Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Tiny geometries

The spiders are busy these days. Hundreds of webs glistened in the early morning light as I took a walk in a meadow on a misty morning last week. Not only has the business climate been good enough for the enterprising arachnids to open multiple locations, each has been successful enough for the eight-legged creatures to get fat on numerous customers to their web sites.

I have some nice close-ups of some of the webmasters - maybe I'll post some of those later this week.

This particular web sat in the shade of some trees and brush. Bright spots of sunlight shone through the backdrop and formed out-of-focus circles of light (referred to as bokeh or circles of confusion) due to the close focus and wide open aperture of the lens I was using (an 18-55mm zoom set at 55mm with a +7 stack of closeup filters). The shade created a light blue cast which was accentuated in post processing.

I've been blogged: It seems I have a fan at Coloursmag.com - Zeeshan Kazmi has compiled a list of 20 Amazing Landscapes and selected three of my photos (#11, #12 and #14) to be part of the group. My appreciation to Zeeshan.

Click on this post's headline to see EXIF data on the photo. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Misty autumn dawn

I came across these lonely trees lost in a foggy meadow in Sleepy Hollow, Illinois last week. A lot of rain has left the ground saturated around northern Illinois. Warm days and cool nights release the moisture in the form of fog and I've been taking advantage of God's gift to photography.

Orton processing was applied to this image to increase the color saturation and further soften focus.

Happy Monday.

Click on this post's headline to see EXIF data on this image. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Morning light

Autumn's morning light is softer than the light of a summer dawn. Perhaps it's the steeper angle at which the sunlight hits our northerly atmosphere. Maybe it's psychological. We see the natural world around us beginning to wrap up its business for the year. Time to dim the lights in anticipation of the night of winter to come.

Click on this post's headline to see EXIF data for this photo. Click on picture to enlarge (1024x768). Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

New day

Seize it.

Click on this post's headline for photo EXIF data. Click on picture to enlarge (1280x800). Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Splash of color

The vehicle called autumn has made the turn and is stepping on the gas pedal. Splashes of color are appearing daily within a stand of trees near you. So sit back and enjoy the ride. Photo taken in Peninsula State Park, Door County, Wisconsin.

Picture tip: This is a great time of year to go for a photo walk in a wooded area. Keep an eye out for contrasting splashes of color from leaves that are starting to turn. Yellow is good. Red is better. Bonus tip from Ansel Adams: When Adams shot photos in the woods, he worked hard to position himself so as to eliminate any trace of the sky showing through the foliage, which would appear as distracting bright spots against the dark background.

Click on this post's headline for EXIF data. Click on picture to enlarge (1280x800). Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Foggy autumn morning in the hollow

My first posted photo of the fall. And with it, I'm introducing a new feature. Actually, Blogger has always had this feaure, but I never thought to take advantage of it. I've set the headline of this post to take you to a Flickr page that shows the exposure info for the photo in the post. Just click on the headline to go there. The Nikon D60 records a pretty thorough set of data for each picture taken with the camera.

The only thing it won't record is if a filter is used. In this case, a 2-stop graduated neutral density filter was used to balance the tones between the sky and ground.

Happy autumn.

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

In other news: I've landed a small but regular gig as a photography writer/reviewer for a web site called Innovative Digital Photographers. It features news about photo gear and offers tips and techniques in a variety of photographic disciplines. Check out the profiles I've written for two photographic pals of mine, Peter Bowers and Trey Ratcliff. Each has a unique take on photography.

I scored my first magazine cover recently. A photo taken at Cave Point in Door County graces the cover of the fall 2008 issue of Door County Living. The magazine chronicles the lifestyle of the Door peninsula in Wisconsin.

And there's nothing like having some of your photos blogged. (Numbers 2, 4, 5, and 6)

Back in a bit

I was just sitting down to get going on a blog post when I got an e-mail from my wife, who is driving to work. She reports fog in the area. I'm grabbing my camera and heading out. Back soon.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


This is the time of year that the monarch butterfly makes one of the most remarkable migrations in the animal kingdom. Monarchs in eastern North America are currently in the process of migrating from Canada to their winter home in Mexico (western North American monarchs overwinter in southern California. Many butterflies follow the shoreline of Lake Michigan southward, then navigate over inland waterways to the Mississippi River, some traveling a journey of more than 2,500 miles. Their offspring will make the northward journey in the spring.

This monarch was spotted just south of Door County Wisconsin along the shoreline of Lake Michigan as it made a refueling stop. Just one of billions making the journey that billions have already taken and have yet to take.

Photo info: Taken with a Nikon D60, 55-200mm AF-S Nikkor lens set at 55mm, aperture priority and auto exposure. 1/100 second at f5.6, ISO 100. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Six unspectacular things about me

I’ve been tagged by Dona to participate in a blog meme. The rules are to list six unspectacular things about yourself, then tag six others to participate.

So first, here are six things about me that do nothing to differentiate me from any of several hundred million of my fellow human beings:

1. I grew up in a small town. How small? The town limit sign was printed on both sides. Ba-dum.

2. I’m left-handed.

3. I turned fifty years old today. (The above photo was one of the first taken with my birthday present - a Nikon D60.)

4. I never learned how to swim.

5. My dad started his working career in a camera store. He landed a job at a company and worked his way up to middle management. At about the age of 50, he was downsized out the company and went back to work in a number of camera shops. My first job was in a camera store. I was downsized out of my corporate middle management job two weeks ago. So far I’m following my dad’s career arc, but I’m trying hard not to end up in a camera shop.

6. I love to cook. I first learned how when my wife was pregnant with our first child. The very thought of food would make her nauseous. So in order to survive I had to learn to prepare my own meals.

All right now – tag six people to participate. Hmmm. Okay, I pick Jules, Linda, Dave, Stacy, Hillary and Roger (I picked Roger before for a meme and he kinda participated – he declined to spread it on to others, but that’s okay). And for a bonus seventh pick, I choose Kelli.

The rules: Link back here, write your six unspectacular items then spread the meme to six others.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What's the difference between a duck?

The debate rages on as to whether photographers should work to get their best shot straight from the camera or shoot their photos with a mind to enhance them later in a photo editing program like Photoshop.

Those in the “no edit” camp feel that untouched photos are somehow purer than a post-processed image. Those in the post editing camp feel that the very process of photography itself distorts reality, so why not work to get the strongest possible image that technology will allow?

I usually try to create the best image possible within the confines of whatever camera I’m using. Anything else is just laziness. Every photographer should know the limits of their equipment and what it is capable of producing in any given situation.

But that doesn’t mean that I don’t post process my images, either. A camera doesn’t always capture the range of tones available in a scene. Colors can get lost. More often than not, I will adjust the light levels and color saturation of my photos, sometimes selecting specific areas of a photo to adjust. And sometimes, a particular effect will enhance a photo, like the Orton processing used on this photo above of a female mallard duck.

Orton is a process of creating a duplicate image, blurring it, layering it over the original image then blending it with the original. The result is a soft-focused photo with richly saturated color.

Here is the same duck photo before processing, as it came straight out of the camera.

What’s your preference?

Want to see more before and after photos? Lev Kolobov produces a photo blog with a twist. Lev's blog, LEVitation, gives a before and after glimpse of each image he posts. The trick is to place your cursor over the red "Kolobov" under each image to reveal what the photo looked like before processing.

Click on pictures to enlarge. Photographs © 2008 James Jordan.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dark clouds

This wasn’t the shot I had planned. I kept my eye on the sky and clouds as the day drew to a close in Door County last July. It had been raining on and off all day, and it appeared that the sky was clearing. If things worked out, the sun would break through just before it set, illuminating the clouds with a fiery hue.

I set up in a small park on the shore of Green Bay to wait and see what would happen. The sky did continue to clear, but instead of a fiery show, the sky glowed a light orange color behind the remaining dark clouds, then disappeared for the day.

I saw a composition forming with a boat dock and some dark clouds that floated by above it. I wanted to be sure the dock could be seen above the horizon line. The only way to do that was to hold the camera just inches above the water. I did, bent over and unable to see the shot before I took it. I made several shots, a couple of which came out framed nicely.

The plans to get through the cloudy days don’t always come off the way we envision them, but we humans manage to make the best of it anyway.

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

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Long time gone

Once upon a time, back in the days when gasoline cost less than 50 cents a gallon, you would take your car to the service station for fuel. Not a gas station, like you see today, but a service station. Because back then, the attendant would actually come out to your car and give you service, not sit behind bulletproof glass while monitoring a bank of pump readouts.

An attendant would come out of the station, greet you, fill your tank, clean your windshield (or scrape it in the wintertime) check your oil level if asked, then top off the oil if needed, then send you on your way with admonitions about the weather or other driving conditions of note. Needed directions? The person was an expert in the local geography. Air for your tires was free. Paying at the pump meant that you handed the attendant your money while never exiting your vehicle.

Service stations were run by individuals, not regional or district managers in search of ever escalating profits who eventually discovered that creating mammoth enterprises with twenty self-service pumps and a full size convenience store with an attached fast food franchise on a busy intersection could crank hundreds of cars through the lot in an hour. Sure beat the mom-and-pop enterprise with two or three pumps, a cooler full of sodas and a couple of metal chairs by the front door - where interaction with another human being was a part of the experience.

Progress, they call it.

Photo: Gus Klenke Garage, Ellison Bay, Wisconsin. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Monday, September 15, 2008

We're soaked

We folks in the upper Midwest are drying out today. The Chicago area has been hammered all weekend with the remnants of Hurricane Ike. As much as eight inches of rain (an estimated 90 billion gallons of water) fell in the last two days, flooding roadways and, for a brief time, cutting off all ground access to O'Hare airport in Chicago and threatening to flood the downtown area.

Of course, this was just a taste of what the folks in the Houston area experienced with the full force of the storm. I can only imagine what that is like.

The photo above was taken at the Crown Fountain in Chicago on a very hot afternoon. Summer days will usually find a large crowd of kids (and sometimes adults) taking advantage of the water spray from the twin monoliths.

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

Friday, September 12, 2008

Leaf and hopper

Spotted in the local wildlife sanctuary. I headed out there yesterday morning hoping to recapture the magic of the deer morning, but to no avail. Oh dear, no deer. So I had to settle for plants and bugs, of which there are plenty.

The grasshoppers are particularly plentiful and particularly skittish. Dozens of them would take cover in each of the plants that line the path, then would abandon each plant as I walked by, scattering simultaneously in all directions in a display that resembled fireworks. I wasn’t able to get close enough to get any photos of them.

This little leafhopper stayed put long enough for me to get a few shots. The sun, which had been hiding behind some clouds, came out for a moment, and bathed the leaf and hopper in a golden morning backlight.

Leaf hoppers are very similar to cicadas in that they have the same sound-producing organs (tymbals) to produce a cicada-like song. They’re so small, however, that the sounds cannot be heard by the human ear.

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

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Meet the next up and coming band …

The “B” Sides. Just kidding. Actually it’s the David Yeager Band, headquartered out of Wheaton, Illinois. With a Dave-Matthews-Band-meets-Blues-Traveler vibe, these guys are looking to make an impact in the local Contemporary Christian Music scene.

I had the privilege to do a photo shoot for the band last weekend in downtown Chicago. Band member Steve insisted on a from-the-back shot with the soon to be completed Trump Tower in the background, so I obliged. The buildings reflected in the tower’s massive sea of glass are from across Wacker Drive behind (in front of?) us.

You can see a few more pics (which show faces) of the David Yeager Band in a Flickr photo set.

You can also visit the band’s MySpace page and listen to some sample tracks.

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

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Deer in the mist

Okay, so I noticed that it was a bit foggy this morning, so I thought I'd check out a wildlife sanctuary not too far from the house for picture possibilities. I find a nice little spot - small pond, grasses bent ever so gracefully, still water, fog shrouded hills and trees in the background. Beautiful. I set up the tripod, frame up the shot, get the exposure the way I want it and am ready to catch a few frames, when this punk kid wanders into the shot. Like totally photobombing the scene. What's a photographer to do?

And then, to make matters worse, a bunch of buddies show up. Sheesh.

They all high-tailed it out of there after this shot. But the damage was done. I just wasn't in the mood to take any more pictures after this.


Click on pictures to enlarge. Photographs © 2008 James Jordan.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Coming up daisies

I was attracted to this scene first by the daisies in the sunlight. I don't usually shoot photos in the middle of the day unless it's overcast, but these flowers were just begging for it. Then there was the surroundings. Steep rocky shoreline, the wind, the waves. A picture not just of surviving, but thriving.

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.”

Matthew 6:25-29

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

Monday, September 08, 2008


A pupa is a transformational stage in the life cycle of an insect. Not too dissimilar to losing a job and looking for another, as is my case.

This silken cocoon was built by a polyphemus caterpillar about two weeks ago. I captured the caterpillar which I found in my yard with the intention of photographing him the next day. He changed the plan by spinning a cocoon overnight.

Since it’s rather late in the season, I don’t know if he will emerge within a two-week pupation period or hibernate over the winter. He spun his shell two week ago today.

Today, my first full day separated from The Company, will find me in my new cocoon, participating in the activities of preparing for a new life. As in the case of Mr. Polyphemus, I don’t know what the time frame will be before I emerge in a new light.

So as I wait for the cocoon to stir, I will attend to the moth’s and my own situations in the same manner – one day at a time.

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

Saturday, September 06, 2008


Using the weekend to help me find some balance. Hoping you do the same. Have a good one.

Photo: rock balancing at Tyler Creek, Elgin, Illinois. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Drumming up business

A street drummer in Chicago lets it loose for a gentleman that just dropped a handful of coins in his collection box. The scene presented an interesting juxtaposition of past and present, and depicts two different battles for survival 160 years or so apart.

Taken at the Fort Dearborn site on Wacker Drive in Chicago.

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

Thursday, September 04, 2008


I'd like to say "Thank you" to all of you who left sympathetic comments yesterday about the loss of my day job. Today, the 24 newly unemployed from The Company will meet as a group with an employment counseling agency. It's sort of a last perk.

The agency will provide any and all of its services to each of us at no charge. We get to pick and choose those services which we think will benefit each of us. I plan to take advantage of whatever I can. Hey, why not?

About that face in the crowd from yesterday. I stuck around Crown Fountain until dusk fell and shot some photos of the monolith against the darkening sky. I could say something cliche like how the darkest times reveals what we're made of more brightly.

Wait, I just did. I also expect to be very proud of the gang of 24 today.

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

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

A face in the crowd

I am that face in the crowd. Today I am joining a growing demographic group - the unemployed. The Company needed to relieve the pressure that months of declining sales presented. A number of us were told yesterday that our positions were eliminated. My departure was my final act of service to The Company after 17 years.

Options are being weighed. Contacts have been initiated. We'll see where this road leads. Until I find out, though, I'll identify myself with a crowd of people in this struggling economic picture. Call us the Class of 2008.

By the way, anybody looking for a media-savvy writer/producer/creative communicator with a background in publishing and marketing? Just thought I'd ask.

Photo: Crown Fountain, Millennium Park, Chicago. Two-stop graduated neutral density filter. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Something different

There’s something about a kidney bean shaped blob of polished steel that attracts attention in a landscape of straight lines and rectangles like Chicago.

It’s not like nobody’s ever taken a picture of the Cloud Gate (also known as “The Bean”) in Chicago’s Millennium Park. People were snapping all around me as I visited there one evening last weekend. So my photos became just a few of the millions that are taken in Millennium Park each year.

But if there is one difference, it’s this. My photos were taken by me and no one will look at the Cloud Gate sculpture in quite the same way I do. And that will make its way into how I approach photographing the structure, whether it’s the angle I shoot from, the exposure setting I use, what I choose to include or leave out, or the combination of real and virtual filters I use.

Some of these shots were taken with a two-stop graduated neutral density filter to even out the tones between the sky and objects on the ground. The twilight photo used a deep blue filter applied in Photoshop to correct the cast of the vapor lights in the scene. Yeah, I know I could have adjusted my white balance at the time, but I didn’t think of it.

A million people at a bean in a park in Chicago. And no two the same.

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