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Groundhog by KB Digital

Groundhog Day with a photographer

Groundhog by KB Digital

How to shoot groundhogs

Okay, before everyone starts panicking, we do not mean shoot as in kill but instead shoot it with a camera. You know, take a picture. Sorry for the confusion, but that’s just photography slang. Alright, now let’s get into it. First thing you’re going to need is a long lens, preferably a zoom lens so it gives you a little flexibility as the groundhog could move closer to you at any given point in time. Another reason is, well, you kind of might want to keep your distance from them. Now, we’re no animal experts but it’s safe to say that wild animals can be… wild.

Groundhog by KB Digital

What you’ll need

Well, obviously a camera! Also, depending on the distance your shooting and your lens length as well as your stability, you might want to bring a monopod. If you’re thinking “I don’t have one, I’ll just bring my tripod”, don’t! Groundhogs are very active and you’ll need to be mobile if you want to get some good photographs. In that case, just increase your shutter speed to cancel out as much motion blur as possible. Another important thing you’ll need is patience. Lots of it! As mentioned, they are very active creatures but they also like to hide, especially when they sense people. So be kind and just keep you finger on the shutter button at all times. One thing we suggest, and this all depends where you live and what time of the year you go, is to bring something long sleeve to wear. This is just personal preference but usually there’s bugs out and you don’t want them annoying you and it could also serve as an added protective layer if somehow the groundhog gets close enough to you or even worse, attacks you.

Groundhog by KB Digital

Did you get it?

We’re not just talking about the instructions here either. Did you really shoot a groundhog? What do we mean by that? Well, groundhogs are often confused with beavers and vice-versa. They both look very similar to each other and act the same as well but there’s one sure way to tell what it is. The tail! Groundhogs have short, fluffy tails while beavers on the other hand have wide, flat tails. Also, if it’s in the water it’s most likely a beaver since they love to build dams. This is another reason why groundhogs are sometimes refereed to as “land beavers”.

Groundhog by KB Digital

What you won’t see

This is really simple. You most likely won’t see Bill Murray or Punxsutawney Phil. If you’ve never seen Groundhog Day the movie… this would be the time. Also, Punxsutawney is a little town in the state of Pennsylvania but the movie itself was filmed in another tiny town, just a few hundred miles west called Woodstock, Illinois.

Snow sculpting competition 2020 begins in Rockford, Illinois.

Snow sculptures in Rockford

Snow sculpting competition 2020 begins in Rockford, Illinois.
Snow sculpting competition in Rockford, Illinois.

Not all sculptures require metals or cement and not all are meant to last forever. The Illinois Snow Sculpting Competition proves just that as all the sculptures are made entirely out of snow; just in case the name didn’t give it away. That means no interior support beams or any other structural help can be applied.

Snow sculpting competition 2020 begins in Rockford, Illinois.
Snow sculpting competition in Rockford, Illinois.

Teams of 3 have just three days to turn a 6’x6’x10′ block of snow into a work of art. Easy, right? Well drawing a concept might be easy but since support beams aren’t allowed that means that the design has to be able to support itself. In a sense, they’re not just playing with snow but also applying physics and architectural principles into these sculptures.

Snow sculpting competition 2020 begins in Rockford, Illinois.
Snow sculpting competition in Rockford, Illinois.

Every team has different approach on how to begin sculpting their masterpiece. Some dive right into it, some will first draw it out on the snow, and some even make miniature clay models to have right next to the snow blocks as a visual reference. There is no rules to the process, it’s whatever floats their boat… or in this case whatever shapes their snow.

Snow sculpting competition 2020 begins in Rockford, Illinois.
Snow sculpting competition in Rockford, Illinois.

As previously mentioned, the snow blocks are 10 feet tall so you’ll see plenty of ladders around the park as work is being done. This does not mean that the sculpture has to be 10 feet tall, some teams actually trim off a foot or two on the top because their design might not need all that height. Great, standing on an 8-foot ladder in the snow and cold temperatures, as if snow sculpting wasn’t challenging enough already.

Snow sculpting competition 2020 begins in Rockford, Illinois.
Snow sculpting competition in Rockford, Illinois.

Make a game out of it! Go see the sculptures in its early stages and see if you can guess what it will be. The colored outlines on the snow might help you a little bit, almost like a help line. Or you could do what we did and cheat, just look at the clay 3D model. Somebody make us a clay KB Digital sign, please and thank you.

Holiday lights in Rockford, Illinois by KB Digital

Winter wonderland in Rockford

Rockford, Illinois sure knows how to go all out for the holidays. While Chicago may get a lot of the national publicity being that it is a world-class city, Rockford puts on its own impressive showcase during the winter months. While Stroll on State is usually hailed as the major event, the light displays throughout the town last much longer and are a sight to see – oh and did we mentioned that they are completely FREE.

Holiday lights in Rockford, Illinois by KB Digital
Holiday lights in Rockford, Illinois by KB Digital

For this article, we’re concentrating solely on the light displays at the Nicholas Conservatory Gardens which sits on the Rock River just a couple miles north from the downtown area. Pulling into the parking lot you will see lots of lights and beautifully decorated trees but the real magic is behind the big glass building. On your way to the back is a path with lights arching above (pictured above) it and it sort of reminds us of those cartoon sketches where they go to a different universe through a portal covered by neon lights.

Holiday lights in Rockford, Illinois by KB Digital
Holiday lights in Rockford, Illinois by KB Digital

Once you make it through the portal path you will see the lagoon and the rest of the light displays. At this moment you are at a split and have to go either to the left or the right of the lagoon. Unfortunately, the path does not make a full circle (yet) around the lagoon but we hope this happens soon. We made our way to the right and captured the beautiful blue and violet colors, as seen in the picture above, reflecting on the frozen water. One section turned red right as we took the shot but we don’t mind it at all.

Holiday lights in Rockford, Illinois by KB Digital
Holiday lights in Rockford, Illinois by KB Digital

If you are to go to the left side (technically it’s more of a straight shot) the path leads you up the longer path alongside the lagoon. Again, beautiful colors follow the path as you make your way to the north side of the park. The picture above was taken at about a half way point and we did have to wait at least 10 minutes for the area to clear as hundreds of people were visiting that night.

So the only thing missing in this winter wonderland is the snow. Did you even notice that? However, we are definitely not complaining because being able to enjoy the beautiful displays without freezing temperatures definitely felt good. Also, we wouldn’t have gotten the amazing reflections off the frozen lagoon if it was covered with snow.

We’d love to hear from you! Have you ever been here or have we inspired you to visit it next year? Let us know in the comments below.

The Bean (Cloud Gate) in Chicago by KB Digital

Chicago during the holidays

It’s always a fun trip to Chicago when everything is nice and decorated. The trees are lit up, the ice rink is full of skaters and The Bean (aka Cloud Gate) looks more shiny than ever. We’ve been to Chicago several times this past 2019 holiday season and our only complaint was the frigid breeze from the lake, however, that didn’t stop us from taking a few pictures while there.

Willis Tower overlooks the Christmas tree in Chicago.

One of the busiest attractions is definitely the huge Christmas tree that’s set up in Millennium Park. For the picture above, it was a very frigid night but that didn’t seem to slow down the crowd as we had a hard time even getting a shot because of so many people being there. Nonetheless, the tree looked amazing and the red and green antennas on top of Willis Tower (still Sears Tower to us) looked picture-perfect. Now this is for all the photographers out there, imagine trying to capture a 1-second long exposure shot with shivering hands and no tripod. It was a challenge!

Cloud Gate (the bean) in Chicago during a frigid winter night.

Next stop on our list was just a couple hundred feet from the Christmas tree and it was the ever so famous bean, or as the official name state, Cloud Gate. Again, with no tripod and very low light, we had to try to capture a hand-held long exposure shot. What made this shot even harder is that there was no barrier between us and other bystanders. So sometimes we would have a rush of people walk within a couple feet in front of our camera and then get very dark pictures. Out of the several that we took, we managed to get one that we decided was good enough. To our surprise, we even captured the American flag in there and the red and white stripes show up just perfect as the people walked by. Talk about perfect timing.

Ice rink at Millennium Park in Chicago, Illinois.

Adjacent to The Bean is the ice rink right there on Michigan Avenue. We captured this shot more for fun than anything else. You have some people skating and doing double and triple spins while others are barely standing on their feet. Now if you’re not familiar with Chicago, all three of our pictures were taken within a couple hundred feet of each other. It is one of the many reason we love visiting the Windy City, besides the wind of course. Even though it’s only January, we’re already looking forward to beautiful, and much warmer, Spring weather!

Stroll On State 2019

‘Tis the season to be jolly… falalalala-lala-la-la

Santa on State Street in downtown Rockford, Illinois.
Santa on State Street in downtown Rockford, Illinois.

It’s that time of the year again when everything becomes so festive. For the city of Rockford, Illinois, an annual event called Stroll on State officially kicks off the winter holiday season. The event started several years ago as a way to bring the community together and help out small businesses in the downtown district. It is held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving and well sometimes the weather can be a bit too much here in northern Illinois during that time.

Rockford Fire Department participated in the parade.
Rockford Fire Department participated in the parade.

While last year’s attendance set a new record, at almost 80,000 attendees, this year was not that even close to that. The rain had to have been a huge factor and the low temperatures didn’t help either. Nonetheless, KB Digital was there to capture some amazing shots of the parade. We had a blast seeing all the different floats and just enjoying all the holiday spirit from the community.

Frosty and Rudolph wave at the crowd.
Frosty and Rudolph wave at the crowd.

We love the Stroll On State tradition and try to attend every year, and this year was no exception. Due to prior scheduled plans, we couldn’t stay too long and didn’t get to enjoy the tree lighting later that afternoon. However, we did hurry back to the studio to process all the pictures and start uploading them. Out of about 150 pictures, we selected 46 to upload on our website so we hope you enjoy them. They are also uploaded onto our Facebook page so feel free to tag family and friends if you spot them in the gallery.

PS. Only thing we regret not doing is picking up some of the candy because we sure do have a sweet tooth.