The photographic explorations of a former film student.

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Mid-Summer Flowers

My last photo outing was in early July, and I’ve finally edited it for the blog. There are a lot of other things on my mind right now, as there have been for the past several weeks, but at some point, a person has to move on.

It was a lovely early July day.  I met my father out at a local forest preserve.

TreesInJuly

My intention was to photograph wildflowers, but I didn’t find much that interested me. Lighting was also a bit stark.

SmallPink

I ended up photographing the pink clover, blue cornflower, and grasses at the entry to my parent’s subdivision. There were some bugs as well, including our much hated invasive Japanese beetles.

PinkCloverAndAntCloverAndBeetlesBlueBonnetAndGrass

Summer is about over now. Time to think about fall. This next month will probably not be the best for me, but I might try to get out for photography or do some still life. I’m not sure what my official September blog will be, but I hope I’ll have some good fall photos for October and November.


Archive Fireworks

I photographed more than one subject on July 4th, 2019. That was a normal 4th of July: festivals, parades, car shows, and fireworks. No worries about COVID-19. I had no idea where we would be today when I chose to save these photos and post them in July 2020. Since some cities are cancelling fireworks shows this year, I’m glad I saved these photos for today.

Photographing fireworks is not seen as serious photography, but it comes with its own set of challenges. To begin with, you are working in the blind. You can’t really see what you are capturing. The subject is there one moment and gone the next. It’s a long exposure, requiring a tripod. Usually, I focus on the first blasts. I’ve read to focus at infinity, but that doesn’t seem to work. I also ignore the recommendation to include a building or other landmark for sense of place. This is mostly because the best fireworks show in my area for good looking buildings is in a part of town I don’t feel safe in, particularly after dark. I forsake the city and trudge along the cornfields to the athletic field of a small town high school. The roads are lined with trucks full of families, and the ditches are thick with mosquitoes. But I can get close and get a clear view. Sometimes, I decide I need to back up a bit after the first bursts go off. I stand with my camera on my tripod and work as the blasts light up the sky and the sound waves resonate around me and through me. For me, a fireworks show is an active event, not a passive one. I am caught up in it, seeing it, feeling it, and capturing it.

Digital is a big help with fireworks. I can see if I’m on the right track with exposure. I used to always start my exposure when I heard the launch. I’d read to do that somewhere. The problem is, a long exposure captures the event much differently than we see it live. The fireworks end up looking like flowers with long stems.

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It’s a cool effect sometimes, but it doesn’t really look like fireworks the way we see them in real time. So I started waiting longer and trying to time them closer to the actual explosion. There’s also the problem of the light trails. To they eye, fireworks are little specks and dashes of light. But again, the exposure to capture the whole thing unfolding makes them look like continuous lines. So I started trying to time it so I didn’t have the full duration of some of the fireworks to get a little more sparkle. The loud little gold ones could be helpful with this, but they also make a lot of smoke. The smoke illuminated by the blasts does not look pretty.

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Practice, luck, and some editing for contrast and saturation. And I crop. As you can see, I chose to abandon normal aspect ratios for many of these. Fireworks photos are pretty abstract sometimes. Find the flowers, the trees, the space jellyfish, etc. Imagine. Have fun. In the two below, I see a flowering cactus (I admit I rotated it) and an ornamental tree. What’s a celebration for if you can’t have fun with it?

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I know things are different this year, but I hope you are able to have a safe and happy holiday anyway. You made it a little more than halfway through 2020, and that itself is worth celebrating, even if you aren’t an American observing our Independence Day.

 

 


In Praise of Milk

FormalMilk

This post is in honor of my old 4-H days promoting dairy all June long. As an adult, I do fine when it comes to eating cheese and ice cream (probably too much ice cream). However, milk and I had a falling out. If I was up and moving around, I was OK, but sitting all day at my desk job, milk would start to quarrel with my digestive system. It also tended to spoil in my fridge before I drank it. So I opted for what my Uncle once called “the evil of the almond” instead of real milk. Recently, I’ve found some other options for people who have digestive issues with milk. I don’t buy them often, but when I do, it’s a treat. Real milk is so rich and sweet in comparison to almond milk. While I was shooting this photo, my furry little assistant became determined to get at the milk. I had to give her a bit of whipped cream to get her out of the way. She knows a good thing when she smells it, even if she’s not supposed to drink it. I spilled a few drops, and she promptly cleaned them up for me. As dairy month draws to a close, enjoy a glass of the good stuff. Just watch out if you live with a cat.

Next Time: Last Year’s Fireworks or Nature

If I can blog twice in one week, I’ll post the fireworks I shot last year.


A Fine May Day

Time-wise, at this point I’m just going to say I’ll do two posts this month to catch up. Anyway, to the blog.

May first was the first day local forest preserves in my area were officially open (COVID-19). Earlier in the year, you could park outside and walk in. Dad had been itching to go out for some time, I wanted to do wildflower macro, and Mom was worried Dad would be mauled by coyotes. With parks officially open, Dad and I decided to meet at a forest preserve we’d never been to, but many members of the photo club recommended. Mom was OK with this. Upon arriving, Dad did not see anything that interested him. We did see several people. No coyotes. We agreed to reconvene later at Dad’s favorite spot across town. I stayed and got in my annual spring macro wildflower shoot. Different species this time, but still a nice day.

SmallPinkVioletBlueBell

Later in the day, Dad and I met at his favorite forest preserve. The scene he was watching wasn’t right for the shot he was trying to get. I had walked down the road to and from his point of interest instead of driving because I wanted the exorcise. I found an interesting stump on the side of road. Dad was curious about what I was photographing. He decided he wanted to photograph it too. Waiting for him to get his gear set up, I decided to take a few more shots and see if I could get something I liked better. This was the result. I haven’t seen his yet.

BAndWStump

 

Next Time:

It’s June. It’s Dairy Month. As a former 4-H kid, it is my duty to make milk look good to you this month.


Change and Tulips

This is officially my April post. Yes, I know it is May. Yes, I need to work on my punctuality. At least I shot all of these in April. Anyway, to  the post.

Last fall, I planted tulips. This is always done with hope of spring in mind. There is joy and anticipation as the green shoots make their way out of the damp spring earth. And then, in this instance, there was hail. Hail that shredded the tulip’s leaves. One was trampled just after a blossom emerged. My garbage can landed on a row of them. Nevertheless, the tulips bloomed. Closed at first and still mostly closed when it’s not sunny, they provided a nice burst of color, even if they were a little bedraggled.

Then one morning, they were all open and the sun shone on them beautifully. I had to go out and photograph them, even if the finished product wasn’t as good as I had hoped. The changing hues throughout the petals were lovely, and I had to at least try and capture them.

PinkOpenYellowOpenPinkAndYellow

Since these photos, the tulips have continued to change. Some are nearing the end of their blooming season and look like it. The yellow ones have turned more orange. A few have yet to bloom. It looks like they will be purple or white. I look forward to the continuing surprises they will bring.

In a way, humans are like the tulips. We continue to grow and change, but we do so at different times. Some are hit harder by the hail or garbage cans of life than others. Maybe this isn’t the year some of them will display their full glory. Maybe that will come next year. Right now, we are all trying to make it through the hailstorms of this year. May we bloom and change into increasing beauty on the other side of the storm.


More Post Office

I haven’t really been into photo editing lately. I want off the computer doing something more three dimensional. Again my blog is late, and again my blog is Post Office.

OldButtons

Old control buttons on the second floor.

Clock

Main floor clock over the doors.

LightFixture

Lobby light fixture. Note the detail in the lower glass. I’m not sure how the background lighting turned out like this, but I like the colors.

 

Next Time: Flowers?

They are coming up, and, like most people, I’ve been spending a lot of time around home these days.


Love, Again

I post about love around just about every Valentine’s day. It’s kind of a broad concept. Again, I encourage Valentine’s Day as a day to share love with friends and family, not just significant others. (Write, call, visit, or e-mail your mom, dad, grandma, sibling, friend, etc.) Lately, I’ve been thinking of another sort of bond we as humans often enjoy: bonds with our pets. (Maybe this is because my cat’s approximate birthday is February 15th?) Those of you who have pets, whatever species they may be, please take time to let them know they are loved this Valentine’s day, even if you have a date with a human.

This was my quick still life practice for the month.

GirlAndLlama

I know llamas are not common pets, but it was a cute decoration, and I was looking for more stuff for my mantle. This is my love-love, Maggie:

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(Cell phone pic of her cuddling with me.)


Post Office Detail

One of my goals for 2020 is to blog monthly. My apologies for being a couple days late on the first one. These are a couple architectural details from a photo club outing to the Old Post Office in Chicago. I decided to do black and white on the first and split toning on the second in Lightroom for fun.

DoorDetailWindowCorner

Maybe I will do one for Valentines day in a couple weeks. Otherwise, I can continue with the Post Office photos.


Christmas Wish

It’s a bit late (an unfortunate theme for me this year), but I still wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas. I wish you warmth, light, and comfort in this often dark and cold season. May you find hope and good things in this time, and in the year to come.

ChristmasFloral


Late Fall

A few weeks back, I went out to a more distant, more in-town kind of park. It is in another city not too far from me. The weather that days was not the best. Dark, cloudy,  and somewhat windy. It had snowed recently, then mostly thawed. I had missed peak color. We actually had snow on Halloween and several times after. Not good for any outdoor fall activity. I had to make compromises with ISO and shutter speed. Most of the photos are OK for the blog, but they wouldn’t do well as sizable prints.

Many of the trees along the river were bare.
Riverbank

Oddly enough, the geese cooperated.
GeeseAndCave

The flag above the trees.
Flag

I found a stationary subject, so I walked back to the car and got my tripod. Worth it. I like the curve and the way the fungus is on it.
StumpAndFungi

Happy Thanksgiving! Sort of a cultural farewell to fall, or more like the day when we temporarily extract our heads from our Santa hats to give thanks and eat turkey before plunging into Christmas for the next entire month. Naturally, I plan to do a Christmas post next month.


Afternoon at the Dunes

Back in August, my dad and I visited Sleeping Bear Dunes again. It was my second time there. Weather was not optimal (wind) and we were squeezing the outing in between much needed time visiting family. I did get a few quick shots, but no waiting around for people to be out of the picture. I photoshopped them out. Not the best way to do things, but it worked in a pinch.

BeachAndLakeWhiteTrees


Late Summer

I am late blogging again this month. Here are a couple of shots from my time in a local forest preserve in August.

I like the texture in the thistles.

Thistle

This thing is weedy. I’m not exactly sure why I like it, but there’s something about the color and form of it.

Weedy


Water and Rocks

August is gone already! I’m a couple days late for my monthly blog, so here’s a quick photo from a local park popular with the photo club.

RocksAndFlowers


Car Show

I went to a small town car show on the 4th, and yes, I’ve had trouble finding time to edit and blog this month. I did mostly some contrast and color adjustments with a little glare and dust spot removal. However, I did decided to split tone the Nova so it would be more blue and less whatever was reflected in it.

ElCaminoRedNovaBlueOldYellow


Things Found in Woods

June flew by so quickly. Before it’s over, I have one picture to share with you real quick.

Insectoid

These fungi frequently look like bugs or butterflies to me.


Macro Spring Flowers

A few weeks ago, the weather was nice, and I got out to photograph some flowers. It was late in the woodland spring wildflower season, so swamp buttercups and violets were about all that was left. I decided to shoot with the macro lens. The flowers are small, and practice with manual focus is good for me.

VioletSwampButtercup

I spotted this large, fuzzy bee. It’s so fluffy looking I almost wanted to touch it, but it’s a bee, so photographing it will have to do.

BeeOnDandilion

Later that day, I visited a city park and photographed this flowering viburnum. I liked the bright pink buds on this particular variety.

Viburnum


Tiny Tropics

The city I live in has a small tropical conservatory. They run various shows in it, each lasting a month or so. The day before Easter, my father and I went to their annual butterfly show. Butterflies of several species were kept in a small enclosure within the conservatory. Only a limited number of people could go in at a time.

Butterflies3OrangeButterfly1

While there, we also looked around the plants in the conservatory. This one caught my eye. The Heliconia, or lobster-claw, is colorful and has an interesting form.

Heliconia

Of course there were Koi as well. It seems like there are Koi all over now. Some places you can even buy Koi food and feed them. When I was little, we used to feed the ducks bread in the same park the conservatory now sits in. There aren’t as many ducks around these days, and no one wants you feeding wild animals. The new conservatory is impressive, and I do enjoy it. However, I sometimes long for the simplicity of the old lagoon full of ducks. This koi is kind of cute though.

Koi

Next Time

I hope I can get out and photograph some spring flowers. Weather has been up and down here. 70+ and sunny, rain, and a snowstorm last weekend.


Light Meters

Back before auto mode and built in light metering, photographers relied on separate hand-held meters to determine the correct exposure. Many are roughly palm sized devices that use selenium cells (https://www.britannica.com/technology/exposure-meter#ref1164349). I was introduced to the old Sekonic incident meters as a Freshman film student. Eventually, I acquired my own incident light meter that seemed to work better. (Despite the faculty’s insistence that nothing was wrong with the school’s meters, rumors swirled about which ones were malfunctioning. I wanted reliability and consistency, so I got my own meter that I knew no one had dropped recently.)

Last month, I purchased two old light meters at a thrift store. I’m certain they aren’t accurate, but they are cool. The first is a Weston Master II cine meter. I love the numbering on the dials, so I decided to take some close-ups of the aged meter.

WestonDial1WestonDial2

The second is a much less serious meter: a little pink GE. Cute, but not high end.

GE

Although modern cameras have built in metering, the old, and sometimes no so old, incident meters persist. They still have a following and a purpose. You can even get a light meter ap in the style of an old incident meter.

Next Time: Spring?

I hope the next few weeks will bring some green to my corner of the world. Either way, if the weather is good, I’m going out to a park with my camera.

 


Valentine Hearts

Happy Valentine’s Day! I have a busy next couple of weeks, but I wanted to send greetings. Right now, I feel like I haven’t been in a good artistic state of mind for some time. However, I want to keep the little momentum I have going, so I did a couple quick still life shots for this month’s blog.

GlassHeartHangingHearts


Hot Cocoa

It’s frigid outside. Time for a nice cozy mug of hot cocoa.

cocoamug


Merry Christmas!

It’s officially almost too late for a Christmas post. Nevertheless, I did take a few shots of my upgraded mantel decorations, and I wanted to share a couple.

BaublesBellsPineconesGoldThroughGlass

Wishing you all light, beauty, and time with those you love most over the next few days. Merry Christmas!


Running Away South

Some weeks ago, Dad and I ran away from the deck and other house projects to find the last traces of fall with our cameras. We had to go south a ways. Since it wasn’t the best day, we decided to make the trip double as a scouting expedition of Matthiessen State Park. We’d been to Starved Rock several times, but Matthiessen never got past “if we have time”.

It so happens lots of people wanted to enjoy the end of fall. There was also an enormous geology class field trip. However, both of us did manage to get a clear shot of the dells and some other photos of the scenery.

TreeTopsSmallYellowTreeDells

BranchCU

Next Time: Merry Christmas

My goal this year was to blog once a month. I’ve been a few hours late a couple of times, and I’ve used a good bit of “archive” shot in previous years, but I’m calling it close enough. One more blog in observance of Christmas is all I need.


The Problem with Fall

Fall is a beautiful season. Unfortunately, it’s also crunch time for home improvement projects. I have not been out to shoot this year. Fortunately, I have a few photos left over from last year when I wasn’t blogging.

LateLeavesSquirrelInTreeWhiteFluff

I’m still plotting to get out this year. I’ll have to run away and go south a bit, but I’m still plotting.


The Long Fall Hike

These photos were taken on the 30th of September 2017, an entire year ago. It was a beautiful day. I was visiting my parents about two years after moving out on my own. I don’t live that far, but it’s far enough and I’m busy enough that I don’t get out to the parks and forest preserves I used to frequent. Dad and I went on a long photo hike that day. We went to the park with the confusing set of foot trails and horse trails (where you need to watch where you step), with streams, woods, meadows, and hills. No fall color at that point, but the vegetation was browning and fading for the year.

OakLeafOnMeadowPath

We crossed out of the woods up the hills towards the horse path area. There were trees and a stream.

StreamAndTrees

We continued to the horse path area because there was milkweed there, and Dad loves to photograph milkweed. I’m sure he has better pictures. It is a small obsession of his.

Milkweed

Then, we ended up out on a country road a little uncertain of exactly where we were. We found our way back to the park entrance. I kept getting gravel in my shoes and having to empty them. Does that matter a year later? No, but it’s part of the experience. Kind of a minor slightly humorous inconvenience.

We had the light, the nature, the photos, the time together. It was a beautiful day. Not perfect. Just beautiful.