Friday, May 28, 2010

Purple trillium

Purple trillium

We don't seem to have white trilliums here in northern Illinois, but we do have these.

Seen in Trout Park, Elgin, Illinois.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

And the windows of heaven were opened

And the heavens were opened

So if you heard a loud gasp at about 3:00 yesterday afternoon, it was me. I had just looked into my viewfinder and saw this thing bearing down on me.

Not that I didn't know there was a storm approaching. I had been out shooting exteriors for a local hospital and took a break because of excessive cloud cover. I went home to monitor the weather and saw some storms approaching. I decided to go out to meet them.

I'm still getting used to a new wide angle lens. It has a field of view that is much wider than my peripheral vision. I saw nasty clouds, but I didn't see all of them appearing to open the bomb bay doors to drop a gusher on me until I peeked through the lens.

After a few shots at a rural crossroads near Elgin (the electric lines at the edges of the picture were going in opposite directions -- that's how wide the view is through that lens), I booked over to the hospital to catch the creeping crud passing over it.

Then I caught my breath.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Time passes slowly

Time stands still

Along the Fox River in West Dundee, Illinois.

Photograph © 2010; James Jordan

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Down Michigan Avenue

Michigan Avenue, Chicago

The view from about 24 stories above the streets of Chicago. Michigan Avenue, looking south from the Intercontinental Hotel. Taken during a break in a photo shoot there earlier this month.

Tribune Tower is at the left edge of the frame, Merchandise Mart is just past the Radisson. Sears Willis Tower is just peeking at the upper right.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Into everyone's life, some rain must fall


And sometimes, it looks like the world is about to end. These are some glimpses of the sky late last Friday as storms rolled through Elgin, Illinois. My wife and I did a little storm chasing since this type of photo op is fairly rare here. While we get our share of storms, we're usually on the side obscured by rain and clouds.

Backroad storm

We tracked some nasty looking clouds down gravel roads, then swung through a large subdivision of homes. Many of the residents were unaware of what was passing overhead. While I shot this photo, a resident of a nearby house pulled into her driveway, ran to the door and yelled at someone inside to come out and see this.


Despite the manace in the sky, all we got out of this particular storm was wet. After some heavy rain, the turbulence moved on.

After the storm

And all was peaceful once again.

Photographs © 2010 James Jordan.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Itza bird

itza bird

And that's about all I know about it at this point. A kind of speckled-stripey-sparrowy-finchy looking thing. Spotted at Moraine Hills State Park, McHenry, Illinois.

Perhaps one of my more ornithologically persuaded friends can help with an ID.

Thanks in advance.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hello, Spring

Hello spring

A photo of the renewing cycle of life and death in nature. Moraine Hills State Park, McHenry, Illinois.

I've been blogged. The folks at Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Illinois spotted a photo I took of the hospital at sunset. I was contacted for permission to post the photo on the Future of Sherman blog and to answer a few questions about photography in general and making the sunset picture in particular. See the photo of Sherman Hospital and blog post here.

Off to photograph some desserts at Blackbird in Chicago this morning. Photos will appear in a magazine and on the Blackbird web site.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010



You're looking at photograph number 155 out of more than 200 that I took while trying to catch a maple seed pod in flight.

The seed pod, called a samara, is designed to carry the seed away from the parent tree so as not to compete for resources necessary for survival. I had the idea in my head for a few days to get a photograph of a falling samara while showing the path of its fall, and to do it all in-camera. Much easier thought than done.

The trick is to set the camera for a long exposure, then have a flash fire at the very end of the shot (this is called rear curtain synch). You then need just enough ambient light in the room to expose the fall of the object before the flash goes off. This is also easier thought than done.

I experimented with a range of exposures from 1/4 second to 2 full seconds, and settled on 1/2 second as sufficient to catch a blurry fall. I set the aperture at f/8 to increase depth of field and improve my chances of getting the samara in focus -- those babies are hard to steer.

Locked the focus on a target area on the tabletop, composed the shot against a black background, set the camera on auto timer, had a flash unit off to the side with a grid to direct a beam of light to where I wanted to catch the samara, had another flash with a grid and green gel to add some color to the backdrop. Did a few test shots using my hand to simulate a falling object. Once happy with the results, I started dropping seeds that I had gathered from my front yard.

At that point, the timing of the drop is everything. A lot of shots had nothing in them but a trail. Some had the samara at the very top of the frame, some had it going off the bottom. I got pretty good at hitting the target with the seeds. Over the course of dozens of seed drops, I discovered that you have to hold them in a certain way to make them twirl straight down. Only six shots out of more than two hundred were close enough to keep. The shot above was the best of those.

Hmmm. Wonder what else I can drop and photograph?

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sit down and soak your feet


Lots of rain recently has our streams and rivers jumping their banks around here. Nothing like what's happened to places like Nashville, of course.

Roadways get wet. Parks get flooded. Ducks and geese have a great time.

Going with the flow

The above photo was taken where a swollen stream met the swollen Fox River in Geneva, Illinois, creating a swirl of turbulence. Happens every spring, and most people here are used to the temporary inconvenience.

Photographs © 2010 James Jordan.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The first and last

Good morning, Elgin

I spent the better part of the day yesterday photographing landmarks in Elgin, illinois as part of the Elgin 1440 photography event. Sponsored by the city's Cultural Arts Commision and a local newspaper, the event is designed to capture a day in the life of a city through the eyes and cameras of its inhabitants. The numeral 1440 refers to the number of minutes in a day.

I started the day at about 5:00 a.m. intending to catch the sunrise from the downtown area. While en route by car to downtown, the sky lit up with a sun pillar, a phenomenon where the first rays of sunlight beam straight upward in a pillar of light. Being in a moving car and not able to easily switch from the wide angle lens to a telephoto, I did not get a clear shot of the pillar. Ah, well. I hope someone else did.

I'm posting one of the first photographs of the day and one of the last. The photo above is the Elgin skyline at sunrise, featuring the Elgin Tower Building. The photo below is of the newly built Sherman Hospital at dusk with its geothermal lake in the foreground. In between were about 200 assorted pictures of places and people doing their thing on a pleasant spring Sunday in Elgin.

Sherman Hospital, Elgin, Illinois

At midday, I met a reporter from the local paper who chatted with me for a bit about the 1440 Event and my part in it. The result of that conversation is a mention in the lead of a story in today's paper and a couple of quotes from me. Nothing terribly profound, I'm afraid, but at least they spelled my name right.

News story on Elgin 1440.

Photographs © 2010 James Jordan.

Friday, May 14, 2010

More trilliums


I like these flowers. I have to travel to see them, but it's worth the view of the woods full of trilliums.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Field chickweed (Starry grasswort)

Field chickweed (Starry grasswort)

Field chickweed (Starry grasswort)

Photographs © 2010 James Jordan.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In the woods

In the woods 3

I love the dappled light of the woods. Pools of light. Puddles of shadows. The name of the game while walking a trail at Starved Rock State Park near Utica, Illinois was "isolation." Could I find interesting looking subjects, then use available light and shadow to make then stand out from their surroundings?

In the woods 1

In a lot of cases, yes. In many more, no. But it was fun to see if I could turn light, shadow and subject into an image that would make someone want to look twice.

In the woods 2

Photographs © 2010 James Jordan.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My daily requirement of greens


Got them at Starved Rock State Park near Utica, Illinois.


Going green

Photographs © 2010 James Jordan.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Points of view

Cara and Josh's wedding

I shot a wedding this past weekend. Mostly on my feet. Sometimes on my belly in the middle of the aisle. I asked the minister ahead of time if doing so might bother him, and he said to go for it.

Cara and Josh's wedding

From the balcony ...

Cara and Josh's wedding

From between the main photographer and the videographer ...

Cara and Josh's wedding

From the wedding party's viewpoint ...

Cara and Josh's wedding

And a whole lotta places in between. Shooting's done. Now the processing's begun.

Photographs © 2010 James Jordan. Shot for Holly Birch Photography, Champaign, Illinois.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Rochelle, Illinois

Rochelle, Illinois

Wandering through my photo archives yesterday in search of a photo and came across this forgotten gem taken last August. An electric generating facility and water tower in Rochelle, Illinois at twilight. The last light of the day cast rose colored hues as the sky darkened into a deep blue. The moon doesn't hurt things, either.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

A millium trilliums ...

A miilium trilliums

... are blooming. A patient plant, trilliums can take up to eight years to go from seed to blossoming plant. Ants disperse the seeds while in search of food and the cycle starts all over again.

With the right combination of moisture, shade and isolation, trilliums can create a beautiful green and white carpet across the woodland floor.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Buoys and gulls



Saw plenty of both last weekend in Door County, Wisconsin. These two both had a nice blue background.

Photographs © 2010 James Jordan.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Wind-assisted photography


After the storm system plowed through the middle of the U.S. last weekend, the wind kicked up, at least in the northern parts of the Midwest. Seeing that I was in Door County, Wisconsin, and seeing that spring wildflowers had bloomed and seing that I wanted to get some photos of them while I was there, I had no choice other than to try to do so in the stiff breezes that raked the peninsula.

Tulips in the breeze

Focusing in close quarters is tough enough when the subject is still. When the subject appears to be riding a breezy bucking bronco, it can be nearly impossible. But for reasons that I'm still trying to figure out, these two photos -- a trillium and tulips -- have a nifty sense of motion about them despite my best efforts to freeze them in place.

Photographs © 2010 James Jordan.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Before the storm

Storm's a-comin'

These were the clouds at the extreme northern end of the storm system that stretched from Louisiana to Wisconsin over the weekend.

While traveling to Door County, Wisconsin to deliver a set of photographs to a gallery, my wife and I stopped in the Lake Michigan city of Manitowoc to stretch. This was the view from where we parked. Mammatus clouds usually signal convection in the atmosphere, usually a sign that a storm is on the way.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.