Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Directing the clouds

This sign along a rural road outside of Elgin Illinois seems to be suggesting the direction and speed for a bank of clouds in advance of an approaching storm last Monday. The changing face of the sky is can be fascinating to watch and a challenge to follow. In a fleeting moment, a photo like that in my previous post presents itself. I only had time to shoot two frames before it disappeared.

Paying attention to life's clouds and sun that pass by us on a daily basis is also a challenge; it is so easy to miss the beauty that streams by us every day. And sometimes, like the sign above, we want to control that flow and slow it down for our enjoyment.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.


Memorial Day was marked in the Midwestern U.S. by a series of thunderstorms that rolled through late in the day. Our day’s scheduled cookout was moved indoors to avoid one of the storms. After dinner, my wife and I drove out into the countryside west of our home to look for photo opportunities.

We wound up doing a little stormchasing as we saw a squall line approaching. The photo above shows the setting sun momentarily bursting through the cloud bank. It was the most dramatic shot of the day.

More to follow.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A row over housing

A row of townhomes in downtown Elgin IL sits against a backdrop of a brilliant blue sky. While projecting a “summertime-and-the-livin’-is-easy” vibe, behind this scene lies a city struggling to revitalize its downtown area. A recreation center directly across the street from these condos has yet to finish a year in the black. Several other condominium and apartment projects are underway, but opinions are split as to whether new housing in the absence of new business ventures will be successful, especially as historic buildings are torn down to make room for the new housing.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Monday, May 29, 2006


It’s Memorial Day in the U.S., a day to remember those who gave everything in the service of their country. I am a child of the Vietnam war era. From my first recollections until my junior year of high school, the war was a part of my consciousness.

I don’t personally know anyone who died while serving in the military. But I think that’s the point. A few have served and made the ultimate sacrifice so that the many may enjoy the freedoms that this country offers.

For that I am thankful.

U.S. flag sculpture, Walton Island, Elgin, IL. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Points of Light is a featured favorite in this week’s Moody Monday photography meme. Photographers are invited to submit photos related to the week’s particular theme. A photo I had taken in Bermuda, and posted here several days ago, was one of five chosen by this week’s jury for the theme of “foreign.”

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Good seed, bad seed

Seeds are cool. Hats off to the One who came up with the concept. Imagine - everything needed to produce a complete living organism is contained in one small package. Just add dirt and water. The plant then grows many hundreds and thousands of times bigger than the original package – and then makes more seeds. Brilliant.

The only problem is that this concept works two ways. While I was sowing a few seeds indoors to get a head start on growing some decorative flowers, dandelions were working overtime spreading seeds on my lawn outside, and, judging from the looks of things, have had much more success than I.

We can sow seeds of goodness or seeds of bitterness. It’s guaranteed that each will grow and create more of its kind. I’m going to keep that in mind this week.

Morning glories. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Update: My 30,000th visitor …

... has come and gone without leaving a comment. Number 30K visited via Comcast from North Dartmouth, MA at 7:26 this morning while surfing on Blog Explosion. Thanks to all of you who left a kind word in the comments.

Abandoned shoe, Jockey Ridge State Park, Nags Head, NC. © 2006 James Jordan.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

One year or 30,000 visitors ...

... whichever comes first. Well, one year came first, but not by much. I wrote this one year ago when I made my first real post to this blog:
Along everyone's journey through life, there are people, places and circumstances that serve as points of light along the way. You know them ... friends, parents, mentors, dreamers, special places you return to every so often. Every contact adds richness to the person who is you.

This blog is a record of people, places and things that have caused me to stop and wonder at the marvelous passage we call life. And like a good traveler, I have photographs to share. Feel free to join me in this travelogue ...
I had set the blog up one month earlier, but I hadn’t yet decided what I actually wanted to do with it. Then I came up with the mission statement above and posted it on May 21, 2005. I’m a few days past the one-year anniversary, but hey, close enough.

I notice that my site counter is now nearing 30,000 visitors and it’s very likely that someone will trip that number today. So if it’s you, please let me know by leaving a comment. I have something for you.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, North Carolina, USA. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Twists and turns

If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there. - Lewis Carroll

This winding stretch of road is located at the tip of Door County, Wisconsin. For a number of years I had wondered why the road builders chose to create so many twists and turns. Was it a practical joke? Was there a purpose?

I asked around and even posted the question on a forum I discovered that covered Door County topics. And I got a reply. According to the locals, the road pavers took the path of least resistance and paved over existing wagon paths. Those paths were formed by travelers unwilling to cut through the heavily wooded terrain, settling instead for a winding route.

Any road may get you to where you don’t know you are going. Sometimes the road itself can keep you in suspense.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The vanishing road

We are all treading the vanishing road of a song in the air, the vanishing road of the spring flowers and the winter snows, the vanishing roads of the winds and the streams, the vanishing road of beloved faces. - Richard Le Gallienne

The road we travel vanishes ahead of us into the mist. We can’t see very far down that road. But we can discern something of what’s ahead by observing those who have gone before us. We can draw a few conclusions from what we’ve seen along the way thus far. We can take our best guesses based on the collective experience of many.

It takes faith to travel this road. Whether it’s faith in what can be seen, faith in self to figure it out on one’s own or faith in God as the wise builder of that road, there is a choice to be made – where shall I place my trust?

I'm on this road for the rest of my life. - Dennis Banks

Dawn, Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Winding road, Ile d'Orleans

He who chooses the beginning of a road chooses the place it leads to. It is the means that determine the end. - Harry Emerson Fosdick

The road to and around the Ile d’Orleans east of Quebec City leads to a place with the ambience of the French countryside. Small cottages, ancient farms and quaint villages dot the landscape, making each turn and bend in the road an entryway into new sights and experiences.

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

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Get your monkey sundaes here

Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason. - Jerry Seinfeld

Gotta disagree with Jerry on this one. Usually the road less traveled has the most interesting turns and things to see along the way. Highway 47 in Illinois passes through towns most people have never heard of – Morris, Yorkville, Elburn, Hampshire, Woodstock, Hebron. But something almost every one of these towns has in common is a mom-and-pop non-franchise ice cream joint on the main drag.

Huntley, Illinois is no exception, and at the Dairy Mart you can quickly pull of the road for hamburgers, pizza puffs and hotdogs and all manner of soft-serve ice cream creations. A personal favorite is the monkey sundae – basically a hot fudge sundae with bananas. Good stuff at low prices. Can’t beat it.

Evening after the rain at Dairy Mart. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Seven snaps worth seeing

Good stuff from the last few days courtesy of the photogs on my blogroll. A nice variety of shots and moods. Check them out!

Riegelsville-Roebling Bridge at Dawn at A Walk Through Durham Township
Doppler Effect at Blue Hour
Absorbed by the Lake at Engloy Digital Photo Gallery
Falling Water 5 at Lenscape
Mutt Photo at Mark My Shots
Cloudprint at milemarker39
Nom nom at Shutterjunkie

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Paths cross. Two destinations. A decision to be made. Continue on the present road or make a turn? A metaphor for destiny.

I’m going through my photo collection and pulling our some road pictures (not the kind with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby) to post over the course of the next few days.

More to come.

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. Which road do I take? she asked. Where do you want to go? was his response. I don't know, Alice answered. Then, said the cat, it doesn't matter.

- Lewis Carroll

Corner of Douglas and Symphony Way, Elgin, Illinois. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Spheres of influence?

It's the weekend and that means shopping to a lot of people. I've always been fascinated by the large red spheres that Target stores place in front of their buildings. I suppose it ties in with their "bullseye" logo and branding somehow if you think about it hard enough. I doubt that they act as any kind of terrorist deterrent to keep someone from driving a car bomb into a store, but you never know. Maybe those things are heavy enough.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Toy boat 2

This boat was docked in the harbor of St. Georges in Bermuda. Again, I applied some selective focusing and tone adjustments to give the impression that this is a miniature model instead of a real boat. You can see the original picture here.

Havin’ some fun makin’ minis.

Click on picture for full effect. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Little red lighthouse

The Sturgeon Bay ship canal cuts across Wisconsin's Door County peninsula, saving vessels time and distance going to and from Green Bay. The Lake Michigan entrance of the canal is marked by two lighthouses. The smaller of the the two, situated on a pier which extend out into the lake, is pictured above.

Like the previous several posted photos, some strategic blurring and tone shifting renders the illusion of a miniature model lighthouse. I'm having fun of late going through my older photos and trying out the effect on some landscapes. Some work out well, others don't.

Again, there are several groups on Flickr devoted to fake miniaturizations. Thousands of photographers have posted their best photographs writ small. Some are simply astounding.

Why do we do it? Because we can, I guess.

Click on picture for the full effect. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Toy boat, toy boat, toy boat

I shot this photo while walking along the south shore road on Bermuda's main island. It was around noon and with the sun overhead, the crystal clear seawater was illuminated through to its pink sandy bottom.

I remember thinking that the boat in this photo looked like a toy sitting on top of the clear water. Some selective de-focusing strengthens the effect, which is better viewed full size (just click on the photo to enlarge it).

Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Monday, May 15, 2006

More minis

Having tasted the thrill of creating miniature views from regular photos, I went through a number of older photos searching for candidates for shrinkage. This photo, posted last August, of a group of people taking pictures at Minnesota's Gooseberry Falls seemed to fit the bill. You can get a glimpse of the original photo here.

I'll finish out the week with the minis; hopefully by then I'll have gotten it out of my system.

If you'd like to see more, there are a number of groups on Flickr that are dedicated to the craft. You can make these photos in one of two ways: buy a very expensive lens that does it for you, or manipulate the photos in PhotoShop. Here is a group that fakes it.

Click on picture to get the full effect. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

A matter of perspective

When I was younger, I found that I could make big objects seem little by looking at them through my outstretched thumb and index finger. I could seemingly grasp them and, given enough provocation, crush them with just a pinch.

That feeling has returned while processing some of the photos I’ve taken around Elgin. I've applied the digital equivalent of placing big things under my thumb. In the photo above, a few changes in focus make the Fox River, Chicago Street Bridge and Elgin Tower Building look like toy models.

Human pride likes to place ourselves at the center of our universe, the masters of our domains, the frame of reference for all things. That’s what makes paradigm shifts - seeing the familiar in a new way - so powerful.

Pretty cool how photography can do that.

Click on picture to make tiny. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Tiny taxi

The second in a series of manipulated images to simulate a miniature display. This photo was taken from the rooftop of a parking garage across the street from the Elgin police station in late afternoon.

Careful selections and blurs were added to create an alternative reality. Not sure that there's any deep meaning in what I'm doing. It's just fun.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Little blue car

Having seen some photos of late that use selective focus to make large scenes look like a miniature display, I thought I'd give it a try on some of my photos taken around Elgin on the day of the Elgin 1440 project.

This photo of a street corner was taken from the second level of a parking garage. I made some careful selections and applied some gaussian blur and desaturation in Photoshop to simulate the appearance of a model car on a miniature street.

More "minis" to come.

Friday, May 12, 2006


The Pioneer Family memorial sculpture took its creator, Elgin native Trygve Rovelstad, a lifetime to create. The bronze work depicts a family of pioneers choosing this particlular spot in which to settle. It is located at the entrance of Elgin's downtown riverwalk

The sunset behind the sculpture is the work of another Creator.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


The Elgin Big Timber commuter rail station is the final stop for people traveling northwest out of the city of Chicago and a pleasant place to wait out the weather of northern Illinois.

The station was refurbished several years ago from something that resembled an above-ground bunker to its present neo-colonial styling. For those of us who live on the outer edges of suburbia, the station is a passageway to the big city.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Standing Pat

7:59 a.m. Pat stands at this corner on school days, as she has for the last eight years, stopping traffic and helping kids safely cross the street on their way to Century Oaks School in Elgin. Over the years, Pat has gotten to know a lot of kids and their morning routines.

On this particular morning, Pat shared that she knows which kids have not yet showed up at the corner, who is late and who probably wouldn’t show up for school that day. She was a bit worried because school was about to begin and she hadn’t yet seen a pair of sisters who lived in the apartment complex down the street. “Maybe they got a ride today,” Pat mused while keeping an eye on the building.

I thanked Pat for her time, assured her that the camera was working fine after she expressed concern that images of her would break it, then crossed the street to head for my car after she stopped traffic one last time that morning.

Click on pictures to enlarge. Photographs © 2006 James Jordan.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Lone ranger

I met Leonard Keller while I was out and about photographing in the city of Elgin on May 2. Leonard is 85 years young and works as a ranger at the Wing Park, keeping the pace going for the players on the course. “I’ve been working here for three years,” said Leonard. “I mostly do it for the free golf and cart.”

There were several photographers for the Elgin 1440 project already on the course when I arrived. I’m hoping that I’m the only one who thought to get a picture of the lone gentleman sitting by the first tee.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Towering over Elgin

Elgin Tower Building, 3:51 p.m. Originally the headquarters of the Home National Bank, the Elgin Tower Building opened in 1929. This 15-story building, a skyscraper of its day, towered 186 feet above the Illinois prairie.

An architectural compromise, the tower combines the decorative elements of the past with a modern, simplistic style. Completed for the then-hefty sum of $800,000, the building was conceived as a symbol of Elgin's sucess in commerce and industry. Ironically, five months after opening, the U.S. stock market crashed, triggering the great depression. The building went into receivership three years later. The suceeding years have seen declines and rises in Elgin's fortunes.

Today the building is more a symbol of Elgin's resilience through tough times.

Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Coming up flowers and trees

Some of the photographers on my blogroll are celebrating spring with pictures. Take a moment to check out their vernal visions.

A Tree Askew at Blue Hour
A Taste of Honey at North Atlantic Skyline
Never Say Die at Penning by Photographs
Reach at Ryan Rahn Photography
A Flower’s Insides at Shutterjunkie

Putting on the brakes

7:36 p.m. Dusk settles as a lineup of automobiles slow down for a red light on the Kimball Street bridge over the Fox River in downtown Elgin, Illinois. At the same time, the water of the Fox River piles up in large ripples as a dam, just out of the frame to the left, slows the water’s advance.

Barely perceptible in the brightest part of the day, the low angle of light at dusk reveals the wrinkled surface of the flowing river - a parallel universe and a warping of time and space.

Or at least I can imagine it that way.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The piper

Teenage bagpiper, Elgin Riverfront Park, 6:48 p.m. This is Carl. He was warming up for an appearance on the public radio program From the Top, which was scheduled to tape at Elgin's Hemmen's Auditorium which is adjacent to the park. From the Top features talented young classical musicians from across the U.S. Of course, the kilt was more for the benefit of the live audience as opposed to that of the radio audience when the show airs in October.

Carl was scheduled to play a piece scored for bagpipes and full orchestra. I'm sorry I missed it. I'll have to wait until October.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Same old line

Bus stop, 7:48 a.m. I don't know if every school bus stop in Elgin employs the same ettiquette as this one. As I watched the kids arrive, I noticed they formed a neat line from the curb. They did so on their own without being told, and they just stood there, some kids for more than 15 minutes.

I asked one of them how they determined who stood where and was told they lined up in the order in which they arrived at the stop. And there they stood until the bus arrived and the line moved smoothly and quietly through the open doors of the vehicle.

They may act like a bunch of wild crazies once they arrive at their school, but at least one bus driver in Elgin runs a pretty tight ship.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Rainy night drugstore

Walgreen’s Pharmacy 12:48 a.m. Continuing my day of shooting photos in Elgin: After I took a couple of shots at the Big Timber station (yesterday's post), I sat in my car, hoping the rain would subside. My plan was to get some exterior shots of some all-night businesses. I was not prepared for the rain, which wasn’t letting up, so while sitting in the parking lot of a 24-hour pharmacy, I took a shot of the building through the rain-spattered side window.

I imagine if one was sick enough to need a pharmacy this time of night, it may well look like this to the person needing the medicines.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The start of a long day

Big Timber commuter rail station, Elgin Illinois. May 2, 2006, 12:01 a.m. This photo heralded the start of a long day of picture taking for me. Midnight marked the start of the Elgin 1440 project, where dozens of photographers criss-crossed the city in 24 hours, capturing one day in the life of a community. See the previous post for more details.

In actuality, I conked out early. At the time of this writing, there is still almost three hours to go. I packed it in this evening at 8:25 p.m., at the same spot I started – Big Timber.

This train was scheduled to pull in at 11:59 p.m. It did me a great favor by barreling into the station two minutes late. The last train of May 1 became the first train of May 2. Just five minutes before the train arrived, a heavy rain began to fall. I draped a jacket over the camera and tripod and waited until the train made its entrance before removing the jacket and tripping the shutter.

Through the miracle of daily posting, I can make this day last for two weeks. More to come.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Out taking pictures today

This is the day of the Elgin 1440 project, where photographers, both amateur and professional are being encouraged to record an ordinary day in Elgin, Illinois, from midnight to midnight. So that's what I'll be doing most of the day today. Photos will be selected for public display later in the month of May.

This photo was taken some time ago. It shows Walton Island, in the middle of the Fox River in downtown Elgin. A fisherman has called it quits for the day and is heading home via a footbridge that connects sections of the island. In the background is the skyline of Elgin.

I'll submit my share of photos to the project. Those and many of the rest will be displayed here.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.