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A Sunset Stroll Through the Neighborhood

I knew I blew the best light by a good 20 minutes, but I decided to go for a sunset stroll through the neighborhood anyway.

Across the street and a half block to the west starts what I guess is called Light Industrial. A good part of this whole area could be called that.

Reminds me of the the Chicago neighborhood where generations of both sides of my family lived and my dad finally got us out of there when I was 11. Seeing this I think explains my need and desire for woods, quiet and solitude. I’m stuck here for a good two years and then I am out of here.

I will go on this stroll again when the light is right. Definite possibilities I think.

If you like this kind of stuff.

I did once. I have old pictures somewhere of my street shooting days. Not sure I’ll ever get them out again.

I’ll take woods, ravines and creeks over this any day.

In the mean time…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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Fishing and Fossil Hunting

The intent wasn’t to go fishing and fossil hunting, just fishing, but the opportunity to fish and fossil hunt arose, so who was I to say no.

When an 8 foot tall dam that has been in place for nearly 200 years is removed, things change. All the work put into trying to make the creek behave like a natural creek is nice, but the creek tends to take on a mind of it’s own.

In this case, the creek likes to move things around.

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This is the second time in the three years since the dam was removed that this gravel bar has appeared. The first time was soon after the dam was removed. It was three times bigger than what you see above.

Humans being what they are couldn’t live with that and by the end of the year the big gravel bar was scraped and moved and everything was just the way the humans wanted it again.

Then it rained, water came up and moved things around and put the gravel bar back where the creek wanted it. The big rains haven’t even started yet this year so I imagine this gravel bar will continue to grow over the next couple of months.

That’s the thing about controlling water, you can’t. Water will do whatever it wants and move things however it wants. Water has all the time in the world. All it has to do is wait and move things and over time it wins.

Water always wins.

I started out scouring the gravel bar to see if any human type remains were washed down. Not bones, but objects left behind. Objects that might have got tossed into the creek over 200 years ago and now have someplace else to go.

That’s when I stumbled upon the first fossil.

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Now I was intrigued. I knew there would be fossils around, why wouldn’t there be, but that was an easy find and now I wanted to actually look. It didn’t take long to gather up what I thought were the best of what was lying around.

I have no clue if these are just a few hundred years old, or 10 thousand years old, or millions of years old. My interest ends with finding them. Identifying them by type and age add nothing to the find.

I also fished the creek, my second time out this year. The creek was completely devoid of life. Not a minnow, carp, sucker or anything else with fins. It’s early and the water is still cold, but one fish right at the mouth cooperated and I mechanically reeled in a cold water sluggish smallie.

I immediately noticed that the fishing ennui that had settled in last year was still there. Nice fish, that was fun, who am I kidding.

This year marks my 20th year of fishing rivers and creeks for smallmouth bass. Virtually all of that in northern Illinois. In that time I’ve estimated that I’ve caught around 10,000 smallmouth, give or take a few, with 90 percent of those caught in the Fox Valley.

I can continue to kid myself that somehow it’s still exciting, but I’m at the point where it’s barely even interesting.

I’d rather go fossil hunting, wandering around with my camera, even go wading around the river with my camera, but without the nuisance of carrying around all that extra fishing baggage.

I don’t see any of that as a bad thing, just a change.

Change is good, or as B.B. King would say…

The thrill is gone baby…

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The First Week of February

It’s only the first week of February and we have had an unusually mild winter, but it is even more unusual to see the daffodils and a few stray gladiolas already poking their heads above ground.

They are jumping the gun.

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Normally this time of year the ground is frozen solid, there’s at least a six inch cover of snow and along the parking area is a wall of snow three to four feet high that doesn’t melt off till April.

This year there is nothing.

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The first week of February I usually don’t even go looking for sprouts. March 1st is more toward normal, but bird feeders needed to be checked and there they were, sprouting already.

This corner is protected from the north and west, the prevailing directions of our cold winter winds and in the mornings the sun, when it appears, beats down on this spot and reflects off the house walls. It’s the only small section of the yard that stays snow free through the winter.

I could see why they’re jumping the gun. Yesterday it was 45 degrees out and this morning when I found them it was 41. Not normal for the first week of February around here.

They are in for a rude awakening though.

The next 7 days shows a few days with highs of 18 and lows of 6, but a little further out we’re back into the 40’s again. Almost spring like. And it will still be February.

The first week of February and already a false spring. I’ll take it along with the unusually mild winter we’ve had.

As the wife said, “this is why we need to move south, imagine it like this every winter.”

I can imagine that.

And I can also start planning for that to happen.

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