This picnic was my first taste at photography beyond funny pictures with friends or random photographs of walks around town.
Gerrard-Hoeschler, a company my mother used to work for, would host these annual customer appreciation picnics. True to Wisconsin style there was beer available, as well as food and other beverages more suitable for those under 21.
The man in the picture directly below is Steve Noffke, the man I refer to as my Fairy Godfather. I had shown up to this picnic as a guest, just there tagging along with my mom, when Steve saw me taking photographs with my old Fujifilm Finepix compact camera. He handed over his Nikon D50 to me and gave me a few photography tips:
1. Get to know your camera. Though I didn't learn manual settings that day, he told me to get to know how to use the camera for what it is, a beautiful, complex tool.
2. Try to take photographs of people when they are not looking.
The second point was related to the event we were at, as Gerrard-Hoeschler wanted photographs of their guests partaking in the activities at the picnic.
You will see in the following photographs that I tried to follow his secondary advice. I took photographs of the children playing games, of families eating food together, of the caricature artist creating portraits, and my favorite one, the little girl using a creative alternative method to drink the water from the fountain she could not otherwise reach.
There won't be much text with this blog post, as quite honestly, this event was over a decade ago and my memory of it is quite limited. I hope you can enjoy the photographs as I do. I always look back at this event as the door that opened my photography career.
Here's a throwback!
I was fortunate enough to go on a trip to Hawaii in 2007 with my grandmother to visit my brother, his wife, and their eldest daughter, Natalie.
Of course, attending a luau was on the agenda for this trip. My brother and his wife took my grandmother and I to Germaine's Luau in Kapolei. Of course, baby Natalie was also in attendance.
My grandma was very good at entertaining Natalie.
The luau is not just performance entertainment, as one may suspect. They also serve kalua pig: pork roasted in an underground oven called an imu. Several men come out to light the torches and to lift the beat out of the imu, and the guests of the luau get to witness the entire process.
The luau was a wonderful experience, and as previously stated, the location just made it all the better. I remember snapping the photograph below, thinking that it looked like an older Window's computer screensaver.
Just in case you are interested in learning more about Germaine's Luau, here is their website: https://www.germainesluau.com/
Please note that I am not in any way receiving monetary gifts/rewards for this blog post and for mentioning Germaine's Luau. I simply write these blog posts to share my personal experiences and travels.
It was the morning of June 24th. Jeremy and I woke up in our hotel room at The Pollard in Red Lodge, Montana. My uneaten birthday cake was on the dresser in the room, my recently finished novel lay on the end table next to the chair at the end of the room. Jeremy had booked us the king suite on the third floor with the jacuzzi tub, and got a special deal where he also had purchased dinner, which we had the night before, and breakfast.
He grabbed our breakfast voucher and we headed down to the main floor to the dining room. Our waitress was handling the breakfast crowd by herself, but she was such a hard worker and did a wonderful job. We had our coffee and our food - Jeremy had Eggs Benedict, and I had pancakes. We headed back up to our room, packed our belongings, and made our way back to the counter to check out. Everyone on the staff at The Pollard was extremely pleasant, and I would definitely stay there again if we found ourselves back in Red Lodge.
The front desk clerk asked us what our plans were for that day, and after we told her we were heading into Yellowstone, she made a remark on how "interesting" the drive was into the park from Red Lodge. The previous night at dinner a young man had mentioned that the drive was a "trip in and of itself". Jeremy and I thought they just meant the drive was pretty at the time... and it was! It was also truly a journey driving up steep roads that switch-backed, a true mountain road trip.
The road you drive on to get to Yellowstone from Red Lodge is called Beartooth Loop. It was a thrilling drive, especially for me with my anxiety in driving near steep mountain slopes and driving downhill towards turns. I was once in a driving accident where the axel broke while I was driving down a bluff in Minnesota, and I haven't been the same since then when it comes to driving downhill.
Nonetheless, Jeremy and I have agreed that it was the best way to enter the park. It was such a gorgeous drive, offering magnificent views. During our time in Yellowstone we explored three entrances/exits into/from Yellowstone, and this one was, by far, the most interesting.
We had stopped several times on our way through Beartooth Loop. Most of the stops were to get out and admire the view at our high elevation, other times were to let the motorcyclists and braver drivers go by (can you tell that I was driving?). We were almost to the other side of the loop, to start going down the mountainside, when we saw this lake with the mountain backdrop. I, of course, had to get a photograph of Jeremy with the sign: Gardner Lake in Shoshone National Forest.
He also looked quite comfortable peering out over the lake.
Jeremy started noticing small creatures off to the side as I was focused on photographing the lake. We didn't know what they were, but we determined they were related to groundhogs.
The entire time we were sitting there admiring the lake, no one else stopped. Everyone else drove by, missing this beautiful sight. Everyone, except this couple from Michigan. The lady stayed near the truck and was admiring the view and the animals, but the gentleman came forward and we talked a bit about Yellowstone. He told me that the animal we were seeing were marmots. They are so cute!
Not only was the view beautiful, but the natural terrain of the mountain we were standing on was gorgeous and full of these tiny wildflowers. I think I would like to picnic amongst wildflowers one day.
We started making our way down the mountain towards Yellowstone. The valleys were vast, and as we made our way down it was clear that Gardner Lake was not the only lake in the nearby vicinity. We even came across a waterfall, which was barely visible between trees along the side of the highway. Luckily there was a pull-out right near the waterfall with a footpath leading back to it. After doing some research, we believe it might have been Crazy Creek Falls.
The two photographs above are of Soda Butte Geyser, not that far from the Northeast Entrance into Yellowstone. When we arrived, there was a man climbing all over the geyser, despite signs saying that it was dangerous to do so.
We ignored the man and his disrespect for nature and went around to the back side of the geyser, when we found ourselves a bit too close to a pair of bison. We slowly backed away, while I took photographs, of course. I loved how these birds were just hanging out on top of the bison on his yet un-shedded coat.
The views on the Northeast side of the park were spectacular.
There were many herds of bison on the Northeast side of the park that day, so it definitely was the correct place to be that morning. We even got to see bison calves. You can see this one bellowing for its mama in the second image.
As we got closer and closer to Mammoth Hot Springs, we came upon a group of cars all stopped on the side of the road. We are no dummies, so we figured there was an animal nearby. Sure enough, there was a black bear just hanging out in the meadow heading towards the campground. He was probably hungry.
We stopped in Mammoth Hot Springs for lunch. We had to eat outside, of course, due to COVID restrictions. We sat at a picnic table, enjoyed our food, and headed into the gift shop where we found gifts for Jeremy's family who was watching our dogs and rabbits while we were away.
As we headed out of the park, we saw an elk herd, parked in a nearby parking lot, and walked to a safe distance and admired the beautiful animals. They were all resting near the houses where the park rangers reside. There were even elk fawn! It was a wonderful experience. There were even some younger bucks, showing off their smaller antlers covered in velvet.
The bison pictured below is my number one favorite animal that we saw on this trip. He was laying there, munching on grass, with his eyes closed. Definitely felt this bison on a spiritual level.
Of course, I loved the elk down below too. How can you not love those majestic creatures??
Jeremy and I made our way over to Yellowstone Canyon where the Yellowstone waterfall is. Here, you can clearly see why the park got its name. Yellow rock lines the canyon above Yellowstone River. It was a steep switchback trail, but it was full of beautiful scenery. We stopped at this tiny footbridge that had a waterfall behind it. Jeremy is pictured below on the bridge. Yellowstone Upper Falls is pictured below as well, surrounded by the yellow stone that provided the namesake.
The Norris Geyser Basin is quite expansive, as you can see from the images below. We walked around the first loop.
The last thing we did on our first day in Yellowstone National Park was to go see Gibbon Falls. This raven was perched up in a tree greeting people walking to the viewpoint. Isn't that polite?
After leaving the park on June 24th, we headed out of the West gate and drove towards Island Park, Idaho where our hotel was waiting. We stopped at a small gas station that was also a local store and bar. Such a landmark for a small town, it was great.
We dined that evening in a bar and restaurant called Connie's. The service and the food was excellent, and I definitely recommend for anyone traveling to Island Park.
After dinner, we were very much ready to go to our hotel and collapse for the evening. We headed out to our hotel, Springhill Suites by Marriott. This hotel chain is one we have stayed at before and enjoyed immensely. We greatly appreciate the taste in decor and the rooms. However, this hotel was not set up properly to take in the amount of guests that had rooms reserved there. Their parking lot could only hold a portion of the vehicles of guests staying in the hotel, and we had to park on this weird side street behind the building itself.
We went to bed, and when we awoke the next morning, we found that our vehicle was blocked in by some guy that blocked the entire back street behind the hotel. This pushed our departure time back quite a bit as we waited for the hotel to try and find the owners of the truck, which ended up being two young men who were quite rude about the entire situation.
Jeremy grabbed our breakfasts, which were in to-go bags provided by the hotel. I was definitely not impressed with this either. They had run and gotten gas station breakfast sandwiches, oranges with brown marks on them, and little cartons of milk. The sandwiches were cold, and it was just an overall bad experience.
The truck was eventually moved, and we headed back towards Yellowstone, me fuming in the front seat with Jeremy agreeing with me as I ranted about the rude men and their truck.
Before we headed into the park, we stopped in the town located right outside the West Entrance, fittingly named "West Yellowstone" to do some more shopping. We ended up buying very few things in the town, as the stores were overtly crowded, and we wanted to beat the line into the park.
After entering through the West side of the park, we headed South, towards Old Faithful.
The first Geyser Basin we went to was the Lower Geyser Basin. It was amazing how far away we were when we first started seeing the steam rise up over the horizon.
We went to the Midway Geyser Basin next, and this is where some of the more colorful hot springs and geysers are. You have to cross a bridge to get over to it, and you can see the hot, steamy water running off into the river from the geysers and springs. The Firehole River is marked as unsafe in this area due to the run offs.
Old Faithful is such a popular attraction that there's a whole exit system for traffic going and seeing the landmark. We happened to time it all out perfectly, we truly do have good luck, because when we arrived at Old Faithful, there was still ten minutes before it's next estimated eruption. We were able to get a front row bench!
While we were waiting for Old Faithful to blow, we watched the birds flitter about, and even saw a Bison get a bit uncomfortably close to a group of spectators quite a ways down.
Old Faithful does steam quite a bit before it goes, and you can definitely tell when the time is getting close as the steam increases immensely.
We really only had one more plan after Old Faithful before leaving Yellowstone. We wanted to go drive around Yellowstone Lake. It's off on the East side of the park, so it was a bit of a drive to get there, especially with the heavy rain we experienced, but when we got there it was completely worth it. The lake is beautiful. If Jeremy and I lived close to Yellowstone, I could see us just going to the lake and enjoying a day on the water. It's truly a magnificent scene.
After all of the beauty we were able to witness, we are so thankful to have the National Parks to protect nature and the magnificence of Mother Earth.
TLDR; Photographer and fiance go to Yellowstone National Park, enjoy a lot of adventures, and share photographs.
How can we change the world?
It's a question a lot of us have been asking ourselves for the last few weeks, or for several of us, a lot longer than that.
After taking a lot of time to self-reflect, I have come to the conclusion that the only way to truly change the world is for each and every single one of us to be the best versions of ourselves. Looking back at movies like Simon Birch, Pay it Forward, It's a Wonderful Life, and others, I truly believe it's one of the messages Hollywood has gotten correct. If we were to each try to be the best version of ourselves, that is someone who is caring, leads with love, and is willing to take action for the betterment of the general public and the world, THAT is how we can make the world a better place.
You might be asking yourself how, and that's completely okay. Each person would have to take the time to truly get to know themselves and self-reflect on how to improve on oneself before being able to commit to being the best version of themself.
Here is what I have learned about myself, listed out in a Problem-Solution format below.
Problem: I have very little patience
Solution: I need to remember to take breaths and try to see each of my interactions from the other person's point of view. What are they actually trying to say versus what they are physically saying? Do they mean it, or are they letting emotions control their verbiage? Are they being sincerely caring and I am being too sensitive to what they are saying? I have noticed that since I started asking myself these questions when having a stressful conversation or dealing with a stressful situation, I have been able to respond verbally and physically better to the situation at hand, which in my experience thus far, has lead to more peaceful conclusions.
Problem: I get defensive
Solution: This kind of goes hand in hand with patience, but for this one I more-so remind myself that 99% of people are not intending to offend me when they say things that trigger me. For those that are obviously trying to offend, I have learned that I do not have to put up with their negativity. I usually respond with a quick retort and then depending on the severity of the situation, end the conversation, or end the relationship (usually there isn't much of one to begin with when this occurs). To be a positive person, you need to surround yourself with positive people.
Problem: I am efficient to the point of laziness at times
Solution: I am usually extremely efficient, especially in my job. I would like to think it's one of the qualities that managers look for, and it seems to be, considering my successful career path so far. However, when it comes to my philanthropy work, or doing things on my checklist that are on the "back burner" (essentially anything that doesn't directly affect my every day life), I tend to put the items off until the next day. I partially blame this on my efficiency plan on tackling projects in my work and personal lives. Tackle the big important things first, and leave the small projects for last. The solution is to hold myself accountable for even the little things at the end of the day. I always feel better when I get to complete today's tasks today, instead of continuously putting off the little things.
Problem: I can be "too comfortable"
Solution: A lot of the world's problems have been circling around other groups of people, not necessarily involving me. For this, it can be so easy to turn the other cheek and keep living my life the way I have been. However, this doesn't solve anything. While I will probably never be the type of person to go to demonstrations and protests, I do want to try to add to positive solutions in a quiet, calm way. Maybe this will change one day, but for now, it's a step that I am comfortable taking that is in the right direction.
What is this all leading to?
It's okay to have little patience for negativity.
It's okay to get defensive when it comes to important issues that are close to your heart.
It's okay to draw the line on how involved you want to get in worldly issues as long as your reasons have to do with your safety and your health.
The step I am taking in the right direction is that Imbeccable Images will be donating 10% of each purchase from the Adventure Store and each booked photography session to an organization listed on my Get Involved web page.
This means that if you book a session, you can select one of the organizations on that list to receive 10% of the cost of your session. If you make a purchase through the Adventure Store, you can select one of the organizations to receive 10% of the total cost of items in your cart.
I recently booked an engagement session with a wedding. Since they are two separate bookings, the client can choose two different organizations (one to receive 10% from the engagement session, and the other to receive 10% from the wedding booking).
This is one small step in the right direction that I hope makes you as joyful as it does me.
If you have any suggestions on changes or additions to the list of organizations on the Get Involved page, feel free to comment on this post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeremiah and I went to Minnesota and Wisconsin last year for my birthday week. I wanted one last big hurrah before my parents moved to California, as I knew I wouldn't go back very often after that.
One of the places to visit on my checklist was the Minnesota Zoo. I hadn't been since I was a child, as my family and I normally would go to Como Park Zoo. I wish we had time to do both, so maybe we'll just have to fly back again one day and have that on our agenda.
It's always amazing to me how similarly house cats and large breeds behave at times. This leopard, for example, was in a very playful mood the day we were at the zoo.
Zoos and Wildlife Sanctuaries have been hard at work at keeping the Amur Leopard from going extinct. To learn more about this beautiful creature and how we can help the Amur Leopard from going extinct, please click on the link below.
A second large breed cat featured at the Minnesota Zoo is the Amur Tiger - that's right, from the same region as the Amur Leopard.While tigers are slightly safer from extinction than the leopard, it is still important for us to do what we can to save the species.
One fact I was surprised about that I read on the Minnesota Zoo's website for the Amur Tiger is that it's the largest of all cats! I seriously would have thought lions were bigger, so thank you, MNZoo for educating this girl!
In case you can't tell by the order of these photographs, they are being posted in the order that I took them at the zoo. First the Amur Leopard, then the Amur Tiger, and now the Takin, which is another animal native to Asia.
This Takin may not look that large, but they can weigh up to 700 pounds! From the MNZoo website, it sounds like they are a matriarchal society, with females and young offspring making up the herds. Older males tend to live in solidarity.
Coloradans are no stranger to this beautiful creature, but that may have not been the case if protective measures were not enforced to save the bison back in the 1800s. There was a point in time where there were less than 600 bison left, but thanks to conservation efforts, the population is up to more than 30,000, meaning this animal is a top conservation success story!
It just goes to show that if we put forth the efforts to save a species (or, hey, the planet itself), we can succeed.
Another animal familiar to Coloradans is the Black-Tailed Prairie Dog. When I first moved to Colorado back in 2015, I was so excited to see these little ones popping up all over the place in the eastern plains. I was warned by locals not to go near them, however, as apparently they carry the Bubonic Plague. Sounds fake, right? It's not, unfortunately.
I do love how these two looked to be in a serious conversation, and then both looked my way after they heard my shutter click.
Who else was taught as a child that the humps of the camel hold water for when they are out in the desert for a long time? Anyone?
Apparently they store fat, not water, to help them survive long periods of time without food. They have special blood cells which help with hydration.
Read more about the Bactrian Camel here: https://mnzoo.org/blog/animals/bactrian-camel/
Another conservation success story involves the Asian Wild Horse.
In the 1960s, the wildlife populations of this horse disappeared completely. Thanks to zoos and conservation efforts, there are now about five hundred horses living in their natural habitat.
Our favorite part of our trip to the Minnesota Zoo was the Llama Trek, which is a seasonal exhibit (summer tiiiiiiime). I love seeing llamas and alpacas, so I was extremely excited for this exhibit.
There was even a younger llama which is in the second photo below, looking very zen. Jeremy and I decided if we ever adopt a llama that we would name it Kuzco, as in Emperor's New Groove, however, his dad brought up the ingenious idea of getting two and naming them Barack Ollama and Michelle Ollama. Ha.
Another favorite section of the Minnesota Zoo that has been there since I was a kid is the Wells Fargo Family Farm.
There's a goat barn with a guarded area where the goats can eat along with a kidding stall. You can join the goats outside where they gently bump you with their heads and demand lots of attention. I could definitely have a couple of small goats in my future - they are so cute!
There were a couple of goats that were a few weeks old while we were there, and they decided to show their little faces for just a moment - but the moment was long enough for me to photograph them.
To read more on these goats, read the MN page https://mnzoo.org/blog/animals/goat/
The Wells Fargo Family Farm also features chickens, cows, pigs, rabbits, and horses. Chickens creep me out, but these two were okay. https://mnzoo.org/blog/animals/wells-fargo-family-farm/
If you don't know this about me already, I freaking love moose. I would love to see a moose in the wild, but I have not been blessed with this experience yet.
I have to get my moose satisfaction from seeing them at zoos. Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado Springs has Tahoma, and Jeremy and I go see him maybe once a year. I was excited to see moose at Minnesota Zoo, especially when there was a calf! So cute.
Jeremy and I attended the bird show, and I'm pretty sure we were the only adults there without kids. Oh, well.
It was fun watching all of the birds performing their tricks and flying over the crowd. Here are the links to the birds we saw in the show in the order of the pictures below.
Couldn't find a link for the fourth and fifth birds :(
If you or your kids have ever watched the movie Madagascar, then I'm sure seeing this animal makes you want to break out into the song "I Like to Move It".
The ring-tailed lemur spends more time on the ground than other lemurs, spending their time foraging and playing, so they truly do like to move it ;).
One of Jeremy's favorite creatures to spot at the zoo is the Komodo Dragon. While these creatures are large, I was still surprised to find out that they are large enough to feast on water buffalo!
These two were not having play time when we stopped by their exhibit. It was nap time. They never even opened their eyes for a peak at me when my shutter went off.
We were both excited to see a red panda at the MN Zoo, and when he started sticking his tongue out at his viewers, I knew I had to capture his personality in a picture.
I find it amusing that they are named red pandas. Apparently, when they were named, it was believed that they were closely related to the giant panda. DNA evidence shows they are more closely related to the raccoon, which I think makes complete.sense when you compare their physical characteristics.
I was surprised to see a coyote at the Minnesota Zoo. They are a common animal across Minnesota, and the midwest in general, and are not experiencing a decrease in population. I'm sure there's a good reason this coyote is at the zoo - perhaps health related reasons. While a lot of people dislike coyotes, I think they are beautiful.
The gray wolf is a symbol of Minnesota (Timberwolves, anyone?)
They used to be found all across the state, but now, due to growing populations, have found refuge in the forests of Northern Minnesota. Wolf populations have been introduced elsewhere throughout the United States, the most popular release being in Yellowstone National Park. Studies have shown that introducing wolf populations can help ecosystems thrive - interesting, right?
Pumas go by many names: mountain lions, cougars, and panthers, being common names.
Their populations are also doing well. I know they are relatively common in Colorado, which is cool!
The Canada lynx is a beautiful cat known for its short tail and big feet.
While populations have dwindled in Minnesota, their wildlife populations are still doing well elsewhere. Their numbers dropped to nearly zero in Minnesota in the 1980s, but have slowly been recovering, so we shall have to see what their future in the North Star state will bring.
Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to look at these photographs and read about these beautiful creatures!
Photographer, visual artist, mother to four fur-babies, and travel enthusiast.