Iowa State Fair Photography Salon: Potential Entries in the Black and White – People Class

While the entry deadline for the 2023 Iowa State Fair Photography Salon is still months away, I have been considering possible entries. I will likely enter both the color and black and white people classes. Below are the photos I’m considering for the black and white entry. Let me know what your favorite is.

#1 – Grandma’s Love

#2 – Retro Soda Fountain

#3 – Shared Soda

#4 – Holding Hands

I’d appreciate your comments on which you prefer. Thanks!

The Cowtown Marathon and Smiles at Mile 17

My daughter had been telling me how much fun it was to have The Cowtown Marathon pass right in front of their house the last Sunday of February. We decided to take some vacation time that coincided with that event in 2019. It really was a blast! I returned in 2020 just before the pandemic shut down the world. We returned for the resumption of the full marathon in 2022 after they went virtual in 2021.

The neighborhood in the Texas Christian University area uses the event as an excuse for a block party. Neighbors gather up and down the street to cheer on the runners as well as give out water, pickles, bananas, bandaids and vaseline (runners know why). One neighbor blasts music complete with professional sound system and d.j. Kids play and parents party. However, I’m on my recumbent trike taking pictures!

Of course! I have to take pictures, and it’s hard to know when to stop. From the first speedsters to the last strollers, I usually get everyone’s pic. However, I was having a camera malfunction last year and shot several frames with my backup when I realized the shots were extremely overexposed. A runner saw my pics on Instagram and asked if I got his pic. As I searched the time at which he passed by, I could only deduce that he was in the overexposed section. We’ve become Instagram friends and I hope to redeem myself this year.

Since I’m not doing this professionally, it’s hard to know if any of the runners see their pics. Because of the overwhelming number of shots, I made a video montage last year, I titled it “Smiles at Mile 17.” I decided that will be my hashtag for photos on Facebook and Instagram this year. We’ll see if that strategy works.

Here is last year’s video.

The 2022 Cowtown Marathon – Smiles at Mile 17

If you’re running The Cowtown Marathons on February 26, 2023, I hope to capture your Smiles at Mile 17!

2022 Iowa State Fair Photography Salon

I haven’t made a post for quite a while (June of 2022 to be specific). I realize that my last post asked for your pick of my pano submission. In reality the grain bin pano was already submitted, and I’m happy to say it was chosen for display.

Edge of Night

While not winning an award, it is an honor to be selected for display. It was among 23 (37% of submissions) in the panoramic category that were displayed, with only seven receiving an award.

In addition to this photo, I entered three additional photos, rounding out the maximum allowed submissions of four. I typically enter the Themed category. “The Open Road” was the 2022 focus. It was my only submission that was not selected for display. Only 12 of 32 entries in the Black and White class were displayed.

Road to Glory

I submitted another black and white in the People class. I took this picture of four of my grands a few years back at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. It was partially chosen for entry because I won the People – Color class in 2021 with my “Bubble Girl” photo, featuring my oldest granddaughter. That precipitated requests from her siblings to have a submission as well. While it was not a winner, it was displayed, and they proudly posed with it when they came up for the State Fair. 38% or the 81 entries were exhibited. A small feature that I loved about this capture is the small rivulet of water that connects in middle foot to the foot in the reflection.

Four on a Bench
Four on a Bench

My last submission was in the Animal (Color) class. I felt it was the least likely to go through to exhibition, but it made it! A farm family in my church let me know of a Great Horned Owl nest on their acreage. I went out on a few occasions and caught this photo in the late nestling stage. It was among 74 or 251 entries that were exhibited.

The Better to See You

So with three out of four submissions making it to exhibition, I was very pleased. Only 10% of photographers had three entries progress through the judging process. There is a merit award for those who have all four entries exhibited. Curiously, no one received that honor in 2022.

There is a Youth Division in which the top age is 17. My grandson captured a picture of his dog that I thought would be a worthy entry. He was six at the time he took the picture with an iPhone. His photo was also exhibited, making him the youngest photographer exhibited at the Photography Salon!

Whit with “My Great Dog”

A total of 2,191 photos were entered by 394 photographers with 29% of entries exhibited. The numbers of submissions have been down post-pandemic. It will be interesting to see if numbers rebound this year. So that’s the update of 2022 Iowa State Fair Photography Salon. Entry information for 2023 will be released in April on the Iowa State Fair website. Out of state and international entries are welcomed. The special Theme Class for 2023 is Sunrise/Sunset. It should be a highly competitive class. I’ll drop a few of my potential 2023 entries as the June deadline approaches.

Iowa State Fair Photography Salon – Pano Category

All entries have been submitted to the Iowa State Fair Photography Salon. Now it’s up to the judges to go through over 3,000 entries and select the award winners and exhibited photos. Notifications will go out in July to let photographers know if they’ve received an award and/or have photos displayed during the Fair’s run August 11-21. Just to be exhibited is an honor, since less than 30% are displayed.

One of my four allowed entries among 24 categories was in the Panoramic class. Since the one was already submitted, it is included with three other possible submissions. Which one would you pick (if any) to submit. The other three have never been submitted, so your choices may direct a future submission. Thanks for the help.

A – Snowy Retreat

B – The Edge of Night

C – Sunset Reflections

D – Winterset Wreaths

Leave a comment below or on the Facebook page from which this blog was linked.

2022 Iowa State Fair Photography Salon (Special Theme)

This year’s Photography Salon’s special theme category is “The Open Road.” In addition to three other different category submissions, I entered one of the below for this special theme. Not saying which one I submitted, but there were some other options. Which one (if any) would you submit?

I’ll post my four submissions in July after the acceptance/rejection notices are sent out.

See You Later, Harry

My brother-in-law, Harry W. Thomas, has a sound mind and healed body as he came into the presence of Jesus Sunday evening. Suffering from dementia and heart disease for the past 7+ years, he has been reunited with his daughter, Amy and all the saints, who have preceded him.

Still newlyweds in this photo, Harry was to lose his father a few months later from a massive heart attack, during the fall harvest. Harry, Sr. was 45.

I was eleven when he married my sister. Because I was the youngest and only boy in my family, he was my second brother-in-law, and I was overjoyed to have new “brothers” as reinforcements. In addition to having another guy to play Sunday afternoon hoops in the backyard, “Butch” added a rural dimension to our family. While he and my sister worked primarily as radiology technicians, he grew up on a family farm. That remained in his blood and they tried their hand at farming several times. But he ultimately advanced to the level of nuclear medicine technologist and for a while he and Valerie traveled the country as locum professionals, serving six-months temporary staffing positions in hospitals.

I won’t say that he corrupted me, but he did give me my first Swisher Sweet cigar to smoke. Then he gave me half box of cigars that unfortunately was confiscated as soon as they were discovered by my parents. Hunting was a passion and because we were not a hunting family, I never shot a firearm until Harry joined the family, and he gave me my first target shooting lessons. I even wore a John Deere cap as a teenager because of his influence.

He loved to eat and some of my best memories with Harry are centered around meals, whether at the family home on Barron where Mom prepared a big Sunday dinner or at the Thomas home in Arkansas where we shared many Thanksgivings. Mom always gave Harry one of the larger ice-tea glasses (likely to cut down of refills). On one occasion another brother-in-law noticed the disparity in his glass size and Harry’s. I think that brother-in-law received a larger glass at the next meal.

When Mom was at the hospice house, Valerie stayed during the duration. Harry came up for a short time, coinciding with “National Fried Chicken Day” (July 6). All day, he reminded us that for supper we were going to have “friiiieeed chick’n” (say that with your best Southern drawl). And we did. Throughout the meal he repeatedly said this is “gooood fried chick’n.” That was about the time that the dementia was becoming obvious and it was diagnosed shortly after that.

His love and laughter were both large. He always made a big entrance, and I’m sure he did the same yesterday evening! And I hope he was served some “friiiiiieeed chick’n.” I’ll see you later, Harry!

Guest Blog: At a Loss for Words — Anna Spindler Writes

Like my daughter, Anna, it’s been over a year since I have blogged. Maybe I’ll be back soon, but until then I hope her words (which truly reflect my heart and mind during this last year) will resonate with you and give you HOPE! Please click on her link but if not, I will include the complete text below.

It’s been over a year since I have written anything in this space and longer since I’ve written any kind of blog at all. A year ago when I last wrote, it was Easter and the shock, fear, novelty, and uncertainty of COVID-19 and quarantine was still relatively new. My inner Anne of Green Gables […]

At a Loss for Words — Anna Spindler Writes

At a Loss for Words

Anna B.

It’s been over a year since I have written anything in this space and longer since I’ve written any kind of blog at all. A year ago when I last wrote, it was Easter and the shock, fear, novelty, and uncertainty of COVID-19 and quarantine was still relatively new. My inner Anne of Green Gables heart still thought it would all pass..and really I still can’t understand why it didn’t. Secretly, a year ago, I was actually enjoying permission to never leave my home.

Everything is different now. 

Since then, so much has happened in our world and country: George Floyd, race riots, loss of life to Covid, crushing fear because of Covid, a contentious election, the capitol attack, a bizarre snow storm in Texas, property loss, job loss, friend loss, faith loss…


Some have suffered on the macro level along with everyone else. And for many of us, there have been micro level every day normal life losses. My dog spent her last hours my arms earlier in the winter. My mom has descended much more deeply into the horrific throws of Parkinson’s Disease after battling it now for most of my life almost half of her’s. A cursory scroll on any social media tells me I’m not alone. 

And I’ve been quiet. 

I have always had all the words…and I just don’t anymore.

I’ve been quiet because I’m processing. I’ve been quiet because it is a new world that tells us we must process publicly and loudly. It is a new lie that tells us a computer screen is the appropriate place to work out our feelings and emotions and heart breaks. And if we don’t, we’re somehow COMPLICIT in the evils of this world.

I’ve been quiet because I’m scared to use my words. I’m scared of more loss, more anger. 

I’ve been quiet because we forgot about nuance, America. 

I’ve been quiet because we forgot about respectful and inquisitive discourse. 

I’ve been quiet because it’s all so loud out there. It’s loud and angry and unforgiving. One misstep, one “wrong” question and you’re canceled, but not after you’ve been completely attacked and maligned. 

I’ve been quiet because I’m weary. My husband always jokingly asks me if I’m weary versus just tired. Because to me, they’re different. Tired can be fixed with some sleep. Weary, is deep in my bones and soul. Weary comes after struggle and wrestling. Weary is what I am. 

I can’t keep up with the new rules and my legs are weak from running after them. Is this what middle age is?

Again, I have a feeling that I’m not alone. 

So here I sit on my yellow couch, staring at new growth outside of my window, wondering why my neighbor chopped down his perfect front yard tree, and snuggling with my naughty awful Beagle. My brain is full of the words I can no longer figure out how to communicate…

And I’m clinging to what I know is true. 

My God.

The only thing that is not shifting for me is God: both mother and father, savior and redeemer. Reconciler. Healer.

The fact is, I don’t have answers right now. I never did. But I do have God. The Holy Trinity. And I know that’s not a popular concept. I saw a Twitter repost the other day, “If you wonder why people are leaving the church right now…..” fill in the blank all the ways the church has messed up. And we have. We have messed up. For the entire life of the church, we’ve messed up. (I mean…have you read all of Paul’s letters to the New Testament church?)

I don’t wonder why people are leaving the church. They always have. They always will. I could write about Biblical illiteracy and the chance that some who talk a real big game never even knew Him. I could say all the things and maybe I will later. The fact is God has never been popular. It’s not my job to make him so. The world crucified his son, bloody and abandoned on a cross. 

But! I’m still clinging to Him. I’m still asking Him to change me. I’m still ever grateful for grace I never deserved, still don’t deserve. I’m still watching him move. I still see miracles…mainly small ones, mainly miracles deep in the crevices of my wicked heart. But I will believe. God is my very breath. And this is not toxic cheap Chrisitianity or positivity speaking. This is desperation speaking. 

Oh friend, this is my prayer for you, me, the collective us, our children and families and churches..that we peel it all back and find that God, Jesus, Holy Spirit is enough. I pray you’ll experience Him in the deepest parts of your spirit. That whatever kind of grief shrouded the last year and whatever hurt you’ve walked through with humans will be mended in relationship with the Divine. 

I’m clinging to the words of Jude to the New Testament church, 

But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.

Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear—hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.[f]

To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! 


There’s Within My Heart a Melody

As I was looking for wildlife on a late afternoon drive on Wednesday, I heard the unmistakable song of an Eastern Meadowlark. On it’s migratory path through Iowa, I think most move on toward Minnesota, Wisconsin and Canada for the summer. Hearing before I saw it, my eyes (and lens) finally found it on a utility wire, throwing its head back every time it let loose with its flute-like melody. After it flew away, I continued my drive only to hear another Meadowlark a few miles away. This one lighted on a cedar and sang away.

Tonight as spring begins, we have thundershowers. Both the bird’s song and the storm cause my thoughts to run to God’s Word and its directive to praise the Lord:

7Praise the Lord from the earth, Sea monsters and all deeps; Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word; Mountains and all hills; Fruit trees and all cedars; 10 Beasts and all cattle; Creeping things and winged fowl; 11 Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth; 12 Both young men and virgins; Old men and children. 13 Let them praise the name of the Lord, For His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven.

(Psalm 148:7-13, NASB)


So in these days of so much uncertainty, take a cue from creation and sing your praise to the Lord…for we never know when we will wing our flight to worlds unknown.

There’s within my heart a melody; Jesus whispers sweet and low, “Fear not, I am with you, peace, be still,” in all of life’s ebb and flow.

Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know,  fills my every longing, keeps me singing as I go.

Though sometimes He leads through waters deep, trials fall across the way; though sometimes the path seems rough and steep, see His footprints all the way.

Soon He’s coming back to welcome me  far beyond the starry sky; I shall wing my flight to worlds unknown,  I shall reign with Him on high.

“He Keeps Me Singing, Luther B. Bridgers (1910)
A Meadowlark’s song at Green Valley State Park, Creston, IA (3/18/20)

Covid-19: on loving your neighbor and not worrying

My daughter, Anna, shares her thoughts on how we as Christ followers should react and respond the the challenges of COVID-19

Anna Spindler Writes

We left town on Monday for Spring Break and while we were gone full-blown Covid-19 panic moved to town and took up residence. As we got closer to home yesterday and closer to rush hour, I could feel an insidious worry taking root inside of me. This wasn’t about the disease or fear, it was about the fact that we had a post vacay food situation: no milk, juice, bread, low pasta supply (the only meal all four of my children love) and very little cream (YIKES!!!).

When I went to Trader Joes, (admittedly not the best idea) it was crawling with people and FULL buggies. And also there were so many empty shelves.

IMG_1631 My tinies spent an hour basically decorating a box of gold today…(luckily it was part of my monthly amazon delivery).

How do we love our neighbor during war, famine, and disease?

Last night as I pondered this…

View original post 657 more words

Finis, Who Finished His Course

Lt. Finis Ewing Harris, Jr (USAAF)

Finis Ewing Harris, Jr. was the oldest son and named after his father, an attorney and judge in Cookeville, Tennessee. “Finis,” Latin for “the end,” was a fitting name for the father, who was the last of 12 children. However, the name was a misnomer for the first of three sons born to Finis and Margaret Harris. Finis was my wife’s uncle. One she never knew because of his service to our country. One whose grave she never nor her family ever visited. One who laid down his life in the defense of his “friends.”

When WWII came, all three sons wanted to do their patriotic duty and the older two were fully trained and deployed to the battle. It was reported that Finis completed his advanced air training at Pampa, Texas, where he received his wings in the U.S. Army Air Force in May 1943. He went to England in August 1943, piloted a B26. He was later transferred to a B-17 Flying Fortress with the 305th Bomb Group (Heavy), nicknamed “Can Do.” The Group base was at Cheverston, England, from which they flew 337 missions in 9,321 sorties and dropped 22,363 tons of bombs. During their tour of duty the Group lost 154 aircraft.

Finis (top center) with an earlier crew.

Stories of Finis’ final flight were somewhat muddled when I came into the family. Myra, my wife, thought the plane that Finis piloted crashed as he was on a training flight with his replacement pilot. A bit of internet digging three years ago led me to a much different story. Thanks to the websites Find a Grave, American Air Museum in Britain, Sywell Aviation Museum and other searches, I was able to piece together the real story of his crash, as well as update some sites with the information they lacked.

Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster awarded to Finis Ewing Harris Jr., B-17 pilot

Although a page is missing from the crash report from the lone survivor, this is what I have been able to pull together from various reports on Finis’ death. He was a part of a bombing run over Kassel, Germany on December 15, 1944, where 344 planes had successfully targeted the town’s railway marshalling yards and tank factory. However, his plane sustained major flak damage and Finis piloted the B-17 back to the base with the number one engine out. Flying in “zero-zero” weather conditions, Finis and another B-17 flew in tandem back over the coast of England. Concerned about his ability to land the plane, Finis told the crew to bail out if inclined. Only one, the tail gunner, did. While trying to land using radio beacons, both planes hit the wires of the Air Ministry Gee Mast at Borough Hill, Daventry. The Gee Network was a system of radio beacons that were used by pilots to navigate over Germany. The other plane was able to fly through the wires and land with bits of wire still attached to the plane. The farmer, into whose field Finis’ plane crashed, saw it hit the stay of the radar mast in the fog. A wing was ripped from their plane, and the plane hit the ground a few seconds later. He and the eight remaining crew members (John Griffin, R.L. Mason, Laverne Ridge, Herschel McCoy, Cliff Melton, Robert L. Burry, Willie Barnes, and Charles Nordland) were killed in the crash.

Memorial Plaque, Daventry War Memorial, Dedicated August 23, 2015

On August 23, 2015, a memorial plaque was unveiled, located in the garden at Daventry War Memorial. In attendance were Sgt. Burry’s son, Peter Searle, and granddaughter, Rebecca Saywell. Burry was the ball turret gunner and Peter’s English mother was pregnant with him at the time of the crash, delivering him six weeks later. Additionally, an excavation of the crash site was conducted in recent year and items from the site were displayed at the Sywell Aviation Museum in Daventry. Items included the navigator’s hat that was taken from the original crash site by some school boys.

Tragically, Finis’ younger brother, Cpl Perry Rowe Harris of the 498th Bomber Squadron, 345th Bomber Group, (B-25), was killed in action on November 12, 1944 in the Philippines just weeks before Finis. His death notice was received at Christmastime, preceding his brother’s by a week. This news report comes from their hometown newspaper.

Judge and Mrs. Finis E. Harris received a telegram this week from the War Department stating that another son, Lieut, Finis E. Harris, Jr., was killed in England on December 15, 1944. Only last week, a message was received by Judge and Mrs. Harris from the War Department, stating that Cpl. Perry Rowe Harris was killed in action on Leyte, in the Philippines. Another son, Mark E. Harris, who is in training in the Army Air Corps, in Nashville, is seriously ill with pneumonia. Judge and Mrs.Harris have the sympathy of the people of Cookeville and the entire Upper Cumberland in this sad hour. The three brothers volunteered for service in the Army Air Corps.

Putnam County Herald, Cookeville, Tennessee, 1/4/1945
Finis’ marker with a penny, symbolizing the visit of a loved one. (Photo and penny courtesy of Amy Maranto)

Finis was buried at the Cambridge American Cemetery. Apparently at the time of their deaths, only Finis could have been returned for burial in the U.S. Their mother, Margaret, said of the decision to have Finis remain in England: “It would not be fair to bring one son home and not the other.” However, every time she heard the whistle of a train that was known to be bringing home the remains of a Cookeville native son, she wept over the loss of her boys.

Thus, the brothers lay in graves half a world apart and to our knowledge no relative has ever visited their graves. However, I am indebted to fellow blogger Amy Maranto. After seeing her photos of the American Cemetery in Cambridge from an early 2019 post, I emailed her about Finis. She said that a trip would be planned again in the next few months and that she would take some pictures. Additionally, I asked her to be the family proxy and leave a penny on his marker…the symbol of a loved one’s visit to the grave. Not only did she take pictures, but so did her daughter, who was working there as a school experience. Amy wrote: “When next of kin visit, they clean the grave marker and rub it with the sand from one of the Normandy beaches. Since she was going to be hosting a visiting next of kin family the next day, they told her to pick a marker to practice putting the sand in. She knew I was working on these photos, so she chose Finis to clean.” The sand she chose was from Omaha Beach!

Finis’ marker with sand from Omaha beach rubbed into the lettering. (Photo courtesy of Maranto Photography)

Finis and Perry are among the approximately 130,000 soldiers who are interred in 27 American military cemeteries in ten foreign countries, managed by the American Battle Monuments Commission. Over 90,000 U.S. service members, who were missing in action, or lost or buried at sea, are memorialized at these cemeteries. Still thousands of other military dead are in unmarked or mass graves and private cemeteries. I wonder how many of those soldiers, like the Harris brothers, have never had a family member visit their resting places.

Thanks to our Veterans, who have sacrificed so much as they put their lives on the line in the defense for ours and our allies countries. Thanks to the families, who endured periods of absence of their soldiers. A special word goes to those families who mourn their sons and daughters, who gave the ultimate sacrifice. ” Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13 (NIV).

Check out Amy Maranto’s post Veterans Day