Morning Auger…

“Creativity takes courage.”

  • Henri Matisse

When I was a young guy, much younger than I am now, my neighbor John would always say Red Sky in morning sailors take warning, Red Sky at night, sailors take flight. He also had a Hansel and Gretel and witch house, that would tell you if the weather was good or bad. It was a clock and at the top Hansel and Gretel came out one door indicating the weather was good, and if the witch was coming out then the weather was going to be bad. We would sit on his little back porch and talk for hours. That porch started off screened in, then he had storm windows put in, he did that because when he smoked cigars, the cheapest he could get, he could do it there on that porch but not “in” the house.

He sat out there quite a bit, I think it was his place of peace, I know I woke him up from a few naps over the years I would go visit him on that porch. He would tell all kinds of stories on that porch, and I always thought that Red sky thing was just a story, but it is actually based on some truth. Something about particles in the air at the time of day and at the right latitude indicating potential stormy day or a nice night. Amazing how they watched and learned patterns like that. Of course it is something I think we are losing now due to the short attention span we seem to be nurturing.

So this photo, boy did I get off track, was taken on a day it was actually supposed to storm and actually did rain. Red sky in the morning, and I saw these augers across the way and had to capture their silhouette against the red morning sky. And of course when I saw the sky and raced to capture it before it changed, I recalled instantly that old saying that John used to repeat all the time. Enjoy!

A pair of augers silhouetted against the red early morning sky.

A pair of augers silhouetted against the red early morning sky.

Cost of things…

“A pessimist is a person who has had to listen to too many optimists.

  • Don Marquis

So I needed a blower and a new rake. Simple enough right go to the local home improvement store and seek out and purchase said items. I have a plethora of extension cords, way to many for one person. Most of which goes back to my Christmas Vacation style decorations at Christmas, and yes one year I actually put up 20,000 lights. That was a lot of extension cords and it led to adding in two different 30 amp circuits, and then of course never decorating that way again because damn it takes quite a bit of time. Anyhow I am off track, so I need a blower to plug into my extension cords to blow the leaves away from bushes and whatnot, and I needed a new metal tine rake to pile them up to be picked up and put in the leaf bags.

I roll down the aisle that has the blowers and find this particular one on the left on sale, $34 down to $18, and I think score what a deal. So then I stay focused something very difficult for me to do as I am easily distracted. I mean come on this is a home improvement store, there is always something to find. So I focus, head to garden center and look for a metal tine rake. I find the bin, I am this close but then NO all of the sudden I am denied my speedy purchases. The $9.99 bin of metal rakes is empty. All that is left is this top of the line fiberglass handle stainless steel top of the line, not on sale $19.97 rake. Yes this rake cost more than the blower. Granted the blower was on sale, but the point of this photo is two items, neither of which were made in America and priced just way out of whack.

I really did not want to spend that much on a rake, but it was all they had and I figured it better last as long as its guarantee, which is lifetime by the way. The blower, has a 1 year warranty and at this price, is pretty much throw away and get a new one next time they are on sale if it breaks. I really worry about future of our country when we cannot even make our own rakes and blowers. Think about that as you have your coffee! Enjoy!

A cost comparison of the rake and blower, both of which cost me about the same.

A cost comparison of the rake and blower, both of which cost me about the same.

A pessimist is a person who has had to listen to too many optimists.

Rainbow Rain…

“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”

  • Guillaume Apollinaire

Another day left work a bit early to enjoy well enjoy part of the day of course. I was out and about and searching for cool places to capture clouds and the Illinois Prairie. The cool thing as I was driving about was the fact that you could see it raining from some of the clouds that passed. Rain that most likely was not hitting the ground as sometimes it does not do. I was photographing a cloud formation to the west and as I was going to get back into my truck, I saw this thin rainbow on the horizon and this cloud formation andĀ  the near perfect lighting and I snapped away.

I once believed, because I was jokingly told, very early on in my photographic career, we are talking high school age, that you could not photograph a rainbow. That the rainbow cannot be captured, much like the Leprechaun and the pot of gold. I know how silly that sounds now but it was a valuable lesson. Because I of course had seen rainbows in photographs, and wondered what was up. The lesson was light, if you can see it, you can photograph it. Photography is not about picking up a camera, pointing and shooting. It is about so many things that it truly has to be a life long passion, a quest for learning and knowledge, a willingness to find and do new things with photography. It is also about practice, because you have to know what happens to your exposure when you change the “film” speed in relationship to changing the aperture, in relation to the shutter speed.

You also have to know how color works, and I will say I benefited quite a whole bunch from taking all of those Noritsu trainings on how to use their photographic lab machines. Lots of wasted photo paper back then, as you looked at the negative, made a guess, made a print, and then adjusted based on what you saw when the print came out. That did advance to a system where you saw a positive on a screen and made adjustments which saved a bit of paper. Of course Photoshop saves quite a bit of paper, providing you have high quality calibrated equipment and an understanding of how color and light works. Photoshop also allowed me to combine and create a 9 shot panoramic of a Rainbow that Hangs in my favorite restaurant, Rays’ Place in Hennepin. Just remember this is my story inspired and your story will be different for sure. Enjoy!

A distant spring cloudburst throwing a rainbow in the late afternoon sun.

A distant spring cloudburst throwing a rainbow in the late afternoon sun.

Marble art…

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

  • Henry David Thoreau

My mom went to India several years ago as part of a cultural group with Rotary International. She was there for an entire month, touring cultural sights and bringing western culture and ideas to Rotary groups and people in India. She and the group she was with stayed in homes of Rotary members and really immersed in the culture. My mom loved it and still talks about it to this day. For months she would make true Indian dishes, and I would eat them and my stomach did not take to them very well. I loved the flavor and the tasteĀ  is quite different from the Northern Italian Americanized food I am used to, it just would wreak havoc.

This photograph is of a sample of marble from a quarry owned by one of the Rotarian’s, my Mom loved the color and thought it would be something I would like, and when she travels we tend to get unique mementos of her travels. This muted green, grey, tan and black marble traveled back with her from India, via Rome, London and Chicago, and was in my Photography studio office and eventually made its way into my bedroom sitting near the marble Chess set. I used to hope for a t-shirt or a touristy trinket of some kind, and she would always come back with something more interesting.

I still have all of these gifts, a few of which are t-shirts but I never wear them much. I used this as a coaster for a while in my office, oiled it with lemon oil to bring out more depth, dusted it, packed it, moved it and unpacked it and put it in my room. I look at this all the time and I am reminded that life is a journey and we must enjoy it all and be willing to take a risk or two.

A marble sample that reminds me of my mothers trip to India many years ago.

A marble sample that reminds me of my mothers trip to India many years ago.


“The greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity or power, but self-rejection.”

  • Henri Nouwen

Those of you that know me, know my love of “Old” movies, there is something about a movie that has a plot that just makes sense. One of my favorites is “A Streetcar Named Desire” and it is truly great cinema. The whole movie is dark and brooding and there was always an image that stuck in my head, a great still life, with Brando sitting at a table in a dining room, smoking, playing poker, t-shirt wet from sweat because he has worked hard and there was no air conditioning on those hot summer nights in New Orleans. We find inspiration in a great many places and from just about anything. I recall reading an interview with Ralph Lauren and he commented that early cinema was his inspiration. How could you blame him, great movies, great clothes transporting you to a time and place you wanted to be.

So I wanted to take some photographs with a person, and have recently watched “Streetcar” set off about finding the fireplace and appropriate backdrop I would need for this photograph that was rolling around in my head inspired by that scene in the movie. My friend Matt is always a willing model although he usually wants a few weeks to tone up so he looks his best for the photo shoot. The location was the issue, there just is not many places to get that old classic interior fireplace in a dining room no less. Then I remembered my Aunt Sue has just the house I needed, an 1850s mansion with a perfect fireplace, a perfect dining room and great soft diffuse lighting that only needed a single side light to supplement. A deck of cards, a dark t-shirt and this series of photos is just what I imagined it to be.

I am putting in a few photos with this photo of the day partly because I can as I make the rules about this photo quest and partly because you need to see the emotion and the expression that comes through. My friend Matt had recently and suddenly lost his father, a recent tattoo on his forearm is a tribute to his Dad. At times in this photo series you can see happiness, and at times you can see the sadness deep in his eyes. The eyes tell the whole story as they are windows to our very soul. In all my years of taking photographs and watching people the eyes really do say everything that needs to be said. So these photographs all show some subtle differences and I could not pick just one.

An aged photo showing a sincerity in the eyes

An aged photo showing a sincerity in the eyes

This is my happy face

This is my happy face

What do you want me to do with my hands.

What do you want me to do with my hands.

Matt preparing to deal a game of 5 card stud.

Matt preparing to deal a game of 5 card stud.

Sunny Hills…

“Art teaches nothing, except the significance of life.”

  • Michael Korda

I have seen this image recurring over and over this spring. The sun making awesome long shadows on the hills, warm with that late afternoon color, that you really can only get in spring, and still water hanging out until the ground fully thaws. I finally caught the right day and time and location and stopped in the middle of a hill, flashers going, raced across the road into the ditch and composed this image. I moved around so I could put the sun behind some trees, and left in the flare caused by the sun striking the lens directly. I will say, I used my new version of Lightroom 5 to assist with straightening this image.

Wide angle lenses can cause what is known as a keystone type of distortion. this can make objects with straight lines point in or out of the image. There has been some form of lens correction and it gets better with each new version of Lightroom. This new version 5 has the ability through software to find straight edges and make them vertical or horizontal again. Fixing that bowing in or out of the image that lines can and will do because of lens distortion. This is an awesome tool and does nothing but enhance the photo and make it more like the image I saw when I first captured it.

You look at an image like this and you want to go explore. You know the sun is warm, the ground firm and path inviting. Enjoy!

A sunny rolling hit warmed by the late afternoon sun.

A sunny rolling hit warmed by the late afternoon sun.

Wood Relief…

“In life, as in art, the beautiful moves in curves.”

  • Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton

So I was out and about and looking for some textures to photograph on this 4th day of April, and saw some wood. I snapped a few photos and while zooming in and out and looking for interesting textures or trying to find something to “see”in the wood, I was amazed that it actually looked like a terrain map. Hills and valleys, as if it could be some area as seen from above from a plane. The black and white of this I thing enhances the textures. I saw this final edit and instantly thought of flying over the Mountains or the Grand Canyon and remember seeing something similar.

For the longest time I had only flown on single engine planes and only for short trips. I would go up for aerial photographs for various clients and would not get up very high. Most of those photos are taken within 1000 feet after all. So the first jet plane trip was back in 2007, my cousin and I went to Seattle. He was going for a medical conference and of course to watch his beloved White Sox be beaten by the Mariners. I still describe that earth shaking, push you back into your seat white knuckle take off from Midway Airport as if it just happened to me yesterday. I laugh about it now but at the time it was a bit scary, I mean they damn near have to stand the plane up on its tail to get it off the ground and out of the way of buildings.

As this was my first time on a big plane, my cousin Damo, the world traveler, knew of the best spot for the views out the window and put me in the window seat. I was like a little kid discovering everything for the first time. You know he still laughs because at one point I was looking out the window and actually stated, “Oh look, there are clouds” as if I had never seen them before. Well I had not from that angle, looking at them from the top, they pretty much look the same as from the bottom. The weary business traveler sitting next to us laughed and asked my cousin who I kept making look out the window and the clouds and the terrain, and asks if this was my first time in a plane. They had a good laugh but I did not really care. I always try to find a window seat, so much to see as you allow life to wiz on by. It is amazing the memories that can be stirred by a photograph of a piece of wood. What will you remember? Enjoy!

A close up of some wood showing a texture that almost looks like lines on a map.

A close up of some wood showing a texture that almost looks like lines on a map.

Homemade Rootbeer…

“Nothing is work unless you’d rather be doing something else.”

  • George Halas

There is something about Homemade Root Beer that is truly amazing. A flavor and taste you cannot get out of a can from a mass produced offering. There is a special treat in the Illinois Valley area, homemade root beer from “The Root Beer Stand” in Oglesby. It is made fresh in small batches on premise and available for purchase in Gallon size. The photo you see here is how I have enjoyed a recent gift of half gallon from my younger brother. He picked up a gallon and had some for himself and saved some for me. I help take care of his yard and this was like a spring bonus of what kind of thanks the summer will bring.

I found actually an Ice cream glass, put it in the freezer to chill it, got a large ice ball because they do not melt as fast and water down the drink, and served it up as you see here. I wiped the condensation down and shot it as you see here. It is dark, bold, and yet creamy in its taste, a hint of bubbles and almost a thing to be savored like a fine bourbon or a great cigar. There are always quite a few root beer offerings at the stores, some mainstream and some more craft offerings. This one is great, not to fizzy and all natural.

I have researched recipes for making root beer and the various items you would need to do it yourself. I found several recipes, most of which are almost the same, and then researched how to make it. There are a few steps, a few time saving tips, a few items to purchase. Then it is time and talent and waiting, waiting for it to be just perfect. I was never a beer fan, so this is one beer that I will drink and one beer I would make. It is just a matter of time and equipment, and having space to store it while it is getting awesome. So until then, I will pick up this wonderful ready to drink tasty awesomeness and enjoy it as a special treat on a rare occasion.

A cold glass of homemade root beer.

A cold glass of homemade root beer.

Baby Elephants…

“Of all lies, art is the least untrue.”

  • Gustave Flaubert

I do love my elephant collection, I did not spend much on this pair but they were to hard to not pass up. I love that there is such detail in this and I hope someday to go on a Safari and photograph some real elephants. Photographing these did have me get them all cleaned up and pretty for their photographic debut. I enjoyed playing the with the lighting on this one and the angle when I photographed this. I wondered if someone driving by saw the lighting changing in the window and wondered what the hell was going on or if people even notice things anymore.

This photo quest has me noticing quite a bit more. I have slammed on the brakes so much I had to add brake fluid. They also are starting to squeak. Heads up on that one because I will most likely take a photo of that and post it. You know the changing of the brake pads, the dirty hands, the manly tools, the lift. Of course this is all in my buddies garage, which reminds me, I think I owe him some Bud Light Lime. I have always enjoyed the working on the vehicle. Except my Moms car, she usually fails to mention noises, or cannot read the sticker reminding her when her oil is due. This usually leads to a crisis of epic proportions. Some day I will not get angry when I take her car for a drive and realize the brakes are way way beyond shot.

I will say part of me enjoys driving but most of me hates it. When I go somewhere I prefer to look around, see what is going on, check things out. I stare out the window and remember buildings and scenes and odd things that help me find my way around. On a recent trip to LA we were walking and I was directing our way back because I remembered the shape of the building, what kind of lights were near it, and some of the twists and turns in the streets that were not very uniform and orderly.

I say I go out and get lost, but somewhere in my head is one hell of a databank of things in places that form a map. Asking me for directions is not about street names, it is about visual cues, which can suck for the person asking directions. The best thing about remembering and the way to tie this back to the elephants, is once I was told I try to find interest in the whole scene. I do this by remembering and seeing the photos months and years ahead of actually being able to take some of them. Stop and look around or you will miss the best parts of your life.


A playful pair of elephants in my still life studio.

A playful pair of elephants in my still life studio.

Toasting Fools…

“A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.”

  • Diane Arbus

This is one of a pair of Waterford Toasting flutes from the Millennium. It is actually signed but one of the Waterford Masters who designed it. It was a Christmas gift from my Mom, who thought I could use it in a photograph as a prop. I did actually use it for a wedding shoot once as a prop more to humor her more than anything. This is one of my most favorite of all things I have.

I have photographed over 700 weddings in my photographic career and I have seen quite a few toasts. Some were good, some were eh just OK, and some are never to be spoken of again. I mean sometimes I am there at the ready, camera poised, and the toaster says something that the toastee is wishing would have been forgotten about in a drunken stupor the moment in the past that it had occurred. It is at those moments that I can truly capture something special, that look of bewilderment, that deer in headlights. It has only happened a number of times and it was good photography every single time.

I was recently reminded of a toast I gave at my baby sisters wedding. A toast I am told that proves I have a heart, that I am capable of that L word. I of course have passionately denied this as I do not show emotions. Well that is not entirely true, as I have passion, and I have anger, and I have a love of family, just not a desire to couple up. I have said I have a hard enough time sleeping in bed by myself let alone with someone else in there. I just do not get it as I know quite a few people who sleep in separate rooms later on in the relationship. Of course if someday my cold hard heart thaws and I move onto a relationship, I will have these to toast to it with. Of course I want you to think about this as I end my Toasting post, Lucy and Ricky had separate beds on TV. Thank god for Google because there is a whole couple of lettered generations who will have to search to find out what I am talking about. I suddenly feel old but not alone!

A signed Waterford millennium Champagne Toasting flute!

A signed Waterford millennium Champagne Toasting flute!