Traveling to the Desert — Day One


December 31.

Heading west from Wisconsin.

Driving to the desert.


100 miles done, 1700 to go.

Crossing the Mississippi River at Dubuque, Iowa

River is icy, not frozen.


200 miles done, 1600 miles to go.

Iowa farm

Minimalist. Lines.


300 miles done, 1500 miles to go. break in travel for a hometown visit

crossing the Mississippi again, this time into Illinois

river is high on December 31st after unprecedented winter rains

much of Quincy is built high on the bluffs, natural flood protection


the bridge of my childhood travels

crossing this bridge always meant some version of travel adventure — a visit with family who across the river in Missouri or Iowa, or a weekend trip to St. Louis (the big city)


Since driving and arriving are the priority for this trip, all photos are drive by. And on the first leg of the journey, all shots are taken through winter-slushed windows.

Hipstamatic filters set on random (but still available for some post processing when desired) and my iPhone add a sense of photo adventure with a modicum of control.

6th Annual Photo Alphabet – An Exploration of 2013 – Arizona to Dreams

Welcome to my Holiday Tradition – my Annual Photo Alphabet.

Today I begin posting my photo alphabet in six parts, culminating on December 31st — just in time to welcome the New Year 2014!

Please join me during the next 6 days as I explore adventures, travel, learning, and change in 2013.


A is for Arizona and Arroyos.

Cold Front Sunset

Arizona © 2012 Bo Mackison

Hello, Arizona. My adopted state.

When I first visited Arizona, I stayed a week. It only took seven days for me to fall madly in love with the desert. The second year I rented a condo for 8 weeks — my “Bo goes Solo” experience — the first time I’d lived on my own since my college days. The third year I joined the Snowbird Migration, and Sherpa and I made Quail Condo our very own.

Backyard Roadrunner

Arroyo Visitor © 2012 Bo Mackison

There are dozens of reasons I love our casita in Arizona.

The sunshine is a major factor. I have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and now I enjoy the winter months instead of braving my way through cloudy winters and even cloudier moods. I love the arroyo in my backyard – wild and thick with cacti, mesquite, and acacias.

There are always birds in the trees and at the feeders – several kinds of hummingbirds, orioles, tanagers, vermillion flycatchers, woodpeckers. Gambel’s quails scramble on the ground, rushing from one bit of cover to the next. Occasionally a road runner struts past.

Coyote and bobcats prowl in the early morning hours. I’ve even had a javelina – a kind of wild pig – poke its nose onto my porch, sniffing for a handout, although I let him know he was not invited to dinner!

And most of all,  I love hiking in the nearby Sonoran Desert, camera and journal in hand. Exploring, Listening. Connecting.


 B is for Bridge.

Misty Bridge

Bridge in Fog © 2009 Bo Mackison

Bridges are connections.

Some days they are shrouded in fog. The iron trusses may be slick with ice. Some of the wooden planks may be missing, or weakened. But when the goal you want to reach is on the opposite shore, it’s time to assess the risk associated with crossing the bridge.

Life stories are bridges, too.

They connect the past with the present and affect the future. I can choose to let my past affect my choices, the risks I am willing to take, the work I accept. Or I can test the bridge, take each step with caution, but maintain forward movement.

My favorite message from this particular bridge photograph is this — even if you can see land on other side, there are no guarantees that what you think you see is what you see. The fog is a reminder that, clear or foggy, we travel across many bridges, and life does not adhere to rigid plans, no matter how well scheduled or executed.

Surprises – such as fog on the bridge – add an element of wonder, challenge, and plenty of opportunity for serendipity!


C is for Changes, Choices, and Celebration

Seisomgraph Station

Measuring Changes © 2013 Bo Mackison

Don’t you love this vintage seismograph station?

It is located in the heart of Lassen Volcanic National Park in northern California. Although this 90-year-old station has been replaced by a more modern facility, the building stands, testimony to those who monitored the volcanic activity in the park around the clock.

The building is tiny, only space enough for the delicate equipment that measured tiny changes in the movement of the earth.

I once had my own internal seismograph equipment.

It was very sensitive, able to detect change in a millisecond. My change detector was a warning system for me.  Change! Alarm! Beware!

But change is a constant – there is always change. I now make a conscious choice to embrace change.

I no longer need my own seismograph recorder.

Sumac Flags Flying

Celebration of Sumac © 2013 Bo Mackison

And that is something to celebrate.

Celebrate the present while looking forward to the possibilities of tomorrow. This photo, a close up of autumn’s orange sumac leaves, reminds me of prayer flags, gently waving in the breeze, celebrating the changing of the season.


D is for Dreams, Details, and Decisions.


Dreaming © 2013 Bo Mackison

I dream in technicolor.

Dreaming is one of my favorite activities, be it night dreaming, lucid dreaming, or day dreaming. Dreaming lets me explore many options, turn them over in my mind, fiddle with the details. Visualize.

When autumn arrives in Wisconsin, it adds new colors to the gardens. I spend mornings walking garden paths, admiring the yellows and oranges. As an added bonus, I always delight in seeing the movable garden art.

I work in the garden surrounded by art and nature.

How inspiring to sit on one of the benches tucked in a quiet space, and journal or photograph the botanicals in the changing season.

CCC Picnic Area - Saguaro National Park

Desert Office © 2013 Bo Mackison

I work in the desert surrounded by art and nature, too.

The colors may be different. The desert’s greens and browns still inspire. And often I bring my work and settle in one of the covered shelters scattered throughout Saguaro National Park. These remarkable buildings, built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), provide a shady place for me to set up a temporary desert office.

What a dream come true –  taking photographs, writing, and working in the desert.


Tomorrow’s post: Elephants to Highways.

The Bridge – Photo Heart Connection

Savanna-Sabula Bridge III

Savanna-Sabula Bridge © 2012 Bo Mackison

 There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning. ~ Thornton Wilder

When I decide upon my photograph for my monthly Photo-Heart Connection entry, it is often because there is a story connected with it. This month’s photograph follows the pattern.

The Savanna-Sabula Bridge crosses the Mississippi River and connects the island city of Sabula, Iowa to the river hugging town of Savanna, Illinois. I’ve lived in the Midwest all of my life, and have spent many a day traveling the roads that border the Mississippi, but until I crossed this lovely bridge, I never knew there was an “island city” in Iowa. I think of farmland and cornfields when I think of Iowa, not island cities. And certainly not island cities with the character of Sabula.

First, the bridge spans the Mississippi River, then crosses Sheepshead Bay, and manages to find enough land for the bridge supports as it crosses Israel Day Lake, Town Lake, and Dog Wood Lake. Finally we reached the small island-city of Sabula – we were on solid land, for a while.

Sabula has the BEST ice cream sundae I have ever had – and I come from the Dairy State and have had more than my share of ice cream sundaes. The Korner Ice Cream Shop, a tiny walk up, is easy to find. It comes into view just as you enter town from the bridge.

Then we drove the river-side streets of Sabula – old mansions with sit-down-and-rest-awhile-porches, widow’s walks, views of the river life. I imagine in earlier years,, these were quite the places to visit during the warm summer months.

And there’s more. Driving out-of-town toward mainland Iowa, we crossed one more lake, Sabula Lake. And we saw a flock of Great American Pelicans – probably 200 birds, all floating closely together as they churned the waters with their webbed feet, stirring up their dinner. I’m certain I have never seen a single pelican near the Mississippi River, so this was a big treat indeed. (Lots of photo, too!)

But best of all, I shared all these experiences with Sherpa, my hubby, who is always willing to accompany me on a Sunday camera shoot, always happy to check out a new ice cream shop or cross a new bridge. Even after 36 years!

A road trip, the discovery of new wonderful places, and great company. Ingredients for a perfect photo heart connection.

This is a year-long practice with a community of photographers.  As Kat Sloma explains on her blog, Kat Eye View, “Deepen the connection between your photos and your heart and soul by participating in this monthly review of your images, to find the one that best connects to your heart.” All are welcome.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and the owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC.

Crossing the Bridge

Bridge to the Art Festival
Bridge to the Art Festival © 2012 Bo Mackison

 It takes courage to grow up and be who you really are.  ~ e e cummings

When I study this photograph, I see a long bridge, laced with a repetitive pattern of lights and shadows. The bridge looks very solid, very safe. At the end of the bridge is marvelous sculptural art from the K. Newby Gallery – kinetic, metallic, engaging. And beyond the spinning sculptures are rows and rows of white tents, set up for the Tubac Festival of the Arts, (Though you can barely see it, my booth for Seeded Earth Photography is the second on the left – only a few steps from the bridge.)

I wish I were a great metaphorical writer because the metaphors that come to mind when I look at this photograph are amazing. Crossing a bridge – a sturdy bridge. Crossing over from one life experience to another. The repeating light and shadowy spaces. Life replicates the contrasts — sometimes life is light and the way is well-lit on a smooth path, sometimes life is shadowy and the way is difficult. But continue on the path, and you will find beautiful art, the kinetic art, moving and glistening in the sunlight. And then finally, not distracted by the larger than life sculptures, not comparing my art to others’ art nor finding it lacking, I reach the art festival. And there is my booth, standing in a row of artists’ booth, fitting in, one with the whole.

So continuing with the art fair experience from the last blog post…


Sherpa definitely could not come for the set up nor the opening days of the art festival. I had never set up alone, but I knew the mechanicst. I knew how to put the tent together, rather like a ten foot high metal and plastic Tinker Toy model, and set up the inside panels on which I hung my art. Since I always hung my photographs, that part was easy. I decided that I would do the show solo.

I carefully planned how many trips it would take me to get to Tubac, a 20 minute car trip from my home.  If I could take the tent, the floor rug, the panels, and the bins of art in two loads, I could make one trip on Tuesday and finish on Wednesday before the show began.

On Monday evening, I loaded the car with the rug, tent and as many Pro-Panels as would fit. I added two bins of art in the passenger side seat. On Tuesday I drove to Tubac. Check in and booth assignment was at 2:00 pm. I arrived at noon, and got in line. Happily, artists are a super friendly bunch, and so there was lively chatter, lots of stories and talk of traveling across the country doing art shows. Time passed, and soon I had my booth assignment.

First I started with the tent. Fortunately, the artist next to me helped me at two crucial points and in an hour the tent was standing. I added weights and ties to the tent for stability, and set up the pieces of Pro-Panel I had with me.

By this time it was nearly 5 in the evening, an hour til dark, and I realized that the remaining panels would fill most of the car. I would have to go get the panels and return in the dark or I would never be ready for the Wednesday morning opening.

I had my camping lantern and the light of the full moon. How beautiful. I was one of only a few artists still setting up, and the silence was strikingly quiet. The moon lit up the sky, the village streets, and the outside of my tent. The tiny lantern cast a soft glow inside my tent. It was a gorgeous night. I felt a sense of well-being and confidence. I felt a sense of peace and awe alone with the beauty of the night.

“By the light, of the silvery moon….”

When I finished, I headed home, with a sense of a new-found confidence and self-awareness.

Tomorrow’s post continues with Part III.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. Bo is discovering that every day provides opportunities to learn new and amazing things.

Red Bridge Reflection

Reflection in Pond at Allen Centennial Garden in Madison Wisconsin

Red Bridge Reflection @ 2010 Bo Mackison

Interesting colors towards the end of the day while visiting Allen Centennial Gardens on the University of Wisconsin campus in Madison. Love the mix of bright colors – yellow-greens from the trees’ reflections, the bridge’s reflection in bright red, and the blue-green tinted lily pads.