Archive for the ‘caddo lake’ category

May 13, 2008 My Memorial Day

May 26, 2008

My father, Robert (Bob) Lewis Rentz, died in early January of 2007.  A World War II veteran, his life was disrupted by service in the South Pacific.  Actually, “disrupted” is too strong a word, because I think he enjoyed his experience in the Signal Corps based on all those dinner table war stories when I was young.  He returned home in 1945, and resumed normal life in the Detroit area, soon marrying, raising a family, and having a long career as a draftsman and engineer at General Motors.  A normal, wonderful life, filled with vacations, friends, family outings, and all the other parts of post-war America.

My Dad’s uncle wasn’t so fortunate.  Although technically he was an uncle, Philip (Dude) Taliaferro was almost the same age as my father and was raised essentially as his brother in the same household by my Dad’s mother.  In early 1945, near the end of the war, Dude’s plane went down in the jungles of New Guinea or in the vast Pacific Ocean and was never found.  So he never got to experience the rest of life through the booming ’50s and 60’s and subsequent turbulent decades.  My mother knew Dude too (she grew up next door to her eventual husband (Bob Rentz) and Dude).  She described him as a handsome young man who had that quality of looking into a girl’s eyes and making her feel like she was the only person in the world.

When my parents were thinking about where they wanted to be buried, they agreed that Fort Custer National Cemetery, near Battle Creek, Michigan, would be a fine place.  My mother also looked into having a memorial for Philip Taliaferro placed in the missing-in-action section of the Fort Custer Cemetery, because she felt that his name might otherwise be forgotten.  Independently, and at nearly the same time, the army contacted my mother, and through her, found Dude’s closest living relatives and obtained DNA samples from them in case the missing plane should ever be found.

So, my Dad and Dude ended up with memorials in the same cemetery, which you can see in the accompanying pictures.  They are among graves of (mostly) men who served in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the Mideast wars.  This was my first time back to Fort Custer since the year-earlier ceremony when Dad’s ashes were placed in the sacred ground, and it was a beautiful day in a beautiful place.  Tears flowed freely in memory of my wonderful Dad and in memory of all the others who gave so much..

Photography is my passion, and even on this sad day of memories I wanted to take some technically proficient pictures of the gravestones and the setting.  I hope you get a sense of the reverence I feel for all these old soldiers and their sacrifices.

This is part of a weblog documenting my travels and photography. I am primarily a nature photographer, and you can see more of my work at

Click on the photographs below to see a larger version with captions.


The Poison Ivy Problem

April 28, 2008

This is part of a weblog documenting my travels and photography. I am primarily a nature photographer, and you can see more of my work at

I have been approached by both National Geographic and National Geographic Adventure magazines this year, inquiring whether I had any photographs of Poison Ivy. I had some, but none that would meet their requirements for a story on how Poison Ivy is growing lushly in this era of global warming. So I have been on the lookout for good patches of this evil vine.

When I rolled into camp at Caddo Lake State Park at twilight, my van’s headlights illuminated a healthy Poison Ivy vine climbing a pine tree right in my campsite. It was late and I was tired, but I decided to try shooting anyway. The ground was covered with Poison Ivy, so I laid down large plastic bags to completely cover the plants so that neither my legs or the tripod legs would brush against the leaves. I set my digital camera to the highest ISO setting and placed the camera on a tripod. I wanted to look up the trunk at the sky, so I used a special 24mm tilt lens that allows me to get everything in focus from the immediate foreground to the top of the tree, plus I used small f-stop to achieve a greater depth-of-field. It was almost dark, so I “painted” the Poison Ivy using a flashlight during a fifteen second exposure. Then I went to the picnic table and downloaded the image to my computer to check the exposure. My initial guesses as to composition and exposure were good, so I then took two more photographs and called it a night. In the computer the only major change I made was to the light temperature, which I changed to a more daylight balance (the flashlight’s tungsten bulb was too yellow).

That is how I solved my Poison Ivy problem. I really like the resulting image, which shows the lush growth of Poison Ivy and actually shows stars in the deep twilight sky. Plus I only got one Poison Ivy blister, on my trigger finger!

April 2, 2008 Caddo Lake State Park near Uncertain, Texas

April 18, 2008

This is part of my weblog documenting my travels and photography.  I am primarily a nature photographer, and you can see more of my work at

On a recommendation from a fellow photographer, after the Bayou City Arts Festival in Houston I drove north to camp at Caddo Lake State Park along Big Cypress Bayou.  I didn’t know what to expect here, but was thrilled  with the setting—a bayou with Spanish Moss thickly draped upon old Baldcypress trees.  The Old South come to life in a corner of northern Texas.  

I was especially intrigued by all the old log cabins in this state park, and when I asked at the desk, the attendant confirmed that they were constructed by the CCC.  I happened to know what the CCC was, but another visitor at the desk did not, so I gave him a three sentence synopsis of its history.  Which I’ll also give you, or maybe I’ll make it a bit longer just for you, my dear reader. The CCC stands for the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was created in 1933 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.  The CCC was a vital response to the devastating human toll of the Great Depression, during which family savings were wiped out, homes foreclosed on, and jobs lost in a grinding time of bare survival for many, many Americans.  This program put young men to work in every state:  planting trees, preventing soil erosion, and building the infrastructure for parks.  The young men worked in well-disciplined crews for eight hours a day, five days a week, and earned wages of about $30 per week, of which $25 was to be sent home to help support their struggling families.  Evenings were spent in educational classes and sports.  The CCC ended in the early part of World War II as the nation’s priorities shifted from beating the Depression to winning the War.  The “CCC boys” left a legacy of beautiful, rustic buildings in parks all over America—buildings that used logs and stones to create our shared sense of what a park building should look like.  And what a fine tribute the buildings of Caddo Lake State Park are to the young people who built them in a tough era!

During my two days at Caddo Lake, I spent a lot of time photographing the old CCC cabins and pavilion—both in living digital color and on traditional black-and-white infrared film (which I have not yet developed but will soon).  The infrared film turns foliage a ghostly white, lending a mystic atmosphere to the photograph, which I think is particularly suited to the historic structures.  Infrared light is a different range of wavelengths than visible light, and it actually focuses at a different point, so I have to adjust the focus on each exposure.  I also use a very deep red, nearly opaque filter for this film.  I’ll post the results when I can.

I am also a casual birdwatcher, not too serious about it because intense concentration on birds would mean less concentration on photography.  But I did note the following special birds in the Baldcypress swamp:  Prothonotary Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Wood Duck, and Pileated Woodpecker.

This would be a great park for canoeing, and there are canoes for rent.  Next time.  Word has it that campers can canoe to a place and purchase a few pounds of cooked crawfish to bring back for supper.  Sounds delicious. 

Click on the photographs below to see a larger version with captions.