Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Eye in the night sky

The waxing gibbous moon begins its watch at the close of the day, as seen through a tunnel of branches from the trees along Tyler Creek near my home in Elgin, Illinois. This photo was taken several days ago. The moon will be full tonight and tomorrow night.

For the next three days, I will be perched on the narrow ledge of frozen rock that juts out into Lake Michigan north of Green Bay, Wisconsin. On the map, Door County is the “finger” that extends from Wisconsin into Lake Michigan. Temperatures are not expected to advance much farther than the single digits (both above and below zero) over the weekend. Interesting that the arctic blast coincides with Groundhog Day, the midpoint between the winter solstice and vernal equinox.

After toughing that out, it ought to be downhill until spring, wot? And the weather reports are calling for clouds on Friday. Hmmm. No shadows. Nice.

Life’s been hectic of late and my wife and I will head up into the frozen north from home base near Chicago and clear our heads in the mind-numbing air. You could call it … chilling out.

We’ll see how the camera works in those temperatures on Saturday. We'll see how the Bears work in the temperatures of Miami on Sunday.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

The name’s James A couple of weeks ago I posted a chart that estimated how many people in the U.S. had the same name as me. One of those other James Jordans stopped by my photo stream at Flickr to comment on one of my photos. The other James Jordan has a very nice photo stream of his own.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A digital first for me

I had previously mentioned that the last time I went out to take pictures I took along a digital point and shoot camera to shoot side by side with my Nikon 35mm film SLR. For several shots, I composed it with the Nikon on a tripod, took the shot, then placed the Kodak Easy Share C633 on the tripod and shot the exact same shot with the point and shoot digital. Here are the results. The top photo is film, the bottom photo is digital.

I must say I'm impressed with the color and detail of the point and shoot. It compares favorably with the film shot. The only difference between the two shots is the film camera had a circular polarizing filter to cut the amount of glare on the surface of the creek and allow me to take a longer exposure, smoothing out the surface of the water. It also deepened the blue of the creek to near black. The point and shoot does not take a filter (I suppose I could have held the filter in front of the lens, but it was an extremely cold day and I was not terribly motivated to do so.

Different results, different feel to each shot. Take your pick.

So why a point and shoot digital and not a digital SLR? Because most of the rest of the world shoots with point and shoot cameras, and I've started a photo advice blog - Ready, Aim, Click - to provide help and tips to this great big audience of beginning-to-intermediate photographers. So I thought I'd do some practicing of what I'm preaching there. And speaking of which, can you detect any of the several compositional practices I've used to make these photos? The answers are at Ready, Aim Click.

Click on pictures to enlarge. Photographs © 2007 James Jordan.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Glowing with the flow

It was wicked cold when I took this photo yesterday. The snow crunched loudly beneath my feet on a small bridge that spans Tyler Creek near my home in Elgin, Illinois. A brisk wind added to the miserable chill. My eyes dried out and my fingers worked in slow motion.

But I got this shot and several others like it.

The afternoon sun hung low in the sky, filtering through the bare trees past the bend in the creek. The sun’s golden glow cast itself on the waters of the creek as they stubbornly pushed their way past ice and rock in their relentless flow.

Life goes on despite winter’s best efforts to stop it in its tracks. And even in the midst of the cold grip of despair, the warm light of the sun shines a promise of better days to come.

Only 51 days until spring.

January sunset at Tyler Creek. One second at f22, ISO 400 film. 35mm lens with circular polarizer. Wind chill, -15 degrees Celsius. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Winter moon

I was able to get outside this afternoon and evening and get some new photos for the first time in quite some time. I got a bunch of nice shots of the end of a cold late-winter day, featuring an iced-over Tyler Creek. Stay tuned for those.

This is the current moon phase. It will be full in about three days.

Along with my trusty Nikon FM10 fully manual film camera, I took along my daughter's Kodak Easy Share C633, a point and shoot digital camera. I did a few side-by-side shots with the Kodak and Nikon - my first real foray into the digital photography realm. I must say I'm quite impressed by what a simple point and shoot digital camera can do with a little care in setting up shots. I'll intersperse a couple of those among my film offerings over the course of the next few days.

For now, I'm thawing out. Wind chill was near zero while I was out tonight.


You may see the sun setting. But somewhere else, somebody is seeing the sun rise.

Feel free to take this thought as deeply as you care to.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Oh, brother!

There’s really only one of this guy in existence. But what mom of a preschooler hasn’t had days where she could have sworn there was an army of them running around the house?

This is a pretty simple trick; just set up a camera on a tripod, lock it in place and have the subject move about while you take several exposures, then assemble them into a single image in a photo editing program. Of course, you can branch off from there and really get complex. A group on Flickr is dedicated to shots of “multiplicity” and use the technique to have some fun. Some even employ the technique to explore the many faces we each present to the world or those inner conflicts we all face.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


What you see in this photo is not a single set of footprints in the sand, but a merging of the footsteps of two people, walking in close proximity, facing the harsh elements of the stiff, cold wind and salt spray of a beach on the Atlantic Ocean.

My wife and I arrived at this beach for slightly differing reasons. Me to photograph the sunrise, she to accompany me, and pick up shells and entertain the ghost crabs that skittered from small hole to small hole in the packed sand.

The sunrise itself was not very spectacular. As I sat disappointed with the photos I had taken, I glanced to my left and saw the footprints of two people who long ago chose to accompany each other on a journey through life; the crashing waves of anticipation, hope, disappointment and joy pounding in their ears.

And I was satisfied that this had been a good morning.

Morning footprints, original shot on film, scanned and Orton process applied. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

One if by latte, two if by sea

Boston's Freedom Trail, which recounts the city's colonial heritage and historical buildings, winds its way past a modern edifice of society. I talked a young lady in period garb to pose for me to further highlight the juxtaposition of then and now.

Bethcha if Paul Revere had stopped here for a tall double no-whip skinny, he'd have finished his ride without getting captured by the British.

But one can only speculatte.

Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Grand Marais Lighthouse, Minnesota

A piece of advice that I offer beginning photographers is to pick a subject that will command your interest for a good long time and then shoot the heck out of it every chance you get. It provides motivation to keep on clicking over time as you learn and get better at the craft of photography. After a while, you can branch out into other subjects as they interest you.

For me, capturing lighthouses provided the impetus to get up before dawn on a chilly Minnesota morning and fumble with a tripod on a rocky ledge to compose a halfway decent scene and try to get my brain to focus on figuring out the exposure that I needed to get the shot just so. Being out alone in the predawn darkness with the Lake Superior breeze in my face and the sound of loons chuckling from somewhere was a bonus.

I don’t fumble nearly as much now as I did when I took this photo nearly two years ago. I realized this past weekend that at one time, the greatest photographers knew only as much as I do now about taking pictures. It seems to me that it is just a matter of digging to find out what those things are and working to put them into practice.

I’ve laid out a few of those practices at my photo advice blog, Ready, Aim, Click. Feel free to dig in, put some things to work and then let me know how it worked out for you.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Daisy chain

It's been a couple of weeks since I've been able to get out and get some photography done. Life can get busy sometimes. If you can endure a few more days of archive photos, I promise I'll get some new things to look at soon.

My other blog, Ready, Aim, Click, on the other hand, has a lot more things happening. Readership is growing, along with the number of links - which is good. I have more ideas for post topics than I have time to write. Which is better than the alternative.

If you have a burning question about how you can improve your pictures (and I believe anyone can learn to achieve amazing results with whatever camera they own) or if you have a photo you'd like to have critiqued and/or fixed, drop me a line at jjrdns6[at]aol[dot]com. I'd love to hear from you.

Ortonized daisies. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Only 61 more days until Spring!

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


I spent most of the last year being treated for adhesive encapsulitis of my right shoulder. In case you aren’t familiar with the condition, it goes thusly: The shoulder is a loose “ball and socket” joint. Several muscles attach to the “ball” at the top of the arm, and thick layers of ligaments form a cuff that covers the rotating ball joint (hence the term rotator cuff). The layers of muscle and ligaments slide over each other in the normal course of activity, but sometimes an injury or infection inflames those ligaments and they progressively adhere to one another – the shoulder gets “stuck.” I only had about 40 percent of the full motion of my right arm and a tremendous amount of pain when I began treatments – I’m back to about 90 percent today, pain-free with only a little stiffness. The longest part of each session was sitting still while electric stimulation was applied to the shoulder. I had a lot of time to look at the illustrations of the various systems of the human body that hung on the wall of the treatment room – of particular interest to me were the nervous and circulatory systems.

This photo of a tree at night with moving stars in the sky behind it reminds me of those charts showing main arteries and nerve cords branching off into ever-smaller conduits in an effort to serve nearly every cell in the human body. Every cell has a connection to others which have connections to others which eventually connect to the main source, without which, all life functions cease.

We’re dependent on connections in so many areas of our lives – family, friends, organizations and institutions. Lose the connections, and you lose the institutions.

Hoping you’re staying connected today.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Bone structure

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show.

Andrew Wyeth

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Lunar-lit landscape

This is what I was shooting before I accidentally locked the shutter open to create the image in yesterday's post. This scene was shot by the light of the nearly-full moon. If you enlarge the image (by clicking on it) you can see a few star trails in the sky. The yellowish glow in the sky to the left is the city lights of Elgin, Illinois. I was unaware there was a tractor and plow in front of the barn until the film came back from the processor.

The exposure for this was 180 seconds at f8 using 400 ISO film. I'm getting pretty consistent results on my lunar landscapes now. The trick is still composing the shot in the dark and getting the focus to where I'm happy with it. I brought a small flashlight along with me to shine some light on the fence posts in the foreground to check the focus.

Now that I've got a handle on these types of shots, I can't wait to get out to some places I shot in daylight to see how they look under the light of the moon.

I never knew Murphy was a photographer. But check out his laws for picture taking at Ready, Aim, Click!

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


This seemed like an appropriate picture for a Monday ... here's how you too can create something like it:

1. Go outside at about 10:30 at night to shoot long exposure photos in the light of the full moon.

2. Accidentally lock open the shutter of your camera as you load it into the car to return home.

3. Let the camera ride in the back seat all the way home, recording every thing you pass.

4. Upon returning home, set the camera on the sofa next to a strong light source for a couple of minutes until you realize the shutter is open when you try to unload the roll of film (digital camera users, I don't know what the equivalent experience is for you).

5. Process the film and display the results for all the world to see.

Let me know how yours turn out.

Click on mistake to make into a bigger mistake. Mistake © 2007 James Jordan.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Schoolhouse in winter

The Centerville Schoolhouse dates back to the 1880s and sits in a park in West Dundee, Illinois. On the day that we got our only snowfall of the winter thus far, I headed over to the park to get some photos before sunset.

After taking this photo I wandered over to the schoolhouse. The sun had just set, but the eastern sky displayed some marvelous coral hues, so I framed up the schoolhouse to catch some of the sky. I applied the Orton process to create a nostaligic feeling in which to set the 125-year-old schoolhouse. The original photo is shown at right.

Looking for some photo tips you can start using right away to improve your pictures? Head over to my photo advice blog, Ready, Aim Click.

Click on pictures to enlarge. Photographs © 2007 James Jordan.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Seeking permanence

In 1853, a group of Moravians, led by Pastor Andreas Iverson, left Green Bay, Wisconsin and sailed north to form a religious community. The party landed in a quiet harbor on the western shore of what is now Door County, Wiconsin and built a town they named Ephraim, a biblical name which means “doubly fruitful.” After Pastor Iverson and his followers struggled through two harsh winters, the community began to flourish, living up to its name.

In the late 1860s a businessman named Aslag Anderson built a dock which eventually included a warehouse, barn and general store. Ephraim, Wisconsin became a commercial hub, yet still maintained its religious values. The dock and its buildings still stand, and have been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Today, the warehouse building is covered with the names of the boats that have moored at the dock over the years. Some of the inscriptions date back to the 1940s. I captured this image of a corner of the warehouse on a cold winter evening as the sun slid behind Eagle Bluff on the opposite side of the harbor.

Hundreds of people have left their inscriptions on the warehouse as a remembrance of their presence here at one time. I think we all seek some measure of permanence in this transitory world, some indication that our lives were worth the trouble, reaching for something bigger than ourselves.

Not unlike that group of Moravians in 1853.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

More Orton

Another Orton-ized manipulation of an existing photo. This is from the series of frosty leaf pictures from which I posted a couple of days ago. I think the effect plays up the impression of loneliness or abandonment or of time slipping away.

A number of acquaintances have lost loved ones or been involved in personal tragedy recently. I imagine that they, too feel like the fallen leaf at this point in their lives. But they also have strong family ties and a deep reliance and faith in God to carry them through these tough times.

Life is too short to spend it away from contact and meaningful interactions with other humans and with God. Hoping you have plenty of both in the coming year.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Introduction to Orton

I'm not ordinarily a big fan of digital manipulation of images, but I learned something while surfing today about the Orton Method of softening a photo to achieve a romanticized, painterly look. The method originally involved careful exposure and alignment of a set of transparencies that were then combined in the darkroom to achieve the same effect that can be done in a photo editing program like PhotoShop. The original photo is shown at right in a smaller size.

So if you'll indulge me for a couple of days while I explore the possibilities, I'd appreciate it. Feel free to let me know what you think about digital editing. Is it "cheating?" Or is it art?

Sunrise in Door County. Click on images to enlarge. Photographs © 2007 James Jordan.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Another resolution ...

I'm going to shoot more pictures of people this year ... stay tuned.

Got a photo tip you'd like to share? My photo advice site, Ready, Aim, Click is the place to share it. Got a photo that went wrong and you'd like to know how to do better next time? Drop me an e-mail: jjrdns6[at]

Photo: Clifford Slippers. Exposure: 1/30 at f3.5, 400 ISO film. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Oh, you mean that James Jordan ...
LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Frosty reception

Here's something we haven't seen much of in our El nino-influenced winter here in Illinois ... a frosty morning. It's been so warm here, the daffodils and other spring flowers are confused and have made an early appearance.

This frigid frond was taken on my backyard deck.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

January musings

Soon the Christmas lights and ornaments will be carefully packed away and stored until the next holiday season. The anticipation and experience of the holidays will now turn to counting down the days of winter that remain until spring.

While I can’t complain about the mild weather that El Nino has sent our way (opening my heating bill certainly is a much happier experience this year), I wonder if that will make the wait for Spring easier or harder to bear. Will we be teased for the next three months or will we get a dose of real live upper Midwestern winter? It’d be nice to have some more snow to photograph.

I’ve also made the decision that soon I will take the plunge into digital photography. I’ve been a film guy since I took up photography in earnest about eight years ago. Two of my kids now have point-and-shoot digital cameras, which I got to play with over the Christmas holidays, and I must say that I’m impressed with the capabilities that are available, even in some of the simplest models. I’d like to get one of my own (because my kids are sure to get annoyed if I continually ask to borrow theirs) to see just how far those capabilities can be pushed. Plus, it will give me an idea what most casual photographers are dealing with and provide some good fodder for my photo advice blog, Ready, Aim, Click, which if you’re into photography at any level, you should visit.

Very soon, I'll be asking some of the very talented photographers in my blogroll for their contributions to Ready, Aim, Click as well as tapping into the photo community at Flickr. Stay tuned ... it should be good.

Ready, Aim, Click is growing little by little, and will soon be ready for some intentional promotion. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Friday, January 05, 2007


I pulled this photo out of my ancient archives to submit to Photo Friday. The theme this week is "Sisters." If you'd care to see how a few hundred photographers interpret the theme, head on over.

I took this one so long ago, I don't remember the circumstances around it. I recall that it was spontaneous. I think I was shooting something else, and I called my two daughters over for a portrait by the living room window - I might have had a couple of shots left at the end of the roll and needed to "waste" them.

Now I have this memory of my daughters and have no idea as to whatever became of the rest of the roll of film.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Orange glow

This is the final installment on the series of photos taken at South Haven, Michigan over the Christmas holiday. A number of people walked out onto the pier ahead of the sunset enjoying the mild post-Christmas weather.

Temperatures here in the upper Midwest have been unseasonably warm - thanks, El nino! Of course, the only drawback is that I've only been able to get one series of snow shots all season. Ah, well.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The eye

Its Fifth Order Fresnel lens projecting a characteristic red glow into the deepening twilight, the pier light at South Haven, Michigan continues a vigil that began in the year 1872. The pier and lights underwent several iterations in the years since, eventually culminating in the present configuration of two 1500-foot-plus piers at the mouth of the Black River with a 35-foot red conical tower at the end of the south pier.

I had just taken the photo of the fishermen standing under the catwalk when I decided to move closer to the tower at the terminus of the pier. The light appeared as a giant Cyclops – a glowing red eye set against in the fast-darkening sky. I experienced a strange sensation of being in proximity of something that appeared at once evil and benevolent.

Rather than blind the behemoth, this Odysseus chose to capture the eye in a small light-tight container and bring it home.

New on my blogroll: I discovered Cynthia Graham's photoblog, Lightheaded, while surfing through VFXY (where Points of Light is also listed). Cynthia serves up some stunning portraits and offers keen insights into the human condition. Check it out.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Monday, January 01, 2007

South Haven sunset

The city of South Haven, Michigan was founded in 1869, a decade after its first permanent settlers arrived on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan in the southwest corner of Michigan.

Timber was South Haven’s first industry. A sawmill prepared the timber for shipment to Milwaukee and Chicago on the other side of the Lake Michigan. Fruit farmers took advantage of the cleared forests to grow their crops. The increase in shipping to and from South Haven prompted the installation of a pier light in 1972. Jobs were created and the city began to grow. By the turn of the century, South Haven was quickly becoming a popular resort area.

South Haven’s fortunes have risen and fallen with those of the resort and manufacturing industries in the last couple of decades, but remains a lovely little burg on a beautiful stretch of Lake Michigan. My wife and I stopped by South Haven while returning from a Christmas trip to visit family in Michigan. The photo above, along with the previous two pictures posted here, are a sampling of the visual memories we brought home with us from this charming little town.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

One of my New Year's resolutions ...

.. is to share some of the things I've learned about photography over the course of the past several years. I'm compiling some of the hard-earned wisdom I've accumulated in a new blog called Ready, Aim, Click.

If you're looking for some pointers on how to improve the pictures you take, stop on by the new blog, wander around, leave comments, ask questions. I'm also hoping in the coming weeks to have some guest photographers share some of their insights for making better pictures as well.

Wishing you a great year of photo-taking in 2007!