Friday, August 31, 2007

Making tracks

Taking a few days off for the Labor Day holiday here in the U.S. Back with more photos next week.

Photo: Star trails and headlights on a rural road near Elgin, Illinois. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Here's looking at you, kid

This snow leopard had a serious thousand-yard stare going on when I passed by at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago. I used a long focal length lens pressed directly against the stout chain-link fence that separated us. It threw the fence out of focus enough to get a clear shot of the animal (if you look closely, you can see traces of the chain link).

Orton processing added as an experiment. Here's how to do it.

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

Photo find of the day: Try this ... stand closely behind a friend or relative, looking over their shoulder through a camera. Have said friend or relative grab a child by the hands. Execute a synchronized spin between the three of you. Take a photo of the child while spinning, preferably with a slow shutter speed. Hopefully, you'll wind up with a photo like this one.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Phoenix storm

Taken in Phoenix, Arizona as an autumn storm moved through one morning.

Photography news: Atlanta dedicates the month of October to celebrate photography. Now if only Chicago would do something like that ...

Photo find of the day: Another lunar photo.

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Colors of the canyon

This was taken last October during a trip from Phoenix to Chicago, most of it following old Route 66. I swung by the Grand Canyon late in the day, and while the rest of the tourists packed away their cameras after the sun had set, I set up a tripod and took long exposures of the canyon walls. It was as if the departure of the sun released all of the colors that had been imprisoned within the stone walls.

I added a slight bit of Orton processing to soften the look and play up the colors a bit more. Photo details: Taken from the Devil's Den overlook, South Rim. 30 seconds at f22, 100 ISO film.

Photo blogging: Ethan Meleg is a talented nature photographer and generously shares a number of tips for getting spectacular photos out in the field.

Photo find of the day: If you were standing on the moon early this morning, you would have seen a solar eclipse. We had to settle for a lunar eclipse here on earth. Here’s one taken last evening. Here’s an artful rendition of one.

Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Southwest sunset

Dusk falls on the Sangre de Cristo Mountains north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Taken last autumn and rediscovered this weekend.

The colors and pattern of the sky were just so ... southwestern.

Technical stuff: Blend of two photos, one exposed for the foreground poplar trees, one for the sky.

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

Friday, August 24, 2007

Twilight marina

Happy Friday. Dock your craft, get out and do some explorin' this weekend.

Have a good one.

Photo: Reefpoint Marina, Racine, Wisconsin at twilight. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


I had set up for a shot of the sunset at a forest preserve near my home, and, while waiting for things to develop, took some shots of some objects around the spot I had selected. A worn tree stump was providing a table for some of my equipment and I cleared it off to get a better look at the pattern of rings in the late afternoon light.

Doing my best to count the rings, which my boy scout training told me would reveal the age of the tree when it succumbed, I arrived at the number 80. For eight decades this tree stood, drinking from a nearby marsh, providing food, shelter and shade for a host of creatures before either disease or disaster brought about the need to cut it down.

The tree was unperturbed by the stock market crash in 1929 and the ensuing depression. It ignored several wars, a slew of scientific discoveries, exploration of the moon and scores of natural and man-made disasters. It just served its purpose until it could no longer do so.

Not saying we should ignore the things going on around us, but maybe not allow those things to distract us from discovering and performing our purpose.

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

Photography news: Is it illegal to photograph public art? A city in Canada thinks so and photographers beg to differ.

Photo find of the day: Got some time to kill? Explore some of the best photos on Flickr. Flickr Explore features some of the most interesting photos of the moment and offers an archive of the most interesting photos from days past. Here’s one that I grabbed because, well, it grabbed me.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

To sleep, perchance to dream

The last letter of the alphabet meets the last light of day. An old storefront in downtown Dundee, Illinois is the home to ZGraphics, an advertising design studio. The only identifying mark on the building is a small circle-Z on two display windows and the door between them.

The setting sun was reflecting in the tinted glass as I passed by and compelled me to stop and take this picture. Hmm ... the last light, last letter and the symbol of sleep.

I think I'll go take a nap now.

Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Photography blog roundup: What does the Bible say about photography? Some thoughts here. Embrace the blur - Photos don't necessarily have to be tack sharp to have impact. If you like dogs, you may love Bark! the photo blog of a professional dog photographer.

Photo find of the day: A glimpse of heaven and earth.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Harbor of refuge

The day ends on a peaceful note at the harbor in Racine, Wisconsin. Three separate exposures were blended to increase the tonal range of the scene (Sky, middleground boats and water, foreground rocks). Vignetting was also added.

Photography news: Peruvian photographer Mario Testino has launched an appeal to aid earthquake victims through Save the Children.

Photo find of the day: Jeff Clow recently visited Grand Teton National park. Fortunately for us, he took along his camera. Some great shots of the Tetons can be found here.

Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Beacons across the bay

The long-retired pier light in Racine, Wisconsin stands as a decorative element of Festival Park on the shore of Lake Michigan. Four miles to the northeast, the Wind Point light casts its beam into the deepening darkness.

There is wisdom in the light. It shows the way to go. When the older generation passes its acquired wisdom to the next, future travelers are assured of safe passage into the harbor.

Shine your light today.

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

Photography news: The Natural History Museum of London and BBC Wildlife Magazine present the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, currently on display at Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History. The exhibit runs through September 3. You can catch a glimpse of some of the winners of the competition here.

Photo find of the day: Check out Rich Martin’s photos on Flickr. Sharp compositions combine with out-of-this-world color to create some stunning images.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Faithful light

The old pier light in Racine, Wisconsin has not shed any meaningful light over the waters of Lake Michigan for more than two decades, and in fact faced the wrecking ball in the 1980s. A hue and cry from the city’s residents convinced the U.S. government to turn the structure over to local control. It may not have been needed for maritime traffic, but as a navigational aid to the community’s past, still held immense value.

The light now stands on a rocky pier that marks the entrance of the Root River and keeps watch over the park that surrounds the Reefpoint Marina, its illumination more decorative than directive. Four floodlights illuminate the empty lantern room, its light long since removed.

But present realities often don’t matter when you’re sailing into the past.

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

Photography news: Jay Kaycappa, a British paparazzo convicted of assaulting Heather Mills McCartney in order to snap her picture, has been sentenced to community service for the attack. In Kaycappa’s case, locking him up may have been of better service to the community.

Photo find of the day:Natural Light” by Zsaj on Flickr.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A fish out of water

In the sky actually. My wife and I were strolling around Racine, Wisconsin over the weekend when I noticed a cloud formation that bore a striking resemblance to an angelfish, so I snapped a quick shot of it, hoping to find some use for it at a future time.

Last night I found that use - while looking through some photos, I came across this twilight photo of a beach taken a couple of months ago, also in Racine, that I had not published because I felt the sky was lacking. Some quick PhotoShop work placed the cloud formation over the beach. Some stars from another file photo rounds out the look of the image.

The next few days will comprise a series of twilight photos taken as night fell on the harbor and marina in Racine. Stay tuned.

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

Photography blogging: How has the digital revolution redefined the photograph?

Photo find of the day: “Sky Speaks to Water” by Peter Bowers, an amateur photog from Toronto, Canada. One of my contacts at Flickr, Peter produces some stunning outdoor images. While you’re at it, browse some of what Peter considers his best efforts.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Duck and cover

A webbed waterfowl negotiates a thick stand of lotus off the Fox River in Geneva, Illinois. Geneva is home to a wonderful park located on an island in the Fox, and is a short walk to quaint shops and restaurants in its historic downtown area. Geneva's cinematic claim to fame is its use as a setting in the Tom Hanks film The Road to Perdition.

Nothing perditious about the idyllic setting the day this photograph was taken. Orton effect and color saturation added in post processing.

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

Photography news: Joe O’Donnell, a photographer known for his iconic photo of the Kennedy years and documentary photography of the effects of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, has died at age 85.

More top cameras: As a follow-up to its list of top 20 digital point and shoot cameras, Digital Photography School has issued a list of the 20 most popular digital SLRs.

Photo find of the day: An image of the recent Perseid meteor shower. I had planned to be out photographing the event over the weekend, but my schedule and the weather didn’t permit.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Swiss leaf

A fallen leaf photographed on the hood of my 1995 Ford Windstar minivan. Faded, used up and eaten with holes. Describes both the leaf and my car.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph copyright 2007, James Jordan.

Photography news: James Watt, one of the world's premiere marine photographers, has passed away. Watt's work was published in hundreds of books and magazines and showcased the magical world of the oceans. I've long been an admirer of his work.

Most popular digital point and shoot cameras: Digital Photography School readers have spoken as to their 20 favorite digital cameras. One brand dominates the list.

Photo find of the day: Here is an extreme close-up shot.

Monday, August 13, 2007


Happy Monday. Rise, shine and take on the world.

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

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Ladybug's dream

The folds of a leaf provides a path for this ladybird beetle. The constantly shifting fabric that is our life provides a path for us. Some of the folds and shifts are in our control. Others are not.

I wrote earlier about the family friend who was facing the final days in his fight against bone marrow cancer. While he could not change the outcome, he made the most of that time encouraging our family to stay close and fully appreciate each other. He reached the end of his path yesterday morning, comfortable and at peace.

We will continue on that path.

Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Thursday, August 09, 2007


Ever since I bought a set of enlargement filters to document the cicada invasion here in northern Illinois in June, I've been fascinated by all things small. There are intricacies of detail in the world that pass by all of us each day, and macro photos serve to remind us of those.

Sweeping landscapes show how large and powerful the God of creation is, but it's the minute details that depict the depth of his care and love.

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

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

A mere shell of his former self

I've been meaning to get to some more insect macro shots, but never really had the inclination or the subject to go to the trouble to set up the mini-studio I had in mind. Last week while setting trash out for pickup at the curb, I noticed a seasonal cicada larva had attached itself to one of the trash bags.

I transferred the larva to an insect cage, where it completed its emerging process. I set up the mini studio (a small sheet of foam board folded to create a small vertical three sided box) in my garage. I chilled the subject for a few minutes to slow it down, then took a series of shots, using an off camera flash aimed at the top of the white foam board box to bounce some soft light onto the subjects.

The larval shell is still caked with mud from having emerged from the damp ground; the adult emerged clean and ready to do the thing that adult cicadas do, which is make a lot of noise in the hopes of attracting a mate. No cicadas were harmed in the making of this picture - after the photo shoot, I let the cicada resume its normal activities.

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

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Calling it a day

A family friend has fought a graceful, valiant fight against cancer for the past several years. The foe has been beaten down numerous times, only to rise and strike again. This time, it appears that the disease will be the ultimate victor. He will come home from the hospital today to live out his last few days. He has made his peace with the situation.

This is the time we are expressing our appreciation and thanks to him for what he has meant and done for us over the years. In these next few days, we want to assure him that his time with us was seen as worthwhile and that we are richer for having known him. When he passes, it will be within a loving and caring circle of people that he has known for two decades.

Even though the bloom is finished, remnants of the beauty that was his life shall remain.

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

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Cornfield sunset

The eye is a remarkable instrument. Even more so because it is connected to the brain, where a continuous input of images is interpreted and assembled. The human eye can detect about ten thousand levels of light between pure black and pure white. The camera can only "see" less than half that. Which explains why we're often disappointed with how a picture came out that looked perfectly fine when we pressed the shutter button. What our eyes and brains see are far beyond the limits of film and digital sensors.

The photo above was one of those situations. The difference in exposure between the bright colors of the sunset sky and the cornfield was about six stops - well beyond the ability of the film in my camera to accurately render the scene. So I doubled up - shooting two exposures of the scene - one metered for the sky and one metered for the corn in the foreground - then blended the two on a computer.

The result is a scene which reveals the depth of color and tone of both areas, and comes a little closer to achieving what we've been able to do for a long time.

More details on how a camera "sees" and the limitations of film and sensors can be found on my photo advice blog.

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

Inner Light 2

I have to wonder how much Louis Tiffany was inspired by flowers to create some of his glass work vases. This shot would have done the trick.

This is one of the first morning glory blossoms to grace my deck. I like how the coloration and the translucence of the base of the bloom seems to radiate a light all its own.

This is entitled shot number two because of a morning glory photo I took about a year ago that also plays with the illumination illusion of these delicate flowers.

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

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Mystery solved, sort of

I sure haven't seen a lot of these creatures around lately. This gal and a few dozen hivemates (I presume) were seen working a garden full of coneflowers late in the day last week near my home.

Spanish researchers are convinced the disappearance of millions of honeybees in Europe and Asia is the result of a parasite, not pesticides, pollution, global warming or even cell phones, as previously suspected. The cure is plentiful and cheap. No definitive study has yet been completed on the U.S. bee population, but the parasite is now a prime suspect.

This was taken late in the day on a walk through town. The setting sun filtering through trees cast some nice sidelight spotslights on the bee and flower.

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

Golden parachute

A sunflower pulls the ripcord, unfurls its petals and hurls itself into the world.

Parachutes both literally and figuratively signify soft landings. The first recorded concept of the parachute appeared in the writings of Leonardo da Vinci. It was not until a century later that someone built a parachute based on da Vinci's drawings and tried it out. A Frenchman invented the foldable silk model in the late 1700s. Until then, parachutes had rigid frames. Jumps were made from hot air balloons. The first parachute accident fatality was recorded in 1837.

Parachutes followed into heavier-than-air craft, although initially it was considered "unmanly" to wear a parachute in an airplane. Apparently enough manly men died to convince pilots that parachutes might not be such a bad idea.

Our sun-like friend will rely on its "'chute" to attract enough insects to pollinate its seeds and insure the soft landing of another generation of its species.

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

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Outside my window

We live in boxes that shut out the sounds and sights and smells of a world that swirls and sings around us. We furnish and decorate our boxes to make them more comfortable and comforting. We cut holes in our box to catch small glimpses of the wonder and beauty as it passes by.

Wouldn’t it be better to step outside our box?

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