Justin W. Patchin Essays
In addition to my professional writing, I occassionally write essays about personal experiences and random musings. Even more occassionally, these essays end up being published somewhere. If that happens, I'll post links here.

Capturing The Perfect Shot. Wisconsin Life, July 28, 2017

[Note: this is an essay I recorded for Wisconsin Public Radio's "Wisconsin Life." You can listen to it by clicking below.]

I’m running late. By the time I show up, the sun has already sunk beneath the horizon. Despite my best intentions, it appears I have missed the opportunity I was hoping for.

I’ve always loved sunsets, but I only recently discovered a joy in photographing them to preserve and share with others. On this evening I hike to a spot on the Eau Claire River to capture the sun setting over a meandering section of the stream. I came across this place previously while boating and thought it’d be an interesting location to take a picture. Though I didn’t realize at the time what it would take to get there by foot.

(listen here)


Opening Weekend: The First Morning of Fishing Season is Usually Cold, but the Memories Formed Couldn’t be Warmer. VolumeOne, May 3, 2017

The opening weekend of walleye fishing season is practically a state holiday where I grew up in northern Minnesota. And I suspect the same is true for many folks here in western Wisconsin. I rarely miss an opportunity to get together with my dad to fish “the opener.”

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Turn Your Eyes to the Skies: I Don’t Waste an Opportunity to Experience the Northern Lights. VolumeOne, November 2, 2016

A little over a year ago in this space, I wrote about my transformative experience viewing and photographing the northern lights in our area. Since then, I’ve observed the aurora borealis quite a few times, both from here and points further north. And I’ve become somewhat obsessed. Some people are fixated on the Packers; others, on craft beers. For me, it’s observing the luminous effects of sun-sent electrons blasting the Earth’s atmosphere.

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Morning Glory: In a Wisconsin Spring, the Early Bird Gets the Best Show. VolumeOne, April 20, 2016

I looked up from my breakfast bowl, which was filled to the brim with milk-soaked Frosted Mini-Wheats, and noticed through the sliding glass door which faces east from our house, through the decades-old white pines a sky so bright red that it gave the impression that the needles had been set aflame. The vibrancy of this pre-dawn color was jolting, especially against the backdrop of early spring drabness. I dropped the spoon atop the miniature bales in the bowl, jumped up from my chair and sprinted for my camera.

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It Seems to Me: Public Universities Need Support.
Leader-Telegram, April 17, 2016

UW-Eau Claire Chancellor James Schmidt recently released some troubling, though not surprising, information detailing the consequences of the latest round of reductions in statewide support for public higher education in Wisconsin.Specifically, the state now contributes just 20 percent of the funding to my institution’s operating budget (down from 59 percent in 1975). This begs the question: If the public contributes just one-fifth of the funds to support the school, is it still accurate to refer to it as a public university?

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Inspiring Art: Living in the Valley’s Art-friendly Environment Can Spur Anyone’s Creativity – Even Mine. VolumeOne, August 19, 2015

I never thought I’d find myself sitting alone on the southern shore of Lake Wissota at 2 in the morning with a camera – affixed atop a tripod – pointed skyward. But there I was, a few weeks ago, trying to make a permanent portrayal of the famously ephemeral aurora borealis. Like many in western Wisconsin, I was giddy with excitement that the northern lights were visiting us here with such vibrancy, so far from their typical range. But my goal on that particular evening wasn’t merely to see the lights, but to record them in a way that spoke to me, and perhaps others, long after they had retreated back to the arctic.

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Roaming the Icy Rivers: Learning and Re-learning About the Attractive Dangers of River Ice. VolumeOne, March 4, 2015

At dusk, I take my two German shorthaired pointers for their usual after-work walk. They need this daily discharge of pent-up energy. Especially the puppy, whom my father has nicknamed “Zip-code” because of her penchant for pursuing far-off places.

Truth be told, I need this walk too. It’s an opportunity to defrag my brain and straighten my spine after hours of sitting in front of a computer screen. Plus, it’s February, so any time spent outside is time well spent.

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