Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Out with the old ...

Since I started 2008 by posting a photo of a sunrise in Door County, Wisconsin, it seemed fitting to end the year with a picture of a sunset from DC.

Hoping that you accomplished all you set out to do in 2008 with wishes that 2009 will usher in all the best for you.

Photograph: Sunset Park, Fish Creek, Wisconsin. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


A house sits vacant on a country road just beyond the reach of the Chicago metroplex. Just a few hundred yards away, new housing developments occupy what was once rolling farmland.

I don't know if the farming family called it quits because of hard times or sold their land to developers (or both). Either way, one way of life is making way for another. Something old has ceased. Something new waits.

Perhaps a fitting photo for the end of a year.

Photograph© 2008 James Jordan.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Going for it

I'm making the jump from a serious hobbyist photographer who occasionally sells a photo or lands a picture taking gig to hanging out my shingle that I am open for business. My shingle has been hung out in the online marketplace - you can check out my new Web site, which displays photographic samples in various categories.

The nifty Flash interface was built by a friend (who was downsized out of his job at the same time I was - if you need Web design work done, he's your man.)

The web site also features a new blog that covers various aspects of the world of professional photography.

So ... I'm available for assignments in portrait photography, event photography, product photography and stock photography in and around the Chicago suburbs. I'll be featuring those assignments on the new blog and occasionally here. But this place is still home to my personal photography efforts.

We'll see what the new year holds. Onward and forward.

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

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Midwinter dream

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

Played with the post processing for quite a while on this one. High pass effect, purple filter, vignetting and lens flare.

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Season of light

You gotta love a holiday that's marked by the lighting of lights.

Have a merry Christmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Winter is here

It's been a while since I built a video montage of photographs. (You can check out some of my past video efforts here.) Winter is a collection of my photographs of the season, both bleak and bright, expressive music by Steve Wick and a quote from artist Andrew Wyeth to mark the winter solstice.

Winter is a time of both endings and beginnings. Although the face of the earth appears barren, life continues to course just below the surface, waiting for the fullness of time to make its appearance again.

We've crossed the threshhold. We're now on our way to spring.

Video © 2008 James Jordan.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Little Chickadee

I am the song bird
depending on providence
to survive winter.

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

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Look! A squoyll!

A rambunctious rodent looking so cute in a tree as the snow falls. Awwww.

Looking decidedly less cute a couple of minutes later. Aaaargh.
Click on pictures to enlarge. Photographs © 2008 James Jordan.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Good fortune

This photo could also be subtitled, “Happy Accident.” I can imagine that the first high-key photograph was produced by a photographer who accidentally set the flash too bright and once the photos were processed, didn’t have enough time to reset and try again. The pics were presented to the client as “avant garde” and the client bought it. Photographers have been dialing up the lights ever since.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t exactly the way it happened, but who knows? I started out trying to shoot a straight up still life featuring a message I got from a fortune cookie in my last Chinese take out order. I grabbed a few Oriental-looking items from the kitchen and set this up on a tabletop. I used a 50mm f1.8 lens with a +4 close up filter to get some really shallow depth of field and framed up the shot, focusing on the top line of print on the strip of paper.

You have to understand that my main light is a small 26-year-old flash unit with no automatic anything. It puts out one level of light and that’s it. You either have to adjust the camera’s ISO or aperture according to a scale on the back of the flash or move the flash closer or farther from the subject to adjust. I’ve added an additional control – covering the flash with a neutral density filter, or placing one, two or three fingers over the light to cut it. Very ghetto, but it works. Yes, I could go out and buy a smart flash, but for one, I’m cheap, and secondly, where would the fun be in that?

I’m also too cheap (or lazy) to buy a flash synch cord, so I set the camera to ½ second in a totally dark room and set the self timer to trip the shutter. As soon as I hear the shutter trip after the timer counts down, I fire the flash manually. Works like a charm.

This was a two-fingers-over-the-flash-head shot, bounced off the ceiling. A DVD propped on edge just outside the frame threw some colored light back onto the objects. That was also an accident. I was looking for a reflective surface to fill in some of the shadow areas and picked up the DVD, thinking it would throw some white light into the picture. I was pleasantly surprised to find out it threw an entire color spectrum into the picture. Cool.

Yeah, I gave it too much light, but after looking at it for a while, decided that it was avant garde enough to keep. I think I may be on to something with the DVD reflector.

Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Little Christmas tree

One of many small lighted trees we have around our house. Absconded into my basement photo area and placed on a small light box. Sheet of light green Canson art paper (available at most hobby stores) used as a backdrop. Hand-held flash unit bounced off ceiling. Tree replaced on fireplace mantel. Wife is used to decorations disappearing for short periods of time.

Post processing (in Photoshop Elements 6.0): Orton processing applied. Vignetting and gaussian blur added. Photo of blurred golden lights layered over the photo and blended via "soft light" setting and 25% opacity. Layer over tree and bucket selected, feathered and deleted. Lens flare added to light bulbs. Adjusted brightness and contrast.

Hope this Christmas season is going well for you and yours.

Photo sightings: is featuring my photo, “What to My Wondering Eyes Should Appear” on their home page for the next week or so. Check it out – the site offers a LOT of helpful articles about getting the most out of your digital camera.

Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Running around in holiday circles

It probably wouldn't surprise you to hear that we're greatly scaling back on the Christmas gifts this year. Sorry, economy. No can do. Do try to get by without us. kthxbai.

It doesn't mean that things are any less hectic at the old homestead. With a full contigent of kids and their significant others coming by in the days before and after the 25th, things will be hopping. But in a good way. Without so much attention paid to stuff this year, we'll have more space to focus on each other.

What a concept.

Photo: "Wall of Bokeh lights" background and Christmas ornament overlaid with lights of our main Christmas tree. Light source: Light box and reflector card. 135mm prime lens, f2.8 at 1/125 second, ISO 400. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Got art?

When it comes to my photography, I pretty much take the same position that the current (and soon to be ex-) governor of Illinois takes: Everything's for sale!

High quality photographic prints are available for practically any photograph on this photo blog or my gallery on Flickr. You can even get them in black and white if you prefer.

A high-quality 8x10 photographic print is $19. A 16x20 print is $49 and if you have a lot of wall space to fill, 20x30 prints are $62.

Not sure where to start to select a photo? A good place to browse is my photo stream at Flickr. You can browse my most recent photos or check out my photo sets on the right hand side of the page to find a picture to your liking.

Then leave a comment here expressing your interest or e-mail me at jjrdns6[at]aol[dot]com and we'll get the ball rolling.

Golden walkway

The morning of the Elgin 1440 project started out gray and dreary, but the sun eventually made its appearance and stuck around for most of the rest of the day. This photograph is one of five of mine that were accepted into the Elgin 1440 exhibition.

The morning sun provided a nice backlight for a row of trees along Riverside Drive, turning them into a glowing canopy. I also liked how the lamp posts mimicked the row of trees. A 200mm focal length compressed the elements of the photo together, creating a tunnel effect with the perspective. Focus was set on the nearest tree. I let the camera call the exposure on this shot, which included boosting the light in shadow areas. There was very little adjustment that needed to be made in Photoshop afterward.

The Cultural Arts Commission here in town is considering another 1440 project for sometime in February with a winter theme. I'm there.

Have a great weekend.

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

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Back in October, I participated in the latest Elgin 1440 photography project. This year's event, the third in the series, encouraged the people of Elgin to get out and photograph a day in the life of the city - in this case, the day was October 14. The number 1440 signifies the number of minutes in a day.

Participants could enter up to five photographs that they felt embodied the theme of "Autumn Sun/Harvest Moon." Photos selected by a jury would be displayed at the Hemmens Cultural Center in downtown Elgin from November 25 through January 4.

I began shooting about 5:00 a.m. that day and finished around 7:00 p.m. I entered five photos (out of more than 150 pictures I took that day) and all five were selected by the exhibit's jury. The Elgin 1440 link above takes you to a local newpaper's coverage of the gallery opening. The photo accompanying the story shows one of my pictures (the lower photo on the partition).

The photo above is one that I shot that day, but chose not to enter. The day started out rather gray and gloomy and I didn't have high hopes for capturing the "Autumn Sun" portion of the theme. I walked to the top of a downtown parking garage and noticed a number of church steeples around me. The clouds were beginning to break and some early morning sunlight was able to break through to tint the clouds a light pink.

Over the course of the next few days, I'll post some scenes from my hometown on a sunny autumn day.

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Let it bokeh, let it bokeh, let it bokeh

More experimentation with my "wall of lights."

More about the lights in my home: My wife and I have eight Christmas trees in our house - seven smaller ones and the main tree in our living room. Our philosophy is "you can never have enough lights." Two years ago, our main tree sported 900 miniature lights. Last year and this year we "cut back" to 175 lights; but they're the larger C7 bulbs, so the wattage is pretty close to what it has been. When the trees are fired up, we can cut the room lights and pretty much not miss them.

This year, we located the main tree to a new location in our living room. Two nights ago, my wife mentioned that it was getting pretty chilly upstairs. I knew that I had not touched the thermostat and just chalked it up to an especially chilly night we were having. She mentioned it again the next night and then it dawned on me - we had placed the tree with a combined 700 watts of light about two feet from the thermostat in the living room.

I checked the temperature on the thermostat and it was registering a balmy 75 degrees, all due to the heat generated by our tree. Since the thermostat itself was set at 70, it felt no need to send heat to the rest of the house. Oops.

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

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Cast your bokeh to the wind

I’ve written about and displayed examples of bokeh here before. Bokeh refers to a lens’ quality in rendering out of focus points of light as circles. This is the time of year when we have a lot of little lights around the house – perfect for playing with bokeh shots. When I say a lot of lights, I mean a LOT – I’ll cover that in a future post.

To boost the bokeh-bilities, I built a bokeh background (I love alliteration). I started with a sheet of black foam board and a strand of 50 colored miniature lights. I randomly punched 50 holes in the foam board and inserted the light bulbs, similar to the old Lite-Brite toys when I was a kid (do they still have those?).

I’m now playing with placing a number of subjects in front of the bokeh board to see what happens. Stay tuned for more bokeh madness.

Click on this posts headline for image EXIF data. Click on picture to enlarge the bokeh dots. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Snow fall

I credit Roger with this find during our wintery woodsy photowalk a couple of weeks back. While I was still working on photographing an abandoned car, he spotted a snowflake which had entangled itself in the remains of a spider web in the crook of a tree.

I showed him my patented "focus on your finger with your point and shoot camera in super macro mode, then move toward the subject until it's sharp in the viewfinder" trick. It works when the camera has trouble making up its mind what to focus on when shooting up close. It's especially effective when shooting bugs and spiders. Of course, while demonstrating the technique, I got too close with the camera and snapped one of the invisible guy lines, causing the snowflake to flap in the breeze, making closeup shots even harder.

About a dozen attempts on my part resulted in one shot in pretty sharp focus. I added some motion blur to give the impression that the flake was photographed as it fell.

The weather report says we're due a visit by a couple billion of this guy's buddies in the next couple of days. Snow shovel is at the ready. Cupboard is stocked with coffee. Bring 'em on.

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

Friday, December 05, 2008

Wintery thoughts

Random thoughts from where I sit on a Friday:

I enjoyed being out in the first snowfall of the winter. This is the time of year when wintery weather like snow is still a novelty. Ask me again in January and I might have a different answer for you.

Five degrees above zero this morning and I dragged 18 bags of leaves to the curb for the final pickup of the season. First I had to unbury them, then break them free from the icy clutches of the ground beneath them without ripping the bags - they seem to get cheaper every year. This is the first year in several that I have been successful in getting all my leaves raked/blown/bagged and to the curb on time. Nothing awaiting my attention next spring. Woo hoo!

Today is the three-month anniversary of the Gang of 24's last day at work for The Company. I really, really miss my old cubicle (snort/snicker). A number of the Gang keep in touch by e-mail. All but a couple of the Gang are still looking for full time work.

It's a tough job market for marketing/communications types like myself. There are a good number of job postings, but companies are very, very particular about who they're hiring these days. No on-the-job-training or getting acclimated to their particular industry is allowed. If you can't hit the ground running, fuhgeddaboudit. Oh, and the job descriptions! They're packing enough responsibilities in those babies to keep three or four people swamped. You need blue leotards, a red cape and a big yellow "S" on your chest to make the first cut anymore.

Totals so far - 900+ resumes sent via e-mail, 50+ ads responded to, 50+ resumes sent via snail mail. About 1,000 contacts made in the last three months. The results - two first-round interviews. I'm batting .002. Hoping things will pick up after the first of the year. Really - how can they not?

So I'm kind of like the tree in the above photo. I'm reaching, stretching out toward the forest of opportunities I see ahead of me on the other side of the clearing. Still elusive, but still hopeful that I'll get there.

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

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Snowy oak

Photographically making the best of being located in the suburbs. I took advantage of an early winter white-out to photograph some nature nestled among the houses, stores and highways. For those readers in the northwest Chicago suburbs, this was taken from the entrance driveway of Harvest Bible Chapel on Randall Road in Elgin. For those readers in the UK, Canada or Singapore, it's right here.

Look closely in the lower left of this photo and you'll see traces of a Home Depot store.

Color was added with a graduated 2-stop tobacco filter (I didn't name the color).

More thoughts, tips and examples of making naturey-type pictures in the 'burbs on my photography advice blog.

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

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Me times three

I just got a CD full of pictures of me taking pictures courtesy of Roger. They were taken during the photowalk in the woods that Roger and I took about two weeks ago. I especially like this multiple exposure shot of me sizing up one of the wrecked cars we photographed. Don’t I look like the crime scene photographer? Maybe the three of me should get together and talk about a career move.

Anyway, here is the picture I was taking when Roger got me at the door of the car:
And here is Roger's rendition of me putting a rusty Rambler on my memory card. The image I was making is here.

And finally, a picture of me doing the old patented "press photographer stick your camera over your head move" to catch a funky fungus growing out of a notch in a tree that was juuuuuust a little too high for me to reach.

Said 'shroom:

Glad I could provide Roger with some photo fodder. That Roger is such a fungi.

Pictures of me © 2008 Roger. Pictures of junk © 2008 Me.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

First snow

Right on schedule, the first snow fell in our area of the country on December 1, wiping the canvas of late autumn clean and white.

The canvas of a new month is clean and white for me as well. In the three months of my unemployment, I have e-mailed or snail-mailed about 1,000 letters and resumes and have only gotten two nibbles that haven't gone very far - and those were in October.

December will be a month of networking and promoting myself and my work. So I may as well start right here - a number of people recently have purchased photo prints from me. And you can, too. Leave a comment expressing your interest or e-mail me at jjrdns6[at]aol[dot]com and let's get the ball rolling.

A high-quality 8x10 photographic print is $19. But wait, there's more: A 16x20 print is $49 and a few hardy souls have purchased 20x30 prints at $62.

Not sure where to start to select a photo? A good place to browse is my photo stream at Flickr. You can browse my most recent photos or check out my photo sets on the right hand side of the page to find a picture to your liking.

Operators are standing by.

Thanks in advance.

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

Monday, December 01, 2008

What to my wondering eyes should appear ...

I think that we could all probably use some more wonder in our daily diets. A serving of slack-jawed awe. A few more goose bumps. An occasional side dish of pure delight.

I know that I get faded and jaded by the ordinary-ness of life. I skip the AOL story about the never-before-seen sea creature that scientists just discovered and click on the story of baby naming trends in the wake of the presidential election. Sea creature. Big deal. Maybe we can call it the Barack-Osaurus.

For a few minutes, at least, I'd love to see the world as a two-year-old does, where practically everything is new. Where magic is commonplace. Where miracles occur on a regular basis. It's the same stuff that you and I see, but it's seen in a different way.

I'll work on it. December is a good month for doing that kind of thing.

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