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An Hour Earlier There Were no Clouds

I had no intention of going out at sunset on Sunday because an hour earlier there were no clouds.

While doing dishes in front of the west facing kitchen window, I saw clouds building on the horizon and moving fast.

No time to go far, so I chose the barn spot ten minutes away. Good spot anyway. Highest spot on the ridge with a nice sweeping view to the west.

The winds were still intense, but not as bad as the day before and at least this time they were no where near as cold.

In the shots, this time, that’s rain coming down.

Colder than I thought it would be.

But at least I could get next to the east facing wall.

The wind would die completely, I wasn’t getting pelted by rain and if felt down right balmy out.

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When the Clouds are Right

When the clouds are right, it’s hard to go out and not get half way decent photo’s as long as you include part of the sky.

Today the clouds were right.

But the wind wasn’t.

25 mph winds with gusts up to 50. Temps in the upper 30’s with wind chills in the low 20’s. If you don’t know what that’s like here in northern Illinois, it could best be described as unpleasant.

I knew this when I headed out the door and decided to drive the back roads in the lower Fox Valley, but I saw it as an opportunity to explore areas I haven’t been to in years and mentally mark them for further exploration at a later date.

Preferably when conditions might be better described as pleasant.

Controlling the car in the many open areas became a challenge. Wind gusts would hit the car and staying between the lines wasn’t easy. Luckily few drive these roads so traffic wasn’t an issue.

Pretty much all of the shots below are out the window shots. Of course a few times I had to get out of the car to get a better angle on something and I quickly realized what a mistake that was. Even at 200 pounds I’m no match for wind gusts of 50. Standing out in the open and trying to hold steady was next to impossible as I got pummeled. Even in the car it was difficult to hold the camera steady. A car parked on the edge of an open field and getting buffeted by high winds tends to rock back and forth, a lot.

In some of the shots, that’s not rain, it’s snow.

And not snow flakes, but snow pellets.

And by the time they were near the ground they were going nearly horizontal at anywhere between 25 and 50 mph.

And if you were stupid enough to be standing outside the car trying to get a better angle for a shot when one of these blew through and they hit what little exposed skin you had, it stung like a sonovabitch.

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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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