Thursday, November 27, 2008

Things I'm thankful for #4

A goldfinch eats his Thanksgiving dinner at my backyard bird feeder.

God feeds the birds and He clothes the flowers. It's good enough for them. It's good enough for me.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Things I'm thankful for #3

The bonds of friends and family that remain strong despite the tests and trials of time.

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

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Things I'm thankful for #2

I'm thankful for sustaining grace in the middle of the flowing currents of life.

But He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

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

Monday, November 24, 2008

Things I’m thankful for #1

News flash – things that don’t get used fall apart. The old junker cars that Roger and I visited in the woods last week are testimony to that. What used to be sleek, fully appointed vehicles of egress now sit stripped to their steel skeletons – helped by vandals, certainly, but also eaten by the elements.

What does that have to do about being thankful? Since losing my job in early September, I’ve rediscovered some creative muscle that had gone unused in my old job. Skills that had sat dormant and decaying have been called upon one more time. Those have come in handy to land some freelance writing and photography gigs to help keep my financial ship afloat. I believe the self-help gurus would call that “being stretched.”

So I am thankful that the day the money runs out keeps getting pushed farther into next year. I’m thankful the Lord has provided some projects that can lay the foundations for new ventures in the future. I’m thankful that the parts of me that have rusted are now burnished bright again.

Click this post's headline for image EXIF data. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Friday, November 21, 2008


I met up with Roger yesterday morning to wander some of the forest preserves in McHenry County to photograph a few abandoned cars and anything else we found to be of sufficient interest. Roger has taken up the pursuit of picture taking and does quite well despite some of the advice I give him.

On a bitterly cold, snowy November day (we set the date long before we checked the weather report) we hiked through the woods in search of interesting stuff. The time spent was enjoyable and I came away with a few dozen shots to add to my backlog of images to process. I may upload a few of them to iStock.

More to come. You can see a few more on Flickr.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Hey, I'm not getting older, just getting more classic by the day. This vintage piece of American automotive manufacturing (made when the U.S. auto industry was seeing better days, i.e. no competition, which they addressed in a woefully inadequate fashion when it started eating their lunch, leading to their current problems - don't get me started) was spotted in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a place with classic vibes of its own.

I'm meeting up with Roger this morning to find some abandoned automotive relics for purposes of photography. Should be fun.

Stay tuned.

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

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Hey, it's a start

When I was a young boy back in the 1960s, and it was time to get my hair cut, my mom would give me a couple of dollars and have me walk two blocks to the downtown area of the little Michigan town we lived in to visit the barber shop. Hanging among the patriotic posters on the wall of the shop ("America, Love It or Leave It," etc.) was a framed dollar bill. I was a budding fan of money myself, but didn't understand the need to go to the trouble of framing it. Later I learned that businesses displayed the "first dollar" they earned as a celebratory milestone, with the hopes of more dollar bills to come.

So, here is my "first dollar" display - the first photograph of mine downloaded from iStock. I've been an iStock photo supplier for a whopping two weeks and have uploaded about 17 pictures so far. Each upload is reviewed by a set of human eyeballs, and the approval process can run a week or more, so in actuality, only five of my photos have been live on the site for just a few days.

Hoping for more to come.


I'm beginning to like how black and white pictures strip photography down to its basics - composition, form, tone. There's no hiding behind flashy colors or fancy post-processing. A photo either works or it doesn't. As I go through my photos choosing candidates for black and white conversion, I'm sadly finding photos that don't work in black and white. That only means that they don't work in color, either. Time for Mr. Delete Button to do his stuff.

This photo does a couple of things nicely. I like the complete range of tones from black to white throughout the picture. The photo also merges the natural sunburst created by sun and clouds with the technological sunburst of the sunlight bouncing, pinball style, off the many interior elements of the camera's lens. The act of photography itself is an imposition of the technological on the natural. Most times, the trick is to disguise the imposition as much as possible. Sometimes the trick is to embrace it.

Photo tip: When photographing the sky with a visible sun, meter on the sky above the sun with the sun just out of the viewing frame. Then recompose and shoot.

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

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


This photo takes me back to the very early days of my photography - developing and printing pictures in the darkroom at my high school. This was the look that I was after - grainy, contrasty, cool. I could never get that look for some reason. My pictures tended to come out flat and dull.

Fast forward a few decades, add a dash of understanding of how to get those tones in a darkroom (thank you, Ansel Adams for publishing how you made some of your pictures), couple that with digital technology and voila! The look - only without the smell and the messy trays of chemicals.

Photo: Poplar leaf on the dried mud of a riverbank. Color desaturated in Photoshop, highlights and shadows boosted 25%, film grain filter added. Vignetting applied. Click on post's headline for image EXIF data. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Taking my own advice

Yesterday while raking the leaves from my yard I had the chance to reflect on being jobless for the third time in my life. I suppose after the first two times, I should have seen number three coming, because there are some interesting similarities between all three companies that let me go.

Each one faced dire enough circumstances that casting off employees became a necessity. Each one blamed everything except itself for its problems. None made any wholesale changes to the way it operated after casting off talent. Each one put a focus on little things when big things needed to be examined first (one company passed an edict that all paperclips had to be removed from paperwork that was being filed, then returned to the front office to be reused. I’m sure that held off bankruptcy for about … two minutes).

I admit I wasted a lot of time yesterday revisiting the sins of companies past. I then decided to apply the same standards to myself. Am I at fault for what happened to me? To be honest, yes, I could have done some things differently. I’m making some wholesale changes to the way I operate and it’s already paying off. I’ll go into some of those later this week. I’m taking time to focus on big picture items, though some may say I still have some improvements to make – things like family relationships, my own work skills, getting out of the comfort zone, etc.

Not that it’s necessarily a big thing, but ever since I started my photo hobby ten years ago, I’ve been about color. Intense, saturated, rich, deep color. With nearly two thousand photos published online, I don’t remember more than one or maybe two that I posted that are black and white. Here’s a challenge – try to find them in my archives here. If nothing else, it will boost my page view count (mwah hahahah).

Anyway, for this week at least, I’m going to look at the world in black and white. I have a backlog of photos to process and I’m going to play with the color desaturation button a lot more than I have previously. We’ll see if anything interesting happens.

Stay tuned.

Click on this post’s headline for image EXIF data. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Friday, November 14, 2008


One of the most picturesque villages on the peninsula of Door County, Wisconsin is the hamlet of Ephraim, which is situated on a bluff overlooking Eagle Harbor on the Green Bay side. This photo was taken just before the late day sun slipped behind Eagle Bluff on the opposite side of the harbor and as clouds rolled in from Lake Michigan to the east. The fall colors were at their peak, and the sky provided a hint of the winter to come.

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

Thoughts on thinking different

Almost four years ago, someone at The Company where I was previously employed handed me a copy of Blog, Hugh Hewitt's manifesto on all things blogging. I was intrigued and began to explore the blogosphere, eventually creating my own humble blogs. One of the first blogs I discovered was Ilona's True Grit blog, one of the top-tier God blogs that combines Christianity, culture and politics in a unique way.

Ilona picked up some of my thoughts yesterday on "Thinking Different" and wove them into an insightful take on what it means to be a truth-teller in a world that would rather not hear it.

First time quoted by one of my heroes.

Scenes from our consumer culture ...

... taken with a cell phone camera, no less. Hey, I can't have the Nikon with me all the time, can I?

Scene #1: Don't know about you, but those TV screens on top of the self-serve gas pumps really annoy me. So it made my heart a little bit happy to pump some gas this week while having Windows' blue screen of doom advertise itself to me. Two ubiquitous icons pwned simultaneously.

Scene #2: Proof that marketers shouldn't be allowed in the kitchen. I had no problem adding the water, but it was a bear getting the microwave stirred in.

Happy Friday.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thinking different

"Think different," the ads for a certain brand of computers say. They depict persons who thought differently and achieved a level of success in the process.

What the ads don't tell you is that it is very, very hard to be a different thinker when all your co-workers and friends are thinking the same old, same old. In such an environment, those who buck the thinking of the crowd tend to be ignored. Or written off as cranks or troublemakers. Or ridiculed. Or hated. Or fired.

It takes a brave person to point out that the emporer's new wardrobe looks remarkably like a birthday suit. Such people are polarizing figures. They force those around them to make a choice. To stay at the station or climb on board the new train of thought that the different thinker has proposed.

It's much easier to buy a certain brand of computer and just think you're thinking different.

A hundred thousand thanks: Jim Wheeler from England stopped by and became visitor number 100,000 at Points of Light. My thanks to each of you who consider this blog to be worth your while.

Photo: Combination of four exposures (glass tubing, plastic body, metal base, hand) combined in Photoshop. Image EXIF data (click the post's headline) is for the exposure of the glass tubing. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Into the sun

On the day that this blog should receive a visit from its 100,000th guest, I thought that I would re-post the single most-viewed photograph I have taken to date. I posted it to the internet on July 1 of last year, both here and on Flickr. Since then, it has received nearly 14,000 combined views, 350 comments, been bookmarked 380 times and has appeared on 54 assorted blogs and Web pages, illustrating everything from save-the-planet-from-us admonitions to self-help enlightenment to graphic design color palettes.

And it's a scene that I (almost literally) stumbled upon by accident. I was photographing at a local gravel quarry turned wildlife sanctuary on a foggy morning. I followed a path into a wooded area hoping to find something interesting to photograph there. About halfway through, I decided there was not much to see and rather than continue into the next clearing, turned around and headed back from where I came. This scene greeted me as I neared the clearing. I took two exposures, one for the foreground and one for the trees and sun, then blended them together in Photoshop.

About the stumbling part - just past the opening is a steep embankment. While negotiating the slope after having taken my shots, I lost my footing and tumbled down about 12 feet of gravel and rocks, losing hold of my camera in the process. I wound up relatively unscathed (I narrowly missed sliding over some broken glass left by some previous party), but the camera took a severe beating, receiving some dents and losing both the lens cap and part of the lens' outside covering, revealing the metal brace inside that held the front lens element in place. It was like looking at the skeleton of the lens through a gaping wound. Amazingly, there were no scratches on the glass itself and the film door (you remember cameras that take film don't you?) stayed closed - I've had the door pop open on a far lesser jolt to the camera, losing a roll of photos in the process.

The lens remained functional, and even served later that year to photograph my second and third most-viewed photos before being semi-retired along with the film camera when I made the switch to digital.

Be sure to take a peek at the Sitemeter counter at the bottom of the right hand sidebar. If you're visitor number 100K, let me know with a comment, would you? I have a gift for you. If visitor 100K does not come forward, I'll go up the list until I identify someone.

Photo: No EXIF data available - it was shot on film and I don't remember any of the settings for this shot. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2007 James Jordan.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Achieving balance

Much like the elusive state of balance that many seek in their lives, this picture was a bear to achieve. I had been thinking for some time about doing some table top photos with a stack of stones. I found a small light box that my daughter had purchased for a craft project a few months back, and an idea was born.

The light box was used as the base of support for the stack of stones as well as the main light source for the picture. The stones are free standing - no glue or wires, just physics. Once I got the stones to stay in place, I quickly set up a camera on a tripod and took a couple of shots of the stack itself just in case it collapsed before I could get some hands in the picture. Once I got those safely on the memory card, I set the camera's self timer and reached over and around the camera to get my hands in the picture. Voila.

This photo just seems ideal for a "Depressories" poster:

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

Monday, November 10, 2008

Facing winter

A goldfinch keeps a wary eye out for danger while at my backyard feeder. Its plumage, like the background behind it, has faded from its summer colors. Bright golden yellow replaced by shades of brown and gray.

The bird stares off into the future, facing the approach of winter, the darkness closing in.

A note about the EXIF data on this shot: The camera recorded that this image was shot at an aperture and focal length of 0. That's because I used an old Nikkor 135mm prime lens and a 2x teleconverter that doesn't communicate with the camera body. The D60 accepts all Nikon lenses, but for anything other than the AF-S lenses, you're on your own as far as exposure and focus settings are concerned. The combo of lens and teleconverter gives me an effective focal length of 400mm - which corresponds to about a 14x zoom. In bright light, the pictures are fairly clean, but in low light, as this one is, the colors get muted and everything gets muddy. But given what this photo is trying to say, we'll just call it ... moody.

Milestones approaching: If all goes according to plan, two things will happen sometime this week:

1) Someone will trip my visitor counter at 100,000. If it's you, let me know. I have something for you - an 8x10 photographic print of the picture of your choice (it has to be one of mine). :-)

2) My overall view count will pass the 500,000 mark. The internet has been quite good to me as a way to get my photographs seen. Three years ago, I had hundreds of pictures sitting in boxes, albums and notebooks. I started this photo blog, then joined the community at Flickr hoping to garner a few views. Since then, I've published nearly 2,000 images online and I don't have any plans to slow down.

Thanks for being a part of this.

Click on this post's headline to see (somewhat incomplete) image EXIF data. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Friday, November 07, 2008

At the station

When I made this portrait of myself standing on a local commuter railway platform while a train pulled out of the station, I was just thinking it would be a fun shot to try. And it was – the camera sat on a tripod at eye level on the platform with the self timer ready and a long exposure manually set. I also set the flash to go off just before the shutter closed. When the train started moving, I pressed the shutter button and moved into position while the timer counted down, then stood stock still until the flash went off.

The end result seems to have none of the fun that I intended. The viewer becomes a witness to a lone man in thought as a train moves on. Is he pondering his decision to not board? Did he narrowly miss the train? What is the significance of the backpack he is wearing?

Am I thinking too much?

Taking stock: About a week ago, I filled out an application to become a photo supplier to iStock Photos, one of the leading stock photography sites on the Web. I completed an involved process that includes sitting through an online briefing that runs through the technical and legal issues of supplying stock photos. Before photographers get to the dotted line, they must pass a quiz which includes evaluating a number of sample photos and declaring them acceptable or not and if not, identifying their shortcomings. The final step is to upload three photos of your own for consideration, then wait to hear back from someone as to whether or not your application has been accepted.

The wait is over and I am a new member of the iStock team. All three of my sample photos were evaluated as being of sufficient commercial and technical quality to justify their inclusion in the iStock collection. I can now upload up to 15 photos a week to the site for consideration and hopefully, some sales.

Which three photos did I submit? This one, this one and this one.

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

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Moon over half dome

So I figure this post's title alone will get me a bunch of Google hits from people looking for the Ansel Adams photograph of the same name. It's all part of my plot to take over the world. Mwahahahah! A bunch of outbound links should help my cause, too.

Actually, this is a shot of the moonrise over the silo of a barn near Batavia, Illinois. Not anywhere near as technically brilliant as Adams' work nor as stunning a backdrop. That's the Midwest for you.

Bad photo tip of the day: I subscribe to a number of Google Alerts to help me keep up with the world of photography. As such, I get links to a number of Web sites that offer photo tips, many of which either don't know what they're talking about, or don't know how to say what they're thinking. So here's today's bad tip from Web Photo Storage, which offers nine more obvious or ambiguous suggestions:

Employ lighting suitably and merge them appropriately.

I'm heading right out to work on that one. Oh, and according to tip number three, if you don't have the sky, a treeline and a fence in your picture, forgedaboudit.

Click on this post's title for image EXIF data. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Autumn light

The few remaining leaves of a maple tree glow like stained glass in a cathedral of arching branches. The wind whispers through the trees like a prayer. I am a congregant in this place of worship, one of the created - a witness to the power and beauty of the Creator of light and everything upon which it shines.

Getting close to 100 grand: My little visitor counter is approaching 100,000 unique visitors to Points of Light. I'm planning something nice for visitor number 100K. So, if you happen to come here and notice the counter at exactly 100,000 - leave a comment to let me know. By the way, the counter is at the bottom of the right hand sidebar.

Photo: Taken in Matthiessen State Park, Oglesby, Illinois. Click on this post's headline for image EXIF data. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Lights in the darkness

This is the Cana Island Lighthouse in Door County, Wisconsin in the middle of a moonlit night. An exposure of two and a half minutes gathered barely enough light to expose the photo. (Tip: I learned a hard lesson about trusting the bright LCD screen of a digital camera in near darkness - you will always see the photo as brighter than it actually is. Try squinting at the image. It will give you a more accurate rendition.)

A long exposure will give you a photo of motion. In this case, the clouds and stars crisscross each other in the night sky. More subtly, the moonlight creeps along the surface of the lighthouse, shadows slowly shifting as the moon completes its arc across the sky.

Be sure to click on the picture to see it at full size.

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