Friday, February 26, 2010

Mixed messages

Mixed messages

I feel so welcome, in a get-out-of-here kind of way.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Snow day

Snow day

A little study in contrast and composition involving visual weight and placement.

I was wrapping up my post-snowfall shooting on Monday and heading back to my car when I glanced to my right and saw the park bench in the distance. I kept walking but then my brain made me stop. Apparently it finally finished processing the visual info it just received and formed a picture in my mind.

I walked back to the spot where I first noticed the bench, quickly framed the shot and fired off a couple of captures, then headed back to my car. My brain made me stop again. This time it reminded me that my aperture was only f5.6 and that it would not be enough to keep both the tree trunk and bench in focus. Argh.

Back to the spot again. Set aperture to f/11. Framed and shot two more frames.

Sometimes I wish my brain were just a little quicker.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Winter dance

Winter dance

In the nearby forest preserve that I frequent, I regularly pass this grouping of trees, and every time I do, I'm struck by their choreographed appearance. Leaning, turning, twisting, reaching like a dance troup frozen in time.

Usually, their limbs and branches mesh into a confusing mishmash of busyness in a photo, but a late winter snowfall helped to define the lines of the branches and really bring out the gracefulness of their forms.

Sometimes it takes the hard times to bring out the grace in us. Hopefully, others will see a defining choreography of our lives and not a chaotic scrambling when that happens.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

The best on earth ... at least for a day

Earth Shots is a photo web site built on a simple idea -- feature a daily photo that captures some of the best that our planet has to offer. Photographers may submit entries for the daily photo pick on the site itself or in a group on Flickr.

My shot of an icy, rocky Door County sunset is today's featured pic. It joins six previous winners over the past three years (see bottom of right sidebar).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Peekaboo barn

Peekaboo barn

You may be able to clear the land to make room for a farm and a barn, but eventually, the land takes it all back.

A barn slowly being swallowed by nature just west of Elgin, Illinois on the edge of the Chicago metroplex. If it isn't nature, it's the steady advance of suburbia.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Winter light

Winter light

It snowed last night. No surprise. It's the Midwest and it's late February. It happens.

I took advantage of the fresh blanket of white stuff to get out and do some shooting this morning. Other than a few small woodland critters, mine were the first footprints in this neck of the woods. Nice. Quiet. Just me and a light breeze.

Took some straight shots with available light. Then got out the flash, a stand, a couple of warming gels and a wireless trigger and set out to play with the possibilities.

I trekked into the middle of this trio of pines and set the light stand behind the middle tree. Set the camera to Incandescent white balance to turn things a tranquil blue. Erased the legs of the light stand and my footprints into the tree cluster in post.

More snowy magic to come.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Watching the day fade

Watching the day fade

At the aptly-named Sunset Park. Door County, Wisconsin.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Carving his niche

Carving his niche

After the disappointing ice sculpture fiasco, I shot some of the morning activity at Fish Creek's Winter Festival. Having sufficiently chilled myself to the bone after spending nearly three hours on the town's frozen harbor photographing kite fliers, ice bowlers, snow golfers and toilet seat tossers, I returned to a pre-determined rendezvous point to meet my wife.

I discovered that a guy with a chainsaw had set himself up in front of our rendezvous point and was busily, loudly and smokily carving away on a stump of wood. The guy was Dave Bartels, a chainsaw artist from Clintonville, Wisconsin who specializes in whimsical woodland creatures. I wasn't sure if Dave came in specially for the Winter Festival or if he regularly does Saturday demonstration carvings at the local retailer that carries his work. No matter. Watching Dave at work more than made up for the lack of quality ice sculptures in town that day.

Carving his niche

Dave seemed to know exactly what he wanted to accomplish with the wood, methodically and purposefully circling the stump, roughly forming the animal cut by cut, wood chips and blue smoke billowing all the while. More precise and fine cuts followed. Finishing touches were applied with a blow torch to darken areas of the wood.

Carving his niche

While I was photographing Dave from the street and from standing atop a nearby park bench to clear the protective mesh fence that surrounded his work area, several of his sculptures departed the scene while money simultaneously flowed into Dave's pocket.

Good work if you can get it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

When life hands you ice ...

Ice sculptures

The web site for the Fish Creek Winter Festival promised a load of ice sculptures, which got my heart racing a bit. Door County is an artist community and I imagined that the folks there would be pretty fair hands at turning blocks of ice into spectacular works of art. Cool.

I specifically packed a couple of strobes, gels, and stands anticipating making some nicely lit twilight photos of carved ice in all its glory.

Only reality didn't quite match up with the pictures I had in my head.

I arrived on Friday evening looking for a visual feast of icy artistry. What I got was more like a late night drive through snack. I was only able to locate three ice sculptures that evening -- a chubby boat anchor (or maybe R2D2 on the Atkins diet), an ice cream cone-looking thingy with a club stuck inside and one that my wife thought was one of those tall fountains with a big stone ball in it. I mentioned that it was probably intended to be a martini glass with an olive, since the sculpture was situated in front of a business that sold liquor.

Horse in the rough

The next morning I discovered a roughly horse-shaped chunk of ice in front of a cafe. I asked the folks standing nearby if they knew whether the artist would come by and finish the piece. I was told that the work on all sculptures was finished and that they had been done by local high school students, most of whom had never previously done any ice sculpting. You don't say ...

Anyway, I made the best of the situation, lit a couple of the sculptures, skipped the fountain/martini because it was located under a streetlight that poured green light all over everything, shot the horse and moved on to bigger and better things.

As they say, when life hands you lemons and ice, make a Slurpee.

Photographs © 2010 James Jordan.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Take that, wind

Kites Over the Bay

It's Wisconsin. It's winter. The wind is howling and driving the apparent coldness of the winter air down to single digits, causing one's own digits to cease any sense of touch after a few seconds' exposure. What to do?

Throw something pretty up into that wind and enjoy the sight.

Kites Over the Bay

Part of the recent Fish Creek Winter Festival in Door County, Wisconsin involved an event called Kites Over the Bay, a confab of kite afficianados who descended on the frozen harbor in the little village to display a serious dedication to the art and performance of kite flying.

While simultaneously photographing and freezing on the frozen waters of Fish Creek's harbor, I had a brief conversation with Barbara Meyer, who had traveled with her husband from Minnesota for the event (that's Barbara and her hubby at the top of this post with a kite they had built from one of their designs). I learned that many of the kite fliers that day had traveled from several states bordering Wisconsin and that there is an American Kiteflyer's Association.

The KOTB kites ranged from standard to exotic, with more than a few of the inflatable variety. One intrepid flier decorated his spot on the ice with several "schools" of fabricated fish that "swam" upstream against the wind.

Kites Over the Bay

All in all, a colorful diversion from the nearby toilet seat tossing, ice bowling and snow golf of the Fish Creek Winter Festival Games.

Photographs © 2010 James Jordan.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Fore! below ...

Fore! below ...

Winter Olympics? Meh. What's going on in Vancouver is nothing compared to the XXIII Games of the Winter Festival in Fish Creek, Wisconsin the weekend of February 5-7. You won't see Toilet Seat Tossing or Golf-a-Tennis-Ball-Into-a-Hole-in-the-Ice on NBC., naw ya wawn't, doncha know.

Wisconsonites braved wind chills near zero to participate. Some even wore gloves and hats and zipped their coats more than halfway, that's how cold it was.

All the activity was for a good cause -- giving me something interesting to photograph while freezing my heinie off. Which I did (photograph and freeze that is).

More to come.

Photographs © 2010 James Jordan.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Rocks, ice and a sun dog to boot

Rocks, ice and a sun dog to boot

Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter.
- Ansel Adams

It occasionally happens to me, too.

37 days until spring.

Have a good weekend.

Photo: Green Bay shore at Nelson Point, Peninsula State Park, Door County, Wisconsin. Graduated 2-stop neutral density filter and selective dodging and burning in post to correct some tonal relationships that God didn't get quite right. :-)

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Rocks on ice

Rocks on the ice

A sunset as viewed from Nelson Point in Peninsula State Park in Door County, Wisconsin. Before I photographed the massive ice field in the previous photos, I stopped here. I had visited earlier in the day and had gotten some nice enough photos of the area:

Ice on the rocks

But the sunset added some nice dynamics to the scenery. Same rocks, same ice, different light.

When I started out with landscape photography, I was a list crosser-offer. I'd go somewhere, shoot it, consider it over and done with, then move on to the next place and so on. I'm now a come-backer. Shoot a location, then make a mental note to come back when the conditions reset. I think I've learned more about photography by using the latter approach.

Techie stuff: Metered off the top of the second-closest rock in the bottom photo and pretty much nailed the exposure. Just needed to adjust black and white points in post. Used a 2-stop graduated neutral density filter in the top photo and still had some contrast issues to deal with -- I kept the sky as captured, but selected the foreground and lightened it up further. I was in a hurry to get to the ice field so I was not as careful as I could have been. I commited what to me is the unpardonable sin -- the sun blew out to pure white in several frames. Photoshop can't fix that. Some otherwise great shots ruined.

Photographs © 2008 James Jordan.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sure, why not?

Lighting the ice 2

When you're standing in a field of ice chunks the size of dining room tables, and they're a crystal blue color, and the scenery is all other-worldly to start with, why not try to augment the feeling by pulling out a flash unit to see what happens?

I had brought a couple of lights and stands along with me on the trip to Door County, Wisconsin to photograph ice sculptures that were carved as part of the Fish Creek Winter Festival over the weekend. Those didn't pan out the way I had hoped (not many sculptures to choose from, and not a very high quality of art in my opinion, but that's for another blog post).

After I had shot a number of photos out on the ice in available light (see previous posts), and with the night closing in on the scene, I packed up and headed back to my car. Spying the bags of lights and stands in the back of the car, it hit me. Take a stand and a flash unit back out on the ice, dummy. So I did.

I set up a wireless trigger on a flash, placed a couple of warming gels over it and set the white balance on the camera to incandescent. I started by pointing the flash on the light stand directly at the ice chunks and firing away while walking around, but that wasn't doing it for me. It impressed the snot out of a bunch of people nearby, though. I then tried to backlight some of the more translucent ice with varying degrees of success. I finally took the flash unit off the stand and placed it inside some spaces in the ice and hoped the wireless signal would be able to pass through several feet of ice to set off the flash. Better.

As the daylight continued to fade, the gels on the flash created a warmer and pinker tone. I would have loved to have gotten a person in these photos, but by this time, the dozen or so folks that were present when I arrived had gone their way. And only posessing two hands, I did not bring a tripod along to go with the camera, flash unit, and light stand I had to carry to try some self portraits. Plus it was a bit treacherous walking around out there. Who would have thought that ice would be so ... icy?

Lighting the ice 2
Photographs © 2010 James Jordan.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Field of blue

Blue ice at sunset

Massive chunks of blue ice along the Green Bay shore, Peninsula State Park near Fish Creek, Wisconsin.

Two-stop graduated neutral density filter to balance sky and foreground tones.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Blue, blue, the ice is blue

On ice

I was photographing the Anderson Barn in Door County, Wisconsin this past weekend, when a couple pulled up, got out of their car, and pulled out a camera of their own. On their way to the barn, the wife turned to me and asked, "Have you seen the ice, yet?"

Seeing that Green Bay was frozen as far as the eye could see, I started to figure whether or not I had been asked a trick question and stood there for a moment with a blank look on my face. The woman's husband came to the rescue. "There are chunks of ice along the shore near Fish Creek and in Peninsula State Park. They're huge and they're blue."

I told them that I would be sure to check it out. Then I went to check it out. Just off shore from one of my favorite parks in Fish Creek were chucks of ice. They were huge and they were blue, all right. Apparently, the wind and waves of a winter storm had broken up six- to twelve-inch thick sheets of ice along the Green Bay shoreline and stacked dining room table-sized slabs one atop the other, in some places more than six feet high.

And in a phenomenon usually reserved for glaciers, the clarity of the ice, combined with its thickness created a blue-green hue. I had found my photographic muse for the weekend.

More icy blue eye candy to come, along with some of the goings on at the Fish Creek Winter Festival and some wintry landscapes in general.

All in all, it was a good weekend to be out and about in the icy north with a camera.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

I've got cabin fever!

I've got cabin fever!

Got. To. Get. Out!

Had a great model shoot with Grant last evening. He posesses a face that can go from serious to silly/George Clooney to Gomer Pyle in a flash. He'll be using the shots for his work (serious and not) for; I'll be sending a selection to Getty Images for stock licensing.

Back to the cabin fever. You may note the lack of outdoorsy/naturey pictures on this blog of late. If you've been visiting here a while, you'll know that February has traditionally been a month in which the landscape pictures go away and shots taken on my dining room table and in my basement take over. It just happens.

Hopefully, a four-day weekend which starts tomorrow will rectify that situation a bit. I'm heading into the icebox way way up nort' to watch the norders cavort. Fish Creek Winter Festival. What's not to like about a festival that features events like the Toilet Seat Toss or the Bicycle Throw on frozen Green Bay?

More to come.

I've been blogged. Fotoblogia, a photography blog originating in Poland, selected a photo of mine to include in a listing of 15 inspirational winter pictures. Makes me want to get out and shoot even more now.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The rose

The rose

Beauty is an ecstasy; it is as simple as hunger. There is really nothing to be said about it. It is like the perfume of a rose: you can smell it and that is all.
- W. Somerset Maugham

A single rose can be my garden ... a single friend, my world.
- Leo Buscaglia

Can anyone remember love? It's like trying to summon up the smell of roses in a cellar. You might see a rose, but never the perfume.
- Arthur Miller

A rose is the visible result of an infinitude of complicated goings on in the bosom of the earth and in the air above, and similarly a work of art is the product of strange activities in the human mind.
- Clive Bell

As someone who deals with a constant stream of strange activities going on in my mind, I can fully appreciate that last quotation. This photograph was inspired by signage seen in Macy's during the previous holiday season. I fully suspect that those signs were achieved through a combination of photography and computer illustration -- but I wanted to try to achieve a similar effect in-camera.

So ... off to my studio, which is a room in the basement. The setup for this shot took many hours over the course of several days. I set up a white seamless paper backdrop and a gridded strobe fitted with a red gel aimed at it. Fiddled with the flash intensity and distance to the backdrop until I was happy with the effect.

I attached a plastic flower to a light stand and used it as a stand-in for the rose that would eventually take its place. I set up a gridded strobe to light the flower from the left, set up a white foam board attached to yet another light stand just out of the frame to the right to bounce some light into the shadow side of the flower. Nice.

I did some timer-assisted self portraits to see if the crazy idea would work at all and discovered that all kinds of red and white light were spilling onto me from the two strobes. Argh. Not nice. Fiddled with the lights to try to solve the problem. Created new problems in the process. Gave up for a few days.

Came back several days later and re-set the lights in the original setup. Taped, clipped and balanced more sheets of foam board on yet more light stands and spare tripods to block excess light from spilling onto me. The final setup looked like a maze of light stands and foam boards, but I finally got a shot of myself in silhouette with a nicely exposed plastic yellow daisy.

Went out and bought roses. Kept one, gave the rest to my wife. Nice. Convinced a model to walk through the maze and stand in place. Three exposures. Done.

This picture is kinda like love -- simple yet complicated.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Snow, up close

Snow, up close

A little pile o' snow, macro style. It's interesting how transparent snowflakes are. And they're awful tough to photograph. If they don't shatter into pieces upon landing, there's the chance that they'll melt before you can focus and shoot. Then there's lighting them so they actually show up. At this point, any measure of success I have in capturing snowflakes on camera is due to luck, not skill.

Happy Groundhog Day. Here's to an early spring!

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Getting flaky

Getting flaky

I woke up Saturday morning and discovered that this fella and a few million of his buddies decided to drop by.

I put together my tried and true DIY macro photo setup (taped two 50mm f1.8 lenses together face-to-face, attached them to my camera along with a flash bracket and flash aimed just in front of the lens combo) and headed out to get a few shots of the guests.

I set up a mirror on my deck to collect some subjects, then moved in and fired away. The dark background is courtesy of the reflection of my camera. The blue tone was provided by setting the camera's white balance to incandescent. The flash (at 1/16 power) added just enough definition to the icy flakes.

Brrr. Nice.

Settings: ISO 100, f/16 @ 1/80. Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.