Friday, May 29, 2009


Boomer on white 2

Meet Boomer. A cat that my daughter and future son-in-law own. Boomer is rooming at my house for a while (along with my daughter) in advance of the wedding in July.

Daughter and I were shooting some wedding band/flower photos on a tabletop with a white sweep for use on her wedding programs. After we finished those shots, we coaxed the cat up onto the table for a few snaps. This animal will do just about anything for a kitty treat. Above is Boomer thinking "OK, I'm here. Where's my treat?"

Smaller photo shows cat devouring said treat. Nom, nom, nom.

Photographs © 2007 James Jordan.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Branching out

branching out

A balancing rock stack built on the branch of a fallen tree on the bank of Tyler Creek in Elgin, Illinois. I usually leave the stacks standing when I'm finished, unless I use especially heavy rocks, then I dismantle them for safety sake -- don't want big rocks falling on anybody.

This one didn't last long. The current and wind caused the branch to move and dump the rocks into the creek after I snapped this photo.

I'm working on getting my selection of photos up to specs for Getty Images. Getty editors recently chose 24 of my photos from Flickr for inclusion in their stock photo library. Getty requires a minimum image size of three megapixels, which for the most part is not a problem. But they happened to choose a lot of photos I shot on film, which were shot at zero megapixels. They were scanned eons ago at only two megapixels for web posting -- I never anticipated then that they would need to be bigger someday. So now it's off to search for negatives and rescan, reprocess and repost.

It's also interesting that three of the photos Getty selected were of balancing rocks I stacked and shot (this one, this one and this one). I guess there's a market for those.

Who knew?

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sweet William

Blue blossoms

Otherwise known as common phlox. Tyler Creek Forest Preserve, Elgin, Illinois.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Banded together

My daughter's and future son-in-law's wedding bands. Taken for use on the wedding program covers. About a month and a half away.

Styling of the ribbon was done by my daughter, with a couple of small adjustments by me. Lighting is a single strobe off camera bounced off a white card about three feet over the setup. A small white paper reflector just off camera to the right bounced some light onto the sides of the rings.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sticking around


Yesterday was my blogiversary. Points of Light came into existence four years ago as a way to get my photography in front of people's eyes. A lot of ground has been covered, literally and figuratively in those intervening years, and lots of eyes have stopped by to take a look. Some of you have stuck around for nearly the entire duration -- more than 1,200 posts -- you deserve some type of award.

I'm grateful for everyone who visits and leaves a comment here or there. Thanks for joining me. More to come.

Canonet Update: Last Friday, I was jazzed about getting back into film photography after a year and a half of digital shooting and was looking forward to using a gift Canon Canonet GIII QL17 to do so. I found the requisite 625A battery at a local camera shop (thanks, Kodak, for still making them) and with a little bit of finessing, got the contacts to connect. The light meter appears to be working fine. The viewfinder is clear and sharp -- some become fogged with age (but then, don't we all?).

I picked up a couple of rolls of film (those film displays in stores are much much smaller than they were a year and a half ago), popped a roll in and was ready to go, but alas! The shutter would not trip. A little digging online showed that old Canonets are prone to corrosion that freezes the shutter blades. One web site offers do-it-yourself instructions for cleaning the shutter. So at the moment, the camera sits on a work bench, its rear lens element removed and shutter blades exposed for a good cleaning with some Ronsonol. Let's hope that does the trick. I've got a roll of black and white film and a roll of slide film (that I plan to cross-process in C-41) waiting in the wings.

In the meantime, take a look at some photos taken with Canonets.

UPDATE: Ronsonol for the win! Shutter is freed up and clicking like nobody's business. I'll give it some time just to be sure it doesn't freeze up again before I reassemble the lens.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Monday, May 25, 2009

A day for remembering


Laurel Hill Cemetery, Wears Valley, TN. Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Things are blooming

A purple pot of potted plants placed precariously on its perch (with bits of bokeh)

A purple pot of pleasant posies placed precariously on a perch. Actually, a deck rail in my backyard. I was out in my yard in the late afternoon looking for Mr. Goodlight with a 70-200mm zoom attached to my camera. Found him lurking under the shade of the old oak tree behind my house.

Aperture priority, wide open, 200mm, let the camera make the call on the exposure. No major post processing, just a couple of levels adjustments.

What else is blooming: I received an e-mail from Getty Images yesterday afternoon. Getty is in a partnership with Flickr to troll the photos in the Flickrverse for inclusion in their library of stock images. The e-mail informed me that Getty had selected two dozen of my Flickr photos and gave a link to their web site where I could enroll as a contributor.

So far, about 8,800 Flickr members have taken Getty Images up on their offer. Getty is one of the biggest players in the stock photo business, so it can't hurt to have them behind a few of my photos. So make that about 8,801 Flickr members being represented by Getty. We'll see how that pans out.

New toy! I like classic cameras and got one as a gift yesterday (from someone who visits this blog on a regular basis -- you know who you are -- thank you very much). Being involved with photography, I get a lot of people who approach me and start a conversation with, "I don't know if you can use this, but ..." Then they present me with "this."

"This" is a Canon Canonet GIII QL17. A camera with a name bigger than the camera itself. Canon introduced the camera in 1972, and it sold for about $90, which translates to around $400 in today's money, about what you can get a new Nikon D40 for. What you got for the money back then was a very decent camera that actually had more features than today's D40.

The GIII is film camera (obviously) with rangefinder focus and a fast 1.7 40mm lens. A hotshoe mount syncs the flash on all shutter speeds, which range from 1/4 to 1/500 second. An internal metering system allows full automatic exposure or you can go manual. The light sensor is built into the lens, which saves on having to compensate the exposure setting when using filters. The camera has a bulb setting for long exposures and a pc synch outlet for off camera flash. The shutter button accepts a cable release. The GIII picked up the nickname "poor man's Leica" after it appeared on the market, because its capabilities mimicked those of the much more expensive camera at a savings of about $1,000.

I'm planning on buying a roll of film and a new battery to try it out this weekend.

The photo is of my gift Canonet. You can click on the image to enlarge. Taken with my Nikon D60 which doesn't synch flash at all speeds, doesn't accept a cable release and has no pc synch. But I'm not bitter. Photographs © 2009 James Jordan.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Eisenhower Expressway, Chicago, 10:00 a.m.

Eisenhower Expressway, Chicago, 10:00 a.m.

Traffic was crawling, and as long as I had to crawl along with it, I thought I'd play with a camera. Set the focus and exposure manually (so the camera would fire immediately and not waste time focusing and exposing) and stuck the camera at arm's length toward the passenger side window (which was rolled down to eliminate reflections) to see what I could catch.

What I caught was a little slice of life on the freeway while idling. A different kind of street photography. Photography while stuck ON the street.

I saw the lady in her business suit talking on a cell phone. So I aimed and fired. Taking care of business in the backup? Phoning in that she'd be late to her next appointment? Just yakking to pass time?

I didn't see the truck driver giving me the skunk eye -- that was a bonus. Little did he suspect that his route that day was going to take him to the internets.

Even the accidental odd angle adds some tension to the scene.

One thing my wife and I noticed when we moved to Chicago about 18 years ago was that people tended not to get aggravated while sitting in Chicago's many traffic james. They just take it in stride here. It's a part of the deal, and it's no big deal.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Take a gander at this

Canada's top model

Every so often, one encounters an individual who rises above the gaggle. Someone with star quality written all over. I recently has the privilege of shooting some head shots of the next up-and-coming fashion sensation. It’s all there – a look that says, “I own the place.” Chiseled features. Piercing eyes. Cool, confident, dare I say -- silly.

I predict this web-footed wonder will migrate his way to the top of the fashion world – Oleg Goosini, Tommy Honkfiger, Fowllister, Gandercrombie and Fitch take note.

Look out, world.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Window dressing

Window box

Nice outfit.

Seen in West Dundee, Illinois. 50mm f1.8 prime lens on manual exposure (1/400 sec at f2.8 @ 400 ISO). Color Pop and Vignette actions in Photoshop Elements 6. Image Distort to correct horizontal and vertical lines because I can't hold a camera square to save my life. Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Monday, May 18, 2009

B-b-b-bad to the bone

Fat Boyz

Here's a photo that has all the things that people who dislike HDR dislike about HDR. Halos. Screaming color of an unnatural bent. From-here-to-infinity focus.

But a bad bike in front of a bad biker bar seemed to call for some rad, mad and bad post processing.

Fat Boyz is located in downtown Sycamore, Illinois. I noticed several bikes parked out front on a visit to the town a couple of weeks ago and took some worm's eye view shots. This one captured most of the front of the pub as well as a nice imposing view of the bike. Nice.

One of the establishment's employees, who was taking a break out front, noticed me taking photos and mentioned that I should beat it take a look at the owner's bike, which was parked out back. I said sure (with some relief), and was escorted through the bar and out the back door into the alley behind the building where I was beat senseless a bright red Harley was parked, nose-in, at the building's back porch.

I took a few snaps, but the nose-in orientation didn't do much for composition and as much as I wanted to, I couldn't bring myself to ask to have the bike turned around.

I thought that maybe someone might be interested in the above photo as a memento of their ride, or even as a promo pic for the pub's web site. But alas, the pub has no internet presence outside of a local business directory or two. Not even an e-mail address.

One of these days I might call up the owner (the place does have a phone -- or I could write a letter or maybe send smoke signals) and see if she (yes, she) might be interested in having me stop by to shoot her fire engine red Harley (which I was told was designed by her) in front of the place.

It'll be interesting, if nothing else.

UPDATE: I've posted a photo of the back alley red Harley on Flickr.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Friday, May 15, 2009

DeKalb depot

Dekalb depot

To further contribute to the eclectic nature of my recent photography efforts, I submit this shot of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad depot in DeKalb, Illinois.

The stone and brickwork, overhanging roof and the half-round window encasing the main entrance are marvelous architectural details, although the two panel aluminum storm door does nothing for the ambience of the place.

The railroad itself dates to 1853 when it was built by the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad, the first to be constructed in DeKalb County. This particular building replaced an earlier depot and was constructed in 1891 when a second track was added to the line. The railroad brought growth to the towns situated along its tracks.

The east end of the station served as a passenger station, while the west end was used for freight.

The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad later bought the road and developed it into a lucrative enterprise. Running from Dixon to St. Charles, the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad was the only double-track road to span the entire width of the county.

Today the building is used by a track maintenance unit for the Union Pacific railroad. There are hopes that the station may once again see use as a passenger station should a commuter rail line ever be established from Chicago, but that possibility extends far into the future, perhaps as far as this building and the tracks along which it stands extends into the past.

Worm's Eye shot taken from two inches above the cobblestone entryway. Single image HDR.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Working on that smile


One of the things I'm struggling with at the moment is deciding whether to mix my personal photos on this blog with my professional photos. When I first started Points of Light four years ago this month, there was no issue mixing professional shots with my personal shots. There were no professional shots at that time. I was shooting for the pure enjoyment of learning and improving my craft.

I've gotten to the point where people are willing to part with some money to have me do my thing. On one hand, it's a different type of photography than shooting whatever happens to interest me at the moment. On the other hand, it's a part of my life as a photographer. I have another blog that's strictly business. Should I also have one that strictly personal?

Benjamin and Melissa 1

After seeing how photos of Benjamin and his mom, Melissa turned out, I couldn't resist the urge to post them here. Melissa was part of a quartet of longtime female friends who had gone their separate ways to begin families. They decided to reunite for a weekend in Chicago earlier this month and searched for a local photographer to take some portraits of the group and individual mommy/baby combos (thanks, Google!).

On the morning of the shoot, little Benjamin was not feeling well and could only manage a worried looking scowl the entire time the other babies were smiling for the camera. I offered to return after Benjamin was feeling well again to do some retakes. These photos are some of the the results of that session.

Benjamin has a new set of chompers and likes to rub the lowers against the uppers, hence the slightly off kilter alignment of teeth in the top photo. It didn't diminish his cuteness -- or his sparkly eyes.

Benjamin and Melissa 2

These photos were shot using the "magic" setting on my camera. Okay, my camera doesn't have a "magic" setting. I have to set it myself. If you're shooting portraits, try these -- aperture priority set at the lowest number setting for shallow depth of field to throw the background out of focus; medium zoom (I used 35mm, which is equivalent to about 55mm given my camera's sensor size); placed subjects in the shade. If I allowed any sun in the shot, I made sure it was either behind or to the side of the subject. I gave the exposure a +1 compensation, focused on the subject's eyes and fired away. And I made sure to keep an eye on the background and repositioned myself as necessary to minimize the distractions that always lurk there.

Photographs © 2009 James Jordan.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Night comes rolling in

Night comes rolling in

Another photograph from my cloudy day adventure last Friday. This is the St. Mary's Cemetery in Dekalb, Illinois as daylight faded into night. The cemetery contains some classic looking grave markers and one of the most attractive trees I've ever seen on its rolling terrain.

This was my second visit to this cemetery -- you can see the result of the first visit here.

This time, I wanted to use HDR to take advantage of the cloudy sky and fading light. This image is a blend of five separate exposures, each one a stop lighter than the previous. They were blended in Photomatix Pro. I shot the images as fast as the control wheel of my camera would allow me to adjust the exposure -- about two seconds between shots, but I still captured a lot of movement in the clouds, which the software smoothed over, creating the motion blur, which creates a kind of 3-d effect which I like. The drama of the sky and tree is accentuated by the low camera angle.

The tumult of this world goes on.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Three twenty six

Three twenty six

A faux classic mishmash of architectural styles at a local shopping center. But it sure stood out from the sky.

Lesson: If you have to look bad, at least be bold about it.

Happy Limerick Day: Today is Limerick Day, in honor of the birth date of Edward Lear, the creator of the classic five-line poem.

So to help celebrate, I've come up with a limerick about photography:

A photographer wanted a picture
Of cement workers mixing their mixture.
He leaned close to the bin,
But then he fell in.
And now the poor chap is a fixture.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Fair weather friends

Fair weather ahead

A lonely tree has some skybound companions to keep company.

Last Friday, the sky in northern Illinois put on one of the best shows I've seen all year. The sky exhibited a complete range of moods -- from feathery strokes to puffy cotton balls to ominous masses. A brisk wind moved the parade of water vapor along at a fast pace, changing the panorama minute by minute.

I had a scheduled commitment for the day, but it fell through and I found myself with a wide open calendar page. I spent a good portion of the day taking photographs featuring the shifting skies.

The Mother's Day tulip picture was taken at about 1:00 in the afternoon under wispy clouds. I usually avoid taking pictures midday because of the harsh light, but shooting up at the sky through backlit blooms made for a good exception to the rule.

This photo was taken later in the afternoon. It's a tree on a berm adjacent to a shopping mall parking lot. A pro photographer with whom I worked as a photo buyer/art director a number of years ago had a slogan, "Simple pictures are best."

I agree. Have a good Monday.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Sunshiny day

Some flowers for you.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Sunset barn

Sunset barn

At the Garfield Farm Museum, near Geneva, Illinois. The sky was just begging to be photographed and I came across the barn at the right time.

Photo from early April. I still have a huge backlog of photos to process. Such a problem to have.

Three-image HDR via Photomatix Pro with a spin through Neat Image noise reduction software.

Have a great weekend.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

In the parking lot of time

Parked in time

Then again,aren't we all there, too?

Taken near Ellison Bay, Wisconsin. Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Say hello to my little friend

Say hello to my little friend

This guy came into my life in late August of last year. A polyphemus caterpillar was found in my front yard (if you're not familiar with their appearance, think Heimlich in A Bug's Life). I captured it, intending to photograph it the next day. He had his own plan and spun a coccoon overnight.

Shortly thereafter, I lost my job to a corporate downsizing and Mr. Polyphemus became my layoff buddy. The coccoon was kept in my garage for safekeeping in hopes that I might get some pictures when the moth emerged. He and I both made it through the winter. I brought him inside a couple of months ago to await the blessed event. Other than a brief stint as a cat toy, the moth pupa spent a comfortable, uneventful stay. I even did some picture taking while it snoozed.


After the cat incident, I kept Mr. Polyphemus on a high shelf in my work area in the basement. I was working away yesterday afternoon when I started to hear a scratching noise. I turned to the shelf and noticed antennae sticking out of the pupal case. I quickly set up a studio space in my garage (got a small bucket of sand, stuck a fallen tree branch into it for a perch, set up a black foam board background -- all on the top of a small freezer in the garage -- set the wriggling pupa at the base of the branch) and waited to see things progress.

Stunted wings

Unfortunately for Mr. P, he had a very difficult time emerging from the shell. The struggle removed some of the hair from his abdomen. Even worse, his wings were only partially emerged for a time, long enough to cut off the flow of fluids necessary to expand them to full size. Instead of the majestic six-inch wingspan I was expecting to photograph, his wings never got any longer than the length of his body, dooming his mission of finding a female with which to mate.

I let Mr. moth out into my backyard to live out his final days. Poyphemus moths do not have working mouth parts, so they do not eat. They only live for a few days after emerging and just have one thing on their to-do list. This guy's problem is going to make it difficult for him to schedule any dates with the ladies.

Photographs © 2009 James Jordan.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Going back in time, sort of

Duluth breakwater lighthouse

I was contacted by a woman last week who had seen my photographs of Racine, Wisconsin on Flickr and was interested in purchasing prints. She was searching for photos of various cities in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan for a client who was looking to decorate some office space. I mentioned that I also had photos of Duluth, Ironwood and Wausau. Those cities were on the list, so she requested to see them.

Those photos were taken in the summer of 2004, so I had to do some digging through several years' worth of prints, negatives and CDs (I've only been shooting digital for a year and a half). It was an interesting exercise to see how far I'd progressed as a photographer. There were more than a few "if I knew then what I know now" moments. Missed opportunities. A few gems. A lot of junk.

The photo above was taken before I had completely gotten a handle on the art of exposure. It was taken midday (mistake number one, but our travel schedule didn't allow a visit to Duluth during the golden hours). The day was hot and hazy and I overcompensated for the haziness and overexposed most of the pictures.

Photoshop to the rescue. For this photo of the South Breakwater Lighthouse in Duluth, I brought the midtones down, which helped bring out the details of the pier and lighthouse. The sky and water still had a lot of white, so I created a masking layer. I used one of Photoshop Elements' preset gradients -- a purple to orange blend, set it as a semi-transparent layer over the photograph and voila! Instant mood. Original photo posted at right in the interest of full disclosure.

Cheating? Maybe. Back then, I could have sandwiched a couple of filters over the lens to get basically the same result. I was even carrying a graduated orange filter and blue filter in my camera bag that day.

So I just pulled them out a few years later electronically.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Monday, May 04, 2009



More photos from my rainy day visit to Chicago. And more experimentation with high density range (HDR) photographs. A camera can only capture (in one image) a small fraction of the tones in a given scene. HDR software allows you to blend several images taken at different exposures into one image with an incresed range of tones.

Going before the lions

The effect can be jarring, because a) we're used to seeing a limited range of tones in a photograph and b) the resulting image is a type of hyper-reality.

I'm liking how HDR brings out the textures in a scene. I'll keep experimenting and let you peek in on how things are coming.

It was a busy weekend, photography-wise. On Saturday, I had the good fortune to photograph four young women, good friends who had gone their separate ways, became mommies and decided to reunite for a weekend. One of the mommies, from Idaho, located me through an internet search engine and hired me to photograph the group, along with individual mommies and babies. Lots of fun.

On Sunday, I photographed a number of jazz combos from Roosevelt University as they performed their "final exams" for the music faculty. The venue was not the staid halls of academia, but a Chicago nightclub called Martyr's. A long afternoon, but lots of good photos to be had (and processed).

I'd better get to work. I'll be posting sample pics from the two photo gigs on Your Best Light, my blog for contract photography.

Photographs © 2009 James Jordan.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Ready to blossom

Ready to blossom

Spring is slowly gaining traction in Door County, Wisconsin. Last weekend, April showers fell on woods and fields that just began to hint at the green to come. Garden flowers were just beginning to open. Patches of snow stubbornly held their own on the high bluffs and in ditches along the roadways.

Like the cast of a play, these trees in a cherry orchard near Sevastapol patiently await their cue to display their blossoms.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.