Draws You In, Doesn’t It?

Railroad Bridge across Cedar River to Quaker Oats, Cedar Rapids, Linn County, Iowa

Here’s yet another example of finding an older photo and seeing it in a different light for the first time.  And this time this one has quickly turned into one of my all-time favorites.  In color this shot was nice, but… meh.  In black and white it popped, and I couldn’t stop staring at it… or should I say ‘staring INTO it’?  That’s the key here, the image draws you in and you can’t help but look all the way down to the end, trying to look even farther.  The combination of the starkness and simplicity of the black and white, the symmetry, along with the lines leading… pulling… you in is simply incredible.  This will end up on my wall, somewhere.

This is the railroad bridge that leads to the Quaker Oats plan in downtown Cedar Rapids over the Cedar River.  It is “unsecured”, as in no gates or barriers into the plant, but rumor has it that if you even set foot on the bridge as it heads over the water you will be greeted by a couple burly security guards from the other end, and will be not-so-kindly warned and escorted back to where you came from.

I also like how the plant and the sign itself peeks out from the side, providing context.

This was taken a few years ago one evening as part of another photo shoot sponsored by my photo club.  Something that I probably never would have done on my own.  An active and pro-active photo club can be an invaluable resource.

Winter Scenes: Pros and Cons

Wagon in Winter, near Palo, Linn County, Iowa

I love a good winter photo.  Especially when you can grab the texture of the snow, and double-especially when you can catch shimmering glints of sunlight reflecting off the snowflakes.

Take this photo, for example:  I shot this back in 2005/06, my first winter in Iowa.  It is down the road from where my photo club meets, and I stopped and shot this on the way in.  There was something about the whole scene that appealed to me.  It evokes a peaceful feeling, a quietness.  It is actually somebody’s front yard, but is cropped well.  It also helps that it has the aspects mentioned above, the texture and the glints of reflective light.

Those are the pros.  But, I don’t have very many winter shots, because of the cons.  What are the cons, you ask?  Well, there’s only one.  It’s cold.

Yes, that’s right, I am a west coast, “first world” American, and I am not overly enamored with the cold.  It’s really that simple.  I admire photographers who routinely go out every week in the winter to get a shot.  That takes perseverance and dedication.  Then again, for many of these people photography is literally their bread-and-butter.  For me it’s more of a sidelight.  I still need to keep my day-job.

Take yesterday and today, as a case in point.  It’s been absolutely beautiful.  Fresh snow.  Fluffy-type snow, which is best for those reflecting sunlight glints I keep mentioning.  Clear blue skies.  Everything needed for a truly nice winter photo.  Unfortunately, it’s also been about -2 degrees… and that’s the high!  Wind chills have been -20 degrees, and lower.  Brrr… I’ve been staying inside, working on my websites and blogs, and catching up on things that way.

Many of the winter shots that I do have were taken when I was driving from one place to another and happened to have my camera with me, which I will continue to do.  Stay tuned.  🙂

Local Flavor

Statue of Nile Kinnick at Kinnick Stadium, University of Iowa, Iowa City, Johnson County, Iowa

Keeping in theme with Iowa, I took these about four years ago.  They’re at Kinnick Stadium, home to the University of Iowa Hawkeyes.  This is at the entrance to the north end of the stadium.  It is named for alum Nile Kinnick, the 1939 Heisman Trophy winner, who died in World War 2.  According to Wikipedia, it is the only college stadium named for a Heisman Trophy winner.

The statue is very striking.  Very dignified.  The location is kind of tight, and you don’t really have many good choices for vantage points and good composition.  You’re somewhat stuck with what’s there.  Move back too far and you get several extraneous things in the shot that seriously detract from the shot.  While this can be disappointing, there are still several good opportunities, you just have to look up for most of them.  Looking up at a subject isn’t always a bad thing.  It adds something of a larger-than-life perspective, which works well in scenes like this.

I like the three layers in this shot.  The plants in the foreground add a pleasant aspect that helps break up the hard lines of the stadium structure, in a pleasant way.  The statue itself being the main focal point.  The ‘sign’ on the stadium wall providing self-explanatory context.  I have three shots total from this location currently processed and available, and two of them can be found on my nostalgia page, at least for now.

I’d like to go back and get some more shots from around the stadium, not to mention the historical aspects of Iowa City, itself.  I don’t get down to the Iowa City area nearly enough.  A nice local flare is always interesting, and helps break up what can be the monotony of farms and barns and windmills.

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?

A courthouse and a blue sky

Clock Tower, Delaware County Courthouse, Manchester, Delaware County, Iowa

If you remember the photos of the farm near Dundee that I posted on 6/25/2017, and of the winding road in Backbone State Park that I posted on 6/23/2017, you’ll begin to catch a theme here.  This photo, of the clock tower of the Delaware County Courthouse in Manchester, Iowa, was taken on the same road trip, and was also taken with my Pentax 67II medium format camera.

As I was pulling into Manchester I spied the clock tower across town and made a side trip to go look.  It was a little later in the morning than would have been ideal.  The scenery at ground level I thought was distracting, so I decided to isolate the clock tower itself.  The lamp post, which is actually across the street, added a nice piece on interest and context to what otherwise would probably have been a boring photo.  I also used a circular polarizer filter to help bring out the deep blue in the sky.

The richness of the colors, and the perspective, have always appealed to me.  Is it surprising that this one hangs on my wall, as well?  Seems this was quite the productive road trip.

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 long and winding road, the sequel

Winding Road in Backbone State Park, near Dundee, Delaware County, Iowa

The obvious Beatles reference notwithstanding, I do seem to be on a winding road kick the last few posts.  That’s ok.  A good photo is a good photo.

Anyway, right after I moved to Iowa I asked around for some good places to shoot.  Backbone State Park was a common response.  So I packed up the gear, looked it up on a map, and took off for the park.

This was back when I still had film cameras, and this shot was done on film.  With my Pentax 67II medium format film camera, to be specific.  I sold it along with all my film equipment several years ago as I felt I was becoming a “jack of all photo trades, master of none”.  I felt that by trying to do too much I was losing my focus (no pun intended).  Hence, I decided to take the financial loss and focus solely on digital.

I do not regret my decision one bit, but I will admit that I do miss this camera and a couple others I had.  Sometimes I feel like I should buy another film camera because I feel it would help me keep my skills sharper.  It’s easy to get lazy with digital.

And here I am… all digital and going through older photos and finding some nice ones that, for whatever reason, I didn’t do anything with before.  I guess you could say that this is a Reader’s Digest version of my own photography long and winding road.

Scouting

Trees in silhouette with downtown in background, Des Moines, Iowa

Yesterday was a rainy and windy day.  Missy and I had been planning a road trip for over a week.  I had decided that I wanted to look and try to find some wildflowers and/or prairie that might make a good shot.  We decided to take the road trip in spite of the weather.  Packed up the car, packed up the gear, packed up Wesley, packed up Missy, and off we went, into the wilds of Iowa.

We didn’t take a single shot, it was too rainy and windy, but that didn’t matter.  We found a really cool old cemetery in Rochester Township near Tipton.  It was a very charming place, both old and new, and still maintained.  If a cemetery can be charming, this was it.  We did stop and look and scout, and Wesley had a great time… especially when we visited Missy’s work and dogs are allowed.  It was still a fun day and we made plans to go back when the weather is better.  It takes only about 45 minutes to get there.

Since we didn’t take photos I don’t have a new one to share, but I will post some when we go back.  The photo here is a sunset photo in Des Moines from a couple years ago during another road trip.

Another information source for the cemetery can be found here.