Category Archives: Art Project

Trying to be Spring Out There

It’s trying to be spring out there, but March has been going back and forth from normal to above normal and the above normal never sticks around long enough to get things sprouting faster. Hell, we had snow the other day and a number of mornings where I’m still scraping some pretty thick frost off the windshield.

Needed a walk out in the woods today. I’m horribly out of shape it seems.

If you look, a slight green is starting to show up. On some short plants, grasses poking out from beneath the leaf cover, skunk cabbage and if you look real hard you find the occasional tiny flowers.

Still not a lot and still no fungus amongus.

_IMG8241

_IMG8243

_IMG8246

_IMG8252

_IMG8254

The following gallery has nothing to do with spring, I just liked the way they looked.

By 3PM mostly cloudy skies had settled in. I wandered over to the edge of a wide heavily wooded ravine that has a tiny creek running through it and sat down on a log to finish a cigar.

Not far away I could hear the “wuk” of a pileated woodpecker, but never did spot it.

Directly in front of me a few small birds were going from tree to tree. They would start at the bottom of each tree and hop up the tree looking for bugs to eat.

And that was it. Nothing else was moving, no other sounds were heard. Dead silent.

I imagined having a house here on this high point overlooking the ravine. No neighbors, just quiet and woods and a small little creek.

Human interaction, whether one on one or one on many, is highly over rated. I imagine if I got to live in a place like this I would rarely seek it out.

The plan was to stay out till sunset, but the clouds weren’t cooperating and by 4PM I was back home.

The wife that had no plans for making dinner because she wasn’t feeling well made a nice little dinner and I was glad to be home. While washing the dishes in front of the west facing window I noticed the clouds were trying to break up. Of course the wife knew what this meant and at 6PM I headed out the door and made the one mile trip to the other side of the Fox River to a good sunset spot.

While walking down the shore I noticed four widely spread out fishermen. I could tell they were out catfishing by the long casts they were making to nearly the middle of the river. They each had three rods, big back packs full of fishing junk and chairs.

And no fish to be seen.

The furthest fisherman down the line was out with his girlfriend/wife and they shared a chair they brought along. I noticed he was casting as I approached. He was using a plastic bottle wrapped in line. I already knew he didn’t speak English, but I asked anyway if he had caught any fish. Everyone seems to know the word fish. He nodded and pointed to the carp on the ground. I showed him my camera and asked if I could take a picture. He grinned and nodded.

_IMG8259

Further down I sat on a log and waited out the sunset. The clouds had continued to break up and it was looking like the makings of a dramatic sunset.

But this spot is odd. There is an actual anomaly called the Fox Valley Effect and I won’t bore you with the details. Straight west there is almost like a bowl in the terrain. It does odd things to the weather patterns, but the primary thing it does is break up storms as they approach the Fox Valley.

As I waited out the sunset, as usual there were thick clouds to the north and south of me up and down the river, but directly in front of me the clouds were disappearing quickly. I’ve seen this happen here numerous times.

I waited it out anyway and even though the light show was a bit more subdued than what I had hoped for, it was still worth the wait.

_IMG8314

Playing with a Photograph

On this relatively cold gloomy gray day, sitting around playing with a photograph seemed like the next best thing to do.

The photo at the top is from sunset Friday. It’s not retouched and straight out of the camera.

The next one shows how I usually manipulate virtually every photo that makes it on this blog and Facebook. Takes less than a minute. If the shot is halfway decent, the end result to me is halfway decent.

_IMG8092

I decided to play around with an HDR image. Even though I’ve been using Photoshop since version 1, I’m all self taught. The things I have to do with it are pretty basic and I know virtually nothing about layers and masks and filters and all the other bells and whistles.

So, I took the original image, I shoot DNG files now so there’s a lot more color info, which I like, made two other files and changed the exposure up and down for each of those. Then merged them to HDR. Things came up I know nothing about that I had to make choices for, they seemed like logical photography choices, and after two tries I wound up with a psd image that I didn’t like.

So, I opened that as Camera Raw, which gets me to the place where I manipulate photos anyway, made some adjustments and wound up with the image you see next.

_IMG8092_HDR1_8a

It’s not bad, but it shows me what I don’t like about HDR images.

They’re flat. For all the color and brightness and bringing out the subtle colors in the foreground and brightening them in the background, it flattens out the whole thing.

At least to me.

That’s not how I see things. I see things bright and colorful, which is why I have to beef up the photo’s to begin with to get what I saw, but there’s a certain point where HDR seems to eliminate all the subtle shadows.

That’s what gives an image it’s depth, the subtle shadows and color shifts.

So, I’m going to stick with what little I know when it comes to playing with a photograph.

It gives me what I want and how I see.

Bright colors, deeper shadows and lots of depth.
____________

One of the other things I’ve been trying to do when playing with a photograph is converting them to black and white.

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

But I’ve done a lot of black and white photography in the past, so when I convert photo’s to black and white in Photoshop I play with the sliders to make the black and white come as close as possible to the color tones in the color photo. The end result below is from the second photo above.

There are times I like the black and white photo better than the color version.

_IMG8092_bw

Welcome to Smallville

I knew the Welcome to Smallville mural was around somewhere, but for as many times that I drive through town, I’ve never bothered looking for it.

Didn’t bother looking for it this time, but I stopped at an intersection and there it was.

Forecast had been calling for partly cloudy skies all day, but I was sitting under a low, overcast sky with no clearing in sight. I had a feeling my sunset cruise was going to be cancelled due to lack of sun, so I decided to go wandering around in Smallville in areas where I normally don’t go.

This town has been around since the early 1800’s. There’s an old section down by the creek. Old sections of towns have old dumping grounds filled with old stuff. Figured I may as well start there. I like finding old, abandoned stuff.

And that I did.

Buried in and tumbling down a hill, old stuff all over the place.

I imagine 100 or 150 years ago… just throw that there stuff down the hill by the creek.

And that they did along with the occasional newer item, as you’ll see in the pictures below.

Nature is slowly winning this garbage battle, but I imagine it could be another century or so till it overtakes it completely and that depends on whether humans keep adding to the pile.

As a testament to our warm fall weather, I came across a fungus that I can’t recall ever seeing sprout this late in the season. We did have recent wet weather and for this area, relatively balmy temperatures.

These were huge, also much bigger than I normally see, one on each side of a big old tree standing at the base of this garbage dump.

I know it’s edible when it first sprouts like this and I toyed with the idea of taking a big chunk of it home for dinner. But the tree is a good 75 years old, growing at the base of this garbage dump for it’s whole life and I didn’t have the heart to hack off a chunk of this beautiful fungus that struggled to come out this time of year.

At that moment, it didn’t seem like the right thing to do.

A Seep

I call them swamps, but this one is technically a seep.

Said so on the nice informative sign not far away.

I don’t remember what it said a seep was. I don’t have an interest in looking up what a seep is.

Which is why I call them swamps. So much easier.

All I care about is… how do they look.

How’s the light, the reflections, colors, shapes and how do they all come together. This is the second time I’ve come here just for that and I may have to keep going back. See how it keeps changing.

_IMG7334

Just a duck. Technically, a rubber duck. Dicky Duck to be precise. Has nothing to do with anything other than I like to take my little Dicky out for walks with me.

_IMG7364

Stopped by a creek to shoot stream beds through water and see what the reflections looked like with a cloudless sky.

_IMG7397

_IMG7403

Wound up taking 247 shots this day with the last of them being sunset shots. Don’t feel like putting up any of those today.

Quite a few of the images of the swamp, stream bed and reflections have potential.

I need to revisit them over the winter, on a miserable cold day, when the last thing I want to do is be outside wandering around.

Another no Name Ditch

It’s just another no name ditch that feeds into the Fox River.

Not far from my house and I walk over if fairly often.

I’ve stopped in the past to take shots of reflections, but it’s not an easy ditch to explore.

A bike path, a relatively busy 2 lane road and an old railroad bridge all cross the ditch at the same point. The ditch is forced to flow under the road through a concrete pipe.

From here to the river is private property and based on the growth along and over the ditch, walking it would be a challenge.

Something I had never done was see what the ditch looked like as it came from the east.

So, over a guard rail, across the road and over another guard rail.

East was almost as intimidating as west. I settled for a couple of shots of reflections off water. The darkness of the ditch made one come out a bit blurry, but reflections are a bit blurry to begin with.

With a lull in the traffic just behind me, I could hear the tinkling of water over rock.

I hunched down and moved some brush. The sun was setting, the brush along the sides and arching over the steep little canyon walls made the ditch dark. About 50 feet away and through all the foliage I could barely make out a limestone wall about 5 feet tall and what little light was reaching it was reflecting off the water trickling down.

It was a little waterfall.

I sized up the ditch about eight feet below me. I sized up how to get down to it.

There’s a twisted ankle, there’s a slide down into the ditch.

My back wasn’t up for the small adventure today. Practically crawling up another no name ditch probably would not have gone well.

Next week perhaps. Weather’s not supposed to be too bad. Calling for sunny.

Do some stretches, limber up a bit and hope I don’t break an ankle when I hit the bottom.

Sounds like a plan.