“Conservation” Tourism- Upper Mississippi River Bald Eagle Photography

Today, I went up to L&D 14 in Pleasant Valley, IA. I witnessed something today that I never though I would see. Someone took bait fish(to attract bald eagles for photos) over on to the island near the newly erected “perches”. I was livid. I put my equipment away.

Why was I livid? Why do I have a problem with this? The answer is multi-faceted.

  1. It is not needed- The eagles that use this L&D system have an abundance of fish available already.
  2. It is unethical- while eagles do not “train” as easily as other species, they do become “used” to this type of behavior. These are animals, that are currently thriving, and DO NOT need our help feeding. Feeding any wild animal will lead to small acclimation of the residents.
  3. It spreads- The whole Monkey see, Monkey do. It started with just a few bringing locally sourced fish, and sling-shoting them from the near shore. Last year, others from out of state started to bring in non-local species, and this can lead to a whole plethora of issues, and is illegal(Fish and Wildlife transport across state lines without a tax stamp in not permitted). It has now spread to at least 4 other L&D locations, and as of today, is leading to people going to any lengths necessary to get “The Capture”.
  4. Frozen, Dead fish appear as such in a photo. Those of us that regularly photography these birds can tell a bait fish from a live catch any day. Big difference in the quality of the capture.

My other problem, and probably the biggest issue that I have is that the Iowa DNR has chosen to turn a blind eye to this practice, unlike almost every other states in the U.S. The main reason? It’s simple. Local tourism $$ from eagle photography from Dec-Mar leads to almost $10 million in tax and other local revenue(hotel, food, other sales). The DNR has been told to “let live” because of the large amount of income coming from the practice(L&D is widely considered to be the 2nd best location in the lower 48 for bald eagle photography, at least for the “lazy’). Simply put, this is corrupt.

Do I have a solution? Not exactly, but a good start would be citing those caught doing this. I have tried reporting( which has led to citations on the IL side), but have been repeatedly told that there is “nothing they can do”.

I guess that just makes me another mouth just spouting off on the interwebs….So be it. Bring on all of the reactions!


The Return of our National Symbol: Bald Eagles along the Upper Mississippi River Valley

This past two weeks have been very interesting as far as scouting Bald Eagles along the Upper Mississippi River Valley and it’s tributaries.  The birds have started their southern migration for the season, and have good numbers, but only in select ares.  This is because more of the abundant food sources they prey on are still moving about in the fields and prairies that cover the Midwestern landscape.   This means that the Bald Eagles are not congregating along the rivers like they normally do.  DSC09234

Part of this is due to lack of snowfall, and the other part because of unseasonable warm weather in the region so far this late fall and early winter.  The lack of snowfall has allowed other prey sources like rabbits, mice,  and smaller birds to stay active much longer than normal.  This means that the birds have stayed out in forests and prairie hunting grounds.  The warmer weather has allowed the rivers to stay completely ice free, which means that even in “normal spots” that the bald eagles congregate each winter, they are spread out as there is much more open water.  DSC09235

One of the few gathering areas this season so far has been Sunset Marina, Located in Rock Island Illinois.  Numbers for the past two weeks have averaged between 12-15 Adults, and between 15-25 Juveniles, depending on temperature and wind speed.  Today, there were about 12 active birds, and about 8-10 “perched” birds.

The one thing they were not doing much was fishing.  Lots of looking, but not much acting on it.  DSC09289

There was a pretty decent gathering of photogs out today at the site, including my friends, Matt, Julie, Anthony, and Julie’s son, and a few other new acquaintances.  It was a good afternoon of conversing, and I look forward to more in the coming months!

A Collective Failure of the Imagination: Iowa’s Derecho event of 8-10-20

On Monday, August 10th, 2020, The states of South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky experienced an event known as a Derecho. By definition, a derecho must include wind gusts of at least 58 mph (50 knots or 93 km/h) or greater along most of its length, with a wind damage swath that must extend more than 250 miles (about 400 kilometers). This storm exceeded all of the criteria to classify it as a derecho by quite a bit. Wind reports started pouring in to the NWS Officies in Sioux Falls and Omaha at 7AM Monday morning, with most being in the 65-70mph range. These reports continued continuously for over 700 miles, and 12 hours. There were wind gusts as high as 112mph(recorded on a hand held anemometer), and sustained winds of over 90mph(recorded on airport weather stations, and city weather stations) from Ankeny/Ames all the way over to the Quad City IA/IL area. The highest sustained winds were between Newton to Marshaltown, and eastward to the area from Wilton to Clarence. Much of this area received winds in excess of 70mph for a period of up to 2 hours. This area also had gusts between 112 and 90mph on a few different occasions.

As many of you know, I am with the Iowa Storm Chasing Network , and we started our coverage of these storms about 8AM, as they moved into Iowa. We continued live coverage until power and internet went down in our broadcast locations near Ankeny and Altoona. At this point, I decided to head west and attempt to cover the storm as it moved east.

I was out chasing during this storm, and was trying to relay information as well as I could from the area near North English. I was attempting to live stream what I was seeing. This quickly became impossible, as the cell service started to die out at 11AM. I switched over to relaying photos via twitter, and direct phone calls to the NWS in the Quad Cities, until I completely lost signal around 12:45PM.

It quickly became apparent to me, within 1 hour after the main part of the storm had passed, that there had been a serious disconnect between the warnings that were issued, and what people had perceived as the threat. Many people were outside of their homes and businesses, wondering around with no aim or intention(similar to what you see in tornadic situations). They had been caught unaware of how strong this system was, despite up to 2 hours of warning time, and a very serious threat outlined in those warnings. My question was how did people not take this as serious as what the warnings had warned about?

The simplest explanation I can give is that there is a disconnect of the human mind between a warning for severe winds, and a warning for a tornado. They don’t equivocate winds to be as dangerous unless the winds are associated with a tornado. Why is this? Multiple studies of past Derecho events in Iowa (2013.2008, and 1998) have all shown that the winds from this type of event are as dangerous, and sometimes more dangerous, than a tornadic storm. Why have people so quickly forgotten about these devastating events? The simple answer? There are usually no tornadoes, or very few confirmed with derechos, because the damage is so widespread and consistent, that it is hard to pinpoint exact tornadic locations without video evidence, and exact coordinates. Even then, differentiating damage from a 112mph wind vs a 112mph tornado is difficult. The only difference is in how debris is scattered, and with the winds being so widespread, evidence can be mutilated before evaluation can happen. We have to stop equivocating a difference in winds based on what the parent storms are doing. Winds are devastating no matter what the parent storm is classified under.

So what can we, the public do to make sure that we aren’t caught unaware the next time that an event like this happens?
1. Etch the memory of this event into your mind, the minds of your childeren, and the minds of anyone who will listen. If more people remember, there will be less shock the next time it happens.

2. Heed all warnings that the NWS gives out. Damage is damage, no matter the cause. Stop treating warning differently just because there is the word tornado attached to the front of them.

3. Hold your state and local politicians accountable for strict building, electrical, and city codes. Make sure that the infrastructure that is put into place will be able to withstand events like this in the future, or at the very least, make sure that they have a plan in place to help with replacing and rebuilding infrastructure in a timely manner. There has been a very bad response to this particular event at the state government level.

What are some things that we, as weather spotters and media can do better? This question, I am unsure of, as the response that I have seen from the local media and NWS, as well as individual media has been spot on. I know we can do better and am open to suggestions.

Finally, after viewing multiple other blogs and articles from across the state and region, I CANNOT EMPHASIZE ENOUGH THAT THERE NEEDS TO BE A COLLECTIVE RECOGNITION OF WARNINGS, no matter the type, across the entire US. Education is the way to do this. Examples, photos, videos. Don’t let the memory of this fade.

Post Script: After viewing Social media, with the general public, I also have this to say:

There is no comparison between a Derecho and a Hurricane. They are unequivocal in every way. They do different things in different areas, and don’t even resemble each other on radar. The only tie between the two is wind speeds, which are still an unequivocal parallel. Refer to them as what they are. It will help with the education aspect, and with helping to not let this event fade .

Another Addition, After some responses: It is absolutely a necessity to have a working NOAA Weather Radio in your home and place of work, and a mobile version for your car. It appears that this event in particular, there was a reliance on sirens, which is not a good practice.

Derecho as it approache Amish, Iowa 8-10-20

Self Image: Mirrors – Molly’s Story

“What’s the matter with you?” “Can’t you do ANYTHING right?” “You were a big mistake.” “Not only are you fat, you aren’t even pretty” “I’m going to take you to a mental institution and leave you there because you are crazy” Pretty awful things to have said to you. Repeatedly. Especially when you are five. Especially by your father.


_DSC3298.jpgI’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for many years, stemming from an emotionally and physically abusive childhood. Daily I was reminded what a crushing disappointment my existence was, how my presence in the universe completely ruined his life. I tried so hard to be good. To be quiet. To be compliant. To be helpful. To be worthy of taking up space. But each attempt failed. An angry, bitter alcoholic can never be appeased. I broke my arm when I was 10. One of the worst beatings I ever received was that night after coming home from the hospital. My punishment for ‘being stupid and clumsy and costing him money’. I curled into a ball on my bed protecting my casted arm while blows rained on my back. I developed a very high pain tolerance. If I cried it made him angrier.


He put me and my sister in the back of the car one summer evening and drove to a bar. She was a year old and I was just shy of my 6th birthday. He tossed a baby bottle of milk in the back seat and grumbled ‘watch your sister’ to me and got out of the car. The windows were open, cool summer night. I watched the sunset and played with the baby. Night fell. The moon was out. Men would walk by the car and peer in, curious and surprised to see 2 small children. My sister fussed and I gave her the bottle. She fell asleep and I was so scared. I slipped out of the car and peed in the gravel next to the car, shaking because I was sure I’d get in trouble. He finally staggered back to the car, wordlessly drove home and went into the house. I’m not sure he remembered we were there. I struggled to lug a sleepy baby up the steps. I got her into her crib and crawled in with her. Terrified.


Walking home from kindergarten one day, two sixth grade neighbor boys roughed me up in the alley. Pushed me down and pulled my hair and tore my school papers. I ran home and up the steps to the apartment, crying with bleeding knees and a pigtail pulled out. My father greeted me with “What the hell happened to you?” I told him what happened. Imagine my surprise when he pushed me down the steps, enraged, and drunkenly screamed ‘why did you let them do that?? Get back out there and take care of it!” Soundlessly I ran outside and hid in the hydrangea bushes until I saw my mom come home. I waited until I knew she was inside then I slipped in quietly behind her.


This was normal to me. This was my daily existence. Different scenarios, but always the same results.. Him exploding in anger hurling insults and fists with surgical precision. Both inflicting deep scars. He died when I was 19. I was relieved. I felt a huge weight had been lifted. But the damage had been done. I still saw myself as a mistake. Someone who was never supposed to be born. A pariah on society. I don’t trust easily now. I still have to force myself to go places because I’m always certain no one wants me there. I will sit in my car and hyperventilate at the thought of walking into an event and having everyone cast a disdainful eye and turn away. I tend to linger unnoticed until everyone else has found a place to sit or stand or ‘be’ so as not to be a bother.


I am the MASTER of the Irish Goodbye. It has been with the help of very patient and kind people in my life that I have begun to reach out. I have started to take better care of me. That I went to my Dr and told him of my insomnia and feelings of being worthless. Depression and anxiety do not have to make you a prisoner in your own head. If I can seek help, you can too. You are worthy



Photographer’s Addendum: Molly is a beautiful person, inside and out.  Getting past her exterior shell does take a bit of time, but is well worth it.  Once she has opened up and entrusted you, she will defend you and uplift you to no end!  I have had the pleasure of knowing and supporting her for a little under 3 years, and her story surprised me.  An extremely powerful story to those of us that raise children.  The impact that we can have on our children can be both incredibly positive, or incredibly negative with lasting impacts both ways.  Choose to uplift your children!  Support them.  Thank you for sharing your powerful story Molly.

Self Image: Mirrors- Sara Jo

Thanks to general stereotypes, movies and media, the word cheerleader brings to mind many images. Most think of the bubbly, dumb, blonde-haired girl with a perfect ponytail and a polished reputation.


For me it was much more. Living in the shadow of, what I perceived as the perfect child, I had few “boxes” I could fill without being outdone by my little brother. After all, he was among the smartest in his class, had crushed all of the cross-country records, and was great at baseball.


What I didn’t know until many years after high school, was that he was one of MY biggest, “cheerleaders” by way of encouragement, praise and support. Because cheerleading had brought me such happiness and overall sense of ability and success, after high school I went on to join the dance teams in both college and eventually even the NFL.


I quickly realized however, that my entire character had been put in a box in high school, and that the image of a college and professional “dancer” was VERY different than the high school cheerleader. Even though being a part of these teams seemed like something I should be proud of acknowledging, because of the shame I was hiding inside due to the constant verbal, mental, physical and sexual abuse by people in authoritative positions (predominantly in the NFL), I was too ashamed to even tell anyone, including my own parents. Again, through all that I endured, it was my brother that I trusted. After two seasons of being a part of the Buffalo Jills dance team, my brother had had enough and physically flew from Los Angeles to New York and packed my stuff into a UHaul and refused to leave the state until he knew I was on my way back to Iowa where I was safe.

Mirror Comp.jpg

Two things I’ll never forget him telling me throughout all of those years: “You put yourself into the box you created, and you can climb back out. Stupid people don’t have 3 degrees or have nearly as many life experiences as you do.” And, “You can do three things with your past; repeat it, learn from it or help others as a result of it.” For 38 years, Tommy was my voice of reason and more than anything, my “safe place”. Two years ago, he lost a short-lived battle with leukemia.



While his death has overwhelmed me with sadness, I have an unbelievable spirit inside of me, because of him, to shatter the fear that was instilled in me through all of the abuse, and to become something greater than even I expected of myself.


I know for 100% fact that Tommy is around me at all times, and is still guiding me toward this goal. Today, I have chosen to teach others as a result of my past. I am currently a teacher in the Moline-Coal Valley School District.


I have started a group for single women online that is intended to encourage and support single, divorced, widowed, etc women. I am a court appointed advocate for children and women through CASA, and volunteer to help abused women through Family Resources

Self Image/Mirrors: Taylor’s Story

‘Embrace the change and then you will find
New light will break the shadows inside’ 


I honestly started getting anxiety when I was 8 years old after my mother had a stroke. The thought of losing having her around at 8. When she was the only one I had, absolutely terrified me. I went months not knowing what sort of state she was going to be in. Once, she came home a lot of things changed. I had to step up and do whatever I could do to help her. To help us. We eventually lost basically everything we owned and moved out to Henry county.
Mom, if you’re reading this. I know you did everything you could for us. Don’t ever think you didn’t try hard enough. I love you and I couldn’t ever thank you enough for being the best mom you could be. I wouldn’t trade you for the world.
However, the anxiety and depression got a lot worse after high school. People judged me for being the person I was. They didn’t accept a person with piercings and weird colored hair. Instead of just leaving me alone, they made my life a living hell. I eventually dropped out because of all the harassment.
After that there were plenty of days where I physically couldn’t get out of bed. The thought of leaving the house, seeing other humans let alone have to interact with them scared the shit out of me. There were plenty of days where all I did was lay in bed, cry and wish I wasn’t alive.
It’s taken me many years not to let the inner voices control how I’m actually feeling. Sometimes my anxiety doesn’t let me go places or be as social as I wish I was.
 However, I’ve come across so many wonderful people throughout these last couple of years who understood the fact that I had anxiety and accepted me for it. If you’re someone who has come into my life within this last year, just know you’ve helped break me out of my little shell and I couldn’t thank you enough.
The fact that I danced in a burlesque troupe, blows my mind. I never in my entire life would’ve thought I’d have the courage to get up on that stage and dance. I’ll forever be grateful I had that opportunity because for once I didn’t let my anxiety control me. I shut those negative thoughts out and was finally just myself.
There are still plenty of days where I don’t want to face the world, but I know now that I can do a lot more than I think I can. I’ve found that discouraging voice inside and silenced it. I refuse to let my anxiety control my every move. I refuse to let it think it owns me.
‘Now I can finally breathe’

Self Image: Mirrors – Sara Elizabeth

This mirror/self image shoot was done at a location with a special meaning to Sara. This is her story in her own words:

After 10 years of thinking “A house makes a home”, I’m letting that go.  For so long I have tied my own self worth into a checklist.  I have grown to realize that it doesn’t matter how many things you have, if you are not the type of person people want to be around, you will be alone.  20180124_095249.jpg

By saying goodbye to my home, renting it out, and moving on, I am finding strength in myself that the security of having a place to lay down my head can’t provide me.


I’m on my way to finding who I am, and learning to appreciate the struggle of what I only conceived in my own head, was right.


Onward  and forwards.  Sara


Photographer’s Addendum:

The “unfinished” room of the home she is letting go made for a perfect scene to capture these images in.  The Mirror used is also a personal favorite of the subjects, and added a second special touch to the photos.  Home isn’t a physical location for all, but it is the spot in your mind that puts you at ease.  20180124_09411120180124_09444720180124_095238

“Super Blue” Lunar Eclipse

This week’s “Super Blue” Lunar eclipse will not be a total eclipse sequence for much of the US.  The moon will set before the peak for the eastern half of the US, and just after the peak for the middle 1/3.  It won’t look anything like the photo above.  Prints of the above photo can be purchased here: Lunar Eclipse 9-27-15



Self Image: Mirrors- Hollie Oakley

Me: What does the mirror represent to you?

Hollie: Mirrors to me, are a visual representation of the two different personas that I have in my life.  Professional and home/fun.  _DSC2339

By profession, I am an EMT/Medic.  I am gusty, somewhat untouchable, and very little phases me.  It is a profession that exposes me to many different situations that require the utmost in professionalism, and for me to tough my way through situations that are gross, gnarly, and sometimes hectic.  It is my more masculine side.


Away from my job, I am exactly the opposite, participating in pin-up contests, modeling, and other hobbies that are extremely feminine in nature.  It allows me to show my softer side, and also to fuel my make-up addiction.


When I look in the mirror, it reminds me of the contrast between the two, and just how different they are.


Addendum by PBrooks Photography:

Don’t mistake her “feminine” side as soft.  She is still a ball of energy and spunk, and will not hesitate to let you know if you are in the wrong.  It was a ton of fun to do this shoot with a model that I had never met before.  Here is to making new friends.



Self-Image: Mirrors- Lilith St. Scream

Lilith’s Story: From the Pipe to the Stage


I am a recovering drug addict and alcoholic.  I spent many years addicted to crystal meth, crack cocaine, and prescription drugs.  I was so depressed and consumed with hiding from reality, pain, and my fear of failing at life.  _DSC2559

I never wanted to look in the mirror, let alone have pictures of me taken.  I hated who I had let myself become.


I think so often now, addiction is glamorized, or sugar coated.  There is nothing pretty or admirable about being strung out.  All you do is hurt.  You embarrass yourself, and all those who love you.


Walking away from that destructive lifestyle is why I am still alive today.  I still battle those desires and demons every day, but I choose happiness over hiding.


I need to daily face my fears head on.  It is the only way to climb the mountain that is overcoming addictions.


Photographer/blogger’s addendum:    Lilith is currently the troupe leader of the Moonshine Misfits – Mischief in the Midwest .  She is also a certified esthetician and set designer at A. Shines Designs at Stage 1 studio.  She also does some modeling and helps train others in the modeling arts as well.


Up until about 2 days before this shoot, I had no idea of the inner demons and past struggles that she had been though.  I knew that she had overcome something, but could never quite put my finger on it( I have known her for 4 years).  I am overjoyed that she chose to let me capture the photos and allowed me to share a part of her story.




If you are battling an addiction please call 1-800-662-HELP (4357) or visit https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline

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