I don't think I could have asked for a better spring equinox sunrise at Cahokia. Here are two shots from Woodhenge looking east towards the sun rising over Monks Mound. The sun was only visible for about 5 minutes at sunrise before clouds obscured it. At least it was for the right 5 minutes. I felt honored to be given such a beautiful morning.
Often times, the perception of archeological digs are some remote, beautiful locations such as Egypt, Mayan Lowlands, or the Andes Mountains. Or, heaven forbid, Indiana Jones type adventures. The reality is often far different. Case in point. Missouri DOT archeologists are currently at work in Saint Louis just south of the arch, uncovering the remains of the earliest Saint Louis French occupation from the 1760's. I've never been at a dig with the rumble of interstate traffic and rail freight overhead.
A group of Republican State of Wisconsin Senators on working on amendments to the Wisconsin Burial Protection laws that will seek to eviscerate the current law. If this action becomes law many locations containing known effigy mounds and potential Native American burial sites will be threatened with destruction. The amendments being proposed are due to the special interest of a single quarry plant operator in McFarland Wisconsin.
I have created a short photo application showing some of Wisconsin's Mounds. Some of these mounds are very similar to the ones immediately endangered is these amendments pass into law.
Sacred Places: Check out this Slate story I made.
Starting today I will be posting a series of short PDF compilations from my current and past travels. Each PDF will present theme based images on a variety of subjects which I hope you will find interesting. Each month I will then combine these individual PDF's into a single publication that will be available here, plus in iBook format on Apple's iBook store.
The first set of images were taken over a two night period in December 2014. The second in a series of massive storms struck the central California coast, and I was able to capture some images from the area around Lands End, San Francisco.
In early December the second in a series of very powerful storms struck the northern coast of San Francisco. The near hurricane force winds whipped up the sea along the coast and the opportunity to photograph it was just to hard to resist.
I was in town that week for training, leaving only the evening hours to photography the fury of the Pacific ocean. There was enough ambient light from Cliff Palace on the short and from a near full moon on the first night to allow me to take these wonderful images. T
he overhangs of Cliff Palace itself proved to be most useful. When the wind driven rain was at it worst it provided a drier sanctuary for my camera (and me) to shoot the scene.
To see more images , go to my Lands End Gallery.
Over the course of the next year, I plan on spending as much time working on getting my work out via publications, including ibooks and pdf formatted publications. Some of my work has already been published. I was honored with the recent publication of my Sunset Crater portfolio the December 5th edition of Lenswork Magazine's Readers Spotlight site. The editors of Lenswork graciously allowed my distribution of this PDF version of the publication on my website.
In early 2015 I expect to have my first iBook published. The topic will be "Santa Rose de Lima: The First Church of Abiquiu.
Other related southwest and midwest archeology/history related portfolios will also become available in 2015. My plan is to release the on-line versions of my iBooks for free, and make available for purchase a portfolio of the prints from the book.
Today was the fourth day of the "Current Archaeological Prospection Advances for Non-Destructive Investigations in the 21st Century" at the archeological site of Aztalan in southern Wisconsin. Led by Steven DeVore, this workshop is "dedicated to the use of geophysical, aerial photography, and other remote sensing methods as they apply to the identification, evaluation, conservation, and protection of archaeological resources across this Nation."
For more information on this workshop, please go to:
Below are a couple photographs of some of the hard working workshop participants
In this second in my series of "In their Own Words", UW-Milwaukee student and teaching assistant for the 2013 field season, Jennifer Picard, at discusses her experiences working at this site. Jennifer explains the work that occurred along the palisade line, first reported by S. Barrett in his early 20th century investigations along the Crawfish River front near the sites northeast platform mound.
This was Jennifer's second season of work at this site.
In this series of blog posts, I will present the story of one of my Photography projects that I have titled "Wisconsin's Vanishing Silos". This is a project that I have undertaken over the past several years while roaming the backroads of Wisconsin
Everyone who lives or travels throughout Wisconsin probably takes the dairy farm silos for granted. Many peoples perceptions of a Wisconsin farm include the red barn and the blue harvester silo.
But silos have not always been a part of the agricultural landscape. In fact for the first 50 years of so there were few or no silos. It was not until Wisconsin's dairy industry took hold in Wisconsin that silos became prevalent.
The history and evolution of the silo became a fascinating topic. The early history of Wisconsin silos demonstrate a wide variety or shape, materials, and construction in the late 19th and early 20th century. This photo project is devoted to the documentation of these rapidly vanishing early silos.
I hope you will enjoy this series.
It is hard to believe that after such a miserably cold and snowy winter here in Wisconsin that spring is going to be around the corner. It does not feel like it right now, since it is only 15 degrees outside, but maybe sometime soon it will warm up.
I always try to watch the sunrise at the spring and fall equinox at Aztalan. Hopefully this year I will again enjoy it and capture the scene with may camera. It is a beautiful scene to stand on top of the southwest mound, and watch the sunrise over the gravel knoll and the Crawfish River.
The equinox last fall was interesting. The fog gave it a very surreal feel, with the fog moving back and forth across the scene. I wish the fog had not thickened to the point of obscuring the gravel knoll, but do the best with what has been given to you.
In 2013, students and professors from several Midwestern Universities (Michigan State, Northern Iowa University, and University of Wisconsin Madison) conducted two archeology field schools at the site of Aztalan, in south-central Wisconsin.
I had the pleasure of meeting many new budding archeologists, and renewing acquaintences with students and professors that I have known for some time. I am especially grateful to Dr. Lynne Goldstein of Michigan State University and Dr. John Richards of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee for providing me full access to photograph the excavations and excavators.
One of the results of my photography, is the creation of a series of multi-media presentations titled "In Their Own Words: Aztalan Archeologists Tell Their Story". Combining still photos, video clips, and audio, each short vignette allows the archeologists and students to express their thoughts, expectations, and discussions of the findings from excavations at Aztalan.
The first in this series highlights UW-Milwaukee field school student Kristina Dineen-Grube.
I hope you enjoy the first in this series, and with future posts.
England may have its famous Stonehenge, and the ancient site of Cahokia may have its own Woodhenge(s), but a newly discovered henge on the icy plains of Rock Lake, near the archeological site of Aztalan was certainly unexpected.
On the eastern shore of Rock Lake, a mysterious feature, referred to as Ice Henge was recently discovered. Researchers readily noted the similarity of Ice Henge with the more famous Stonehenge site. Archeo-astronomers are researching the possibility of astronomical alignments with solstice and equinox events. Says one researcher "The placement of the pine trees on the outer ring of Ice Henge is more than coincidence. We think these mark the Winter and Summer Solstice sunrises. We just hope that the long winter remains a bit longer so we can actually observe the sunrise/sunset here at Ice Henge." Another scientist observing Ice Henge believes some of the ice columns point to the nearby archeological site of Aztalan.
It is unclear at this time if this Ice Henge is related to the mysterious underwater pyramids in Rock Lake.
Earlier in December of 2012 I had the opportunity to visit the Flagstaff Arizona area and had a single day to do some photography. Continuing my work of photographing archeological sites, I made my plans to shoot the ruins at Wupatki National Monument about an hours drive away.
When I woke up early in the morning, the weather conditions were horrendous. Lots of snow had fallen in Flagstaff, and road conditions were poor. I knew that Wupatki was at a slightly lower elevation, and there was a chance there was little or no snow there. So I packed the camera gear, warm clothes and headed out.
On the way I was slowed by snowy roads and a multi-car slide off that closed the highway for a while. But at last I made it to Wupatki. As expected, there was no snow, but it was raining steadily. Not the best weather I thought for photography. But I was here, and decided to make the best of it. I am glad I did.
Normally I shoot my pictures with the idea of creating black and white images. In reviewing some of my initial shots, the lighting conditions were not producing the results I was hoping for. However, the wet conditions were producing some very interesting, saturated colors on the rocks, vegetation, and sandstone masonry of the ruins. The overcast conditions hid some of the surrounding volcanic landscapes, but it allowed me to focus more on the ruins. It made for some interesting shots, and not the typical dry weather landscapes that one typically sees of southwestern sites.
So, back in the warmth of the digital dark room I created the photographs that I posted to my southwestern gallery. I look forward to going back to Wupatki under better weather conditions, but at least I was able to make some decent shots. Plus I learned not to be afraid on photographing when weather conditions are less than optimal.
The gravel knoll at Aztalan State Park is quiet now. The Michigan State University Archeology Field School ended several weeks ago,and all the remains are the filled in excavation units. The sounds of singing trowels and students sifting dirt through quarter inch mesh screens has been replaced by the songs of the redwing blackbird, hawks, and the occasional visitor. Many fond memories I am sure still linger with the Field School participants. The tales of wet, stormy days, and sleepless nights due to the incessant noise from the nearby peacocks have undoubtedly reach near mythical proportions.
Aztalan will be coming alive once again with archeological activity. Another field school, directed by Dr. John Richards of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has just begun. Dr. Richards will be working along the river bank north of the gravel knoll as well as the vicinity of the northeast platform mound. The datum has been established, the excavation area flagged. Weather permitting, Dr. Richards excavations will begin in earnest this coming week and continue work through the middle of August.
As I did with the MSU field school, I will be photographing the UW-Milwaukee archeologists progress at Aztalan, and will post updates and additional photos here.
Over the past several weeks, I have started shooting time lapse videos, or as they are more often referred to "Still Motion." Right now, sunsets over the archeological site of Aztalan, Wisconsin have been my focus. This video shows a still motion video of the sunset on July 2, 2013 at Aztalan State Park.
One of the traditions of a field school is the obligatory group shot of all the participants. This year's field school was no different, and I was honored to be asked to take this picture. Fortunately it was a overcast day with a bit of rain/mist, but that had become the norm for the MSU fieldschool at Aztalan, and actually made for good shooting.
Finally, one of the tasks the students performed was the writing of a blog entry. I found these to be very informative, and interesting in what everyones perspective on the whole experience was. The blog posts can be found at:
The MSU field school at Aztalan State Park has concluded. The tents are packed, the gear stowed in the trucks for the trip back to East Lansing, and the excavation units so meticulously dug by the archeologists over the past month were filled in by backhoes in a matter of hours.
On the last day of excavations, profiling, drawing, and photographing, several interesting artifacts were recovered. One of the more interesting items was a beautiful rim sherd from shell tempered vessel with a curvilinear design.
This will not be my final post on the MSU excavations. More posts will be forthcoming as I process the remaining pictures from the last day of excavations at the site.
Much to the dismay and discomfort of the MSU Field School directors and students, the past couple weeks has seen a barrage of heavy rains and severe storms. These same weather patterns, though, make for dramatic sunrises and sunsets. On Sunday morning, the sky conditions were right for attempting a time-lapse shot of Aztalan. I set up shop on the southwest platform mound, looking east to the gravel knoll where the main MSU excavations are taking place. The camera was set up for shots at 5 second intervals. Once set up and underway, I enjoyed experiencing yet another dawn unfolding across the Crawfish River valley.
Also, since this shot was taken only two days after the summer solstice, these time lapse shows pretty well where the sunrises at this time of the year.
Unfortunately, the clouds began to thicken shortly after the sunrise, so I was not able to get as lengthy a time lapse as I had hoped. The result is in the following video.
What is it that motivates archeologists and future archeologists to keep on digging? There must be some motivation that allows them to endure working in all types of weather from cold biting winds one day, to searing heat and humidity the next. What is it that keeps them going after a sleepless night caused by severe thunderstorms that flooded tents and gear with water, or worse, blew them over? And what is it that allows them to endure the the incessant all night noise from a nearby residence’s screaming peacocks?
You might think it is the glorious moment of uncovering some feature or artifact that furthers our knowledge of past cultures. Or maybe it is the camaraderie amongst your fellow excavators who are sharing in your good times and bad. These are indeed important events in an archeologist's experience. But there must be something more.
It has been a long, long time since I have participated in an archeological field school. But after 30 plus years in the IT field, where change is the only constant, it is heartening to see that some things never change.
What truly excites an archeologist is the call from one of your fellow workers that someone has brought donuts or cupcakes to share with the crew!
Time lapse photography of the MSU Archeology Field School at Aztalan, Wisconsin.