Sunday, January 31, 2010

Suicide kings and queens

Really, that's what these guys and gals are. Today my daughter,son,and I attended the 105th Norge Ski Jump Tournament in Fox River Grove. It was a spectacular sight seeing these jumpers ages 9 up to, I believe, about 40 jumping off this huge ramp. Most of the competitors were from Russia, Finland, Poland and Canada, but there were a good number of Americans, also. This event is part of the process of getting to the Olympics even though todays events were not due to the teams have been decided for the upcoming games. There were several former Olympic Champions there today, though. It was a perfect day to attend with clear blue skies and temps about 22F. No major wipeouts(which I was kind of looking for, you know, like the opening of Wide World of Sports)but still alot of fun watching them do there takeoff and stick the landing.  I was also amazed that the skiers walk the hill back up after their jumps.  No lifts to bring them back up.  Incredible.


Saturday, January 30, 2010


Its taken me a few days but I finally got it done. Earlier in the week, on a really "brisk" day, I was driving past a farm in the middle of nowhere when I saw two horses jumping up and down and running pretty hard in their enclosure. Of course, I pull over to check 'em out, camera in hand. They put on a pretty good show playing with each other, one of them even stopping to just roll around in the snow. Pics turned out pretty good, although, the snow coming down made some of the exposures a little goofy. Still, I'll take some good "wildlife" pics with snow falling anyday over just a hazy overcast dull day. I made a little video of the shots I got. You can watch it here or if your computer is having a hard time, you can also go here. It seems the pics are sharper on YouTube:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Change of mind

I spoke to several of my regular viewers of my posts today so today's shot will surprise them since it is not at all what I was planning on posting.  So, just so you know, I didn't forget.  I just got a nice shot tonight.  Its an HDR photo.  High Dynamic Range.  I take 3 shots of the same scene, one correct exposure, one underexposed, and one overexposed.  I then combine the 3 photos to create one shot that allows you to see more detail.  Today's planned post will just find its way to the blog another day.  I must admit I had alot of fun taking photos of this scene with the snow coming down.  And the light at early sunset was nice.  The dream shot would have been of the nice big buck I saw standing in the field with the snow falling on him.  Unfortunately, he didn't cooperate with what I considered a photo opportunity for him.  So we got some trees, a stream, and a bridge instead.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


To me, yesterday and today were pretty darn cold.   These two were sitting on the edge of an ice covered river with light snow falling on them.  I guess its all how you look at it.  While I'm sitting in my warm car with a cup of coffee I think "Man, its cold and miserable out".  They think. "It could be worse.  There's nothing chasing us the moment".  Perspective.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fly Like an Eagle

This weekend we experienced the rare Jan temps of mid 40's.  Perfect day on Sunday to head over to Starved Rock State Park and check out the "herds" of eagles that make their way their every January/February.  My daughter and I went last year and were amazed at the number of eagles flying around and enjoyed the park very much.  This year, she didn't feel like going so I went solo.  She must have had a premonition or something because, unfortunately, this was an off year, or at least an off January for the birds.  Evidently, I learned, they are enjoying moderate temps and large food supplies farther north on the Mississippi, but they will probably show up there in February this year. I did get to see one lone eagle.  No good shots though.  So, instead of letting a warm, drizzly January day go to waste I went on a couple of hikes through several of the state parks in the area. I learned that the area has an amazing number of waterfalls on the sides of the bluffs dotting the area.  It was really quite beautiful.  And since the warm temps have been here for awhile now, many of the usually frozen over waterfalls had large amounts of water spilling over their icey base.  A little bit different experience than just a plain waterfall.  I also learned that at this time of year you're not fighting the normal crowds of people piled into one viewing spot.  For that matter, you're not even limited to viewing from the viewing spots. I was able to sneak off the trail to get up close and personal with the bluffs overlooking the Illinois River.  Here are some shots of the day.  Another thing I learned is that it is difficult to get good shots of frozen waterfalls since the water flowing over them kind of blends in.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Up a tree

After several postings of our white, cold winter I'm gonna go back to a time when it was warmer.  About 4 months ago to be exact.  Warm enough to just hang out in a tree.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Powdered Sugar

It's hard to describe the look of the landscape around here over the last few days.  I guess......everything has a powdered sugar look.  You just want to reach out and grab a spoonful.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Fog???? January????

As part of the strange weather we've had here this week, we also had fog.  This morning was in the mid 20's, but still I found heavy patches of dense fog.  Here's a shot of a small river/stream that really showed off the scene.  Not much writing tonight.  I have to get ready for a webinar.  It's part of one on my resolutions for 2010, to try and get more "formal" education on the skill of photography(for those of you keeping me honest).

Monday, January 18, 2010


Yes, we have been experiencing the beautiful "Szron" here in upper Illinois for the last two days.  In English, we've been experiencing "hoar frost".  That was the Polish word for it above.  In any language, it is quite beautiful to see.  And surprisingly, we don't see it here all that often.  Sometimes once or twice a year.  We've had a solid 48 hours of "hoar frost" with a possible day or two more to come.  According to Wikipedia,Hoar frost is the tiny solid deposition of water vapor from saturated air which occurs when the temperature of the surfaces is below freezing point. It occurs generally with clear skies.  That makes sense since this time of year around here is normally quite dry, but right now there is alot of moisture in the air, moderate temps and a chance of rain on Wednesday.  Now you can go to bed tonight knowing you learned something new.  At least I can.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

You spin me 'round....

Continuing on with desires for greener and warmer times, i.e. summer, here's a shot from the local carnival during 4th of July week.  Taking pictures of such rides is as close as I want to get.  The Evilbear's stomach gets queasy just watching the ride.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Wishing for greener days

Even though I really pretty much like winter,I found myself wishing for the long,warm days of summer the last few days.  Just seems like too much time is spent indoors during winter, but that's probably my own fault.  So I went into the vault and viewed some of my pics from last summer.  This is one that I don't think I paid much attention to when I first took it, but as I was looking through my pics I found myself pausing longer on this one than others.  In fact, I went back for another look.   This one is definitely an example that anyone can take a nice photograph with any equipment as long as you have a good subject.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Sun Power

In honor of the fact it seems like its been since last year since we last saw the sun, I made sure I got some shots yesterday.  Hey, one day of sun is better than none.  So, here comes the sun.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Look out for gangs of 4 showing their colors

This is a scene I didn't expect to come across in my nice safe neck of the suburbs.  Yes, gang activity.  I evidently ended up in an area that was already staked out, somebody else's turf.  Their colors were proudly on display.   I could see they were not happy with me being there.  Even without seeing any gang symbols and hand gestures, I knew the best thing to do would be to turn around and leave the way I came.  So I did.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Before Sunrise

This shot was taken when their was just enough light to see that there were even trees out in the field. The skies to the west were a light hazy blue since the sun wasn't above the tree line yet.   I think the nice blue tone also comes from the fact it was about 10 degrees below 0.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Eye Level

One of the principle rules in photography is to try and get to eye level when photographing kids and animals.  Not always easy to do.  Here's a shot where I was able to.  But, I think the real stunner would have been if someone got a picture of me crawling on my the snow.....trying to keep my camera dry....without spooking the bunny.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Wild Wednesday

It would be nice to have a weekly version of today's post.  Unfortunately, these opportunities don't happen often enough.  I don't know if its the cold spell we've been in or just the time of year, but there was alot of wildlife out today.  All were looking for food, of course.  The hawk sat still for about 1 minute, just enough time to catch a shot or two.  The coyote, he didn't care who was around.  He was busy burying his nose in the snow looking for moles and mice.  The deer, also, didn't mind me being near them as they were busy working the tree line.  The ducks were the lucky ones thanks to a lady with a bag of bird food.



Monday, January 4, 2010

Beam Me Up

Wasn't planning on posting today.  Worked all day, dentist appt. for kids and I in a few minutes.  Putting away Christmas stuff tonight.  BUT, on my way home tonight (driving west) there was a spectacular sunset.  I pulled over in a subdivision and snapped away.  Even though the pictures turned out o.k., I think the actual sight of seeing it off in the distance was more impressive.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Flying away from the cold

Why do some ducks and geese leave during winter and some don't?  If I could just pick up and fly away for 3-4 months at this time of year I would.  And I'd send you a card.  Here's three geese that stuck around and took off into the warmth of the sun.

Friday, January 1, 2010

My New Year's resolutions

I gave up on New Year's resolutions a long time ago when I......I guess I just got real and realized that they didn't work for me. But, in my quest for photographic growth I am willing to try again.  So here I go.  Remember, these are just my resolutions for photography, not my personal life since I'm really don't need to make any changes there(heh, heh, heh).
  1. Continue to open my eyes to different ways to view the environment around me.  With my focus on landscapes, I tend to look at things with a large perspective/scene instead of seeing the details within the scene.  As I peruse photography sites and other blogs, I am amazed at the pictures captured by other amateurs that focus on the smaller, more detailed subjects right in front of our eyes, or lenses.  I plan to capture some of those subjects.
  2. I read alot of magazines, books, webzines, blogs and other media.  I mean, I read alot. The trick is to take what you learn in all this material and apply it.  So often I read about something, I think it seems really cool to be able to do that, and then, never seem to break out of my comfort zone to try and accomplish what I learned. That will change this year.  An area that amazes me is a technique called "Light Painting".  Both my daughter and I absolutely love the imagery that can be created with a flashlight and total darkness and having a camera where the shutter can stay open for long periods of time.  I will definitely try my hand at "Light Painting" this year
  3. I recently purchased an external flash unit for my camera.  So far it has come out of my camera bag about 3 times.  The 3 times I have used it, I have not liked my results.  It comes down to the typical expecting great results from something you have no idea how to use.  I must, this year, make a concerted effort to learn more about low light/flash photography.  Once again, I see remarkable results from others using lesser equipment than I have(and possibly less knowledge), but have made the effort to use and experiment with their equipment to learn how to use it. 
  4. The next resolution is in regards to equipment.  So far, I have scrambled, scrimped, and saved my pennies to put together a pretty good outfit of equipment to do what I love.  This next year I need to expand the equipment list to some minor pieces(especially for flash photography), and some major items such as an ultrawide angle lens.  All of my equipment is usually paid for thru selling something else I have, trading equipment, earning monies from other side projects like online surveys, or birthday and Christmas presents.  I will need to step this up this next year if I am going to meet this goal.  The wheels are already turning.
  5. I definitely need to get some organized training.  In the last year, I have definitely learned that it would be most helpful to, even if for only one day, have a trained "professional" along side me to ask questions of.  We've all been there.  We read about doing something.  We then try to accomplish something ourselves based on what we learned.  Then, we fail, or we at least have 10 more questions about what we were trying to accomplish.  Step #1 of this goal is to find a local camera or photography club to join and see where that takes me.  The next step will be to find a photo workshop in the area.  Those generally are not cheap.  But, good education is usually not free.
  6. Many of you know I went on my photo journey this fall to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  A most wonderful time it was and I came back with alot of pics and alot of experience.  I need to do it again this year.  Maybe twice.  Not necessarily back to Michigan, or maybe it will be.  I have ideas in my head of when and where I want to go, but I'll keep those quiet until I decide more.
  7. Once again, I have generally focused on landscape photography.  But, I always marvel at the portraiture pics I see online on some websites.  Stuff people do at home, in their basement, or in their backyard.  Once again, lesser equipment than what I have.  I believe it,again, comes down to effort and leaving your comfort zone.  Lord knows, I've got two great subjects here in the house(kids) and  even a dog and cat to practice on.  Get ready for the dog and cat shots everyone.  This may even include "street photography", capturing people you come across in everyday life in everyday situations..  Hard for me to approach strangers and ask to take their pic, but from everything I read and have experienced slightly, most everyone is agreeable to having their pic taken.  My mother- in- law aside.(I swear she's running from the law.)
  8. Get more prints made and hung on the wall to share with others.  So many of my favorite shots are still in their holding cell(computer) screaming to be viewed on a regular basis.  Needs to be
  9. Continue involving my kids in my hobby.  So far my daughter has shown interest in photography(actually into the YouTube video stuff every kid is into now).  Even if she doesn't share the same exuberance I do right now, I know if I keep her involved somewhat she make decide someday that its her calling.  Hey, it happens.  I read about it on the internet.  And even if it doesn't, I know in the last year I've spent some special time with each of my kids when we've just went out to take some pictures. Good times, good times.
  10. Continue feeling the pressure to progress and get better.  In other words, have fun.  Believe it or not, this is my kind of fun.  Its my way to unwind, relax, and recoup.  Its my martini. Sometimes I have my martini at 5 a.m. and sometimes at 11 p.m.  And I can have my martini almost anywhere I want.  The pressure I feel to get better is good pressure since it is self imposed.  It's not job pressure.  It's not family pressures.  And no, it's not peer pressure, either. It's similar to the pressure felt to finish a jigsaw puzzle.  You want to see how it turns out.  That's fun. 
So that's it.  My New Year's Resolutions.  If I accomplish these 10, I have no doubt I will have had a successful 2010, at least on the photography side of things.  O.K., so on to the cat pics.(Just kidding)