Straight On!

Old Barn and New Windmills, near Saunemin, Livingston County, Illinois

Given that this is a landscape photography website it should come as no surprise that I like to take photos of barns and farms and stuff.  And like any subject people have their preferences, and things they love, and on the other end of the spectrum things they like well enough, but generally don’t get too excited about.  In a sense this photo falls in that latter category.

What I mean is composition.  I normally prefer an angled shot, or some other perspective.  I feel that ‘straight on’ shots can be good… in moderation.  They can easily be overdone to the point that you get tired of seeing them.  At least for me.  This one, though, has many elements that appeal to me.  The old barn, ready to fall apart, contrasting with new fangled wind turbines.  The clouds help, too.  I’m always a big fan of big puffy clouds.

The time of day wasn’t optimal, but I have passed over a lot of photo opportunities simply because it was the middle of the day.  I was too good for anything less than perfect.  God forbid one of my photo friends found out I snapped a shot at… *gasp!*… mid-day.  I’m working to get over that.  You can get good shots at any time of day, depending on the circumstances of the moment.  This one worked out well.

For this one Missy and I were on an action-packed weekend.  We were visiting some friends in northern Illinois and decided to take a side trip to Champaign so we could eat at the only Wienerschnitzel within reasonable driving distance.  “Reasonable” being two hours out of the way, each way.  Hey, for an all-beef chili cheese dog… or six… it’s worth it.

But every story should have a moral, and the moral of this story is to always take your camera with you… AND keep your mind as open as your eyes.

Big Sky

Trees in Silhouette on Ridge in Winter, near Ely, Linn County, Iowa

Went to my photo club meeting today.  The guest presenter talked a lot about Midwest photography and their sentiment regarding it, and so on.  Two of his preferences were to 1) have big skies in his photos, and 2) he really liked stormy weather and big clouds.  Sun ray through the clouds always being an added bonus, of course.  For some unknown reason I do not have many big sky photos.  I may have to change that.  And I know that I do not have any severe weather photos.  I may fix that, too.

This particular photo is probably as close as they come.  The weather was harsher than the photo suggests, but the clouds were more complete in coverage, hence the solid wall effect.  I really like this photo… there’s a cropped panorama version, too… for the feeling it evokes.  There’s a sense of cold and stark loneliness.  The trees on a ridge by themselves, no one daring to go out there for any reason.  It’s good when a photo evokes feeling.  This photo was shot near Ely, Iowa.

Footnote:  It will take some time to catch up all my photos with the new logo.

New Logo!

The old and the new, near McCallsburg, Story County, Iowa

We here at Iowa Landscape Photography are nothing if not about progress, and the times they are a-changin’.  Here’s a photo that has been published on these pages before, but there’s something different… a new logo.  I’ve been wanting to do a new logo for a long time now, and the time is finally here.  I’m very pleased and excited.

My original logo is something that I threw together in AutoCAD… because that’s my day job and that’s what I’m comfortable with… then I converted it to *.jpg and went from there in Photoshop.  I needed something quick and was impatient.  Kind of a long strange trip, eh?  It was modeled on a silhouette photo of an old windmill at sunset.  It was hokey, but it was mine.

I commissioned my friend, Luke Gordon, for the new logo, and gave direction that I wanted to keep the same concept and feel, but modernized and updated.  Luke came through with flying colors.  You can see the new watermark here in this photo, and the logo itself at the top of this page.  If you like his work, and desire to contact him regarding some work for you, let me know and I will give him your contact information.

More Old vs New

Old Barn and New Windmills, near Saunemin, Livingston County, Illinois

My ultimate goal… well, one of them, anyway… is to find a really good shot of an old windmill and a new wind turbine.  That would be awesome.

In the mean time I have also been looking for anything that showcases the contrast between old vs new.  (I love then-and-now photos!)  I recently found an old barn surrounded by dozens of new wind turbines.  I was able to get several nice shots from various perspectives.  This is one of my favorites.

Missy and I were traveling between Champaign, IL, and Ottawa, IL, having taken side trip in a more purposeful venture to eat at Wienerschitzel.  Their chili cheese dogs and chili cheese fries are that good, good enough to travel an extra night and four hours out of our way, but I digress.

Anyway, here we are gliding down Hwy 47 and I’m scanning the countryside for something to shoot.  I spy this barn down a gravel side road and decide to check it out.  Parked about a half mile away, and worked my way up so that I could get several perspectives.

As I got closer I see a hawk perched on top of the roof ridge.  It seems to be very interested in this interloper invading its personal space.  After several minutes and shots it takes off… in my direction.  The bird swooped down about 20 feet above my head.  I’m not sure, but I think it might have been sizing me up to decide if I was small enough to haul away for a tasty treat later.

The hawk eventually settled in a safe distance away and left me unmolested.  Was kind of a relief.  Not only was I going to be dinner, I was also left alone to finish my shoot.  I finished up, hiked back to the car, and continued on the trip, and the result is the shot you see here.

Red Barns and White Snow

Red Barn and Farm in Winter, near Ely, Linn County, Iowa

Makes for a nice contrast-y combination, don’t you think?  Everything is easily discernible.  The barn just “pops”.  There’s a sense of stillness in this photo.  It’s obvious this is a working farm, as evidenced by the items carefully stored outside.  There’s also a sense of… almost hibernation.  Activity is on hold, most equipment has been stored inside protected from the elements.  You can bet the farmers are inside, enjoying the warmth that modern life affords them.  One would think they’re sitting by the fire, sipping a hot drink, partaking in a favorite leisure activity, and basking in a well-earned rest, but they’re probably actually actively planning and doing paperwork for the next season.  No rest for the weary, as the old saying goes.

I shot this a couple years ago not too far from where I live.  This weekend I was finishing up re-processing all my existing photos that I currently have offered for sale, and came across this one.  I’ve always liked it, the contrasts and all, but never knew what to do with it.  The white sky overwhelmed everything else.  The eye was drawn too much to the white sky and away from everything else.

By cropping it to a 2:1 ratio mini-panorama format the whole feeling of the photo is reversed.  Now, the white sky is just a complimentary aspect to the overall scene.  Now, the red barns dominate the scene and draw the eye, as it should be.  You’re now focused on the primary aspects of the image.  We have wonderful processing tools available these days, and can manipulate in ways that just a few years ago were unimaginable, but it’s amazing how often something like a simple crop is what makes the difference.

Which is better?

Shade Tree and Tire Swing, near Mt Vernon, Linn County, Iowa

Back on July 30th I posted this photo.  It’s a great photo, but I wondered if maybe it was too bright.  I also asked the question on my Facebook page, and some felt that it might be and said they’d like to see a darker version should I do one.  In general, I like darker photos, but I also need to be aware that my tastes aren’t necessarily everyone else’s tastes.  Many people prefer brighter photos.  Plus, while my darker photos tend to look great on a back lit computer screen, they sometimes look way too dark when actually printed.

Shade Tree and Tire Swing, near Mt Vernon, Linn County, Iowa

So, I reworked the photo a bit.  All I did was back off on the exposure a bit… a full stop, actually… and here is the result.  Same photo, just a slightly different exposure, and thus a slightly different result and feeling.  So tell me, which one do you like better, and why?

Personally, I like the darker version better.  It’s easier on my eyes, for one thing, plus it evokes a sense of a softer and less harsh time of day, which adds to the feeling of calm.

Keepin’ Busy

Shade Tree and Tire Swing, near Mt Vernon, Linn County, Iowa

It’s been a few weeks since my last post.  When not working and doing other life activities I’ve been processing a lot of photos.  My goal is to do a major overhaul of my website.  I’ve been re-processing many previously done photos.  I’m adding a bunch of new photos, some really new ones and some older photos that, for whatever reason, have never been published but I am now realizing how good they are.  I am also retiring some photos permanently, photos that I look at and am no longer enamored with and/or they’ve simply never generated a bit of interest.

This photo is one that I’ve never before published.  It has a nice old-time feel to it.  A link back to a simpler time… a neat yard and a simple tire swing.  I almost want to get on the swing myself and go for a ride.  I’d probably regret it in the morning, though.  haha  This was taken near Mt. Vernon, Iowa.

I’m a little unsure of the processing, though.  It looked great in Photoshop, but now I post it here and it looks too bright.  I naturally favor darker photos, but a lot of people seem to prefer brighter photos.  What’s your opinion on this one?

The Broadside of a Barn

Shadows on side of a barn, near Calavaritas, Calaveras County, California

Sometimes simplicity is the order for the day.  It doesn’t really matter where this photo was taken.  The particulars of the barn itself isn’t a concern.  The surrounding scenery is wholly irrelevant.

No, the simple selective composition shown here speaks for itself.  A simple side of a barn… at the end of the day, as depicted by the shows… some mud on the wall, how and why is it there?… a rough stone foundation… barbed wire hanging on the wall… all serves to reinforce that this is a working barn in daily use.  That gives the photo an honest credibility.

Would you believe this is hanging on my wall?  It is.  It’s a small 5×7, framed, with a hunter green mat.  It looks very nice as a small accent piece.

Longing for home

Farming countryside, near Dundee, Delaware County, Iowa

This photo was taken on the same day as the previous photo.  I was on the way to Backbone State Park and spotted this scene just outside the park, so I stopped to take a few shots.

There wasn’t any one thing that drew me.  I cannot point to any single aspect that jumps out at me.  It’s just the totality of the scene, in an overall sense.  To be honest, it doesn’t necessarily inspire me, either, but it does scream “farm country”, and apparently several other people think so, too.

I posted this shot when I first started my website roughly a decade ago, when I hadn’t yet built up my portfolio of digital shots and I needed to put something up to fill out the website.  Somewhat to my surprise, it has sold reasonably well.  It sells mostly to native Iowans who now live out-of-state.  They tell me it evokes a nostalgic-like feeling in them, and makes them long for “home”.

I can understand that.  I have many photos of the Rio Vista Bridge in California and I certainly have nostalgic feelings there.  Nostalgia makes us think of other times.  Not necessarily better, but could be.  We are the totality of our life’s experiences.

The Old and the New

The old and the new, near McCallsburg, Story County, Iowa

This photo has always been a favorite of both Missy and I.  We took this about three years ago near McCallsburg, Iowa, in Story County.  The image evokes kind of a nostalgic feel and nicely contrasts the old and the new.  That and the quality and richness of colors is what makes it so appealing, I think.  This photo is yet another example is stumbling onto something when you least expect it.

In our case, we had attended an all-day Toastmasters meeting in Ames.  We chose to take an indirect route home, avoiding the main highway and using still-nice, but rural, county roads.  Took longer, but we had the luxury of time, and we did purposely want to see new places both with photography in mind and simply just to see new things.

What’s strange, to me at least, is that in spite of how much we like this photo, we haven’t done much with it, and I cannot explain why.  I’ve never put it up on my website for sale (that will change soon).  I’ve never really displayed it, except a couple incidental publishings, and I think I entered it into a club contest once.  This needs to go on my wall.