Friday, September 28, 2007

While driving to an early morning appointment a couple of weeks ago, I marveled at the low fast-moving clouds that passed overhead, playing games with the early morning sunlight. I debated whether I should stop along the way to get some pictures of the sky action and told myself I would if a suitable foreground presented itself.

The suitable foreground was the property of Mooseheart, a residential facility for needy children, built on a 1,000 acre farm near Aurora, in 1913 by the Loyal Order of Moose. I pulled off the road, and as early-morning commuters whizzed by, shot a number of exposures, planning to blend them later into a composite image.

This image shows a turbulent sky and the repose and steadfastness of the fences and buildings that were designed for protection, cultivation and growth. Quite fitting for an organization with a mission such as Mooseheart’s.

Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Points of view

I've done some experimenting with taking multiple exposures of a scene and combining them in PhotoShop to increase the amount of tonal values that can be captured in an image. Click the "Exposure Blending" tag below to see some examples.

So, I thought, why not try to do the same with focus? The picture above, of a front-end loader, used two exposures - one focused on the foreground stones and weeds, and one focused on the loader itself. The two images were combined in PhotoShop. There's an ominous quality about the image, kind of like the grim plant reaper coming upon an unsuspecting specimen of flora. The fogged windows of the loader in the chill morning air adds to the effect.

And just to see how far I can push this whole blending thing, my recent photo of the sunset at Nelson Point captured various exposures and focal points in a blended image.

It's nice to occasionally have that much time on my hands.

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


Once upon a time, every lighthouse had a human being connected to it, tending the light and scanning the waters for danger and distress. The lantern's point of light connected the light keeper to numerous unseen ships' crews, just as the ships themselves connected people from port to port.

The advent of radio, sonar and GPS have eliminated the need for many lights and their keepers, and the remaining beacons are now regulated by electronic systems, making them as dependable as the sunrise, our main connecting point of light.

And I am thankful for my connection to the Keeper of that light.

Photo: Blue Morning, the lighthouse at Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The illustrious Mr. Hopper, still in bed on a crisp autumn morning

Here's someone who hates to see autumn roll around as much as anyone. Grasshoppers rarely survive the winter months, at least here in the upper midwest, so autumn must be a bummer for them. In fact, the chilly morning air on the day of this shot made them all quite lethargic and allowed me to get as close as my closeup lenses would allow.

Grasshoppers keep the species going by laying eggs in late summer that will endure through the winter months. A new brood will emerge in the coming spring.

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

Photo blogging

You are what you eat or do you eat what you are? 30 families. 24 countries. 600 meals. Photographer Peter Menzel photographed the weekly food intake of families around the world. Each photo depicts a family at home posing with a typical week’s worth of groceries (paid for by the photographer). Viewing the series of photos cannot help but raise questions about culture, politics and world health. Photographs from “Hungry Planet.”

Faster than a speeding bullet. Ultra-high-speed photography requires a powerful flash unit and equipment to set it off at just the right moment. A desire to see things blown to pieces and a very brave hand model doesn’t hurt either. Here are “frozen moment” shots of, well … shots … and the objects they obliterate.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Nelson Point sunset

This is the view of the sunset from Nelson Point in Peninsula State Park in Door County, Wisconsin - if you’re looking from about 12 inches off the ground. The beach is mostly rocky and barren, but the occasional plant grows and thrives in the protected spaces between the large rocks on the perimeter.

I’ve said before that Door County, the peninsula that separates Green Bay from Lake Michigan, is basically a large rock covered with a layer of dirt left over from the glacial history of the Great Lakes region. While there are a few sandy beaches, the place where and land meets water is primarily rocky; tall bluffs rise from the waters of Green Bay and Lake Michigan, a statement to the determination of the intrepid people who first inhabited this wild area.

Today, the artist enclaves, boutique shops, inns and restaurants are the latest in the evolution of the pioneer spirit of the people who make their homes here. They too have found their protected spaces within the cracks of the rocks.

Photo is a blend of two exposures to increase dynamic range. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Making the turn

Interesting that they say the leaves turn in autumn. Everything turns, actually. The days turn shorter and colder. The warmth of summer's lazy morning caresses are replaced by the abrupt brush of autumn's cold shoulder, without even so much as an, "Oh, excuse me."

Autumn is pretty rude that way. I presume she thinks she can get away with that type of behavior because she's such a looker. The charm of that colorful wardrobe and all. She's a bit bi-polar as well, all come-hither with gold and red charm one moment, hitting you with a frosty glare the next. Go figure.

A turn means a change of course. A new direction of travel. The autumn equinox has passed. We've all made the turn here in the upper Midwest.

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

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Happy autumn!

Last spring, I did a blog giveaway of virtual flowers. Dozens of bloggers took me up on the offer and posted flowers on their blogs. It was fun to see the meme spread around the world. With the coming of the autumn equinox within the week, I've updated the meme to an autumn theme. Copy the code snippets below and post to your blog to get in on the "Autumn is ..." meme. Let's see how far we can spread this! By the way, for those of you south of the equator, the Spring flower meme is still available!

Copy and paste this code into your blog post (do not alter or edit):

Want something smaller for your sidebar? Copy and paste this HTML code into your blog template (Do not alter or edit the code):

Instruct your blog readers to click your “Autumn is …” picture to get their own HTML code and keep the virtual greeting going. Let’s see how far we can spread this "spirit of autumn" meme!

Fall photograph © 2007 James Jordan. HTML code may be freely copied and distributed.

Friday, September 21, 2007

A Queen Anne morning

Seen from the side of the road while traveling to an appointment one morning a couple of weeks ago. The summer mornings grow chillier. Autumn is in the air and nature is setting out its colorful bedclothes for a long winter slumber.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Planes of existence

I generally don’t shoot a picture to intentionally make a point or convey a message, other than “Hey, I saw something pretty or interesting and here it is.” Such was the case with this grouping of reeds on Defiance Lake in Moraine Hills State Park in McHenry, Illinois. Most of the time, it’s only after studying the finished photograph and pondering why I found it interesting that a meaning occurs to me.

A little internet digging into the symbolism of reeds revealed that in many cultures, reeds are considered an Axis Mundi, or world axis which can be used to join or travel between the planes of Heaven, earth, and Hades. I guess it makes sense, since reeds are deeply rooted in the mud, emerge through a watery layer and reach to the sky. In Christian symbolism, reeds represent baptism and the righteous ones thriving upon the rivers of God. Of course, in Christianity, the Axis Mundi is the cross on which Jesus died. It’s our connector from the mud of this life with the glory of heaven.

It was only after I had processed this photo for uploading that I noticed the reflection of clouds and sky on the surface of the water. The reflection of heaven on the surface of this life and the reeds reaching toward the higher plane. Hmmm, a self-portrait, perhaps?

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A historic day ... Yar!

Today is a very momentous day in history. Here are just a few of the events that made an impact on human history on this day:

1881 President James Garfield died of a gunshot wound inflicted by a disappointed office seeker the previous July 2.

1934 Bruno Hauptmann was arrested for the Lindbergh baby kidnap-murder.

1955 President Juan Peron of Argentina was deposed and exiled after a military coup.

1957 The United States conducted its first underground nuclear test in the Nevada desert.

1958 I was born at an Air Force base hospital in Tachikawa, Japan.

A few years ago, September 19 was designated International Talk Like a Pirate Day. Shiver me timbers, me hearties! Speak like a scurvy knave to celebrate me special day today! Yar! Why, there even be an official song fer this day.

The above photo depicts a field of Queen Anne's lace as the sun descended toward the horizon. A multiple exposure shot was blended in PhotoShop to increase the dynamic range of the image.

No need to abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

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

Monday, September 17, 2007

In the night country

Living northwest of Chicago is living life on the edge. I live near the edge of the metroplex. I can drive a few miles west and find myself in farmland. The edge advances farther into the farmlands each year, but it is still easily accessible.

I also live on the edge of the rolling hills and kames left by retreating glaciers a few thousand years ago during the last period of global warming. Rolling hills and valleys stretch for hundreds of miles north into Wisconsin. Just a few miles south begins the large expanse of flat prairie land.

This photo was taken a few miles northwest of my home where the county had taken steps to preserve the glacial heritage of the area. I blended two exposures - an underexposure of the sky and slight overexposure of the rolling hills - to capture what my eye saw as I stood where the edge of day meets the night.

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

Sunday, September 16, 2007

More than meets the film

The human eye is exponentially more adept at discerning a range of light than film or digital camera sensors. By themselves, camera can only capture a fraction of what the eye can detect. That's why the scene that looked absolutely wonderful to you when you pressed the shutter button comes out too light or too dark or too contrasty.

Photographers try to compensate for the camera's limitations by augmenting the amount of light through flash or through the use of filters or computer enhancement. I've posted some photos that are the result of taking several exposures of a scene at different settings and blending them in PhotoShop, a computer image editing program.

This weekend I had the opportunity to do a lot of shooting and experimenting with my exposure blending technique. The photo above is from Defiance Lake in Moraine Hills State Park in McHenry, Illinois. Three exposures were taken of the scene - one for the sky, one for the middleground water and one for the foreground grasses and reeds. The results is something very close to what I actually saw while standing on the lakeshore.

More to come this week.

Photo represents a range of about 8 stops of light. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Self-portrait of the photographer on the beach with back to the camera

I shot this photo immediately after the one of the woman sitting on the boardwalk looking out at the waves and the lighthouse from two days ago. She had moved on before I could change lenses for a wider angle shot. So I decided to sub for her.

I set a cable release to hold the shutter open and then walked into position and stood as still as I could for the next 120 seconds. This allowed the waves and the clouds overhead to register as blurred moving objects while I stood frozen in time. I then walked back to the camera and closed the shutter. The exposure time was so long that my movements did not show on the film.

This photo says something about the world as it moves and breathes about me as I spend my few seconds of time standing on the face of this planet. It will continue long after I am gone from the scene. My movements barely register in the larger scheme of things - I don't recall world commerce stopping in its tracks because my car broke down in Michigan last week, for instance. But my movements matter to me and to those who are close to me. And I guess that's all that really matters.

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

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Here, goosey, goosey, goosey ...

These guys weren't buying it. No dice. No takers.

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

Monday, September 10, 2007


A border is where a beginning and an ending meet. There are a number of borders in this photo. Night meets the last light of day. Clear sky meets the clouds of a passing storm. The last reaches of land meet the expanse of Lake Michigan at South Haven. Water touches sky.

Life is a series of border crossings. Peace to conflict. Comfort to need. Happiness to sorrow. And back again. You don't need a passport. You just need to be. The borders show up on their own, ready to be crossed, sometimes at breakneck speed. Some borders are crossed easily. Other border crossings exact a heavy toll.

It's when you quit walking that all hope is lost.

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:12-13

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

Sunday, September 09, 2007


We are drawn to the edges in this life. We sit at the shore, pondering the expanse of the ocean. We pause at the precipice and gaze into the far reaches of the canyon. We stand on the ground and peer into the vastness of space. We read of and admire of those who have left the edge and made a few furtive steps into those untamed reaches. Or shake our heads in dismay at the monumental display of folly.

Some never go beyond the edges, preferring to stay enclosed within the comfort of their boundaries. I find myself there more often than not. But every once in a while, the edge catches my attention. And I wander over to peer beyond the fence.

And dream.

Photo: Beach visitor, South Haven, Michigan. 1 second at f2.8, 400 ISO film, 135mmlens. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Ooh! My lucky day

Hope your weekend is going as well as mine.

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

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Little peeper

This gray tree frog had made his home in the space between the door and door jamb of a shed behind my parents’ home in Michigan. My folks live in a small town near some wooded areas, so the frogs make themselves at home in the backyards across town. The lights from streetlamps and houses attract all manner of food for these creatures. Their musical trill can be heard all across town on warm summer evenings in concert with crickets and grasshoppers.

These frogs have the ability to change colors from gray to green to brown depending on their environment and mood. This fella was trying to match his black surroundings with nominal success.

Car update: The battery died, so a new one has been installed and I will be on my way to pick it up this weekend.

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

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Face the sun

Last spring, my wife and a couple of my kids started a seedling project that involved sunflowers and morning glories. Now, several months later, we are experiencing the results. Morning glory vines and flowers cover a large portion of our deck railing and sunflowers grow tall along the back of our house, some reaching the roof.

One of the by-products of dozens of sunflowers is a large number of seeds. These are prized by the birds in our neighborhood, who have been feeding on them for a couple of weeks. Last weekend, the squirrels discovered this new source of food and have been wreaking havoc, destroying plants and leaving great piles of chaff on the deck in their effort to gather the seeds.

I stood guard one morning, chasing squirrels off as they approached the sunflowers. In the middle of my vigil, I noticed the exquisite morning light falling on a number of blooms. Several bumblebees flew from flower to flower, gathering nectar and trailing pollen dust. I decided it was a good time to grab my camera. A lot of patience and a lot of misses resulted in yesterday's photo of a bee making its final approach to a sunflower head. In between bees, I noticed this small flower through a gap between sunflower stalks, turning to face the morning sun.

So often we go about our daily routines without pausing to think about things that really matter. For the flower, it's only goal is to face the source of life.

The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. Acts 17:24-25

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

Monday, September 03, 2007

Meanwhile, back at the hive ...

I'm home from a trip to visit family in Michigan. My car apparently loved it so much there, it decided to stay. I'll hear from a mechanic tomorrow as to what it will take to get it to come back to Illinois. Until then, Budget Rent-a-Car is filling in.

This busy bee is cleared for landing and ready to do the nectar and pollen thing. More pics from the trip to come.

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