Traveling to the Desert – Day 3

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1000 miles done, 800 miles to go.

January 2nd and businesses are open, back to business as usual.

The 6 am crowd, grits and coffee and conversation, at a diner west of Liberal, Kansas.

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Excuse me, you there in the front seat. Can you please tell me…what does “1800 miles” mean again?

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1100 miles done, 700 miles yet to go

Hooker, Oklahoma

“It’s a location, not a vocation.” Town motto.

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Grain elevators…in every town along the way.

I see these elevators as visible symbol of each town we pass through, as a conglomeration of add-on buildings, as central figure in a town or as building on the periphery. But I also see them in an abstract way – composition, light and shadow, and what can I capture instinctively, no time to stop or study. What do I see, where do I focus? Sometimes I like what I see in the many grain elevator photographs I take, sometime I press delete a lot.

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1300 miles in the past, still 500 miles to go

Santa Rosa, New Mexico.  A stop for lunch – complete with a tres leche pudding (not a baked custard, a creamy pudding) which made my sweet tooth happy in a most contented way.

Prickly pear cactus in the snow. The house was abandoned, but the cactus garden was thriving.


1400 miles done, 400 to go.

A surprise. The remnants from Winter Storm Goliath that covered eastern New Mexico with several feet of snow a week ago.


Only 5 to 8 inches remained, but the high desert was a winter wonderland. Junipers and cedars still glittered with an icy coating.

Desert shrubs in white.


I’ve arrived in the desert, but documentation of “every 100 miles” took awhile to process (in between cleaning, getting groceries, and all the other jobs required after a long absence).

Since time and distance were the travel priorities, all photos taken “on the fly” = zipping past at 65-75 miles per hour.

All photos using my iPhone and Hipstamatic app with the filter set on random. Optional post processing.


Traveling to the Desert – Day Two


January 1, 2016.

400 miles done and 1400 miles to drive. Smack dab in the center of Missouri.

New Year’s Day. There’s a new year’s tradition — or is it superstition? — “what you do on New Year’s Day, you’ll do all year long.” Well, there you have it — a year filled with travel!

Crossing Missouri — began by driving across the Mississippi River and drove until we crossed the Missouri River in Kansas City.

I say “mi-zour-ee.” Do you say “mah-zour-ah?”

Small herds of cattle and farms in eastern Missouri; more horses and small ranches driving further west.

I saw an owl, a brown and white barred owl, standing on the side of the highway, as if he were studying the road that stretched in front of me. Ten in the morning. I can only think the owl was a good journey omen. This was not the only encounter on the drive to the desert I had with birds. They accompanied me west in the most extraordinary ways.


500 miles done and 1300 miles to go.

Stopped for barbecue southwest of Kansas City, Kansas.

Oh. Yum. Not in Wisconsin any longer, Dorothy.


600 miles done; 1200 more. A third of the way.

Eastern Kansas. Flint Hills.


700 miles done; still 1100 more. 7-11s. Lucky numbers. Just as the afternoon was getting long, just when I needed a sign… a  gift from the Universe.

A murmuration of starlings. A pulsating cloud of birds, dipping, dancing. The flock expanded, then contracted. Dipped towards the fields, then swooped high into the sky.

A most serendipitous sight.




900 miles done, 900 more to go.

Kansas on the diagonal. Northeast to southwest.

From Wichita to Liberal. The road is straight. The land is flat.

Every small town has a grain elevator. Grain elevators are the most interesting subject for photos in Kansas, at least I think so. especially when driving late afternoon into the night. The light catches the metal containers — some quite ordinary,  but many in unexpected, even spectacular ways.


1000 miles left behind in the rear view mirror. 800 miles still ahead.

Driving into the sunset.

Kansas flat. Horizon orange, deepening into red the color of blood and lingering deep into twilight. A thin red line in the black.


Since driving and arriving are the priority for this trip, all photos are drive by.

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


5th Annual Photo Alphabet – Part III

I is for iPhonography and Imagination

All in Green

All in Green © 2012 Bo Mackison

In just a few short years, taking photographs with a cell phone has become its own niche. iPhonography with a multitude of apps for in camera processing and post processing, can do amazing things. Photographs I never dreamed of creating can be created in just seconds. My imagination goes a bit wild when I start playing with my iPhone’s capabilities. I am less hesitant to explore and more open to the weird and unusual.

For me personally, iPhones and other smart phone cameras do not take the place of my more traditional camera gear. But my cell phone camera sure has one advantage that most other cameras do not have. It is always with me.

And the best camera in the world is the one that is with you when you want to take a photograph.

J is for Joy and Journal Writing

Road Trip - Joy Kansas

Joy, Kansas © 2012 Bo Mackison

At first glance, you might wonder what this photograph of a grain elevator taken on the wide open plains of middle America has to do with Joy and Journal Writing. But it is a real life example of the Joy I find from my daily practice of photography and journal writing.

The photo is a snippet from my travel log I wrote as I traveled across the United States. This grain elevator is in the tiny town of Joy, Kansas.  That may be important or it may not be. But it is a part of my life, a part that I took time to document. I don’t write down everything nor do I take photos of most places. But I document enough about the daily bits of my day-to-day activities.

Here’s why this brings me such Joy. When I return to the notations in my journal, re-read a passage, look through the sketches I crudely drew in the margins, find a ticket stub or a pamphlet describing a sightseeing treat, I instantly re-create memories of that time in my life. They may seem trivial, but they are moments I have lived.

And I love being able to open a journal or a set of photographs and get transported back in time. So much is so easily forgotten. The things I often read about I would never remember without these memory jogs. They may be important only to me, but that is enough. More than enough.

K is for Knowledge and Keys.

Locked Gate

Gate without a Key © 2011 Bo Mackison

I once lived for a while in a place where there were locks, but no keys.

I spent many hours of ‘most every day holed up in a corner of a library, in a room of a thousands books, but it offered none of the knowledge I sought.

Then I went out into the world, far away from what was safe, comfortable, known.

And there I found myself – uncertain yet hopeful, silent yet filled with song. And the sun warmed me and I walked the earth and I gave thanks.

L is for Labyrinth.

Garden Maze

Garden Labyrinth © 2011 Bo Mackison

Have you ever walked a labyrinth? The kind where, once you begin, you follow along, around and back, and come to the center, where you can stand awhile or continue on and finally you come out at the end which is next to the beginning, and there is no way, when you follow the lines, that you can do it wrong or get lost or bump into some one else.

There is a pace and that pace has a peace. Not at all like real life, though to me it feels exactly like real life.

M is for Meditating, Mindfulness, and the Muse.


Meditating…© 2012 Bo Mackison

I love this photograph. I took it while I was walking along a park in New york City, a park resurrected from an abandoned railway corridor called the High Line. Usually the park is crowded with people – walking, enjoying the art installations or sampling the food from vendors. Maybe watching a dance troupe or dancing to a jazz trio. But early on this cool June morning, with threats of rain in the forecast, the park was nearly deserted.

It was the perfect place to sit for a while, absorb the beauty of the natural plants growing amidst the tracks and seating spaces. I wasn’t the only person in the park who was doing some slow work while the city bustled around us.

Meditation, even for twenty minutes or a half hour, has become a daily part of my morning. It sets my internal thermostat at an even temperature, and helps me prepare for the rest of the day. Doing meditation coupled with a mindfulness practice during the day not only slows me down so I can get my work done, it also makes room for my muse to visit with amazing frequency.

Less pressure, more ideas, more creative energy.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and the owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. Part IV of the 5th Annual Photo Alphabet continues with Nature thru Quest.

Tucumcari Tonite

Tucumcari Tonite - Historic Route 66

Tucumcari Tonite ©2012 Bo Mackison

The world is a country which nobody ever yet knew by description; one must travel through it one’s self to be acquainted with it. ~ Lord Chesterfield

Day 1 Part 2. The travel notes continue:

We note the differences between Iowa/Illinois and Missouri. Missouri has fewer corn fields. It looks scrubbier, homes are smaller. The land is undulating, like Iowa – gentle hills, lots of stands of old trees, mostly oaks.  There are more horses, fewer cattle and no dairy farms. The barns are used less for protection of animals, more for storage of grains. They are open and often have several lean-to sheds propped against their exterior walls.

Passing Hamilton MO, boyhood home of J C Penney. Hmmm.

Sunlight streams though the stand of oak, all is a rich golden brown in the low sunlight. They look like shimmering cinnamon sticks.

Cameron MO. Gas is $3.07. We finally get on an interstate to make faster time. I-35.

Passing ENCHANTED FROG ANTIQUES. Looked interesting, but not open. Wonder how it got its name?

First time we see gas for less than three dollars a gallon. $2.99 at Exit 40. Why is gas always cheapest around Kansas City area? — we notice this every time we pass through.

Head into Kansas City, MO at 8 am.

Crossing the Missouri River – managed a few photos of the overhead structure of the bridge. The HISTORIC IMPERIAL BREWERY BUILDING is for sale. It has style, bet it was a real beauty, back in its heyday.

Fishing Creek
Turkey Creek
Missouri River

Kansas state line. 34 degrees and sunny as we leave Kansas City, KS. 8:30 am.

Entering the Flint Hills of Kansas. There is a National Geographic spread — 22 pages – on the Flint Hills in its April 07 issue. So the sign says.

Bull Creek
Wolf Creek
Ottawa Creek
Marias de Cinega
Tequa Creek

Kansas compared to western Missouri? Flatter lands, still shrubby. Farms have fewer barns and store more of their equipment and larger household appliances outside. Oil wells – the ones that stand about 8 feet tall – pump in many fields.

Speed limit has gradually increased from 55 in Wisconsin to 65 in Iowa to 70 in Missouri and now it is 75 mph.

The woods are oak, hickory, sycamore. Only an occasional evergreen tree or shrub.

Rock Creek
Coal Creek
Long Creek
Frog Creek
Badger Creek

Why is Marion, KS called the Rhino Capitol of the World?

Stopped at the Tall Grass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge. There is a nearby bed and breakfast, CLOVER CLIFF RANCH. I would like to stay here for a few nights. What a great setting, looks like a great ranch!

Long trains are now frequent. Freight cars pulled and pushed by 4 to 6 engines.

Landscape is mostly grasslands. Fewer stands of trees. Most of the trees we see were planted for windbreaks around ranches and farms.

Emporia KS is the Founding City of Veterans Day. It is a good place for historic buildings, too. Historic district.

Past Emporia, the tenor of the land is drier, colorless. Many shades of brown, but the rich soil is a deep black. The landscape is offset only by a pale blue sky. Most of the land is for grazing. The buildings are built close to the ground – earth huggers – a good idea in this tornado and blizzard belt.

There is an underground salt mine in Hutchinson KS. Hutchinson is called the “Salt City.” It also has a rescue/adoption program for wild mustangs. Gas is $3.21.

Cow Creek
Ninnescah River
Arkansas River

Only scattered farms. Lots of solitude to be found in western Kansas. Still very dry.

Crooked Creek (dry)
Cimarron Creek (dry)
Pony River (dry)
Beaver River (dry)

Now we are in Oklahoma, crossing just a snippet of its Panhandle. It looks like southwestern Kansas – not a surprise. There is sage brush, dried grasses. And the feed lots – which always make me fret over my decision not to be a strict vegetarian.

Now we are in Texas. We are crossing a bit of this state’s Panhandle, too. Gas is $3.27 a gallon in Dalhart, Texas.

We arrive in Tucumcari and find a hotel, order carry-out for supper. It is 5:45 pm.

On out first travel day, designed to be long on driving while we are both fresh, we traveled 14 hours and drove 863 miles.

Tomorrow we arrive in Albuquerque early, and take time off for exploring, before the last leg of our journey.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and the owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She loves to document facts and trivia in her travel journals when traveling cross country.


April’s Photo-Heart Connection Photo – An Unusual Choice

Burlington Northern Train Cars Dwarfed by Kansas Grain Elevators

Burlington Northern © 2012 Bo Mackison

This photograph is about as different from my usual photographs as it can be, but in going through my photo catalogs from April, this is the one I kept returning to. I found myself studying its lines, its color, the subject matter, perhaps a hidden meaning, trying to decipher why this particular photograph caught my attention, and my heart, and so qualified as April’s photo-heart connection selection.

(Kat Sloma from Kat Eye Studio encourages photographers to pick a photo once a month for sharing — a photo taken in the prior month that best makes a photo-heart connection.)

Now to work my way through the feelings/thoughts attached to this photo:

  • The subject matter is less typical for me than many other genres. I shoot macro-botanicals with passion and abandon; I am ever fond of architectural photos; I’ll drive miles to explore a landscape – particularly those in the wilderness, in National Parks, often with no sign of human activity; and yet here is a rural scene, a scene that is agricultural in theme.
  • I take 95% of my photographs with my Canon DSLR and then spend extra time in post-processing. I am a tinkerer of the post-processing process. I love to use software to create new ways of seeing a routine subject. I will consider many options regarding a small aspect of a photograph, and then go on to another small aspect, and another, and another. When I photograph with my DSLR, I love to take my time, study possibilities, set up my tripod and try lots of options before going on to the next subject. I shot this photo with my iPhone using a Hipstamatic app preset. Sherpa and I were on the long drive home, and we stopped briefly on a country road for a truck to make a left turn. I opened the car window, grabbed my phone, and took a single photo before the car began to move.
  • I like bright colors and focused, close-up details. And my love for the colors associated with the US Southwest has deepened since I began living in Arizona part of the year. I see more color in my photographs – the bright cerulean skies, the turquoise and orange buildings, colors that make a strong statement. But in this photo, the colors are muted. There are a few patches of a rusty color and the remainder is in soft greens, whites, browns.
  • I love the play of light and shadow in photographs, and this photograph hasn’t much light nor shadow. It was taken mid day under a cloudy sky, not typically a good time for photography.

So why this photograph?

  • Well, I am attracted to the composition. It feels satisfying to me, the blocks of different colors, three almost equal rectangular spaces, plus the darker colors as contrast. I do not often take symmetrical photographs, and honestly, I would probably not have composed this photograph as it is if I had been taking a more deliberate photo. But the symmetry provided by the grain elevators, and the strong horizontal and vertical lines seem to emphasize the subject of farm work and transportation in the country’s Midwest.
  • I like that the train car is marked with the logo of the Burlington Northern line. I grew up in the Midwest not far from Burlington, Iowa – the train company’s namesake. And several of my relatives – a grandfather and two uncles — worked for the Burlington Northern. I remember bits of their stories, I sometimes saw them return home from night shift duty with coal stained coveralls, and I associated the smell of their smoky clothes with a night of hard work.

So, an atypical photograph can be a favorite. A photograph with the vaguest memories of family can add a strong sense of human connection to a seemingly straightforward scene. And perhaps there is special thrill about a photograph taken on the run, the knowledge that taking a photograph isn’t only about f-stops and sharp focus and the rules.

Maybe it is also the appreciation of timing, good instincts, and a little luck!


Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. After three months in the Southwest, Bo is back home in the Midwest. And just in time — her first art show of the summer season is tomorrow — Madison’s Audubon Art Fair at Warner Park on Madison’s east side. Seeded Earth Studio’s booth will be inside in the glassed-in annex. Hours are 9:30 am to 4:30 pm.