Monday, June 30, 2008


The one at the top gets to bloom first while everyone else waits their turn. An image of nature’s org chart.

The thing I love about making photos with my trusty black foam board background is how it reveals the light on the surface of subjects. This image is all natural light, no flash or reflectors. The plants themselves look no different with or without the black backdrop, it’s just easier to see the light when distraction are removed.

There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

Photo blogging: Last week I featured a photographer who brings live animals into her studio to create a strange juxtaposition of the natural and synthetic. Sara Remington has posted something similar but different. She explored a natural history museum display under construction. Plastic wrapped gazelles sit within realistically painted backdrops. Stuffed animals coexist with construction equipment.

See for yourself.

Update: This photo of a seashell in sand was chosen as a weekly favorite at Moody Monday for their theme, "Beach." Not bad for a pic staged and shot on my dining room table.

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

Friday, June 27, 2008

Bloom where you're planted

The follow-up to this photo.

Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Bumper crop

There’s a side effect of the rains and flooding in the Midwest this year, and only within the last few days has it become painfully obvious – mosquitoes. Record rainfall and moisture has activated zillions of dormant mosquito eggs – some that have been lying around for several years – guaranteeing a bumper crop of the bloodsucking pests and raising concerns about the spread of the West Nile virus.

The mosquitoes that are likely to carry the virus typically don’t hatch until mid-July, and only when hot, humid weather ensues. Thus far, the National Weather Service is calling for a cooler than normal July in Illinois, raising some cautious optimism.

In the photo above, that’s my knuckle being sacrificed in the name of art. I was out photographing some flowers and potential models swarmed over me. I got the shot while this one got a snack.

Update: Roger, from whom I got the inspiration to get a shot of a bitin' varmint, has posted some of his skeeter pics at his blog, Listing Through Life. More closer up than this one, and in better light, no less.

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

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Shy (and busy) guy

It took a while to catch a photo of this little guy. He’s one of those kind of kids who do not stay still long enough to let my autofocus focus. While he hid behind the wooden column of a pavilion at a park, I focused on the edge of the column and waited for him to check to see if I was still there. He did and I was and I tripped the shutter at the peak of his peek.

The photo is not as sharp as I would have liked, but the setting, light and expression are all there.

Some excellent portrait photographer types I hang with at Flickr.

Photo blogging: Animals from Alligator to Zebra. I’ve noticed that many photographers have latched on to a BIG IDEA and built a career out of it. Ansel Adams and the U.S. National Parks, Anne Geddes and decorated babies, some French dude and break dancers in grocery stores.

While still searching for a BIG IDEA of my own, I came across a photographer with a BIG IDEA - animals. I know what you’re thinking, it’s been done. But not the way that Catherine Ledner does it. Rather than traipse into the wild for National Geographish pics of animals in their habitat, Katherine brings exotic beasts into her studio, places them before wallpaperish backdrops, lights them in a manner worthy of high fashion and fires away. The result is an intriguing juxtaposition of the natural and the synthetic.

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

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Storm signals

Some snarly weather passed over my house several times over the past few days. I live near the Fox River in northern Illinois, which is still swollen from recent rains. Reports indicate that is has reached its peak in my neck of the woods. The Fox is still well above flood stage, but is receding. The abundance of water will soon make its way to the Illinois River and eventually to the Mississippi River, adding to its already burgeoning overflow.

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

Monday, June 23, 2008

The fence and the flower

Sometimes you can’t break free of the things that restrain you. It’s then that you shine where you are.

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

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tiger lily on black

There wasn’t much that I needed to do to this image of a tiger lily to make it appear to glow – the coloration of the petals took care of that for the most part. The black background served to heighten the effect. Slightly underexposed to intensify the colors, some sharpening, levels adjustments and Orton processing applied in Photoshop Elements 6.

Photo blogging: And now for something completely different. Denis Darzacq is a French photographer who takes strange pictures. His latest effort is a series titled Hyper, which depicts break dancers doing their stuff in what appears to be grocery and retail store settings. I’m sure there is art in there somewhere, although it looks like it could have been titled Slip and Fall in Aisle 2.

Photo EXIF: 1/80 sec. @ f4.5, 400 ISO. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Duck abstract

Or should I say, "Aflact?"

Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Baby robin

Ever feel too big for the nest but not quite ready to fly? I found this guy perched in a bush in my front yard. He was quite accomodating to a series of closeup pictures, some with the lens not more than two inches away from his head. Waving a finger in front of his face caused him to open his mouth wide in anticipation of food. He eventually came to the realization that he was no longer invisible, then fluttered/hopped away.

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

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Snug as a bug on a rose

More black-background flower and buggishness.

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

Photo blogging: Work, Interrupted. MR. Toledano photographed a series of empty offices of bankrupt companies. His images capture a combination of archaeology, death and an “abandon ship” mentality where decorum is no longer considered an asset. The photos were published in a book and has traveled in an exhibit across the country. Check out the photo series, Bankrupt.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Nature Photography Day ...

... was yesterday, I just found out. Missed it. I was busy taking pictures outside.

Photo: Crazy metallic drangonfly type bug. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Update: The insect pictured above is a Black-Winged Damselfly.


This daylily stood out from the others in the flower bed by the graceful sweep of its stem. Shot using natural light with a trusty sheet of black foam board to provide the background.

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

Friday, June 13, 2008

Directionally attuned

Happy Friday. Whichever compass point you're headed toward, I hope it works out for you.

Have a great weekend.

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

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Goodnight moon

At the close of a day filled with thunder, lightning, wind and rain, the clouds, having spent their anger, withdrew, leaving the crescent moon to preside over the quieting twilight.

EXIF: ¼ second @ f13.6. 64ISO. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Racine, Wisconsin is a fairly typical Midwestern town that just happens to sit on Lake Michigan. It is trying very hard to recast itself as an artist’s community, and I think it has a good shot at succeeding. They city has invested heavily in its waterfront area, which is a boost to downtown businesses. If initiatives like Create Uptown Racine can coax more people off Interstate 94, they will do well.

And I’m not just saying that because one of my photos of the Racine harbor was selected for the Create Uptown Racine Web site. I’ve long been a fan of the city and its waterfront, and have the photos to prove it.

Photo: Old Racine breakwater light with Wind Point Lighthouse in the distance. Photograph © James Jordan.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Blustery sunset

Wave after wave of storms moved through the upper Midwest this past weekend. I was able to find a window of time to make my way out to shoot that also coincided with sunset. This scene occurred after a day of thunderstorms. The wind was still very brisk and I purposely used a slow shutter speed to blur the foreground flowers. I also purposely tilted the composition to heighten the effect of being messed with by nature’s forces.

Taken at the Jelke’s Creek Bird Sanctuary in Sleepy Hollow, Illinois. It’s a great place to capture the best that God has to offer.

Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Ten commandments of photography

Eric Hamilton posts ten things to keep in mind when carrying a camera around. If you (like me) can only remember two or three things, go with 1, 2 and 8. The rest will follow.
  1. Shoot what you love
  2. Use light to communicate.
  3. Capture or provoke emotions.
  4. Tell a story.
  5. Master technique.
  6. Show old things in new ways.
  7. Be true to your own style and your own voice.
  8. Always seek to improve your craft.
  9. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  10. Shoot to kill! (See previous post)

This will do nothing to convince people that photographers are not terrorists

h/t: Unique Daily

Monday, June 09, 2008

House guest

For the last two summers, we’ve hosted families of house wrens. My wife and daughters have a hobby of painting decorative birdhouses, which we hang on our deck. For the past couple of weeks, a male wren has been hard at work building a nest in one of the birdhouses. In the house wren world, it's the male who is responsible to find a suitable location for a nest and fill it with twigs. He then convinces a female to move into his bachelor pad and lay eggs. So far, I’ve not noticed a female, but our boy still has some time.

House wrens have a bubbling sing-songy call (you can hear a sample at the beginning of the video, below), and this guy lets it out from sunrise to sunset, proclaiming ownership of his territory – in this case, my suburban quarter-acre. He tolerates humans pretty well and we usually coexist peacefully on the deck, unless we wander too close to his birdhouse, whereupon he lets loose with a few warning chirps.

I’ll let you know how the courtship of Mr. Wren plays out.

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

Try try again

It's not easy filling a birdhouse with twigs, especially if you're a bird of very little brain. Video of Mr. Wren trying to install a twig that just won't cooperate.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Three ducks on a rooftop, in anticipation of the approaching rainstorm at sunset

The title pretty much says it all.

Have a great weekend.

More anti-photographer craziness: It was only a matter of time. A Fox news reporter is taping a report on photographers being hassled by security guards at D.C.’s Union Station. In the middle of a report, taped at the station, a security guard hassles the news crew, ordering them to shut down the cameras. The person being interviewed was none other than a spokesman for Amtrak, who had just stated on camera that photography was absolutely allowed in the Amtrak portion of the station. Sheesh.

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

Thursday, June 05, 2008

It's complicated

The iris is a flower that goes to a lot of trouble to attract and accommodate pollinating insects. The colorful upper petals, called the standard, is designed to convince insects that Café Nectar is open for business. The lower petals, called the falls, act as a landing pad. Bright lines on the surface of the falls lead to the interior where the nectar is stashed. A strip of brightly colored follicles, appropriately called the beard, provides an insect with something to grip on its way in.

The stamen is located at the entrance to a “tunnel” leading to a small pool of nectar. As the insect nears the nectar pool, it collects pollen on its back from the “ceiling” of the tunnel. The stamen is designed as a one-way pollen collector – as the insect backs out of the tunnel, the stamen blocks its own pollen from itself. When an insect arrives from another iris and makes its way into the tunnel, the stamen collects the pollen from the insect’s body.

Sort of like God’s Rube Goldberg machine.

Photo blogging: More on the misconception that photographers are dangerous.

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

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Sad iris

A raindrop from an overnight shower appears as a tear on the petal of an iris blossom.

Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Japanese tree lilac

When I moved into my current home, I was able to trim and shape a Japanese tree lilac in my backyard using a stepladder. That tree is now about 20 feet tall and ten feet wide. The only trimming I do now is to keep a walking space open underneath the tree.

The white blossoms of this species of lilac blooms later than its more well-known bushy relatives – usually about mid-June, depending on the weather throughout the spring. Cold springs, like we’ve had this year, delays the opening. A warm spring speeds up the process.

A branch hanging down below the others, like the one pictured, would have been a candidate for pruning any other year. But since I’m spending more time taking pictures around my home this year, it became a photo project instead.

I set the camera’s self-timer, then prefocused the autofocus on the branch and locked it in, along with the exposure. After I pushed the shutter, and while the self-timer was counting down, I lifted a sheet of black foam board behind the branch to provide the background. That way the black background doesn’t fool the camera’s meter into thinking the scene is darker than it is, resulting in an overexposure.

In a week or so, I’ll post a photo of the open blossoms.

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

Monday, June 02, 2008

Did it myself, and cheap

I just read a marketing e-newsletter this morning that proclaims that cheap is the new chic. Do It Yourself is already sweeping the country. My daughter, who will be getting married next summer, is planning her wedding from a book entitled The DIY Bride. Everything in her wedding will be DIY and/or cheap. And it will still be cool. Because everything about it will reflect her own personality, tastes and passions. And as the guy expected to foot the bill for the shindig, I couldn’t be happier (for her of course).

The high cost of nearly everything is only adding fuel to the trend. The rising cost of gasoline has already put a crimp in the travel budget for yours truly. By this time last year, I had already taken several far-flung photo excursions. I haven’t been much farther than my own backyard or the nearby river so far this year. Vacation? Who knows.

This year’s photos are already reflecting the times. Cheap camera. Cheap software and nearby locales. The challenge for me is to keep pushing the limits of the equipment and continue to explore for photo-worthy views of very familiar territory - without making it look cheap.

Photo: Gerbera daisy: $6.99. Fijifilm Finepix S700: $199. Adobe Photoshop Elements 6.0 to create Orton effect: $79.00. Making something all by myself on the cheap: Priceless. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.