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Travel Stories

Traveling doesn’t always mean having to go far

Kim Brasel (kjbrasel)

Keywords: kjbrasel, inspiration, creativity, minnesota

Playing tourist in your own backyard

It’s easy to get into the mindset that there’s nothing to do where you live, to believe you have to go somewhere grand or dramatic for great photos or to have fun with your family. But, what if you looked at the area you live in from the perspective of a tourist and not a local, what would you see?


Staying in the tourist mindset, the pink hues of the sunset bouncing off Little Pine Lake caught writer and photographer Kim Brasel’s eye (the other eye was on the road) and she seized the moment to grab a few pictures and enjoy a lovely moment.
Click for an enlargement


There are lots of ways to do this. Get out a map, either go old school and unfurl one across the dining room table (good luck folding it back up), or use Google and search for city, county, state, or national parks within a 30 to 60 minute radius of where you live. Don’t forget to search state and national forests and preserves. You can also buy a tourist guide book for your area. Or maybe indoor stuff is more your thing. Regardless, the idea is to keep your eyes and your mind open, that’s what I did, and to quote a writer, much more famous than me, “oh, the places you’ll go!”

I live in “lakes country.” So, no surprise, I drive by a lot of lakes. In fact, on my way to work everyday I drive between two lakes that are right along side the road. It could be easy to get into the habit of zipping by and ignore the beauty of what’s around me, but that hasn’t happened yet. I still realize I have an amazing photo opportunity pretty much every morning and evening. So, I admire the sunrise and sunset over the water everyday, and almost drive off the road everyday (it’s a bit of a hazard), but, most importantly I have my camera in my car everyday and I stop and take pictures. I’m determined to stay in the tourist mindset.

I also have plenty of state parks fairly close. I don’t mind a little road trip, so I don’t really stick to the 30 to 60 minute radius. And if I see a road sign for something that looks like it might be entertaining, there’s a good chance I’ll make a side trip. Why not, right? Well, my kids might come up with a few reasons why not, but, most of the time they will agree that the side trips end up being a good thing. Especially if there is food involved. But I digress, back to the state parks.

Leaves are changing color and the parks are beautiful. Even if you’ve been to a local park before, go again. Maybe go on a day when it’s hosting a special event. For example, Maplewood State Park in central Minnesota had Leaf Days to celebrate, you guessed it, leaves. You never know what new and fun stuff an event might have until you go and you have nothing to lose by trying. So just go.

Glendalough State Park is another one in our area that has great photo opps and things to do with the family. I usually have the family in tow and am trying to spend time with them while getting great shots or using them as test subjects for some new technique I’m learning, which they absolutely love. That’s why I often talk about places that are great for pictures and family fun.


Maplewood State Park in central Minnesota was close to its peak fall color in early October.
Click for an enlargement


Maplewood, near Pelican Rapids, covers 10 279 acres (4 160 hectares) and has trails for hiking and horse back riding in the summer and cross country skiing, snowmobile and snowshoeing in the winter. It is a great place for fall photos thanks to the fantastic display of colors put on by its hardwood trees; sugar maple, basswood and oak. Red Cedar and Tamarck are also in the park.

Glendalough is a little farther south by Battle Lake, Minnesota and was named after Glendalough in Ireland. The park covers 2 761 acres (1 117 hectares) and sits on the transition area between prairie and hardwood forest. With the abundant wildlife at Glendalough nature photographers would enjoy watching for white-tailed deer, raccoon, red fox, and smaller mammals. There is also an oar hidden in a tree for those who like treasure hunts. Find the oar and there are clues to other hidden objects around the park.

Here’s to keeping your eyes and your mind open to the opportunities around you for fun and adventure, and if you did unfurl that map, just leave it.

Editor's note: You might also be interested reading up on Wayne Lorimer's article "Location, location, location" touching on the same subject of shooting your own backyard.

(12 Votes )

Originally written on November 23, 2017

Last updated on November 23, 2017


Mike Berrios (mberrios100) on December 21, 2017

Kim, I couldn’t agree more with the points you made. I am blessed living in Southwest Florida. We are an ecotourism destination with an abundance of nature in our own backyard. I am amazed by that I don’t get out and visit the “tourist” locations more often. Every time I travel to the Everglades or Sanibel Island I enjoy the natural beauty. Several years ago, I was visiting St. Augustine, Florida and we stopped to chat with a lady who was selling tickets for the trolley and other tourist locations. She shared the fact that every couple of months she goes to tourist locations. She had lived in a beautiful place in the past but let day to day life prevent her from enjoying those things. She promised herself that it wouldn’t happen again. Now that I have restarted my photography hobby I find myself going to the “tourist” locations with a fresh eye. I have found many opportunities to take photos in my own back yard. You don’t need to travel the world for great pictures. How about a photo safari to the local zoo?

Gary Worrall (glxman) on November 30, 2017

Awarded for his high level skills, specially in Wildlife & Landscape Photography

Oh so true Kim! Excellent observation, I was only thinking this week about local options for landscape and when to shoot them, just got to reduce other home related commitments that stop me! Regards, Gary

David Summers (dm1dave) on November 24, 2017

Awarded for high level knowledge and skills in various areas, most notably in Wildlife and Landscape Writer Ribbon awarded for his excellent article contributions to the Nikonians community Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Ribbon awarded as a member who has gone beyond technical knowledge to show mastery of the art a

Good article, Kim! It is easy to miss the opportunities near home.