The photographic explorations of a former film student.

Spring

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.


Stroll Around the Lake

A short distance from my home, there is a park with a lake. One lovely weekend morning, I decided to go walk the path by the lake. Morning or not, may other people were up and about fishing, biking, camping, and hiking. Maybe I should have gone out earlier – less crowding and better light. But it was still a pleasant excursion.

I liked the way the light was hitting the new foliage on these trees.

NewLeavesTreesByLake

Farther down the path, I spotted these lovely wildflowers.

BunchOfWildflowers

Humans weren’t the only ones out. Mommy duck and her babies were hanging out in the shade looking for food as the day got hotter.

DuckMommy

Next Time: Milk

Yes, milk. June is Dairy Month, and I was a Midwestern 4-H kid for 10 years (no, I didn’t have any animals, not even a cat at the time). This means I spent the entire month of June promoting dairy like crazy for 10 years straight. I’ve never quite forgotten it.


Waterfall Hike

I’d planned it to be much more. A few days of vacation to take from work that month were supposed to be a long weekend for two parks and an architecture shoot. It rained until the last day. Fortunately, that last day was a great one. Sunny, not too hot, and enough rain to make falls that aren’t always there flow steady. Dad came with and managed to haul all his gear (he shoots 4X5 film) up and down long staircases and around waterfalls through steep and narrow trails.

In the morning, we only saw a few smaller falls.

SmallFallsAndFlowers

My research on the park paid off for our afternoon hike. Two more out of the way canyons with three waterfalls total.

LaSalleCanyon TontyFalls

Also some lovely rock formations. One almost looks like a person emerging from a cave.

RockWall RockMan

Next Time:
Camera or Necklaces


Hiking the Dunes

Earlier this month, my family and I took a trip to Michigan. Dad and I went to explore and photograph Sleeping Bear Dunes for a day. Dunes are new to me. I’m used to hiking in woodlands or prairies with black dirt and limestone.

TreesFallenAndStandingSandTreeAndShrubs BirchOnTrail

Dad, on the other hand, grew up near the beach and close enough to a different set of dunes in southwestern Michigan. He takes to them both like second nature – skipping stones and scaling dunes despite the wind.

DadOnDune LakeRocks

We spent most of the morning and early afternoon scouting out the place, then came back to some of the more interesting spots later in the day. This is particularly important for Dad, since he shoots 4X5 and has a lot of gear to haul.

TreesOnBeachEveningTreesOnBeach

Eventually, he settled on an old Coast Guard station and museum in the area. I took a few pictures of the place as well.

LoneTreeAndLake RoofAndWindow Stairs

Overall, we had a good long day out. I hope to go back and explore it some more next year.

Next Time: Waterfalls

Photos from the expedition to Starved Rock.


Spring Wildflowers

Spring is here! I’ve been out shooting wildflowers the past couple weekends. Several years ago around this time, I did a post on the wildflowers in a local forest preserve. Recently, I noticed it was about the same time of year, and I decided I wanted to go photograph them again. The ground was thick with several varieties. Due to the wind and small size of my subjects, I used a macro lens and a higher ISO, but no tripod. My tripod doesn’t go very low and the wind would negate many of its benefits. These are always tough subjects, but I love them anyway.

ClosingFlower dutchmansbreeches MaybeButtercup TinyWhiteFlower ToothwortAndBee WhiteTroutLily

Next Time: Archive Club Shoot

The warmer weather means more to do, so I will be a little busy the next couple of weeks. Because of that, I will post some older pictures I took at the local photo club’s table top night back in January.


Spring Beginnings

Spring is coming ever so slowly. Kind of like this post. Fortunately, there are some signs of spring about, especially in the local forest. I even found a little snake, but of course I prefer the wildflowers.

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Tulip Season

The one or two weeks a year that tulips bloom in my corner of the world have come! I always loved looking into their centers and seeing all the various parts of the flower, but I’ve come to accept that the side view illuminated by a low sun has a surreal kind of beauty.

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Next Week: Abstract or Phone


Barking Up the Wrong Tree?

I hope I’m not barking up the wrong tree with this post. May is high time for some nature photography, but the only flowers out right now are small and the weather isn’t conducive to macro photography. So, I photographed bark. Don’t quit on me yet, I found some unusual examples. Promise.

This rough yet somewhat orderly old tree trunk is shrouded in a kind of green lichen. I love the color. It really gives the whole tree a surreal quality.

greenbark

Near the base of the same tree, there is this cute Shamrock shape.

Shamrock

It looks like there’s been some controlled burning in the woods. Most of the bark fell off of this tree, leaving some charred remnants and unusual marbled patterns. What shapes do you see?

burnttree

 

marbledtree

Closer to home, I found this small tree trunk with a coral-looking lump of lichen growing on it. Since it was pretty still, I did a little macro lens practice.

Lichen

And just incase you wanted to see for sure, this is about where most of our flowers are.

greenbuds

 

leafinprogress

Next Time: Flowers or That Awesome Old Phone

 

 


Pink Spring

It never occurred to me before, but a lot of the plants in our yard have pink flowers:

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Next Time: Shiny

Time to photograph more reflective metal. It looks good in portfolios.


Easter Baskets

Easter baskets. Probably everyone who celebrated Easter as a kid got one at least once. Most are made of plastic or wicker and are about six inches in diameter. For me, however, an Easter basket is something a bit different.

When I was little, my grandma used to make my sister and I crochet or plastic canvas Easter baskets every year. Some were quite small, others were a bit larger. One of mine doesn’t have a handle. She would fill them with Easter grass, a couple of plastic eggs, chocolate, and maybe even a small toy of some sort. As kids, we were always excited to get our baskets, mostly because we wanted to see what Grandma had made us that year. All the stuff inside was nice, but the basket itself was the big deal. Eventually, Grandma’s arthritis got bad enough that she could no longer make the Easter baskets. I still have mine, all of them. They make wonderful Easter decorations, by themselves, or trying my limited floral arranging skills, with flowers.

This is the last Easter basket my grandma made for me. Overall, I think it has the most elegant shape.

Next Time: Security

I decided I need to practice my indoor photography skills.


Awakening

Spring came early to my little corner of the world. Temperatures were in the 70-80 degree range last week, which is unheard of for March. The cold will come back, but for now we’re enjoying the nice weather. Spring is in the air. The first flowers are up and everything else is budding.

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Jewelry: What is it to You?

Sometimes, jewelry is symbolic of a belief, a hobby, a birth month, or a relationship. It is also given to commemorate special occasions. Here are a few pieces and the stories they tell and bring to mind.

This old ring came to rest in my sister’s jewelry box after my mother found it in an older jewelry box she purchased at a thrift store. It is quite aged and makes me think of the passage of time and the marks it can leave. However, the ring remains decorative and pleasing. From a normal distance, you would never notice how scarred it is. I wonder who owned it before, how she got it, and what it ment to her.

My Aunt sent me this dragonfly necklace for my birthday during my sophomore year of college. I thought it was darling and proceeded to wear it the very next day – to my splicing test. Ah, filmschool rites of passage.

This last one may be the first piece of jewelry I ever owned, or at least I’ve had it as long as I can remember. I believe it was given to me for my baby dedication. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the idea, baby dedication is common in many evangelical Christian churches. Essentially, the parents bring their baby up to the front of the church and promise to do their best raising him/her. The pastor usually reminds the church they are to support the family and prays that God will bless the child. Pretty simple and short. Usually, this happens one baby at a time when the baby is a few weeks old. I recently found a piece of paper that informed me mine was not so. Apparently, I was dedicated on Easter with several other babies. I guess that explains the pretty flower in the center of my necklace?

Do you have any special jewelry that reminds you of an important event, concept, or time in your life?

Next Week: Shoes

Yes, I did just randomly decide on that. I want to do something different, and shoes have been on my mind for other reasons.


Exploring a State Park

Last week, I went out to explore a nearby state park. It’s much larger than the forest preserve I normally go to, so I wasn’t able to cover all of it. On the bright side, there’s more for another day. For the most part, it was your typical midwestern trees with the occasional flower, bug, or fungus. There is an unusually large piece of fungus decorated with tree leaves and seeds.

This dead tree had a particularly curvy shape. It was irresistible. It also had to be a black and white.

A river runs the length of the park and provides a nice scenic view, as well as a habitat for birds and other animals. Other animals like the mosquitos that had me for a late breakfast. I left my repellent at home thinking mosquito season hadn’t started yet. Bad idea.

Walking along one of the trails, I suddenly came upon this enclave of pine trees. A small group of conifers is surrounded by their deciduous cousins, making the spot out-of-place. If you look closely enough at the top of the cut off tree, you can see people’s names written on it. Such unnatural graffiti broke the otherworldly spell otherwise surrounding me.

Bark is also missing on some of the intact pines.

Likewise, the bottom of this tree is bare. Something is afoot.

Sometimes, one of the most interesting things about a preserve is how things just come down. How they sit and weather and age unmoved by humanity.

It was supposed to rain all afternoon, and it looked like it was going to haul off and drop several inches, so I began my trek back to the car. On the way back, I saw signs saying “No alcohol allowed in the park” and evidence that the signs were ignored. Naughty, naughty. But the bottle cap was pretty, and I have this weird artist thing about taking pictures of metal objects against pavement surrounded by natural objects. I try not to do it too often, mostly because it doesn’t make sense to me.

I plan to revisit the park someday when the weather is better and I have more time. I also plan to bring my bug spray. However, this wasn’t a bad first expedition. It’s always good for me to get out in the woods for a good long walk, even if it is mosquito season.

Next Week: Fireworks or Small Town Festival

Since the fireworks are part of the festival, I might post a little bit of both. We’ll see how it goes.


Unconventional Flowers

My apologies for the late post. Around 6pm yesterday as I was preparing to finnish the photos, my home was plunged into an uproar with tornado sirens going off and humans frantically trying to locate flashlights and kitties. The power came back on around 3pm this afternoon. Other than that, it was beautiful last week. Not many new flowers were out, and the ones that “made the grade” for my blog were not exactly what you think of when you hear the word flowers.

The blue spruce outside my window is unfurling for the spring. The new growth comes out of reddish-brown casings and is a lovely shade of green swirled up so the end looks semi-flower-like.

The dandelion, a common weed, produces the most magical looking fluff towards the end of its life cycle. Here, I used a macro lens to capture the detail.

As for other weeds, I was a horrible gardener and let this one grow in my shade garden because I wanted to see what it would look like when it bloomed. It paid me back by producing a lovely, yet unusual flower. The anthers seem to be attached to small petals rather than the normal stalk like structures on most flowers.

Lastly, these tiny flowers come from a red, thorny bush. I’ve passed those bushes many times without noticing the delicate ornaments. When I finally did see them, I had to wait for enough light to photograph them.

Sometimes there’s beauty in less than obvious places. Life is short, so take time to smell the roses, or whatever else you find out there.

Next Week: My First Camera

Since I’ve been threatening to do it for so long, I’m going to show you what my very first camera looks like. I may have a few others as well.


Indoor Abstracts

Last week, the weather was poor and I was in an odd mood. I felt inspirationally dry, so I decided to play a game, resulting in some less serious photographs. The rules of my game were as follows: all images were to be shot as if in monochrome, toning/split toning in Lightroom would later be used to enhance the feel of the image, photographs were to be of everyday objects in one room, objects should preferably not be easily recognizable in the final shot, normal object orientation was to be seen as a barrier to overcome.

This was the first object to grab my attention. The soft, round shapes and contrasting materials made me think of three things: a flower, ice cream in a cup, or some sort of mod-style architectural detail.

desk lamp

 
 
Next, there was this open end of an old clear glass vase that for some odd reason I saw as a horizontal with limited depth of field. I don’t know why. Anyway, the point of this exercise was to do what I felt like doing randomly. So I gave it a try.
 
 

 

For the third image, I went a bit more standard than the rules. The detail on my new lamp provided a symmetrical heart shape with some additional ornamentation. I found it hard to resist.

Lastly, I wondered about the bottom side of vases. I’ve photographed lots of them, but always right side up. This particular example had a flower shape on the bottom. The unrefined and scared glass bottom coupled with a purple tone reminded me of the photographs of uncut amethyst in science books.

I couldn’t do this every week. For one thing, it wouldn’t be adequate practice and skill building. It’s a break. A chance to let loose and do something different for once just as a creative exercise.

Next Week: Outdoors or First Camera

Depending on the weather, I’ll either shoot more of the natural world or give you a look at the first camera I learned to use.


Budding and Blooming

The world is finally getting ready for summer up north. About time. Our trees are no longer bare, and the flowers are starting to bloom. I love the leaves when they first break out of their tiny buds. They’re so fine and delicate, not to mention the unique hues they take at first.

The bleeding heart bushes are beginning to catch up with their wild counterparts. My fringed bush shows off her clusters of embryonic flowers amidst fragile foliage.

My mother’s more traditional pink bush is way ahead of mine. It displays arching tresses of hearts.

Now is the time to enjoy what we’ve been waiting for: to drink it in knowing more will come. For awhile, at least, it will be here, and then the seasons will turn again.

Next Week: Indoor Abstracts or Rainy Day and Water Drops

The first would be a creative exercise in how I look at objects and how lighting and color affect form. The second would be trying to make something most people don’t like look good. Both have interesting potential.


Flowers: Domestic and Wild

It’s spring in the midwest. Rains pour frequently, and when it’s sunny, winds still blow. The first flowers are finally out. In my yard, the daffodils unfold for spring, brining their bright yellow hue to the rain and clouds around us. A welcome contrast.

In the woods, there are also flowers. Untamed by man, nature’s wild charms adorn an otherwise plain scene. These small yellow flowers are about the size of your thumbnail.

Slightly larger white wildflowers grow in clumps around trees.

Nearby, the ground is covered with strange leafy vegetation. Yet there is something oddly familiar about those leaves. The flowers tell all. These plants appear to be the wild cousin of my beloved bleeding heart bush. However, their flowers look a bit more like butterflies than hearts sometimes.

These wildflowers are out in bloom before most of their tame counterparts, daring the snow and frost and showing the strength of their beauty. They are proof that wild beauty is natural and tough.

Next Week: Vases 2

Time to get back to indoor shots. As I mentioned last week, someone I know would like a couple of vases photographed.


Looking Back and Looking Forward

I was going to do log monsters this week, but the more I thought about it, the less I liked it. Recently, I’ve been backing up my photographs and watching the world outside my window slowly change and come alive with Spring. At the change of every season, I find myself looking forward to what will come, but also looking back with just as much anticipation. Back because the smells and images of last year and the many years before are deeply ingrained in my mind. Here’s some spring from my archives.

These tulips, hazy and glowing as my impressions of spring at home, were photographed last year not so far from my dorm room at school. Being a busy senior, I rarely had time to stop and smell the flowers. It’s not the same emotional attachment I have for my own plants back home, but they were flowers. They were shadows the ones at home. And today I saw our tulips pushing through the ground.

Something I won’t see this spring are the flowering trees I became accustomed to during my college years in the South. They seemed too charming for an institutional campus. Sticks suddenly bushed up into bright ornaments showering us with little blossoms. It’s only now that I begin to miss them.

One odd thing about the plants at college: most plants I found familiar were hidden away in the far reaches of campus. Roses, classic and beautiful flowers, were far behind dorms and other buildings.

Looking back farther, I remember the last time I was at home with my plants. Soon I will smell the lilac again, soon I will feel the grape hyacinth, and soon I will see (and photograph) the iris. I am so impatient. But it’s never to early to start weeding, so maybe that will keep me busy in the meantime.

  

Next Week: Liquid Experiments or Old Camera

Man, what having your wisdom teeth out will do to your blog! I thought I’d get over this faster. Anyway, a new week, a new challenge. I’m still curious about what food coloring dropping into water would look like, so I’m going to do some experiments along that line. If it doesn’t work out, I’m thinking box camera or perhaps something more interesting. We’ll see what Dad lets me borrow. For midweek updates, follow me on Twitter!  http://twitter.com/#!/MyCameraFriend


Early Spring

After months of waiting in the snow, Spring is finally coming over us. Though the leaves are not yet on the trees, I started to think about going for a long walk with my camera. Seriously thinking about it that is, it’s been in my mind all winter. Just yesterday, I mentioned my thoughts to my father, who as fate would have it, also wanted to go out. I loaded up my DSLR and tripod, and he loaded up his 4″X5″ and tripod. There we were, hauling our gear around a forest preserve practicing two very different styles of photography. I shot what interested me while he patiently hiked around the park looking for one thing to shoot that day (he only had two sheets of film left.) It was a great day to be out. The small stream in the forest was thawed and running with melt off.

Throughout the forest, we saw evidence of tree trimming along the path and what looked like some sort of controlled burn. Must be maintenance time for the trails.

Eventually, we ended up back where we started. I was drawn to an old dead tree covered in lichen. It had a combination of shape and texture I had to check out.

Dad was drawn to a still-standing old oak tree he’d spotted when we first arrived. Eventually, I came over to see what was going on in his photographic genius mind and practice being an assistant. Watching him, I couldn’t help but think I should revisit his kind of photography. The discipline and precision of old-fashioned 4″x5″ view camera photography mandates careful thought, an exercise I could use to keep me from getting lazy. I’d have to scan it for the blog, but it may be worth it.

Next Week: The Log Monsters

Due to my unusual schedule this week, I’m going to do a part two of sorts for next week. While out in the woods, I found some logs that looked like unfriendly animals. Since the log monsters wouldn’t really go with the tone of this post, I decided to save them for next week. I know, I was just talking about being lazy, but trust me, there are extenuating circumstances.