Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Mysteriousness of My Back Yard

I have been playing around a lot recently with longer shutter speeds. Tonight I found myself arriving home at twilight, and the cat *really* wanted to go outside for a while (she does not get to prowl unsupervised). So it was a win-win for us both. She got go out and hang around with me, and I got to try some low, low light shots with loooong shutters. I only took four or five shots, and the results were not great, but I admit to being inspired to try some more another time.

The Mysteriousness of My Back Yard (DS3_9648)
View it LARGE

The details are as follows:
- It was too dark to auto-focus, so I guestimated the distance
- ISO 640. I was hoping for 100, but could not make it work without going to 'bulb' with the shutter.
- Shutter was 30 seconds. To use 'bulb' I need to use the remote trigger (which is at the studio). I expect that will happen soon!
- Aperture was f/4.
- I wanted the waterfall to really pop, so I hit it with an LED flashlight for approximately 4 seconds. It made things pretty blue, so I adjusted the tone just a bit. Some blue was what I wanted. It also had a wider field than I wanted, but it was what I had on hand. A paper towel roll will make an effective snoot for it.

I am thinking that I would like to try this same shot with a single small candle tucked behind the waterfall. Perhaps I would also 'paint' the surrounding foliage with light for 2-3 seconds to bring them out a bit.

Tonight was fun!

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Monday, May 30, 2011

Afternoon (de)light!

A little afternoon (de)light!




There are more delicious spring photographs in a SLIDE SHOW for your entertainment. The most recent shots are up front.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Concept Study

I accepted an invitation to submit artwork to a successful author who is finishing a novel that might be first in a series. He invited hungry artists to create a vision of his main character and he will select one of the images to forward to the publisher along with the manuscript. There is no promise of fame or fortune, just an opportunity for a creative project and some possible exposure. For me this would be much more than simple photography, but rather photo-illustration, something I do not do a lot of. Since it sounded like fun, I bit. I have two models lined up for the base photo shoot, and am creating props and experimenting with Photoshop to get the effects I want.

Here is a first, quick concept image. A photo sketch if you will.

Knife Hand Test
Knife Hand Sketch

It's not great, but it is directionally correct, and I am confident that I am aiming in the right direction and that I have the skills to pull something off to submit. In the meantime all my creative juices are flowing so regardless of the outcome, I already am having fun. And that is the most important part.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I am often asked why I chose to release a given photo in B&W versus color. While it is true that I have no ready analytical answer, there is seldom any hesitation on my part when I do so. Some photographs just seem to tell their story better in B&W. I suspect it has to do with giving the brain a bit of a hiccup: Hey, no color! In our super-saturated world, the absence of color becomes provocative.

Here is a photo of a rusty derelict truck. It is a pretty cool photo in color, and it works well.


Here is the same photo rendered in B&W.


All the story telling points are still instantly recognizable; the truck is junk, it is rusty and dilapidated. However, I think the antiquity of the truck and the sense of age is better conveyed in the colorless image. [Note: I did add a bit of edge blur in the B&W image that is not present in the color version.]

You are free to disagree with me, of course, and if you do I would love to hear your reasons.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Incredible Lushness of Spring

The lushness of my back yard is astonishing. In a mere week or so it went from popping up, to saturated. The greenness of it is delicious.

Backyard Pond (DS3_9446)

This is the little pond I created nearly ten years ago. Spring is an unpleasant time to deal with it because it is under the canopy of the neighbor's huge silver maple, so it fills up with leaves, sticks, etcetera, which conspire to clog the pump. There is nothing for it except to drain it (pump it out) and muck it out. This year I let it go a couple of weeks longer than I should have, and there were thousands of mosquito larvae in it. Blech! Rather than pumping it into the garden as I normally do (nutrient rich water!), this time I pumped it to the street gutter and figured the larvae would be killed as the water dissipated. Now it is filled with clean water and the pump is running to keep it aerated. Next step is to buy a fish and let it keep the insects down. Nothing as fancy as a koi or even a goldfish though. Likely just a minnow from a bait shop. By fall the crows will get it!

I share this one simply because I love the array of textures as well as the colors. That bleeding heart is going to have to fight it out with the Regal Blue hosta one day soon.


The bleeding hearts are done blooming. Now the bearded iris are in full bloom, and the Japanese iris are a few days from full bloom. There is one open to lead the charge.


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Monday, May 23, 2011

To Forevertron, and Beyond!

Last week I tried to go photograph the sculpture garden of Dr. Evermore midway between Sauk City and Baraboo, Wisconsin. I made the trip well enough but when I arrived I realized I had no data card in my camera. Oh the shame! It's an 85-mile round trip, so it takes some time to do this. Today I set out again upon my trusty steed, Ferrouche, and captured some small portion of the Doctor's sculptural genius.

Forevertron (DS3_9412_2)
View it LARGE

The above image is just a portion of the massive "Forevertron". It is a challenge to get a shot of all of it, and I did try, but it doesn't really do it justice. If you want to see it in its entirety, I recommend you visit it in person.

I had hoped to dine at the Epicurean, but alas it was not open. I am joking. The Epicurean, while a functional grill, has been out of service for ages. It sure makes for a good photograph though.


There are hundreds of sculptural beasts scattered around the garden. Many are for sale, and not inexpensive. I posted a photo a while back of a LARGE sculpture of Evermore's on Paterson Street in Madison, WI. This guy is maybe 7' tall.


I hope you enjoyed these. There are a few more in a SLIDE SHOW if you would like to see more.

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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mostly A State Of Mind


I sought Shangri-La -
and found it (true!) quite close by,

ISO 100, f/13, Shutter .8 seconds - hand held!

Exotic travels
are mostly a state of mind.
What is it you seek?


Flowers such as these
are not found in my backyard.
Great is my delight!


In walking distance
of my familiar garden,
Tropical Delights!

Where can I discover tomorrow?

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Friday, May 20, 2011


Morning light can be so pretty!

Bleeding Heart

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Diffuse Light Just Laying Around Waiting To Be Noticed

Yesterday the sky was cerulean blue with rare, wispy clouds. Today we have dense overcast clouds and ongoing mist. Either one makes for fantastic photos!

Bearded Iris

Flowering Tree

Siberian Iris Nearing Bloom

All that nice, diffuse light just laying around waiting to be noticed! I might have to get out to the Arboretum for a bit this afternoon...

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Waiting For The Fair To Open

There is a small fair being set up at the local shopping mall. I got a photo of the Ferris wheel a couple of days ago as a storm was blowing in, all dark and moody. Today the sun was blazing and I had my circular polarizing filter with me so I stopped for more shots.


The colors were a'poppin' today!


Some shots just seemed to need a quieter touch, so B&W was the way to go. It feels more like a timeless photograph this way.


There are a few more in a SLIDE SHOW so you can view them in larger yumminess.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wisconsin Keeps Up The Fight

Another weekend in Wisconsin under the damping effect of Governor Walker and his cronies calls for ... right! Another rally. We really need to fix this governor. He is morally broken. I have not seen any numbers for this rally yet, but I am estimating the crowd at about 3,500. I am aware that buses came in from Milwaukee, Green Bay, Eau Claire, La Crosse, and a number of other Wisconsin cities (though I am certain that Fox "news" will say they were union thugs bused in from out of state, cleverly using Wisconsin school buses).


Despite substantial evidence to the contrary, the Current Occupant of the Governor's office still insists his draconian budget which slashes funding for public schools, Badgercare, and other social safety net agencies, drastically weakens unions, and eliminates the rights of public workers to negotiate for anything other than salary, is about creating jobs and "fixing the budget". Oh really?

The pay of Wisconsin's top corporate executives rose an average of 27% in 2010, a year when unemployment hovered around 8% and pay to the average worker in the state fell.


So the average Wisconsin public company CEO made about 100 times more than the typical working person in 2010. Nationally, the differential is about twice that big.

Is it any wonder that Wisconsinite are angry and continuing to take to the streets? Not that it matters to the Current Occupant. He is in his own little self-righteous bubble, convinced that he is the Savior of Wisconsin. Fortunately, the grass-roots effort to recall eight Republican Senators (and eventually the Current Occupant) is well under way and the Senate Republicans have started to realize what a hornet's nest of voter anger has been stirred up.


At yesterday's rally I had the privilege of brokering an interview between a visiting Swedish business journalist and local activists Ben and Sarah Manski. As long as the word keeps getting out, this fight is not over.


There are a dozen or so additional photos here in a SLIDE SHOW. The photos go all the way back to Feb. 15th, but the newest images are up front.

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Like Gumballs in the Sky

Well, after a 26-hour service interruption, Blogger is back online. I had intended to post this yesterday, but it seems today was meant to be.

On Wednesday, just before the storms broke and drenched us with heavy rain and hail, Reena and I were out near East Town mall and noticed that a carnival was setting up. Nothing was open for business at the moment, and there were not even more than a handful of people around.


The only person who walked past me pretty much ignored me - probably because I was not doing anything destructive, merely standing at the base of this Ferris wheel staring just about straight up. I probably looked like a rube.


What made me stop was the great contrast of the bright colors of the wheel baskets against the dark gray sky as the storm approached. The really dark sky half an hour later would have been better, but I did not have time to linger. I will try to get back out there while the carnival is up and running, and preferably at night.

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Thursday, May 12, 2011

Andy Goldsworthy Might Like This


I had cut down the stalks from my cinnamon ferns last week and had set them aside. I had wondered to myself if they could be used in a costume sort of way at a large Pagan gathering I will be attending. Taking a cue from my sweetie, I even wondered what they would look like spray painted silver or gold, or dusted with glitter. What I did not notice was just how thickly they were coated with - what is it - pollen? The stack of about twenty cut stalks shed a lot of whatever it is (I will henceforth call it dust) on the gardening table out back. When I moved them yesterday there was a generous pile of dust which was patterned interestingly. Here is a detail shot:


They remained outside and the heavy rains yesterday probably rinsed a lot of the dust off the stalks and obliterated this temporary mandala. I hope so, anyway, as that will make any subsequent embellishment simpler. After that, who knows what I will end up doing with them? At the moment, it is all about enjoying the process of creation and letting it unfold in the fullness of time. As Valentine Michael Smith, the main character in Heinlein's "Stranger In A Strange Land" says, "Waiting is."

[UPDATE: HERE is a link to my earlier Andy Goldsworthy referencing photos. Enjoy!]

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Unfurl Radiant Petals

Sometimes the beauty pours in so fast it is challenging to take it all in. As I look around my yard, there is something new there every single day to capture my attention or imagination and hold me in thrall. Today my first iris bloomed.

First Iris of the Season (DS3_8979)

Such beauty, and this variety even smells like cotton candy. The details of these blooms are just amazing!

Iris Detail (DS3_8980)

Spring up out of bed!
Shoot to the sky and unfurl
radiant petals.

There are more delights to be found in this SLIDE SHOW of spring. The newest images are up front.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Good Things Come In Threes

Three small landmark events in my yard today:

Nala the cat (who has been a recovering 'fraidy cat since we got her at the Humane Society) learned to chillax' (chill+relax) in the yard. That was a pretty big deal!


While she was hanging around I did some reconstructive surgery on my pump and got the waterfall in the too-long stagnant pond running. It clearly was in need of some aeration.


I got no photos of the third event. A pair of Cooper's Hawks were flirting in the pine tree just across the fence in my neighbor's yard. I had never heard them vocalize before, so it was with delight that I listened to him currrr and whistle to woo her. I don't know where they are nesting but it must be pretty close by because I saw him yesterday too.


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Black Trillium

It has been a couple of days since I put up a couple of garden photos, and everything has changed significantly. This time of year is so exciting to my eyes. First, my black trillium has finally bloomed.


Pretty spectacular, yes? It also propagated, a further delight. The white trillium propagated as well. For several years I had three, now there are seven plants. Hopefully that trend will continue. I have been leaving that particular bed as close to "woodsy" as I can: No picking up fallen sticks, lots of things left to decay and make the high clay content soil more loamy.

And for a retina-searing blast of red, I give you The Tulip:


This one is not in my yard, but my mother-in-laws. We were visiting on Sunday and her tulips were at a perfect stage to be photographed.

There are more such photos in a spring SLIDE SHOW. The most recent photos are first.

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

With Grass You See Only Grass

Things sure do move fast this time of year! A couple of days ago I had fern fiddle heads just starting to unfurl. Today they are nearly a foot tall and starting to appear thick and hearty.


It is just a tease though, because in another month they will look like a jungle. Our yard has lots of planted areas, in part because I do not really enjoy mowing grass, and in part because it is simply more interesting to meander through my yard each morning with a cup of coffee in hand to see what is new than it is to stare at a blank green expanse of manicured lawn. When you lie down in grass, you see grass. In my yard, only the gods know for certain what you will see on a given day.


Today I noticed the maw of a black trillium!


It has been a tightly closed bud for nearly a week and while the plant itself grows larger (it is in the foreground of the middle photo, above), much larger than a white trillium, the blooms take much longer to open. It really adds a feeling of antici ...

pation! I like that my yard is filled with these little dramas waiting only to be noticed. About a month ago a friend had a major stroke. I hope my morning coffee stroll and investigation is part of a larger regimen to avoid such a thing (knock on wood). While there are certainly no guarantees in life, I believe this helps me shed stress and perhaps hedge my bet against calamity. With grass, I would see only grass and the need to mow it or weed it. With abundant flowers and veggies, I can revel in the grand show and eat some of the participants.

Life is good.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Bubblers Are Blooming!

The bubblers are blooming!

It's Spring!  The bubblers are blooming! (DS3_8739)

Now it truly is spring.

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Monday, May 2, 2011

Sunshine Daydream

I went to the Arboretum this morning after dropping my sweetie off at work. A photographer pal had tipped me off to the start of flowering trees. It turns out the magnolias are just getting up a full bloom, with the southwest side of the tree full or fading and the northerly facing parts just starting to open. The cooler temps seem to be assisting with a lot of beauty.

Magnolia at the Arb (DS3_8642)

Magnolia (DS3_8643)

I found a dead, dessicated leaf and carried it around for a couple of minutes wondering what to do with it. It seemed so much like fine lace that I hated to just walk away from it. Well there I was admiring and shooting the magnolias, and much of my recent studio work has been boudoir shoots, so I thought I would give the magnolia a chance for an indirect, conceal-reveal portrait shot. I like it!

Magnolia behind a leaf (DS3_8650)

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Spring's a-Poppin'

I had a great weekend. I drove to the Twin Cities on Thursday to do a photo shoot for a family for whom I took some maternity photos for their first pregnancy. On Friday I drove south to a park along the Mississippi and met up with three score friends for an annual spring party. It is a camping event focusing on German bier. Mmmm! Good bier, good music, good food, and good friends.


It was the first time I had been gone from the new kitty for more than an overnight. I was gratified to note when I arrived home that she had clearly missed me. I think we are arriving at a pretty good place together. She wanted out into the yard for a bit so together we went out exploring.


The light was pretty and the temp was cool but not cold, but still not MAY temperatures, and at least it was not snowing as it was when I climbed out of my tent that morning. The plants in the yard had all jumped noticeably in my absence.


Today I will start editing some recent photos, follow up on some potential new business, pay the rent on the studio. In short, back to a normal day with no protest rally, no aerial dance show (but the planning for the next one is already underway!), and no 3-day party. I think the cat will approve.

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