Tag Archives: photography

Finally, flowers bloom!

May 16, 2013


FlowersSeems like we have waited forever for spring to arrive this year. Less than two weeks ago, snow covered portions of southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin. And, on May 5, I walked through a snow-covered field to turkey hunt near Ellsworth, Wis.

Now, things are finally greening up, and I’m seeing the first flower blooms of the year. It’s a very welcome sight! As I was walking past the Cathedral on my way back to the office the other day, I spotted some flowers in the Cathedral courtyard.

Naturally, I pulled out my camera and zoomed in on the splashes of pink in front of me. Taking in the scene definitely put a smile on my face.

With the heat we’ve had this week, leaves on the trees have popped fast. Just a week ago, the trees were bare. Now, we’re near full foliage. With green as my favorite color, this is a beautiful display, indeed.

It also will be very helpful next week when I go turkey hunting during Minnesota’s final season. The H Season starts on Friday, May 24. The foliage will help conceal me so that I can move in closer on birds. That always helps.

And, hopefully, the hens will be done laying their clutches of eggs and will be sitting on their nests. They lay one egg a day up to about 15 or 16, then sit on their nests to incubate their eggs almost round the clock. The first few days this happens, the toms are actively cruising for hens and can be very eager to come to a call.

That’s what I’m hoping for. Eventually, their excitement will fade, but I’m hoping it will last into the H Season. In a normal year, the toms are more subdued by this time, but still have some interest in breeding. This year, they may be far more active, making Season H perhaps the best season of the entire spring!

Originally, I was going to hunt Season E down near Cannon Falls. But, that didn’t work out. So, I called the landowners of the two adjoining properties I was planning to hunt, and asked them if I could switch to Season H. Thankfully, both of them said yes.

Although you can buy the tags over the counter for Seasons E through H, and there is no limit to the amount of tags the DNR will offer, I think there will be fewer hunters in the woods, especially for Season H.

Generally, once fishing season opens, people put away their shotguns and bows, and pick up their fishing rods. I understand that, as I used to do the same thing. But, I have discovered in recent years that turkey hunting can be good in May. And, the fishing season goes a long time, so there is plenty of time to wet a line after my hunt is done.

So, starting next Friday, I will take to the woods in search of a nice gobbler. To me, there’s no better way to enjoy spring!

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Winter photography can be beautiful

December 20, 2012

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CathedralWhen the first major snowfall happened more than a week ago, I got a great photo opp the next day without having to go much farther than the door of my office.

Fortunately, I work right next door to the Cathedral, and late in the day I happened to go outside to give someone a CD with photos.

I looked up and saw a crisp blue sky and some striking clouds over the dome of the Cathedral. I quickly went inside and grabbed my camera. I stepped out onto the sidewalk of our building on Dayton Avenue and started snapping away. It didn’t take long – only about 10 minutes. I was able to capture some beautiful images of the Cathedral, which once again confirmed that winter has a unique beauty worth recording.

IMG_0329Another bonus was a thick blanket of snow on some tree branches in the Cathedral courtyard. I got a few photos of that, too. I’m sure we can use those photos. Don’t be surprised if you see one or two published in the coming months.

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Touring Amish country

July 3, 2012

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As my wife Julie and I drove westward on Highway 44 toward the southeastern Minnesota town of Mabel, we saw a most unfamiliar sight on this back-c0untry road – a black, horse-drawn buggy.

We were in Amish country. After slowing down and circling widely around the buggy, we continued on our way to St. Olaf Catholic Church for 10 a.m. Mass.

The liturgy celebrated by the parish’s new pastor, Father Shawn Haremza, was a nice way to cap our 15th wedding anniversary celebration. It began with a nice drive down Highway 52 toward Lanesboro the day before. We stayed at a very nice bed and breakfast in Harmony, just about 10 miles from Lanesboro, called the Selvig House. It is owned by Carol and Ralph Beastrom, who not only are gracious hosts, but fabulous cooks!

Our appearance on their front doorstep was an answer to prayer. On Friday, Julie had been doing research on the Lanesboro area and was interested in spending the weekend there. But, most of the B&Bs in town were booked. By the time I left in the evening to pick up our daughter Claire from a friend’s house in Apple Valley, Julie was discouraged about her search for lodging.

So, I said a simple prayer as I drove southward on 35E: “Lord, you can make something out of nothing. Please help Julie and I find a nice place to stay.”

On the way down, I stopped at an outdoor archery range for some practice with my bow. Then, about 9 p.m., I headed to Apple Valley. I got to talking about our weekend plans with the parents of Claire’s friend, who perked up when I mentioned Lanesboro.

“That’s where we went for our honeymoon!” the mom replied. She said she and her husband stayed at the Selvig and really enjoyed it. The town of Harmony is quieter than Lanesboro, they said, but close enough to take advantage of everything this small tourist town has to offer.

On the drive back home, I decided to call the Selvig. I figured I would get an answering machine and planned on leaving a message, hoping for a call back on Saturday morning. Instead, Carol picked up and said they had vacancies.

In fact, all four of the rooms were open. She said we could come down and look at them, then pick the one we liked.

Praise God! What an answer to prayer. And, this fit in perfectly with Sunday’s Gospel passage from Mark, in which Jesus raised the daughter of a synagogue official, Jairus, from the dead. His words to Jairus were, “Do not be afraid; just have faith.”

Sometimes, it is so simple. Just bring our requests to the Lord and believe. Father Haremza, who originally is from the Twin Cities, echoed that sentiment in his homily, exhorting those inside the small church to act on Jesus’ words.

For us, the weekend seemed to be about simplicity – the landscape, the small towns, and, especially, the Amish lifestyle.

We found that both appealing and refreshing. There are a number of Amish tours in the area, and we took one out of Harmony. The guide got into our van and we made a loop just east of town. We visited a number of farms and got to talk to some Amish folks. Unfortunately, they do not allow photos of themselves to be taken, so I had to leave my camera in the van for most of the tour, which was painful.

But, we got to visit two different farms where furniture is made and sold. The craftsmanship was remarkable – and each piece was made of 100 percent, natural wood. The Amish find trees locally, have them cut down and brought to an Amish sawmill, where planks are cut and kiln dried.

After seeing so much beautiful furniture, I couldn’t help but dream of buying some. For about $1,500, you can have a gorgeous red oak dining room table.

For sure, the way to get the best price is to buy directly from the Amish. There are stores that sell their stuff, but there is some hefty markup involved.

I think it would be fun to go down again and do some serious furntiture shopping. Perhaps, in the fall, we can drive there to see the colors change, then take home a table or dresser.

I wonder: Do the Amish sell scratch-and-dent furniture?

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Blossoms are bursting early

April 19, 2012


Lilacs like these are blooming right now!

The calendar says April, but the blossoms on the trees say May. Just within the last few days, I have noticed lilacs and crabapple blossoms popping up all over town. So, I stopped for just a few minutes the other day to record them with my camera.

It didn’t take long. In the same block, I shot a beautiful crabapple tree, then simply crossed the street to photograph the lilacs. With beautiful sunlight illuminating them, I couldn’t miss.

I don’t ever recall lilacs blooming in April. In fact, as recently as last year, they didn’t bloom until the second half of May. So, they came a month earlier this year.

I have been nervous that this could mean an incredibly hot summer, but temperatures this week have plunged back down to normal, or even a little below. So, I’m feeling a little more at ease. I don’t like high heat and humidity, and I don’t think it’s certain if we’ll have that this summer.

I also don’t like extreme heat now because it can shut down the activity of the wild turkey, which I will be hunting this spring starting May 2. Still not sure how much the breeding will be ahead of schedule due to the early and warm spring. The males certainly were raring to go early, but biologists say hens don’t necessarily breed and lay eggs earlier. That has more to do with the amount of daylight.

The key for my hunt will be whether or not the hens have finished laying their eggs and spend most of their time sitting on nests. This is the time to hunt because the toms start moving around looking for hens and gobbling more intensely. I hit that time period right last year, and hope to do so again this year.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy the spring flower and blossom show!

Q: What’s your favorite spring sight?

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Easter photos? Let’s see ’em!

April 9, 2012


This blurry snapshot from 1963 brought back memories of an Easter Sunday long ago — me and my sisters posing with Grandma W. after Mass.

I think that white tie was the same one I wore for my First Communion four years earlier!

Love the cars in the background.

And how about those Chicago three-flats?

Love Grandma’s hat! A brother-in-law, with just a quick glance at this picture this week, thought it was a priest standing behind us kids.!

And then there is this pic from then annual egg hunt this year in Grandpa Z’s backyard.

Ahh, to be six-years-old on Easter!

So how about you?

Got a great photo from Easter this year?

Send it to zyskowskir@archspm.org and I’ll post as many as the webmaster will allow right here on the Spirit Blog on http://www.CatholicHotdish.com.

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A fun night of hockey

March 12, 2012


Junior forward Grant Besse scores a goal against Hill-Murray in the state Class AA boys hockey finals March 10 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Little did I know what was in store when I took my place atop a small platform inside the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul for the state Class AA boys hockey championship game featuring Benilde-St. Margaret’s and Hill-Murray on Saturday.

I had hoped to grab a spot in the area where I had been for the Class A finals between St. Thomas Academy and Hermantown. I sat next to a veteran hockey shooter, Mike Thill of Let’s Play Hockey, and had a great time shooting side by side with him and witnessing the Cadets make it two in a row in the state finals against Hermantown. Last year, they fell behind early, played catchup and won in overtime. This year, it was St. Thomas who staked an early lead. But, unlike last year, the early leader did not falter, and the Cadets dominated the entire game and won, 5-1.

I thought arriving an hour early for the AA game in the evening would be plenty of time to secure one of the four chairs in front. But, I was wrong. They were all taken. So, I hustled to the other side of the arena and grabbed the only chair on that side.

With plenty of time to kill, I struck up a conversation with several BSM fans seated directly in front of the platform I was on. Turned out two of them were Grant Besse’s grandparents, Bill and Jane Collien. They were decked out in the school’s red and white colors, and noted they had a chance to go to California on vacation. But, a gut feeling about their grandson’s team had them changing their minds about going out of town.

“We stayed home to come to the state tournament,” Bill said, noting he and Jane had been to all but one of the Red Knights’ games this season. “This is the year they have a chance to go [all the way]. They have all the right pieces.”

Turns out, the team had THE one right piece – their grandson. Smiles and high fives were commonplace between the Colliens as they watched Grant score all five of his team’s goals in the game. There were only a couple of rough spots – when Grant went down hard after a check and had to be helped back up, and when BSM senior defenseman Christian Horn took a five-minute major penalty for spearing in the third period. With the Red Knights leading 3-1 at the time, the Pioneers looked to score once and maybe more during the five-minute man advantage.

But, Grant spoiled their plans by getting a shorthanded goal and adding his personal exclamation point on the victory. He then added one more goal to complete the scoring. That gave him eight for the tournament and 52 for the season.

It was fun to witness and photograph. Like I did after the first game, I hustled down to the ice level to shoot celebration photos from the BSM bench. Then, when I was done, I walked by the team’s locker room, where Jack Jablonski was brought in to congratulate the team.

Oh, how I wish I could have gotten inside to take pictures of that! I can only imagine what the celebration must have been like. Hats off to the Red Knights and head coach Ken Pauly for a terrific season.

And, here’s praying that Jabs will keep making progress in his recovery.

Q: What did you enjoy most about this year’s state tournament?

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Enjoying stars, then fresh snow

February 21, 2012


Within the last week, I have been treated to starry skies on my regular 3-mile walk. On one night, in particular, the sky was so clear near my home in St. Paul that I could make out several constellations, not to mention the Big Dipper.

It was a beautiful sight, and one that touched me deeply as I made my way around Highland Golf Course two hours after sunset. I caught a glimpse of God’s infinite creative power, which inspired a biblical writer to proclaim: “The heavens declare the glory of God!”

Then, last night, a different scene unfolded. I walked through freshly falling snow — a rarity this winter. Because of the warm temperatures, the snow stuck to branches and pine needles on my walking route. The glow from the street lights illuminated the snow, and I paused several times to take in the beauty of the wet, sparkling snow.

I came back with my camera this morning to take a few pictures. The snow was melting fast, and I was just in time to catch some clumps hanging on to some pine tree branches.

Light snowfalls that provide a soft, beautiful blanket that melts quickly and doesn’t need to be shoveled away — now that’s my kind of winter!


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Greetings from sunny Minnesota — FYI: It won’t last

January 11, 2012

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For several weeks now on my drive in to work I’ve been seeing this view of the just-risen sun hitting the facade of the Cathedral of St. Paul. I finally stopped, grabbed my camera and tried to save the scene, because after living in Minnesota for 28+ years I know this respite from winter weather isn’t going to continue. Snow forecast in the next 24 hours.

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A fabulous big game hunt in Montana!

November 28, 2011


As the sun dipped to the mountain tops near Great Falls, Mont. on the Friday afternoon after Thanksgiving, I figured it was now “Jesus time.”

We had about an hour of legal shooting time left, then just a few more hours of hunting the next morning before our trip would end with the 15-hour drive back to Minnesota. I had already tagged a whitetail doe, and my son, Andy, was still waiting to fill his buck and elk tags, which he bought as part of a special youth combination license. My son, William, also was waiting to fill his whitetail doe tag after a few close encounters but no shot taken. With time running out, I turned to the Lord and asked for his help to bring some deer our way.

Throughout this  trip, we had seen lots of animals, many of which were on land we couldn’t hunt. Still, it was cool to see so many whitetail and mule deer in the hills, mountains and lowlands of North Central Montana. I was able to shoot some with my camera, including a nice group of muley does with a buck (shown above).

Seems like every year God does something special late in the trip to put smiles on our faces and meat in the freezer. Two years ago, again on the Friday after Thanksgiving, my son, Joe, and I tagged mule deer bucks on the same stalk. Last year, I shot my whitetail doe on the last morning of our trip, and Grandpa Bob Guditis got an elk on the following morning, which was the last day of the rifle season.

So, I was not at all giving up hope as we continued looking for deer in the twilight of this day. In fact, I coined a popular sports phrase when I told Bob we should hunt until the final whistle.

That’s exactly what we did. There was a grassy lowland area near the mountains that is a whitetail magnet. It is a crop field with a double row of trees on the western edge. Because the lowlands are mostly grass, this gives the deer a rare piece of cover.

We have seen deer bedded or standing in the cover many times. In fact, last year we saw a beautiful 10-pointer that Andy came close to getting a shot at. It ran out of some cover and right past Andy at about 100 yards. He was waiting for it to stop or at least slow down, but it did neither. In wide open spaces like these, deer will run a long way before stopping.

We saw the 10-pointer a few days later when my son, Joe, was with me. It was with some does, so we went on a stalk. Because we had only doe tags, we had to leave the 10-pointer alone. Joe ended up getting a nice doe on the stalk. I probably could have gotten one, too, as they ran out of the cover when we approached to get Joe’s deer. Ever since then, we had been wondering if we would see that buck again this year.

Time for a stalk

On our final look at this piece of cover on Friday, Bob spotted some deer just outside the cover and walking in a grass field. Quickly, he saw that one of them was a nice buck. So, Andy grabbed his .308 caliber rifle that Bob had given him, and the stalk began. William joined in, hoping that maybe he could get a shot at a doe.

I tagged along as well, but mostly to carry gear and help William. Andy has been on stalks like this before, so I knew he would do fine on his own. We started on the opposite side of the tree rows from the deer, and walked down the outside row of pine trees toward the deer.

We had gone about 300 yards or so when Andy decided to poke through the trees to see if he could spot the deer. He did, and held his hands out wide to let me know that the buck had a very good-sized set of antlers. That got us all very excited.

He went about another 100 yards, then looked again at the deer. William and I stayed back a little bit so we wouldn’t be seen. Andy then got down on all fours and crawled to the other row of trees, which were only about half the size of the pines. He slipped all the way through, then sat up to a shooting position. At that moment, I made my greatest contribution of the stalk.

Finger on the  trigger

When he was ready, I asked him if he wanted the shooting sticks. He motioned me over, and I belly crawled just a few yards to him and handed him the sticks. I was itching to see the buck, but I stayed in the trees so I wouldn’t spook either the buck or the two does that were with him.

Andy didn’t wait long to put his finger on the trigger. He actually pulled back once without firing, because he had forgotten to take the safety off.

Once he put the gun on fire, he settled in and locked the crosshairs on the buck’s chest. He fired, then I heard the telltale thump of the bullet hitting the deer. The buck wheeled and ran straight away from us. Andy fired again, not sure whether the first shot had found its mark.

The search

After that, we all stood up and I asked Andy what he saw. He said he watched the buck do the classic mule kick after the shot, then run toward the trees. So, we walked the edge of the tree line looking for blood or a fallen deer. We went about 275 t0 300 yards, then decided to duck into the trees.

That was a mistake. There was neither blood nor beast in there, though we scoured the tree lines for another 100 yards or so beyond where we started.

Meanwhile, Bob was back at the truck watching us. He had seen the whole thing, and witnessed a very important part that we all missed — the buck falling 30 yards from where he had been hit.

Trophy found!

So, Bob got out of the truck and made his way toward us to let us know the buck was down. In fact, it never made it to the trees. William spotted it first, then told the rest of us. Turns out, I was only about a step or two away, but I was looking farther ahead.

It was a magnificent buck with a beautiful, wide 10-point rack. We knew instantly this was worthy of mounting, so we made a decision to take it in to a taxidermist in Great Falls. We chose Waylon’s because Bob had used him to mount a black bear he shot a year ago. He also has a butcher shop in the same building, so we could get the meat processed there also.

The look on Andy’s face when he saw the buck was priceless. I think I had more joy than if I had shot the buck. We had a brief celebration and photo shoot, then got busy field dressing the buck. I gladly volunteered for the task, with Andy serving as my assistant. This marks the fifth deer I have field dressed this fall.

Once back at the truck, I performed a very important part of the process — removing the tenderloins. The two oblong pieces of meat near the hind end would look very nice on the grill back home. We have a tradition of grilling the tenderloins within a few days of the hunt. Because Andy was going back to Winona State University Monday morning, we decided to have them on Sunday night right after we returned home from the trip.

 Other good news

It wasn’t just a good trip for us. Jerry Gray, Bob’s son-in-law, shot a  nice eight-point buck during the trip, plus a bonus cow elk on the last  day of the rifle season, which was Sunday.

Due to a lack of snow caused by warm weather, the elk were higher up. So, he hiked to the top of a  small ridge on Bob’s land to gain some altitude. He looked across a draw  and spotted a group of several cows on the other side. He took a 400-yard shot with this .30-06 and hit the animal. After running down the  draw and up the other side, he found blood and, eventually, the elk. It  was still alive, so he took a final shot.

Once again, God blessed us tremendously on this hunt. Not only did we enjoy great food — courtesy of Grandma Sharon, a fabulous cook — but we had some awesome stalks with great results.

Over and over, I have thanked God for his great generosity. So did Grandpa Bob, who responded to my words of gratitude by pointing to our Heavenly Father and noting his abundant blessings.

Thus, during this Thanksgiving — now Advent — season, I think it’s only appropriate to thank God for creating the deer and the elk  and the great habitat that they live in, and to celebrate his vast and unending kindness toward us.

Praise the Lord!


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Checking out shrine in La Crosse

September 12, 2011


I got a chance to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe yesterday in La Crosse, Wis. I went with a group from St. Pius V in Cannon Falls. Leading the trip was Debbie Bauer, who took a group of parish youth from seventh through 12th grade. The shrine and the trip will be featured in an upcoming edition of The Catholic Spirit.

I love driving through the hilly, beautiful river bluff region of southeastern Minnesota and southwestern Wisconsin. They picked a great spot for this shrine, which is nestled in the hills outside  of La Crosse. It was a great way to spend a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon. I got to see everything at the site, including a beautiful church with a giant mosaic of Our Lady of Guadalupe displayed prominently behind the altar.

Our tour group attended Mass in the church, and I even got to go to confession beforehand. I had been wanting to go for a couple of weeks, and this was my chance. There were a lot of Latinos there, many of whom attended a Spanish Mass at 11 a.m.

The grounds were beautiful and laced with many statues and buildings. We took the tour inside the church, but I would have liked to have a guided tour of the whole place. It’s fascinating stuff, and one could easily spend an entire day there. I found myself wanting to come back on a weekday, when it’s quieter and I can take some time for reflection and prayer.

The ideal for me would be to come for several days, take some time for prayer, then go out and bow hunt when I’m done. But, I’m quite certain there’s no hunting allowed on the premises.

A suitable alternative would be to come when the fall colors are peaking and do my shooting with a camera. That, definitely, would be worth the drive!

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