Monday, August 20, 2012

Photo opportunities in Hendricks County

If there's one thing I've done in the years since I started this blog, it's take thousands upon thousands of photos of Hendricks County (just look through the tags on the right, and you'll see many that pertain to "home" and "Indiana."). So when I pitched the idea for my most recent blog post to the Convention and Visitor's Bureau, I knew I wanted to turn it into an ongoing, seasonal series.

So here's part one: the late-summer photo tour! Look out later this year for a fall tour, as well. You can also check out my earlier summer-themed posts here on this blog.

Bring your camera for a Hendricks County photo safari

Each season of the year offers its own range of interesting scenes and subjects to photograph. Whether you’re an aspiring shutterbug or professional photographer, be sure to bring your camera with you when you visit Hendricks County.

For great late-summer or early-fall photographs, make use of the nice weather and changing light and focus your efforts on outdoor scenes. Here are a few ideas to get you started. Read more...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Perseid Meteor Shower

For my latest assignment for the HCCVB blog, Mom and I packed blankets, lawn chairs, my camera, tripod, and remote trigger, and we headed to McCloud Nature Park to see the Perseid Meteor Shower.

This annual meteor shower peaked over the weekend (very convenient), and at its height, experts predicted that we could see up to 60 meteors per hour. We didn't see nearly that many (it happened in the wee hours of the morning...way past my bedtime), but in the couple hours we were gazing, we did get to see some great shooting stars.

This park hosts the Indiana Astronomy Society once a month during the summer, and they welcome the public to come for free and peer through the eyepiece of their telescopes. The program on Saturday night was a special event for the meteor shower, and I wasn't sure how many people we'd be joining. Mom and I actually looked at each other and said, "Well, we could be the only people there, but that's okay."

So we were wonderfully surprised when we drove into the park and saw a full parking lot and dozens of people already camped out, waiting for darkness to fall. By the time it was truly dark, there were more than 100 people there. I was thrilled to see that kind of turnout for a park program.

It's been years since I did any night sky photography, and this just got me itching to do more!

Stargazing at McCloud Nature Park

I will never forget the first time I looked through the eyepiece on a telescope and saw the rings of Saturn with my own two eyes. Sure, I’d been learning about our solar system for years in science class at school, but truly grasping the existence of other planets and celestial bodies can only go so far when you’re learning from a textbook.

Seeing it for yourself, though, even if it’s small and hasn’t been richly colored in photo-editing software—seeing the rings of Saturn, the Great Red Spot of Jupiter, and multiple moons orbiting these planets… it makes it all real. Read more... 

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Summer trip to Chicago

Everyone looks forward to vacation. I especially look forward to mine each summer, when Mom and I make it a point to do our yearly girls-only trip. It started about four years ago with a trip to Colorado, and we enjoyed ourselves so much that we've made it an annual event.

We've also made a couple trips to Chicago for some intensive shopping, but we've somehow always chosen to go in November—and weather in the Windy City in November is temperamental, to say the least.

This year, we debated about going to some new destinations for our summer trip, like Niagara Falls or Gettysburg, but in the end, we decided that we just really wanted to explore Chicago without the bulk of winter coats, scarves, hats, boots, gloves...

For our third trip to Chicago, we stuck with tradition and took the train. Boarding in Crawfordsville, the scheduled route takes about four hours, just a little longer than it would take to drive the same route. We've had great luck in the past, so I guess it was about time we had a delay. The train was 90 minutes late arriving (the engineer overslept... oops), then because it was off its schedule, we had to stop several times and yield to CSX freight trains along the way. So while we were scheduled to arrive in Chicago around 11:00 a.m., we actually arrived closer to 2:30 p.m. We were both ready to get off the train by then!

Even though the high temperature that day was close to 100 degrees, we enjoyed seeing the city without the weight of winter clothing. After escaping the heat of mid-afternoon at the Art Institute—where we both loved seeing Monet's work in person but in many other cases felt that a nice frame and well-crafted write-up can make "art" out of anything—we walked back toward our hotel through Millennium Park. On our previous visit to the park, it was pretty deserted for winter. But this time, all the fountains were flowing and dozens of people, young and old alike, enjoyed splashing in the cool water.

Every visit to Millennium Park has to include a stop at the Cloud Gate, with your camera in hand. It's such a simple design, but it's captivatingly fun and engaging. You're reflected much like what you'd see in a carnival funhouse... without the creepiness.
You can't help but want to get close to it, and stand—or lie—in different spots to see the world from this unique perspective.

We spent the next three days shopping 'til we dropped. For years, Mom has talked about wanting to go north of the city to the Vogue Fabrics (a.k.a. sewer's mothership) flagship store in Evanston. We researched different modes of transportation and decided to go with the 'L,' our first time to do so. My cousin and her husband, who now live in Chicago, gave us pointers, and we were thrilled with the convenience and price.

Our transportation cost for our four-day vacation was:
$46 each for round-trip tickets to Chicago and back on Amtrak
$10 cab ride from Union Station to the hotel, then again on our last day
$5.75 each for a one-day pass on the L
Total: $123.50 for two people on a four-day vacation!

When you consider that gas is about $3.95/gallon right now, it's a 175-mile drive, and parking at our hotel alone was $42/day, we really got a great deal—not to mention great convenience, since we didn't have to fight traffic.

We both felt like this was one of our most relaxing vacations, even though we walked more than 20 miles in four days. With an existing familiarity with the city and our favorite places, plus the beautiful weather, it allowed us to take our time and focus on the things we both really enjoy.

Now I'm looking forward to planning my next vacation!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Top 10 evening activities and upcoming races

If you're looking for ways to enjoy (cooler!) summer evenings, or you want to lace up your running shoes, my latest two posts on the HCCVB blog should give you some ideas.

Top 10 things to do on a summer night in Hendricks County
Long days and nice weather mean we’re all looking for ways to spend more time outside, and Hendricks County has endless options for you! Whether you’re looking for family-friendly fun, cultural festivities, or a night on the town, here are 10 ideas to get you started. Read more...

Upcoming events allow runners, walkers to see Hendricks County on foot
Runners and walkers alike — both seasoned athletes and beginners — have more than a dozen opportunities to participate in organized fun runs and timed races through the rest of 2012. Check out this list highlighting some of the scheduled events throughout Hendricks County— and bookmark it for future inspiration. Read more...

Did I miss anything that you would add to these lists?

You can also find all of my posts for the HCCVB on my author page.