Ice Harbor, Mississippi River, Dubuque, Iowa

Great clouds, combined with a short rain shower, made for good shooting conditions this evening at the Ice Harbor in Dubuque, Iowa. I took our dog Cooper for a walk on the dyke, a little further north of this place. Well, I call it a “dog walk” but sometimes he just sits patiently next to me while I’m fiddling with the camera on tripod. I tell you what, he probably understands how photography works… 😊

While taking a few shots of the old railroad bridge that crosses the Mississippi over to Wisconsin, I suddenly saw the CELEBRATION BELLE coming up the river from LeClaire, Iowa and taking a turn towards the harbor. We jumped into the car and drove down the short distance. It takes time to maneuver this big boat through the small entry and flood gates of Ice Harbor, giving me enough time to find a good position. The TWILIGHT was also docked in the port and I rushed to find a shooting position where both Mississippi River boats and the clouds would line up perfectly. The spot was found while the first passengers exited the CELEBRATION BELLE. The image was made with the Nikkor 16-35, f/4 at 16 mm focal length and the BREAKTHROUGH 2-stop GND filter attached. The rain shower earlier made the wood of the pier wet and darker. It takes out the glare and makes the pier a good part of the composition that doesn’t compete with the bright subjects in this photo.


Yesterday was the better day for shooting the T6’s at the Dubuque Airport. A little storm that went trough our area brought some clouds and that made for a much more interesting background. The wind had shifted to the west and the second runway, closer to the observation deck, was used for landing the planes. My keeper rate was much better and I hope I can attribute that to my practice of panning with the long lens the day before. Today I didn’t go out but we had a great air show right here at home. When the noise of plane engines filled the air we knew they all took finally off for the Air Venture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. What a display! I counted 27, flying all together in formations of four, as they had practiced during the last few days. Today’s photos are all from Saturday afternoon at the airport. I hope you enjoy!

All images: Nikon D750, Sigma 150-600mm / f5-6.3 DG OS HSM S


During the last couples days the sound of propeller driven airplanes over the house made me aware that it is the time of the year again when pilots with their historical planes get ready and practice for the big airshow next week in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. This evening I went out to the Dubuque Regional Airport and tried to make some clicks. I have done this before during other years and although I’m not really into aviation photography I enjoy these airplanes and take this opportunity for practice of handholding skills with the heavy long lens attached to camera. My keeper rate wasn’t very good today and I hate to come up with tons of excuses, but it was pretty much the lack of practice of my handholding capabilities.

As mentioned in other blog posts over the years before, I like to tell the story of motion with these airplanes and aim for a blurred prop. The only way to get this kind of shot is to stick with a slow shutter speed, means between 1/60 s and 1/200 s. The T6’s flew in formations of four and this was my favorite shot of this evening. But wait, there was some bird present at the observation deck of the airport that I haven’t seen in a long time. But hey, this is for another blog post… 😉


“De Immigrant” Windmill, Fulton, Illinois

Yesterday, at the turn around point of my trip along the Mississippi River, in the city of Fulton, IL, I stopped at the Dutch windmill that was built on a flood control dike. “De Immigrant” was fabricated by native millwrights in the Netherlands and shipped to Fulton, Illinois. It was assembled in 1999 and grinding of wheat, buckwheat, rye, and cornmeal started in 2001. It is a great attraction but the mill and the Windmill Cultural Center were closed for the season.

I arrived about 45 minutes before sunset and it was immediately clear that I had to use the warm sunlight on the backside of the mill for my photo. The color contrast between the windmill and the dark blue sky worked well, but the thin hazy clouds didn’t nearly create the drama as I finally found in the black & white version. It was important to have an eye on all the lines and geometrical shapes the wings, ropes, and structure create. I made other images, showing more of the windmill building, but this close-up shot at 24 mm made for a stronger picture, at least in my books…

If you like to read more about the windmill, here is a link: https://mississippiriver.natgeotourism.com/content/de-immigrant-windmill/mspe125a382cb0d9770e


Queen of the Mississippi, Dubuque, Iowa

The tip came from Pamela, the Communications Manager of the Dubuque Camera Club. I'm thankful she let us know that two Mississippi river boats were heading north and would be today in the port of Dubuque, Iowa. The time window is not very long before they head south again and so I went to town in the morning, shortly after the “Queen of the Mississippi” had arrived. Not the best light for photographing such beautiful river boats but it was still workable. I have photographed the “Twilight” before but the “Queen of the Mississippi” was a first. Back in the port this evening, both boats were gone but the quality of light was so much better…



AT-6, ready for takeoff

The Air Venture 2018 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin is already over since yesterday and I’m still posting photos from the practice that took place a week earlier at the Dubuque Regional Airport… Business travel and other circumstances prevented me to work on my pictures last week, but hey, here are still a few shots! I’m not really deep into aviation photography but historic aircrafts have an appeal to me and I admire the people that keep them flying. You may ask, why didn’t you post more pictures of flying planes this time? As already mentioned in my post from July 22nd, we had an ugly gray overcast on Sunday. This was OK for shooting the aircrafts on the ground because of the soft light, but when you have gray clouds without any texture the same rule as in wildlife photography applies, never photograph a bird in flight…

P-51D Mustang

Slow shutter speed is key for having all props spinning


Another photo from yesterday’s shooting at the Dubuque Airport. This little helicopter flew by several times at the new observation deck. As already mentioned, I was there for the clouds, but having a flying object in the frame may change the subject. Well, the picture is still about the clouds for me, the helicopter just adds scale to the image. Other than that, shooting aircrafts is always a great exercise for birds-in-flight-photography.


February 18, 2018

On February 18, 2018 I crossed for the first time the new bridge over the Mississippi River between Sabula, Iowa and Savannah, Illinois. I thought it was interesting to see both, the old truss bridge and the new one, side by side and so I stopped and made a few clicks. Since around 10:30AM today the same picture cannot be made anymore because the old bridge was demolished and imploded with a big BOOM and clouds of smoke and sits now in the river. I read that cutting apart the remains started immediately and the pieces will be transported away by barges.

I didn’t really plan to publish this photo here in the blog. I was a little sloppy while taking the picture, not paying enough attention to the details around the edges and a different view point would have been probably better. After reviewing my photos on the computer screen I thought even about going back and shoot it again. Well, it is too late now…😏

Below are a couple pictures I took almost three years ago when I heard for the first time that the old truss bridge will be replaced. I even wrote a blog post about it. http://www.exnerimages.net/blog/2015/4/7/mississippi-river-stories-2015-5

It’s good to have these images!

April 5, 2015


Tugboat SUSAN L, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

We saw the tow and tugboats in the warm light of the late afternoon sun while driving over one of the bridges that cross the Sturgeon Bay Canal and we rushed down to the pier immediately. I reminded myself of a quote by famous photographer Jay Maisel, I found in his book IT’S NOT ABOUT THE F-STOP some time ago: “Never go back. Shoot it now. When you come back, it will always be different.”

I think that was such a moment. It was our last day in Door County, Wisconsin, and who knows when we will be there the next time. The boats might be gone or replaced by new boring models. I’m sure the setting sun hits them from that angle only during a short time of the year. There are many variables that come together for this photo. I’m glad we stopped.


I went back to the Dubuque Airport on Saturday. The pilots used a different runway for starts and landings, far away from the observation point of the Dubuque airport, and out of reach for a decent photo. I drove on a small gravel road that leads to the end of the runway and tried my luck again. I arrived there just in time to watch three P-51D’s taking off.

Most of the T-6’s trained in formations of four for the AirVenture in Oshkosh and when they come in for landing the photographer gets four chances in a row for a picture. I missed a few but I like this shot because I pre-visualized where I wanted to make the click, right between the two clouds.

When I took this photo I didn’t really know what I had in front of my lens. This is ‘Doc’, one of only two flying B-29’s in the world. If one of my valued blog readers is interested in the amazing story about this airplane and its restoration, here is the link: http://www.airspacemag.com/history-of-flight/restoration-doc-flies-again-180960367/


Last week the noise of airplane engines around here reminded me that the big EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin is coming up next week. As always during the last years the Dubuque Airport hosts a number of WWII airplanes and their crews to prepare for the air shows.

Aviation photography is not really my main interest but I always like to use this opportunity to practice handholding of the camera and long lens. The same skills used for shooting a moving airplane can be used in wildlife photography. All the airplanes have propeller engines and the only way to get a full circle of the prop is to shoot with about 1/60 s exposure time. This is easier said than done and the amount of garbage I have produced was much higher than during any other time of the year. Friday evening the planes used the landing strip near the observation point at the airport and this allowed for a number of pictures that filled the frame without any significant cropping. More to come…

All images: Nikon D750, Sigma 150-600mm / f5-6.3 DG OS HSM Sports Lens, @ 1/60 s


The old chair, Farm in northwest Iowa, December 2016 ----------------

If there is one place where I like to wander around and scan the surroundings for remains of history or traces of light that may tell a story, it is the farm in northwest Iowa where my wife Joan grew up and that is operated still today by her brother Don and his wife Shelly. The morning of Christmas Eve, when there was snow on the ground and hoarfrost on bushes and trees, I went out with the camera and just did what I always like to do in this place, walk slowly around and look for photo opportunities…


Regional Airport, Dubuque, Iowa

On Monday starts the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, an annual gathering of aviation enthusiasts from all over the world with more than 10,000 aircraft. The week before the North American Trainer Association (NATA) has a gathering at the Regional Airport in Dubuque, Iowa and many of their T-6’s can be seen every year. I was at the airport Friday evening and yesterday afternoon but because of weather (we had a tornado warning yesterday) all aircraft were just parked on the tarmac.

This morning I had a chance to point my lens at some of the T-6’s and a P-51D as they finally took off and headed to Oshkosh for the big airshow next week. I shot between 1/100s and 1/125s because I wanted the prop of the planes blurred. With a hazy blue sky in the back it is not so easy to communicate fast motion but the blurred prop tells the story.

You may ask, why do you shoot aircraft as a wildlife and nature photographer? First, I have a deep respect for those who keep these old airplanes flying. They are part of our history and I believe it is important to keep it alive for the younger generation. Second, it is a great practice for shooting a moving subject and I’m certain that my wildlife photography can benefit from. And third, most old aircraft have an esthetic appeal to me, like many other historic master pieces of engineering.


I took a break from writing here in the blog for a week and there was a good reason for. Joan and I attended the wedding of Joan’s daughter Ellen and her husband Danny this weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada. No, I didn’t shoot the wedding, the wedding photographer they hired knew what he was doing and however his images will turn out, they will be better than what I can contribute to an event like that.

I haven’t been in Vegas since 19 years and of course, much has changed. It is still the city of endless fake to me but it also has a fascination that sets it apart from any place I have traveled to in my life. We had some time to explore the city and these are some of the photos I came up with.

It was a photographer friendly weekend in Las Vegas, with great clouds and even some rare rain. All what the lady at the wedding chapel had to say about it to me was, I don’t even own an umbrella…

Fake everywhere you look in Vegas. The indoor copy of the Grand Canal of Venice is fascinating but at the same time just mind-boggling for someone who was born in Europe…

You may used to see wildlife photos in my blog but all “wildlife” I can show you from this trip are the flamingos who had their own habitat in the gardens of our hotel… More to come, so please stay tuned.


Today’s post is not so much about the endeavor to make a high quality photo but about our history and the desire to learn about it. Just outside of Badlands National Park is the Minuteman Missile National Historical Site. Part of it, and just a few miles down the Interstate to the west, is the former launching site and silo, Delta-09, for a Minuteman II nuclear missile.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site was established in 1999 to preserve two Minuteman II Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) sites: Launch Control Facility Delta-01 and a corresponding underground Launch Control Center and Launch Facility (Missile Silo) Delta-09. Minuteman Missile is the first national park unit specifically designated to commemorate the Cold War. From 1963 until the early 1990s, Missile Silo Delta-09 contained a fully operational Minuteman Missile, bearing a 1.2 megaton nuclear warhead. The Delta-09 missile silo was one of 150 spread across western South Dakota. In total there were 1,000 Minuteman's deployed from the 1960's into the early 1990’s. In 1991 as the Cold War was coming to an end, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) was signed by US President George H.W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. Both sides agreed to dramatically reduce their nuclear arms. The missile in the silo is unarmed today but it was armed with a W-56 warhead of 1.2 megatons of explosive force. That destructive power is equivalent to one-third of all the bombs used during World War II, including both atomic bombs. (source: National Park Service brochure and website)

Joan and I use every opportunity to go into visitor centers or museums beside the nature adventures during our trips. This one left quite an impression on us and delivered lots of information to talk about and to digest. From a human standpoint, what a waste of resources on both sides of the political landscape and understandable only in the context of history. After I was discharged from the military more than 36 years ago in East Germany, I would never have dreamed about that I ever would look into the silo of an American nuclear missile…

Everybody can probably make these two shots with their smartphones. The glass that covers the silo these days returns some reflections but we get the idea. The second photo shows the glass covered silo and in the foreground we can see the steel and concrete cover of the Ultra High Frequency antenna that allowed to launch the missile from an airborne command in case the control centers were destroyed already by a Soviet nuclear attack...

During our ongoing travels we discovered two more former missile silos. We would not have recognized it as such in the middle of grassland and prairie without the visit at the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site…