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

Posts tagged “Pentwater

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.


Top Summer Photos

This evening I will be attending the Champaign County Camera Club’s first meeting of the new season. I joined over the winter last year, so am still learning club protocol and members’ names. Tonight, though, each of the members are invited to present a maximum of 15 photos taken over the summer. I estimate I took about 6,000 photos since June 1 and includes trips to DC and, my fave place, Pentwater, MI.

So, picking a top 15 from 6,000 can be a bit daunting. I could easily pick 15 from Pentwater alone. But, I felt like I needed to instill some variety. I mean, I could do, like, 15 sunsets, you know? No, that wouldn’t do…although I have some GREAT sunsets. Here are the 15 I picked, from DC to Champaign, from July 4 to Labor Day, from bright colors to black and white and LOTS of water. Some flora, some fauna, and NO dog (I’ll save those images for another post). Enjoy!

2012 News-Gazette Photo Contest

The annual News-Gazette Photo Contest is coming up (submission deadline is Saturday). If you shoot several thousand photos over the course of a year, it is difficult to pick your favorite. For this photo contest, we are allowed up to three entries; picking your top three is no less difficult. Or more precisely which three best fit the categories: Animals, Architecture, Black and White, General (photo-realistic – meaning not manipulated), Manipulated, Nature, and People.

I came up with several possibilities and narrowed them down to five images. I am getting these five printed and mounted as I write this and tonight will decide on the final three and come up with titles. Past experience from previous years’ entries tell me that the image title can be very important in the judging, as a “blah” title that does not help convey the message of the entry will be detrimental and a good title can greatly help an otherwise (in my mind) so-so image [I tend to disagree with this, but these contests are all quite subjective and so can understand how a good title can be effective.]

So here are the five I am having mounted with tentative titles and the category in which the image will likely be entered. This first one is a definite entry and absolutely one of my best this year. It has a great combination of color and interest with winding road and the bent over oak:

"Bend in the road" in the General category

This next one is quite likely another entry. This is one of my cousin’s grandkids, named after our mutual grandfather (Max). We were on the beach in Pentwater and he did not know me from Adam and so was very suspicious of this old guy taking pictures of him. It took him a couple of days to warm up to me, but this one was one of the first I snapped and I just move his look (and the out-of-focus background created by using a large aperture).

"Far out curls" in the People category

This next one is of our boy Finn earlier this summer. My how he has grown since then! But this definitely captures a “dog smile” and again, the large aperture makes for a pleasingly out-of-focus background.

"Finn" in the Animals category

These next two are still possibilities, but are less likely for various reasons. I like this one for the detail in the dragonfly and the added interest of the coneflower (again out of focus). I think if the flower were in focus, it would be too distracting for the viewer and not allow the eye to eventually settle back on the dragonfly. Unfortunately, I think the dragonfly may be overexposed a touch and I have not got the time to work on it.

"Dragonfly with coneflower" in the Nature category

And finally, this one of a bed of tulips in one of our local parks, taken last spring (of course!). I’m still wondering about the best title for this one – any suggestions? So far, I’ve settled on “Outstanding” as the one flower that is in focus is slightly taller than the rest (I intentionally focused on that flower by the way).

"Outstanding" in either the Nature or General category

Here are a couple more than did not make the final cut (I did not print them). While I like the colors in this next one, it just does not say enough to the viewer.

"After the sun goes down"

Here is another shot of Finn, this time on the beach at Pentwater. Could be a good entry but I did not think as strong as the previous one of him. I do like the juxtaposition of his face and the frisbee, though, and you can see that he is dripping wet and just challenging the viewer to do something. Actually, maybe this is better than I thought…

"C'mon let's play!"

And, another shot of the dragonfly and coneflower, slightly different composition with a lot more distracting twig.

"Dragonfly and coneflower (2)"

And, finally, another shot of the oak tree, corn and winding road, this time looking back up the road from the opposite side of the tree. Just not a as strong an image…

"Bend in the road (2)"

Got any opinions? Would love to hear from you! And there is another contest coming up – to support the Ludington Arts Council. Clink on the link and check out the entries so far.

To Cooper

If you come across this blog at some time, you may see the dedication on the upper right. A dedication to Cooper. If you don’t know us, you wouldn’t know who Cooper was. If you have known us for any length of time, you know and don’t need to ask. And, now after nearly a year since he passed, I can finally start to express my feelings about Cooper – at least in images, maybe not so eloquently in words. I’ll let these do the talking for me…no need to say he was a fine-looking fellow. This blog-post may change over time as I edit it with additional photos and text. I’d like to put the images in chronological order, or at least add dates to them where I can.

First winter (2000) - Japan House in the background.

Charging the photographer.

He could be feisty, as Kathy will attest to his early years – never mean, just independent. As you can see here from our Millennium New Year’s Party, he was not real happy about being picked up.

Millenium celebration at 909 front porch.

It is hard for me now to distinguish those years of Cooper that were pre-Henry…as Henry has become so much a part of our lives and appears in so many photos with Cooper. Looking back, Henry probably has as much reason, if not more, to miss Cooper than we do. Here’s one on the back porch at the old place and I can see we have already remodeled the kitchen and added the cupola over the deck (which would make it ~2005), so Henry must have been around somewhere.

Back porch at 909 (2005/06).

Cooper taking it easy on the bench at 909 (Spring 2005).

Sugar plum faeries, Kathy and Cooper curled up on my pillow as usual (around Christmas 2002).

Kathy with Henry and Cooper beneath the Sunsinger at Allerton Park (April 2005).

Allerton Park near The Last Centaur sculpture (April 2005).

Cooper and Henry in 2003 (professional photo, not mine).

Out at Parkland Community College (October 2005).

Nearly every summer we went to Michigan, either to Pentwater or to Grand Haven, always along Lake Michigan and the beach.

Near Grand Haven, waiting to get in the truck.

Windy day on the beach at Pentwater.

Enjoying a dip in a calm Lake Michigan.

Sun setting on an impatient Cooper, looking out the front porch, Pentwater.

Mixing it up with Henry on the beach (the tennis ball is no longer an issue).

The "dog monks" after a hard day playing, at Eleanor's cottage (photo by Jan).

Setting sun on the beach, "golden hour".

Smiling with Kathy on the beach, his last trip to Pentwater (2010).

My family portrait.

I still remember Cooper looking out over the water, late this one afternoon. I can’t help but wonder if he knew something was up – like he was trying to tell us something in the only way he could. There was no bird or boat to catch his attention, and maybe he was simply taking it all in knowing he would not get back.

Lakeward gaze (2010).

The Cooper sphinx (2010)!

I recall this next pic, because this was the summer my knee was in bad shape and prior to surgery we went to Pentwater (August 2005). I hobbled down to the beach at the Oceana clubhouse (no stairs there) and started up the beach while Kathy came to meet me with Henry and Cooper. It was windy and their fur is windswept, but they saw me and were heading my way without delay.

Not sure who's walking whom...(2005).

More to come!!

Looking Forward to Some R&R in Pentwater, MI

Kathy and the boys on the beach

We are heading up to Pentwater, Michigan next week for some well-deserved relaxation and recreation. I have been going up to Pentwater since I was very young (like 5 years old or so?), and this is almost like a home away from home. Cottage on the big lake (Lake Michigan). No TV. Beautiful sunsets and sandy beaches. A place for the dogs to really spend the day outside and get worn out. Hard to believe that only a year ago both Henry and Cooper seemed so healthy and since then, we’ve lost Coop (to hermangiosarcoma) and Henry is dealing with lymphoma (and doing well). We are happy to have Henry with us and it was our hope he would be able to go perhaps one last time. And now we’ve got a new guy, Finn, to learn the ropes of becoming a beach dog – he has some big shoes (er, paws) to fill and Henry will teach him by example.

Sunset cruise, cargo ship on Lake Michigan

Big Sable Lighthouse near Ludington

There will be many opportunities for photographs and that is the heart of my intended use of this blog. So, look for many images to appear here, probably not until after we return; internet access, like TV, is not an option where we will be. Nor is the cell phone. It is a great way to get away and not have to hear about the national debt ceiling or tea-partiers, etc. I can’t wait!

Ludington Area Center for the Arts Photo Contest

Yesterday, I entered six photos into the above named photo contest. This is the 3rd year of what is expected to be an annual event and money from photo entries goes to the LACA. Below are the photos I entered. Here is the LACA web-site and on this page you can find a link to a photo gallery containing all entries: 

Evening Blues, taken on the beach below Garrison Park looking toward the Pentwater lighthouses:

Sun Drop, taken near Champaign as the sun emerged below the clouds: 

Taking Flight, taken on the Garrison Park beach early one morning as the deer became alarmed by someone coming down the stairs from farther up the beach.

Waiting for an Audience, taken in the empty outdoor auditorium of Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids:

Quicksilver on the North Breakwater, an afternoon of an amazing light show in Ludington:

Magic Light approaches Garrison Park Beach, taken near sunset on aforementioned beach:

There’s a lot of really good competition, so I have no expectations of winning anything. But, it makes me be critical of my own work and try to look at my images as through someone else’s eyes. I have other photos, but thought I would go largely with some that would be familiar to most of the audience (i.e., folks in the Ludington area) and having some feel for what I think the judges (Todd and Brad Reed) like. We will see.

Pentwater Sunsets – A Sampling

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I wanted to show off some of the sunset images captured during our stay up in Pentwater. Anyone that spends any time up there knows it is hard not to watch the sun set and, in the process, wind up taking dozens, if not hundreds, of sunset photos. Photographers Todd and Brad Reed up in Ludington make a living out of it. I can only aspire to their abilities. Click on each to see full-size and get the full effect.


A favorite as it looks like the ship is heading into the sun.
Rogue wave!

Golden light moment on the beach, one of my favs.

I think even the sea gulls enjoy watching the sun set.

Panoramic of Pentwater Lake looking toward town as the sun turns the sky (and water) pink.

More from Michigan – Big Weather and Lighthouses

   Here it is October and I am still reminiscing about our summer vacation in Pentwater. Maybe it is the warm weather we have been having this fall that keeps me thinking about summer – it has indeed been a very pleasant September/October. That, and there were so many photos that I have not shared.

   First, I believe I alluded to some heavy weather in my previous post. The Friday before Labor Day was quite tumultuous with some of the highest wind and waves I have ever witnessed along the Lake. There are numerous images on flickr.com if one looks in the Group called “Great Lakes lighthouses“. It seems there must be a large number of contributors to this group that reside or vacation along that southeast coastline of Lake Michigan, from St. Joseph up to Manistee. I have contributed a few images to this group and I am posting several here. Those that are familiar with the Pentwater lighthouses should get a kick out of these. Those that are not, well, figure the red tower is probably about 30 feet or more tall, so while not all the waves were shooting that high there were enough to let you know there was a lot of power behind them (it took a fair amount of patience, and a lot of otherwise dull photos, to wait for a wave to do this; my guess is it takes a specific impact 
angle on the end of the pier to send 
the water up that way).

   And, of course, there were some crazies that just had to walk out there and photograph themselves being stupid. I was sorry to learn that there was a drowning up in Ludington over that weekend – I do not know the circumstances and will not speculate as to what happened, only that to be on or in the water under these conditions should only be done by experts (e.g., Coast Guard). You’ve got to respect Mother Nature!

  Despite all that, the light, wind, clouds, waves and everything combined can make for some dramatic picture-taking. These last two show a very forboding sky and, believe me, the wind was howling on the beach (witness Kathy under a jacket-hood in early September). It was a bit crazy, but we enjoyed it, we really did. It’s like an adventure every time you go out the door!

More to come…including more dog photos and sunsets, ah yes, the sunsets…

Dogs (and People) on Vacation

It has been a tremendously long time since I posted anything here and I am feeling quite guilty about it. After all, what is the sense in doing this if you don’t post anything? Now, it has been so long and I have so much material I don’t know where to start! I thought I would start with something personal and humorous. It involves Kathy and me and the “boys” (Cooper and Henry) and our best-buds Laura & Gale and their two “girls” (Bonnie and Morgan).

We all spent a wild and woolly weekend in Pentwater, Michigan along Lake Michigan in a cottage my family spent many summer days when we were all much younger. I say wild and woolly because the weather on September 3 was as windy as I have ever seen it on the Lake. Small craft had no business being on the water and I would bet that many large craft stayed in that day as well. Actually, that is not the point of this post and I will take time at a later date to expand on the weather that weekend.

My purpose today was to talk about taking photos with animals in them. And, especially, animals and people together. And further, animals and people using a tripod and timer so yours truly gets in the photo as well! The idea was to get everyone in a photo together on the beach before the weekend ended. No problem, right? Yeah, try to get four dogs and four people all looking at the camera on cue.

Here’s our first try:

Get the picture? Pure mayhem!! Everyone was pretty well set until I ran out from behind the camera to get in position. But, when I tried to get there, Cooper and Henry jumped up to follow me. And, the wind was blowing so my cap started to come off (hence the hand to my head). We all looked up to smile for the camera, pausing only to wonder if the camera had already fired (it had). So, OK, let’s try that again. Everyone hold still…

Hey, not too bad! We, the people anyway, are looking at the camera and we even have a bit of a low-to-high people profile. Let’s try one more for good measure.

That’s about the best I could hope for without having someone with their finger on the camera trigger. I have many more good photos of us (of course, I’m not in them). Here are a couple of my favs.

There are many, many more. I will keep you “posted.”