A life’s End

Back in September 2014 I created an image of this tree as a part of my 90-day project. Part of this project was to not only create an image but to tell a story about the photograph. This was day two’s image, and this is what I wrote.

“I was drawn to this tree due to the low branch a few feet above the ground and the almost stereotypical hole that needs an owl to fill it. The texture of the tree and the branches gave this tree this character of something from a book. And you know its old because you can almost read a story about its life here, the people who lived there and the events over the years in the bark of the tree and the twists of the branches.”

Well this spring when I was walking my dog, I visited the tree and come to find it in not so good of shape the branches were bare where other trees were sprouting leaves. Still, we had a wet season there maybe some hope. As the season changed it became clear that the tree had died and soon it too would be cut down.

Today was the day that the tree was cut down.

Look No Farther

In the world of landscape photography, it seems that the cooler and more extoic place you create images of, the better you are as a photographer. Well at least the more noticed you are is more to my point. And that is great! We need to see the beautiful places of the world to remind us of how precious our planet is. But  I believe that you should Look No Farther than your own backyard to find unique beauty to share with the world, because that is what everyday people see.Where they live and not the Rocky Mountains or National Parks of the world. By taking that challenge on, you push yourself to look at a landscape in a way that makes it interesting and engaging not only to you but to your viewer. That is what I am working on this year. And  right now, I find it has been tough but I love the challenge. 



With a purchase of the camper, my wife and I have spent 4 weekends at 3 different parks; Palisades-Kepler, Pleasant Creek and West Overlook down in Coralville. We stayed at Palisades-Kepler twice. I have created a lot of images of Palisades-Kepler over the years so when I couldn’t get out due to rain or extreme heat, it was ok. So far both Pleasant Creek and West Overlook has had the most images I have created. Now I found a couple of good images to post with the rest not being worthy and that is ok. My failed images are what I learn from and a few of them I may try again to see if I can create something that I love. 



By creating images of my own state, a place I grew up in, I have an idea of what I do and don’t want to present. Barns, cornfields and dirt roads are typical Iowa and that is good for most people but it is not what I want to show. I would love to show off our little towns, rolling fields of prairies, the northern bluff like landscape of Northeast Iowa, the rivers and lakes we fish on. These are the images that I feel have been ignored when it comes to Iowa. These are the images that don’t come to mind when you say to someone; “When you think of Iowa, what pictures come to mind?” Barnes and corn is the most popular is my educated guess.  



I stated earlier that I have lived in Iowa for most of my life but I haven’t seen a good portion of this state.. Which is leading my wife and I to explore places we haven’t been before, or haven’t seen in a very long time.This time, instead of looking at it as one would see it as a tourist, I am looking at these places as a photographer. I want to find something about these places that has a photographic worth that doesn’t appear anywhere else. 



Coming soon is our next park, Lake Darling. I had never heard of the park but with a little research I found it has very little light pollution, so astrophotography is possible. On the DNR site not only points out the great camping and boating but also “Hikers will find plenty of opportunity at Lake Darling State Park. Several trails are present and hikers will see a variety of plant, animal and bird species. One of the trails extends through a re-established prairie and another winds through heavily wooded timber to a cemetery dating back to the 1800s.” To me that sounds like possibilities of images and sound recordings of nature. So needless to say I am looking forward to the opportunities that may happen. 



So this is one of my many projects, to find the gems of Iowa landscapes and create images to redefine what people picture Iowa looks like. I am sure that this will take me to places I haven’t seen, to look at places that I am familiar with in a different way and to write and or podcast about the whole experience. And hopefully, maybe motivate you to visit or at least, entertain you in some way. Until my next post here are some of the images I have created so far. If you follow me on instagram, Facebook or Twitter, you might have seen them already. 



The Last Time

So what have I been up to? I feel I have written or talked about this topic way to often this year. It is not that I am so busy with photography that I can’t take a few moments and blog or make a podcast about my work. Busy is not the problem, the lack of being busy and have no motivation to do it is closer to the issue. It’s not that I haven’t created photographs, it is just that I have created too few to blog about. So when I feel I have enough to talk or write about I then recap it out for all to see. I am finding this tiresome and feel that this is the last one that I will do going forward. With that said here is the skinny on all that has transpired over the past few months. 



Buffey and I have purchased a camper and we are camping as often as we can. This has given me some inspiration to write about the experience from a  photographer’s point of view. Iowa has some great landscapes that don’t involve barns, cornfields, and dirt roads, some of them are in our campgrounds around the state and that to me is a great subject to journal. So far we have gone to our favorite site, Palisade-Kepler State Park, twice and Pleasant Creek once. Each one had different subjects to create images of that would make great photos on anyone's wall or portfolio. As the summer moves on, we plan to stay at parks we have never been to before with a week or so long stay at a park at the last two weeks of October. Keep you posted on where that is.




I have new business cards for general and pet photography. I had them printed at Staples for a relatively low price. I was motivated to create them after a grooming shop owner loved the portraits of Stella and Triskaideka and wanted to had out cards along with having her dogs portraits done. I am excited and hopeful that this could be good for business. 




I have had two family portrait sessions out at Ellis Park this year and they turned out fantastic. Ellis is one of my go to places to create family, senior or any outdoor portraits that I haven’t used in a while. With spring rains creating flood conditions a lot of my favorite spots have become unusable. That has forced me to look for new spots or go back to some old haunts and look at them with new eyes and try some new ideas. The first family, the Reeds, we started at the stone bridge and ended in Shakespeare's Garden. We created images of the whole family, individual kids and lifestyle like portraits. My second family had similar needs but my favorites were the individual images of her boy and her younger girl. I am looking forward to going back and rediscovering fall portraits there and I am sure other portrait photographers will too. 




With mid-summer arriving there are a lot to write and talk about yet to come and I am going to work on making sure I share them with you. With a new camera I am dying to try some astrophotography this summer. I have tried it before but my old camera could not produce images  in very low light situations but this one can. I am really looking forward to the fall camp out and if we get to book the place we want then it should be a great opportunity to create some spectacular fall images. 




So stay tuned and I will be posting some of my images from the past campouts as well as some new ones at our next two campouts coming up. And yes this is the last post that is all about catching up, I promas.




Happy Birthday

There are pets that come and go into our lives that mean more than some friendships or, in some cases, family members. A few years back my wife lost her favorite cat Max due to swallowing thread. She was devastate and felt that there would be no other cat who would be a Max to her. That Friday, which was the 13th and a full moon, a little black kitten cried until my wife found him and took him in. Once he had a bottle of food he balled up on her lap and fell asleep. That is when we knew he was ours and his name couldn’t have been more clearer, Triskaideka.

As he grew up he became a cat who loved he have his portrait taken. At first portraits were just of him but as time when on we added props to the portraits. One winter we upped the anti and added a hat, he loved it! A cat that will wear a hat was almost too good to be true. My wife was besides herself. My wife had always love the photos of cats with top hats or any type of hats but thought she would never have one that would wear a hat. So more portraits with hats and sunglasses were taken of this cat with so much patience to put up with such craziness.

Well it has been just over 5 years, June 13, 2014 since that cat became the next Max. He has been a great companion to my wife and will mean so much more than I will ever know. In this 5 years Triskaideka has experienced being a model wearing hats, camping, and a loss of his big dog Star with a replacement of a new dog Stella. I’m not sure he likes her as much as she liked Star but Stella is growing on her.

After the loss of Star we had hoped to find another dog with similar personality and demeanor. Star was part Aussie with a mix of a few other breeds thrown in. The Aussie was the part that she expressed the most and that was what we hoped to find again. As we looked we of course found Aussies but for far more than we were willing to pay. As the years ticked away the more we grew in the notion we were most likely were not going to have another dog like Star in our lives. Well that was until we saw a friends post about their new Aussie mix.

Once we saw that post of the dog we ask where they got it and if there were more to adopt. After getting the info we contacted the breeder and came to find out there were no other females left but there was another littler born on the 4th of July that had a few females. Oh and they were purebred Aussies. Once we found out their asking price we asked if we could visit and see them and put a down payment on one.

The day arrived and we drove up to the house and were greeted by a group of very friendly dogs ready to play. For me this was a good sign that if the parents were like this then the pups will be friendly too as they got older. We met the owners and after some discussion about ourselves and what we are looking for, we were taken to meet the puppies. They were still young and not walking much but I found one that was a beautiful black and white puppy that seemed to bond a bit to me. Both Buffey and I agreed this was the one and place our down payment. All we had to do now is pick out the name and get a few items she will need.

Stella came home to us on September 24th which happened to be a Wednesday and quite a crazy day. A few days earlier my wife ended up in the hospital, my employer was just about to change and I hadn’t gotten a kennel for Stella yet. So after work I went and picked up Stella and ran into Theisens with Stella under my arms. We walked around and found a kennel and a soft fuzzy woolen mat bed for her to sleep on. We paid for everything and headed home and a day later Buffey got to meet little miss Stella once again.

So today, July 4th, Buffey and I set up a background and created portraits of Stella for her birthday. Of course we did a few images on a plain white background of just her and a few that showed off her new collar. Once that was done we put together the Red-White-Blue background for her big birthday portrait and dressed her up. Stella’s collar and outfit came from Pampered Whiskers. Like Triskaideka’s 4th of July portraits, we ordered a jesters like collar with stars. When it arrived we were got a bonus gift of the hats which we were dying to try out. Our session went so smoothly and with both Stella and Triskaideka we got the best images to put into our family album.

Pets are so important in our lives. They are our camping companions, snuggle buddies, our keeper of secrets and comfort us when we are down. Both Stella and Triskaideka make me laugh with the things they do, so that is why I always create images of them, to keep the memories of them for as long as I am alive. Shouldn’t everyone?



12 Portraits of 2018

Like most people, the end of the year is about lists. A list of things like goals that I have for the year, things I need to change or photos I love. Well I thought I would bow to peer pressure and create a list of 12 portraits that I love and had fun creating this year. Now don’t fret, if your session did not appear that doesn’t mean I didn’t like any of the images or enjoy creating it. I just didn’t want to have a list that would go on and on and bore all 5 of my readers.  The reason I chose these images is that I tried something different, it came out great and now I use the set up as part of my other sessions. So here are my favorite 12 portraits in no specific order.

My nephew. Besides being my nephew and good looking, this pose turned out perfect for him. He looks strong and confident looking into the camera lens. I used paramount lighting which I hadn’t been able to do well until I bought a boom light stand. The paramount lighting is dramatic because his face and upper portion is lit creating dramatic shadows that helps him blend slightly into the background. And making this image black and white just adds to the drama.

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The next one is my son looking down on the city. The Crow is a character that he wanted to create and be photographed as. A lot of the solitary hero’s seeming to be ones that always perch themselves above the city to look down on it. I wanted to create that with Colin, but I wasn’t 100% that I was going to convincingly pull it off. I first photographed Colin on a bench and lit him in a with a light that would look as if it came from the street. Then I photographed the city scene a few days later. With the two image I combined them into one. I chose a blue, cold look because he is looking down at the city with some contempt and revenge for those who wronged him. After creating this image, I became motivated to create more cosplay like portraits.

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Colin and Rose. I had never felt that I had posed couples well but with Colin and Rose I really had an easy and great time creating these. I hate to admit but when it comes to posing, I feel I don’t do this well. Rose and Colin agreed to work with me which opened some new posing ideas to me. There were so many images that I really liked, but this portrait of the two of them was my favorite. A simple pose that has symmetry as well as conveying emotion to the viewer. The bonus of this session it that I was able to work in a park that I had never considered until then. The park has great light at this time as well as spots to use.

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Rose. Not only is she pretty, but she is a great model to work with. Again, I struggle to pose people, but Rose posed herself opening the possibilities that I could use with the next person I work with. Not only is this a great pose but I felt that the lighting looks so natural even though I had to use an off-camera flash. With that kind of success, I gain confidence to off camera flash into my kit for outdoor portrait sessions.    

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Morgan. I have always wanted to created portraits with a dancer since photographing my first dancing session. This time I got to do this with Morgan and as you can see, we did this outside in nature where, typically, you don’t see. In this spot I wanted to create a portrait that emulates a painting, something you would see in a Rembrandt or Degas and I feel I pulled it off with the lighting, color and the softness of the background. I think this spot would also look great with family and pets, don’t you think?

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Jack. My first encounter with Jack is when he was 5 and now here, he is, a senior in high school. I really liked all of his portraits but this one grabbed me. Not only is his pose and expression fit him perfectly but the lighting and his placement on the door works so well. I have used this door before but I finally feel I have discovered the best setup for this particular spot which excites me and want to create this again.

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Myles and Anna. I was dreading photographing at this park because it is so popular, but it is a popular place because it is so beautiful. We got a lot of great portraits with bright yellows and oranges of the fall colors, but I wanted to create some drama portraits that didn’t have color. That is when we went down to the beach and used the light and dark of the trees across the river. With the combination of flash and rim lighting of the sun I feel I have created this soft dramatic painted like portrait.

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Girl in Blue Dress. I have always loved the Rembrandt light because it has drama built into it. Most of the time when you set up this lighting situation, your subject blends completely or almost blend into the background. The hard part of this lighting is when you try to do this outside a studio an in a person’s home. This particular setting, I had the room to create this portrait and with her expression, background, and dress, it all came together and made an excellent image. Here sister’s portrait created with the same lighting came out just as good.  

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John and Family. John is, was a coworker and an all-around good guy. I don’t pose families well but with his group, I got a great group of portraits. This one was done in a wooded area using off camera flash that I believe has a natural light feel to it. Of all the technical aspects of this image, the grouping I am happiest with.

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Little Girl. I always love the soft expression over the great big smile that everyone expects. I created this portrait session of a good friend’s daughter. We started out with simple poses and big smiles but before I ended the session, I set up a pose with a soft expression and out of all the images, this was picked as the best by everyone.

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Stella. I have a lot of great images of Stella but this one is my favorite of them all. Just the fact I caught her in mid motion catching her tug. It is motion and energy caught in one image which you don’t always get to see.

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Triskaideka. I love to photograph this cat. He is expressive and know what I am looking for, and most of all, he is willing to have his photo taken. Not many cats put up with me taking their photos but Triskaideka really enjoys it. I love his expression and the light I caught in this portrait. This image is also my first time I used my new toy, a Nikon D750. All the rest of my images were created with an older Nikon D80 but because it is so old that if it breaks that is it, it is a brick. Now with the new toy I don’t have to worry about renting a camera for a portrait session, I have the D750 for my main camera and the D80 as a backup.

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By now you have noticed I don’t have 12 portraits but 13, the last is a bonus portrait I am compelled to add.

My parents. I created this portrait of my parents on their 60th Wedding Anniversary. That is 60 years of life’s ups and down along with three kids. They were loving and supportive of all that we did and gave all that we needed. My parents are why I am who I am and the values I have, without their love and guidance, who knows where I would be. 

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It was a great 2018 and I am looking forward to 2019, there are a lot of changes and goals I have made for the new year. One is for this site to hold only my landscape and photographic art while another site will be for my portrait work. I will continue to work on my style of portrait while challenging myself in

Still Here

I know it has been a while since I have posted on my blog or uploaded a podcast but it has been crazy lately. I try to budget my time in order to accomplish all the tasks that go into my posts but lately, I haven’t had the time, more to the point, motivation. It’s not that I am loosing interest in what I have been doing, but the energy to get it done. See I have changed my place of employment and instead of starting at 10 am I now start at 4 am. You would think it wouldn’t be that hard to change hours but it has been. So while I got use to my new wake up time of 2:45 I paced myself through the day and finished up some projects. Without getting into deep on all that I have finished, I thought I would post my last portrait session I created this year.

I really enjoyed creating these portraits of my friend Erin’s girls at their home. They were such a delight to work with were very patient between the background changes. Of all the portraits I am partial to the portraits done on the black background. My goal, with having only the one light, was to create an intimate portrait with the Baroque Style Lighting. The images I am most drawn to are the individual portraits where they are not smiling. I feel there is more of a connection to the viewer with these images than the others. Again over all the session was great and I am really happy with how everything turned out.

So this winter I am taking some time to renovate a room that I had been using but turning it over to my wife. It was a cat, storage and studio for my clean up work as well as my podcast but I will be cleaning it up and turning it into a quilting room for my wife. As for me, I will be taking a smaller room for my photography and podcasting studio. I don’t need much and the closet is a perfect size to record in. The last two days I have been going through items, pitching some and placing some in a better storage container. Once the room is cleared I will begin the demolition process, taking the lath and plaster walls out, redoing the lights and wall sockets. Then finally, refinishing the wood floors. I will post as the project progress. I am hopeful that it will not last too long and I can get my room set up.

A new year is starting and I am also looking to revamp this sight. I plan to separate the portrait work from this site on to a new one, leaving this site dedicated to the landscape and artwork. I am also working on new side projects that I believe will befit photographers that follow me. Without giving away too much, I hope to create content that will cover many topics that will be able to be applied to your photography. I’m excited.

So new stuff coming up, new looks and new places to go. I will keep you posted.

Stella

Photographing dogs can be both challenging and rewarding. On the other hand, puppies, they can almost be impossible but the rewards can be great. Today I had a session set up with my Son but due to the weather conditions, we had to scrub the day. That’s okay, there will be other days with better light and not so wet conditions. But I was still had a need to make the day productive, I still had a need to photograph something. After finishing up the changes on my website I broke out the camera equipment and setup a background and got ready for a long session.

 

Stella is our new puppy the one we wanted after Star died. Star was our first real big dog. She was our frisbee dog, a half australian shepherd half beagle who came into our lives unexpectedly. She was a little puppy that fit in my wife’s coat pocket but then grew into a medium size energetic dog. As she got bigger she went through a destructive faze where she tore apart a recliner. Lucky the chair was free so we didn’t lose any money over it but still, what a mess to clean up. We came to the conclusion that if we gave her a job she wouldn’t be bord and the furniture would be safe. So we had her chase the geese where I worked and she was good at what she did. Once she even caught one. Did not know what to do with it but was happy as hell she caught it.

 

Star was a great dog and when she died it left a big hole in our lives. We knew in time we wanted to find another dog, an Aussie like Star but the price was way out of our budget. Resigned to that fact we quit looking until one of our friends got an Aussie mix. Cute as they come. So we contacted our friends who put us in contact with the breeder. They had the mixes but all male however they had a new batch of full blood Aussies and two were female. They were born on the 4th of July and would not be ready for a few weeks. So my wife and I got a deposit together and placed it on one of the females and for the next 4 or so weeks we worked on picking a name.

 

The day came when I got a call from the breeder that she was ready to pick up. I was excited and worried at the sametime. Excited to finally pick her up after so many weeks of anticipation but, at the time, my wife was in the hospital and I had to come up with a way to watch a dog and see my wife. Lucky I had some backup with my Son and my wife’s friends who really wanted to spend a lunch hour watching Stella. Eventually my wife came home which gave me another set of eyes on this ball of energy.

 

So today I took the time and set up a background and lights and with my camera I started to create images. I set up the black background to try to get that dramatic image but soon found that to be a bad idea. I traded the black for a white background but still did not have any luck. So I took up the background and opted for the wood floors and that is when Lily got involved and played with Stella. I just gave in and just took photos which yielded the group of images you see below.  Like I said before, you may shoot a lot of images but in the end, if you get at least 5 good or great images, for a puppy, its a good day. Stella has now been in our lives for over a week now and she is fitting in, well just don’t ask the cats because they have a not so favorable opinion of her.

"The Crow" Session

"The Crow" Session

Over the past few weeks my son and I have been planning out a portrait session that I have dubbed “The Crow.” With my help, Colin wanted to create a set of portraits that were a tribute to the comic as well as the movie “The Crow.” A session I knew that would challenge my creative as well as my technological side of my photography in order to achieve the look and feel that both of use were striving for.

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Water Lily

This is the first year that the pond in our backyard is in such a state, that my wife and I had decided that dismantling and rebuilding the pond was in our best interest. The growth of weeds and volunteer trees was more than the torch could clean out not to mention the odd rock that has fallen in and become cumbersome to pull out. So this year is one of the first years I am without a water lily subject to photograph through out the summer season. Until next year I have a handful of images I would like to pull out of the digital storage device and talk about.

 

This image was one of the first that I had converted from color to black and white, opening up a whole new way of seeing these flowers. I don’t have to tell you that I am a bigger fan of black and white and the how it gives a fine art look it gives to the subject. For this subject, once I manipulated the reds and greens to greyscales I became excited for the possibilities that opened for the rest of my collection of waterlilies.

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At the time I found the plant at the height of it health and production of it flowers as well as it’s pads. The pond too was in perfect balance with fish, toads and insects that for some became part of the images while other became food. As important is the health of the plants and pond, was also the surrounding area of the pond. My pond is located in the backyard shaded by the tall ornamental grasses and Black Walnut Tree. With that and the combination of the path of the sun in the summer, shadows and reflections played a vital role in the creation of all my waterlily images. So why does this image work for me?

 

I love how there are two subjects here; the first is the flowers themselves, right high of center and flowing down to the right corner. The secondary subject is the pads that are caught in muted light as well as the reflection at the bottom of the image. As I look at these subjects, my eye is directed in a triangular direct through the frame then slowly moving out to the upper left where the lilies pads reside in the shadows. I find the way I direct the viewer through my image with light still give them the ability to explore more easily so that all the details are consumed. Again I feel that what you don’t see, the trees and ornamental grasses, played a big part in shaping this image.  

 

As the work on the pond commenses, I will try to document portions of its progress, but until then I will try to post periodically post my water lily images and to spread the beauty of the summer captured in black and white. I am also considering in making the collection available as a box set of prints. Still working the detail of that and my store on the website so before it goes live I will announce it first to you.