Guest Writer – Steven Johnson – Giant City State Park: Giant City, Huge Possibilities
– by Steven Johnson – stevenjphotoart.com
Living Near a Marvel
I live within 15 minutes of one of the best state parks in Illinois. It is known as Giant City. The park is large enough to have a thousand people in it and still have room to feel like you have space around you and allows you to relax and soak in this beautiful place.
When my daughter was old enough to go on walks, I took her on a hike into the main area of the park that gives the park its name. It is a sand stone formation that looks and feels like you are in the downtown area of a city with big buildings all around you. The hike is fairly easy and can be walked in an hour without hurry. It can also take four hours if you stop and look at all the formations, ferns, flowers, listen to the birds, and watch squirrels and other wild life that live in this area.
The Department of Natural Resources lists another creature, the copperhead snake, as being in the area. I have walked the park for well over 40 years and watched thousands of kids playing in the water and rocks and have never even seen a snake much less a copperhead so don’t let that possibility prevent you from a visit to the park. (See the snake safety link near the end of article) The park has many trails and open areas and lots to do for nearly any family fun afternoon or picnic. The Giant City Nature Trail goes into the heart of the park and shows the famous city look and can be walked by anyone from a child to many 80 year olds.
No Special Equipment Needed
The park is well maintained and things like fallen limbs and such from storm damage are cleaned up very quickly on most paths. It has places to sit down from time to time if you need to, and many rocks that serve for that purpose also. You do not need special hiking boots, and the trails are not muddy and hard to get around. There are paths that go up on the top of the bluffs and go near the edge, which can be semi-dangerous, so watch your step and be on alert.
Photography in the Park
I became a serious photographer many years ago but my actual present level began about 10 years ago. I have spent many years photographing the spring flowers, dogwoods, ferns, and rock formations and decided to specialize in flowers, flowing water, and animals.
One day about 7 years ago in the spring I saw this incredible cascade flowing down the side of the trail up to an area known as the Stone Fort. I decided to spend several days at this area trying to capture it on film. The cascade flows several hundred yards and is not easy to cover the entire area with just one picture. I photographed it hundreds of different ways.
All in a Day’s Work
The picture of the cascade (see photo on right side of article) was taken with a 1940’s period Crown Graphic press camera. I actually had it on a large tripod and used a black cloth over my head and focused on a 4 x 5 inch ground glass.
After setting up the camera and getting ready to take the picture, I noticed I was slipping down the cascade but the camera tripod was stuck solid on the rock. I fired the image and fell to my hands and knees and slid about 100 yards on my stomach tearing my clothes and getting very wet and cold.
The image above was the one photographed. It was entered in a contest at the Crab Orchard National Refuge Visitors center and won a cash prize and ribbon. The image was later placed in the Southern Illinois Tourism Guide and has been running there for about 6 years now. After heavy rains or in the spring as the frozen ground ice melts the park has many water falls and cascades.
See more of my photos at stevenjphotoart.com.
About Me – Steven Johnson
I am 65 years old, and a native of Southern Illinois. I have lived in Carbondale or Anna Illinois for most of my life. I like cats, flowers, sunsets, all things pretty, and education, I read one or two books a week. I have been an instructor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, Mckendree College, and Shawnee Community College. I taught classes related to business software. I am in fairly good condition and get out and walk, hike, drive and enjoy Mother Nature.
Steven J Photo Art is the name of my photography business, and the continuation of my fun-filled hobby. More of my photos can be seen at stevenjphotoart.com.
I have several types of cameras. I have large format, medium format, and 35 mm film cameras. I am now using the higher end Canon produced digital SLR’s. I have wide-angle and long telephoto lens. I carry a tripod and use if for nearly all my photos. I use Fuji Velvia film. It is positive film, or what we older folks called slide film. The colors are super and the film is very high quality fine grain. When the film is scanned it produces very high quality digital images.
– Wanted to give a special Thanks to my fellow photographer and hiking buddy, Steven Johnson. Over the years Steven has encouraged me to continue with photography when I first started out over ten years ago. Even though there has been highs and lows in my photography, during that time Steven was always there cheering me on. His interest and encouragement have been priceless in my photography progression. If you want to view more of his work, especially his Bald Knob Overlook photos, check out www.stevenjphotoart.com. Thanks! – Gary Marks
Take a look at this article to see the 3 venomous snakes of Southern Illinois.
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