Friday, August 29, 2008

Surfing the web

Gotta love the community at Flickr. I posted this photo last night with the rather lame title of "Spidey." One of my Flickr contacts left a comment on the photo that this spider was surfing the web. Instant title change.

If you're looking for greater exposure (no pun intended) for your pictures, it's hard to beat Flickr. You can explore for other great photos via tags, keywords, photo location or "interestingness." You can comment on pictures, receive comments on yours, post to various photo groups and add people as contacts and build a network of photographer friends.

Once your photos reach a certain level of interestingness, Yahoo! (the owner of Flickr) begins to help out and your photos begin to appear on Yahoo! image searches and on various Yahoo! news pages, further increasing view counts. I'm currently getting about 800-1000 views a day on Flickr and have been contacted several times in the past month by publishers looking for photos. I've been fortunate enough to sell a few for publication.

Make like the web surfing spider and head over to Flickr. Wander around. Check it out. The only thing you have to lose is several hours browsing some great photos.

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

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


One of the reasons I selected the Fujifilm S700 digital point and shoot camera several months ago was due to its ability to focus down to 4cm on Super Macro mode. Now, just because the camera can focus that close doesn't necessarily mean that it will. I've spent quite a bit of time becoming frustrated by the camera's tendency to focus just beyond the subject. Seems that trying to focus on a small object in the midst of other small objects confuses the auto focus mechanism. Unfortunately, focusing on small objects in the midst of other small objects is the entire point of macro photography.

So here's a focusing procedure that you won't find in the camera manual. With your camera set on macro (or super macro as the case may be), take an exposure reading of the subject - you don't have to be in focus to do that. Note the reading, then either set that reading in the camera's manual mode, or, with your index finger about a half inch in front of the lens, move the camera around in the light until you get an identical reading, then lock in the focus on your finger.

Remove finger from the front of the lens. The focus is now locked to about a half inch. Now move the camera ever closer to your subject until it becomes sharply focused in your viewfinder or LCD screen. Then snap. Take several shots just to be sure. It's hard to tell from the LCD screen if you're really in tack-sharp focus.

It's trial and error, but when going fully automatic is nothing but error, it's worth a try.

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

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Morning mist

The sun rises over Silver Spring just west of Yorkville, Illinois. The movement and temperature of the spring waters keep it from freezing throughout the winter. This dawn of this late summer day saw the waters adding a slight mist to the morning air.

As the summer prepares to surrender the stage for autumn waiting in the wings, the pace of life slows. The urgency of spring and summer fade and time relaxes a bit. The long sleep is coming.

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

Monday, August 25, 2008

Preparing for the turn

The changes are barely perceptible, but they are there nonetheless. The days grow shorter, the nights longer. The morning air holds a faint chill. The world prepares to make its turn toward autumn.

A grasshopper clings to a flower head in the early morning light. The plant has prepared its seeds. They will soon scatter to the winds or hitch a ride on a passing animal to a new location to start the cycle anew.

The season of play is not yet over, but in those moments of stillness, you can feel the faint twinges of fatigue beginning to settle in. The time for a winter nap is coming.

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

Friday, August 22, 2008

Somewhat after the style of Maxfield Parish


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

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A few bugs in my studio setup

Hmm … here’s an idea for a photographic niche – studio portraits of insects. Maybe, maybe not.

The north side of my garage has brick halfway up. Where the brick meets siding is a narrow ledge. Placing a black sheet of foam board on that ledge (and using an outdoor light fixture to keep it in place) makes for a dandy little studio for shooting macros. I’ve set it up to shoot various subjects many a time. Being on the north side of the house, the light is always good, no matter what time of day.

I was clearing some brush from my backyard last weekend when I discovered this aging cicada among the twigs and leaves. Cicadas are the bugs that make that eerie whining sound you hear in the trees during July and August here in the Midwest.

Being late August, this guy’s days were numbered, and it was very likely that he had fallen from a tree and was living out his final hours. He stubbornly held on to a decayed branch, and I took several shots from different angles on the ground, but couldn’t quite catch the golden flecks of color on his head and back. Then it hit me – take him to “the studio.”

I set up the black foam board on the ledge and grabbed two cans of spray paint, which I used to hold up the Cicada’s stick. I took a couple of shots on aperture priority (my default) until I found a setting that produced a good exposure. I then switched to manual and locked the camera onto that setting so the black background wouldn’t fool the camera’s meter and I shot away.

The setup allows me to get great pictures and the occasional stare of a neighbor, but really, I think they’re used to seeing me do some strange-looking things with a camera in my hand.

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

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

On balance

I did some more rock (and brick) balancing over the weekend. It’s a great way to relax. Here’s a good quote from a rock stacker in California:

“The beauty of rockstacking is working with objects that are entirely different from each other and seeing the beauty in each and discovering how they work well together.” - Jim Needham

If you can do that with dumb rocks, think about what you can do if you applied that kind of thinking to people.

Click on pictures to enlarge. Photographs © 2008 James Jordan

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Gold in the backyard

This is for Wanda, who got stressed over the spider photo in yesterday's post. Here's something with a little less "eww factor." This goldfinch was visiting a feeder in my backyard. The late afternoon sun sent a shaft of light through the trees in just the right spot. I noticed it while passing by my kitchen window. I grabbed my camera from the other room, focused through the kitchen window and got one good shot before the finch flew off.

Click on picture to enlarge (much more pleasant than enlarging the spider photo). Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Things I'm thankful for - #482

On this Monday morning, I am thankful that I am not a bug.

Click on picture to enlarge - makes a great screen saver! Photograph © 2008 James Jordan

Friday, August 15, 2008

Stackin' by the river

... Tyler Creek in Elgin, Illinois to be exact. I built a balancing rock stack and photographed it.

Hope you find some much needed balance this weekend.

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

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Island in the stream

Actually a rocky outcropping on the Fox River in East Dundee, Illinois. Taken this morning while the mist still hung over the water.

I love fog.

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

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bee knows how to work it

Late afternoon. Walking through Dundee, Illinois. Pass a house with lots of colorful coneflowers in front. Note that most of the blooms have been eaten by Japanese Beetles. Notice that one bloom has a large bee on it. Watch bee work. Set camera on Super Macro using Aperture priority on widest opening for shallow depth of field. Move camera lens within a half inch of bee. Notice that bee is ignoring camera and focusing on its work. Cool. Note that ISO 200 is forcing slow shutter speed. Bump ISO up to 400.

Take several shots, noting that bright, out of focus background is creating a nice effect while color of bee and flower is coming out nicely saturated. Time shots to keep the bee in profile, separated from the mass of the coneflower. Succeed. Process images. Post a couple here and at Flickr.

Photographer knows how to work it, too.

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

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Wading through the sky

A fisherman tries his hand in the Fox River in Dundee, Illinois. I don't think he caught anything worth keeping. But I did with my camera.

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

Monday, August 11, 2008

Towering clouds

I was out on Saturday afternoon scouting locations for an upcoming photo shoot that I have with an area Christian rock band. They’re looking for a gritty urban feeling for their backdrops, so I started close to home in the Chicago suburb of Elgin, Illinois. While the downtown area has been undergoing development over the past several years and a lot of progress has been made, there are still many pockets of nitty-grittiness to be had.

This particular shot was taken from Walton Islands on the Fox River that runs through the downtown area. The building is the Elgin Tower building, dwarfed by the roiling cumulonimbus clouds that overshadowed the area all day. Sort of a “nature is bigger than we are” type of shot.

Photo blogging: Another pro shooter blogging from the Olympics in Beijing. Fascinating stuff. And check out the equipment he took with him … he says it took months to pack it all. I believe him.

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

Friday, August 08, 2008


I could post something about finding and following your path, but ... Oops, I just did.

Have a great weekend.

Photo blogging: Mark Rebilas is a professional photographer who is currently covering the Olympic Games in Beijing. During his assignment, he is finding time to blog about his experiences and post photos. Should be an interesting blog to follow over the next couple of weeks. Mark J. Rebilas blog.

Photo: Wooded path, Cave Point County Park, Door County, Wisconsin. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Why I (heart) rock balancing

There is something about seeing a rock balanced on top of another that commands attention. Maybe it’s something about the inner balance that we all crave. Or perhaps the fact that it’s just not … natural … to see something like that in nature. It’s a surprise. Something bigger than the rocks was at work to make them stand.

Rock balancing is a form of relaxation. For those few moments when my fingers place one rock on top of another, analytic thought is replaced by the sense of touch. I feel around for the point of balance, getting closer and closer, the movements of the stone getting smaller and smaller until I hit the sweet spot. Sometimes it takes a few seconds to find it. Sometime I labor for several minutes. Most often I can feel the stone hit its balancing point and I withdraw my hands immediately. Sometimes I tentatively remove one finger at a time until I’m satisfied that the rock will not move.

It’s ephemeral art. As soon as the rock is balanced, it is subjected to forces that threaten to knock it down. Wind. Waves. Time.

Life itself is a complex balancing act of chemicals and processes in perfect balance, battling forces that threaten to tear it down. In our physical life, those forces will eventually win. But until then, we have the opportunity to stand and call attention to something bigger than ourselves.

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

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Late bloomer

The false dragon (Physostegia virginiana) head shows off its rosy pink blossoms. A friend gave a few of these plants to me several years ago and I planted them at the side of my garage. They have now grown and spread along the garage and around a corner.

The plant grows to about three feet in height and the tube shaped flowers bloom from a four sided spike. It’s one of the few garden plants that bloom in August.

The plant has several names, among them Obedient Plant and Accommodation Flower. This is taken from the fact that if the growing stalk gets bent or twisted, the plant will continue to grow while retaining the shape it was given. I’ve accidentally nicked a stalk or two while mowing the lawn, resulting in L-shaped plants which are now beginning to blossom.

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

Monday, August 04, 2008

Monday morning 'Awww!' factor

This little guy has been nosing around my backyard and occasionally even taking a tour of my garage for the past couple of weeks when I leave the back door open. I even wound up nearly stepping on him as I was exiting the back door at the same time he wanted to enter yesterday afternoon. He didn’t run off very far, and I was surprised at how close I could get to him with my camera.

And, after reading about the heroic exploits of a house rabbit in Australia a couple of weeks ago, it may not be a bad idea to let this guy stick around.

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

Friday, August 01, 2008

Times two

Simple pleasures are doubled by sharing.

Have a great weekend.

Photo: Sunset Park, Fish Creek, Wisconsin. Graduated tobacco filter and 2-stop grad ND. Orton effect added in post processing. Click on picture to enlarge. Photograph © 2008 James Jordan.