Archive for Photography

Photo Friday: Family Bike Rally

Last Sunday, we hosted the Wife’s family reunion at the local park, and most of us biked in.

The Bikes

Lenore is in the middle of the pack

I’m still waiting to hear the rumors about the biker gang that took over the park building. My bike was already there when they arrived, but it was something listening to them all come rolling through the park. I shot a video of them rolling out at the end of the day, but Instagram was happy to hose it all up for me.

This is most of the bikes in the family, a mix of Harleys and Hondas with a Kawasaki and a Star for variety. Missing from the photo are two Honda Gold Wings, a Harley Electra Glide, a Harley Street Glide, an old Suzuki Cavalcade, and at least one or two more Harley cruisers. Most of the family have been riders for a long time, some of whom are just getting back into riding and some of whom never gave up their bikes. A few more have hopped on two wheels within the last five years or so.

The family is having a short ride again this weekend, but they’re in downstate Illinois and I’ve got other commitments. One of these days I’ll get down there and run with the pack, though.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Photo Friday: Nature Walk

We hiked through Starved Rock State Park last weekend and got a good reminder that Illinois isn’t completely flat after all. The trails themselves are not all that difficult, but depending upon the chosen path, they can add up to a good, long walk. Also, RunKeeper showed a total elevation change of 406 feet, and there was one climb with 137 stairs to the top. It was kind of amusing seeing some people struggle to carry strollers up that high.

We’d visited Starved Rock proper before, so this time we took a longer trail to Wildcat Canyon to check out the waterfall. It’s not tremendous, but the canyon itself is over 100′ tall and there’s a natural wading pool at the bottom.

Wildcat Canyon Waterfall

In the Winter, this turns into an icefall. That would be something to see.

Unfortunately it was crowded that day, so I didn’t get a good photo of the whole canyon. The trails were fairly open, but people tended to congregate at all the sites.

We also spotted some wildlife from some of the trails, like this badger:

Hungry Badger

Nom nom nom

Not 100 yards down the trail from him, we spotted a doe and her fawn taking shelter high up on a hillside. We get plenty of deer around our place, but the badger was the first the kids had seen in the wild.

If you find yourself driving I-80 through Illinois and you have some time to kill, Starved Rock is a great place to stop and take a break.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Photo Friday: National Bourbon Day

I did’t know there was such a thing as National Bourbon Day, but it makes me happy.

NBD: Four Roses Color

Four Roses Yellow. Best part of this photo? Having to do the shot after.

It also may explain the day’s oddities.

I jumped on the motorcycle and rode down to the gas station this morning, where I saw our local Santa Claus. At least, he looks like Santa Claus. Old guy, big belly, long white beard. Drives a rusted-out, dinged-up old van and I once saw him—complete with Santa hat—sucking down a nasty gas station burger in said van. This time, sans hat, he was making a purchase at the counter: a bottle of wine, a six pack of beer, and a Dove bar. Quite an odd mix at 9:15am. He almost dropped the beer twice while moving over to check his Lottery ticket numbers. When I left, I saw his keys sitting on top of his van.

Jump back on the bike, drive down the street, slow to make a left. Another car coming opposite direction slows, slows, slows, then stops right in front of my turn. Hard on the brake and clutch, stare her down for several seconds before she realizes I’m parked right next to her. She jumps, waves a half-assed apology, then drives on.

Still on the bike, riding through town, spot a woman working in her yard. She’s wearing shorts and a sleeveless turtle neck, with the turtle neck unrolled and pulled up over her nose. I swore she was headless for a second.

Can’t wait to find out what kind of weirdness I run into when I get out of town and into Peoria proper.

Meanwhile, today is also Flag Day, the only holiday Hallmark doesn’t ram down our throats and guilt us into buying cards for.

Flags

Old Glory flanked by Illinois and Chicago flags

Show your patriotism, America! Salute the flag and down a shot. Repeat as needed.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Photo Friday: Rangers Lead the Way

In 2008, Peoria’s airport was renamed General Wayne A. Downing Peoria International Airport. When I dropped my wife off for a trip to visit her folks, I decided to stop and find out who General Downing was.

Rangers Lead the Way

The Downing memorial statue outside the airport

Born in Peoria, Wayne A. Downing was a career Army officer who served in Vietnam and the Gulf War, and he held various roles in the modern war on terror prior to his death in 2007.

I’ve adopted Peoria as my home over the last few years, and I’ve come to enjoy learning more and more about its history and personalities. For example, Theodore Roosevelt once proclaimed Grandview Drive the most beautiful drive in the United States. Peoria also was once the whiskey capital of the US. Today, Peoria is the world headquarters for Caterpillar, even though the Illinois government is doing its best to screw that up.

How many of you live in a small town or city? Or have moved to a new home far from where you grew up? How much do you know about it? When you have a quiet day, get out there and learn something. Maybe your quiet, boring little town will surprise you.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Photo Friday: Iaijutsu

This week I thought I’d show you something interesting from an iaijutsu kata.

Iaijutsu

Cassie demonstrates part of standing sword kata #1 at graduation

Iaijutsu is a sword art, specifically the art of drawing the sword. In simplest terms, it’s the samurai version of the quickdraw: draw the sword and eliminate the opponent swiftly, then return the sword to the scabbard. Four of the kata I’m familiar with so far include the movement pictured above.

Here, the fallen opponent is on the ground at the performer’s feet, having just been cut horizontally and then split in two vertically. Turning the sword over helps remove the blade from the opponent’s body, keeps the sword between the fallen opponent and the performer (should he still be alive), and allows blood to run down the blade and drip off the tip as the performer steps back (the next movement following the photo above).

The interesting part, though, is the hand cover: this is supposed to prevent the opponent’s spirit from traveling up the blade and into the performer.

I believe it comes from the Shinto beliefs of early samurai. I always thought it was a neat movement, both as a martial artist and as a writer and fan of horror and the supernatural. It’s idea fuel, too; there’s a project I’m cooking up which will draw upon a number of the things I’ve learned about samurai and Japanese sword styles.

May as well put all this new knowledge to use, right?

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Photo Friday: Prom Accident

Mock Accident

If the photo shocked you, it was supposed to, just as it shocked the students in the background.

This is a mock accident staged as part of Operation P.R.O.M. (Please Return On Monday), a warning to students about drinking and driving on prom night. It was quite the production, including local police and emergency services, the Red Cross, a Lifeflight helicopter, our coroner and funeral home director, and a speaker who lost her son to a drug-related car crash.

I’ve seen a couple of these before, and it’s still tough to watch. I don’t work closely with the students in our district, but a few times I had to remind myself it was just a drill. Even stranger, half the emergency squad were students who graduated within the last couple of years. Watching them load their pretend-dead former classmate into a hearse was a bit surreal.

I think the students got the point. There were several kids in tears in the audience, and I didn’t see anyone joking or laughing. It rained for a few minutes, and I didn’t hear any complaints.

We held our prom four days later. All of our students were back in school on Monday. Did it change any of the students’ behavior that weekend? We may never know. I think it’s a good program, though, and if nothing else it’s a good lesson in what our police and emergency service crews have to deal with.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Photo Friday: The Flood

The heavy rains and storms caused a huge flood in our town. Several people had to be evacuated on the south side of town, some of them by boat, and it sounds like we’re going to lose a few buildings and homes.

Mill Street

Mill Street is still totally submerged. The American Legion Post on the right recorded 56″ of water inside. That wall, built after the last flood, is 42″ high.

I don’t think of flooding when I picture our town. Our elevation is right around 750′, and as you drive west toward Peoria, it drops significantly to a little over 300′ at the Illinois River. However, that water has to start somewhere, and it came rushing out of the fields and quickly drowned out the creeks that keep the town dry during an average rainfall. 5″ of water in one night doesn’t sound like much when you’re talking about a placid pool, but all that water is going to flow—and accumulate—somewhere.

I’m fortunate my house is on the north side of town, which is the higher side of town. We had some water come in through our back door, and at one point the drain quit for a short period of time when the surge overwhelmed the city sewer system. For us it was more mess than damage, though. Downstream, drains and sewer lines backed up into some homes.

We canceled school Thursday due to some flooding at our junior high. My office (and all of our servers) are below ground level, so I stopped in and checked them out, then took a quick ride around town. Several streets were still blocked. The water had receded, but not much.

Mine Carts

Debris shows how the water rose over these mine carts overnight.

There’s more rain coming next week. It’s not supposed to be near as bad, but we’re hopeful most of this will be drained away by then.

Meanwhile, my old stomping grounds in the Chicago suburbs saw some flooding, too. Portions of I-55 (the Stevenson to Chicagoans) were closed, and I saw some photos of neighborhoods I recognized sitting underwater. When storms stretch from Oklahoma almost to Canada and the clouds reach 45,000 feet elevation, nowhere is safe.

Locally and nationally, it’s been a crazy week. It will be nice if things calm down a bit this weekend.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Photo Friday: The Pitch

One strikeout, coming up.

The Pitch

Peoria Chiefs on the way to a 7-2 win

There were a few strikeouts that day, and several home runs sealed the deal. The O’Brien Field fence goes from 310′ at the baselines to 400′ at center field, and a couple balls—fair and foul alike—bounced out onto Adams Street. All in all, it made for an exciting game.

I brought only the 55-250mm lens, and it did the job just fine. One of these days I’d like to get something a little faster, with a large enough aperture to hide that net altogether. Maybe if I sell just a few more copies of Winter Kill and Deadliest of the Species

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Photo Friday: Hungry Lion

I feel bad for the lions at the Peoria Zoo.

It’s got nothing to do with the zoo itself; the lions have a nice exhibit area, and I’m sure they’re well taken care of. No, it’s the proximity of their exhibit to their prey.

So Close, Yet So Far

So close, yet so far away

The zoo has two lions, and they appear to spend most of their day staring at the handful of zebra in the next exhibit. Only a man-made ravine separates the two exhibits, and I have to wonder if the lions ever attempted the leap into the next pen.

Then again, there are two rhinos in that pen with the zebra, so maybe that gives the lions pause?

No matter. I’d hate to be sitting in the living room with a hot, fresh pizza in the kitchen, separated only by a ravine I couldn’t cross. I’m sure I’d spend most of my time figuring out how to get into that kitchen.

And with that, Photo Friday returns. Can I rebuild the momentum? Guess we’ll find out next week.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Photo Friday: Crazy Hair Day

Little Bird had Crazy Hair Day for Spirit Week at school, so she became an easy subject for this week.

Crazy Hair Day

I’d say she and her mom did a good job

The trick to this one was killing our ugly-ass green walls while preserving her color rather than resorting to black and white again. I’m reasonably happy. The sparkly bow made it tough. (This project is always about learning, not perfection.)

I just now noticed Photo Friday dominates the blog for the month. Not cool. I’ve got a lot to share, but little time to do so. Even now I’m about to wrap up rewrites on a script before I can get some sleep.

I like being busy, but not being behind. I plan to be even by month’s end. Wish me luck.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Photo Friday: The Wife

The Wife didn’t go to bed in time, so she became my vic—er, subject, for this week’s photo.

Melissa

She’s getting used to me sticking the camera in her face

The lighting in our living room is very yellow, so I prefer tweaking a lot of the photos shot in there at night to black and white. I may have been able to fix it with the flash, but I still prefer playing with available light when I can. My single external flash allows only so much control. One of these days I’ll get a remote for it and be able to do a bit more.

To my surprise, the Wife is very happy with this shot, too. She normally hates photos of herself. I call that a win.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Photo Friday: Precious Time

Made this one quick and dirty this week, and it goes back to a common problem: time.

Precious Time

Hold on to the time you have

Rather, it’s hard to make enough time to accomplish everything I’ve set out to do. There just aren’t enough hours in the day, and burning the candle at the both ends causes more problems than it solves.

The key is staying busy without burning out. I’m constantly tweaking my plans, but I’m getting there.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.