LaBagh Woods

LaBagh Woods - Forest Preserves of Cook County - Nature photos by Michael Courier

LaBagh Woods - Forest Preserves of Cook County - Nature photos by Michael Courier

LaBagh Woods - Forest Preserves of Cook County - Nature photos by Michael Courier

LaBagh Woods - Forest Preserves of Cook County - Nature photos by Michael Courier

LaBagh Woods - Forest Preserves of Cook County - Nature photos by Michael Courier

LaBagh Woods - Forest Preserves of Cook County - Nature photos by Michael Courier

LaBagh Woods - Forest Preserves of Cook County - Nature photos by Michael Courier

LaBagh Woods - Forest Preserves of Cook County - Nature photos by Michael Courier

Burnout is a weird thing, especially when it’s caused from something you love. There have been a lot of late nights and early mornings recently, a few Saturday shoots, and catching up with work on Sunday.

The weirdness is doubled when the hobby you used to do to relax is now what you do to pay the bills.

I still love what I do. I love photography. I love the chaos and the unknowns that come with taking on a job. I recently shot my first bar mitzvah and my first magic show. I photographed a kids party that involved black lights and a bubble machine. I visited the Wrigley Mansion to shoot a networking event.

All fun. But still. There’s a different part of my brain that is activated when I’m working on photos for myself. There’s a different type of joy I experience.

I haven’t had that in awhile, because I’ve not forced myself to take the time to do that in awhile.

On Tuesday I forced myself to visit the LaBagh Woods, which is part of the Forest Preserves of Cook County. It was a fun trip. Relaxing enough for still being in a major city, and a nice break from emails, social media, and running a small business.

Have you been before? You should go. It’s pretty (I hope you gathered that from the photos). Relaxing, too. But bring mosquito repellent.

It’s been over a year since I went hiking through the woods. The last time was at the Arnold Arboretum in Boston. My mind wanders when I’m on a trail. It jumps from tangent to tangent. It time travels. I think about past experiences. Past hikes. Past woods.

I think about the Forest Park Nature Preserve in Peoria Heights, Illinois. The small wooded area in Cincinnati. The Morton Arboretum in the Chicago suburbs. Discovery Park in Seattle. Devil’s Lake in Wisconsin. The woods we owned when I grew up on the farm.

I really do love trees, my childhood made that so. I suppose in some ways a walk in the woods is a way to reconnect with my youth, or to a simpler time. The biggest thing for me is to try to disconnect – to hear silence, to listen to the birds, the running of the water, the honking of car horns on the interstate…

There are a few flaws with LaBagh Woods. It isn’t perfect (and there is graffiti on some of the trees and walls). It’s quiet, if you’re in the middle of the place. The edges remind you that you’re still in Chicago, but it’s a nice break if you cannot leave the city.

I normally love to shoot trails. Landscapes. Scenic views that make a good desktop when I’m stuck inside all day. The light was harsh Tuesday, mainly because I went in the middle of the day. I wasn’t loving the trail shots. After awhile I started taking more detail photos. I came across some mushrooms in a very dark area, but thankfully I brought my flash, so I started to use that. Then I retraced my steps and reshot a few things with my flash. I’ve never used an external light source in the woods before. That was new! I needed that.

The trip was fun. My mind is now a bit refreshed. My thoughts are a little jumbled up in the best of ways. I’ve got a new wallpaper and some new fond memories. And if I’m lucky, I’ll remember this experience and schedule more breaks in the future.

Tangent: The mushrooms I found are interesting. I believe them to be the Jack O’ Lantern. I could be wrong. Regardless, I’m going to tell you about the Jack O’ Lantern mushrooms that I learned about.

Don’t freaking eat them! Why? Within 30 minutes of ingestion, you could have “excessive secretion of tears, perspiration and salivation, difficulty breathing, a drop in blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, nausea, vomiting, cramps and diarrhea.” You could have that for 24 hours.

Whatever face you’re making right now, that’s probably deserved. I probably made that face, too. And I was a lot closer to them than you. That would have been awful.