Sunday, July 31, 2011

A day late

I woke up this morning putting a plan together for the day and deciding if I wanted to or even could get out today to get some shots.  And then it hit me.  I think I went through the whole month of July, a, for the most part, a beautifully sunny month with wonderful sunsets, without posting a single sunset.  Now, some are maybe thankful for that since sunset pics overrun the web, but for the amount of sunsets I see and photograph at the lake it would be just wrong for me not to post at least one from July. So, here's one from this last weekend when we went for an evening after dinner cruise with some friends.  Just a wonderful night to be on the water.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Shared my lunch with a friend

Yesterday, I stopped at a spot along the Fox River to eat my lunch( a homemade sliced chicken breast sandwich, some pickles, and a banana- yum, yum) and found I had a visitor in front of me doing the same thing.  Except his/hers was fish.  I took a break from stuffing my face and went into stalker mode.  Here are the results:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

A New Toy

Some of the most dramatic photos I see when looking at photo sites are those of lightning. Most of the pics are just lucky shots.  But some, some are really cool and they have a direct correlation with the photographer trying to catch the perfect shot of lightning.  I've ventured out into the storm before and caught some pretty neat shots.  Its not super difficult.  Just chase the storm(at night), set up your camera on a tripod, point it at the direction of the lightning, and then either by remote control or using your finger push the shutter button and hold it open until you've seen some flashes of lightning.  Alot of trial and error involved.  Not to mention......danger.  Standing next to metal tripod legs holding an electrical device.  And then you have the possibility of rain coming down on your gear.  I recently learned of a device called a lightning trigger that makes things better with all the above.  It mounts on top of my camera, and the second it sees/senses a change in light/exposure it snaps a picture.  Kind of like a remote control but take out the human element which is a problem due to the speed of a bolt of lightning.  I ordered the trigger last week and have been dying to receive it since this has been the summer of storms.  Big storms.  With lots of thunder.....and lightning.  I finally received it yesterday and has luck would have it, we some booming storms last night.  I found myself explaining to the wife at 10:00 last night that I needed to go over by the lake and start taking pics.  Of course, she was not to happy and of course I still went.  It was my first night using my new toy and being in the dark it was a little difficult learning to use.  But, the benefits for future outings are numerous.  I already know that in the future:  I can shoot lightning during the day instead of just at night since the trigger senses a change in exposure and I don't have to hold the shutter open and wait for a strike.  I could, if I wanted, take a nap while my camera and trigger are shooting away at lightning daggers.  And perhaps the best part, I can lift my hatch on my van, setup my tripod and mount the camera inside the van, and let my gear go to work from the comfort and SAFETY of my van while keeping my gear dry. Here is one of the shots I got last night.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Reflecting Pool

Coming home from work today I took some of the backroads that I haven't been on for awhile.  You never know what might have changed since the last time you traveled through an area.  I found a welcome sight in late afternoon of a sunny hot day.  Sandhill cranes are around but a rare sight, at least for me.  I have seen them, but usually early morning either alone or in pairs.  I'm not even sure if that's what these guys are.  But, if not, I have no clue what type of bird it is.  The ones I've seen in the past are not usually as colorful as these guys/gals are. I know its hard to see, but they all had like a bright red mask around their eyes and abundant reddish color on their bodies.  They were standing in a reflective pool of water in a field leftover from the heavy rains this last weekend.   A rare sight around here to see this group.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Thumbs up!

Here it is, the last day of my vacation. My wife was also off this week.  No great family trip or anything.  Just alot of catching up around the house and doing some family day trips around the area and spending time with family and friends that we don't get to see enough.  With a perfect swimming/boating lake 3 blocks from the house, it doesn't make it as necessary to go far away. The weather cooperated with some of the hottest temperatures we've seen in years and has even helped ease us back into work mode by throwing in some stormy weather at the end. The "car that floats on water"(boat) got a heavy workout, enough that my kids don't even cry, too much, when I toss them off the tube on the lake.  Spent a day at a water park that we've talked about going to for years.  Kind of made me feel foolish never having gone there before since we all had a great time.  So, I got to get ready to switch gears and make sure  my work clothes are laid out, my laptop and cell phone are charged, my work plans are in place for Monday, etc.  It feels like the night before the first day of school.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Brotherly Love

I finally went through the last bunch of pics from my trip to Chicago last week.  As mentioned in a previous post, one of the highlights of the trip was Millennium Park. As some people know, I was not a huge fan of the park, but it did have its redeeming qualities.  The best of, I think, being the water towers spraying water down on the children.  I probably spent most of my time in the park at this area.  I was able to sit back and observe the action and then capture the action mainly because of my new lens, the Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS.  Many of you will not know what any of that means, but it is a killer lens.  I also added a Sigma 1.4x extender that gives means more reach.  In other words, I was able to take nice shots from a distance without getting my gear wet and not interfering with what I was shooting.  Tonight I'm showing a series of shots of a brother and his sister enjoying this area of the park.  I was amazed with the care I saw this boy showing to his sister.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

We all scream....

The local park district sponsors a movie night at the beach each month and before the movie there is an ice cream eating contest.  The kids and I attended and the kids entered the contest.  Unfortunately, because of a glitch in the system, Ashley was not able to participate in this one. But, Derek put his best foot, er, mouth forward. There are few things in life better than seeing a bunch of kids getting brain freeze at different points in the competition.  Seriously, you actually have to sign a waiver in order for the kids to participate.  Too funny.  Even though Derek is a fierce competitor when it come to ice cream eating, he was beaten out by a young girl who couldn't have weighed as much as triple scoop ice cream cone.  She was a machine. And to be honest, he didn't get a fair shake.  Through the luck of the draw, his ice cream flavor was rainbow sherbert.  Tough one to handle in competition The best part, though, is we have to have alot of practice nights at home for the August competition.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

"Bean" me up, Scotty

One of the major features of Millennium Park is a sculpture/structure called Cloud Gate or I often hear it referred to as "The Bean"  Here's brief description of it from the Millennium Park website:

Cloud Gate is British artist Anish Kapoor's first public outdoor work installed in the United States.

The 110-ton elliptical sculpture is forged of a seamless series of highly polished stainless steel plates, which reflect Chicago’s famous skyline and the clouds above. A 12-foot-high arch provides a "gate" to the concave chamber beneath the sculpture, inviting visitors to touch its mirror-like surface and see their image reflected back from a variety of perspectives.

Inspired by liquid mercury, the sculpture is among the largest of its kind in the world, measuring 66-feet long by 33-feet high. 
Hope that helps since I still don't really know what it is.  But, you can get some cool reflections off of it which is what I attempted to shoot, a nice shot of part of the Chicago Skyline.  And if you look really closely at the center of the picture towards the back you can see the reflection of some joker from the suburbs holding his camera up and getting the shot. 

Friday, July 15, 2011

Color Splash

Continuing with my series from my trip to Chicago, tonight's post is a shot of two boys playing in the water from the twin towers constantly spilling over onto the kids.  Two things caught my eye with this shot:  the two were contently watching others having fun in the water and the colors that were reflecting off the ground water.  I thought it was a pretty cool shot.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Glamour Shots

As I mentioned in last night's post, I had an opportunity to spend the day in Chicago with the photography club I belong to.  It was a really fun experience.  At first I thought I might be just a chaperone since the average age of the club is over 65, but, no, I actually was able to bring my camera and shoot.  The day was made possible by joining another camera club out of Schaumburg.   They had chartered a bus and had room for up to 15 members of our club. For a grand total of $30.00 a person, the day included bus to Chicago that left Schaumburg at 10:00 am, several hours at Lincoln Park Zoo, then several hours down around the Chicago River and Wacker Drive for architectural shots, 3 hours at Millennium Park,  several hours at Navy Pier, and then off to either the Planetarium or Buckingham Fountain to shoot sunset pics of the city and then trip back to Schaumburg at 9:30 pm.  Oh yeah, the $30.00 included lunch, snacks, endless supply of bottled water and a driver who made sure we were taken care of and nobody got left behind.  People, I don't know if you know this or not, but, if I made that trip myself, it would have been probably close to $200 bucks when you look at everything involved.  It was truly a great deal.  We had a glorious day of 92 degree temps, even by the lake, with plenty of sunshine.  For the people that know me, this was an opportunity since in my almost 25 years here in Chicagoland, the only place of the aforementioned places that I had ever been was to Navy Pier and I think that was at night for an December.  So I brought plenty of memory cards and shots away.  Around 600 shots worth.  How many were keepers?  I don't know yet.  I'm still sifting through my shots.  But, I think I got several to share and several that would make good wall art.  This day was really needed to play with some of my new equipment.  I must say that all the reading of reviews and studying photography sites online and photography magazines to pick the right equipment paid off since pretty much everything I bought to replace my stolen gear was exactly what I hoped it would be.  The shots I am posting tonight I think are testaments to the lenses I bought.  I don't think I could have gotten these with my previous gear.   Here we go:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Been a long time in between posts.  I apologize, but it really wasn't my fault.  A storm whipped through here Monday morning and really did a number on the area.  Over 800,000 homes without power.  Nada. Zilch.  We lost power Monday morning about 8:00 a.m.  and it just returned around 9:00 tonight.  What was worse than not having power was the fact that I did an absolutely wonderful photo trip on Sunday with the local photography club I belong to into the city on Sunday for an all day photo shoot.  I came home Sunday with over 600 shots to go over but was too bushed to play with them.  I planned on doing it Monday.  Unfortunately, power went out before I had a chance and I'm seeing my pics tonight for the first time.  Anyway, tonight's post is from Millennium Park in Chicago.  Inside the park there is a feature called the Crown Fountain.  There are two 50 foot tall glass block towers that spew water out and the kids can stand under the water.  The day I went it was around 90 degrees so you know there were a lot of kids around.  It was a really neat place.  I'll be posting more pics from my trip over the coming days.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Christmas in July

The month of July has started off somewhat like an only dreamed about Christmas.  I've been shopping for some new photo gear and its been arriving steadily and I should be pretty well outfitted once again very soon.  The following pics are basically a hodge podge of me trying out a few new lenses and such over the last few days.  The good thing about getting new equipment is it was a long holiday so I had time to play.  The bad thing was I didn't have the things I normally have and know how to use, therefore, I wasn't as prepared for events such as fireworks.  Unfortunately, I realized I was missing a key piece of equipment for my tripod only when I was about to set up and take some fireworks pics.  So, no mess of fireworks pics this year.  But, I did get some carnival shots, and some beach shots, and a shot of my son in his karate class.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

This is what happens when you try to pinch pennies

One of our family pets is a 13 year old dog named Rhiannon.  She's all of 5 pounds and most of that is her beautiful black coat of fur.  That beautiful black coat was overdue for a trimming so this week I took her into the groomer for a haircut.  I should say I took her to "A" groomer.  I decided to try a different groomer this time thinking I might save a few "pennies".  Below, you will see what can happen.  When I brought her in they asked, "1/2 inch?".  I said yeah, sounds good.  Little did I know they meant cut down to 1/2 inch while I'm thinking cut off 1/2 inch.  Now, over the years we've used probably a half dozen groomers and I've never had a problem with her haircut since she is a Pomeranian with a pretty standard Pomeranian coat of fur. They have a distinctive cut.  If you've ever watched the Westminster dog show, you'll know what I mean.  Even before we ever had pomeranians I had a good idea of what they look like.  Evidently, this groomer did not.  I went to pick her up and I could see them bringing her upfront.  Except, I was looking at what I thought was a kitten.  As they got closer, I could see this was no kitten.  This was my dog who once had a beautiful shiney coat of fur.  They saw my jaw drop and started asking me if everything was o.k.  I was like, "What happened?"  They were like, "What do you mean?" I explained my expectations and they were shocked that I misunderstood them.  They even tried to joke by yelling to the back, "Get her fur out of the wet/dry vac.  We need to reattach it."  I paid the fee and left still in awe of what they had did.  Now, comes the bigger issue. Showing her to my children wife.  This was not going to be pleasant.  It was a long 10 minute drive home. I got home and my wife saw her and just walked away.  A minor victory for the moment.  My daughter comes in the room.  She totally breaks down in a sobbing, tearful mess. (11 year old girls can really bring on the drama).  I mean absolute sobbing.  My son comes in and sees her.  He didn't show alot of reaction except a little smirk like a little boy might show with a science experiment that goes horribly wrong.
Eventually, everyone calmed down.  My wife was more accepting than I thought she would be.  My daughter got over her initial reaction quickly.  And I kind of like it.  Rhiannon is liking it herself since I'm sure it is unbelievably cooler in this heat.  Our 12 pound cat seems to be having the hardest adjustment time.  Every time they pass each other, Simba, the cat, has to do a double take. Below are before and after shots.  The before was taken just a week ago.  Finally, to add insult to injury, this haircut cost more than any other she has gotten.  Must've been the extra cutting they felt necessary.