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Southern Illinois April 2014 Photo Workshop


Sand Cave photo shoot

Sand Cave

The 2014 Spring Photo Workshop is over and once again nature didn’t disappoint. The harsh winter had its effects  in the Southern IL, on the positive side the waterfalls and the streams were flowing. On the not so positive side the forest was not as green as I would have liked.  Either way the photo ops were too numerous to capture them all.

We were blessed to have been treated to a personal tour from the Waterfall Chaser, Gary Marks.  Gary is a renowned nature photographer who lives in Southern IL. His work has been featured twice on WGN TV News specials called Cruisin’ Illinois hosted by Julian Crews. Gary has picked up the nick name waterfall chaser because the waterfalls in the Shawnee do not flow 100% of the time.  Gary has become an expert in knowing the circumstances and conditions that will present the waterfalls in their best photo moment.  There are times when a photographer can get a real treat and times when the photograph just has rocks with no water. Each of the 4 seasons  has it’s conditions to provide a window of spectacular images of cascading water or  curtains of ice. Either way the scenery is stunning, unique, and ever evolving.

Coordinating with the local photographers and land owners has been one of my regular practices.   There is a lot in Southern IL and the state tourism guides or maps don’t always share all the visual treasures nor do they consider the same things “treasures” that a photographer might.  So asking a lot of questions and networking opens some locations that the average tourist will never find on their own.  Sand Cave is one of those spots. Not on any map, no signs on the roads, but very close to the cabins that we stay at is a huge dome like stone room hidden in the side of a bluff with a huge opening and a color range of rocks to keep a photographer busy for hours. The short ¼ mile trail to the cave is wide and clear, and along the way this spring we saw wild flowers like the Trout Lily and Dutchman’s pants.  The bluffs along the trail is also quite nice to photograph. Because they seep water, many parts of the bluffs are “carpeted” in a thick moss with ferns  and other plant life growing from the cracks and seams in the stone. In other parts of the forest we saw the Dogwood and Red Bud trees blooming, there were other flowering trees as well scattered around the forest however I am not an expert so I can’t tell you what they are. I can tell you they frame an image very well.

This workshop, like all the previous ones, we worked on camera techniques, computer techniques, workflow, art, and even did a marketing shot for the cabin owners to show off an improvement to the grounds.  We talked about metering, or reading light, he worked on some HDR photography , and solved a few “in camera” issues. We played with extension tubes to get right on top of a subject to photograph it up close and see details that we didn’t know existed using the naked eye.’ We even had a couple of bonus moments when we came across a land owner burning out a field at night getting ready for planting, and a clear bright moonlit night shoot of a old metal truss bridge.

The Southern IL has lots of treasures for any photographer, with modern and not so modern ruins, rock formations, waterfalls, rushing streams and rivers, caves, wildlife, flowers, and vistas of incredible magnitude, there is something for everyone.

The next trip is happening in October. Usually the 2nd or 3rd weekend.  The colors are nothing short of amazing, the temps still mild during the day and usually a moderate amount of water in the creeks and streams.  Don’t delay get on the list fast. Last year the government shut down hindered the workshop so many are anxious to get there this year. The head count is limited so first come first served.

Enjoy the images, all taken this past workshop.
Shooting and creating images since 1984, Keith French has had the opportunity to shoot on 4 continents and the islands of the Azores, as well in the South Pacific. A one time camera store owner Keith worked his way around the photography industry and has developed a unique perspective from the view point of a photographer, a photo lab technician, an equipment retailer/salesmen, and commercial studio owner. An award winning photographer who loves to teach and share his passion with others. Keith is currently the local camera club president as well.

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