Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Winter still life #2

Serving twice: Twigs and leaves form geometric patterns above and below the frozen surface of a small creek. Conduits of nourishment for the trees along the bank when the weather was warm and the land was green, they will decay and provide nourishment for the roots of those same trees when they are released from the icy grasp which holds them fast.

Photographed at Big Bend Forest Preserve, Des Plaines, IL. Post-processing: Levels adjustment with slightly increased color saturation. Vignetting with levels adjustment and Gaussian blur. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Winter still life #1

Freeze frame: A small creek lies in suspended animation until the spring thaw. Twigs, leaves and even air bubbles are locked in place waiting for their release.

Creation will come back to full life with the spring. I’m ready.

Photographed at Big Bend Forest Preserve, Des Plaines, IL. Post-processing: Levels adjustment with slightly increased color saturation. Vignetting with levels adjustment and Gaussian blur. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2006 James Jordan.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Artists' Point

Jutting out into Lake Superior from Grand Marais, Minnesota is a small, T-shaped peninsula of rock and forest called Artists’ Point. A couple of years ago, I spent a number of vacation mornings walking over the flow of igneous rocks, giving the blue and orange lichen credit for stubbornly eking out their existence on the crystalline magma, sculpted by centuries of wind and waves.

The soft lapping of waves on the stones and the occasional cry of a loon in the distance create Artists’ Point’s pre-dawn soundtrack. A perfect place to commune with creation and the Creator.

In the next few hours, I’ll be a long way from Artists’ Point, rushing into a day with a long list of things to get accomplished, people to see and schedules to make, followed by several straight days of more of the same. I’ll plan to revisit the place as often as I can this week.

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

The taxing part is over

I finished my tax returns today. The question now is what to do with the $8 refund I will receive from the U.S. government. I dunno ... buy a roll of film, I guess.

Here’s a photo of some of my tax dollars at work. This was taken at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. These are the engine ports of the second stage booster of an Apollo moon rocket. The entire 360-foot-long machine is suspended in sections from the ceiling of a very large hangar building. The hangar featured some very pleasing light. Not bad for a government installation.

I feel a boost now that I’ve gotten my taxes out of the way.

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

Linky goodness

Some nice photos posted throughout the past week. These people have cameras and aren’t afraid to use them.

Lake Towhee, Melting Ice, Sunset at A Walk Through Durham Township
Final Rays at Daily Images
At The Earth’s Edge at Daily Snap
Family Trees at Engloy’s Digital Photo Gallery
On A Rainy Day 1 at Lenscape
Tryptich + 1 at Shutterjunkie

Saturday, February 25, 2006

St. Peter's Church, Bermuda

Travelers take a midday respite on the steps of St. Peter’s Church in the city of St. George, Bermuda. The church has been welcoming wandering souls for a long, long time. St. Peter’s is believed to be the oldest continuously used Anglican church in the western hemisphere. The building was originally built in 1612, just three years after a British vessel, bound for Jamestown, Virginia, washed onto Bermuda’s reefs during a powerful storm. The crew and passengers, totaling 150 people, became the first inhabitants of Bermuda.

Additions to the building were completed throughout the years. Inside is the original altar, built in 1615. Behind the church stands a 500-year-old cedar tree that once bore the church’s bell.

Standing in a town steeped in four centuries of history, I felt pretty young.

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

Friday, February 24, 2006

In hard places

The shoreline of the state of Maine is very similar to the deep fjords of Norway. Hundreds of long, thick fingers of rock, born of volcanic and glacial activity create a shoreline that, if it were extended in a straight line, would be equal in distance to that of California.

The lighthouses situated at the head of these rocky outgrowths are as rugged as the geology upon which they stand. Many, like the lighthouse at Pemaquid Point, pictured here, were built of the rocks found nearby. Field rubble, they call it.

We are formed by the harsh and hard field rubble of life. We, like the stations of light on the rocky coast, have opportunity to offer help and hope to others who will travel the same difficult path.

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

In the pink

Pink is the ubiquitous color of Bermuda. It is a pastel paradise where many houses, churches, boats and transit buses sport a roseate blush. Even real men wear pink in Bermuda. I was privileged to have visited there last year.

I spotted this rosy residence while waiting at a pink bus stop for an aforementioned pink bus.

Pink is the theme this week at Thursday Challenge. If you're in the mood for shades of salmon, casts of coral and flashes of fuschia, head on over. You'll be tickled pink, I think.

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Snowy pine

A number of visitors (I suspect from the sunny south and non-snowy parts of the UK) have commented on the snow photo I posted yesterday. Being one who is eager to please, I'm following up with this snow-draped conifer, taken while returning home from having taken the previous photo. It was a bright sunny morning after a heavy snow and old man moon put in an appearance as well.

Some vignetting in PhotoShop plus a little tweaking to help bring out Mr. Moon. An 81B filter was used to warm up the sky and tree a bit as well.

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

Monday, February 20, 2006


The temperatures here have moderated quite a bit. Thankfully. It was painfully cold over the weekend, which explains why I spent my time indoors photographing a cello instead of venturing outside.

Here is a photo from a previous outside venture. The morning after a rather heavy snow found snow clinging to nearly every surface. The morning sun filtering through nearby trees threw shadowy stripes across the snow's surface.

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

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Connections, part 2

So I’ve written about the number of connections necessary to create and perceive music on the cello (previous post). Here’s another type of connection – degrees of separation.

The cello community is pretty gregarious and tightly knit. My daughter is connected to YoYo Ma by four degrees. One of her teachers’ teacher’s teacher had Ma as a student. She is connected to Harry Chapin by just two degrees. Another of her teachers was the cellist with Harry’s band in the mid-70s. The closest connection to a famous person that I can think of for myself is the two degrees of separation I have from John Kerry. I once worked for a man who served under Kerry in Vietnam on a swift boat.

But no one beats Kevin Bacon for gregariousness. He’s connected to practically everyone in Hollywood. The computer science department at the University of Virginia created The Oracle of Bacon. You can enter the name of anyone who has an acting credit in a major motion picture and it will calculate the person’s connection to Bacon. Amazingly the average number of steps is about 2.

If you can come up with an actor or actress with more than three steps of separation from Kevin Bacon, let me know. If you have your own connection to someone famous, I’d like to hear that, too.

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

Favorite photos this week

There are lots of good photographers on my blogroll taking great pictures on a regular basis. Here are just a few of my favorites from the past week. The only criteria I have is whether the photo strikes a chord with me, so the "honor" is very subjective. Check them out and see if you agree with me.

Afternoon Sunshine at Daily Images
The Morning Jog at Daily Snap
Face Off at Engloy’s Digital photo Gallery
Ribbit, Ribbit at Lenscape
Library at Stray Matter


A lot of stuff happens in between the time an idea forms in the mind of a musician to when that sound is heard and interpreted in the mind of the listener. And it happens real fast.

In the case of a cellist, split-second decisions are made in regard to the placement of fingers on strings, speed, pressure, angle and position of the bow in relation to those strings, which creates vibration of the strings, which transfers to the bridge of the instrument, which causes the top of the instrument to vibrate, transferring the vibration along a wooden sound post inside the instrument to the back of the instrument, causing the air inside the instrument to vibrate at the same rate as everything else, exiting from the f-shaped sound holes on the surface of the instrument, joining with extraneous vibrations of the various parts of the instrument as they travel toward a listener’s ears, which pick up the vibrations as kinetic energy and transfers them as electromagnetic energy to the portion of the brain which interprets those impulses as sound and then makes split-second decisions as to the nature of those sounds (happy, sad, angry or perplexed), all while experiencing a continuous flow of changing sound patterns within what we call a piece of music.

My daughter has decided to make the pursuit of perfecting this Rube Goldberg machine her life’s work. This is a photo of her cello, taken yesterday, while she is home visiting from college. It’s a clinical view, much like the clinical description of making music, above. You see, an idea forms in the mind of a photographer, who makes decisions in regard to light, positioning and angle of the subject, who then in turn …

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

Saturday, February 18, 2006

This would be a nice place to be right now

The temperatures here in the midwestern U.S. were down to about -9F last night (that's about -20C). Brrr. Driving around doing errands this morning, I had a need to clean the windshield - the washer fluid froze instantly on contact with the glass. It reminded me that when my kids were young, we would go out on days like this and blow soap bubbles. The bubbles would freeze in midair and the kids could fetch them and bring them back. Or if it was a windy day, the bubbles would roll along the ground after they landed.

Nothing frozen about this photo. It's Orlando, Florida in June. This was the pool at the hotel we stayed at for a trip to Disney World. An evening thunderstorm had just passed through and folks were just getting out to the pool afterward. Photo info: 30 seconds at f16, ISO 100, temperature: 85 (27C). Ahhh.

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

Friday, February 17, 2006

Same world, two views

This is a photograph of two responses to a pleasant summer evening in St. Charles, Illinois. Rush to get somewhere or sit a while and enjoy it. I’ve spent a disproportionate share of my life rushing to get somewhere – job advancement, financial security, keeping up with appearances – and not enough time enjoying where I am – with family, with friends, with my God, with myself.

Call it destination focus versus journey focus. In this life, we’ll spend a lot more time in the journey than at the destination. Don’t miss either.

Coming across this photograph this morning was a good reminder for me.

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

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


The theme at Thursday Challenge this week is "Old." Resisting the urge to post a self-portrait, I offer this sepia-toned reworking of a photograph posted last fall. Somehow I think the conversion to b/w helps bring out the texture of the gnarled roots better.

My wife continually reminds me that I'm only as old as I think I am. Good thing, then, that I'm at that age when I keep forgetting how old I am.

Now, what were we talking about?

Click on that picture-looking thing to enlarge. Photograph © ... what year is this? James.


My youngest daughter is a cellist. She is currently a freshman in college wanting to make a go at majoring in cello performance. And as a completely *unbiased* father, I think she's good. Very good.

When the opportunity came up in fourth grade for the kids in her class to begin string orchestra, nearly everyone wanted to go for violin, including my daughter. It was the cool instrument. At the organizational meeting the orchestra teacher practically begged parents to consider starting their kids on other instruments - violas, cellos and basses. Besides needing them badly, her reasoning was that the top spots for those instruments in future orchestras would be less competitive. She was correct, up to a point. My reasoning was that a cello had a deeper sound and a longer neck ... there was more room for error in the fingering and we'd never hear a sound like a screeching cat come out of it, as all the violin parents would soon experience on a regular basis.

I don't remember how we convinced her to not go with the crowd, but we did. She developed the discipline to practice several hours a day on an instrument that was not on the "A" list. In a way I think that helped her later on to not succumb to the usual pressures exerted by peers in high school.

This photo of my daughter practicing in her room was taken when she was just about to begin high school. She was totally unaffected by my presence with a camera. And it's my entry at Lensday where this week's theme is "Candid."

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

Monday, February 13, 2006

On Laurel Hill

On a trip to the Great Smoky Mountains last summer, my wife and I rented a cabin in a valley a few miles from the park. On the road that meandered through the valley, we would pass a sign that said “Laurel Hill Cemetary” with an arrow that pointed to a narrow dirt road that led up a steep hill. One morning while out taking sunrise photos, I decided to see what was at the top of Laurel Hill.

What I found after negotiating the steep winding road was a peaceful clearing at the top of the wooded hill overlooking the valley below. On the century-old gravestones were the surnames of families I had seen emblazoned on mailboxes along the roadway below. I imagine that generations of the same families were born, grew up and died here, and were laid to rest on a spot of land as close to heaven as they could get and still be within sight of home.

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

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Bodie Island Lighthouse

North Carolina's Outer Banks is home to a number of well known lighthouses, each distinguished by its unique painted pattern. The most famous is the Cape Hatteras Light with its twin spiral stripes.

About 30 miles north of Hatteras is the Bodie Island Lighthouse. The black-and-white banded tower sits on a site surrounded by marshland and provides navigational guidance for mariners on both the Atlantic Ocean and Pamlico Sound.

More experimentation with a black and white conversion of a color photo. Sepia tone added and vignetting and light dodging.

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

Baileys Harbor sunrise

I shot this photograph a couple of years ago with my totally manual film camera (see the post below that explains why) in Door County, Wisconsin. The skies at that time in the northern U.S. were full of smoke particles from forest fires that were raging in Colorado, making for unusual coloration at sunrise and sunset.

My wife and I had just come to Baileys Harbor from Kangaroo Lake where I took this photo, and were exploring a small spit of land that stretched into the harbor. I wanted to photograph the sky, but I also wanted to find something to place in the foreground for added visual interest. My wife discovered the patch of daisies and that was that.

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

Hi, I'm James and I don't own a digital camera

On Friday’s post, a commenter, Jack (who has his own photoblog with some nice photos) asked me about the equipment I use and his frustration over not having full control of his camera’s exposure function. When I started taking photography seriously eight years ago, I wanted to be a control freak about focusing and exposure. I bought a Nikon FM10, which is an entry-level Nikon, for several reasons. 1. I could afford it. At the time it cost less than $300 new. 2. It was a Nikon, and accepted all the great lenses that Nikon makes. If I couldn’t afford a better camera body, at least I was going to use better lenses. 3. It was totally manual. No automatic anything. I was in full control of focusing and exposure. This was important to me because I wanted to master the basics of exposure and I didn’t want to fall back on the camera to do my thinking for me. Oh yeah, and it’s a film camera. At the time I was not convinced that a photoelectric chip could capture light with the same degree of subtlety as professional grade photo film.

I now see a lot of great stuff being done with digital cameras and photo software, so I am more inclined to accept that one day I too will own a digital camera. And it’s certainly a plus having the instant gratification of having your photos right away instead of waiting *a whole hour* for a processor to develop and scan the film to CD (provided you can get to one after shooting photos in the middle of nowhere).

So, I ask you, what would you recommend to Jack (see his comment in last Friday's post), or to me, who has yet to make the jump to digital? And keep in mind we're both budget-conscious.

Update: Then there are people like kristyk who take pictures like these on her cell phone.

Favorite photos of the week

I appreciate the work of every photographer on my blogroll. I've been inspired and often awestruck at what can be done with a camera and a good dose of imagination (and in the case of Otto K. at Lenscape, sometimes you don't even need the camera). The following are some of my favorites from the past week. They're worth checking out.

Looking for Footprints at A Walk Through Durham Township
Beauty and Chaos at Blue Hour
Blue Door at Daily Images
Hay at Engloys’ Digital Photo Gallery
Solo Flower at Lenscape
Untitled at Mark My Shots

Friday, February 10, 2006

Photo Friday: Blur

A photograph is simply evidence of a moment that once existed. It's putting your hand in the continually flowing stream of moments and cupping some of that precious water in your hand.

This photograph is of my daughter, taken at Cave Point in Door County, Wisconsin. Cave Point features low shelves of limestone rock washed by the waves of Lake Michigan. I used a slow shutter speed to capture the movement of the waves over the stone and instructed my daughter to stay as still as she could for the half-second exposure.

The result for me is a photo of someone pausing to contemplate life as the moments rush by.

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me- a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:7-8

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

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Pride of Lake Park

The North Point Lighthouse stands as it has since 1855, on a high bluff overlooking Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Two acres of land surrounding the lighthouse were transformed into Lake Park in the late 1890s. The park was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, a premiere landscape architect of the time and also the designer of New York’s Central Park. The light was decommissioned in 1994, but the 74-foot tower and two-and-a-half-story keeper’s house remain, as do memories of a time when such beacons were a necessary part of the commerce of the region.

I’m experimenting with converting some of my photos to black and white. I’ve tried doing so before, but was never quite satisfied with the results. Regular posting to this photo blog has helped me grow artistically to the point where I dare to try it again.

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

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Rare barn

This is the sixteen-sided barn that Lester Teeple built circa 1885. It stands in the northwest corner of Elgin, Illinois, just a couple of hundred yards off Interstate 90. Just out of the photo to the right is a large industrial park. The reflecting pond belongs to Matsushita Corporation, the owner of the barn property since 1989. It took a little doing to position myself to hide power lines and cell phone towers behind the trees. I wound up lying on my side on the ground, holding the camera sideways.

Back in the day, Elgin was a dairy center for much of the midwestern U.S. A number of enterprising dairy farmers built round barns, reasoning that since the business end of a dairy cow is wider than its head, wedge-shaped stalls set in a circle would house more cows than a rectangular barn.

The years have run their course. Elgin is no longer a dairy center. The Teeple barn is the only barn of its kind still standing in Illinois, and one of less than one hundred left in the entire U.S.
A local historical foundation struggles to raise funds to restore and maintain the barn.

Originally shot in color, but converted to black and white with sepia tones added and selective dodging with vignetting and blur to add to the period look of the photo.

Update, May 26, 2007: High winds toppled the barn, making it unlikely that it will be restored. Details here.

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

Peaceful sunset

The calm of this particular photo belies the tumult that was happening behind the lens.

Sunsets in Door County, Wisconsin, as in most popular tourist locales, is a spectator sport. During the summer and early fall months, harbors, marinas and beaches on the west side of the peninsula become meeting spots where visitors can view the final moments of sunlight as the solar globe sets over Green Bay.

I’ve met a number of people while photographing sunsets in Door County. I’ve answered questions about my photo equipment, where I’m from, what I think about the weather and so forth. It’s mostly pleasant conversation and after a few comments back and forth, people retire to themselves to quietly contemplate the skies while I continue to go about my work.

On this particular evening, I had found a turnoff on Shoreline Road in Peninsula State Park and for a while, had the small rocky beach all to myself. I had set up my shot and was waiting for the sun to lower itself into position in the frame. A van pulled up into the turnoff and a mom and three noisy teenagers began exploring the beach. It became apparent that the teens had no interest in the sunset and loudly argued amongst themselves about anything that came to mind while the poor mom tried to keep order. The teens yelled and threw rocks and sticks at each other and into the water, many of them in my field of view.

While this was going on, the sun arrived in position, and in between splashes, I managed to shoot a few frames. The mom herded the kids into something resembling a group on the shore for a photo with the setting sun behind them. She used a small disposable film camera with no fill flash. I’m sure the results were as disappointing as her kids’ behavior.

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

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Another flower photo to brighten up those middling days of winter. A clematis, also from my back yard during warmer weather way back when.

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


There's nothing like seeing flowers in the dead of winter to make you want spring to hurry up and arrive faster. These daylilies were taken in my backyard yesterday. Just kidding. We got a another thin layer of snow yesterday. No flowers in sight. But they will come ...

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

Hmmmm ...

My apologies for this and every other Blogspot blog being down yesterday. Twelve hours after the outage ended and no explanation from Blogger as to why. I guess we're supposed to be happy happy that it's up again and just leave it at that. Oh, well.

Best pix of the week

There's a lot of good photography being done by the folks on my blogroll. Here's a sampling of some of my favorites from the past week. Take a second or two to take a look and prepare to be amazed.

Birthday Boy at A Walk Through Durham Township
Returning to Earth at Blue Hour
Window Reflection at Daily Images
“Am I The Handsomest Of Them All?” at Engloy’s Digital Photo Blog
An Intersection Of Curves at Lenscape
Untitled at Mark My Shots
Weariness Reflected at Penning by Photographs
Shadow Of A Former Self at Shutterjunkie

Friday, February 03, 2006

Silo, tree and barn

Another snowy offering from two weekends ago. A foggy winter evening and a quick freeze coated the landscape with a thick layer of frost the next morning. While driving down a country road near my northwest suburban Chicago home, I spotted this whitened tree standing in contrast against a grain silo.

Year after year, the tree mostly blends in with its background, providing nothing special to the casual observer. It's on the rare occasion that conditions come together just so to make the true identity of the tree known.

I think I too often find myself in the same condition as this poor tree. Blending in, not standing out. Same old same old. Jesus called his followers the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Generally, light and salt don't sit back. They get noticed. Or at least they're missed when they're not there.

I'm working on it.

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

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Halfway there

Happy Groundhog Day. If you happen to live in the northern hemisphere, welcome to the midway point of winter. Six weeks ago was the first day of winter. Six weeks from today is the first day of spring. It can seem like it’s been winter forever and it’ll be another eternity before spring shows up.

Long, long ago people began to take to wishful thinking that perhaps if the groundhog saw no shadow on this day the seemingly interminable winter would get over with more quickly. Call it the Phil Connors syndrome.

Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day finds himself on this midpoint of days stuck in a time loop that seemingly destines him to repeat the same day over and over again. It’s a sadistic variation of “same stuff, different day.” Only it’s “same stuff, same day, every day.”

At first, Phil tries to manipulate his circumstances and the people around him to somehow break the grasp of this endless string of days. When he comes to the conclusion that he cannot change his situation, Phil turns to hedonism. When that strategy fails to satisfy, Phil repeatedly kills himself, only to be awakened by his alarm clock to the same day all over again. However, Phil eventually realizes that he does possess the power to change one thing – himself. Having come to this realization, Phil begins to live selflessly and eventually breaks free of the time loop.

The lesson here? Live selflessly. Give of yourself. If anything can make the seemingly endless passage of winter days seem shorter, to both you and those around you, this might be it.

Click on pictures to enlarge. Horse crossing sign © 2006 James Jordan.