Monthly Archives: June 2012

Leap of Faith in the Wisconsin Dells

I was lucky to get this shot as a German Shepherd makes the leap made famous by Ashley Bennett in his father Henry Hamilton Bennett’s 1886 photograph “Leaping the Chasm at Stand Rock” in the Wisconsin River Dells.

On a recent driving trip through Wisconsin and Michigan, I was reminded in the Wisconsin Dells of how much progress has been made in photographic technology.  Photographers owe a debt to the early innovators, such as nineteenth century Wisconsin photographer Henry Hamilton Bennett.  Bennett originated the concept of photojournalism, invented a stop action shutter (which he called the “snapper”), improved the speed of the chemical exposure process and created other photographic innovations.  His photographs attracted throngs of tourists to the beauty of the sandstone gorges of the Wisconsin River Dells.  (The city of Wisconsin Dells is also now the self-proclaimed Waterpark Capital of the World.)

Bennett is considered one of the top landscape photographers of the 19th century, although I confess I’d never heard of him even though I’ve read a lot of history about photography. So I’m making up for that deficit now.

In 1886, Bennett took his iconic shot of his son Ashley jumping the five and a half feet from Stand Rock to a ledge and back to show how his shutter could freeze action. Ashley had to jump seventeen times before his father thought he had the perfect shot. Some people initially thought the photograph was a trick, because in those days capturing an exposure took a long time, which is why everyone looks so glum in their portraits. They had to stand still, not moving a muscle. Photographic chemicals took a while to react to light. Any part that moved during the long exposure time would be a blur.

In 1886, Ashley Bennett jumps from a ledge to Stand Rock in the Wisconsin River Dells in a demonstration of his father Henry Hamilton Bennett’s new stop action camera shutter. The photograph is called “Leaping the Chasm at Stand Rock.”

When people saw Bennett’s numerous gorgeous shots of the gorge, they swarmed to the Wisconsin Dells, where they could get their own photographs taken as they made the leap. This, after paddling boats to the site, under the direction of a guide.  Eventually, tourist leaps were stopped because of the risk. (Think of the lawsuits!) Now tourists (such as myself) watch a German Shepherd make the leap. You have to be quick to take your own stop-action photograph, because the dog makes the leap only once. I was lucky to get a full-body view as the dog leaped in his return to the ledge. There’s a net below the gap to catch any dog that doesn’t make it, but our guide assured us that no dog has ever fallen. Bennett’s photograph makes the distance from rock to rock look a lot farther. Even so, call me chicken, but I wouldn’t make any leap father than a foot at that height.

Here’s my first attempt to photograph the dog leaping from a ledge to Stand Rock in the Wisconsin Dells. The leap looks scarier in this photograph than in the shot when I captured the entire dog spanning the gap.

There’s plenty more to learn about Bennett, photography and the Wisconsin Dells.   Here are the links. You make the leap.

Wisconsin Dells History and Information.

More about Henry Hamilton Bennett.

The Stand Rock photograph was featured in Terrence Malick’s opening credits of his movie “Days of Heaven.”

Terrence Malick’s blog post featuring Henry Hamilton Bennett’s iconic photograph of his son Ashley jumping to Stand Rock in the Wisconsin Dells.

In the center of this photograph is Chimney Rock, one of the sandstone formations along the Upper Dells of the Wisconsin Dells section of the Wisconsin River.

For a full resolution version click here: Dog Jumping From Stand Rock in Wisconsin Dells.

Dog Jumping from Stand Rock in Wisconsin Dells Poster

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Filed under Photography

Camouflage #Fail

Katydids are usually heard, but not seen. With their leaf-shaped green wings they blend in perfectly with greenery. This katydid didn’t get the memo.

I rarely see katydids, unlike their grasshopper distant relatives, which boldly munch on my flowers and vegetables. Katydids are more reclusive, heard but not often seen.  They are related to crickets, another noisy insect.  Katydids’ green leaf-shaped wings help them to blend in with the greenery. This “katydidn’t” get the memo. He (or she) was resting on the sidewalk, where he definitely didn’t blend in. How long before a hungry bird finds him?

True Katydid.
About the katydid family.

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Filed under Biology

Bite Me!

I’ve been harvesting a small bowl of raspberries every day for more than a week. The first day, I counted four chigger bites. You’d think that would be a warning, but no! Day two, I picked up 100 chigger bites. I’ve finally wised up by wearing bug spray, changing my clothes and scrubbing my skin right after each picking session. A big price to pay, but the raspberries are delicious!

I don’t take my own advice.  Another year of berry picking, another year of chigger bites.  I don’t like to cover myself in chemicals every time I pick a few berries on my raspberry bushes and thought I could handle a few chigger bites as a result of going unprotected.  So much for that flawed plan.  Now, I’m covered in chigger bites. I’m about to go out of my mind with itching, even though I’m taking prednisone and smearing on cortisone cream. So I didn’t avoid chemicals, after all.

This is a chigger, enlarged about 1,500 times. Chiggers are red until they are engorged, when they turn yellow. They feed on our dissolved skin cells, not blood. (Photo — Dr. W. Calvin Webourn, the Ohio State Acarology Laboratory.)

My son claims he doesn’t get chigger bites, or at least he’s not allergic to their bites. The allergic reaction is what causes the welts.  I look as if I have measles! Can’t scientists find a way to make me less tasty or less allergic to chigger bites? Maybe I should have made that my life’s work.  My son is very allergic to poison ivy, though, while I seem to be immune.  Poison ivy has invaded my raspberry bushes, so at least I don’t have to worry about suffering from that scourge. (I’m stopping here to knock on wood.)

This is an earlier post I wrote about my struggle with chiggers. You’ll wonder how I could have forgotten this terrible ordeal and not protected myself.   All about Chiggers.   And being victimized by fire ants Ouch! That Hurts!

Poison ivy flourishes in the berry patch. You can see it in the lower center of the photo. I’ve sprayed it with herbicide. But the poison ivy just grows even more luxuriantly! To add insult to injury, it may even be hosting chiggers.

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Filed under Entomology, Gardening