Thursday, January 31, 2008

Daily bread

An older gentleman shared with me a number of years ago how he had begun to pray about the coming winter and keeping his small house heated. Because his main source of heat was a wood stove, he mentioned that he had started praying for God to provide him with money to be able to purchase wood. The answer to his prayer arrived one day when a member of his church drove up to his house with a large truckload of wood and told the old man he was welcome to it.

“Here I was praying for money, when what I really needed was the wood!” exclaimed the gentleman. I joked that had he prayed for wood, he may have wound up with a truckload of money instead.

I guess the point is, that God is not bound by the economy or the abundance or lack of cash to make sure his will is accomplished. So why do we often pray as if He is? “Give us this day our daily bread” is still a sufficient prayer for this day and age.

Photo: Light bread. Click on image to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Life on the land

Photo blogging: Thirteen years ago, Chicago Tribune photographer Scott Strazzante began visiting and photographing life on a family farm near Lockport, Illinois. In 2002, Strazzante and a reporter documented the sale and closing of the farm. Last March, Strazzante returned to the property to photograph the subdivision that now sits on the 119-acre site. Photos of past and present are presented side by side and the similarities of life then and now are eerily similar. It’s almost as if the land itself has dictated how life upon it must be conducted. Check out Another Country by Scott Strazzante.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

On white: PDA-A-A-A

Technology: It just keeps getting smaller.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

On white: Who you really are

It's what's inside that counts.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Monday, January 28, 2008

On white: Topsy turvy

About twenty years ago, the phrase “achieving balance” began to appear on the scene. And along the way, an industry of self-help books and consultants sprang up to tell us hapless souls how to strike the perfect balance between work and home, stress and tranquility, achievement and rest. And we bought into it and began to experience ourselves the frustration of maintaining balanced lives.

The problem is that balance does not exist. At least not for very long. There are too many competing forces at play to keep all of them in equal tension all of the time. The best we can hope for is to average things out, which is not really balance.

It’s kind of like the rocks that I balanced for the photos above.

I set up my small table-top studio and shot a number of items against a white background for a short series that I’m calling On White. I like the starkness in a photo of an object in a pure white environment and have toyed with the concept from time to time.

It took several minutes of minute adjustments to get the rocks to balance just so. And even then, after the pair on the left were shot, they fell down, as if the force of the light from the flash unit was the last push needed to knock them over. Then I see where artists have made even more intricate stacks of balanced rocks and I wonder how they did it.

Hmmm. Maybe balance is possible.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan. By the way, both stacks consist of the same rocks. They were shot separately and composited into one photo.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Friday fun: loldeer

A friend of a friend of a friend e-mailed this photo of a deer meeting a cat. I added the icanhascheezburger-like caption.

Got any other suggestions for a caption?

It's Friday. Have fun.

Photo source: dunno. Caption: mine.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

"Really now, must you hover?"

A chickadee makes its move at the backyard bird feeder. I wish I could attribute this shot to amazingly fast reflexes, but no. The chickadee flew into the frame as I pressed the shutter.

Still acclimating myself to the digital camera. The advantage over film on a shot like this is I can rip through dozens of shots to catch the one-in-a-hundred winner and just delete the rest. I'd have burned through three rolls of film to get this shot. This is quite a change from someone who up until now, planned every film frame and thought long and hard before pressing the shutter.

It's becoming a guilty pleasure.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Just a little shopping

There are a couple of puns in that headline. This past weekend, while my wife was looking over a selection of sweaters at Macy’s, I pulled a Blackberry Pearl out of my shirt pocket, walked over to a balcony overlooking the dinnerware displays and took a picture. I sent the picture to my e-mail address, and upon returning home, opened it up and tweaked it in Photoshop ("shopping") to create a miniaturization effect.

Technology has made the process of taking, retouching and displaying photographs to a worldwide audience much, much smaller than it used to be. Here you are now, somewhere in the world, looking at what I saw at Macy’s last weekend through my own particular interpretation of the scene. How cool is that?

Many barriers, like distance, size, time and cost are now miniature versions of what they used to be thanks to technology. What I fear most, however, about the smallness of the world, is that somehow we will all become smaller right along with the technology. Instead of the connections helping us to get to know and understand each other, we become further entrenched in ourselves to the exclusion of others, and what was once hailed as the unifier of the world becomes a zillion separate channels spewing self-absorbed messages to ever smaller fragments of the population who will agree with us thereby providing the illusion that we are bigger than we really are.

No evidence of that happening on the interwebs so far. Nope.

Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Moon beam

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,

the son of man that you care for him?

Psalm 8:3-4

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A penny saved

With the temperature outside in the negative numbers, this weekend has been a good one for me to stay indoors with a pot of chili on the stove and testing the capabilities of my new digital point and shoot.

I have to say, that the macro capability of this camera (Fujifilm Finepix S700) is both surprising and surprisingly hard. I have a set of close up filters for my Nikon SLR and wondered what would happen if I attached them to the S700. Boy do they get in close. What you see in this photo is about a 3/8 inch square area writ large. But that is after discovering that auto focus does not work at this distance. I was forced to set the camera to manual focus as close as it would set, then move the camera back and forth until the picture was sharp on the LCD screen. It's slow and tedious work, and requires a sturdy tripod and use of the self-timer to avoid camera movement during the exposure, which is quite long.

For those that dig technical data, this was done with a +7 stack of closeup filters, slight zoom setting on the lens, aperture exposure priority at f13.5 (for deepest depth of field). The penny was sidelit from a nearby window. It was taped to a wall with the tripod/camera set to shoot horizontally. It took several shots with some light blocking to get the reflections to my liking.

Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Roads, fences, boundaries, grids

Once upon a time, a sea of prairie grass covered what is now the state of Illinois and much of the Great Plains. Free and wild. That is now gone, replaced by the checkerboard pattern of farms and fields, cities and towns – roads, fences, boundaries and grids.

You can argue whether that is a good thing or a bad thing.

Once upon a time all of us were young and unformed. Free and wild. Over time, we accepted the boundaries and learned to color within the lines. What remains is a checkerboard of roads, fences, boundaries and grids.

You can argue whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. But we all tend to take notice of and obsess over those who break free from those boundaries. How else to explain supermarket tabloids and American Idol?

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


My earliest recollection of the U.S. space program was in 1965 when Ed White became the first man to walk in space. I was 6 years old at the time. From that time forward I was a space fan, reading everything I could about the nation's push to land a man on the moon. I remember sitting in my living room on July 20, 1968 watching fuzzy pictures broadcast from the moon's surface on the family TV as Neil Armstrong took the first tentative steps on our nearest space neighbor a quarter million miles away.

It's good to have a goal. It's also good to have a plan for once you reach that goal. After we landed a few people on the moon (with time out to rescue 3 astronauts on a crippled spacecraft), the space program went adrift. A large spacecraft called Skylab was launched, a few experiments were conducted on a few missions, then the whole thing came crashing to earth over the Australian outback. I'm still not convinced we have hit our stride yet with the space shuttle program. After all, the basic design of the shuttle itself has not changed in the last 20 years or so. Are they trying to tell us that 1985 technology is going to win the day in space? Okayyyyy.

Many the one-hit wonder have found themselves finally on the brink of achieving their dreams when the gut wrenching realization hit - we're expected to do this again, and quick! Some poeple have what it takes to endure, some don't.

So what got me going on this riff? On a much smaller scale, I've achieved a level of photography that I once dreamed about ten years ago. I think I'm at the point where I produce consistently good images with the occasional stunner. The question now is, what's next? Coast for a long time or push to the next thing?

I'm going for push.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Moon shot

Every photo I’ve posted since Christmas has been made with my new Fujifilm Finepix S700 digital camera. Last night was the first clear night in several days, so I took a few minutes to take some shots of the first quarter moon. The S700 is a point and shoot, but it does allow for a complete manual takeover on focus and exposure (one of my prerequisites in choosing a digital camera – I need to be in control every now and then). So I went the full 10X optical zoom (equivalent to 380mm on a 35mm SLR), set the focus to infinity (autofocus is pretty much useless in the dark) and shot at 1/40 sec at f13.6 (the camera’s minimum aperture).

Pleased with what I got, I decided to incorporate the moon into an existing picture and rediscovered the dune shot I posted last year as my New Year’s Day photo. Gotta love working with layers in PhotoShop.

I’m getting used to working the digital camera (translation: I’m learning from all the mistakes I’ve made). My poor film cameras have been lying dormant, but one of these cold winter nights, I’ll take them out to capture some stars.

Photo montage: Destination (Can you get there from here?). Image © 2008 James Jordan.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Like a rock

Moving water as a metaphor for the passing of time. Rock as a metaphor for resistance to change. You can go with the flow or stand and resist. Either way, you will be changed. Only the timeframe is different.

More good Karma: Waiting for Dawn was selected as the winner of the weekly contest at Flickr's Karma Group. Winners are selected by member vote.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Monday, January 14, 2008

On the shore of golden creek

When I first got serious about photography, I made heavy use of photographic filters. Recently, not so much. After seeing some of the work that John, a contact at Flickr had done using a graduated tobacco filter, I was inspired to purchase one and experiment with it myself. As the name implies, a tobacco filter is a yellowish/reddish/brownish color, much like the fingernails (or teeth) of a heavy smoker. It’s mainly used to add drama to an otherwise dull sky. The drama of a smoker’s teeth and fingernails is another story.

I used the filter during a recent snowfall and accidentally set the woods on fire.

Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Over the hill

There is so much to be discovered over the crest of the next hill.

Taken near Egg Harbor, Wisconsin. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


Winter tries its best to erase the lines of demarcation on the land, and sometimes succeeds, if only for a short while. Like the farmer who originally moved the rocks from the center of the field to its edges, creating a fence, we all ascribe borders for our lives. I’ve cleared and claimed this portion of my life. I go this far and no farther.

Sometimes that’s a good thing. Behaviors, attitudes and responsibilities are held in check by self-imposed or societal borders.

Sometimes borders take the form of limitations and become excuses for not doing better things. I’m too old. I’m not smart enough. It’s too late. I might fail. Nobody supports me. Those are the borders that need to be crossed every so often. The only passport you need is the determination to give it a go.

Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


It was the contrasts of this place that drew me to make this shot. The stillness of the shroud of snow vs the bubbling activity of the small stream. The warmth of the creek bed vs the cold starkness of the winter landscape around it. The falling snow cast about by the whim of the winter breeze vs the purposeful path of the flowing waters.

Life is that way. Full of contrasts. Makes for an interesting picture.

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,

a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,

a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,

a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,

a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Winter dream 2

If winter is the time when the earth sleeps, a winter fog is when it dreams.

Oh, and another (100) thing(s): Martin Gommel is an amateur photog in Germany. He also hangs out at Flickr. Martin has penned 100 things that photography has taught him. If you enjoy taking pictures, check out his “100 Things” to see how many you already know/do. Amazingly enough, I find that I’m already doing about 90 of the things on Martin’s list. Now to get working on the other ten …

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Toss up

Here's something to do to while away some time - Find a room with some stationary points of light. Set your digital camera for a one second exposure and the self timer for two seconds. Press the shutter button. Just before the shutter releases, toss the camera into the air. Don't forget to catch it. See what was recorded on the sensor. Repeat. It may take a whole lot of tossing, but you may eventually find something extremely interesting.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

This old truck

Snow as a metaphor for the passage of time. Misty fog as a metaphor for memories. Works quite nicely in this photo, I think.

2007 Photoblogs of the Year

I know how to pick ‘em: The 2007 Photoblogs of the Year winners have been announced. Several of the photo blogs on my blogroll made it as finalists and a couple have won in their categories. The wonderful portraits by Cynthia Graham at light-headed won for best black and white photo blog and Kathleen Connally's A Walk Through Durham Township captured the best American photo blog honor. Lenscape and Daily Walks made it as finalists. The slate is wiped clean and the voting for 2008 Photoblog of the Year is now underway.

If you feel that Points of Light is vote worthy please take a moment to cast yours. And be sure to check out all the winners and finalists. Good stuff.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Winter sunrise

Every sunrise brings with it a promise. Which, I suppose makes the first sunrise of a new year that much more special.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Winter beach at dawn

You’re looking at a photographic negative. Not in the sense of reversed colors, but of reversed states. A beach, once a place of warmth - now a cold, foreboding place. Green blades of grass now made brown by the chill. The snow of winter in place of the sands of summer. This scene will transform back to its summer state in a few months. But for now, it holds a quiet ethereal beauty of its own.

Photo blogging: Waiting for Dawn, a photo of the Sturgeon Bay Canal Light posted here on New Year’s Day has been selected as today’s Photo of the Day at Earth Shots. Earth Shots is a great site to peruse to get a sense of this magnificent planet we call home.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The house of meeting

There was a time when a group of congregants regularly gathered in this building to find faith and encouragement to continue on with their lives in the harsh environment of Door County, Wisconsin. Children likely gathered here to learn the three Rs. All that remains today are memories of the souls that once made this building a living part of a growing community. Somewhere along the way, the body faltered, declined and died. Like a body that has relinquished its soul at death, this structure now slowly returns to the earth.

New Year’s Eve dawned cold, gray and foggy in Door County, and I was returning from Sturgeon Bay, where I had taken some shots of the pier light and U.S. Coast Guard Station. I decided to leave the main highway and take a county road that cuts across the Door Peninsula to connect with a shoreline road to Egg Harbor, where my wife and I were staying. The road didn’t go where I thought it would, and for a while, I lost my bearings in the thick fog, wandering the back roads in search of the familiar highway.

My wanderings brought me to this building, which emerged like a ghost from the fog around me. I found myself proclaiming a low “Wow!” as it came into view. The snow and fog isolated this building and its surrounding trees and brush from the rest of the world, a haunting display of a building where lost souls once came to regain their bearings.

Photo blogging: Here’s looking at you Eyescapes is a series of photographs of human irises. It’s a project by Rankin, a London-based photographer and co-founder of the magazine Dazed & Confused (apparently, he’s cool enough to get by with only a singular name). What is striking about the series is the sheer variety of coloration and structure of the various eyes. The clinical becomes art. Take a look at Eyescapes.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

U.S Coast Guard Station, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

Established in 1886 as part of the U.S. Life Saving Service, the station is located at the east end of the Sturgeon Bay Ship Canal. Reef and pier lights had been established at the canal’s opening four years earlier, but as city of Sturgeon Bay grew as a manufacturing, farming and lumber center, the demand for better navigational aids grew with it. The U.S. government began construction of a light tower with a unique experimental design.

The tall center portion of the tower is the original structure, built in 1898. Vibrations caused by stiff Lake Michigan winds necessitated the addition of guy wires in an attempt to stabilize the structure. Steel legs and buttresses were added in 1903 and remain to this day.

Station Sturgeon Bay's main missions are search and rescue, enforcement of laws and treaties, marine environmental protection, recreational boating safety, and shore line ice rescue.

Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The dawning of a new year

I'm back from a year-end visit in Door County, Wisconsin. I spent a frigid morning at beach and pier adjacent to the Sturgeon Cay Canal Lighthouse while we both waited for the day to dawn.

I hope that your new year holds many good things for you. Blessings.

Photo: Waiting for dawn. Blended photo combining two exposures. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.