Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Countdown to 50,000

I'm quickly approaching my 50,000th visitor to Points of Light. I thank everyone who has visited and to those who have left a comment on these pages. To say "thanks" to visitor number 50K, I am offering a 10" x 20" photographic print of the first of a series of moonlit photos I've taken in Door County, Wisconsin. The "Door After Dark" series is an ongoing project of mine that I estimate will continue for the next two years or so. You get one of the first prints in the collection with my compliments.

So, take a look at the little hit counter near the bottom of the right-hand sidebar. If it says 50,000 ... congratulations! Leave a comment in this post along with an email address and the name of your Internet provider (so I can check it against the records in my site tracker - just keepin' everybody honest, here). If visitor 50K fails to identify him- or herself, the prize goes to the next in line.

Good luck! (And click the picture to get a better look at the prize.)

The bleak midwinter

In the bleak midwinter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter,
Long ago

Christina Rosetti

Yet even in the bleakest part of winter, there lie patches of color that gives us hope of the spring to come. The Chicago area had one of those times of snow on snow last weekend. Actually it was more like snow on ice, sleet on ice, snow on sleet. This photograph was taken just as one more snowstorm moved in.

The sable tones of the dried grasses and green hues of the moss that clung stubbornly to the trunks of the trees were a welcome break in the white-on-white landscape.

I used a roll of 400 ISO film to shoot these winter pictures. I sometimes use a faster film in winter scenes because its relative graininess adds texture to snow (you can't get that effect with digital photos without some PhotoShop work). In post-processing I pushed the contrast and sharpening just a little farther past the point I usually like – giving the photograph the look and feel of an etching.

21 days until spring.

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

Are you visitor number 50,000? Check the hit counter at the bottom of the sidebar ... you could win a prize. Click here for details.

Update: This photo was selected Photo of the Day at Earthshots for March 3, 2007.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Straight and narrow

This pathway, once a service road for the farm that occupied this land, now leads into the Freeman Kame, an area of rolling hills and marshes in northern Kane County, Illinois. The result of glacial activity from eons past, the area is one of a few remarkable wilderness areas near Chicago, and one that few people consider as they drive past it on their way to the large outlet mall a couple of miles down the road.

I’ve often passed by it myself on the way to said outlet mall, with only a small bit of curiosity as to what lay beyond the gate at the beginning of the path. This past weekend brought snow, rain, more snow, ice and sleet in abundance, coating the area in wintery white. I ventured out and explored the area, and shot a roll of film in the process.

This is the first exposure I made. The straight path leads into the wooded area. A man had been here earlier, along with a large dog, their footprints leading into and emerging from the preserve along this pathway.

More photos to come, and definitely more exploration to be done here in the spring.

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

Here's as captivating a photo blog as I've ever seen. The only difference is that this photo blog has no photos. It's currently one of the hot blogs at

Monday, February 26, 2007

Welcome to the carnival!

This blog carnival is all about pictures. Life rushes by us all in a torrent of moments. Taking a photograph is nothing more than capturing one of those fleeting moments as it goes by. It’s taking a handful of water from a fast running stream. Look into it closely enough and you can see yourself.

Many thanks to all of those who shared their preserved moments for this photography carnival. Special thanks to The Success Coach at For Your Success for sponsoring the carnival.

Thanks also to Kilroy_60 for getting this entire series of carnivals started. It’s been a pleasure acting as your host.

Take some time to visit each blog listed below and be sure to let them know you saw their posts on the GONZO Photography Carnival.

So without further ado, here are the moments of time you’ve chosen to share:

The Success Coach at For your Success sends us Picture Your Business Being More Successful.

Kilroy_60 at Fear and Loathing – The Gonzo Papers shows us the fiery end of the day with My Most Recent Sunset Safari.

Phil J at Feelingstoopid shares some gifts courtesy of his friends with his post What I Won

Brian at Truth Is Freedom shows us the power of the seas in Spin Cycle.

Jules at Crewe Blog sends this photo, right, of himself vintage 1995 – Jules Away at Oxford.

Alicia Poon at Penning by Photographs shares this photo of Eric.

Naomi at Diary From England shares some very special Happy Childhood Memories.

JAM at Least Significant Bits offers a look at a special person and places in Picture Post, Sunday November 5, 2006.

Anthony at The Lives and Times of … Anthony McCune shares a photo of something you often hear about but very rarely experience in A True Story.

The Gatekeeper at Pieces of Me shares a picture and story of the special people in her life via her post Sweet Jungle Romance.

Heather at Beautiful British Columbia gives us a glimpse of someone special … HUGO the Cool Dude!

Janey Loree at Mustang ‘n’ Cowboys shares her love of horses and the two men in her life with her post, Mustang ‘n’ Cowboys.

Eric at Eric Has Issues takes us back to the Christmas holiday with Day 25: Merry Christmas.

NMOTB at New Mom on the Blog shares a side of her that her husband seems to appreciate in Silly Photo Courtesy of Mr. NMOTB.

Gheorghe Milas at treats us to a view of a young Ice Skater.

Allen Steadham at Interrace Haven presents a series of wintery shots with More Pictures from Ice Central.

Friday’s Child at Friday’s Child offers a trio of photos in My Little ‘Chopin.’

Cedarwaxwing at Clutch Cargo Lips gives us a candid look at her brother-in-law in her post, David.

Don’t stop here! There’s another blog carnival going on today – The GONZO Poetry Slam at Poets Who Blog. Be sure to check it out!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Blue morning

A cold, rainy morning in Grand Marais, Minnesota, July 2004.

Photography carnival update: Many thanks to those who entered the Gonzo Photography Carnival - lots of great entries. Look for the carnival post tomorrow!

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

Friday, February 23, 2007

Returning the favor

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the saving of the Racine, Wisconsin breakwater light. In 1987, the people of Racine, not wanting to lose a piece of its maritime history to the wrecking ball, petitioned the government to turn the light tower over to the municipality of Racine. The light that was constructed to keep vessels and people safe is now safely memorialized. Though no longer an active aid to navigation, the bright red tower greets boats entering and exiting the marina on the city’s Lake Michigan shore.

The light is a feature of the city’s Festival Park. A nearby observation deck, from which this photo was taken, offers a sweeping view of the harbor, the lake and the Wind Point lighthouse five miles to the north.

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

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Winter wait

The marina in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin sits and waits for the return of warm weather and the pleasure craft that will line its docks. For now it sleeps quietly beneath the cold sky of winter.

This was a 120-second exposure taken about a half hour after sunset. My car was parked close by, so I could set the shutter open then retreat to the warmth of its interior. The temperature was in the single digits and a stiff breeze blew in from Green Bay. Painfully cold.

I used a graduated neutral density filter to darken the sky in relation to the foreground. And I experimented with driving the car in an arc behind the camera so the headlights could throw some light on the dock and apparatus in the foreground. This is the best of four exposures, and is pretty much as it landed on the film – very little post-processing.

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

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Last light

It used to be that boarding a ship on the Great Lakes was to take your life into your own hands. Fickle weather, submerged shoals and tricky currents wreaked havoc in the early days of shipping on those waters. The building of lighthouses as an aid to navigation flourished in the late 1800s, mostly for protection of the burgeoning mining and lumber interests in the region. The state of Michigan, bordered on three sides by water, boasts nearly 120 lighthouses along its shores.

Advancements in navigation and the advent of GPS technology have long since rendered the old lighthouse obsolete. Technological aids to navigation can point out the exact location of shoals and currents, where the best that the old lighthouse could do was to mark the general location of navigational traps, then provide someone to pick up the pieces when a ship met disaster. These quaint relics now stand in various locations around the world and provide photographic fodder and memories of ships that depended on the beacons and the unique men and women who maintained these lonely outposts. Only the buildings and the stories remain.

This is the Sherwood Point light station, located at the confluence of Sturgeon Bay and Green Bay in Door County, Wisconsin. In 1983, it became the final lighthouse on the Great Lakes to turn its light over to automation. It marked the passage of an era where each point of light along the shore had a person attached to it.

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

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Life span

Long before this observation tower came into existence, these stars made their way across the night sky. And long after this tower is reclaimed by the wind, ice and rain, the stars will continue their nightly trek, indifferent to the changes on the small planet below them.

We look up at those stars that precede us and follow us. They shine on those who have walked this way before us and who will pass this way at a time far in the future.

We are the connection between the two.

Eagle tower, Door County, Wisconsin. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The edge

Door County, Wisconsin got its name from the turbulent currents and submerged shoals located at the northern tip of this peninsula that separates Green Bay from Lake Michigan. The sailors who first encountered this treacherous waterway named it “Death’s Door.” Early settlers to this shelf of rock struggled to wrest a living from its rocky soils and harsh climate. Choosing to live in Door County was to choose to live life on the edge.

The edge is not as sharp as it once was, being blunted by human ingenuity and technology. Travel is safer, the currents and rocky ledges safely marked by GPS and small farms produce thriving crops of fruit and vegetables.

But every so often, the edge returns with a reminder that it’s still there, as when temperatures dipped to dangerous levels recently. This is a photo taken where one family’s homestead meets the wooded landscape around them. The edge is no longer feared, just something pretty to take a picture of.

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

Are you visitor number 50,000? Check the hit counter at the bottom of the sidebar. You could win a prize from Points of Light. Details here.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Dead of winter

I felt winter's icy grip of death while taking photos a couple of weekends ago in Door County, Wisconsin. Wind chills approached -20F the entire weekend. Exposed skin felt as if it were on fire. Tear ducts involuntarily pumped fluid into the eyeballs in an effort to keep them warm. I don't know what purpose is served the body by having your nose run profusely in those temperatures, but I'm sure mine had a good reason, because that's what it did. A quick draw of breath through the nose created instant noseplugs of ice.

I found a clump of what I imagine used to be colorful wildflowers at the edge of a wood near the Sherwood Point lighthouse, and used it as foreground detail for this shot. It just helps capture the stinging cold I fought against while photographing. Oh, yeah - the proximity of my warm eyeball to the glass viewfinder created a thin layer of frost, so everything pretty much looked like the soft focus of this Ortonized photo.

I'd like to return to this spot sometime in the spring, when the weather is much more condusive to human life and the dead stems are replaced by soft, green shoots and colorful blossoms.

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

Update: A tutorial on how to achieve an Orton effect on your photo has been posted to my photo advice blog, Ready, Aim, Click. Check it out!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Best face forward

Winter has two faces. One is weary and monotonous. The other is vibrant and very colorful. This photograph of the latter was taken on a frigid afternoon as the sun slowly settled toward the western horizon. Trees beyond the stone bridge reflected the ruddy hues of the sunlight on the water of the creek, which picked up some blue of the sky overhead, creating a shifting palette of colors.

A bit of Orton processing softens the edges in this image. I much prefer this face of winter.

35 days until spring.

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

If you post photos on your blog, you are invited to participate in a photo carnival taking place here on Monday, February 26. Here are the details.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Pancakes, anyone?

Pancake ice occurs when the water on which it forms continues to move slightly before it has a chance to freeze into a solid layer. This ice is in Racine, Wisconsin's harbor.

The morning was cold and quiet. The only sound was the creaking and cracking noise of the large ice floes amid the barely perceptible movement of the water.

Getting some snow today. Maybe six or seven inches. Not a show-stopper here in Chicagoland. And I'm definitely glad I don't live in Oswego County, New York.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.
Sign up now! A blog photography carnival is a-comin' to Points of Light! Click here for entry info.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Photo carnival coming to Points of Light!

Points of Light will host the latest in the Gonzo Blog Carnival Series

Sponsored by For Your Success

Monday, February 26th at Points of Light

You don’t necessarily have to be a photo blogger to participate! Any blog post that includes the following criteria is eligible:

> A photograph of you, a family member or a friend
> You must own the sole copyright to the photo in your post
> Accompanying text is not necessary, but is acceptible

Submissions will be accepted through Friday, February 23rd at 11:59 PM. Official rules and submission info can be found here.

Help promote the carnival! Proclaim your involvement to the blogging world and help spread the word! To display the banner above on your blog, copy and paste this HTML code into your blog post:

Rather have something smaller for your sidebar? Copy and paste this HTML into your blog template:

Eagle tower, take 2

I made four exposures of the Eagle Observation Tower on a cold, clear night two weekends ago. The exposure times ranged from 2 to 15 minutes. A car and a pickup truck drove through two of the exposures, adding their own light to the scene and creating lens flares as they drove past the camera I had positioned on a tripod with the shutter locked open. This is one of them. Normally, I would have just taken another shot, but it was bone-chilling cold and I just didn’t have it in me to reset and take any more. So I got what I got. The star tracks behind the tower are nice, at least.

Not exactly what I planned, but something I could accept. Sort of like Mondays.

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

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Moonrise, Eagle Tower, Door County, Wisconsin

The rising moon peers through the staircase of Eagle Tower in Peninsula State Park in Door county, Wisconsin. Originally a forest fire observation platform, the tower is now a featured tourist attraction in the park. The 75-foot tower sits atop a 180-foot bluff overlooking Eagle Harbor near the town of Ephraim. The tower affords panoramic views of Green Bay and the park.

I wanted to take advantage of the moonlight to photograph the Eagle Bluff lighthouse, also located in the park, but was disappointed to find the road to the lighthouse closed. Instead, I set up near the observation tower, fighting to stay warm in temperatures that dipped below zero and with winds approaching 20 mph blowing inland from the bay.

I’m sure the view from the top of the tower would have been stunning, but the temperature was stunning enough to keep me on the ground.

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

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Barn with a cross

I worked for a while as a design director for a daily newspaper. During that stint, I learned a lot about how news photographers work. They almost universally subscribe to the Red Rule – “If you see something red, shoot it!”

So while driving around Door County on a crisp, cold afternoon last weekend, I passed this red barn. So I stopped and shot it. Only afterward, as I made some slight adjustments to the photo on my computer did I notice the shadow of a cross on a hill on the side of the barn – courtesy of a small rise and a telephone pole that sat behind me and to the right. Bonus.

I doubt it will fetch anything on eBay, but you never know nowadays.

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

Friday, February 09, 2007

Direct access

When I first visited Door County in 1998 to photograph its lighthouses, I was disappointed to discover that the Sherwood Point Lighthouse, which marked the entrance to Surgeon Bay, was basically off limits to visitors because it sat within the confines of an active Coast Guard station. At least that’s what a large sign at the entrance road stated, and not wishing to incur the wrath of the U.S. government, I complied, and after taking a final glimpse of the lighthouse through the trees, turned and left.

Fast forward eight years. It’s a chilly February weekend in the Midwestern U.S. My wife and I are visiting Door County to get some winter photographs. She suggests we drive to Sherwood Point. Who knows? Maybe we can get an interesting shot of the lighthouse through the trees, since it’s winter and there is no foliage to obscure the view. Not a bad idea, I think, so we drive off, not exactly sure how to get there. Over nearly a decade of finding and photographing lighthouses, we’ve developed a pretty good lighthouse radar and can usually sniff out a path to get to one. We follow a progressively narrowing set of roads in the general direction, and taking one last turn at an official looking U.S. government sign, find ourselves sitting in a small parking lot a few feet from the lighthouse. No scary signs forbidding our presence. Just us, the lighthouse and the stiff arctic wind off Green Bay.

Woo hoo. I walked a looping path around the grounds and filled a 36 exposure roll of film with images of the lighthouse and the squat fog signal building in front of it. This one was taken through a small clearing in the surrounding woods as a large wispy, frozen cloud floated by. It reminded me of the ancient mapmakers’ drawings of the old man in the sky blowing on the waters below.

Man, his breath was cold that day.

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

Update: My photograph Kewaunee Mist was chosen as Photo of the Day at EarthShots, a website that features inspirational photos from all over the globe. Head over to browse their archive. There are some really great photos to be seen.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Cold day in Kewaunee

This is another photo taken last Monday from the icy beach in Kewaunee, Wisconsin. My wife and I were returning from a trip into Door County. As we drove south along Lake Michigan, we were impressed by the amount of steam kicked up on the lake from the arctic winds that buffeted the area. "If it's this misty in Kewaunee, I'd like to stop to get some pictures," I said. My wife smiled, anticipating a statement like that from me. We arrived to find the pier lighthouse sitting like a fairytale castle in the misty water.

Waves and bitter cold had turned the beach into a sculpture of ice and snow. The "islands" in the middle ground are actually ice that had accumulated around old pilings in the water. It took quite a bit of time for me to get into position for this shot - the icy "dunes" on the beach were very glassy and I learned very quickly that if I wasn't absolutely certain what was under the snow, that I shouldn't step there.

After living life on the edge this past weekend, I'm back in my warm home, going to work at my warm day job, and looking back with warm memories at a painfully cold world.

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

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Moonlight at Cave Point

Clear skies and the timing of the moonrise this past weekend presented a number of opportunities to get some moonlight photos. The only problem was that near-zero temperatures and brisk winds created conditions where it was dangerous to be out for much longer than just a few minutes. Since moonlit shots require exposures of 3-5 minutes, that doesn’t allow for too many shots to be taken at one time.

I prepared myself as best as I could for the cold – lined jeans, heavy boots, several layers of clothing topped by a heavy parka, a ski mask to make sure as much skin as could be covered was covered – I even had a couple of packets of chemical heat in my pockets to warm my hands from time to time (I highly recommend them). Still, after a half hour, my body told me to get inside and stay there. Extreme cold drains a lot of energy from the human body.

This is one of only a half dozen shots taken at Cave Point in Door County, Wisconsin. Despite the extreme chill, the snowy moonlit cliffs presented a fairy-tale quality view of icy Lake Michigan below. The lake itself was rather choppy – an exposure time of 200 seconds smoothed out the seething waters filled with chunks of ice. The flowing ice created shifting patterns in the reflected moonlight on the water.

Update: This photo is currently receiving some attention at Flickr. See what people are saying.

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

Just a note that this is my 601st post to Points of Light. I had no idea when I started posting with the goal of one photo per day how long I could keep it up. It's been rewarding for me. Thanks for coming along for the ride.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Lake effect

Perhaps you’ve heard of the butterfly effect – the idea that the fluttering of a butterfly’s wings in one part of the world eventually becomes a hurricane in another part of the world. This photograph that I took earlier this morning is a picture of lake effect – the wisps of steam you see rising from the waters near Kewaunee on the eastern shore of Wisconsin will eventually become snow squalls on the western shore of Michigan – you can see the clouds already building in the distance.

For the past several days, strong arctic winds have blown across the upper Great Lakes region. These icy winds pick up moisture from the relatively warm surface of the lakes and drop the moisture as snow when it reaches land on the other side.

Western and central lower Michigan have been pounded the last several days with blizzard-like snowfalls, causing treacherous conditions and creating multiple car accidents on the highways across the state. And this is where all the trouble started – with gentle wisps of steam at the edge of Wisconsin’s shore.

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

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Cold night on the beach

I’m currently in Egg Harbor, Wisconsin watching the Super Bowl (Go Bears!) My wife and I came up to the frozen north to get some full moon winter pictures. The weather reports made that possibility rather doubtful – the forecasts called for cloudy skies and snow throughout the weekend. Fortunately for me, the weather doesn’t read the forecasts. The skies have been crystal clear every night. And cold. Actual air temperatures have gotten as low as -10 degrees (F). Add a 20-mph wind and things get miserable in a hurry.

We knew it was going to be painfully cold this weekend and we came anyway. And we’re coming back with a good collection of day and night pictures, all taken in below zero temperatures.

This photo was taken last Friday night near Baileys Harbor. Wind chills were about -15 degrees. I found the old boat lift in the dark, set the camera low to catch a goodly expanse of sky and set it for a 150 second exposure. A bonus were the clouds and stars, which I could not see at the time.

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