the autumn road trip

Updated: Nov 6

“the falling leaves, drift by the window

the autumn leaves of red and gold…”

autumn leaves written by johnny mercer, jacques prevert and joseph kosma


“oh…this isn’t looking good…” i was referring to…you know what, let’s start at the beginning.

i normally would be headed north this time of year to do a fall photo expedition with my friend gary. but it wasn’t going to happen this year. gary was (and is) in the process of building a new house for himself and his two dogs, moose and lucy. if I have my information correct, it’s been 20 some years that he has lived in a yurt in the middle of “God’s country”. you may be thinking “a yurt in northern minnesota?” let me tell you, that yurt stays warm and then some in the winter. but this new house will be a great step up for gary and the dogs. it’s been fun watching the progress through facebook postings. gary, looking forward to seeing it in person sometime down the road if you are reading this blog!

to be honest, i wasn’t even sure what the colors were going to be like up north. it’s been pretty bone dry here for the last month or so. over the summer as a whole, we did not get a lot of moisture. believe it or not, we are considered being in an extreme drought through different regions of minnesota, though not even close to what the western region of the USA is going through. without the rain along with cool nights (among other factors) to help propel the color change in the fall, it can create a “flat” look as far as fall colors are concerned. it will not be “popping” or vibrant. however, the fall colors were happening up north. i had seen enough images shared to verify that.

i took a different strategy and decided to head southeast in minnesota this year to check out the fall foliage. down in that part of the state, folks live in and near what is called the “driftless area”. here is a quick tidbit from wikipedia as to what that area is...


“the driftless area, a topographical and cultural region in the american midwest, comprises southwestern wisconsin, southeastern minnesota, northeastern iowa and the extreme northwestern corner of illinois.

never covered by ice during the last ice age, the area lacks the characteristic glacial deposits known as drift. its landscape is characterized by steep hills, forested ridges, deeply carved river valleys, and karst geology with spring-fed waterfalls and cold-water trout streams. ecologically, the driftless area's flora and fauna are more closely related to those of the great lakes region and new england than those of the broader midwest and central plains regions. the steep riverine landscape of both the driftless area proper and the surrounding driftless-like region are the result of early glacial advances that forced preglacial rivers that flowed into the great lakes southward, causing them to carve a gorge across bedrock cuestas,[1] thereby forming the modern incised upper mississippi river valley.[2][3] the region has elevations ranging from 603 to 1,719 feet (184 to 524 m) at blue mound state park, and together with the driftless-like region, covers 24,000 square miles (62,200 km2).[4]”


if you are interested in more about what that area is like, here is the link to the rest of the wikipedia article…


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Driftless_Area


it’s actually an area that i hope to explore more when i can!


i took off on a fine tuesday morning. it was warm enough that i was wearing shorts even though it was very windy. usually by october, the weather is cool enough to require a bit more layer of clothing. about a week or so before i started writing this blog, the temps had been hovering in the 30’s and 40’s (fahrenheit). we actually had our first snowfall during that time. the accompanying winds made it seem much colder. now, we have hit the 70’s and higher the past few days. that’s minnesota for you. various weather patterns all over the map. as they say, “if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes”. 😄


i had done some research that said fall colors were expected to be peaking soon and lasting for a few weeks in the southeastern part of the state. that was enough to solidify the deal to make a road trip totaling almost 400 miles through some of the more scenic areas.


back to last tuesday…i was a little late “out the gate” getting started but was finally on the road by mid-morning. my windows were about halfway open. the breeze was blowing through my nonexistent hair. you know how, when you put your arm out the window, the air seems to separate to go over and under the arm? you feel it even more when you do the up and down snake-like movement. same as my head. there was no luxurious mane of hair blowing in the wind in slow motion like the movies. it simply was splitting up and gliding up over the slick dome or under the white textured chin that was covered by way more hair than my head will ever see. i was cranking out the tunes on my sirius xm radio. two of my more favorite channels that i listen to are siriusly sinatra and 1st wave. all the preset buttons are loaded with some other favorite channels (mostly grunge, alternative, some classic rock and one that plays year round christmas music) but the two aforementioned ones are the most activated. i suspect, much like an armchair develops grooves and ridges from a favorite positioning of arms, back and buttocks over the years, so those two preset buttons most likely have indentations from years of selecting them.


as i was driving south, i was feeling a bit disappointed. there were some pockets of color, but mostly, it was just void of the typical fall look and feel. i finally hit the part of the road trip where i would be traveling through mostly rural areas and the “driftless area”. areas that are well known for their fall colors and rather dramatic bluff type of landscape as it follows the root river. believe me, it was gorgeous in the area! rolling hills, bluffs, countless farmsteads, lots of trees, the occasional passing of an amish carriage connected via reins to a proud horse strutting at a good clip.


“oh no…this isn’t looking good…” as i continued my drive, i realized this was not going to be a road trip replete with vibrant colors. other than the rare pocket of fall color on the back roads and a gorgeous strip of color along highway 14 between towns heading north along the mississippi river, it was disastrous as fall color road trips go. the colors looked like they were way past their peak (because it was too dry; not because they were past the peak color - just discovered i’m saying color a lot 🤨). as for highway 14 in southeastern minnesota, it is actually a rather major thoroughfare connecting minnesota to wisconsin. it was not conducive to pulling over to making some images. i decided i was just going to chalk this road trip as an enjoyable drive through very scenic country. i always enjoy being out and about for photography even if nothing captures my fancy. i gotta' love the encouragement of my wife though. i texted her at one of my stops to say there was not much fall in the air for photographic opportunities as i was drove through the region. she said “i bet you’ll come back with something anyways”. it certainly had been true in the past. i decided to share that optimism as well! why not? if you think you will find some images to make, it very well could happen; if you don’t think you will find any, you could miss out on some of the best images yet because you’re not looking for them.


At one stop, i discovered an abandoned farmstead set back against a hill or bluff. discovered may be too optimistic of a word; it literally was right off a county road. i’m a little miffed at myself as i write this because i still have not formed a consistent habit of pinning on google or apple maps destinations that I made images at. so, for the life of me, i cannot remember where this image was made. it was definitely in southeastern minnesota 😂! i love this image personally. it evokes a sense of memories and nostalgia; a time when life might have been more simple though full of hard work. it might have been a happy life or a life rife with disappointments and trials. a life where people worked together, played together, talked together, cried together, laughed together, supported each other together and more. oh, we have that today to some degree (community). but let’s be honest. it is not the same and it certainly is not something that is given high priority in our society as a whole. as an example, dinner is no longer a time to share the happenings of the day. it’s a time to bury our heads in our phones or tablets or a time to see what’s streaming on the tv. i’m not saying it’s wrong or right; i’m just saying technology seems to have the priority in our life over caring about how the day made or broke people. i look at this image and even in the decaying, crumbling, abandoned state of this property, i can’t help but fantasize about what might have been.


i also love the contrast in color of the grasses/hay and trees throughout the image. it seems that some parts of the farmstead are trying to stave off fall’s advance. other parts of the property had already given in to the natural order of things, a slow but inevitable death as fall continues to entrench itself and winter soon to be making its harsh entrance. i really wanted to walk up to the house and outbuildings to check them out. having worn shorts that day and not having any spray for ticks, i decided against it as the grass was long. even the driveway, while visible at the very front right off the county road, was overtaken by tall grasses. in case you don’t know, ticks can be alive in in cold weather even if not as many. from my research, ticks have been found to be alive even well below freezing weather. ticks and i do not make a good combination. we will never be friends. if i find a tick, it will die. i will slice it in half or stick a lighted match or lighter to it and watch it…poof! it magically destructs and disappears! i feel no remorse, only victory!


hopefully, i will be able to check out the house and outbuildings another day if they are still standing. i just need to find it again!



this second image is also in southeastern minnesota somewhere😉. this property, in stark contrast to the first image, is alive and well. the barn proudly displays the most classic of barn colors - red! this was one of only a few farmsteads i saw while driving that had any amount of good fall colors. it had such a draw for me. i so wanted to walk down that driveway, walking by the fenced in corn and garden just past the corn, to the barn itself. i wanted to run my fingers over what looked to be, from where i was, limestone foundation walls. they must have been about 6 feet tall as they were slightly higher than the barn doors. i wanted to gaze at the red barnwood vertically rising up from the limestone walls. i wanted to slide back one of the three barn doors and see in full glory what a peek through the windows would surely tantalize me to do - just like a christmas store window display full of toys and spectacular decorations would draw in boys and girls alike! i imagined this barn to be full of wonderful treasures ranging from old farming implements to vintage and antique items of yesteryear.


barns have that kind of effect on me. my wife and i have friends who own a farmstead in the st. croix falls, wisconsin area. they have a barn that is quite alluring to me. troublemaker that i am, as long as i stay on their good side 😇, they don’t mind the child in me checking it out for some potential images. if you are interested in seeing some images from that barn, click on this link for another blog post i wrote last year. they are two of my personal favorite images.


https://www.stephenhadeenphotography.com/post/light-and-shadow-3


but, stopping me from actually walking down that driveway to the red barn, along with the fact that this was a current home to some person or family, was the "no trespassing" sign. seeing that sign, i wondered how many people disregarded that this was private property and did walk down the gravel driveway and up to the barn, necessitating the need for the sign to help deter people. there is no denying the draw. but there is still a line. i can’t speak for others but i will not cross a line to make an image. that includes private property. unless i’m invited or i ask permission and it is granted, i always respect property that is not public. this image was made from the county road i was on. the dead grass/hay along the front of the image and the tree line behind the barn had a “darker” color hue than the the area in-between. it lent itself nicely to a natural and subtle framing effect.



after making this image, i decided to call it a day. it was almost mid-afternoon and city traffic was still ahead of me if i didn’t start heading back home soon. actually, city traffic was going to be inevitable but at least there was the hope to be toward the front of it. since the fall “look” was not in abundance, it wasn’t too hard to make that decision. i drove back, cranking out the tunes again and enjoying the scenery along the way. i knew i would be back in this area again, and even beyond, another day in all seasons. i’d barely touch the “driftless area”. it has a lot to offer and i want to experience as much of it as i can!

hope you enjoyed reading this blog! reliving the road trip and seeing the images again brought a smile to my lips. I hope it did the same for you. share any comments, thoughts or whatever comes to your mind regarding this blog, the images or anything that might have been triggered reading this blog. I love to read and respond to those who take the time to write!


i am way behind in getting recent images added to my galleries and online store. you can always use the contact form below if you are interested in any images from this blog, past blogs or in my galleries. i have been busy but will catch up with adding images to my galleries and online store. i just finished a show a couple weeks ago and i’m in prep work for my last art show of the year at the landmark center in st. paul. that will be coming up the beginning of december. i will be sharing more information about that very soon. as well, i’ve been working on getting the 2023 calendars ready for purchase, both online and for the december art show. i hope to have that done very soon as well. i will also be working on changing up my website a bit. i’ve come to realize that, through my organization of galleries, it leads to way more clicks to get to them than i like to see. i want to make it much easier for people to browse my images. more on that to come as i start working on that. of course, all of that has to be done around my full-time “day job” as photography doesn’t pay the bills for now. maybe someday!

as we head in to the holiday season, perhaps you are looking for some unique and creative gifts for family, friends, that special someone or even yourself. my photography art prints are an option that could be such a gift. when you buy a print, you receive much more than just the print itself. you receive a visual story that each print tells. you receive a print that has a behind the scene story; some are shared via my blogs. each print is a story that starts with an idea and takes a journey, however easy or difficult that may be, to become an image ready for print. i put a lot of time and energy into making images with the end result that connect not only with me, but with those who have a chance to view my photography. it is a uniquely personal gift as it is not mass-produced and requires thought into who the right person is for it. i’d be incredibly honored this holiday season should you choose to support me not only through reading and sharing my blogs but also purchasing a print or print(s) available on various media. here is a visual sense of scale as to what the two prints featured in this blog look like hanging as wall art.


abandoned fall farm print 24x36


barn in fall print 24x36

thanks for your continued support and i will see you again with more “images from a quiet world”!


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