Friday, March 30, 2007


There's always so much optimism at the beginning of a road trip. Kind of like a weekend.

Hope yours is a great one.

Ile d'Orleans, Quebec, Canada. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

That blue stuff is called 'sky'

Some folks have mentioned to me that they “don’t get” the Cloud Gate sculpture (aka “The Bean”) in Chicago’s Millennium Park. And frankly, I didn’t for a while myself, until I made a few visits to see my daughter who attends college downtown (or as the folks in the UK call it, “Uni.”).

When I’m in Chicago, I’m a gawker. I look at the buildings and take in all the variety and nuances of the architecture. I ponder the thin ribbon of sky beyond the tops of surrounding buildings. I’m well aware that the gawking sets me apart immediately as an interloper, and identifies me as an easy mark for the homeless guys seeking handouts, but oh well. Just about every native Chicagoan walks about with a level gaze. They all have somewhere to go and fast. They’ve seen the buildings. They’re jaded. I’ve even noticed it in my daughter after seven months of city residency. She walks like a native now and pokes fun at my “Gosh, would you look at that” approach to the city.

What artist Anish Kapoor wanted to do was to grab that thin slice of sky, enlarge it, reduce the buildings and place it all within the ground level field of view of Chicago’s population. Here’s what you’ve been missing, people. In the artist’s words:

What I wanted to do in Millennium Park is make something that would engage the Chicago skyline … so that one will see the clouds kind of floating in, with those very tall buildings reflected in the work. And then, since it is in the form of a gate, the participant, the viewer, will be able to enter into this very deep chamber that does, in a way, the same thing to one's reflection as the exterior of the piece is doing to the reflection of the city around.

Works for me.

And it will probably work for the North America Photobloggers, who will meet at "The Bean" at 11:00 a.m. on April 28. Some of my favorite photographers will be there. Can't wait to meet them.

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


My photo posts this week have admittedly been on the negative side, and this one is no exception. It is of an approaching storm passing over a barn. It’s the original image on the color negative film I used to take the photo. In this image is all of the information needed to produce a positive image of the same scene.

We live in a world of opposites. Good and evil, positive and negative, yin and yang, thesis and antithesis. The experience is so common that we don’t even think about it much. We’re used to it. We expect it. We plan around it, mostly in an attempt to stack the deck in favor of the positive and minimizing the negative.

There’s wisdom to be gained in the negative. I can look back over those moments when it seemed the picture was turned the wrong way. It’s helped me see the positive more clearly.

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

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Avenging angel

Some more inversion experimentation in Photoshop. You don't want to find yourself on the bad side of an angel.

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

Monday, March 26, 2007

Fire in the sky

I did a little experimenting with inverting some of my archive photos to see what would happen. This photograph of a church steeple in Cleveland, Wisconsin was originally a placid scene with a bright blue sky and fleecy clouds. Inverted, it became a scene of the apocalypse.

I didn't get the chance to do any photographing this weekend, in spite of record high temperatures here, so I'll be posting more experimental/archive photos this week. Stay tuned.

And Happy Monday. By the way, here's the original church steeple photo.

Click on picture to enlarge and feel the heat. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Twists of life

Hoping that the twists and turns go your way this weekend.

Have a great one.

Photo: Highway 42, Door County, Wisconsin. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A flower for you!

I’m giving away virtual flowers this week in honor of the vernal equinox on Wednesday. You can have a “Think Spring” flower to post on your blog this week … just copy the HTML code below and paste it into a blog post to display the large size picture above (Do not alter or edit the code):

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 “Think Spring” picture to get their own HTML code and keep the virtual flower-giving going. Let’s see how far we can spread this "spirit of spring" meme!

By the way, I’ve got wallpapers to give, too:

Download a 1024x768 wallpaper
Download an 800x600 wallpaper

Happy vernal equinox!

Mum photograph © 2007 James Jordan. HTML code and wallpaper downloads may be freely copied and distributed.

Blooming and booming

These are bunchberries, a relative of the dogwood. I photographed them at Grand Portage State Park located on Minnesota’s Lake Superior shore. According to some sites I Googled, they get their name from the cluster of berries each flower produces. The only problem is the flowers don't always produce the aforementioned berries. It seems the pollen sacs in each blossom explode when touched, which tends to discourage bees from returning to finish the pollination task. Fortunately for the plant, it also reproduces by sending out runners.

I had no problem distributing free flowers this week. And the results were pretty explosive in their own way. Thanks to all of you who took me up on the offer and posted a bloom on your blog. The flowers have turned up all over the U.S. and have traveled as far as the UK, Mexico and Singapore.

Thanks a bunch.

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

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Happy first day of spring

The sun rose at due east today and will set at due west tonight. The weather here in the upper midwestern U.S. will be going back and forth for the next month or so, but we're definitely makin' progress.

Photo: Sunrise, Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin. 1/30 at f16, ISO 100 Fuji Reala film, graduated neutral density filter. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Pot of gold

Yeah, I know it's more accurately "vase of gold," but the other title seemed more interesting to me. If you have a digital point and shoot camera with a closeup setting, a tripod, a window, a sheet of colored paper, a piece of white poster board, and a vase full of flowers, you too can take a photo much like this. The instructions for the set up is posted on my photo advice blog. Just replace the vase of flowers for the old camera in the illustration.

For you detail junkies out there - this photo was taken with a Kodak Easy Share C633 set for closeup. Set at ISO 80, center-weighted focus, flash off and used self-timer set at 2 seconds. Minimal levels adjustment and color saturation performed in PhotoShop, along with some blurring and vignetting for effect.

I keep amazing myself with what those little cameras are capable of.

Oh, and don't forget to take your free flower in honor of spring.

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

Sunday, March 18, 2007


This is a photograph of a life well lived. This old uprooted tree lies in Sunset Crater, the floor of an extinct volcano near Flagstaff, Arizona. The land is coarse and rocky, and the gnarled roots of this tree twisted and turned in search of elusive moisture. While quite a number of poplar and pine trees dot the landscape, not many large trees survive in the rugged pumice-and-cinder landscape. A few manage to grow to a large size, providing refuge for animals and insects. Look closely and you can see the tunnels created by wood-burrowing insects.

As happened to nearly all the large trees here, this one became a victim of its own success. It eventually outgrew the available water supply and began the slow process of dying. Whether it died before the high desert wind overpowered its tentative grip on the unstable soil is uncertain. In the distance stands another pine that faces an identical future.

But they made the best of the situation they found themselves in. We should be so resilient.

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

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Road

Wherever the road takes you may it ultimately lead you home.

Have a good weekend.

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

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Smoky Mountain high (very high)

I'm not a fan of high places. Well, I love the view from a high place, it's just getting there that unnerves me. You're talking about someone here who can get woozy taking an escalator. Climb up on my roof to make some repairs? Fuggedaboutit! I love lighthouses and I've climbed a few light towers that allow visitors to do so, and every time, about halfway up, my brain starts arguing with itself:

"Hey, there's a window."

"Don't look! It'll show you how high you're getting!"

"Isn't that the point?"

"Let's just wait until you get to the top."

"Are you crazy? Don't you know you can lose your balance and fall to your death from the top?"

"Don't bother me with that now, if I let go of the stair rail, I'll tumble backwards and break my neck long before that happens!"

"Then why don't you just turn around and go back down?"

"And let those kids that ran up the stairs ahead of me show me up? Wait, I'll consider it. (Peers down the center column of the spiral stairway to the floor way, way below.) Naw, that might kill me, too. May as well keep going. I'll worry about the return trip later."

"Have it your way, chicken."

I took this photo while standing on a 50-foot observation tower on top of 6,600 foot-tall Clingman's Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It took a drive along a scenic mountain road with plenty of safety rails and a half-mile walk up a wide paved trail and a spiral ramp with high, thick walls and to get to this vantage point. It was as if it were designed just for me.

No internal arguing this evening. Just plenty of time to set up and shoot.

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Night station

This is a commuter rail station in my home town of Elgin, Illinois. It's the final stop on a line outbound from the city of Chicago. At one time this station consisted of a basic roof over a set of benches. The station underwent a renovation four years ago which resulted in a charming depot structure.

This was an early attempt at night photography, taken last July. As I recall, this was a two-minute exposure, which rendered the drifting clouds as ghostly streaks across the twilight sky. The camera sat on a tripod set about a foot and a half off the ground in between a set of rails - it was a weekend and the schedule didn't call for any trains interrupting my shot or my life.

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

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Night beacons

On the evening of January 24, 1870, keeper William Jackson displayed the light at the Cana Island lighthouse in Door County, Wisconsin for the first time. Situated on a rocky spit of land on the western shore of Lake Michigan, the lighthouse has stood in portions of three centuries guiding mariners around the rocky shoals submerged nearby.

After the light was automated in 1945, with no keeper to provide the constant attention needed in the harsh northern climate, the station fell into deterioration. In the 1970s, the Door County Maritime Museum leased the lighthouse property with the intention of preserving an important piece of Door County history.

The Third Order Fresnel lens still casts its light eighteen miles into the darkness every evening.

I’m going to be posting archive photos for a bit until I can get out and get a supply of new photos. This photo was taken about three years ago on a clear evening about 45 minutes after sunset. At the time I was just making the transition from photographing lighthouses during the day to catching them in the evening (after all, that’s the entire point of lighthouses, isn’t it?). Despite its picturesque location, Cana Island had up until then been a difficult lighthouse for me to capture to my satisfaction. This particular evening, everything came together just right – weather, time of day, position of sun and moon.

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

Monday, March 12, 2007

Deposed depot

This is the Chicago and Northwestern Railway depot in Dekalb, Illinois. The photo was taken shortly after sunset as a freight train passed by. The long exposure rendered the passing rail cars as semi-transparent.

The railroad depot once served as the social and commercial hub of many small towns across the country. Goods, grain, mail and people arrived and departed by way of the steel rails that passed through town.

The increase in the number of automobiles and highways after World War II sparked a decline in rail travel, and tens of thousands of these buildings, many of them a showcase of architecture, fell to neglect, vandalism and the wrecking ball. Only about half of the estimated 40,000 depot buildings that once dotted the country remain, more casualties in the quest for progress.

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

Sunday, March 11, 2007


If you’ve visited this blog for any length of time (there are a number of you, you know who you are and I appreciate you very much), you’ll know I have an affinity for “lonely tree” photographs – a picture showing a single tree within a landscape. They’re not easy to come by. First, you have to find one all by itself, then hope that time of day, location and weather coordinate to allow a compelling composition.

I passed St. Mary’s Cemetery while driving through Dekalb, Illinois last evening as the sun was setting. This single tree stood at its center, keeping watch over ancient headstones and monuments. Its branches reached toward heaven, as if on behalf of the souls lying beneath it – a single link between earth and the realms beyond.

The Bible often refers to the cross of Jesus Christ as a tree, and the imagery of a tree as an instrument of both salvation and judgment flows through its pages.

Every so often, I get a visual reminder.

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

Friday, March 09, 2007

A walk in the woods

Warm winds are coming into northern Illinois this weekend. We'll be seeing 50s and saying goodbye to the snow on the ground. Won't be too long before we'll see something that resembles this photo. I plan to get out and get some pictures and otherwise take it easy.

Have a great weekend.

Only 12 days until spring.

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

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Winter's day

Winter's day ...
Memories of what once was.
Don't stop there ...
Hope for what is to come.

Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Old but beautiful

George Eastman made it his life’s work to put photography into the hands of the general public. His slogan was, “You press the button, we do the rest.” It would be fair to say that he succeeded. It seemed fitting that this Kodak 3A Folding Brownie, called the Model A, would have its picture taken nearly a century after its creation with a Kodak Easy Share C633 digital point-and-shoot. As they say, you’ve come a long way.

These folding box cameras had a relatively short production run from 1909 to 1915. Knowing the serial number of this camera and the total quantity manufactured, I’m guessing this camera dates to about 1910-11. The bellows came in either red or black. As far as I can tell, it’s still operational. The mechanical parts work smoothly - you can hear and feel the carefully engineered shutter works do their thing when you press the release. The bellows are in good shape and have no light leaks. The lens is clean.


George Eastman pioneered roll film, making it faster and easier to take and process photos. The Model A used what was called 122 roll film, quite a bit wider than today’s 120 film. It produced an image 3 ½ inches by 5 inches in size. Contact prints were made from the negatives.

This camera was given to me by my wife’s father about 20 years ago, who no doubt, received it from his father. He also gave me a 1930s vintage Foth Derby II, the lens of which is pictured in my previous post. I had only a passing interest in photography at the time I received these items, and I put the cameras into storage. Fast forward 20 years. I remembered the cameras while testing out the macro capabilities of the C633 and took some photos of them. A little research on the Internet helped me understand exactly what I had in my possession, and I discovered that a company in New York makes and processes custom rolls of film for both cameras.


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

Oh, by the way ... if you're interested, I described the simple setup for photographing still life subjects like this one on my photo advice blog.

50,000th visitor comes forward!

Congratulations to Roger, who left a comment after discovering the number 50,000 on my visitor counter. Roger wins a print of "Moonrise at Cave Point," the first print in my series "Door After Dark," photographs of Door County Wisconsin by moonlight.

Technically, according to my stat tracker, Roger is visitor number 50,001. A person from the Netherlands actually beat Roger by six seconds. I'm guessing that the page loaded faster for Roger, giving him the page with the counter at 50,000. Them's the breaks.

Thanks to everyone who helped this blog reach a milestone that seemed 50,000 miles away when I began it some 20 months ago. I appreciate all of you.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Are you visitor number 50,000? Check the counter at the bottom of the sidebar. If it says 50,000 you're it and you get a prize from me! Details here.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Old meets new

There is a lot of irony in this photograph. It is the lens of an antique film camera, given to me by my wife’s father, taken with a digital point-and-shoot. Old meets new, or is it the other way around?

I was putting a Kodak Easy Share C633 through its paces, to see what I could get out of it and impressed myself. I’ve posted a description of the photo setup on my photo advice blog.

This old camera came from a day when all cameras were manual. You can’t get more analog than this baby. Everything is mechanical and every setting must be carefully considered, measured and adjusted before committing to opening the shutter.

By contrast, a press of the 633’s button set in motion an instant array of electronic operations resulting in the image you see above. About the only thing the two cameras have in common is a lens and a shutter button.

Oh, yes. And a human being using it to capture a vision.

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

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Inbound rail

RAILROAD, n. The chief of many mechanical devices enabling us to get away from where we are to where we are no better off. For this purpose the railroad is held in highest favor by the optimist, for it permits him to make the transit with great expedition.
- Ambrose Bierce

“…Wherever you go you are burdened with yourself. Wherever you go, there you are."
- Thomas Kempis, Imitation of Christ, ca. A.D. 1440

Friday, March 02, 2007

Really? Everything?

That's a pretty big boast on the sign at the entrance of the Freeman Kame Preserve where I took some pictures last weekend, but I have to take the state of Illinois at its word.

So I made sure the background of this picture included the protected path lined with protected trees and protected dead grass. I also made sure not to disturb the protected footprints and protected dog droppings on the path as I explored the protected woods and protected railroad tracks nearby.

As I framed up this picture of this well protected place, you'll notice that some protected snow began to fall. I never felt so secure in my life.

Thanks, Illinois.

Click on picture to enlarge. Don't worry it's protected. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

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Check the hit counter at the bottom of the sidebar. If it says 50,000, you're it, and you win a prize. Details here.