Pictures Of 2015


One blog post a week. That was my goal for the year as 2016 started.

Ahem. It’s now Groundhog Day, and this is my first post of the year. “Getting back in the habit” is harder than you might think. Anyway, before it recedes too far in the rearview, here’s a look back at 2015, in the form of some of my favorite pictures that I took during the year.

With all of these pictures, a click on the thumbnail on this page will open a larger version of the picture in a new tab.

IMG_2779In February, my work took me to Birmingham, Ala., for a meeting of the Inland Waterways Users Board. After I got there, I had some time to walk around the city, and I went to see the 16th Street Baptist Church, which was bombed by the Klan in 1963. I didn’t tour the church, but across the street is a park with this sculpture and a series of other sculptures that depict the civil rights battles in Birmingham. Very moving and definitely something to see if you’re in the area.

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While there, the board toured two locks and dams on the Black Warrior River: Oliver L&D on the left, and Holt L&D on the right. Even though they’re only a few miles apart, they’re vastly different structures, as you can see. In between, we got a lunchtime tour of the University of Alabama football stadium, which was a real treat, even for this non-Crimson Tide fan.

IMG_4861In April, we had a “Cousins Reunion” in St. Louis, with members of my dad’s side of the family. I had a lot of fun catching up with folks I hadn’t seen in years, or even decades. In this picture, my dad, at age 94, talks on Facetime for the first time in his life, chatting with another cousin who wasn’t able to make the trip to St. Louis.


This is our youngest son Andrew, all dressed up to go to the prom. As usual, he wasn’t really really liking having his picture taken. He didn’t go to the Webster Groves prom, but the one for Kirkwood, where his girlfriend went to school. Andrew later graduated from Webster Groves High School, closing the books on the fourth generation of Mahanays/Shoulbergs to go there.


In May, I got a new camera, a Canon 70D, to replace my 9-year-old 350D. I’m loving it. The first evening, I went over to Tilles Park to capture this sunset, and this duck swimming in the lake. The next morning, a photo trip to the Zoo, where I captured the butterfly below, and then to the new sculpture park in Webster Groves for the splash of purple. (If anyone can name either of those species, let me know in the comments below.)


IMG_0679A few days later, I took my new camera down to Sister Marie Charles Park in South St. Louis to try to get some good barge/towboat pictures. Not much luck with the barges and boats, but as I was walking back toward my car I nearly stepped on this little guy, peering up from the weeds next to the sidewalk. I tried to get a shot of him flicking his tongue at me, but he only brought out the tongue when I put my camera down. Otherwise, he was very cooperative.

IMG_1978Later in June, we got a proper vacation and went to Michigan City, Indiana for a week. Readers of this blog have seen probably pictures of this lighthouse before, but I particularly liked this shot of the sun setting while the waves crashed against the breakwater.IMG_3008

In August, we were back in Michigan City, and, one day on the beach, I decided to caucus with the seagulls to try to get some pictures; they’re generally good models, as long as you don’t get TOO close. Purely by chance, I got this one flying in formation with its shadow. One of those shots you never know you got until you download the pictures to your computer.

IMG_3243Later in August, there was another Inland Waterways Users Board meeting. On the first day, the board toured Chickamauga Lock in Chattanooga, Tenn. After the tour, and before driving to Nashville for the “meeting” part of the meeting the next day, I went a little south to another Chickamauga: the Civil War battlefield in Georgia. I did a lot of reading about the Civil War in 2015, so I wanted to see where at least some of the action took place.

If we’re going to go in chronological order, and I guess we are, I must direct you now to the picture of the coneflowers at the top of this post. They are in City Garden in downtown St. Louis, with the Arch in the background, shot through a 10mm lens. For more pictures from that day, click here.

IMG_3329In September I took part in a Mississippi River cleanup with Living Lands & Waters, along with a dozen or so of my colleagues from work. It was hard work, but also incredibly fun, and I hope we can do it again this year. You can read more about it, and see more pictures, here.

IMG_3932This was a close one. In December, I was in New Orleans for the International Workboat Show. During a lunch break, I went out onto the balcony on the Riverwalk to get some pictures of the river. Somehow, apparently a barge got loose and the towboats were chasing it down, while a cargo ship was bearing down on them. As you can see, they managed to miss each other, but, at least from where I was standing, it was by the narrowest of margins. Here is a crop of the same photo.

IMG_4036Christmas Eve. This is our oldest son, Jim, with his two sugar gliders. They were the hit of the party.


And finally, New Year’s Eve. After I finished up the day’s—and the year’s—work, I drove over to East St. Louis for some last pictures of 2015. After a bizarre weekend of unseasonably heavy rain, the rivers had been pushed up to flood stage. In St. Louis, I believe it was the second- or third-highest crest ever, and in December, which was previously unheard of. The crest was right about when this picture was taken. Strange times.


Pictures Of 2012

Another year, another folder for my computer photo archive. Here are some of my favorite shots from the year 2012. You know the drill — you can click on any of these shots for a larger view.


Two of my favorite photographic subjects are right here in this picture: the “Captains Return” statue of Lewis & Clark on the St. Louis Riverfront, and the Gateway Arch. I’ve taken pictures of the Lewis & Clark sculpture at varying river levels over the years, and when the river dropped to 4.25 feet in late February, I took the opportunity to go get a shot when I thought it was as low as I was going to see in a while. (I was wrong; the river stayed remarkably low throughout the year, and at this writing it’s at minus 4.4 feet.)

A few weeks after I took this picture, the river had fallen some more, and I went down early one morning to try and get a picture at an even lower gauge. But when I got there, I discovered that there was a man, apparently homeless, sleeping on the river side of the statue. I’m just not enough of a photojournalist—or maybe too much of a human being—to take that picture.


Another early-morning excursion produced what was one of my favorite series of photos from the year. The surface of the Gateway Arch is smooth enough to be highly reflective, but just rough enough to scatter any sunlight that hits it. And at sunrise, on the right day, the sunlight is bright orange. The combination of those two phenomena, viewed from the right angle, makes it looks like the Arch is ablaze. I had a lot of fun walking around and under it that morning.

Near year-end, I went to East St. Louis to try to capture the flaming-Arch view from the Illinois side of the river, thinking that maybe I could capture the whole structure in reflected bright orange. Alas, the angles weren’t right—the sun was actually a little too far south. I’ll try again in the spring, but upon further consideration I think it still might not work because the angles of the Arch itself won’t reflect directly across the river. But I’ll find out.

IMG_5613In early June, we went to Michigan City, Ind., for a long weekend of multiple colorful sunsets over Lake Michigan. This is one of them. I don’t know that group of people on the beach, but they fit quite well in front of the setting sun.

So did this seagull.

IMG_5751June also brought the wedding in Cincinnati of our niece. I snapped this picture just after the priest had introduced the couple as husband and wife, and they were beginning their walk back up the aisle.

I love the expressions of pure joy and love on everybody’s faces, particularly the priest’s.

IMG_6249Late July/early August: Back to Michigan City, and another seagull (or perhaps the same one.) This is actually one of my favorite pictures of the year, just because of the colors of the lake water behind the gull, and how they blend together and complement the sand and the bird in the foreground.


Meet Chop. Chop is my brother’s dog, and he joined us at Tilles Park in Ladue, Mo., one Tuesday night in August for “Food Truck Tuesday,” a relatively new event at which we quickly became regulars. If my own dogs read this, I hope they won’t feel hurt that I’m highlighting a picture of Chop and not of them, but who could resist this look on his face? Also, Chop is a much better-behaved dog than either of ours.


A big ribbon, and a big pair of scissors. That’s our neighbors, who got the honor of supplying the props for the grand reopening celebration of the Rock Hill Public Library in September.

I was on the library’s Board of Trustees for nine years, and now am on the library’s fledgeling “Friends” group, and for years and years we tried to find the library a new home. After the previous home—in the former City Hall building—was razed to make room for a retail development, the library was forced to pay rent in a strip mall for several years, before finally finding a building it was able to buy. A lot of sweat and tears went into finding a new home, and in 2012, they finally made it work. The new place, in the former MAB Paints building on Manchester Road, is bright, clean and relatively large inside, compared to how it looks from the outside.


In October, we went to the Montelle Winery near Augusta, Mo., with some of Jean’s friends. There’s probably no better way to spend a fall day in eastern Missouri than to visit one of the state’s wineries along the Missouri River. Montelle is high on a hill, with an overlook that lets you see miles of landscape. The wine’s not too bad, either.


Here’s a work in progress. This is the new Mississippi River Bridge, which will—when it opens in 2014—carry I-70 across the river. You can view the construction from a nice vantage point on the bike path that runs along the river. Every few months I hike up there during my lunch hour to get an update on the progress. It’s going to be pretty cool when it’s finished.


Autumn in St. Louis. I snapped this picture on another lunchtime walk, to City Garden … although it could be almost anywhere. Bokeh is the word photographers use for that blurred background, produced by using a wide-open aperture and/or a telephoto lens. It’s a beautiful effect, and one of the chief advantages of using a single-lens reflex (SLR, or, if it’s digital, DSLR) camera.


This dude is a Red Panda, one of the many, many attractions at the St. Louis Zoo. At least once or twice a year, I try to go to the zoo in the morning to get shots of the animals while few other people are around. This year, more than ever before, I saw a lot of other people with nice cameras doing the same thing, which was pretty cool. I’d never noticed the Red Panda before (and although I said “dude,” I’m actually not sure of the gender, so I apologize if I offended anybody); there’s always a surprise or some beautiful and previously unseen creature there. This crane, for instance. It’s all happening at the zoo.

IMG_7535Thanksgiving Day, and we were back in Michigan City. Fortunately for Andrew and his cousin Sydney, the temperature was in the 60s, so when they took the dare to go swimming in Lake Michigan, it wasn’t bitter, bitter cold for them. Still pretty darn cold though. The next day brought a cold front and wind chills in cryogenic territory, so it’s lucky they went when they did.

IMG_7566On one of our last evenings in Michigan City, after that cold front came through, I took a walk down toward the deserted beach for some “golden hour” photos. Personally, I prefer the hours around sunrise, but the time around sunset is great for taking pictures as well. The low angle of the sun really helps bring out the colors of the sand dunes and the November flora.

IMG_0017I have a new toy. For Christmas I received this little camera, which is going to travel with me wherever I go in 2013. It can cram 16 megapixels into each picture, twice as many as my regular camera, and yet it’s smaller than a cell phone. But most importantly, it’ll allow me to capture a lot of shots I’ve otherwise missed because I didn’t want to carry around my big and (relatively) bulky camera with me. (This picture was taken in a mirror, and yes, it was “flipped” so you could read the lettering, if you so choose.)

I’m hardly a pro photographer and I don’t aspire to be one. But I do enjoy capturing images of life as it happens, and I hope you find one or two shots you like among the pictures I post here once in a while. Cheers.


Previous years:

Pictures Of 2011

Pictures Of 2010

Same Kids, Different Trees

If ever there were a blog post that didn’t need any explanation, this would be it. Except, perhaps, to say, in order, Jim, Mike and Andrew.















Merry Christmas from Shoulblog!


Previous Shoulblog Christmas messages:

A Christmas Card (2010)

“You Are Welcome Here” (2011)

The Arch At Sunrise

Spring Break for my family meant that I could leave home early this morning; a clear sky meant that I was able to do something I’ve never done before, which is to stroll around the Gateway Arch grounds at sunrise.

It was a combination of my favorite photographic subject and my favorite time of day.

Click on the thumbnails below for some of the results.