Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Scenes from a hometown: Walton Island #2

This small pavilion sits along the promenade in the center of Walton Island situated in the Fox River in downtown Elgin, Illinois. In the background to the left is the Elgin Tower Building, a 15-story “skyscraper” built in 1929 and the prominent building in the downtown area.

According to this former resident of Elgin, the island area used to be a “scary” place. The advent of a floating casino about three-quarters of a mile from this island made a couple of things possible – more funds for local government entities to work with, and the political will to keep the area secure so as not to frighten away potential big-money gamers.

Their loss is our gain.

Click on pictures to enlarge. Images © 2005 James Jordan.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Scenes from a hometown: Walton Island #1

Part of the same coordinated effort that completed Trygve Rovelstad’s Pioneer Family Memorial in downtown Elgin, Illinois was a rejuvenation of the downtown riverfront. A promenade along the east bank of the Fox River was built, along with a total reconfiguration of Walton Island, which began as a massive pile of debris in the middle of the river, a remnant of a Great Depression-era government work project. The Isaac Walton League directed the initial seeding and landscaping of the island.

The top photo is a twilight view of a pedestrian bridge connecting sections of the island. The smaller photo shows a family on the riverwalk enjoying the view of the adjacent Fox River dam.

It’s always nice when a pile of debris can be turned into something of value.

Click on pictures to enlarge. Images © 2005 James Jordan.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Scenes from a hometown: Pioneer Family Memorial

I’m beginning a brief series of photos from my current home town of Elgin, Illinois. This sculpture of a pioneer family stands at the riverfront park downtown on the banks of the Fox River. It was created by Elgin native Trygve Rovelstad over the course of his lifetime. A renowned sculptor and medalist in the mid 1900s, Rovelstad started the work on this statue in the 1930s as a tribute to pioneers who settled in the Fox River valley.

During World War II, Rovelstad was named the first medalist sculptor for the U.S. War Department and created a number of medals, among them the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star.

Rovelstad, along with other civic leaders started a foundation in 1957 to raise funds to complete and erect the sculpture on the banks of the Fox. It was not until more than ten years following his death in 1990 before a number of government and civic entities joined forces to finance a bronze casting of his work and install it in a newly renovated downtown park, at last honoring the man whose creations honored others.

Click on pictures to enlarge. Photographs © 2005 James Jordan.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Retired fireboat

While passing through Algoma, Wisconsin on a winter day a couple of years back, I noticed a red boat docked in the Ahnapee River near Algoma’s harbor. It turned out to be an old Chicago Fire Department boat, probably on its way to a scrap yard.

This boat is named after Joseph Medill, newspaper editor and mayor of Chicago in the mid-to-late 1800s. The school of journalism at Northwestern University's Chicago campus is also named for Medill.

Even though faded, the red of the fire boat contrasted with the blue of the reflected sky in the river on this bright winter morning. I took quite a few shots of the docked boat from nearly every angle I could.

Click on pictures to enlarge. Photographs © 2005 James Jordan.

Off the highway

My wife and I were returning from Door County Wisconsin last Monday after spending the weekend in mostly gray and cloudy conditions. I managed to find some spots of color here and there, as you can see in previous posts from the last week.

As we drove south of Milwaukee, the sun suddenly broke through the clouds, turning the stormy skies over Lake Michigan a deep blue and brightly highlighting any object standing in front of those clouds. We quickly decided to take an exit to Racine to try to capture the Wind Point Lighthouse against this remarkable sky.

By the time we arrived at the lighthouse, however, the break in the fast-moving storm front had closed up. I set up in an adjacent golf course, hoping the sun might break through one more time before setting to illuminate the light tower. While I was waiting I looked behind me. The city of Racine sat silhouetted against the last remaining break in the storm front as the last light of the sun slowly faded away.

I turned the camera on the tripod, changed lenses and shot the lonely tree on the Lake Michigan shore with the city and fading light in the distance.

I don’t always get exactly what I set out for, but making the effort usually pays off in some way. At least I’m glad I got off the highway.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Painterly photos #3: Baileys Harbor

My watercolor instructor in college looked the part of the artist. Tall, dignified, with white hair and goatee, Harry Worst approached painting with a degree of confidence that I never attained. That’s why I’m taking photographs.

His mantra to his students was “foreground, middleground, background.” He wanted us to remember to place something of interest in each zone of our paintings to give our compositions a sense of depth. I’ve kept Harry’s mantra in mind as I began to make landscape photographs several years ago.

Much of the last weekend in Door County, Wisconsin was dreary and gray and I searched for locations that offered a bit of color to relieve the monotony. Looking out across the harbor from a narrow strip of land, I saw what Harry had told us to look for – the rusty tones of the grasses and texture of the rocks in the foreground, the calm waters and reflection from the point of land in the distance for the middleground and the moody clouds rolling in from the north in the background.

Winter is on its way.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Remembering Gus Kleinke’s Garage

I can imagine Gus Kleinke’s place at one time as a hub of activity in the northern Door County village of Ellison Bay. A place to stop for gasoline on the way to Gills Rock; a reliable place to bring your car for an oil change and lube; a place to just stop and chat with friends and neighbors over soft drinks.

But the imaginings seem to be all that remain of Gus’s place. The gas pumps have been removed, the place locked up, the metal chairs out front slowly rusting away. Someone takes care of some seasonal decoration – the pumpkin placed at the front door, as well as items placed in the bed of the abandoned pickup truck – placed by someone who still cares about the place, much like someone returning to a grave site with fresh flowers every so often, to stop and visit with old memories.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

PhotoFriday: Yellow

A patch of golden sunflowers is my submission for this week's Photo Friday challenge to depict "yellow."

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Words of thanks

Some scattered thoughts on being thankful on this day designated as Thanksgiving Day in the U.S.

A trifecta of admonitions from the Bible: Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I can rejoice for a while, I can pray for a goodly amount of time, and I can be thankful on a regular basis, but these verses present a very high bar – evermore, without ceasing, in everything. I’m not there yet.

Some friends faced a tremendous loss this past week in the death of a husband and a father. Even in the middle of their grief, they’ve exhibited rejoicing, prayer and thankfulness.

Today is the six-month anniversary of the beginning of Points of Light. I began it with the intent of sharing photographs of some of the beauty I’ve been privileged to witness and capture on film (I haven’t gone digital yet) and share some thoughts about life and the God who created it all. Since May 24 of this year, more than 15,000 visitors have looked at 22,000 pages and left hundreds of comments. I’m thankful for all of you who visit, and for the friends I’ve made in various parts of the world through the blogoshere.

Anyway, the ham is cooking on the stove, the chicken is in the oven (we’re just not that into turkey), the kids have returned from college and we’re thankful to have each other and be together on this day.

Hope things are going well for you. Today’s photo is of Ephraim, Wisconsin at twilight, taken this past weekend. Day is done, the summer and fall have passed and the town settles peacefully into a winter’s nap.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Painterly photos #2: Birch trees, Egg Harbor

This photograph is the second of a number of photos I took this past weekend in Door County, Wisconsin, in an attempt to capture landscapes as a painter might approach them.

This stand of birch trees is located on County Highway E just before you enter the village of Egg Harbor. On the far right edge of this photo at the horizon line, the road crests a hill and treats you to a panoramic view of the village and Green Bay beyond it.

A light snow had fallen a few days before - the first taste of winter in northern Wisconsin. By early afternoon, the snow would be melted away, leaving the landscape to await the next offering of the winter skies.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Painterly photos 1: Kangaroo Lake

Just returned from a three-day mental health break in Door County, Wisconsin. The first morning I had planned to sleep in since the weather report called for grey skies in the morning - nothing special in the way of photo taking. I woke up just as dawn was breaking to realize that a gorgeous sunrise was taking place without me.

I quickly dressed, grabbed my camera bag, and headed to Kangaroo Lake, a place I had photographed many times before. I'm a big fan of watercolor painting (I even studied it in art school many years ago), and I couldn't help but notice on the drive north how many locations seemed to evoke paintings I had seen by many talented Door County artists.

I decided to try to concentrate this weekend on capturing "painterly" photographs - pictures that evoke the same moods that a deftly rendered watercolor can accomplish.

More to come.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Photo Friday: Imperfection

The ideal tree in people's minds is tall straight and strong. Many trees in North Carolina's outer banks, particularly myrtles and yews, grow gnarled and more sideways than up due to the constant onshore winds of the Atlantic.

Not the ideal, but it has helped generations of trees thrive in the harsh climate. This photo is my entry in today's Photo Friday challenge to depict "imperfection." Could have saved some time and just posted a picture of myself, but that's another story.


The village of Ephraim, Wisconsin sits nestled in a nook of the Door County peninsula that was carved by glaciers thousands of years ago. Pioneered by Moravian immigrants in the early 1800s, the village today offers quaint shops and restaurants. The churches built by the early settlers still stand.

This photo was taken across Eagle Harbor on a blustery autumn day after a rainstorm had passed through and the sun broke through the clouds.

My wife and I are taking off for a few days to Door County in search of photos. Be back on Monday. Peace.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Moonrise at Wind Point #2

This is a companion photograph to the one that was posted yesterday by Tan Eng Loy on his photoblog. It is of the Wind Point lighthouse in Racine, Wisconsin. The Wind Point light is one of the oldest and tallest on Lake Michigan.

This view is from Lighthouse Road as you approach the grounds from the south. I've been to Wind Point numerous times, and the location never seems to run dry for photographic ideas. The surrounding grounds are beautiful, even in the bleak days of November, when the leaves have nearly all fallen from the trees and winter seems just a cold breath away.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Cornering the cook's market

Cooks Corner in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, bills itself as the world’s largest kitchen supply store, and I’m not going to argue. It’s big all right. And it’s got lots of kitchen stuff. And it’s a place my wife can visit while I’m taking photos nearby at Manitowoc’s harbor. It’s all good.

This fella stands guard by the front door with a small sign advertising the daily specials. Cooks Corner is also home to the River View Café and Espresso Bar, which the people in the background of this picture are about to enter to enjoy a cappuccino and a pastry or take in a cooking class that was about to start when I stepped outside on my way to the harbor.

Don’t know if this guy has a name or not, but I was thinking maybe someone could suggest one and I can pass it on to the Cooks Corner people. Wolfgang Buck? Emeril “Fiber” Laglasse? Hugo Inventory?

OK, I’m done now.

Not quite. I’m honored to be a guest photo blogger today on the photo blog of Tan Eng Loy, who captures some intriguing images in and around his native Singapore. Thanks, Eng Loy, for the invitation.

Click on picture to enlarge (as if the guy needed enlarging). Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Racine breakwater light

Anyone who is familiar with the breakwater light tower in Racine, Wisconsin will be quick to point out that it hasn’t had a light on in decades. I admit I added it in PhotoShop.

Built in 1902, the breakwater light served until the mid 1980s, when the U.S. Coast Guard decommissioned it and slated the tower for demolition. A huge public outcry arose, and the structure was saved and incorporated into Racine’s Reefpoint Marina complex.

This photo was taken as dawn began to tinge the skies last Saturday morning. The marina slips were empty, the cold winds of November beginning to rise. Winter is coming.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

The winds of November

As Gordon Lightfoot sang in The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, it's not a good idea to be on the Great Lakes "when the gales of November come slashing." They came slashing with a vengeance last weekend as my wife and I traveled to Kewaunee, Wisconsin, on the shores of Lake Michigan.

On the 30th anniversary of the Edmund Fitzgerald's sinking, winds of 30-50 mph whipped up large waves along the coast last Saturday. Temperatures in the 40s seemed even colder in the force of the wind. Storm clouds were rolling in and I was working very quickly to get my camera set up on the beach in Kewaunee before the sun disappeared for good that afternoon. I wanted to catch the remains of the old pier posts in front of the current pier while showing the fury of the waves in a one-second exposure. I took several frames while standing upwind of my tripod with my coat extended to form a makeshift windbreak to try to keep the camera steady, hoping to get one that I would be pretty satisfied with.

Some post-processing work in PhotoShop to adjust curves and do some dodging and burning complete the image of an angry lake and the resolute steadfastness of the lighthouse.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

A bend in the road

I've been posting lately of the rural areas just beyond the reach of suburbia in the northwest Chicago suburbs, the richness of that area as a source of photographic material and the inevitable encroachment of land developers.

During that time another blogger had been taking to the search engines looking for anything on the intranet that had to do with the same rural area. She had grown up here, and, having moved away some years back, was curious as to what others have to say about the place of her memories. Points of Light was one among a number of blogs that came up in her search results.

This region is rounding a bend in the road as it faces extinction at the hands of land developers. This other blogger has rounded a bend by getting a fresh look at her hometown through the eyes of others. I'm glad to know this blog has been of aid.

McCornack Road at sunset. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Photo Friday: Worn

Cave Point in Door County, Wisconsin is an area of limestone rock shelves that face the continual barrage of Lake Michigan. This is today's entry in the Photo Friday challenge to depict "worn."

Tens of thousands of years of relentless pounding of wind and wave have worn the limestone surface. This photo was taken before sunrise on a cold winter day.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


In most parts of the Chicago suburbs, homeowners are required to rake up fallen leaves, place them in large paper sacks and leave them out for the waste haulers to carry away. Burning the leaves is not allowed.

My yard is blessed with three large mature trees, and every autumn I fill up 30 or 40 bags with leaves. I had just finished bagging when I looked at the dozens of bags that were lined up in front of my house and filled with brown, dried leaves. I was tired and sore. It was cloudy and threatening rain. The trees were nearly all bare and drab. The paper bags were drab. I and the world around me were drab. Then a yellow maple leaf detached itself from a branch somewhere above me and floated into one of the open bags, adding just a spot of color.

I went inside to get my camera.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

On deck

In keeping with the close-to-home theme from the last few days, I offer this photo taken just outside my back door. Wood and leaves took different paths and are united again. Sort of a mother and child reunion.

Sort of.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Repurposed roots

These roots used to nourish a young tree on the banks of the Fox River near Elgin, Illinois. Today they nourish the clump of wild grasses that have found themselves growing from the top of the stump. So I guess in one sense, they continue to accomplish the purpose for which they were created, only in a somewhat different context.

Does that say something about second chances, perhaps?

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The bridge at Tyler Creek

This photograph has a busier compostion than I normally like, but the light and color of this scene just shouted, “Take me!” So I did. This is the third in a series of pictures of Tyler Creek near my home in the northwest Chicago suburbs.

In retrospect, it’s the splashes of color from the sky, the trees along the creekbank and spots of sunlight on the rocks and leaves that make it interesting for me. Other than a little dodging and burning and some minor levels adjustments in PhotoShop, this is what hit the film in my camera.

Happy Monday (sounds oxymoronic, I know, but do what you can).

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

Beside quiet waters

While taking photographs of Tyler Creek, I spotted this quiet pool of water just upstream from the rapids I posted yesterday. I say “rapids” with tongue firmly planted in cheek because the rocks in yesterday’s photo were no more than 5 or 6 inches high. I purposely used a telephoto lens and cropped out any background that would help establish scale to give the impression of water cascading around large rocks.

But this pool did offer a chance for me to make a photo of calm and repose. The large rock (yes, this one WAS quite large) adds a feeling of stability to the scene. Having something firm upon which to stand in hard times goes a long way toward being able to live a life of calmness.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul. Psalm 23:1-3

Click on picture to enlarge. Photo © 2005 James Jordan.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Tyler Creek

This is the latest on my recent exploration of patches of "wilderness" near my suburban Chicago home. Tyler Creek is a mile or so from my house, and during a good portion of this drought-stricken summer in northern Illinois, was non-existent.

It seems to have recovered nicely now that autumn has provided some rainfall. I love to photograph moving water. It aludes to the passage of time within the context of a "still" photo.I wonder if eternity will be something like that.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

Friday, November 04, 2005

River, stump and leaf

When I came across this tree stump and autumn leaves along the Fox River, not far from my home in Elgin, IL, I didn’t consider any deep meaning in the subject matter, I just saw an interesting composition with the roots of the dead tree on the riverbank and the position of the fallen leaf.

As I considered my photo post for today, I saw the vitality that once was but now is no more. I see the passage of time. Maybe I see some hope.

What do you see?

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

Photo Friday: Warmth

This summer sunset taken at Egg Harbor in Door County Wisconsin is my Photo Friday entry for this week's challenge to depict "warmth."

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Fade into night

This is another image from McCornack Road, a rural refuge just two miles from my home in the Chicago suburbs. The corn has provided its grain. It awaits the combine that will harvest the crop and reduce the stalks to stubble. The daylight is fading. The work of another growing season is nearly over. The sleep of winter awaits.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The trees are singing

Well, metaphorically singing, anyway. You know … the hills are alive with the sound of music, etc., etc.

My wife and I headed to DeKalb, Illinois over the weekend to see how the trees there were faring, color-wise. Autumn here has just about passed its peak, and most trees have either turned dull or lost their leaves, or some combination of the two. We remembered DeKalb as a town of lush tree-lined streets and that perhaps there may be a few that still had both color and leaves. So we made the 30 mile trip south of our home in Elgin.

When we arrived, we found that a number of stately maples still had a lush canopy of golden leaves on display. Creation sings the praises of the Creator. It just sings a little louder in autumn.

… Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy; they will sing before the Lord, for He comes … Psalm 96:12-13

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2005 James Jordan.