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Monday, June 29, 2015

Clearwater Lake, Missouri: 2015.

I'll admit it, when I told people I was heading to "Clearwater" over Memorial Day weekend the majority seemed to assume I meant "Clearwater, Florida." 
Once I explained it was a lake in Southern Missouri that has been on my to-see list for quite some time, some of my friends started to use Google Maps to see just what I was talking about. 
Clearwater Lake is managed by the Army Corps of Engineers and is often called one of Missouri's best fishing lakes. It also has several recreational areas you can access, as well as an AMAZING paved walking trail system. You can learn more about those areas here:

My parents, my daughter, and I all lucked out and managed to not only safely make it to and from this beautiful Southern Missouri gem, but we landed a cabin at when someone canceled their reservation for Memorial Day weekend. 

That is not easy on a major holiday weekend. 

The fish we caught may not have been big, but my daughter enjoyed herself. For the first time she REALLY got into fishing. She kept reeling them in. 
I enjoyed the scenery and loved how uncluttered this lake is. Growing up near Lake of the Ozarks, I have seen what happens when people overcrowd and overbuild on a lake. Clearwater doesn't seem to have this problem, and I hope it stays this way. 
When we weren't fishing, or hanging out near the cabin... I enjoyed walking and driving around the area with my camera. (Did you see that coming?) The beauty of the lake and the Black River was breathtaking. 

I hope you enjoy these images from Clearwater Lake and perhaps the next time you want a little "vacation" you'll consider this place instead of the crowds, tourists, homes, and stripmalls that seem to clutter so many lakes around Missouri. 

For more details about the region, here's a few links: 

If you are interested in ordering any images you see here, contact me via the MK Designs Facebook Page and/or the contact part of my website:

Thanks for your support! 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Part Two: Starved Rock State Park: An Illinois TREASURE!

This summer, when I am not...
~ on the road
~ catching up with friends
~ cleaning up my newsfeed on the one "personal" social media account I have
~ unsubscribing from junk emails
~ working on the house
~ updating lesson plans
~ working on setting up BJJTV ( for success next year
~ and more...

I am working on catching up on my MOUNTAIN of digital files from travels, photo hunts, and more from August 2014 to NOW.

Consider this blog entry a part of that process. 

This is a "Part Two" to this blog entry: about a fall trek to Illinois. I landed for a brief time at Starved Rock State Park   ( It is my goal to land there again, soon. 

If you love the outdoors and amazing land formations, this place is for you. Enjoy this visual treat. As always contact me via the MK Designs facebook page or the contact section of if you want to book a photo session or order any images you see here. 

I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes. ~e.e. cummings
The poetry of the earth is never dead. ~John Keats
I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in. ~George Washington Carver
Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in. ~John Muir 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Craving, Loving, Creating, Reconnecting, Fearing... YOU GET THE PICTURE!? :-)

Note: I am borrowing a bit of an idea from Olive and Ash Studio for this blog entry: and making it a little more personal this time.

See that image above? As much as I am loving all that I am accomplishing and seeing this Summer, I am in desperate need for a day of "nothing."

CRAVING seclusion and being alone in my house for 24 hours, or sitting with my toes in a creek for several hours with the added bonus of ZERO CELL RECEPTION.

It's not that I don't love people, it's that the older I get the more "drained" I feel at times from constant interaction. Is it normal? Is it one of my quirks? I am not sure.

Let's just say my buddy Tyann is soooo lucky I answered the phone for her today! Ha! Speaking of Tyann... I am LOVING this:
She knows me well. My dad often makes Lic Plate Art Signs and when she saw this keychain in Colorado she purchased it for me. What a great gift! PS If you want to know more about what she does, check out her stellar-cool-updated website:

The photos of Tyann on her website were taken by a mutal friend of our's named Slava.

RECONNECTING with Slava. This week, despite my urge to hole up like a turtle in her shell, I met up with Slava of for lunch at Blue Duck in Washington, Mo. I am glad we did. She's always such a positive person to be near and did I mention the food?
They have the BEST mushroom soup, and more. I don't get there often, but it seems like when I do - it's with Slava. Here's more info about this great place in downtown WashMo with river views:

This summer is hectic. However, I feel like it's been not only "productive" but important in that now my kiddo is 10, I am trying to soak up as much time with her before she hits the teen years. I am not sure why... but if I had to do a FEARING... part of this blog... it would be FEARING my daughter not wanting to spend much time with me when she's a teenager.
Crossing the Mississippi River on a ferry from KY to MO in June. 
I remember myself as a teen.

Did I appreciate my mom and the things she knew?

I can safely say not nearly enough. I was rotten.

Was I as rotten as some other kids I have known and currently know? Maybe not, but for "me" - I RELECT and think, "What a rotten teen you were to your mom, Michelle!"

I am sure I gave her fits even if she didn't show it publically. So, today when I can do cool things like "date nights" with my mom and see Lily Tomlin with her, I do it. Gladly.
OVERCOMING fear is hard. While I have no control over how Karlene will choose to act towards me as a teen, I can say this summer she and I not only faced my fear on that riverboat ferry pictured above, but more.

She talked herself out of potential regret and did this two-story slide in Union City, TN at I am so happy I clicked a pic with my phone just as she hit the ground in a moment of joy!
On the other hand, I am NOT cool with snakes...but when I found a non-poisonous one about to die tangled up in the netting that holds in my hill near my house... I grabbed some scissors and after 20 minutes he was free.
Well, I have to be honest... CREATING isn't just about photography here at our house. We entered the local library's bookmark contest again this summer. My daughter and I both won in our age groups last year. We will see what this year holds.
EXPLORING For so many years I have wanted to see Big Oak Tree State Park in Mo. On the way back from our family vacation in Tennessee, we did just that. 
The humidity was out of control, so we only did one of the walks there, but it was worth it. There will be a blog post about Tennessee and this special park in Missouri soon, too. For now, learn more about Big Oak Tree here:

For now I am going to leave you with this image of my kiddo at Big Oak Tree, and let you know more blog posts about more specific photo adventures are coming soon... I also want to thank you for your support of my work. It means so much to me.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Hawn State Park: My FAVE!

Missouri State Parks are amazing. It's not just my opinion, I am starting to view it as a fact. Beyond numerous national awards, I am seeing first-hand as I travel around our nation just how spoiled I am by the quality of our parks. We have excellent facilities, a top-notch staff, and amazing sights to see. 

With that said, I do have a favorite state park here in Missouri. 

Hawn State Park is a place I fell in love with the first time I camped there. I don't get there nearly enough considering it's not close to where I live, but when I do - exploring Pickle Springs is near the top of my list. 

My daughter asked me to take her camping for her 10th birthday, so in early May 2015 - off to Hawn we went. We spent most of Saturday exploring Pickle Springs. 
If you want to know more about Hawn State Park visit this site: 

If you hope to visit the park, be ready for beauty. If you intend to camp during good weather on the weekend, you may need reservations. The little (but great!) campground fills fast on weekends. However, a few years ago on the weekdays (in peak season) I was able to camp without reservations Tues-Thurs just fine. 
Nearby is a trail I did a few years ago (and need to revisit soon) that you may enjoy if you want to explore outside the park. It's on Missouri Conservation land and called the "Trail Through Time" 

However, inside the park - there's plenty sights and trails to enjoy if you don't feel like leaving. I know many of the times I have camped in Hawn, I've had no desire to leave once I am there. 

Enjoy these images from Hawn State Park in May 2015. Hopefully, they'll inspire you to go on a little adventure, too!  Who knows? Maybe you'll be able to designate a personal "favorite" state park, too?

Michelle of MK Designs
Posted June 2015

PS If you want any images from this post or any other, contact me for pricing / printing information. Thanks!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Post 101: Photographing History at Hamilton Primary School

In a previous blog post I mentioned a weekend roadtrip I took in the fall of 2014 to Illinois:
A wonderful part of this little trip was having the chance to get inside Hamilton Primary School with my camera in Otterville, IL. What makes this place so special? This is the first free school in the state of Illinois... and also it was the first fully integrated school in our nation. 

This beautiful place that is so rich in history has been designated a "Top Ten Most Endangered Historic Place" in the state of Illinois. Supporters continue to work on the structure and provide necessary upgrades like a new roof, paint, and more. However, they can always use your help, too. 

I was able to photograph this beautiful building because of facebook (of all things). Annette and I have many mutual friends, we both share a love of photography, and in time we became "facebook buddies." I noticed one year she was asking for raffle prizes for a picnic to assist this school. I jumped on the opportunity to donate artwork for this cause. 

Despite the miles, I was humbled to not only have the chance to photograph her family portraits this past fall, but she offered to let me in to photograph Hamilton Primary School. It was an amazing experience to say the least. 

Stepping inside this building was like stepping back in time. From textbooks to chalkboards, it's almost as if you could feel the appreciation for learning that took place here. For the first time in Illinois, students could attend for free. For the first time in our nation, anyone regardless of race was welcome to learn. 

The school can always use your help. For more information about the Hamilon Primary School and how you can assist them, visit this website:

They also have more information available on wiki:

Until next time, 
~ M of MK Designs Photography