I’m back from my trip to Oregon and California for my commencement at Oregon State University.  The graduation ceremony was a whirlwind experience.  I graduated along with 7,000+ other students in Corvallis and even though I had never been on the campus before as an e-Campus student from Illinois, I felt right at home.  Everyone was welcoming, friendly, and helpful.  I’m so glad.  I would have hated to to have gone there and found out my university was full of snobs. Ha.  Really everyone I interacted with in Oregon was very friendly.

The weather was perfect and I got to meet some of my fellow School of Forestry classmates and I might be biased but I think we were the coolest bunch.  We were the smallest group represented, as waves and waves of business and engineering grads swept passed us but we were way cooler, smarter and better looking.  Just ask any tree and they would agree.

Walking into the stadium

As far as the rest of the trip went, I was expecting Oregon to be scenic here and there but nearly every single sight I saw in Oregon was postcard quality.  It was gorgeous…everywhere!  I was not expecting such a green, lush landscape and neither was Oprah who was in the audience.  I got to see Oprah!  If only she paid off all our student loans.

All of the towns I visited were so clean and landscaped beautifully.  Above is a view of Corvallis’ courthouse.  Jeesh, could Illinois take lessons from Oregon.  I wish I had taken more photos of the towns I visited  because the streetscaping was spectacular with beautiful flowering shrubs and grasses.  I know Decatur is trying to improve its image but the powers that be really need to visit Oregon if they want to know how good a city can look.  Lots of great ideas – most inexpensive.

One thing that kept crossing my mind is that Illinois is the prairie state but nobody would know it if they were driving through Illinois.  Decatur is the “Pride of the Prairie”.  Shouldn’t we look like it?   We should incorporate our native plants along Decatur’s main corridors.  Let’s really be the pride of the prairie!

Anyway, off my soapbox.  Whenever I visit other cities I always look for ideas for Decatur.  I can’t help myself.  Oh, and another thing: I think we should add lighting beneath our main bridges crossing Lake Decatur.  Others have suggested this as well but just some simple colored lighting reflecting the bridge on the water at night would leave a remarkable impression on visitors and residents.  So much for being off my soapbox.

The Redwoods

After a very short stay in Oregon, we traveled to Crescent City, California to see the Redwoods.  I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.  The road pics are from southern Oregon but the rest are from California.

All of these photos were taken using my Samsung Galaxy S7.  It has pretty much replaced my Nikon because I think it takes better photos and it’s so much easier to carry with me.  I purchased a Samsung lens kit for it before the trip and used them for the wide format photos and they did a great job.  The pics are compressed to limit file size on the blog but the original non-compressed photos are spectacular.

Southwestern Oregon


Southwestern Oregon. After looking at the photo I think the rock formation look like a lion’s head!


Crescent City Lighthouse


Michael with the Pacific Ocean in the background. I wasn’t expecting the water to be so blue.


My first time seeing the Pacific Ocean in person.


Those pink flowers.


The Redwoods – awe inspiring.

The light coming through the trees in the foggy morning light was almost a religious experience.

If only I could have stuffed this driftwood in my carry-on bag it would have looked great in my backyard.


The Pacific Ocean is not to be messed with. Rugged and powerful.


My son is standing next to Paul Bunyan at the Trees of Mystery gift store and museum. No trip to the Redwoods would be complete without a photo next to Paul Bunyan!

Oh, I almost forgot the most important thing I brought back with me on my 4,000 mile round-trip to Oregon.  It’s pictured below.  And even though last quarter was overwhelming in so many ways, I still pulled off straight A’s.  I’m so thrilled with that.  In about 12 weeks the official diploma will be here after I finish my remaining summer classes and then the next chapter of my life will begin.

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There’s no denying it: This winter has been brutal but even so, there’s still beauty to be found. I had to pull over and take a picture of last night’s sunset, as I was driving home from Forsyth. This was taken in First Church of the Nazarene’s parking lot. A couple minutes after I drove away, the sky was even more amazing!



Nelson Park: If it wasn’t for the tree line on the other side of the lake, it would be hard to separate the sky from frozen Lake Decatur.



The birds were huddled together trying to beat the elements. You think we have it bad, think about the wildlife.



This is the same scene as above but it shows what it really felt like taking those pictures! Lord have mercy it was insanely cold! My bare fingers stung and throbbed in pain for the few minutes I was there. It was 11 degrees but the windchill was below zero.



I saw one of these last year but I didn’t know what it was called. This rainbow ring effect around the sun is called a sundog, maybe because it looks like the sun has too floppy ears? They typically only occur during very cold weather and the right atmospheric conditions.  This was taken at Progress City next to Richland Community College.



These aren’t clouds! This is some of the steam, (I would need a panoramic shot to show it all), released by ADM. When it’s very cold, it’s kinda scary to see how much is released. Notice the sundog above it.



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By now my family knows that where ever we go I will most likely be bringing along a camera.  I love photography and I have about every kind of camera a person could imagine, well a person with a small budget anyway.

I have my pocket size Canon in Cardinal red that I bought just for the purpose of matching my camera to my clothes at Busch Stadium and being able to fit into a pocket.  It’s smaller than most phones and is handy to take along when I want better photos than what my phone can take.

I have a Canon underwater camera that takes great pictures above water as well.  It’s suitable for about any kind of weather conditions.  It doesn’t matter if it gets rained on or banged around a little bit. It’s a fun camera to have.

Then I have my beastly Nikon D5100.  It’s not professional quality but it’s a good enough camera to get me into the market of lenses that can focus in on a fly 50 yards away.  I’ve learned that the lenses make all the difference and there are several that I frequently drool over on  I have yet to actually buy any of them but window shopping is fun, even if online.

The only problem with the Nikon is that it’s a hassle to lug around and I’m always worried that it’s either going to get broken or stolen when I’m out and about, so I usually keep it at home.

My go-to camera is my phone!  I have a Samsung Galaxy 3 and it takes good pictures for being a phone, or as I see it, a camera that is also a phone.  It’s quick and easy to share photos on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or any other social sharing app.  The only problem is that it has  limitations.  It can’t zoom in on distance scenes or take fast-action shots but I’m amazed at how good it is for being a phone.  I’m sure that phone cameras will keep getting better and better.

A great thing about smartphone cameras is that there are some excellent image editing apps that can make a so-so photo look pretty amazing.  I’ve taken some photos that looked atrocious with bad lighting and with some editing, turned out good, not amazing but good enough to share.  My favorite image editing apps are Aviary and BeFunky.

The best thing though about being able to take and share photos so easily is that I can look back through them as a journal of sorts.  Things that I would have otherwise forgotten are saved and looking at them reminds me of the days I took them. You can join the other six people who follow me on Instagram by looking up haydiz70. I think that’s my username.  I follow back.


I would have forgotten how brilliant the colors were of these beautiful glass ornaments from the Decatur Arts in the Park Show. No photo editing needed.


I would have forgotten how quaint and beautiful this scene looked downtown. The only thing I don’t like about Instagram though, is that it cuts off photos into squares. The original full scene is much better.


I’ll forever remember my family paying way too much to see animatronic dinosaurs in Springfield but the photos I got out of it were pretty amazing!


A recent trip to Lake Shelbyville on a picture perfect day!


This slug on my house would have been forgotten for all eternity until I Instagrammed it.


The sky over Lake Decatur a few weeks ago was absolutely stunning. I’d never seen cloud formations like that. Memories of a beautiful evening.


I’m not likely to forget how much my cat dislikes one of my dogs but this photo serves as evidence.


My phone has a pretty cool built in editor that can make scenes like this from regular ol’ photos. This was taken before the 2013 Labor Day Parade.


Some of the birds are downright scary at Dreamland Lake but not this one. Very friendly! This was taken during a family picnic.


A beautiful rose to remind me never to put the wrong kind of fertilizer on this particular kind of rose bush. A week later the whole rose bush was dead. 🙁 But I got this photo to remember killing it.


More proof that they really don’t get along. The dog loves the cat but the cat feels the dog is completely unnecessary.


I sat outside on the balcony of the lodge we were staying at near Wisconsin Dells and took about 855 photos of this dramatic sunset.


Cave formations in Wisconsin. I don’t remember the name of the cave but I can remember how it looked like. 🙂


I haven’t killed this rose bush yet! Thank goodness. I remember a picture perfect morning sunrise this summer though.


I took this photo after taking one of my exams at Richland earlier this Summer and I loved how it turned out. As my family always says, “Where There’s a Hay, There’s a Way!” We’re all very modest and humble like that.

Downtown Decatur, view from Central Park. 2013.

Another view of Downtown Decatur from Central Park.


A photo I took of the creek a played in as a kid.

Horse drawn carriage at Decatur's 2012 Christmas Walk

Horse drawn carriage at Decatur’s 2012 Christmas Walk. I would have totally forgotten about this scene. This was taken with my old phone.  I think the S3 would have done much better.


If you look close, you can see the apparition of a ghost from last Halloween on my front porch. Ok, it’s not an apparition but it is a ghost!


Last year’s Halloween pumpkin carving!


A creepy looking light over the balcony at the Avon Theater. I remember I took the kids there to watch Ice Age and when I sat down, I pulled the arm rest off of one of the chairs.  They really need to get some new seats but keep the creepy light.


Snickers doesn’t much care for the dog but he loves the fish! This is a picture before an infestation of Ick took over the tank and killed the fish. Snickers was devastated.


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