A view of my world in Central Illinois and places we go.


January Weekend Visit to Chicago

To celebrate a friend’s January birthday, we like to spend the weekend in Chicago, about 2 hours drive from our home in Champaign. If you don’t mind the weather, and it is often quite cold in Chicago in January, it’s a good time to go: post-Christmas sales abound and the city tends to be less crowded. And, hotels give good deals, especially our favorite, The Drake off North Michigan Avenue (i.e., the Magnificent Mile). We got a room overlooking Lake Short Drive and a portion of the lake itself. What a wonderful view, especially at night with a long exposure.


This particular weekend, the weather was overcast and threatening to snow. It gave the buildings an eerie look and lent itself to some black & white captures as well.


The John Hancock Bldg ascends into the clouds.


Chicago’s Water Tower and the John Hancock loom through the trees.


Two crows ponder the traffic from above Lake Shore Drive.


Empty docks will have to wait a while for spring.


Crowds constantly gather around The Bean; in this case, to watch skaters on the ice below.


I got a kick out of these folks posing for a selfie reflection.


Something a little abstract.


Ornaments on Michigan Ave., and if you look close, multiple selfies.


More “abstractedness.”


Saturday morning calm on the lake and before the traffic builds on LSD.


By Sunday morning, the mood has changed with a dusting of snow and growing winds.


Waves crashing on the revetments make for a very cold spray that can sometimes reach the northbound lanes of LSD.


Reflection of waves off the revetments meeting incoming waves at right angles make for some spectacular wave collisions.


Until we return to North Michigan Avenue, this will have to do!


Warm Winter Sunset

Just one image to share, taken Christmas week here in central Illinois where it has been extremely mild for late December and prior to the copious rains we’ve had the last few days. These fields and maybe even this road are likely under water as I post this. Looking forward to a fruitful 2016! Best wishes to everyone.


A Visit to the National Zoo

IMG_8350-1This past weekend I once again accompanied my wife to Washington DC, she for business and me for pleasure. Rather than being housed near the overly-familiar Mall, we stayed at the very nice (and famous) Omni Shoreham just off Connecticut Ave and overlooking Rock Creek National Park, northwest of the central city and actually quite close to the National Zoo. So, I spent a lot of time at our nation’s zoo. Friday morning looked to be rainy, and stayed cloudy all day – this turned out to be an excellent bonus. Cool weather and overcast skies meant active animals with nice diffuse, shadowless lighting. FYI, I spent the whole day with my 400 mm lens on my Canon 7D, perfect for getting closeups – these are not cropped images. However, this lens will not allow me to get the whole animal and means you need to focus on the particular area of interest (generally the face and especially the eyes).

The National Zoo is known for its pandas, and there was a nice little audience watching them (mom, dad, and their daughter, all in separate areas), but I am always drawn to the “big cats” – see my previous blogs of visits to this and Brookfield Zoo near Chicago. These first of the tiger I especially like – his keeper was walking around outside the enclosure and this guy was keeping a sharp eye on him, possibly hoping for food. Those eyes just look right through you.

IMG_8327-1One more shot of the tiger, where you can see his teeth – the better to eat you with, my dear!

IMG_8313-1Can’t not have any lion shots! I was there early enough that all the big cats were just being released to their outside habitats. It was clear when this male lion got out. He strutted around, marked his territory, and then proceeded to bellow (it’s not really a roar) his presence to the rest of the zoo. Impressive!



IMG_8388And, here is his pride. Click on an image to see it enlarged and allow you to scroll through them. Hit your “escape” button to come back here.

I’ll finish with this, as one has to have a shot of the pandas if you’re ever at the National Zoo! This is Bao Bao, the daughter, not full grown as yet.





The Magic of Cropping

Our local camera club has several “internal” competitions every year – by “internal”, I mean the club members present a selection of themed images to a 3-person jury, and the judges pick the top four images of the theme. For example, last night, club members were asked to submit images for three topical themes: Dusk to Dawn, Monochrome, and Shadows & Silhouettes. What is most informative to me, and I think to club members, is to listen to the judges, learn from their critique, and hopefully improve your images. Some of this should occur as you look through the viewfinder, and inevitably, some will occur in post-editing. Some people freak out over working on their photos after they create the image in their camera – I understand that. But, sometimes all it takes is a little “cutting” on the left, right, top, or bottom of the image – technically called “cropping.”

So, one of the images I submitted under the Dusk to Dawn was this sunset on Lake Michigan from our favorite summer vacation area, Pentwater. I called this “Sunset Thru Dune Grass”. Catchy, huh? Below is the original image, which I believed had way too much sky.

Original image

Original image

Here is the image I submitted, and you’ll notice that I have cropped off some from the top of the image (by the way, it took 2nd place!):


Image submitted for the competition

During the critique, it was suggested I not only crop more from the top, but also off the left, thus moving the sun farther from the center of the image. They all thought I had chosen to cut too much off the bottom, and I generally see their point, and I can’t remember specifically why I did this – I chose this image from shots I took in 2013. So, here I have cropped from the left and I think you will see a little improvement:


Here now I have cropped more off the top. And I think it presents a much better image than the original:


Now the dune grass plays a more prominent part of the image, which when I think about it, was what I had originally intended. By moving the sun to the left, it enhances the emphasis of the dune grass, and perhaps, add a little more interest by getting that focal point (the sun) farther off-center. If there is one thing that might have made it better was to have moved myself (and the camera!) a little to the left, so the grass did not go through the sun.

My thanks to the judges for helping me see better. And, next time you are looking at your images, think about the simple process of cropping. It’s easy and all image processors, including your iPhone, can do it.


Black and White Panoramic Landscapes

It has been quite a long time since I last posted here. It is not that I have had nothing to write about; just being lazy I guess. Anyway, I’ve been working on a few images and before I print them, I thought I would publish them here. The following called Illinois Sky. It hangs on the wall above one of our kitchen windows just a few feet from a print we bought in Alberquerque at Photogenesis Gallery inside the LaFonda Hotel (a wonderful and truly historic place in itself). Before I get too far off the subject, Photogenesis owns several images by several famous French photographers: Willy Ronis, Robert Doisneau, and last but not least Henri Cartier Bresson (the “master of the moment”).  Even if you don’t purchase, it is a privilege to look at their work close-up and not in a museum behind a security rope. The photo we purchased is by a remarkable photographer by the name of Nicholas Trofimuk entitled Summer Cloud Festival – NM featuring a rolling New Mexico landscape beneath a cacaphony of cumulus clouds. My kind of sky! Just like I tried to capture in this:

Illinois Sky BW Panorama-1

Staying with this format (black and white and what I will call panoramic), here is a scene from Scotland. It was our first evening at Inverewe Gardens and this is a shot looking southwestward from our cottage at the Gardens to Poolewe and the mountains beyond.Poolewe Sunset

Now let’s return to familiar territory (the rural flatlands of central Illinois – corn country, that is).

Corn rows and barn in b&w

Barbed wire and barn in b&w

Barn and meadow in b&w


A couple of these may yet end up on our kitchen wall as companions to the first. What do you think? Any favorites?

Thunderstorm on the Prairie!


Earlier this week I went out in search of those dramatic, puffily clouded skies that I enjoy photographing. [Clear blue skies are nice, but oh so BORING!] This particular afternoon promised for something dramatic as the previous two days started fairly clear in the morning, but as the days heated up, the clouds would form and, in some cases, evolve into spotty rain showers.

As I headed out, it became “clear” to me that I was in for something more than puffy clouds. Looking south the sky was nearly solid black; although without the contrasting colors and shades I typically like to see, I felt this would be worth trying to capture. This whole shoot-the-rain is something new for me, but I know I have to get somewhat competent with shooting in inclement weather for our trip to Scotland (the Highlands!) this summer.

I soon realized I did not bring my tripod, so no time-exposures with which to attempt to capture some lightning strikes. But as the skies unloaded overhead, I found that it would be foolhardy at best and dangerous at worse to stand outside with camera and tripod taking time exposures with strikes occurring only a mile or so away and thunder roaring overhead. All quite dramatic and thrilling!

I also learned that one cannot realistically capture images in a pouring rain. At least not me. So, with this type of pop-up thunderstorm, one works the edges of the storm, shooting toward where the rain is falling, but not standing in the rain where there is virtually no visibility. So, check these out. They were shot just west of Champaign near Bondville – the elevators on the horizons of most of these images are, indeed, the Bondville elevators.

Backyard Blooms Arrive on Memorial Day



On this Memorial Day, 2014 in America, summer has arrived in full force with the usual hot and humid weather. The flowers like it, though, especially after a seemingly unending winter. All these images are from my back yard.

Some Fun With Panoramas

Over the last couple of days that I’ve been out in the Illinois countryside, I decided to make some panoramas by using Photomerge in Photoshop (Elements). Most of these are stitched from at least 5 images, some more. These are not true panoramas in that I simply hand-held the camera and rotated my point of view, rather than using a more sophisticated nodal point panoramic system. Maybe someday…but until then, these work pretty well!




More from Central Illinois, All Color


I returned to some of the same territory I visited two days ago when I pondered whether color or black & white was preferred. Many of you “liked” the post, but did not comment. Please feel free to let me know what you think, like, or don’t like. I “like” a fresh perspective! Today’s post includes photos in color, no black and white…although one is pretty monochromatic, as you will see. I thought the weather was going to break, and it did in a way, with bright blue skies showing through openings in parting clouds. But, the weather did proceed to close in and I could see rain falling in the distance. As much as I wanted to stay out, I decided to head for home and try mowing (or should I say baling?) the 6 inches of grass in my yard before it got wet once again.



Color or Black & White?

I went out this afternoon thinking the weather was breaking and I’d catch some sunlight on the emerging corn. Well, that didn’t exactly work out, but the clouds made for a dramatic backdrop. The sky also lent itself to a black & white treatment, so I’ll ask, which do you prefer, color or black & white?