Thursday, August 31, 2006

Not the “A” shot

Last weekend was gray and cloudy, but toward the end of the day Saturday, it appeared that the clouds may break up, so I drove around looking for photo opportunities. As I neared a farm, the sun appeared, adding dimension to the clouds and bathing the landscape in warm reflected light. A barn a little further down the road afforded a great shot, but I thought that I’d explore a fence row closer to me before heading down the road.

While this shot captures the lighting and atmosphere, the location didn’t provide any compelling compositions. The barn shot would have been perfect. By the time I made it down to the barn, however, the sun had slipped back behind the clouds and the lighting was gone.

Lesson: Always go for the “A” shot first.

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Her majesty

The bloom of a Queen Anne’s Lace reaches toward the fog-shrouded morning sun. I found a meadow full of the delicately ornate blossoms while looking for photo subjects last weekend.

The flower came into popularity in England in the early 1700’s during the reign of Queen Anne. It quickly became a staple of gardens and hitched a ride to the new world via the colonists who sought their freedom and fortunes here.

Freedom and fortunes are doing OK here, and the flower is faring just as well.

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

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The road home

I drive a lot. Just for pleasure. Sometimes I'll … drive around the city or the country, kind of trying to get lost basically. You know, just see where roads lead.
Frank Black

Take the back roads instead of the highways.
Minnie Pearl

Those are two bits of advice I’ve been taking lately. And no matter how remote or unfamiliar the particular road I am traveling, that road leads somebody else home. To that person, the road fits comfortably, like an old sweater.

I like trying on those sweaters.

Brier Hill Road, Kane County, Illinois. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

New day

The photo above is of the beginning of a new day, golden sunlight bearing the hope and promise that a new day brings.

August has been a busy month. This past weekend my wife and I moved the last of three kids off to college for the year. No, not the last in a series; we moved three kids to college this year. They’re there at the same time. One has decided to pick up his education where he left off a couple of years ago. One is beginning graduate school. Another has transferred schools to begin work on a new major. (I have a Paypal account in case you’re interested in making a donation to the “Help James Keep Buying Film, Filters and a Couple of Lenses He’d Really, Really Like Fund.”)

So it’s new beginnings for our kids, but also new beginnings for my wife and I as the nest stays empty for longer stretches of time.

It’s a new day.

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

Niagara Falls, but not like it used to

This photo was taken from an observation tower on the American side of Niagara. As the glaciers retreated in the upper Midwestern U.S. some 10,000 years ago, the water from Lake Erie began to flow into the Lake Ontario basin over the Niagara escarpment, a large shelf of rock which stretches from Quebec, Canada to Minnesota. The water eventually cut a trench into the escarpment, forming the Niagara River. Niagara Falls is where the trench cutting has stalled for the last hundred years or so.

For the last 100 years or so, water has been diverted from the river before it reaches the falls and is used to power hydroelectric plants. At night and during the tourist off-season, the volume of water passing over the falls is less than half of what it would be naturally. This has reduced the distance that the falls erode from nearly four feet to just a few inches each year.

It’s good for tourism that the falls are basically in the same place they’ve been for the last century and that a large portion of the U.S and Canada has a reliable supply of electric energy. But boy, wouldn’t it be something to see the falls flowing at full power?

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

Friday, August 25, 2006

String theory

Friday Mind Bender Scientists tell us that everything consists of molecules and these molecules are made up of combinations of atoms. These atoms are made of protons, neutrons and electrons and these objects are themselves made up of quarks. But what are quarks made of? Physicists conjecture that quarks are the product of vibrating strings of energy. In essence, then, the universe and everything in it is a musical instrument.

If you believe in God, the universe is the quivering echo of His voice, “Let there be light.” You would also believe that the Master Musician is conducting a great cosmic symphony.

So why did I come up with this thought today? I was looking at this photo of a player of a stringed instrument (Steve Wick from my previous post) and observing the structure of the barn – whitewashed planks over a wooden frame over a foundation of rocks within a layer of plaster. Then I thought of this article I read.

Funny how the mind works. I must be vibrating that way today.

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

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Going places

I view photography as a means to take viewers to different places. It's not so much capturing an accurate representation of a time and place. It's using what I know about exposure, depth of field, light and color to capture the thoughts and feelings I associate with the time and place.

I've mentioned the music of Steve Wick a few times in the past. Steve tries to do with sound what I try to do with pictures - take people places. Steve is a master at weaving guitar with other live and synthestic instrumentation to capture the colors and moods of places he's been. His previous album is appropriately titled Incidents of Travel.

Steve has a new album coming out soon and I had the privilege of shooting some photos of Steve for the CD jacket. I tried to capture visually what Steve is about aurally. The photo Fingerdance, from a couple of posts ago, is Steve at work, although it doesn't look like work.

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

Monday, August 21, 2006

Horsing around

The guitarist photo from my previous post was part of a photo shoot for a CD cover. More about that in future posts. But the sequence was shot near an old barn which housed a number of horses. Occasionally, a horse or two would take a peek out of one of the barn's windows at the photographic proceedings below.

This particular equine had the strangest grin, so I snapped its portrait while he (or she?) tried to creep me out. And actually for a second, it did.

Click on picture to get the full effect of the mysterious horsey smile. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


I’m a guitar player of modest skill. With some effort, I can get some acceptable noise to emanate from the instrument. That’s why I enjoy watching an accomplished player. The instrument holds great potential, but until a master player’s fingers dance across the strings, the potential remains just that – potential, not realization.

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

Friday, August 18, 2006

The wheel of Mr. Ferris

The planners of the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair were in a quandary. It would be no mean feat to follow the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris, which featured a tower designed by a guy named Eiffel. Architect Daniel Burnham, who was in charge of selecting the keynote project for Chicago, complained at an engineer’s banquet in 1891 about the lack of innovative thought he had encountered thus far in his quest.

In the audience was George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., the owner of a Pittsburgh iron and steel testing firm. During the dinner, Mr. Ferris had an idea, sketched out a design on a napkin and presented it to Mr. Burnham.

The Ferris Wheel was the hit of the Chicago World's Fair and is now a staple of county fairs, where this one was photographed. A generous portion of sky is included to honor Mr. Ferris’ blue-sky thinking.

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

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Okracoke revisited

My wife and I visited Okracoke Island on North Carolina's outer banks last September as Hurricane Ophelia wandered offshore (it wasn't planned that way). This photo of the lighthouse on Okracoke was taken a little more than a day before a mandatory evacuation was ordered for the islands off North Carolina's coast.

I made a few subtle but important changes to the photo as it was posted then. I'm revisiting places in my memory and photos taken while in those places.

Memories, like photos, can improve with time.

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

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Photo redux 1

I'm taking some time to revisit some photos I've posted here in the past. One reason is to bring back memories of places I've been. The other is to see whether I still like the photos as they were presented back then. Those that I think can be improved upon through further post-processing will be featured here in the next few days. I'll include links to the previous version. You can tell me which one you like better, and why.

Above, the early morning sunlight falls on the Bodie Island lighthouse on North Carolina's outer banks. The lighthouse sits on a high point surrounded by marshes. A boardwalk takes visitors through the marsh, where birds and water-loving creatures are abundant. The previous photo was posted in back and white, primarily because I was experimenting with black and white at the time, but also because I wasn't totally happy with the color version.

Whaddaya think?

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

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Veins of sand

Every wave from Lake Michigan pushes a thin ridge of sand onto the shore at Evanston, Illinois, marking the progress of the last advance of water. Veins of sand stretch the length of the beach, a quiet testimony of the forces slowly at work to constantly reshape the space where land and water meet.

There's a lot to be said about sudden impacts making lasting change. But if you're not in a hurry, slow and steady works pretty well, too.

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

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Twisty tree

This leafy contortionist is located along a jogging/bicycle trail along the Lake Michigan shore in Evanston, Illinois. I don’t know what got the poor thing so confused in its early years, but someone in the city parks department had enough patience to let this guy work things out, which it has.

There’s probably a lesson here that sometimes you need to just let someone alone to work out their own struggles, or at least have a load of patience at the ready.

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

Golden light

Golden morning sunlight bathes the water and banks of Jelke's Creek. If you click to enlarge the photo, you'll notice a muskrat in the water.

This photo is a change of pace from the twilight photos from the past week or so. Instead of focusing on the dying of the day, the attention shifts to the promise that the new day brings.

Hope your day is a good one.

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

Friday, August 11, 2006

Old City street, Quebec

This was taken during a visit to Quebec City last fall. I'm always taken by the narrow winding streets of cities that were built long before automobiles became the standard by which the width of roads were determined. Foot and wagon traffice was the norm. I'm also taken by a locality whose existence is measured in centuries, not decades.

The Old City of Quebec is surrounded by a sprawling metroplex with multi-lane roads. I appreciate this small pocket of history.

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

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Night station

So I was sitting in a doctor’s waiting room a month or so ago, leafing through a copy of Smithsonian magazine (the current issue – can you believe it?) and I came across a feature on night photography and a photographer from Chicago who has a photo blog called No Traces.

After seeing what was possible with night photography, I had to give it a try, and the photo above is my first attempt at capturing moving clouds after sunset. I stopped by the local commuter rail station, set up my tripod at a low angle in the middle of a set of tracks (it was the weekend so there was little risk of a train interrupting things) and took a couple of long exposures. This particular one was taken about 45 minutes after sunset at an exposure of two minutes at f22 with the addition of a 2-stop neutral density filter. The long exposure time blurred the clouds and creates a bit of an aurora borealis feel.

It’s modest, but it’s a start.

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

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Old meets new meets old

Many of the photos here at Points of Light are cross-posted on Flickr. I started using Flickr about a year ago as a way to work around the frequently funky photo hosting/posting function on Blogger. Earlier this year, I noticed a growing number of views and comments on my photo stream on Flickr. It’s gotten to the point where my Flickr traffic is drawing about even with my Points of Light traffic.

Anyway, this photo drew some comments concerning the influence of corporate America on our collective psyche. There are a couple of juxtapositions within this photo that caught my attention while looking for photo subjects in St. Charles, Illinois last weekend. (Tor from Maine awarded me two points for using “gibbous” in a sentence two posts previous to this one. I think “juxtaposition” is worth at least five.)

One dichotomy is the casual, (presumably) authentic conversation of the folks in front of Starbucks, which is itself an example of a manufactured aesthetic marketed to the masses. (I’m racking up the points here – Tor, I used “dichotomy!”) The other is the location of a modern mass marketer within a century-old structure that used to be a premier hotel in the region.

Old meets new, or is old the new new?

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

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Municipal Building, St. Charles

The white tower depicted above and in the two previous photos belongs to the Municipal Building in St. Charles, Illinois.

At its opening on September 1, 1940, the Municipal Building was a state-of-the-art structure. In a practical sense, the building, which was designed by Chicago-area architects R. Harold Zook and D. Coder Taylor, housed administrative offices and the city council chambers. Aesthetically, the structure featured the best of Art Moderne styling and incorporated the then-new technology of fluorescent tube lighting throughout.

The most striking portion of the building is its eighty-four foot tall octagon tower. Featuring stained glass windows, pierced grillwork, and a diamond-shaped translucent top (which changes colors at night through rotating lighting) make the tower a familiar St. Charles landmark.

Ouch, that's funny!
Here's a hilarious photo blog that takes a few jabs at overly pretentious photo blogs (for me, it brings on a twinge of guilt and laughter simultaneously).

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

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Moon over St. Charles

A gibbous moon presides over the city of St. Charles, Illinois as the last coral hues of the sun fade slowly away. An observation platform that stretches into the Fox River from the riverwalk gives the impression of looking at the downtown area from the center of the river.

To the left is the city's municipal building, its illuminated art deco tower rising eighty feet over the city. More about that tomorrow.

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

River of time

It was largely an unproductive night of fishing. The Fox River refused to yield its finned creatures with any amount of speed, so those who chose to wet a line became participants in an exercise of patience. Fishermen along the shore and in boats caught more in the way of snatches of conversation than fish. That’s not entirely a bad thing.

The city of St. Charles, Illinois watches from a distance, slowly settling into night as the river meanders through, a metaphor for time. People, businesses and buildings along the river’s banks have come and gone throughout the years, but the river of time continues to flow.

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

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Little Outlet Mall on the Prairie

Just a little beyond where I took the preceding sunset photos lies the Prime Outlets mall in Huntley Illinois, at the junction of Interstate 90 and Illinois 47. It sits in the middle of a wide, flat expanse that used to be prairie land.

I can imagine that when Charles Ingalls got tired of the Little House his family was living in, that they packed everything in a wagon in search of the Big Woods of Wisconsin. They probably stopped here on their way to Lake Geneva to pick up some sundry items, maybe some clothing for Laura and Mary at Carter’s or Oshkosh B’gosh, and a little something special for Ma at Ann Taylor. Then after a snack in the food court (which probably included a monster cinnamon roll) they were on their way to a new life and literary history.

I can imagine, can’t I?

This is my 450th post on Points of Light, which represents nearly 500 photographs. Scroll down to the archive, pick a month, any month, and see what else you may have missed. It's free.

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

Friday, August 04, 2006

A day's end #5

As the spot on which I am standing turns farther into the shadow of night, the light of the previous day becomes a fading memory. In an hour, the crescent moon will join the newly risen sun on the other side of the world.

Exposure: 2 seconds at f5.6, ISO 100 film. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A day's end #4

This is one of the main roadways through the city of Elgin, Illinois. Actually, Highland Avenue is a busy six-lane thoroughfare in the downtown area. Follow it several miles west of town, however, and it eventually turns into a gravel road that ends at a housing development in the countryside.

The roadway, once robust, diminishes as it approaches its end. As does the day.

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

A day's end #3

Because the light from the sun has to pass through a thicker cross-section of the atmosphere at the beginning and end of the day, the lower frequencies of red, yellow and orange light make it through ahead of the rest, which we perceive as the familiar fiery tones of sunset.

Science aside, if it's late in the day and there are clouds in the sky, there's a very good chance that something interesting is going to happen. Last Saturday, as I spent a couple of hours photographing the day's end, it did get interesting. After I shot some photos of the sun setting over Interstate 90 (two posts previous), I turned around to spy these clouds adopting a pink glow. The panorama above is the result of stitching together three photos in PhotoShop. A single photo through my widest wide-angle lens just wasn't catching things the way I wanted.

Click on the photo to enlarge it and get the full effect. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A day's end #2

Day’s end, phase one: The low sun throws shadows from trees one hundred yards away across this bean field. The crest and large bush lie just out of reach of the approaching fingers of darkness.

The day ends with a comforting predictability. Shadows lengthen. The light turns warm and soft. As the sun approaches the horizon, the clouds begin to glow with gold and crimson hues, and reach their peak about 15 to 20 minutes after the sun has disappeared. Then night begins to settle in, the blue of the sky deepens into indigo and then makes its slow fade to black.

Day dies well.

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