Imagine a Christmas Eve day in Iowa on which the temperature reached the mid-fifties and all of your shopping and Christmas preparation is done. That's precisely the situation I found myself in a couple of days ago so my daughter and I decided it was a perfect time to visit Palisades Kepler State Park for some photography and a hike. I packed up the Canon camera, a couple of lenses, and my Manfrotto tripod and we hit the road around midday.
Upon arrival, we soon realized that Palisades-Kepler is a gorgeous park, nestled along the Cedar River in Mt. Vernon, Iowa minutes from Cedar Rapids. The trails at the park lead through 840 acres of trees, up and down ravines and bluffs, along the river, and though we didn't see it on this occasion I'm sure an abundance of wildlife. This scenic state park is a favorite for many eastern Iowa portrait photographers, especially those in the Cedar Rapids area. All the chatter and shared images on one of the Facebook photography groups I'm a member of confirmed that during the fall season of 2019. Fall is the busiest time of year for many family and senior photographers.
We parked by the lodge, which unfortunately had been recently vandalized, and began our day walking down a moderately steep ravine that led to an area in the river that used to be a dam but has now deteriorated into hazardous rapids. After briefly exploring this rocky area in the river we ventured east along the river and found a ravine with a small frozen creek leading through the trees. The icy white creek stood out in stark contrast to the leave covered forest floor and as such, it grabbed our attention. It was here I found the first composition of the afternoon to photograph. Seen below, this photo is for sale in our Iowa landscape photography gallery. Available as a metal print or metal print on barn wood in the following sizes: 8x12, 12x18, 16x24, 24x36.
From there we ventured back to the trail along the river heading west until we saw a beach with waterfowl in the flowing river nearby. One of the birds in the river was much larger than the Canadian geese that were also nearby. It was there that I decided to put on my 70-200mm and tried to creep up as close as possible to get a shot. From a long distance, I couldn't identify the bird but it was obvious that it was not a goose. As I got closer I identified it as a swan and was able to capture a photo of it as it swam on the opposite side of the river.
We continued along the riverside trail past some ancient rock structures and back up one of the hills to an overlook. From this overlook, you could see upriver. A little out of breath from the climb up we gathered ourselves and enjoyed the beautiful scenery and warm weather before we decided to head back down the trail.
On our way back downriver, while heading back to our car, the light began to change as it was getting later in the day. We were back along the beach area and I noticed reflections on the calm water that I hadn't seen initially on our way through. The rock structures and the colors reflecting made an interesting Iowa landscape photo, my favorite of the day. This photo is available for sale in my Iowa landscape photography gallery and would look amazing printed on metal. Available as a metal print or metal print on barn wood in the following sizes: 8x12, 12x18, 16x24, 24x36.
The daylight was beginning to fade and the cold air was overcoming the warmth that we had throughout the afternoon so we decided to call it a day at Palisades Kepler. This is an Iowa state park that I will visit over and over again for photography and hiking. I also have this park listed as an option for family and senior photography sessions. It's a special park, as are many Iowa state parks, and I can't wait until I'm back there again.