Wisconsin Through My Lens
The pandemic definitely changed the way we travel, and for me, that hasn't been a bad thing. This year I had the opportunity to slow down and explore my own home state of Wisconsin with my teenage son, Omar. I ordered a few Wisconsin travel books, checked blogs, listened to podcasts, got out the state map of Wisconsin and made a seasonal plan to visit some beautiful places.
Being in the car with a teenage boy can be ...well... interesting and ... dare I say difficult? Especially when he brought his guitar and keyboard. Rather than engage in fighting over the music, I laid out the rules in advance. I was the pilot. He was the co-pilot. I drove and picked the places. He was in charge of everything else. The music got to me once in awhile-the same songs over and over at a noise level higher than I would have chosen. He was happy though and when I needed a break, we found a park or place to go for a hike. We bought the state park sticker and found lots of small parks and natural areas managed by the Department of Natural Resources. I was surprised by how many public lands we found. We did a number of long weekends and day trips, putting a few thousand miles on my car. We brought our own food and water, so usually we were just enjoying the road trip and avoiding mixing with people.
I received an opportunity to make a professional grade photo book with a company new to me, Saal Digital. They provided a voucher worth $150 and I decided to highlight Wisconsin photos from this year, as well as a few shots from previous winters. It was a great way to document our travels. The pages are a stiff cardboard which will withstand lots of browsing. The color and quality of the printed pages are like nothing I've ever seen before. I would definitely recommend this product for anyone looking to make a keepsake for a special occasion or for a portfolio. Because of the large 12x12 size I chose, the photos show incredible detail. I decided to use a few Iphone photos to compare and I realized the quality wasn't as good. They seem slightly blurred, so this is obviously a product for high quality photos. It was relatively easy to create and took about 2 hours. I had to turn off my pop up blocker and download the software, so the book was made on my computer vs. some sites like Shutterfly that allow you to create on their site. I liked that I could just select photos and the templates were created for me. If I had wanted, it could have been automatically created, but I prefer to do my own layouts. I did not add text to the photos, and I chose a black background to make the photos stand out.
I'll share some of what we enjoyed about Wisconsin using my book.
Wisconsin has a few major cities, but most of it is rural with vast open spaces filled with cornfields and farms. We learned about barn quilts, which are beautiful paintings placed on the side of a barn. We found these in many counties, but Shawano boasts more than 300! We found traditional dairy farms, but also saw goats, pigs, alpacas, buffalo, and deer.
There are also Amish communities scattered across the western side of Wisconsin, but we visited Columbia County and photographed some of everyday life for them, including the importance of horses. An Amish farm is easy to identify because of the horses, usually a white house, and a clothesline. They use wagons for transportation and don't have electricity in their homes. The families tend to be larger which helps when everyone is expected to help with chores.
Wisconsin has many beautiful lakes and waterfalls. Marinette even has a waterfall tour. We drove 7 hours up to northern Wisconsin and camped at Amnicon Falls State Park overnight in June, right after the park opened up after the COVID lockdown. There were few occupied sites and all services normally available were still closed. There was a terrible rainstorm, so we packed up our tent early in the morning after listening to thunder and the sound of rain all night. Because of this heavy rain, the waterfalls at Pattison, Copper Falls, Little Manitou. Some of the lakes were flooding over the highway and homes were abandoned. We drove through other parks in the fall and found the reflections abundant and colorful, especially at Wisconsin Dells. I've included photos from Dells Mill, near Eau Claire, and a local winter waterfall in Milwaukee at Kletzsch Park.