Thursday, April 29, 2010


The mill

I have an adage that I follow when out taking pictures: If the sky is doing something interesting, find something to stick in front of it and shoot it.

The skies were getting turbulent out at the Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area near Morris, Illinois this past weekend. The park includes the remains of farms that once sat productively on the wide expanse of land. This windmill was selected for the job of acting as foreground interest to stand against the stormy backdrop.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On the prairie

On the prairie

An old fence post seems to play tug of war with the remains of a barbed wire fence while stormy clouds swirl overhead. Seen at Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area, Morris, Illinois.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Monday, April 26, 2010

But when it's nice enough out to fix that leak, it ain't rainin'

Slight leak

An old barn sits within the confines of the Goose Lake Prairie State Natural Area near Morris, Illinois. I like old barns. I had a camera with me. You know the rest.

Crumbling geometries

It's a real fixer-upper, which, unless there's some historic significance to this structure, will never get done. For now, the gaps, wood rot, rust and decay make for good photo fodder.

Bar the door

Photographs © 2010 James Jordan.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth. Why not give it a day of its own?

Island in the stream

Photographing parts of the earth, I've come to appreciate its diversity, resilience and wonder. Why not give it a day of its own?

Of course, it's our attitudes and actions toward the planet on the other 364 days that really matter.

The photo above was taken in August of 2008 on a walk in the misty morning air in Dundee, Illinois. Beams of sunlight danced across the water of the Fox River. As my wife and I crossed a footbridge, I caught this image of a small tree perched on a rocky outcropping on the river. At this point, the tree was mostly dead. It has since become all dead, but for a brief moment, the sky reached down and the tree reached up and the two connected.

Enjoy your day, planet.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Bustin' out ...

Bustin' out ...

... which is what spring has been doing all over around here lately. My wife and I both remarked to each other on a walk last evening that it seems like spring just didn't creep in this year, it exploded onto the landscape with an urgency we don't ever recall seeing before.

Or maybe it just seems that way because I'm getting older.

Photo taken at Fox River Bluff Forest Preserve, St. Charles, Illinois. Aperture priority @f/4.5, 120mm, 800 ISO and -.03 EV. Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A thing for spring

A thing for spring

A spray of pink blossoms backlit by the setting sun. Fox River Bluff Forest Preserve, St. Charles, Illinois.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Food, glorious food

Mmm ... eggs benedict

I've played with food photography in the past, but was fortunate enough to get a real good shot at it (pun intended) this weekend.

You're looking at eggs benedict, asparagus and pineapple with poblano pepper. Lighting was pretty simple -- window light from behind the plate, softened with a white diffuser. On-camera flash bounced from the ceiling to the right for some fill light on the front.

There's an interesting story of how this shoot all came about. A couple of blogging buddies set this up, and I'll let them tell the tale on their own blogs. But first, I have to process all the photos from the day and get them to the bloggers so it can happen.

So stay tuned.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Gone fishing

Sorry, we're closed

Good photo for a Friday. Norman General Store, Norman, Wisconsin.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hello, sun

Hello, sun

The landscape around here is gettin' springy wid it. You go, bud.

Photograph © 2009 James Jordan.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010



An obligatory nature shot, but it's spring here, so why not?

Magnolia blossom, Batavia, Illinois.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Cana Island twilight

Cana Island Lighthouse at dusk

Another day comes to an end in Door County, Wisconsin. Another night settles in. Another lighting of the lighthouse light. Another winter passing, another spring on its way.

Ironically, the sameness of every passing day provides cover for change to creep in. Little by little, imperceptively, patiently, change squeezes in between the seemingly immutable objects and routines that surround us and settles into place.

Life is funny like that.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Friday, April 09, 2010



A long time ago, when I was a fledgling graphic designer and commercial illustrator, I landed a gig creating renderings of home designs for a local builder. Looking over the first set of rough drawings, the client said the houses looked good enough, but "you need to find a way to frame the subject to keep the viewer's eye from wandering off the page." We eventually settled on adding strategically placed tree limbs and other landscaping here and there to do the trick.

Taking a long walk on a long pier to get close to the Sturgeon Bay Canal lighthouse, I noticed the meandering overhead catwalk wrapped itself around the edges of the frame in an M.C. Escher-like configuration. Looked good to me. Plus, the Red Rule was calling.

I nestled the lighthouse just right of center -- I often try to imagine diagonal lines crossing the frame from the corners. I'll either place the subject along one of those diagonals, or put them in one of the four "V's" formed by the crossing lines. It's kind of a mashup of the rule of thirds and the golden mean. Weird but it works.

I finished it up with some High-pass post processing, which simultaneously increases and decreases contrast. Weird but it works, too. I'll explain it further sometime when I fully figure it out.

Until then , have a great weekend.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Going with the floe

Going with the floe

While waiting for the sun to set recently in Door County, Wisconsin, I had lots of time to sit and watch the remains of winter's snow and ice slowly fade away. Some of it, like the ice floes above, crept slowly out of the harbor near Sister Bay on their way to the open expanse of Green Bay to eventually become one with the waters there.

The remnants of formerly sizeable ice chunks glimmered in the late afternoon sunlight.


Others played with the sun, returning a thousand points of light.

Winter melt

Here in the Midwest US of A, spring is a battle of the skies. Advancing warm air masses from the south seek supremacy over the cold air of the north -- a civil war that goes back and forth for several weeks until the northern air mass retreats. We've had a taste of spring, but for the next couple of days, the North will again hold this region. But the South will rise again and make a new assault on the occupation forces and will ultimately prevail.

But in the meantime, dang, it's cold.

Photographs © 2010 James Jordan.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


Rocks and water

This is a worm's eye view of the moonrise -- if you're a worm in a boat on the shore of Lake Michigan, anyway. A nice combination of elements -- the earth, water, sky and the realms beyond.

The technique is pretty simple. Stand on a slippery rock and hold an expensive piece of electronic and optical equipment an inch off the surface of the water. Point it in the general direction of your subject. Click, chimp the image on the LCD and try again until satisfied with the image.

While I'm usually a fan of level horizon lines, this seemed tilted enough to look like it was done on purpose for effect. Yeah, that's it. It had nothing to do with the fact that I was nearly standing on my head and barely able to stay on the rock I was on with all that blood rushing to my head, let alone hold the camera level.

That's the ticket.

Location: Cana Island, Door County, Wisconsin. Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010



Just doing my part to add to the profusion of flower photos in the world. Magnolias in bloom, Batavia, Illinois.

I generally try to avoid photographing in the afternoon sun, but this shot had a couple of things going for it. One, the flowers were fabulous. Two, the sun was partially obscured by high hazy clouds, which helped to diffuse what would have otherwise been harsh light.

I moved to the shady side of the tree and caught some blooms backlit against the darker backdrop, helping them to stand out from the rest -- I also used a long lens at a wide aperture to make use of depth of field.

Every little bit helps.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Monday, April 05, 2010

April showers

April showers

Every winter causes me to forget it. Every spring brings it back again. The smell of rain on a warm day. Nice.

Photo taken along the riverwalk in Batavia, Illinois. Four-stop HDR from a single RAW image. Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.

Friday, April 02, 2010

The moon moved me so I moved it

Ready for the night

Some double exposures of the moon and the goings on around the Sturgeon Bay lighthouse. As I packed up to leave, a couple of gentlemen arrived to do some fishing. I was nearly back to my car when I looked out to see them at work (good work if you can get it) on the pier. I zoomed in on them and got a shot or two, then added the moon in post.

Late day fishermen

While the telephoto zoom compresses and flattens perspective, I like how the waters on the shore side of the pier are calm while the open water beyond tosses and churns. I also like how one guy chose to anchor his net on the pier. It was pretty windy that night.

Photoshop tip: If you have a good shot of the moon in the semi-dark sky, you can select it with the elliptical selection tool, copy then paste it into another photo. This automatically places the moon on its own layer. It will have the dark ring around it from your selection, but not to worry. Select "Lighten" from the layer options menu. Voila. The moon is now seamlessly blended into the picture. You can then adjust the opacity (which will control the brightness of the moon) to your taste. Flatten the image and save.

Photographs © 2010 James Jordan.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

... and the moon came up

Moonrise, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

The not-quite-full moon rises above the north pier lighthouse in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. This shot was one of those mad scramble type deals that happen to me occasionally. The lighthouse sits at the end of one of two piers that flank the Sturgeon Bay ship canal, which technically turns most of the Door County Wisconsin peninsula into an island. While the two piers are just a hundred yards or so apart, to get from one pier to the other requires mad swimming skills, a boat, or a ten minute drive to the nearest bridge and ten minutes back to the lakeshore.

I started out on the pier that the lighthouse sits on and waited for the moon to rise, hoping that the position would allow for a good juxtaposition of moon and lighthouse. Not being sure of exactly where the moon would appear made it a 50-50 choice. (Note to self: as the sun nears the horizon, shadows will point roughly to the point from which the moon will rise -- not exactly, depending on time of year or your location on the planet, but it gets you in the ballpark.)

As it turned out, I decided that being on the same pier as the lighthouse was a) not a good position from which to get the shot I was after and b) too close to the lighthouse to easily get both it and the moon in focus. Sooooo ... Hop in car. Begin the drive to the opposite pier. Make a wrong turn. Waste time backtracking to locate correct road to other pier. Park car. Grab equipment and begin rapid hike to the pier. Forget some equipment. Decide not to go back for it. Run like crazy up the beach to the pier, stopping to shoot along the way. Finally get to opposite pier. See that the moon is now much higher in the sky than I had originally wanted. Set up for the best shot under the circumstances. Take it. Rest. Relax. Enjoy the evening.

What's that about good judgement being the result of experience and experience being the result of bad judgement?

Similar-but-different tale from a guy who spent three decades as a shooter for Life, Sports Illustrated and National Geographic.

Photograph © 2010 James Jordan.