This is what it's all about guys...
Kyle, writer and photographer/videographer of Tree & Live shares some thoughts...

"Thank you for reminding me that even my couple hundred words that
probably ten people will ever read still has immense creative value...because, art."

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and through everyone else who enjoys creating for the love of creating.
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Kyle has started a new personal photography project he's dubbed The Thousand Words.
He's on a mission to take a photograph and then share the story or inspiration behind the shot.
Here is his inaugural post. Follow the progress of his work on


I'm not really a fan of repeats. Typically I enjoy going new places, eating new foods, experiencing new things. Don't even get me started on people who reread books. Somewhat seriously, though, this phobia of the familiar is what kept me from returning to Starved Rock State Park for almost ten years.

For those that don't know, Starved Rock is the premier destination for campers, hikers, and others of the sort here in the lovely Land of Lincoln. Having grown up in the suburbs of Chicago, this was the park I frequented most as a child and young adult. So when I moved back to Illinois in July of this year, a visit to the grounds was low on my list of priorities, since, you know, the whole "been there, done that" mentality thing. And I honestly would have kept sticking to those guns had it not been for a timely twist of photographic fate.


It was pretty chilly out today, but the sun was shining and I had not much else to do, so I decided to grab the camera and head out to take some pictures. My intended destination was Matthiessen State Park—about a two hour drive from my current residence—to which I had never been. So I bundled up, picked some podcasts, and hit the road. All was going according to plan until I got to the entrance of the park. "Closed." For the opening weekend of deer season. Ugh.

Well, it just so happens that Matthiessen State Park is right down the road from, yup you guessed it, good ol' Starved Rock. 

And you know what? I'm really glad that that's where I ended up. The nostalgia was palpable as I parked in front of the visitor center and made my way to the trailhead. By the time I was actually on trail it was crashing in like the surf. Everything seemed so familiar yet so novel, like remembering what you ate for breakfast after waking up from a long nap.

Specifically I was reminded of a camping trip I once went on with three of my good friends, Tom, Justen, and Chris. To this day that outing remains one of the best camping experiences of my entire life (and I've done quite a bit of camping). We were just kids then, but I feel like we all knew that that trip was something different, something special. We grilled hot dogs, jumped off cliffs, explored the backcountry, and smoked cigars around the campfire; for those few days all was right with the world.


On my trip today I hiked the mile and change in to Wildcat Canyon to grab this shot of the waterfall. I didn't have an ND filter, but the canyon provided enough natural shade to shoot this six second exposure in the middle of the day. I love how the eye is drawn first to the lighter highlights on the center-left rock face and then move with the natural flow of the formation towards the waterfall itself. I was pretty pleased with the initial exposure, although I did do just a couple other small things in post. The warmth and vibrance got dialed up a little bit for more depth and I accentuated the shadows to create an emphasized contrast between the rocks and the silky smooth cascade.

Today I learned that you can certainly find beauty in the familiar. I was able to snap some pretty cool pictures while simultaneously reliving some awesome memories. If you're like me, I challenge you to go revisit someplace from your past that you maybe haven't been to in a bit. Take a good look around. What is different? What's stayed the same? Take a picture of something beautiful and share it with the hashtag #treeandlive1000, I'd love to see what you find.

Until next time, happy trails!

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