The 2015 Hot Air Jubilee

July 16, 2015  •  1 Comment

The Experience in FullThe Experience in FullThe 2015 Hot Air Jubilee Media Event in Jackson Michigan

     It's that time again!! A time of wonder! A time of color! A time of loud bursts of heat and flame blasting into an envelope (aka balloon). It's a distinct sound that turns heads as it sails over their yards. People are waving from this tiny basket that is fastened to the bottom of it. It moves slowly and is visible to everyone on the ground. It travels on a breeze and is controlled by vents and propane. The Hot Air Jubilee is back with new and exciting games and balloons. Because this is about the upcoming event, and my recent experience, this update may be a bit long. I hope you like to read, and can sense the excitement and emotions I felt.


     On Thursday, July 9, 2015, the Hot Air Jubilee hosted a cookout and created opportunities to unite the local media with the pilots, as well as allow productive interviews of the pilots and officials. I was representing Jacksonopolis tonight. After arriving, I checked in and signed a waiver in case an opportunity to fly were to become available. As I learned that night, one member of each of the medias, present, would be matched up with a participating pilot to get the opportunity of a lifetime: A balloon flight. I was not the only representative of Jacksonopolis that evening, so my chances were based on how many pilots actually participated for the event. If there were more pilots than media reps, others would be allowed to fly as well. 


     As it turned out, I was paired up with a pilot at the last minute. The pilot that I was introduced to was Tyler Jaques. He pilots the Post Cereals balloon. A yellow, white and dark red envelope with a huge POST logo in the middle. The other Post Cereals balloon in the event is the one shaped like Sugar Bear. That balloon is piloted by Tyler's dad, David Jaques. Tyler is a young man with lots of experience and a great family bond to the ballooning community. Upon first impression, I knew I would trust him with this trip into the sky. I asked him how long he had been a pilot. His answer was, "Three weeks." I must say that that answer took me off-guard, and he let that sink in before changing his answer to the correct one: 13 years, although he'd been in training with his dad long before actually pursuing a pilot license. Any emotions of fear were erased.


     Once the balloon was filled, heated, and standing up, I had to sling the cameras over one shoulder and maneuver my way into the basket. I heard someone behind me say that there isn't a graceful way of getting in and boy! was she right. If it hadn't been for people pushing my feet over, I would have toppled into the basket rather than climbed in. Once in though, I asked where I should stand, and stayed in that spot. Tyler kept telling his mom to get into the basket as she adamantly refused. She had told me that she had only been in a balloon three times despite her husband and son being pilots. As it turned out, Mo Piper (The Hot Air Jubilee Balloonmeister) walked by. It didn't take too much coercion to get her to climb into the balloon for the flight. Within a few minutes, the balloon crew would taxi us out of the way of the other still-inflating balloons, and we would be on our way.


     It's a little daunting to begin the ascent, but I would remind myself to trust the pilot and know that my friend was there too. I started looking around and waving to people on the ground, occasionally shouting to them. As we reached a height that should have made me feel very uncomfortable, the breeze started to carry us in a southeast direction. It was a slow drift, and one that I took in immensely. Rivers that cut their way through the trees and semi-hidden roadways were revealed in patterns that became stunning works of art. Watching the little people on the ground was intriguing, and the distant clouds that were finally leaving the Jackson area appeared as breath-taking mountains. A familiar boat storage facility appeared ahead with a small lake right behind it. Sharp Lake to be exact. But Sharp Lake began to appear larger as we got closer. It also became closer as I noticed we were descending. 


     We were drifting over a swamp of cattails, where the water could be seen at their base. A small wooden dock was in their midst, and despite how I felt about being that close to the ground as the bottom of the basket grazed the tops of the cattails, we descended lower. A nearby fisherman, in a kayak, paddled away from the direction were were floating and the stopped and watched as our basket touched the top of the water. I lifted my feet and watched, in awe, as Tyler Jaques sailed that balloon gently over the lake, skimming the basket on the surface of the water, leaving a small wake for about 10 to 12 feet in distance. The basket never went more than three inches into the water, when there was a sudden burst from the burners, and we began to ascend again. The part of the lake we had just skimmed was lined with trees, and it took long bursts to clear them. Mo was able to grab a handful of leaves from the top of the trees as we exited the lake area. Looking back, I watched other balloon pilots going for the splash and dash with their baskets. What a site it was!


     The sun was in its full brilliance! There were about a half dozen balloons behind us as well as a couple in front of us, and a few more over us. The light coming through the sides of the balloons illuminated them to their fullest potential of color. And the lake, now becoming an item of the past, mirrored everything around us, like an alternate universe, on the flip side of the land below. The scene really showed a monumental experience and the result was completely artful, even poetic. What a great night spent with the community, our friends, and now, our new friends. 


     I'd like to thank Jacksonopolis, Travis Stevens, Mo Dedrick, and the 2015 Hot Air Jubilee of Jackson Michigan for the opportunity to enjoy this great experience. I would also like to extend a special thank you to Tyler Jaques and his awesome balloon crew and family for participating in the event and making sure I didn't die (or drown), all-the-while making this experience one that I will remember forever. Thank you.

Fuller's Teasel

July 14, 2015  •  Leave a Comment


     This photo reminds me of a trip that I was about to go on. I was sitting in a carpool lot watching traffic for by while waiting for my ride. I was actually a bit early, so I got out to check my gear. I wanted to make sure I was going to have the correct lenses for the upcoming photowalk. While I was going through my bag, I began to notice the birds in the woods that stood between the parking lot I stood in and the off ramp to the nearby highway.


     I rifled through my bag and pulled out my camera and the zoom lens. I didn't want to bother with collapsing the tripod down when the car arrived, so I just decided to shoot freehand. The birds were fast when they took of from their well-hidden spots. Cardinals and Bluejays were flying around singing throughout the wooded area. Just as I would get a fix on one, it would fly to another tree. They weren't sitting still long enough to get a solid focus before they would flutter to another tree. It was becoming frustrating, so I started looking around at other things to shoot. These seed pods were far enough away to fit in the frame without zooming (about 20 yards). The wind was barely a breeze, but the passing traffic kept them lively enough.


     These were last year's pods that hadn't gone down under the weight of the winter's snow. I learned that these are called Dipsacus Sylvestris. Oh yeah! I knew that!! I admire Dipsacus Sylvestris as often as I can, and I watch that crazy Sylvestris try so hard to eat the Tweety Bird! Oh, wait! Sorry! Got confused there for a minute. Dipsacus Sylvestris is also known as Fuller's Teasel or Wild Teasel. These particular seed pods can be found in almost every grassy field around, but this set of three were alongside a carpool parking lot near I-94 while I waited for Travis Stevens to pick me up. Our final destination was Comerica Park, in Detroit, MI. Here, we were to go on a photographic adventure tour that covered almost every area of the stadium, but that's a story for another update. For now, I marvel at nature and the little things that make everything work. Thank you. 

Adventurous Find

July 12, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

Worth ExploringWorth ExploringA small shed-like structure

     Urban exploration is a fun way to capture the decay of abandonment, as well as imagine what a place or scene used to be when people were in or around it all the time. What era was it when this place was enjoyed, worked in, productive, and full of life. I have traveled to Detroit many times to go through old factories, churches, and schools. What were those places like when people used to worship in them, build cars in them, or educate young lives in them? What color were the walls or how bright were the lights in these dark, desolate areas?


     There are days, after work, where I like to drive through the countryside looking for something inspirational. I prefer to find roads that are unknown to me, but having traveled much of Jackson County, Michigan now, there aren't too many that I haven't driven on anymore. The season is winter and the year is 2014 in this picture. I was driving down a road I had been down many times. Usually, there are leaves on the trees and the grass is green and lush. But today, it's a barren landscape of cold and snow and ice and wind. I was drawn to this road by the large amount of turkey buzzards that seemed to be circling the area. I found an old silo with two or three of them on it, and photographed them for a short time. Did I mention that it was cold outside?


     After warming back up in the car, I continued driving in the direction I was pointed. Besides wildlife and a few other things that interested me, I decided to turn north on the next road and head on home. Prior to that happening, I passed a wooded lot with the shadow of a barn and a shed on the property. It appeared vacant, as the snow was about a foot deep with no footprints or evidence of vehicular use. I was traveling at the speed limit, so I had to find a driveway to turn around in. When I arrived at the lot I had seen, I turned on the emergency flashers, and pulled off the road as much as I dared, so as to not get stuck there. I checked the edge of the property to ensure that there wasn't any foot traffic, and then decided to approach the shed.


     The shed was about 60 yards away from the road and surrounded by briers, so it was quite the workout to get there, knowing it would be as difficult to get back to the car if I had to make a run for it. The shed had multiple old oil signs attached to its exterior, and the windows were still in tact, despite the years of dust that was attached to them. The door was on the left side, and upon first site it was definitely abandoned. The door was locked with a padlock, but the window was broken, allowing me to see in fairly well. 


     I didn't want to be there for too long, so I looked around through the window aand then took a few photos so as to look into it farther at a later time. this is one of those photos. The place was trashed. An overturned desk with slots for items pertaining to the business and it's contents spilling out. A work bench with an rusted grinder, and a lot of stuff on the floor. This is a place I would like to return to someday and perhaps explore the barn nearby. I left after about 10 minutes of looking around, but it left me with the same thoughts of wonder: Was this a place where cars were repaired or maintained? What were the people like when customers arrived? Was there a cable that "dinged" when a car pulled up? Was it a full-service station? Questions and questions that will most-likely remain unanswered. 

Multiple Exposure

July 10, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

     This photo is difficult to describe. Let's start with the history of it: I was invited to join in on a photo opportunity in Detroit, Michigan, accompanying two inspiring, professional photographers as they work with fellow Olympus camera owners to get everything they are looking for in their photography to come out in their work. This was definitely something that was interesting to me, as they add suggestions of perspective as well as in the settings of the camera. The two photographers are Olympus Trailblazers, Jamie MacDonald and Mike Boening


     Our journey had us start at the Detroit Riverwalk, near Belle Isle. It was hopeful that would could get a grand sunrise photo op. Unfortunately, as nature is predictable from a distance, there was a layer of low clouds that prevented seeing to far. When we arrived, we could see the other side of the river (Canada), but that was a bout the extent of the view. The fog continued to roll in, and eventually obscured our sight to only 20-30 feet over the water. Canada was no longer visible and although we heard the horns on a freight ship, we couldn't see it, no matter how hard we strained. We left the Riverwalk, and continued to other areas in Detroit, throughout the day.


     During the workshop, we entered the Eastern Market of Detroit. This place was a street photographers dream stop. Everything from graffiti on the walls to shops and street vendors to crowds of people from every walk of life. There was so much opportunity to get a picture with every step in the walk. We photographed walls, cars, items for sale, and people. Mike suggested using the "Multiple Exposure" setting on the camera to get some really interesting results. Personally, I hadn't ever used it. Mike demonstrated on a dual arched entryway to one of the markets, taking a shot of it and the turning the camera upside down and taking another shot. The result was definitely something to look at, to try to understand. Had I not seen him do it, I wouldn't know what I was looking at, let alone how he did it all in camera.


     We all wandered around the market, sometimes running into each other and then separating again later. I found myself alone when I came across this bike. I decided to attempt a shot on the multiple exposure setting as suggested earlier. The first shot was the darker portion of the picture: A bike propped up against a utility pole and a truck in the background. I composed the second shot by lowering my lens and moving away from the scene a few inches. This was the result, and I was really happy with it. It encourages someone, and even me, to look at it closer; to see the value in the work put into the composed piece. This shot really stuck with me, and I will definitely be doing more multiple exposure shots in the future.


     A special thanks to Olympus Trailblazer Jamie MacDonald for inviting me along for the workshop, and to Olympus Trailblazer Mike Boening for the inspiration to try something new on my camera.

Lake-Like Sunset

July 08, 2015  •  Leave a Comment

     This photo is interesting to me on a couple of levels. I absolutely love landscape photography. There is so much to see in the open world. Sunsets and sunrises really amaze me although they are an everyday occurrence. Getting in the right location to maximize the view is important to me, and maybe having a few clouds in the shot to capture the glow would optimize the opportunity, especially right after the sun exits the scene. 


     Here we are, it's winter in Michigan. It's about five degrees outside, and in the days prior, there was a thin coating of ice that had fallen over the area. Everywhere you looked, it looked like Jackson had been coated in smooth plastic.  The thickness of the ice was comparable to the glass that comes with a picture frame. When it was broken, it was just as sharp. There wouldn't have been any snow angels found. I knew this wouldn't last too much longer, as I was waiting for the right time to get out and photograph this interesting phenomenon. I waited as long as I could, and decided to make a trip out to the Cascades Hill area on a beautiful evening. No one had walked across this field and the plastic-like coating was in tact. It appeared as though the sun was setting on a lake. 


     As the sun set, the reflection stretched across the sheen of ice. If I didn't know this area, I would have sworn that there was a body of water under this ice. This ice was covering about twelve inches of powdery snow. Under the snow was a field of grass waiting for its season to to be a lush green attraction to young soccer players in the Jackson area. We are looking at an open field at a park, neighbored closely by a school. The sunset here is unique in that this reflective properties are seldom seen here. This is truly a remarkable opportunity, and one that won't be seen again (for at least a few seasons.) Thank you.

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