Baseball 2014…

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

  • John Quincy Adams

It is one week to opening night of Baseball. I never really played, there was a stint in the minor leagues when I was younger, I think I was 8. I had very little training, and even less encouraging enthusiasm. There is a photo of me in my uniform somewhere, hopefully my Mommy lost it, but she can be a bit of a hoarder, so I am sure it is in a box somewhere that she will be able to go right out and get and scan and post. Ask her to remember when her oil needs to be changed and her eyes glaze over and she starts to fidget. Ask her where to find the leaf collection I did for Mrs. Edge in the second grade is at and she can find it instantly. I am just as bad though but we will not get into that.

I really kinda wish I had stuck with baseball, I really do enjoy the game and watch quite a few games. Life long Cub fan here but will watch any game when it is on. I call any Cub fan a true baseball fan, because it is not about winning it all. It is about enjoying the baseball game and all that fun stuff that goes with it. I was once on TV back in the Harry Carey days of the Cubs. I was at a game with my cousin, the Doc, and we had a beer and my seat was next to one of the upright supports. I somehow dozed off, something I can do just about anywhere, and a foul ball was hit a few rows in front of us. Well there I was on camera, zoomed in on me, asleep against the upright support, beer in my lap, and Harry Carey comments about “someone really enjoying today’s game”. Damo just looked at me laughed, and woke me up and told me about diving for the ball and how could I sleep through that. I am not sure, I just did.

So anyway, the countdown was on, 1 week away from opening night and thank God my younger brother had a baseball in his car, or I would not have had my photo of the day. I had my heart set on baseball for the photo of the day. Enjoy!

A baseball waiting for opening night!

A baseball waiting for opening night!


“Nature is the art of God.”

  • Dante Alighieri

Those of you that know me, know my whole day is planned around food. I have a love of food problem. I mean how could you not in this area. A recent discussion on why Domino’s, Papa Johns, and Little Caesars never made it around this area all came back to really good pizza that is already here! The Illinois Valley has some pretty awesome food. I could eat out every night in this area and never have a bad meal or for that matter spend to much. We are very lucky as far as I am concerned when it comes to good food, quite a few places that have been around for decades, and that is something to say.

So my Mommy was helping my Noni do some food for an Italian feast at Sacred Heart. Peppers, Sausage, in a Tomato gravy! This is the dish that our family has at EVERY gathering, it is the one staple you can count on always being there, always in the same pot simmering away on the counter. Usually there is homemade bread, bowls, cheese and lots of napkins close at hand for this dish. If you have not had this, let me know and next family get together I will bring ya along. Because with our family, no matter what when you are here you are part of the family.

So this image shows you the most colorful part of the dish, the red and yellow peppers, cooking in olive oil in a pan bigger than your head. We were making so much that day that we did it at the fire station, because membership has it privileges. The pans were as big as your head, another pan on the stove had the onions, and earlier that day the 40 pounds of sausage had been cooked and sliced. Put this together in a big roaster and let is cook low and slow for hours and hours and the flavors blend together so well you are taking bites of heaven. Then the bread is used to sop up all the last remaining bits of the gravy in the bowl. By the way, this is the one dish that we always run out of, so you know to get there early. Enjoy, cuz now that my mouth is watering for this, I am going to find the leftovers my mom hid. Yes the one time we made too much, and it gets better every day it sits.

Just one of the ingredients for sausage and onions and peppers and tomatos.

Just one of the ingredients for sausage and onions and peppers and tomatoes.

Happy Clouds…

“You get what you concentrate upon. There is no other main rule.”

  • Jane Roberts

Sometimes you have to look up. Sometimes you have to look behind you. Sometimes you have to look down. The photo is not always in front of you. I was out and about and heard a bird or something and I looked up and saw these layers of clouds racing past on the wind. I switched to the wide angle lens and snapped several photos. Such a great combination of light and dark and whimsy. Of course I remember Bob Ross on Saturdays and his happy trees and his happy clouds. The best part about this is I did not have to paint a thing.

The most interesting thing about watching Bob on those lazy Saturdays when I was trying to take a nap, was that he saw the painting in his head. Most artists will tell you they see the art in their mind and that they are just trying to let it out. In high school art class we were given bible passages and had to create art from that as it was our inspiration. Art classes were always the classes I would get an A in. There is always room for inspiration, you just have to let it in. You have to lay in the grass sometimes and stare at the clouds and daydream and you have to be afraid of taking the road less traveled.

Enjoy the clouds, and put your thoughts to a daydream and see where it leads you!

Wispy layers of clouds colored by a late afternoon sun on windy early spring day.

Wispy layers of clouds colored by a late afternoon sun on windy early spring day.


Sepia Barn…

“Death is the ugly fact which Nature has to  hide, and she hides it well.”

  • Alexander Smith

At the rate I am going, I will have enough barns to do a calendar and a maybe a book for your coffee table. Trust me there will be quite a few more barns before the year is out. I need some storms, some of these barns need a dark and stormy night or lightning. I am hoping I can find some of those save this location for later spots. I am also going to have to start driving farther and farther out as I am running out of spots within the 45 minutes or so drive from my house. Well not really, there are plenty of places to still shoot but the color has to change, I mean it needs to start getting spring and showing it!

I love that through the digital darkroom, I was able to edit this to look more like those old dust bowl era photographs I had seen on the History channel. A little hazy, with browns and oranges and stark due to the strong side lighting. I look at what I can do with photographs now and the more I take and the more I work with the software, the better the photographs I take become. I saw a famous black and white photograph once that had ink notations all over it. The notes were from the photographer telling his printer dodge this, burn that, blur this and so on. That is how it was done, you made a print in the darkroom and then turned on the lights and looked at it. Then you saw what needed to be done and went about making it better.

Color was even more involved than black and white and not as forgiving a medium. I will say I learned on the first version of Photoshop and boy was that labor intensive. Time flies and what we can do now I would have never imagined. This barn, used to store all the field would produce and the equipment needed to work it. Now it sits empty a place for animals to seek shelter and a few rusty pieces of equipment long forgotten. Enjoy!

A dusty barn captured in the twilight of its use.

A dusty barn captured in the twilight of its use.

Leaping Lizard…

“The artist must bow to the monster of his own imagination.”

  • Richard Wright

When I opened my first photography studio, I named it River Studios and had a logo designed that was Riveresque. Part of the design had a reptile of some kind sitting on a rock looking at the sunset. I was never sure what it was, but liked it and used it to represent my business, better than a cutout of a camera in my mind. So about a year had past and I was busy as ever and one of my clients, asked about the lizard on the rock, and they wanted to know if it was my pet. I of course laughed and said no he was part of the logo the design company came up with and I liked it and kept him in there.

Fast forward a few months and all their photos were done and they brought in a gift bag and said “this is for you, a new pet”. I was a bit worried as to what I was going to find in the bag and opened it and here was this little guy. I smiled and of course thanked them and put him on top of my computer monitor, always watching everything. He then when I switched offices sat on my chessboard and guarded it and kept the sides from starting a war, my own dragon as I call him.

Well I have been going through items from the old business, looking for some photos and cleaning up some junk I do not need anymore and found him all tucked away and put him back on that chessboard. He has been returned him to his position of guard preventing an all out battle on the chess board.

My own pet dragon guarding the chess board!

My own pet dragon guarding the chess board!

Primary Day…

“How often misused words generate misleading thoughts.”

  • Herbert Spencer

Election day in Illinois, well a primary election and being a lifelong registered Republican, I pulled a democrat ballot. I did it for two reasons, first off the Republicans in Illinois and in my County need to get their head out of their butts and start getting some good candidates. The local county part of the ballot had not one race that needed a primary vote, and the state races were dismal and pathetic. So I decided to make sure my vote went to a place it was needed. It was a very hard thing for me to do. I even called a friend who is an inner circle Republican to apologize about what I had done. I also got a call from a friend who is a democrat who was blaming the earthquake that day in California on me, jokingly of course.

Voter turnout was dismal in most of Illinois, our county had almost 49% turnout for a primary. Averages were under 20% I think in most of the state. Stop and think about that for a minute, that we complain about our politicians but when it comes time to act, less than 50% of the voting populace made the decision. I want to know if teachers voted against incumbents who screwed their pensions. Or gun rights people voted against candidates who voted on making gun control stricter. I mean I could go on and on but the point is simple, our vote matters. We have gotten lazy, and that is why we have no control over our destiny as a nation. Take time and vote, there are places in the world where people have no voice.

The oldest court house still in use in Illinois all lit up and waiting for another set of election results.

The oldest court house still in use in Illinois all lit up and waiting for another set of election results.

Morning Moon…

“There is role and function for beauty in our time.”

  • Tadao Ando

Took some full moon photos the night before and thought it could be really cool in the morning if it did not set into some low clouds on the horizon. That is a common thing that has happened before. I would see the full moon or a nice sliver of a moon and go out and try to capture it. I would head to a location and all of the sudden the moon was just gone. Slipped below the clouds and long gone. There are always phone calls and texts when the moon is especially cool and worthy of photographic capture. I have obliged in the past, the Super moon, the Harvest moon, the Moon is huge, the moon is blood red, the moon is really bright, the moon is well you get the idea. Laid down in the grass focusing through actual flames to get an interesting shot of the moon before.

I always remember a commercial for cheese something about man thinking the moon was made from cheese, man went to moon, found out it was a rock, never returned, funny. Of course in my top 10 movies is “Moonstruck” odd but relates to our “Italian” side all to well. The moon favors quite a bit in that movie, and Dean Martin of course. I swear at the end of that movie when the camera zooms in on that old photo in the dining room, that we had the same photo in our house. As if back in the old country they had no mirrors and the photographer broke his camera long ago and just printed copies of the same people over and over and passed them off as his most recent clients. Just a theory though, but it is a great great movie! My Mommy yelled at me one day because I was quoting the whole movie line for line.

So this image shows how cool photography is to me at least. The moon full and setting, the river flooded, giving space for long reflections, a couple of ducks or maybe geese flying, and framed by 2 trees that are normally well on shore. I caught the moon before it set into the horizon. The fact there was little wind added to the calm water and helped make the reflection even better. Every day on this quest finds beauty that is all around. Enjoy!

A full moon setting on the Illinois River an a crisp cloudless morning.

A full moon setting on the Illinois River an a crisp cloudless morning.

Fence in snow…

“Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.”

  • Henry David Thoreau

I was on my way home on Sunday morning from work, and surprise as I went out to load up my truck and start it for its journey home, it had snowed, again. It was a light fluffy kind of snow, the kind that blows and drifts and is easy to shovel. Oh I have a rule, after March 1st, I do not shovel anymore. God put it there, he can take it away. This winter has to stop, although the Weathermen are talking about all the Great Lakes ice and saying that it will be colder than normal for us through like June. Of course it is, we can blame a shift in the polar blah blah blah add in some ocean current warming or cooling in certain areas and wham bam thank you ma’am. Spring is going to suck!

I am getting closer to wanting to find a job that would allow me to work summers in Illinois, and winters in Southern California. This winter was so bad, I had to wear layers on top of layers just to stay warm. Go to bed in a sweatshirt and flannel pants, and I have a waterbed that was on maximum warmth. With multiple layers of blankets, and the warmest room in the house well except the bathroom, I added an electric heater in there because well a warm bathroom is heaven! I need to find one of those panel heaters again, those are the best, just constant even radiant warmth. Have to put that on the to do list along with everything else my mom keeps adding.

Anyhow enjoy one of the hopefully last bastions of winter. Although someone said the long range still has chances of that white shit for a few more weeks. It will end soon, this is Illinois, so it will end and then it will get really freaking hot! I cannot wait for that!

A late late winter dusting of snow blowing across the Illinois fields.

A late late winter dusting of snow blowing across the Illinois fields.

Addams Family…

“Pray that your loneliness may spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for.”

  • Dag Hammarskjold

On my drive to work this warm Saturday night I actually left early and took a drive around the Tiskilwa area. I saw this house and had to capture it. It kind of reminded my of the house from the Addams Family movies, though not as dark and black. The location of this house and that widows walk on the top would give those people a hell of a view of the surrounding Prairie. We used to build houses of distinction. Now we want to tear down the old and build ugly new utilitarian boxes. I go around towns and see houses that are featureless. I also see people who have houses with a billion angles and roof lines and wonder who thinks that is a great idea?  It is part of why I love my old house.

I always loved the Addams Family house, of course thanks to movie magic, it was enormous on the inside, larger than life even. Of course I also loved the adult humor from that movie. Dark and witty it still makes me laugh after all these years. Of course I grew up watching the reruns of the TV show when I was a kid. I did not get the adult humor then, just laughed at the silliness of it. The lesson learned, do not let your house or your life be boring! Make it cool, the best piece of advice I saw recently, was no one is on their deathbed wishing they spent more time at work.

A very cool Italianate style home on the Illinois Prairie with a commanding view!

A very cool Italianate style home on the Illinois Prairie with a commanding view!

Spring Crib…

“I don’t want to be interesting. I want to be good.”

  • Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

I went out in search of more barns on this day. It was nice out and the clouds were great for some photos with some nice contrast. I also managed to get my truck completely dirty and nearly stuck especially as I was shocked to find that some roads in the county were not plowed at all. Some roads should have signs posted that you should continue at your own risk. I had to gun it a few times and hope I would not have to call my brother to explain where I was, why I was stuck and beg for him to come pull me out.

I found this barn somewhere in Putnam County, I photographed so many that day it was hard to keep track. This time of year the sky is a great shade of blue that can at times render completely black in a black and white photo. I dodged and burned a bit and adjusted the color layers which in black and white will enhance a  photo. In a good software program with a raw file you can change the look of a black and white by adding or removing a specific color or hue. There was an old house also nearby, with windows broken out and trees overgrown.

Just so many textures to enjoy in this image. Made me happy on a day that was sad. I went to a wake that evening and I do not like to go to those. Who does though really? I am told we have to do certain things we might not like to do because we have to do them. Interesting thought process. I suppose this barn was fitting for the day with its dramatic sky and weathered look. Enjoy!

A weathered old barn in Putnam County on a cold late winter day as the sun was melting the snow!

A weathered old barn in Putnam County on a cold late winter day as the sun was melting the snow!