I've visited Independence Grove Forest Preserve east of Libertyville countless times.
In many ways, in fact, I have a personal connection to it. That's where I trained with my brother to run my first marathon. That's where my mother walked her dog when she was recuperating from cardiac issues.
But as many times as I've seen it, I've never seen it the way it looks in the accompanying photo by senior staff photographer Mark Welsh. It's breathtaking.
I hope you enjoy this photo as much as I do.
It used to be that we could bring you photos like this or overviews of a traffic backup or aerials of a severe house fire only by renting time on a plane or a helicopter or occasionally hitching a ride with our broadcast partners.
That was a cumbersome process, so it meant we didn't get aerials too often. They were reserved for only monumental events.
This photo was shot with a drone, and the exciting thing about that is that there will be many more photos like it.
We're making a significant investment in drone photography, and we're convinced it's going to enhance the suburban journalism you receive.
"Its applications are endless and getting better every day," Welsh says. "This provides us with more creative ways to make the ordinary something special, in our story content, news events and overall general coverage.
"We can live-stream from the drone to the Daily Herald Facebook page. We haven't done it yet, but if a fire breaks out, we can live-stream it."
Welsh is one of three members of our photo staff who've so far been FAA-approved to pilot our commercial drone. Three more are studying for the rigorous test that is required in order to receive that certification.
The test isn't required for a personal drone someone might play with in the backyard. But if you're flying it as a business, you need to be trained. You need to be aware of potential hazards. We're extremely sensitive to that.
The FAA test is no procedural thing. It's an intensive exam on knowledge of air space, weather conditions, crew management, field operations, emergency procedures and chart comprehension.
"We have to be able to read a sectional chart to figure out where you can and can't legally fly without an FAA waiver or authorization," says Jeff Knox, senior director of visual journalism. "On average, we spent about 50 hours (per person) studying and taking practice tests prior to taking the test.
"If there's one thing the test stresses, it's safety."
We live, of course, in an age of rapid technological advancement. The newsroom where I work is much different from the one where I started a few decades ago.
Our ability to access records and information, and to make sense of it, is so far advanced from the slow legwork of "The Front Page" era.
Many of those technological improvements are more or less behind the curtain, things that make the work better or easier but that might not be apparent to you as a reader.
But this one! This one, you get to see!
We're so thrilled about that.
"The drone allows us to see the world from a different vantage point," says Steve Lundy, another of our certified drone pilots. "It gives us intimate perspectives and allows us to photograph things we just could not get to before.
"I see endless possibilities shooting pictures and video from the sky. We can get a different angle for events that are over water, like a sailboat race or a canoeist going down a river. The drone allows us to shoot real estate that shows the entire property. It also allows us to move along with a subject while shooting video."
Steve, like our entire team, is excited.
We hope you are, too.
As always, thanks for reading.