A Zen of a Day

After a wonderful visit in the Chicago suburbs, it was time for us to move on.  The drive took about an hour and a half and put us closer to the Wisconsin border.  Shortly after our arrival, we met our new neighbor.

Rockford, Illinois

Trooper coming to check out that big white box near his barn.

We set up house at Al’s sister’s place, which is located a few miles north of Rockford, Illinois, and less than ten miles from the Wisconsin line.  His sister owns a lovely seven acre piece of property complete with a beautiful home, large barn, some out buildings, plenty of room for us to park, and Trooper.


Barn on the right and tack room/out building behind the truck.

The next ten days were filled with lots of visiting with sister(s) – Al’s other sister lives nearby as well.  There was no shortage of food, drink, or laughter.Japanese Tea GardenI did sneak off for a day, allowing the siblings the time to reminisce and me to have a little time to myself.  I called it my Zen day.Japanese Garden

With camera in hand, I set off for the Anderson Japanese Gardens.  One of the first lines used on their website says, “Inspires the mind and energizes the soul”.  Sounded perfect and exactly what I was looking for to enjoy a Zen kind of day.Japanese Garden

The three essential elements used to create a Japanese garden are;
* stone = structure of the landscape
* water = represents life-giving force
* plants = provide the color and changes throughout the seasonJapanese Garden

Secondary elements include; lanterns, water basins, pagodas, arbors, and bridges.Japanese Garden

Japanese Gardens

The Founder and History:
Construction of Anderson Japanese Gardens began in 1978, when Rockford businessman John Anderson was inspired by a visit to the Portland Japanese Garden in Oregon. With the ongoing assistance of renowned Master Craftsman and designer Hoichi Kurisu, the Andersons’ swampy backyard along Rockford’s Spring Creek was transformed into a Japanese-style landscape. From groundbreaking to today, the placement of every rock, alignment of every tree, and layout of all paths has been made with careful consideration by Mr. Kurisu. In 1998, John and Linda Anderson donated the Gardens as a supported organization to the Rockford Rotary Charitable Association. It now exists as a not-for-profit entity and continues to grow and change to this day.Japanese Gardens

Japanese gardens are very carefully designed and patiently pruned according to aesthetic principles to create a work of natural art that inspires calm, renewal, discovery, and an invigorated soul.Japanese Gardens

I spent several hours strolling the gardens and snapping lots of photographs.  I was a little disappointed that they don’t allow tripods, but with many of the trails narrow, I can understand why.Japanese Garden

However, that didn’t stop me from playing around with the shutter speed on my camera.  I was bound and determined to finally capture flowing water in a soft way.Japanese GardensThe slow shutter speed would require me to stabilize the camera somehow.  With a little thought, I found boulders to aid me in my quest. Japanese Garden

I set my camera on an uneven boulder with the strap securely wound around my wrist (having the camera topple into the water was not part of the plan).  I then set the 2 second timer and hoped for the best.Japanese GardenUnfortunately, without the assistance of a tripod the boulders dictated the angle of the composition.  Overall, it was fun experimenting with the different settings on my camera and using a neutral density filter for the first time.Japanese Garden

If it hadn’t been for the temperature approaching 90 degrees Fahrenheit with 80% plus humidity, I would’ve spent the entire day exploring every inch of this 12 acre Japanese Garden (which I may have done anyway).  Regardless of the August heat, it was still a Zen of a day.Japanese Garden

Today was a good Day – WordPress Photo Challenge
Creating Your Own Japanese Garden
Kenroy Home Waterdrop Natural Slate Tabletop Fountain


78 thoughts on “A Zen of a Day

    • I definitely did NOT have the place to myself. I was patient in my photo taking waiting for groups to pass. The first hour was also filled with children. That Thur morning was a special children’s event. Unfortunately it was the only day I could get there. That said, it was still a wonderful day.

  1. Great results with the ND, Ingrid!! I envy you. Are you using ND 2 or 4? I just got my ND set last week, it’s quite challenging… Don’t know when I will be able to experiment it. 🙂

    • I used a 9 and a 6. I tried just the nine first with ok results but was able to get the water even softer by adding the 6. Now I’ll be in search of waterfalls with tripod in hand. Very fun challenge.

  2. Ingrid, I’ve now been through a few of these Midwest blog posts. It sounds like you are having a great trip. August in Illinois is the time and place to find the absolute best corn and tomatoes on the planet. I was wondering if you would talk about the bounty and sure enough, you did.

    I’ve never been an RV sort of guy, but your posts almost make it sound appealing. BTW, from the small world department, I attended high school in Elgin.

    • Small world indeed. Would that be Elgin High School? My graduating class was the first class to attend all three years at the new building (back in the 70’s, dare I date myself). RVing is definitely not for everyone, but I grew up camping in Wisconsin. My dad was an avid fisherman and vacations were spent escaping the Chicago burbs for the northwoods of WI. With my fill of corn and tomatoes, next years plan is to stay west of the Rockies 🙂

      • Larkin High School – new building in 1974 that really was a beautiful school when I attended. The new school on the east side seemed futuristic, however. I think we could play small world and find a number of common acquaintances, friends and moments.

        As did many Illinois flatlanders, we too found solace in Wisconsin.

  3. Ingrid, we live in the metropolitan Chicago area, so we’ll have to make it up to Rockford one of these days to visit this garden. Looks and sounds delightful! Enjoy your trip.


    • I think you’ll find it worth the drive. Although I didn’t eat lunch there this time, on a previous visit I did and the food was rather good. And judging by the lunch crowd, it probably still is. It would make a great day outing.

  4. Once in a while we do need those Zen days, and you are fortunate to be nearby a perfect spot to spend it. I am impressed with all your experimentation, all results came out perfect in my opinion, with or without the tripod. Good job!

    • Thanks ML. I can see myself outgrowing this bridge camera. Maybe there will be a DSLR in my hand by the time I reach TX…. fingers crossed 🙂 Yep, I needed a little alone time with all the family happenings!

  5. Wow, you have outdone yourself! You have taken some great pictures but I think some of these have to be in your top 10. Beautiful scenery, great job!

    • Awe, thank you! The air was so thick with humidity, I couldn’t tell how well the photos would turn out. Plus it was my first real attempt working with a very slow shutter speed. I’m so used to shooting birds – fast and burst, that the slow was a challenge.
      Can’t wait to get west and dry out 🙂

  6. I really enjoyed your photos and the memories they enlightened. We came here last autumn. What a lovely place! I somehow placed the photos in an odd file and forgot to post! (Shhh, I’ll post this fall) The sun on waterfall with the bridge above created a dazzling rainbow out of the pond. It was magical!

  7. A zen day seems like the perfect description Ingrid. What a gorgeous place .I think your shutter speed experiment is working very well. Love how the softness of the moving water is accentuated.

  8. Beautiful! Did you get to eat any Chicago food – hot dogs and fries wrapped in paper, deep dish or thin crust pizza, Italian beefs…?? The Dells are very commercialized (WI), but a beautiful area to see!

    • I ate a lot of home grown tomatoes, cucumbers, and locally grown corn on the cob, but no longer care to indulge in all the foods you mentioned. I pretty much stick to a Paleo diet 80% of the time and feel better for it. I drove my hubby through the Dells and it’s definitely not our cup of tea. But we did find some great things to do. Posts forthcoming 🙂

  9. Ah, what a wonderful virtual tour of this Japanese garden! Your photos are beautiful! I’ve just had my own zen moments. Well timed. It was immediately following a virtual wet trip near Niagara Falls!

    • Thank you. Sounds like a virtual invigorating experience. I’ve never been to Niagara Falls but I hear it’s spectacular. Thanks for dropping by and commenting.

    • He is a handsome guy and I loved being parked near his water trough with a view right out my door. The garden was absolutely beautiful, but having trooper as a neighbor was pretty awesome.

    • It absolutely is Lynn. I found myself more than once just sitting on a bench taking in my surroundings and then of course the camera needed to start clicking 😉

  10. What a lovely Zen day! I felt like I was there with you through your photos. You did a great job of capturing the flowing water, even without a tripod. I’m impressed!

    • Thanks Laurel. I did find myself in the center of attention more than once as folks couldn’t seem to figure out why I found a need to set my camera on a boulder. You would enjoy this garden.

    • Thank you Sylvia. Although I’m no longer into ‘tent’ camping, I wouldn’t mind pitching a tent in that garden and spending the night. Talk about a restful sleep…. aaahhhh!

  11. Stunning! I’ll add my congrats for the awesome water images, despite the lack of a tripod! I’m going to try your technique, if we get someplace where there’s flowing water (not a lot out here in the drought-stricken West)…. At least the winds were calm enough that the leaves didn’t flicker, so they stayed in focus. Really beautiful! And how cool is it that you can share a zen moment like this one?!?

    • Thank you Ellen. Ah, the life of a traveler and our camera photo ops. This winter may be a wet one for the west so enjoy it before we need to put floats on our RV’s lol.

    • It’s a stunning garden in an unlikely place. So far I’ve had a fantastic time in Baraboo. Now we’re in Marshfield for the weekend before heading to the shores of Lake MI; Algoma. But I’m reminded of the fickle Midwestern weather that has me longing for the west.

  12. Absolutely fabulous photos! I can hear the water ever so gently purring to my soul! Thank you for taking me along on your Zen day! I’m refreshed and ready to face my day as we prepare for grand baby #2 delivery tomorrow! I may show the pics to our daughter tomorrow to help her labor! Trying for natural but she will be induced.

  13. Anderson is our favorite garden anywhere; the one we compare all others to. I appreciate your experiments with slow shutter speed to capture that smooth water flow. I’m there too. I can’t seem to get the ISO adjusted in compensation, but experimenting is what we must do. You got some nice ones using your ingenuity instead of your tripod.

    • Thanks Lenore. I agree it is one of the prettiest gardens I’ve ever seen. I ended up using two neutral density filters (.9 and .6). I tried some other adjustments without the filters but ended up over exposed. ISO of 100 plus the two filters got me the results I was looking for. All part of the fun of photography and thank goodness we don’t have to pay for film or developing.

  14. So beautiful. I feel calmer just looking at your pictures. 🙂 Have you been to the Japanese Gardens in Portland, OR? They are right in the middle of downtown, and yet you feel like you’re worlds away from everything. Definitely worth a stop if you’re ever in that neck of the woods. 🙂

    • We have yet to travel to the PNW, but I have my eye on a bunch of stops when we do go. Thanks for the heads up on the garden in Portland. Might have to combine a visit there along with the Sequim WA lavender festival. Thank you!

  15. Ahh, there is nothing more inviting–espec. in the midst of a lengthy family visit–than a day alone with your camera in a Japanese Garden. Your photos are fantastic, Ingrid, and congratulations on accomplishing the soft water effect…even without a tripod. Wonderful post!

  16. What a beautiful garden! I can see why you had such a wonderful Zen day. All the water displays are so calming. You did a great job with the shots of the falls!! I wish we were closer to the garden. I would enjoy it. Too bad you had the heat and the humidity as your companions.

    • We’ve been reminded about how fickle the Midwestern weather can be. We went from heat and A/C to cold and the furnace. Oh and let’s not forget the humidity. A little calm at a beautiful garden was indeed needed 🙂

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