Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Dandelion sparkler

A dandelion's seed head sparkles in the sunlight. This photo is a continuation of my exploration of little things made big through coupling two lenses face-to-face.

Quick fact: The dandelion got its name because of its sharp-lobed leaves. In old French, dent-de-lion is translated lion's tooth.

And I grew up thinking that the yellow flower resembled a lion's mane and looked kind of dandy.

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Spider, up close and personal

I’m placing the photo at the end of the post today because I have a daughter with arachnophobia. The sight of a spider, no matter how small and far away, sends her into a panic. For twenty years, I’ve been the go-to guy when a spider needs attending to. So I understand those who can’t stand the things.

That said, I think this is a pretty cool shot of a large (1/2 inch) jumping spider. I taped two lenses together, face to face, to get the magnification. A 135mm prime was on my camera and a 50mm prime attached to the front of that with the small end aimed at the arachnid. The camera was mounted on a tripod and extremely small adjustments made to get the eyes in the plane of focus.

I used a variation of my standard window lighting setup with this shot. Instead of a large sheet of colored paper for the backdrop, I used a light blue Post-it Note. A small folded sheet of white paper was used to reflect some light onto the shadow side of the creature. The tough part about such closeup shots is that the lens ends up so close to the subject that lighting becomes an issue. There was enough sidelight from the window, along with the reflector, to give a fairly even light to the spider, which really brings out several of his beautiful blue-green eyes.

You may be wondering how this spider managed to stay still during all the fuss of setting up. He spent a little time in a refrigerator to slow him down prior to his appearance on the set. Some extremely talented veterans of insect photography like Kim and Meng Foo (two of my contacts at Flickr) might scoff at me for doing that, but I’m sure I’ll get better at this as I go.

It's a pretty auspicious start.

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

Monday, May 28, 2007

Little big things

Remember the movie Fantastic Voyage? That’s the one where a team of doctors and a small submarine was shrunk to the size of a cell and injected into a patient so the team could remove an inoperable tumor - kind of an extreme inside job. Along the way the crew dealt with some life-size biological entities that they had only previously seen under a microscope.

A couple of days ago, I took my own Fantastic Voyage and experimented with some extreme macro photographs. There are a number of ways to get extreme magnification on your photos. One technique involves reversing the lens on your camera – sort of like looking through the wrong end of the telescope. A single lens can be reversed or two lenses can be coupled face to face. I coupled a 135mm prime lens to a 50mm prime using good old masking tape.

When using such a setup, the focus is fixed, so the only way to focus is to move the camera back and forth until a portion of your subject comes into focus. The experience is like peering through a periscope as you descend into a sea of blurry colors. Eventually objects will snap in and out of focus quickly. Depth of field is extremely shallow, so a fast film or ISO setting allows you do stop down the lens to try to regain some DOF.

This flower was shot hand-held in bright sunlight. 400 ISO film allowed the shutter speed to be set at 1/500, otherwise a tripod would have been needed to keep the image steady. I made several descents into the flower, pressing the shutter when parts I wanted in focus passed by. The bright sunlight created rich saturated colors. The inset photo shows the flowers seen without the macro lens setup.

After shooting large sweeping landscapes, it’s interesting to see how such small objects have a landscape all their own. More macros to come this week, including a friendly, fuzzy eight-legged creature.

Click on picture to enlarge (as if it needed more). Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Memorial Day

Thank you to all who have served our country in the armed forces. Thanks to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. You are not forgotten.

Headstone, Smoky Mountains, Tennessee. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Landmark lost

Though surrounded by industrial parks and major expressways, the Teeple Barn in Elgin, Illinois did not fall to the wrecking ball to make way for new development. Last Thursday night, the barn fell to natural causes. Strong winds toppled the 122-year-old structure.

From the McHenry, IL Northwest Herald:

“There was some wood damage inside, and it just could not stand up to that wind,” said Carroll Teeple, whose husband’s great-grandfather, Lester Teeple, had the barn built in 1885.

The barn’s roof, she said, had only tar paper and was awaiting shingles. When it rained, the inside would get wet and weaken the structure.

“Time was just not on our side, and Mother Nature had gotten to the barn before we did,” Teeple said.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it is unlikely that the barn will be restored.

Top photo © 2007 James Jordan. Inset photo © 2007 The Daily Herald.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Long walk, long pier

The Breakwater Lighthouse in Manitowoc, Wisconsin sits at the end of a pier extending into Lake Michigan. The first light was established here 168 years ago in 1839. Several iterations of towers, lights and locations followed over the course of the years, an unbroken string of lights guiding sojourners in the night. The additions and subtractions over the years have resulted in a hodgepodge style of architecture. The lighthouse was built for functionality, not looks. Quaint it ain’t.

The walk from shore around the harbor to the pier and then to the lighthouse is a round trip of a little more than a mile and can be a pleasure or a pain depending on the weather.

I decided to focus on the pier leading to the light rather than the light itself to depict the ever-present nature of the light. Whether in or out of mind, the light faithfully does the job for which it was designed.

Hope your weekend goes well. Summer is here. I haven’t seen any cidadas in Elgin yet, but I’m hearing them at night in the distance and their song is getting louder each day.

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

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Same day, different Beans

The Cloud Gate sculpture (aka “The Bean”) in Chicago’s Millennium Park is perhaps one of the most photographed landmarks in the city. And as such, it becomes a challenge to get a photograph that is truly unique. But hey, that’s what makes it so much fun.

This photo was taken prior to the North America Photobloggers meetup last month. I noticed this family posing for photos with the Bean. I stuck the lens of my camera between the columns of a stone fence to get this view. I later played with desaturation and selective blurring to enhance the already otherworldly effect of the sculpture (I also used PhotoShop’s distort function to align the vertical lines of the buildings in the background, hopefully adding to the “there’s something different about this but I can’t put my finger on it” feel of the photo.

You can see how some of the top photobloggers in this part of the world interpreted the Bean here. This one is my personal favorite among the NAP group’s pics. And if you’re still hungry for more Beans, feast your eyes on these.

Yeah, yeah, I know. They’re a gas.

By the way: This is post number 691 on Points of Light. I posted my first serious entry here two years ago today. I've had fun, met a lot of interesting people, made some new friends, and grown as a photographer over that time span. Thanks for stopping by.

Cicada update: Still haven't seen any in my Elgin neighborhood, but heard some last night, far away.

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Still waiting

The Northern Illinois Brood XIII of the periodical cicadas has not yet made its appearance in Elgin. June bugs are also emerging right now, but are being upstaged by cicadas. I was out last night doing some practice shots with a digital point and shoot and still find myself impressed with what those cameras can do.

This poor June bug found itself acting as a stand-in, captured with a Kodak EasyShare C633 Zoom. In case you're interested in the settings used: Close up setting with a slight telephoto zoom, ISO 80, exposure -1.0, center-weighted focus, flash on. I taped several layers of tissue paper over the flash to soften the light. The C633 only focuses to about 5 inches (13cm) on closup, but the telephoto and 6.1 mp allows for a bit of enlargement. Also, auto-focus does not work well in the dark, so I used a small flashlight to illuminate the bug prior to tripping the shutter.

This photo was rotated to take advantage of the landscape the birch tree offered. Sort of looks like the June bug is crawling over the surface of the moon (June moon bug?).

All in preparation for the main event (hope it's not a dud here).

Here is another set of cicada photos captured by James Workman in LaGrange, IL and posted on Flickr.

Here is a very good blog that presents updates on cicada sightings across the Chicago metro area.

Update: Here's an interactive map that charts Cicada sightings in the Chicago area, courtesy of the Lake County Forest Preserve District.

Here's what one sounds like. For full accuracy, turn your volume up until it's about as loud as a kitchen blender.

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

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Preparing to be invaded

A once-in-17-years event is about to take place in northern Illinois. This is the year that Brood XIII of the 17-year cicada emerges en masse from underground. The stories from those who endured the last event are plentiful – billions of insects emerging across Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan; several days of 100dB mating calls; a month later scooping the dead bugs off driveways and sidewalks with snow shovels; restaurants serving deep-fried cicada.

I lived in Michigan 17 years ago and pretty much missed the excitement. I’ve been in Illinois for 16 years, and recently have listened to the locals talk about the last invasion. Today is the day experts predicted the mass emergence would appear, but some think that a recent spate of cold weather may delay the inevitable for a few days or so. A few random sightings have been reported in the Chicago area, but nothing in my neck of the woods just yet.

I did not take the photo above, but I do hope to get some photos of the local cicada invasion very soon. Update: More cicada photos here.

Update: Last evening saw a mass of Cicadas emerging in Villa Park and a few emerged in Elmhurst this morning. Sightings were reported in Peoria and Homewood earlier in the week.

Sunday, May 20, 2007


"If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door."
-Milton Berle

Hoping you'll find plenty of opportunity this week.

Antique shop door, Egg Harbor, Wisconsin. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Some things are just boring ...

Hope your weekend is not one of those things. Have a great one!

Art store display, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Earth Shots' second 100 days

The stated mission of is to "celebrate the beauty and diversity of our planet." Photographers are encouraged to submit their photos for consideration for their "Photo of the Day" feature.

I've been fortunate enough to have had two photographs chosen over the past 100 days. They are featured, along with 98 amazing photographs in this video slideshow they created to celebrate their site's second 100 days of existence (which in internet years is what, a decade, maybe?). I think they've done a pretty good job of achieving their mission. Makes earth a place you wouldn't mind living in. Sit back and enjoy.

(If you're a teensy bit curious as to which two photos are mine, you can check at the bottom of this page's sidebar and click the two Earthshots buttons. But I'll give you a hint - one of them is the last photo in the show.)

Magenta gerbera

This flower was part of my wife's Mother's Day gift from our youngest daughter. The entire arrangement was photo-worthy, so I spent some time on Mother's Day with a point and shoot digital and my tried-and-true window photographic lighting setup. Orton effect added in post-processing.

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

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Petals of three

The profusion of threes (three leaves, three bracts, three petals) no doubt caused Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus to give this flowering plant, common to forests in North America and Asia, the name trillium.

Trilliums are delicate plants, requiring shaded areas and soft soils. Most species take up to six years to produce seeds. Several states in the U.S. have made it illegal to pick a trillium.

This particular blossom was photographed south of Fish Creek, Wisconsin. The only way to get a face-on shot of this particular species is to get acquainted with the forest floor, which I did. Orton processing and selective color saturation added in post processing.

White trillium, 70mm macro, 1/125 at f3.5, 100 ISO. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Protected field

This fire hydrant wasn’t placed at the edge of a farm field to keep the crops from burning. It’s there in advance of a subdivision of homes or a shopping center. In fact, this vacant field is adjacent to a shopping center in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. I noticed the scene while sitting in my car waiting for my wife and daughters to pick up a few things. I wandered over with my camera and shot a couple of frames.

Open space is a vanishing commodity as the metroplex spreads ever outward from the city center. I guess it’s the price of being such a popular place to live and work.

Hydrant, field and sky, Algonquin, Illinois. 35mm lens and circular polarizer. 1/125 at f8, 100 ISO film. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Between day and night

If you've visited here for any length of time, you know I have an affinity for twilight - that in-between time that is no longer day, yet not yet night. There is a sense of sorrow for the end of the daytime, yet there can be rest and repose in the nighttime to come - and hope for the next day, as well.

Push on.

Sunset, Huntley, Illinois. 210mm lens, 1/125 at f8, 100 ISO film. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Happy Mother's Day

To all you moms out there ... enjoy your day!

Petals of flame, Gerbera Daisy. Taken with a Kodak EasyShare C633. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Faith abandoned

A lock on the door of an empty shell that once housed a family of faith. Egg Harbor, Wisconsin.

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

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Moonlit road

I never saw the stars, the fence or the shadows on the road when I shot this at 4:00 a.m. I wasn't even quite sure the photo was in focus. Part of the adventure of doing moonlit night shots is that you never know for sure what the final image will look like, if you shoot film, like I do.

I like being pleasantly surprised. Hope your weekend does that for you.

Moonlit road, Door county, Wisconsin. 6-minute exposure at f8, 400 ISO film. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

It's okay

In a world yellow and white daffodils, it's okay to be a red tulip. Do something to make yourself stand out today.

Taken with 135mm prime lens. 1/1000 second at f2.8, 100 ISO. Selective color saturation/desaturation and vignetting in post-processing. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Moon over Main Street

This is Third Street in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin at a little past midnight on May 5, 2007. The sounds of music from a late-night establishment wafted through the chilly evening air. A moon on the wane watched over the cars cruising the street. An occasional walker materialized out of the darkness, then disappeared down the street.

My wife and I like to joke about the businesses in Door County shutting down at sunset with the sidewalks rolling up shortly thereafter. Those businesses that don't cater to the nocturnal don't feel the need or the pressure to stay open late. That a vast portion of the county shuts down after dark helps visitors from cities and suburbs without an off switch to slow down, breathe deeply and relax.

And so we did.

20 second exposure at f22, 100 ISO film. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Night vigil

This is a photo of stability in the midst of turmoil. Last Friday was a stormy one in the Midwest. A town in Kansas was leveled by a tornado. The storm system stretched as far north as Wisconsin. The clouds in this photo represent the farthest reaches of the massive storm front.

Yet there is peace and stability even as the storm clouds roll overhead. The Bible describes God as a rock, a fortress, a very present source of help in times of trouble. Can’t get much more stable than that.

This month marks the two-year anniversary of Points of Light. I started it to show off some of the photographs of lighthouses I had taken. My photography has stretched and grown into different areas in the last two years, but my fascination with lighthouses continues, because they represent what I think all of us are looking for.

Sherwood Point Light, Door County Wisconsin. Taken at dusk with a 35mm lens and circular polarizer. 2-minute exposure at f22. Minimal levels adjustments and increased color saturation. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Tiptoe through the tulips ...

Just got back from a spring weekend in Door County, Wisconsin; and I've got just enough time to post a picture of one of the signs of spring on that rocky peninsula.

These tulips graced a pottery and print shop in Egg Harbor. I have lots of film to be processed and photos to be prepared, including some night shots that I’m hoping came out nicely as well.

Stay tuned.

Magical Rose Garden has nice things to say about Points of Light. I discovered upon my return this evening that POL was honored last Friday as the Spotlight blog at Magical Rose Garden. Many thanks for the kind comments! A number of blogs have been discovered and reviewed at MRG. I hope to return to check out some more!

Photo: Tulips, Egg Harbor, Wisconsin. 135mm prime lens. 1/1000 second at f2.8, 100 ISO film. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Sliver of sky

Sometimes you can only see a sliver of sky from the road you’re on. Drive on anyway.

Have a great weekend.

LaSalle Street, Chicago. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Camera central

In the late 1800s, thirteen-year-old Albert Flesch arrived alone in Chicago from Hungary to live with an uncle and discover the opportunity that was America. Albert scored his first job in the camera department of Siegel-Cooper, one of the large downtown department stores of its day.

By the end of the 1800s, Chicago had become a center of architecture and gained a reputation in the international community, thanks to the 1893 Columbian Exposition. In this atmosphere of growth and opportunity, Albert opened a camera store in 1899, which today is operated by Albert’s grandson.

My first job was in a camera store some thirty years ago. We prided ourselves in providing knowledge and help along with selling cameras and film. A visit to Central Camera is like going back in time. Yes, the technology and the equipment has changed, but the staff’s knowledge of and genuine love for photography is a welcome change from the cookie-cutter camera displays and bullet-point marketing of most of today’s retail stores.

This photo was taken during the NAP 2007 meetup last weekend. A group of photobloggers on a walking tour of Chicago’s loop made a “must-stop” here. Jonathan Greenwald, who specializes in candid urban portraits, is shown entering the shop. I learned a lot just watching him do his thing while we walked about for a few hours. Jonathan has some great street photography on his photoblog, Shrued. Check it out.

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

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Parking redefined

I noticed this nifty little parking job while touring Chicago last weekend at the North America Photobloggers meetup. I love examples of non-linear thinking. A long time ago, I learned a lesson about the value of redefining a problem in order to break out of the rut and come up with innovative solutions.

When I was young, newly married and mostly broke, I drove around an old clunker of a car, and an older gentleman from my church, who was a do-it-yourselfer, tinkered with it (on a regular basis) to help keep it running.

One day, while crossing a set of railroad tracks, the car died. After coasting across the tracks and pulling off to the side of the road, I popped open the hood, not knowing exactly what I was looking for. I noticed a loose wire. The metal ring at the end of the wire, which had connected to a terminal on some gizmo, had snapped. Most of the metal ring was still bolted to the terminal. Apparently, the vibration from crossing the rough tracks had been enough to finish a long process of deterioration of the part.

I called my DIY mechanic, who came over to assess this problem. A fellow who worked with me at my place of employment spotted me and my car as he passed by and stopped to offer assistance as well. The answer seemed to be obvious. We had to reconnect the metal ring to the end of the wire. But the metal assembly was one piece. It would have to be welded back together, but the rust would be an issue. My older friend and I began searching our memory banks to think of someone who had the proper welding equipment to reconnect the ring. I began thinking that this could take a while to fix.

The friend from work listened to us muse for a while, shook his head, then retrieved a small tool kit from his truck. He snipped off the end of the wire, used a pocket knife to expose an inch of bare copper wire, wrapped it around the gizmo's terminal and bolted it into place. He walked over to the driver door, reached in, turned the key and started the car. The whole thing took about a minute.

“That’s another way to do it,” my older friend said, a bit embarrassed. We had mistakenly defined the problem as repairing a broken ring, when in actuality, the problem was a lot simpler – connect the wire to the terminal. The problem pictured above was not to find a parking spot long enough to fit a motorbike, but to find any spot the motorbike could fit in to. And if someone else has fed the meter, so much the better.

Clever solutions are possible when you redefine a problem. Give it a try today. Then let me know how it went.

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

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Bean

In a city of angles, squares and rectangles, the Cloud Gate, aka The Bean, located in Chiacago's Millennium Park, is at first a jarring sight. It's an intruder, an alien, a drop of liquid mercury fallen from the sky.

But sometimes it takes a little jarring for people to take notice of the world around them, made dull by repetition and familiarity.

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