Thursday, September 22, 2011

Photography in Atchison County

Introducing Megan McAdams, one of our county's most talented photographers. You can find her pictures on ACDC's website, on this blog, and in the Tarkio Avalanche, where she spends her days as Reporter & Photographer. On any given weekend or evening, you can find Megan tromping around our county, capturing life and beauty as only she can.

Most know me as Megan at the Avalanche, but I didn’t always have a camera glued to my hand. Like most of us growing up in Atchison County, our first image-capturing device was our View Master (the children's toy that with a click of the button, would provide images from a Disney movie, etc.) and our first real cameras were disposable. In today’s technologically advanced society, cameras have not only become readily available, but also affordable. We’ve upgraded from cameras you throw away (along with most of your pictures when you get back dark, fuzzy images whose compositions are unrecognizable) to cameras as sleek and shiny as a new penny
that slide just as easily into your pocket when not in use, or big, powerful, fast action beauties with detachable flashes and zoom lenses.

My trigger finger fills up the memory card five times faster than most and my wrist aches from constantly being tilted to hold onto the camera, but man is the pain worth it! Atchison County’s beauty and ever-changing sights (yes, I said “changing”) keep my camera constantly at the ready.
Our rolling hills, luscious fields, crazy wildlife, and adventurous town folk attract my eyes to their sights so that I may capture the view. I (and others like me) not only take in these spectacular visions with our own eyes, but capture the image for the eyes of others. The priority isn’t just seeing, but stopping time and absorbing the view to be able to share it with others through pictures. I am “Photographer” – Hear me click!

Most people just see things for what they are: a smile, a sunset, a nursing calf in the field, a man playing his fiddle, a car traveling down the road. What I see is: a chubby faced cherub with chipmunk cheeks and a toothless grin exploring the wonders of life with the excitement of new discovery radiating off his or her face; streaks of blue, purple, and orange splashed across the sky with a burning orb of gold laying itself beneath the cover of the horizon while illuminating the fields and enhancing the color tones of everything in sight; a baby growing fat with the gift of life from its mother, content to suckle all day and without thought of the dirt and dung caked on its hide; hands so refined that the sounds of angels pour through their fingertips and enter the ears of the listeners, while the musician’s face shows immense devotion to releasing his soul through the bow and strings; and a step back in time as the rare classic, whether dulled with rust or shiny with sunlit polished paint, relives its glory days daring eyes to take another look.

Atchison County provides some of the best scenic views in Missouri. Tarkio Prairie, located east of Westboro, is one beautiful place that most people don’t realize exists. The prairie grasses, trees, ponds, wildflowers, wildlife, and walking trails provide miles of scenic views from dawn to dusk. The trails are always maintained so that hikers may take in the beauty that surrounds them, while not having to cut through weeds to do it. Another gorgeous spot is Charity Lake, located in the northwestern part of Atchison County. Wildlife is quite abundant in this area and almost every time I visit the lake, I see a deer or two, as well as the occasional turkey. I’ve even seen bucks fighting, hitting their antlers together to win a doe. One time, I took a picture of what I thought were beautiful trees and a clearing along Charity Lake’s southern border. Once I downloaded the photo and took a closer look, I realized that I caught a bow hunter standing on his tree stand waiting for a deer to wander past. The bluffs along Rock Port’s western edge also provide some breathtaking views, while looking towards Nebraska, and chances to see wildlife. A person doesn’t even have to travel two miles out of any Atchison County town before they have the chance to see beautiful, tall crops being harvested by gigantic machines occupied by local farmers. Nor does one have to travel far to see old barns that are many, many years old, but have withstood the test of time. Even grain bins, when set in front of the setting sun for example, provide gorgeous shots.

Within the last few years, the landscapes surrounding Tarkio and Rock Port have changed and are now dotted with wind turbines or what most of us call windmills. Though sometimes man-made machines in scenic views create an ugly landscape, these gigantic towers always seems to result in a magnificent portrait of the past and present, especially when a farmer’s old windmill is incorporated in the same photograph with a new wind turbine.

Even fence lines along fields provide great photo opportunities when sunflowers and other wildflowers grow up along their posts or Atchison County birds such as hawks, buzzards, and smaller birds perch on their posts and wires. The MANY creeks, streams, and ponds that weave through the countryside and dot the land provide opportunities for good-eye cameramen/women who spot a blue heron wading for a fish, or a
muskrat swimming to its den, or a turtle sunbathing on a branch sticking out of the water. These are also places that provide a chance to see a deer or coyote that has stopped for a drink. And, let’s not forget our farm animals. Some city folk go their entire lives without ever seeing a cow grazing in a field or a rider sitting atop a horse trotting down a country road. We rural residents tend to forget that we are blessed with these sights of farm life and these animals never cease to provide beautiful and sometimes hilarious photographs.

Tarkio, Westboro, Fairfax, and Rock Port are filled with great shots, such as historical buildings and spectacular homes that have played a major role in our county and have housed over a century of family generations. In Tarkio, the Tarkio College campus, the Manse, the Walnut Inn, the North Polk one room schoolhouse, and many houses that are nearing or are over 100 years old and yet still look good as new. The churches have been around a long time and are some of the most beautiful, rural churches I have ever seen. And one doesn’t have to find a building or house in pristine condition to create a great photo. Dilapidated homes and buildings can capture the change of time (such as Tarkio’s old train depot). The golf course in Tarkio provides great scenic views (as long as you stay clear of golf balls flying through the air) with its many ponds, rolling green hills, white picket fences and beautiful trees. And as crazy as this may sound to some, our cemeteries are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen and also provide some spectacular shots, especially when you capture a photo of one of the oldest tombstones lit by the sun, standing as tall as it did in the beginning. During Memorial Day weekend, the cemetery roads are dotted with the Stars and Stripes and also provide some great views.

Last, but certainly not least, we can’t forget our townsfolk, the peanut butter that holds our county (the bread) together. We create some of the most hilarious and spectacular photos of all, with our daily happenings and our numerous community events. Our townspeople are strong-willed, strong of heart, entertaining individuals who provide the spices of life to our rural environment. We have raised extremely caring individuals, many of whom have made their mark not only in local society, but around the world. Our businesses hold Customer Appreciation Day events and open houses; the Tarkio Chamber of Commerce holds ribbon cuttings for new businesses; and local organizations donate food, clothing, shelter, and support to those in need. Even when a resident is suffering and in need of money to pay medical expenses, our communities come together to raise funds for that person, as well as to raise hope. In this last year, our county residents have shown their immense strong will and determination when fighting floodwaters and having to deal with flood ravaged homes, businesses, and crops, and many volunteered hours and hours to fill sandbags and help flood victims relocate.

I’m so blessed to have grown up in Tarkio and am so proud to say I’m a Tarkio, Atchison County, MO, resident. There are not words to describe how much I enjoy photographically capturing our rural way of life and I look forward to discovering more of Atchison County’s hidden treasures.

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