Sunday, December 30, 2012

It's still the holiday season

One of the highlights of the holidays for me and my family is checking out the light displays some people put up around here.  What a bunch of crazies.  I mean, I would never.......let's move on.  During our Christmas Eve travels to family, we are informed of an incredible display that was on our way home.  Kids didn't want to stop due to wanting to be asleep when Santa arrives, but we coaxed them into a 2 minute stop(yeah, right).  2 minutes turned into 25 minutes only because it was so worth it.  An absolutely incredible display.  We were told it was the Disneyland of lights and it was.  So much so that it warranted a second trip there a few nights later with other family members.  Over 250,000 lights all set to music that ran through the car radio.  197 channels of lights which means there are 197 different configurations of lighting.  And on top of it, every other night its a totally different set of songs and dancing lights.  Definitely the 8th wonder.  We start January 2nd trying to best them here in Crystal Lake.  You can see video of part of the show at 
See if you can see Santa directing the music in the window just to the left of center.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

It's the end of the world, as we know it

No no, that was last week.  But, in a few days its the end of the year, the year 2012, as we know it.  This is the time of year I try to make sure all my photos are in their proper place and backed up properly.  Should be done more often, but, this is when it happens.  At the same time, I go through and try to find the "best of" for the year.  I admit, I was driving around this week worrying if I was going to have much of a selection of "best of" pics.  Almost anyone attempting anything somewhat creative feels their own self doubt and can be their harshest critics. Add on top of it, the fact that I did not shoot quite as much this year(or at least it was more in spurts with dry spells in between). So, the other day, I sat down and started with January.  It is always fun to go through each and every month.  It reminds you that you really did more than watch every episode of Survivor and/or American Idol.  You really got out and did some stuff.  And it gives you a head start on what you want to plan for the new year. I continued on through each month, pulling copies out of the pictures I liked the most.  I then went through each of the ones I pulled and whittled that number down another 10-15%.  What I found is that I was quite pleased with number of photos I had left.  I'm not sure if it was the quality of the photos that made me keep them, or the times, places, and/or events I was shooting.  Either way, the photos I kept for the year end review had some meaning to "me", and therefore, are part of 2012's best.

Monday, December 17, 2012


After looking back on the biannual beatdown of the Bears by the Green Bay Packers, it was a bittersweet day.  On the high side, my beloved Packers did their job, and left the Chicago Bears fans ready to move across the border to watch real football.  Really!  I'm not kidding.  I try to catch all the local sports TV and local sports radio around here especially on Mondays after a game, and I think today was the most negative and bitter I've ever heard the Chicago Bears fans.  So, that was a high point.  The low point was my kids are getting older.  Therefore, my 12 year old daughter isn't too "hip" with the "stand next to Packerman" picture I usually get twice a year and my 8 year old son has become a major Bears fan this year.  I know, shock and awe all the way around.  It truly saddens me.  I don't know what I did wrong.  But, I guess every kid steers down a wrongway path at some point.  All I can do is be there for him when reality sets in and the Bears are at home watching the Packers sweep through the playoffs.  He'll come around, I'm sure.  But that leads me to the 2nd low point.  He would not do his part in the twice yearly picture either.  So Packerman was left standing by himself this time.  Wait, there was another high point to the day.  With my son's new found love for football, I did find another partner to go out on Sundays, enjoy a nice lunch and few Bloody Mary's(or pops), and watch alot of football.  As much as I liked the Packer win, the highlight of the day was watching his eyes light up and smile on his face as we settled in to a booth at my favorite Sports pub and he saw the myriad of TV's on the wall, all showing football games.  It was two guys rooting for their own team, but sharing a love of the game, with some good natured ribbing during the event.  Pretty cool.  I have to go now.  I must find a way to replace all of his Bears ornaments on the tree with the Packers ornaments that USED to hang there.  Somehow, mine always seem to end up on the backside of the tree facing the wall.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Snoozy Snowflake

We had the privilege the other night of being in the audience for The Coventry Elementary School 2nd Grade production of  "Snoozy Snowflake".  Look out Broadway, cause you have a batch of stars coming your way in about 10-12 years. I don't think you'll be seeing the young boy in the blue shirt in the top row just left of center.  But, you never know.  Pardon the big watermark in the middle of the video.  This is what you get when you download trial software from the internet to convert video to a proper format.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Moonlight Dinner

Trust me, this wasn't on purpose.  But, it looks like the theme of the week is "moonlight".  That's because of the wonderful full moon with clear skies that we are enjoying around here.  This shot is one of those shots that if I would have been two minutes sooner, I think it would have been spectacular.  I was actually driving away from the moon, but, as a photographer often does, I looked behind me to the side to see if there was anything to see. I saw the glow of the moon and new I had another nice full one.  I turned around and went down a sideroad to find a good foreground.  A big full moon is nice but its even nicer to have something in the foreground.  And that's when I saw the fine dining establishment in the shot.  Like I said, 2 minutes earlier and I probably would have had a moon lower in the sky which, I think, would have made it better. But, this is what I got.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Traveling by moonlight

One of the best/worst things about this time of year is the early nighttime sky.  In this case, it was nice since I was on my way home from work and saw the big orange moon in the sky lighting the way.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Got to be fashionable, even if sweaty

Been a looooong time since I last posted.  Life has just gotten in the way of shooting and posting for awhile. Hopefully, it'll get back to normal soon. In the meantime, I found some pics on a memory card from October that I forgot about.  They are shots of my daughter taking part in a volleyball league she was in this fall. I think she only joined because I wanted her to, but in the end I think she had fun and she played even better than I thought she could with her lack of experience. I must say, she was the most stylish player on the court and she was also the one that smiled the most.  Those points make her a winner in my book.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Come as You Are

The Zelazoskis held the, gosh it must be the, 12th annual Halloween Bash for what seemed like every kid within a 10 mile radius, possibly farther. Creepy treats and drinks were served and general chasing in a circle around the perimeter of the house for an hour or two for the young kids, while my daughter and her friends sat around and talked about whatever 12 year old girls talk about while looking their scariest/prettiest.  And, oh yeah, their was some picture posing at the end.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Getting to the end

I guess you have to look at it like it was a successful trip if it takes you two weeks to go through all your photos from said trip.  I'm almost at the end.  Tonight I'm posting  a couple shots of two places where once you were there, you just wanted to sit and enjoy the view.  The fisherman, by himself in somewhat calm waters, with the sunset behind him was a really peaceful moment.  The lighthouse behind the fall bloom tree was not as peaceful, but the waves coming up and hitting the breakwall and lighthouse offered just as much enjoyment.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Over the years on my fall trips, I've hit the Eastern side of the Upper Peninsula, the Western side of the UP, and followed the Mississippi river north and then turned around and followed it South.  All areas are beautiful this time of year.  But, the Eastern side is my favorite due to the mix of reds in with the yellows and oranges.  It gives any photo that extra pop.

Friday, October 19, 2012


Every guy who picks up a camera with the intent to capture more than just a snapshot, has the dream of catching that iconic photo of whatever genre they are into.  Sports photographers want to get the shot of the winning touchdown.  Wildlife photogs want the shot of the lion taking down the wildebeest.  Wedding photographers have to have the most romantic shot in the world.  Whether they want to admit it or not.  As a landscape photographer, I am always looking for that beautiful shot with a great subject to give the landscape some interest.  I see shots like that in the umpteen photo magazines I get.  I see it on the gazillion photo websites I subscribe to. It can't be that hard.  Oh, but it is.  Unless, you work for Nat Geo, maybe.  Even then, I'm sure the photographers working there have moments of struggle looking for that iconic pic.  I was coming to the end of my trip and took a stroll down to a large beach, mainly to see the huge waves coming in.  I looked to my left and that's where I saw it.  My iconic photo, at least, of this trip. I looked over the area and decided there were numerous spots to set up and shoot.  I always try to get different directional shots, different angles, and if you are lucky, different weather, like fog, coming in during shooting. Hey, its digital.  It's not like I'm paying for film.  I see something interesting, I'm going to shoot.....alot.  Besides, sometimes the longer you stay in one spot, the better the chance of something else interesting happening while shooting.  I got real lucky with this one.  Big open beach, no one else on the beach, and great landscape with waves crashing the rocks, a drama filled sky, and a spectacular, colorful structure on the coastline. I tried hard to pick which of these shots were my favorite, but I was unsuccessful so I must post all three.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Surf's Up

I had heard people do it on Lake Michigan, but never did I expect to see it nor did I ever expect to see it on Lake Superior in the month of October during a sleet storm.  But I did.  I stopped at a beach area to shoot some rocks where the water/waves were breaking against pretty hard.  As I approached the rocks, I looked out and saw a couple of people sitting out in the lake on their boards.  I thought right away they were surfers.  Then, I doubted my initial thought (realizing where I was and what time of year it was), and then I saw them start paddling and getting up on those boards and riding the waves.  What a sight!  The waves were by no means "California" waves, but they were sizeable enough to go for a good cruise. While watching and shooting, one of the surfers took a break and stood on the rocks with me and he informed me that what I was watching was really nothing compared to the area of Marquette, Michigan.  Its a college town, therefore, you have a higher population of nuts with no regard to living a safe and healthy life yet.  There motto is "Just have fun".  I made my way to Marquette (wasn't really planning on it, but, hey, what was stopping me?) and sure enough, I found their beach for hanging 10. There was about a dozen or so crazies out in the middle of a large bay just waiting for the big one.  The big kahuna.  And at this point, the waves were much larger than at my first stop and the weather was much nastier.  Sustained 35 mph winds and nice dose of sleet coming down. kind of surfin' weather (at least, no worries of sunburn).  It was a sight to behold and one of the best sights of my entire trip.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Better than a waterpark

I found this beautiful park along the lakeshore in Marquette, Michigan.  It offered spectacular views of the water crashing into the breakwall,especially on a day like the one I was there.  At this particular breakwall, the water was unbelievably violent.  In fact, there is a memorial at the site for a couple of college kids who 20 years ago were goofing around near or on the wall when a wave swept one of them into the lake.  His friend dove in to help his friend, but unfortunately neither one survived. I kept a healthy distance away from this one, but earlier while snapping pics I was a little too close and ended up having to swap out wet sweatshirt and jeans for dry ones. The pics below were selected pics from a set of shots where I took about 10 snapshots in the span of about 2 seconds.  When put in a slideshow and run fast like a movie, it is really impressive.  Unfortunately, my computer has trouble formulating such memory intensive tasks.  So, hopefully you'll get a sense of the power of these waves hitting the breakwall and moving in towards shore.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Older and Wiser

10 years ago I might have looked at this as a challenge.  Now, I just look at it and laugh, and laugh at those attempting it.  Some areas around the Lake Superior Lakeshore are known for their large dunes that 100 years ago were used by the logging companies to drop their logs down to the ships waiting below.  They are quite impressive sandy areas and as you see below come with their own set of dangers today. As I approached one of these log slides I met a guy coming up the dune.  He was probably 25 years old.  He looked totally spent.  I asked him if he made the "slide" down and he said yes, but it wasn't worth the "hour and a half" coming back up.  Enough said.  Some pics of the dunes area, signage, and finally, an enlarged shot of the dunes peninsula with a lighthouse on the tip.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fact of Life

Blame my roots(Wisconsin), but its a fact of life, so get used to it.  Every trip I go on it seems I have to come back with a shot of cow or two.

Friday, October 12, 2012


I woke up my first morning in the Upper Peninsula excited to head out and shoot some of the numerous waterfalls in the area. The waterfalls have been in the past one of the highlights of my trips up there.  Unfortunately, the digital age has caught up to this part of the world.  I ended up very frustrated with the number of photographers surrounding several of the falls I visited that morning.  It wouldn't be so bad if they were all like me.  Uh, yeah, that's right.  I am a very courteous photographer.  To the point, that I get rushed and don't always get the shot I want.  Common protocol, to me, is let the ladies and children get a good view first, and then, try to step in, grab a few shots, and then step back.  Go for it again in a few minutes if you like, but, don't camp out.  Especially if you have a 3 legged monster with you called a tripod.  An accident waiting to happen.  The real problem was, of course, not really the behavior of the photographers, but the number of them.  Everybody with their fancy new cameras trying to better their skills due to every training book and webcast out there telling you waterfalls are a great learning tool to becoming a better photographer.  Perhaps the final straw was at a set of falls where you had to walk down numerous sets of stairs that totaled around 200 steps(Going down, easy.  We'll discuss going up another time.) Once everyone made there way to the bottom platform, we all watched a guy jump the railing, run down to the bottom of the falls, stand in the stream, setup his tripod and start shooting away.....and away......and away........for about 40 minutes, all while he was in the shot of all the other people.  I will say this, temperance is alive and well, since while all of us grumbled to each other and expressed our general disgust with this person, he did walk out of there and with all his camera gear. That day did leave a sour taste in my mouth, but the next day restored my faith.  Once again, I woke up excited to explore.  I was hesitant to hit any falls in the area, but I realized in my several trips to the area, there were still some waterfalls that I hadn't seen for one reason or another.  I looked at a brochure I had and found 2 sets of falls that were smaller and were not well marked and decided to check them out.  Good move.  I spent 3 hours photographing 2 sets of falls and never saw another person.  I actually was lucky in several ways.  The first set of falls you actually had to walk through peoples backyards to get to.  It was still pretty dark, but I could for the most part make out the trail through the woods.  At least I thought I could. After about 10 minutes walking, I noticed a tree growing out of the ground at a 90 degree angle to the ground.  It seemed weird so I got close to check it out and I then found out the reason it was growing like it was.  It was actually growing out the side of a 40 ft wall of stone which lead to the bottom of the waterfalls.  2 more steps and it would have been a shot of an ambulance carrying off a stupid out of state amateur photographer who was in the area leaf peeping.  Well, this story ends happy since this waterfall was absolutely gorgeous.  3 stone walls surrounding it with morning sun coming up and no one but me there to catch it all.  Below is a shot of it as well as a shot of the aforementioned "yahoo" ruining everyone's shot.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Early evening calm

Lake Superior is what I call a mean lake.  It always seems to have large waves coming in.  The wind is always blowing into shore carrying with it cold northern air.  The lake's vast size makes it seem like a bully. On my first night in the area, there was a short period just after dark that I went down along a part of the lake I had been to earlier to watch guys fishing from a pier.  You could tell the lake had calmed down considerably from when I had been there earlier.  I couldn't really see what type of wave action was going on so I grabbed a large spotlight from my car and shined it out over an area where a small stream/river flowed into the lake.  I could see that it was actually very calm at this time. So, I setup my camera on a tripod, kept the shutter open longer due to the darkness to allow more time for the picture to develop and at the same time the camera was taking the shot, I flashed my spotlight onto the scene to add more light and give a better chance to get a decent shot. It came out better than I could have ever imagined.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

See the Light

An important part of the past for areas around the Great Lakes were lighthouses.  They are numerous in the area I was at, but often times not accessible.  They hold a special place in the hearts of the people in the area and I'm sure for the captains of the ships coming into harbor loaded with freight, ore, or lumber. These days modern geographical tools help guide the ships in and lighthouses have become architectural wonders to tourists.  So tonight I'll start with a shot of one of these lighthouses, follow with some other sights of the area, and end with a waterfall shot.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Miner's Castle

Tonight's shots revolve around an area of the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Drive.  The Pictured Rocks Lakeshore is one of the highlights of the area.  If you want to learn more about it, here is a link: .  Shortly after arriving in the UP, comes the decision of where to go and what to shoot.  I decided to revisit some of the same places I shot when I was last in the area 4 years ago.  One of those spots was Miner's Castle. It was late afternoon and I knew the sun would be setting shortly, and I knew the spot was a high vantage point looking over a bay on Lake Superior.  Aside from some wind, it was a perfect night to shoot.  In one of the shots, you'll see a cruise boat that takes people up and down the Pictured Rocks Lakeshore.  I was too late this evening for the sunset cruise, but was making plans to do a morning cruise until I saw the weather report of strong winds and sleet.  Knowing my history from a time or two on Lake Michigan charter fishing, I decided to bypass the boating no matter how beautiful I'm sure the rocks and cliffs look from the water side. The Miner's Castle refers to the stone formation you'll see.  I'm not sure how it got its name.  There used to be two "turrets", which is what they call the formation, but one of them collapsed about 6 years ago and it appears this one that is left is heading to the same demise.  In another of the shots you can see the remnants of a building that was once there.  There was a marker noting what the structure once was, but, unfortunately, I came back from the castle when it was pretty dark and could not read it.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Color my World

It's been awhile since my last post.  Unfortunately, or fortunately, I've been really busy with work related projects and/or activities with the kids and haven't been able to do as much shooting as I would like. And, oh yeah, I just got back from my annual trip to Nowhere-In-Particular. And this years trip to N-I-P was the Central section of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This same area was the destination of my trip 4 years ago and I really enjoyed it.  Lots of color, Lake Superior, abundant waterfalls, and well maintained, but desolate roadways.  I packed the usual stuff- camera gear, a couple of sweatshirts, a thermos, a cooler, some light camping gear, and an air mattress for the back of my van(Hotel Dodge Caravan) and off I went last Wednesday. The plan was to get to Munising, Michigan and from there just start driving East or West, since you can't go North due to Lake Superior, and go wherever the urge took me.  Of course, my camera being ready at all moments.  When I would run out of light, or personal energy, pull over and park it for the night until a new day came, which would bring with it new sights to see and capture.  I was not disappointed.  I planned my trip for a few weeks earlier this year than normal since in the past, even though I would catch good fall color, it was always iffy of whether or not the leaves would still be on the trees.  I usually got lucky, but, the nights would get considerably colder later in October and I just never seemed to have enough blankets in my portable hotel room. I got lucky on both fronts this year with the fall color peaking early due to drought conditions and the nights weren't as brutal as in the past.  In fact, each night I was there was warmer than in my Illinois homebase by as least 5 degrees.  Go figure.  So, over the next few days, get ready to explore my adventures through Yooperland.  I'll start tonight with some of the color that greeted me when I arrived.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bird Crazy

I know, I know.  3 out of the last 4 posts have been about birds.  But, I've said it before and I'll say it again.  You shoot what you got in front of you.  I actually thought the shots of herons were done for the year due to I haven't seen them at their usual haunts lately.  But, as I was driving by a small park today, I saw a whole 'herd" of ducks and geese on the pond and in between them all stood this heron.  As you can see by the look on his face/beak, I think he was slightly perturbed at all the dinner company.  But, his being focused on his angst towards the geese allowed me to sneak up on him and grab some close shots.

Monday, September 17, 2012

What could be more beautiful....

Nothing more than a happy bride.  I almost feel sad for the bouquet of flowers she's holding.  When I first saw this shot while going through my photos from brother-in-law's wedding of a week ago, I was, at first, really happy.  Then, I saw the big white post holding up a tent awning just inches from my new sister-in-law's  face.  It was just one of those moments where you grab a shot real fast without the time allowance of making sure the shot was composed with no extra elements to take away from the picture. I put the picture aside, but, I kept thinking that there must be a way to salvage this shot.  I am far from being a photoshop guru. Actually, I am far from being proficient with photoshop.  But, I decided to give it a try. And after several hours of trial and error (and numerous YouTube videos on how-to) I think I have a nice shot of the bride on her very special day.  Welcome to the family, Darcie.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

You take that direction, I'll take this one

Got out for an early morning drive today.  First time in a long time that I've done that around here.  And what happens when you haven't done something for awhile?  You tend to forget stuff.  I had myself, my coffee, my dog, and my camera.  What could I have forgotten?  Fresh charged batteries, that's what.  I have 5 batteries for my camera.  Each charged battery last so long that I really don't even think about it.  I just recharge them about every 6 months or if I have a trip planned or something.   What I had forgotten was that I've been "snap" happy over the last 30-45 days what with weddings, camping, etc.  I found some interesting shots to take at one point this morning and that's when I learned the hard way.  I didn't even have to look for a freshly charged one.  I knew all batteries in my bag were done.  I started heading back home when I came across the guy/gals in the shot below.  I was kicking myself.  Let's check some of the batteries in the bag and see if I can get at least one shot out of it.  I got lucky.  I was able to get about 20 shots out of one the batteries before the shutter button refused to "click". This is an example of where you make sure every shot you take counts.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Unexpected Visitor

As a photographer, birds are a great subject.  I think back on hearing about bird watchers and bird photographers and I would think," Why? Birds are everywhere. Why focus on looking for them or taking pictures of them?"  Well, I think I've come up with some answers:
  • Birds are everywhere in the world. When you are short on subjects to look at or photograph, you'll find plenty of birds
  • An almost infinite number of species all with their own looks, colors, mannerisms, etc.
  • Photographing and viewing birds usually brings you into nature
  • Taking pictures of birds is not that super hard, but there are challenges unique to the subject
  • You can practice numerous photographic principles while shooting birds
  • When you focus on one type of bird, you can really tell the difference between an o.k. shot and a great shot.
There are many more reasons that "birding" is enjoyable(just ask the millions of people with bird feeders in their yards), but you get the point.  Tonights shot is from my backyard.  I came home from work and sat at my desk to check emails.  I saw out of the corner of my eye something fly into the backyard and when I looked I saw this guy perched on the tip of children's playset about 15 yards in front of me.  Never did I think he would sit for long, so I watched him a bit and then continued on with emails.  I see alot of hawks around here, but never this close.  After 10 minutes, my urges got to me and went out to my car to get my camera never thinking he would still be there when I came back in.  He was, so I grabbed a couple shots through the glass window.  After about 5-8 shots, I decided to try opening my window since this window has no screen on it (!@#$% cat ripped it up).  Hawks are known for being pretty skittish so I thought my shooting was over.  But, nope, he stayed.  He was focused on something down in the grass so I think that was my saving grace.  I started shooting through the open window, but the angle was at a point where I couldn't get the shot I wanted.  I proceeded to move my computer stuff out of the way, slowly climbed  my "not svelte" frame half on the desk and half off.  I think this particular hawk also had a bit of deafness since I was about as quiet as a my daughter and her girlfriends talking about the latest Justin Bieber album.  He sat and almost posed for me while I shot away for about 10 minutes.  And the best part of the story, besides a great shot of this hawk, is that my desk, a desk I built myself, is still here and in one piece.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Do people still send postcards?

We attended a family wedding this weekend in beautiful downtown Chicago. Since I don't spend much time in the city I seem to always approach it like a tourist. The reception for the wedding was on the 95th floor of the John Hancock building.  Yeah, 95th floor.  I know my children were amazed at the view. I don't know if they realize that I was even more amazed.  Tonight's pics are what I would envision seeing on a postcard if someone visited the 95th floor of the Hancock building.  The first shot is a vintage look at Navy Pier, I guess, Chicago's version of Coney Island.  The 2nd and 3rd are views out some of the windows of the building.  Absolutely spectacular.  The kids got a kick out of the swimming pools at the tops of some of the buildings and actually asked if we could live in one of those buildings.  I said, "Sure, as soon as one of you makes your first 5 million, I'll be glad to move in with you in one of those buildings."