“two is company, four is a party, three is a crowd. one is a wanderer.”
― james thurber
“man…i hope this is going to be less stressful than last week…” i had just arrived to the second of three stretches of road construction where the two lanes drop to one lane going both ways. Fortunately, that stretch of highway was completely stress free. i continued on toward my destination…what’s that? you are wondering what happened the previous week driving? well…let me tell you…
first, i don’t get rattled easily when driving. and i’ve had my fair share of crazy drivers around me. let’s just say this incident had me wondering if i was even going to get out of it in one piece.
the first of a few signs appeared talking about road construction ahead and that there would be a merging into one lane. earlier, i saw a semi truck that had cut cars off pulling onto the highway from the side of the road. i got into the other lane as it happened in front of me and passed on by while thinking that was crazy. he just pulled out into oncoming traffic. that should have been my warning.
eventually, this same truck came barreling past me faster than highway speeds. as i watched, he pulled over into my lane. i’m assuming he saw the same first sign i saw about the merging into one lane. he ended up slowing way down and, as it was still a ways to the actual merging of two lanes into one, i went around him as i was just maintaining my speed. big mistake. once the merge happened further up a ways, he started to speed up until he was literally inches from my rear end. how do i know it was inches? when i looked in my rear view mirror, all i saw was the front grille of the semi-truck.
for the next ten miles of this second stretch of road construction, he would slow way down to where he was quite a ways back. then he would “put the pedal to the metal” and come up on my rear until all i saw was the front grille in the mirror. each time he got that close, he would stay there for several minutes before slowing way down again. if i could, i would have taken the risk of getting caught speeding in a work zone to get away from him. but that wasn’t going to happen. there were cars in front of me. there was no place to pull over onto the side of the road and let him go by. all i could do was keep driving. i could feel my heart racing. if i just barely tapped my brakes while he was that close, he would have been driving on my car. with that type of road rage happening behind me, i felt chances were pretty good he’d just drive over me. i’ve seen enough videos of road rage to feel pretty confident in that assessment.
after a harrowing 10 miles, we finally pulled back to where the highway opened up to two lanes again. i quickly pulled over thinking he would just continue to fly on by. nope. he pulled over as well and stayed a little ways behind me. then… “pedal to the metal” time! however, at the last minute, he pulled over into the left lane after getting close to me and passed on by. just to be sure, i slowed down as well. as i watched, he sped up and was soon passing cars at high speed again.
i wish i could say that was the last i saw of him. a ways later, i passed by the truck pulled off to the side of the road again. i saw him one more time on the road; that should tell you how fast a semi truck is driving when they are on the side of the road as you pass but then you see them coming again later on. fortunately, he ended up getting off at an exit that i had just passed.
you can understand now why i was relieved that the drive was uneventful this time around!
i was headed to the same general area as the previous week when i explored great river bluffs state park. this time, the plan was to just drive the back roads for a bit and see what i would come across. i pulled into the town of lanesboro, a charming small town with a downtown listed on the national register of historic places. i drove slowly through the main street as people were all over the place. at the edge of town i joined up with highway 16, a scenic route along the root river that meanders through beautiful bluff country and forests. i started driving in the direction of the wisconsin border. it was along this road that i would pull off onto back roads to check them out.
my first turn onto a back road brought me to some sort of rock quarry. i found it interesting enough to stop and check it out. i’m not sure if the quarry was natural or man made. it was a rock wall/bluff that had a sort of long and wide terraced step look running alongside the wall as you walk along it. it would continue for a ways and then you would step down (or up depending on the direction you were walking) onto the next sort of terrace. i would share an image of it except i forgot about making one as I was exploring it. i usually at least make an iPhone image of where i’ve been for my memories. but sometimes i forget to do that when i’m just enjoying moment.
i got back into my car and continued on. it was a gorgeous drive on a winding dirt and gravel road bounded by the forest. here and there, purple and white colors from various flowers dotted the roadside and deeper into the forest. i finally decided i had gone far enough and was ready to return to highway 16 to hit another back road. however, the road was narrow enough that there wasn’t really any place to turn around. i noticed a clearing up ahead at a top of an incline and thought i might be able to turn around there. when i got to the top, the view ahead of me open up to an expansive view of farmland and the hills beyond it. the sky was quite moody with somewhat dramatic clouds. i became enamored of the scene ahead of me; a tree in the foreground adjoined the gravel road as it continued on to a barn and briefly went out of sight before it appeared again having rounded the barn. i pulled over again and just enjoyed the view for a bit before i decided to make an image. as i was making this image, the sun broke through an opening in the clouds and added some nice light in the foreground of the image. it helped give depth against the clouds and background of the hills and farmland. i really like the contrast of the light tannish color of the road against the darker lush greens of the corn field and grass.
having thoroughly enjoyed spending some time in this location, i turned around and headed back to highway 16. i turned right and continued in the direction of the wisconsin border. a short while later, i turned off onto another dirt and gravel road. immediately to my right was an abandoned barn and smaller stone house. fully intrigued by it, i decided to keep driving down the road first. this was another beautiful drive through dense foliage and forest on the right side and a bluff wall on the left side covered in green moss and foliage going up its wall. i went a long ways driving on the road but there was really no place to pull over and explore. the forest itself was thick with no trails. i decided to turn around and head back to the barn and house almost right off of highway 16.
despite the dense growth and tall grasses surrounding both the buildings, the buildings themselves were in a pretty remarkable state of preservation. the front of the house seemed a little “crumbly” looking in the middle but otherwise, they both seemed to be holding up pretty well, all things considered. i really wanted to explore them. i saw that there was a house just past the two buildings with a line of trees separating them. i thought about pulling in to ask if the person living there was the owner of the adjoining property and if i could do some exploring. i could not spot any “no trespassing” signs anywhere regarding the property where the barn and house was. but, again, the fact that adjacent was a house and some outbuildings where somebody was living was enough for me consider the possibility that that owner also owned the barn and stone house.
i sat for a minute or two in my car surveying the owner’s property. it was a bit junky; a bit uncared for. but that’s not unusual for properties in rural locations. a pickup truck sat out in the gravel driveway as well as some other vehicles resting in different places. scanning throughout the property i could see, there was a veritable hodgepodge of items laying around. scavengers and pickers would find this place enticing. truth be told, so did i as i think i would enjoy scavenging/picking. i love watching those types of show as well as frequenting antique stores, flea markets, etc. however, after a bit, my mind started playing with me. i started to think that this could possibly be a loner who has little tolerance for people coming onto their property. i’ve seen movies and tv shows where it usually does not end well for visitors who walk onto those type of properties. i finally made a decision. “well, maybe i’ll ask another day. today, i’m fine with just making images from the road” 😂.
i pulled off to the side and created this composition. as i mentioned earlier, for the most part, these two structures, from the outside at least, seem to be in relatively good condition for not having been cared for. i’m tempted to say the red barn paint had to have been done in more recent years. but the fact there is no path to it or around the perimeter seems to suggest maybe the paint has just held up well over the years. the overall feel of this image seems to be more nostalgic to me. i love the film quality look to it that is similar to when i used to use film cameras back in the day. i actually desaturated the red and the greens a bit as it was too saturated for my taste. reds especially, when shooting film, really “pop” and look almost unreal.
cloudy days are good days for colors to really shine which is why the reds and green were too saturated for my taste. sunlight can wash them out.
i also love the sense of depth throughout this image. the light and darker greens in the foreground lend to that. also contributing was the darker greens in the background against the buildings themselves. it seems to help the structures, the focal point of this image, to stand out better.
then, as i looked closer at the barn roof, i was enraptured with the the cupolas and the lightning rods with the glass balls on top of this extremely weathered and textured barn roof. it is always amazing to see intact glass balls on lightning rods out in the elements. if they are cracked or broken, that is how you can tell if lightning struck the rod or not. but the fact that all three were still whole was just amazing! i can only imagine how many thunderstorms replete with lightning hovered over this barn year after year from the first year it was erected. granted, these balls may or may not have been the originals but they certainly are from a simpler time of yesteryear. i love how the shingles on the roof are weathered all the way down in front of the two cupolas. they provide a nice leading line up to the cupolas which, themselves, are gorgeous pieces of architecture. just look at the detail on them from the faux metal tiles at the bottom all the way up to the arrowhead style pinnacle. even in it’s tarnished state, they are beautiful. “beauty in the decay” is a phrase i use occasionally and this roof is certainly eye candy to a photographer like myself!
back on highway 16 again, i hadn’t driven too far when i pulled off to the side. i took some time watching the sun break through as the clouds moved quickly through the sky over the landscape in front of me. it was a fascinating thing for me to watch the directional spray of the sunlight moving fast across the hills and corn field. it would move quickly through the landscape, rippling over the hills and down to the corn field where the sunbeam would move in a straight line sideways toward me. it’s like someone in the clouds above was shining a light beam down and quickly scanning through the hills and corn field. the light never did pass over me. it always ended up being snuffed out about midway or so out in the corn field; almost like there was a impenetrable wall in the sky that the light was not going to get through. i captured this image here shortly before the sunlight disappeared behind the heavy cloud coverage. what a fun moment for me to watch and capture! the Creator behind mother nature has such an incredible sense of painting the landscape for those willing to take the time to stop and watch the master strokes being applied!
i got back into my car and continued on until i came to a road called apple blossom drive. as i was plotting my route on my computer before this road trip, i saw the road on google maps. i immediately knew with name like that i was going to go on that road. there was even an apple orchard on the road! i joined up with that road in the town of la crescent which is very close to the minnesota/wisconsin border. i didn’t stop at the orchard but the drive itself, to me, rivaled the scenery on highway 16. it meandered through wonderful farmland and pastures; sometimes trees were heavily present in the landscape, other times they would sort of punctuate the landscape here and there.
i reached a point in my drive where i came to a view that brought me to a stop. once again, i stepped out to enjoy a masterpiece come alive. i love this open patch of grass and shrubbery dotting the landscape before a thick forest pops up abruptly. as you peer over the forest, you can see patches of farmland and the mississippi river past it. beyond the river is the state of wisconsin where the forest and farmland continue on for as far as the eye can see. small patches of blue can be seen as the clouds continued their rapid movement through the sky. at the same time, the clouds were in a constant flux of shape and form. toward the upper left of the green forested hill in the foreground was a small surprise to see. a bit of fog was spiraling in that one spot. i only managed to catch the last of it with this image before it disappeared. but while i was just being in the moment before making the image, it was cool to watch it sort of hover and spiral in that general area. i have no idea what caused it. there is certainly no habitation of any sort in there like someone with a smoking house or something. perhaps one of you reading this might be able to explain what might have been the cause behind it. i’d love to know!
a final attention to detail that caught my attention in creating the image was a little bit odd and fun to see. there is a small line of birch or aspen trees to the left in the foreground. the first whole one is in the open but from there the others just fade into the forest. it just seemed surreal to see those few birch trees and only those in this heavily deciduous forest of what appeared to be mostly oaks and maples. i’m not a knowledgeable tree person but that is what types of trees appeared mostly.
while i was making the image, a car stopped and a couple got out. we talked for a minute and then i went back to my camera while they took selfies in front of the scene. being the nice guy that i am (and humble too!), i offered to make an image of them using their phone. i contemplated, once the phone was in my hand, to quickly take off with it and…alright, that isn’t even remotely true. if it was, i’d be leaving gear behind worth way more than that phone in my haste to get away with it! i told them i’d count down to three to give them an alert when the pic would be taken.
after confirming with them that they were happy with it, i went back over to my equipment and packed it all up into my backpack. i joined behind the happy couple in moving on in our adventures for the day. after a while, they pulled over and let me go by as i had my car grille all up in their rear view mirror. ok, that isn’t true either 😉. as i passed them, i gave them a wave and continued on. as i drove, i decided i had done enough driving for the day and was ready to head back home. i made a stop for gas and for a bite to eat along the way. i also was reflecting on the day i had enjoyed. it was fun to not have a destination to get to but to just explore and see what comes into view! sometimes the best things pop up when we give plans a rest and let a sense of unknown adventure take the lead! i’ll be looking forward to the next time i take a road trip down in the southeastern part of minnesota and explore her back roads!
thanks for joining with me on this fun road trip! as you have most likely noticed, a lot of my images tend to be more at night. i do love night photography but i also really love photography during the day. i hope you enjoyed this chance to see a little beauty that can be found in the southeastern part of minnesota. it has been something on my mind to try and plan more trips in that direction instead of just going north all the time. while northern minnesota is incredibly inspiring, diverse and gorgeous, that is only one part of minnesota. there is so much more to explore! i also want to expand out into wisconsin, the dakotas and even out toward nebraska, colorado and beyond when time and finances allow it.
feel free to post comments, thoughts, whatever you may want to share in the comments section regarding this blog, these images or even anything not related to this blog. perhaps you have questions about photography in general, gear i use, what settings i use to create images, my favorite movie, color and so on…feel free to ask!
these images are for sale and will be up soon to purchase in my store found on my website. as i like to do, here are sample scale images to help you understand how they might look in a location you have in mind for a print. until they are on my store, you can shoot me an email or contact form regarding purchasing one or more prints. just like you can with all my featured images, you can click on these to expand the size and see them better!
tree and barn 12"x18"
barn and stone house 24"x36"
barn cupolas 16"x24"
light and shadow landscape 24"x36"
a view through a hill 36"x48"
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