Friday, July 31, 2009

Family dynamics

Family photo sessions that include young children are simultaneously fun, chaotic, maddening, heartwarming and totally unpredictable. You start with a plan and work toward it, but in the end, you take what you get. In that regard, they’re a lot like normal family life.

This family features Aiden, a two-year-old bundle of energy who had a slightly different agenda for a morning spent in his favorite park. It didn’t include sitting for stretches of time posing for a guy with a camera. Not when there's a swingset and a pond full of ducks nearby.

These three photos, taken one after the other, offers a nice insight into family dynamics.

Morning in the park 1

Photo 1: Aiden steals the show. One-month old brother Liam is probably pondering what he has gotten himself into being born into this family.

Morning in the park 2

Photo 2: Mom and Dad admonish Aiden to sit still and smile for the funny looking man with the camera. Liam is digging the whole older-brother-in-trouble thing.

Morning in the park 3

Photo 3: The stars align. Maybe not perfectly, but pleasantly enough.

Isn’t that the essence of a family?

Photographs © 2009 James Jordan.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Boys will be boys


I've had a chance to shoot a couple of family portrait sessions over the past week. I always include individual shots of the kids as part of the package. It's especially fun when I can catch a spontaneous moment.

This guy was patiently sitting while we waited for a younger family member to get into a more cooperative mood. I smiled at him. He smiled back. I clicked.

More spontaneous kid shots to come.

Lately it's been all boys, however. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it'd be nice to increase the little girl count in my portfolio. I have a potential family shoot coming up this weekend with a boy and girl. And a dog. Hope it works out.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Here comes the sun


And I say it's alright.

Gotta give a shout out to Sandy, who kindly steered the readers of her two blogs here yesterday. Thanks, all, for the kind words about my pictures. Glad you like.

I'm finishing off the series of foggy woods photos with this one taken at the Burnidge Forest Preserve in Kane County, Illinois, not too long after the shots posted yesterday and the day before. By then, the sun was quickly burning off the fog and making its presence known. Just a few minutes after taking this image, the magic had disappeared.

Fog presents an interesting challenge to a digital camera. The automatic focus mechanism struggles to latch onto something solid and the auto exposure can be fooled into making the fog too light and/or everything else too dark.

Tip: Use your camera's spot metering function (I don't use anything else) and place it on an object that you are featuring in your photo -- in the case of the last two photos, I used the trunk of the foreground tree and grass/reeds in the middle ground -- then push your shutter button halfway to lock the exposure, recompose, then click. Check to be sure you haven't blown out any large areas -- if your camera has a highlights feature for the LCD, which causes pure white areas in an image to flash, use it; it's a life saver. Make exposure adjustments if needed and try again. For the record, I metered on the area midway between the sunburst and the ground in the photo above.

By the way, do you have a song stuck in your head now? If not, maybe this will do the trick:

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Into the forest

Into the enchanted forest

Fog and trees go together quite nicely.

I walked back and forth in front of this stand of trees at the Paul Wolff Forest Preserve near Gilberts, Illinois to find the angle that would best distribute the trees throughout the shot. I settled on placing the two larger trunks just left of center and splitting the distance from the closest tree to the right edge of the frame with the three thinner trees in the distance, though at the time I wasn't thinking about subdividing the space, it just looked balanced to me.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ghost trees in the forest

Ghost in the forest

The remains of a tree appears in the mist. A memory of what once was, framed within the light and life of the present.

I took advantage of the foggy backdrop that was provided one morning last week to do some shooting at a couple of forest preserves near my home. A little Orton processing was added to this photo to heighten the dreamlike quality of the scene.

Hope you're making your way out of the fog on this Monday toward what will be a great week.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Scenes from a flea market -- Waiters

Scenes from a flea market - Waiters

So not everyone attending a flea market is an enthusiastic participant. They've agreed to come along out of duty, guilt or the promise of something enjoyable for them when the ordeal is over.

Waiters just kind of sit and stare. At the surroundings, at a distraction device they've had the foresight to bring with them, at nothing in particular. They're in suspended animation until they perceive a cue that it's time to get up and move on to the next location.

To wait some more.

Photographs © 2009 James Jordan.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Scenes from a flea market -- The hunter-gatherers

Scenes from a flea market: The hunter-gatherers

She: Positively exhilarated at the sight of the veritable smorgasbord of cast-off curios that stretches out before her.

He: Eyeballing the roasted sweet corn concession.

Kane County Fairgrounds, St. Charles, Illinois.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Scenes from a flea market -- Tie dye guy

Scenes from a flea market - Tie dye guy

How many relics from the sixties can you spot in this photo? VW bus? Check. Love beads? Check. Tons of tie dyed fabrics? Check. Guy that looks like a cross between Jim Henson and Chewbacca? Checkaroo.

A couple of weeks before my daughter's wedding, mom, dad and daughter spent a Sunday afternoon at a flea market in St. Charles, Illinois. Mom and daughter went to search out antique curios, knickknacks and assorted junk for items to possibly adorn the future wedded couple's apartment. Dad went to look for interesting stuff to photograph.

Right out of the gate (or rather, right inside the gate) was Tie Dye Guy selling stuff that I never really cared for the first time around. My mom and dad must have done a masterful job of instilling middle American values in this baby boomer because I found nothing much of interest in the countercultural lifestyle of the sixties.

OK, I did wear cutoff jean shorts back then and I did disavow materialism until the 1980s. Does that count?

More flea markety goodness to come.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Whattaya know?

Whattaya know?

So why am I following up photos of my daughter’s wedding with yet another bug photo? 1) Because I can. 2) This isn't just another bug. 3) This katydid was actually a part of the proceedings.

As daughter and newly-minted husband were packing up the getaway car to make the drive to Tennessee and a new life together, I spotted something small and green on the tip of the antenna on the car. It turned out to be a katydid that had somehow perched itself there. Its picture now resides in the same collection as the wedding party, relatives and reception activities.

In Cherokee mythology, the katydid has the ability to forecast the future. This one wasn’t talking, so we’ll leave the future of the newlywed couple up to the One who knows it best.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The bride wore Chuck Taylors

Kara and Eric

It was a wedding known as much for its footwear as its location and participants. My little Miss is now a Mrs. and starting her new life with a talented and promising young man in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

The wedding itself was a reflection of Kara and Eric – a mixture of adhering to tradition and throwing it to the wind. The location was a century-old pavilion in Lord’s Park in Elgin, Illinois – something old. But there were plenty of examples of something new, too.

The wedding party

Bride and Groom decided to make a statement with their wedding footwear and outfitted themselves, the bridal party and parents with high top Converse sneakers. Bride, Groom and Moms sported custom colors; attendants and dads wore black.

It's the shoes

Got cake?

Along with the expected (bride and groom stuffing each other’s faces with cake, for example) was the unexpected (the cake – actually several cupcake trees) were adorned with his and hers Star Wars action figures in place of the traditional bride and groom). Kara was in charge of the sheet music for the cello quartet that provided the music for the ceremony and slipped in the Beatles’ All You Need Is Love for the recessional as a surprise to Eric – and everyone else expecting Midsummer’s Night Dream. Eric had his own surprise up his tuxedo sleeve and jammed with the reception’s jazz combo to serenade Kara with a rendition of All My Lovin.’


A twenty one thousand bubble salute sent husband and wife out into the world.

The send off

Dad got to photograph the portraits of the wedding party and families as well as reception activity. Another photographer was hired to shoot the ceremony. Something about me not able to do two things at once.

All went well, Mom and I only melted down a little, friends and family have returned to their homes and the house is quiet today.

Photographs © 2009 James Jordan.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Red barn at morning

Garfield Farm 5

Another quick post in a whirlwind week. Youngest daughter gets married tomorrow. Dad's taking pictures at the reception.

Have a good weekend.

Photo: Barn on the Timothy Garfield farm, Geneva, Illinois. Single image HDR. Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Morning over the meadow

Morning makes a grand entrance

And a good morning it was, too. Taken after a passing storm.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ah, motherhood

Just in case

Just when you thought it was safe to visit this blog without seeing extreme closeup photos of bugs, I hit you with this. Mwah hahaha.

I was pulling weeds in my garden yesterday when I spotted what looked like a miniature white styrofoam ball (a little less than 1/4 inch in diameter) moving about in the dirt. Since miniature styrofoam balls tend not to move about in the dirt by themselves, I took a closer look and noticed a spider was attached to the ball. The ball was an egg sac and the spider was a female wolf spider (exact species unknown at this point).

The spider hunkered down under a clod of dirt. I placed a stone near the clod so I could find it again and asked momma spider to stay put for a couple of minutes while I dashed into the house to assemble my insect macro setup.

I returned with camera and flash unit five minutes later, located the dirt clod and was pleased to see that Mrs. Wolf had graciously decided to stick around for a photo session. I coaxed her out into the open (not an easy thing to do) and took several shots while laying on my stomach in the dirt (I wonder what the neighbors think).

Wolf spiders tote their egg sacs around until the young hatch, then the mother bites open the sac and the spiderlings climb onto the mother, where they ride around for a few days and gradually disperse.

And they never call after that.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Country morning

Country morning

An outtake from the Garfield Farm photo shoot last weekend.

I was there to shoot one particular barn, but I couldn't help but to get views of the other structures as well. I couldn't waste the dramatic skies and the soft morning sunlight filtering through the treeline across the road. And the red rule was calling from that cart.

5-image HDR from a single RAW file.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Summer morning at the Garfield farm

Summer morning at the Garfield farm

I received an e-mail last Friday from one of the principles of Trillium Dell, a timberframe construction/restoration firm in Galesburg Illinois. He was writing an article on restoration work the company was involved in at the Garfield Farm near Geneva, Illinois and was looking for images to accompany his piece.

He Googled "garfield farm" and my blog posts from last April and May popped up on the first page of search results. After trading several e-mails, I offered to stop by the farm the next morning to photograph the various structures.

The structure at the center of this photo is a barn built in 1842 by Timothy Garfield. The Garfield farm featured an inn which served travelers crossing the prairie.

I arrived shortly after a rain shower had passed through. The clouds were breaking up and the sun was just reaching over the tops of the trees on the opposite side of the dirt road that bears the Garfield family name. I couldn't have asked for better conditions. Interesting sky, soft morning light. And cows.

Photo: Single image HDR from a RAW file exposed to retain highlights. Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Summer prairie

Summer prairie

What the entire state of Illinois used to look like.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

The pot of gold is right over there ...

The pot of gold is right over there ...

Go for it.

Have a nice weekend.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

This fly didn't

A fly who didn't

So while it sat among some day lilies, I took its picture.

Full moon tonight. We'll see if I can get some shots of something besides bugs.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Who did?

Katydid nymph

Katy did ... stand still long enough for me to get a couple of shots of her on a pink geranium on my deck, that is.

Some whirlwind posting this week ... more pictures than words. Have a good Monday.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Friday, July 03, 2009

An update on firefly flash photography

Firefly, with flash

From the damage on its wing coverings, it looks like this firefly has had a hard go of it in its brief adult existence. Fireflies do not eat and live for about two weeks before starving to death. In that time, they have one item on the to-do list -- ensure the next generation of fireflies.

Another photography session in near darkness where we both tried to use our flashes to best effect.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

A study in pink and blue

Study in pink and blue

This solitary coneflower caught my eye while I was setting up for my self portrait (posted a couple of days ago).

The wind was blowing quite briskly and the flower swayed in the breeze just enough to mess up the focus. I ended up holding the stem of the flower just out of the frame to steady it in the turbulent air.

I think we all need that steadying hand every once in a while.

Have a good weekend.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Firefly, on and off

Firefly, off
Firefly, off

I’m sure that I really disrupted things for this female firefly last evening. I’m assuming that she’s female because firefly females tend to not fly while flashing and this gal stayed put on a blade of grass in my backyard during the entire photography session. Mr. Firefly will fly about and flash his light, hoping to catch the attention of a female, who will light up in return if interested in a little romance.

I took several shots of this lady with my macro setup while lying on the ground. This particular firefly may or may not have been impressed with the off-camera strobe going off above her in the deepening twilight, but several others landed about me while I was shooting. I presume they were males who were probably thinking, “Holy cow!”

I dialed down the flash and slowed the shutter speed hoping that the combo would help show up this lady’s tail light should she decide to let it shine. She started crawling up and down the blade of grass, flashing her light every so often. It was tough keeping her framed and in focus as she moved about, and each time she lit up, I hit the shutter button and fired some light right back at her.

Firefly, on
Firefly, on

The best shot of the bunch shows the yellowish glow of her light very nicely, but because of her orientation toward the camera, the focus is not where I wanted it to be. Hopefully, I’ll have better success should I try again this evening.

Here’s an ethical question, though – does firing several hundred watts of light at a firefly constitute sexual harassment?

Photographs © 2009 James Jordan.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009



Another in my series of self portraits taken of my back (which many would consider my best side).

The clouds were moody and so was I on the last day of June. Another month come and gone, a new one about to begin. Progress being made on my quest to build a viable photography business. Photo assignments coming in, but slower than I'd like.

Do those clouds suggest a coming storm or does the scant shade of blue showing through a narrow gap suggest that things are going to clear up shortly?

Time will tell.

Photo tips: Catching some fireworks this weekend? Don't forget your camera! I've posted 8 tips for better fireworks photos on my photography advice blog, Ready, Aim, Click.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.