, the looming storm made a dramatic backdrop for the hills around me.

Coming out of the Visitors Centre it seemed the storm would soon be upon us.

Suddenly, while driving away, hail stones the size of golf balls started pounding the car. Very frightening. We stopped the car under a cottonwood tree which provided little protection.

Then, as suddenly as it had started, it was over.  My Prius has dents all over the roof and the windshield is cracked but we are okay. Feeling a bit shaken up, we carried on out of the park to our hotel and a bottle of wine to unwind.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

On the Road

Ho Ho Ho!
Lots to see and do in Lanesboro

Drove from Wisconsin to South Dakota today. Stopped in a cute little village called Lanesboro MN, rhubarb capital of America.

Also stopped in Blue Earth, MN to see the Jolly Green Giant. At 55 feet tall he's one imposing dude!

I saw my first herd of bison in Blue Mounds State Park; only a few dozen where once there were millions of "those blasted things", to quote a local sign. Hope to have a better view of them on our travels.

Stopped for the night in Sioux Falls SD, a prairie town with a lively downtown. Lots of sculptures, sidewalk cafes and bistros. After dark, a sound & light show at the falls told of its violent past. Seems the local natives got tired of being cheated and chased off the settlers. Sad stories.

The Falls on the Big Sioux River

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Dells

We stopped at the Wisconsin Dells today and took a boat ride down the Wisconsin River past cliffs, canyons and hoodoos carved by the river through the soft sandstone over thousands of years.

The area was relatively unknown until a stereographer (3D photographer) H. H. Bennett explored the area with his camera. Today the town is a tourist trap rivaling Niagara Falls; a dam has flooded many of the best rock formations; and the peaceful native population that lived in The Dells was evicted (four times) from their ancestral lands. So much for progress. I imagine we'll hear more stories like this as we travel west.

A highlight of the boat ride was encountering a young bald eagle in a tree by the shore. We were seated on the open top deck of the boat as he landed quite close with a freshly caught fish in his talons!

young bald eagle

Oak Park

We took a train to Oak Park yesterday to see the home and studio of architect Frank Lloyd Wright. He lived and worked in Oak Park for the first 20 years of his career, from 1898 to 1909, and developed his Prairie Style of 'organic architecture' there. The home is not as impressive as some of his commissioned works that I've visited before, such as Fallingwater. He was after all 21 years old and just getting started when he designed and built it. But his office and studio, built as an octagon to accommodate perhaps a dozen artists and draftsmen, did impress me with its wonderful indirect light and ingenious design elements.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Rookery & The Bean

Two Chicago landmarks we visited today have more formal names but are locally known by their nick-names: the Rookery and the Bean.

Atrium of the Rookery
The Rookery (named for the crows and corrupt politicians that occupied the old City Hall that formerly stood here) was, at 11 stories, the tallest building in Chicago in the late 1880s.  Frank Lloyd Wright remodeled the light and airy atrium in 1907 and it remains one of the few public spaces still in existence that he had a hand in designing. The free tours given by knowledgeable docents are well-worth the time.

Cloud Gate, aka The Bean

The Bean is a mesmerizing work of art in Millenium Park. Created by British artist Anish Kapoor, it is made of highly polished stainless steel. Like all the other visitors, we were drawn to stand beneath the structure and smile, laugh and gaze at the multiple reflections of ourselves on the interior surfaces.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Windy City

Chicago lived up to its nick-name "The Windy City" today. Couldn't keep my hat on as we explored Lakeview, the trendy neighbourhood around our hotel.

Chicago from the I-90
After a long day behind the wheel we were famished. A quirky restaurant caught our eye - the Casbah Cafe - serving Mediterranean dishes. Nick, the owner, flipped the closed sign and gave us a hearty welcome. Having no license to sell alcohol, he gave us beers at no charge. Thanks Nick!

Nick's father and uncle from Armenia started the restaurant 50 years ago. He pulled down a photo of them taken back in the day. They looked like they were characters straight out of central casting, ready to play their parts in a Chicago Mob movie!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day

Frank Bell (father)

Fathers. We all have one, and grandfathers and great-grandfathers going back to the beginning of time. Whatever happens to our relationships with our fathers as we grow up, there was almost always a time when we looked up to them, literally and figuratively. We were so small and they were heroes who could do anything. My father, who died when I was young, will always be my hero. I wish I had a chance to know his father too.
George Bell (great-grandfather)
Jim Bell (grandfather)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Oh Lucky Man!

Steve is one lucky guy! He works with a bevy of beautiful women around him all day long at Acqua Hair Salon in Guelph.  He gets teased quite a bit - like having his picture painted on the salon's front window. But he's a good sport and was happy to reprise the painting with a public display of affection for this passing photographer.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Mitsubishi MiEV
Had the pleasure of driving an all-electric car today. I had a shoot arranged with the Mitsubishi MiEV for an up coming PhotoSensitive book on Energy, but I wasn't expecting to get behind the wheel.  Conclusion? Peppy, nice handling and roomy too. Bit pricey for the size, and for only going 135 km on a charge.

Found a great natural area, with hydro pylons in the background, to use as my outdoor studio. Perfect day. Cue the clouds!
And repose for 3D...

cross-view stereo 3D

Ralph White

Nannette, Ralph, Simon & Gail at The Beach Craft Fair - June 12th, 2011
An old friend came to visit this week. Ralph White and I first met traveling in South America in 1973. He came to visit Ellen and I at the Findhorn Community in Scotland, and ended up staying there for several years. Ralph went on to found the New York Open Centre, which has grown to become America's largest urban holistic learning centre. A life-long student of Rudolph Steiner, Ralph was keen to see the Trillium Waldorf School in Guelph and he particularly enjoyed the Stations of the Cosmos display at the Ignatuis Centre. Great to see you again, Ralph!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

3-D Pelican

Pelecanus occidentalis
Put together a few stereo 3D bird images tonight for the 3D photography convention I'm going to next month. This one, of a brown pelican taken in Clearwater Florida, is one of my favourites.

It's worth looking at in 3D. Here's how: just hold your index finger up in front of the image about a third of the way from your nose to the screen. When looking at your finger the two pelican images will become three. The centre one is 3D. Take away your finger and concentrate on the centre image until it pops into focus. It may take a moment. Just relax and don't give up if it doesn't happen right away.  Once you get the hang of it, check out some of the other stereo 3D pairs on this blog!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Red-winged Blackbirds

Took an early morning walk along the Grindstone Marshes Trail in Burlington this morning. I was amazed at how the birds came close to me as if posing for my camera! The reason for this behaviour became apparent later in the morning when young mums with small children arrived with lots of birdseed in hand.

 Even the normally shy female Red-winged blackbird (above), who looks nothing like the flashy male, was approachable. The males were so preoccupied with their singing and territorial displays that I was able to get a 3-D portrait of this fellow (below).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

3-D Class in Elora

The twenty Grade 6 students who experienced the Focus on Nature workshop in Elora - for which I'm a volunteer -  had a great day shooting pictures (see below) and learning about stereoscopic 3-D. One kid said they had my Insects & Spiders 3D book at home. I told him it was a collectors item! My Fuji 3D camera was a hit as well as the Viewmasters which, curiously enough, were already a nostalgia item for these youngsters.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


Gail brought home some lovely bowls today that she made in her pottery class. She had spun them on a wheel and then glazed them in some gorgeous colours. The circular lines in the bowls reminded me of some pictures I came across earlier when cleaning up my image library: pictures of the glass works of Dale Chihuly taken at the glass museum in Tacoma Washington. If you're ever out that way it is definitely worth a visit.