Rolleicord in the rain

DSCF8699The end of 2016 was not good for our household, between deaths in the family and other issues going on it was getting quite overwhelming. 2017 wasn’t starting out any better so it was time to get off this runaway train and take a good friend out for a walk. My trusted friend is my Rolleicord VB. I also have a VA that steps in as needed.

For me there is something very peaceful and stress relieving walking around with this little box of a camera. It’s a very unassuming camera that people don’t see as a threat like a big DSLR, in fact if anything, it is the most asked about camera that I use. It’s uniqueness in todays digital world intrigues the passerby. It’s quiet, just a slight click from the shutter is all you hear and it’s oh so light to carry. I have the leather case for it which also carries a couple of pouches for filters. This camera and a couple roles of film is all you need to take a breather from a much too fast paced life.

Happy wanderings!

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Fuji XT1 and Yellowstone

Utah-43I just got back from a once of a lifetime trip out to Yellowstone National Park. I was actually in Utah visiting my son and his wife and their new baby girl. They decided to take me on the Yellowstone trip and I am so grateful for that gift. I had debated on what cameras to bring on this trip, my film or my digital. In the end I decided smaller and lighter would be better, especially since I am coming from flatland Illinois and would need to adjust to the thinner mountain air. The convenience of a smaller bag for airline rules wasn’t missed out on this decision either.

What did I bring? In a small Lowepro backpack, I was able to bring two Fuji XT1s, 50-140mm, 16mm, 10-24mm, 56mm and 35mm. A small Nissin I40 flash was also added along with the required memory cards, extra batteries, neutral density filters and chargers. In a small laptop bag I had my newly acquired 13 inch Macbook Pro with it’s chargers, a Wacom tablet, a portable hard drive for backup and some reading material. All of this was a breeze to carry on the plane and get through security. If needed I could have stuffed both bags under the seat in front of me but I tended to put the backpack in the overhead bin and the laptop under the seat. The whole kit gave me a wonderful, portable, fully functional studio for the road. I couldn’t have been more pleased.

So how did the XT1 perform? In a word, “fantastic.” I know the Fuji XT2 has just come out and yes I want one but the XT1 is no slouch and never will be. I tended to use the 10-24 and the 50-140mm the most. The 16mm was used third but mostly for shots of my beautiful new granddaughter. The only thing I may have wished that I had was a teleconverter but I was able to get plenty close to the wildlife with the 50-140mm.

The 10-24mm is a wonderful landscape lens. It allows for dramatic compositions and can really bring out the detail in your photographs. This lens combined with the tilting screen was used a ton! I feel that I was able to get some of my best landscapes yet with this combination.

One trick I utilized a few times was the use of a 10 stop neutral density filter for a couple of mountain stream shots. I had brought a small travel tripod in my check on luggage which worked well albeit a little short on occasion. Using this combination allowed me to smooth out the moving water even in the middle of the day with bright sun hitting the landscape. I did have an oh shit moment when I dropped the filter, which is glass, and heard the “chink” noise as it hit the ground. Luckily the Lee filter holder took most of the impact and the filter only got chipped in an area that is out of the frame. Whew! Now it has character I guess.

Would I use this kit again? Oh hell yeah! Did I miss not having film? Yes but mostly large format. It would have been fun to spend a day with that, but I don’t feel I was shortchanged in any way by using my Fuji’s. In fact I got shots I wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

Happy wanderings!Utah-77 Utah-68 Utah-53Utah-83 Utah-82 Utah-45Utah-81 Utah-80 Utah-158 Utah-156 Utah-150 Utah-147 Utah-123

Is it fall already?

Sorry for my absence the last couple of months. Since going freelance full-time I have been busy drumming up work and thankfully it seems to be “working.” This where they always say it’s all in who you know and it really is. From friends, to relatives to past business associates it has been amazing at the help that has come across my desk. It has either been in the source of direct work or names of people that may have work. It is a reality check in seeing that how you have handled yourself in the past with others can dictate what you may receive in return later. I am humbled.

I am learning how to schedule my day to day calendar and create this new way of working/living. I must say I do like the flexibility that freelancing can provide in your daily routine but I do try to at least have a plan for each week. If I deviate from it, that is fine but at least I have a roadmap to guide me through the week. One thing that I have been trying to do is make sure I leave some down time available. If you work all of the time you will quickly burn out. My downtime has turned into a mixture of photography and woodworking lately. Both bring me great gratification. With this post I bring you just some down time photography. Fall is my favorite time of year and I gifted myself with a couple hour walk in one of my favorite fall spots.

Enjoy!DSCF4642 DSCF4643DSCF4648DSCF4664DSCF4666DSCF4668DSCF4673DSCF4678

I prefer people with scars

I have a good friend who told me once, “I prefer people with scars.” What he meant was that he preferred people who had lived life through all of it’s turmoils and had the scars, visible or not, to prove it. These were not the pretty, plastic, perfect people that we see on TV or sometimes in our own neighborhoods. My friend would have considered the pretty people “pretenders.” Real people have scars.

To this point I was hired to photograph some very “real” people last week. Jim and Theresa are a loving couple who have had to deal with more than their share of life’s difficulties. They met while out for a bowling night and have since been married for thirty years. They are both blind and both have a laundry list of health issues. I was there to photograph them for the Presence Health Organization’s Foundation. Through donations people like Jim and Theresa can live in their own private apartment and still receive the medical care that they need. It allows Jim and Theresa to be able to stay together in a safe environment.

Knowing this made me feel good because I think the two of them would be lost without each other. You can still see the care and affection between them. They have traveled a hard and long road. It hasn’t been the years but rather the miles that have been put on their tiring bodies. These are real people…people with scars.

A note about the photos, they were originally shot in color but I chose to make them black and white for this post. All were shot on Fuji X-T1 cameras and converted in Lightroom CC.Presence Health Jim and Terry 55Presence Health Jim and Terry 101Presence Health Jim and Terry 45Presence Health Jim and Terry 57Presence Health Jim and Terry 75Presence Health Jim and Terry 87Presence Health Jim and Terry 99Presence Health Jim and Terry 1Presence Health Jim and Terry 15

Twenty years

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This post isn’t about photography, it’s more of a personal venting so if you don’t want to read it, come back in a couple of weeks when we get back to our regularly scheduled programing. Until then…

Twenty years…this story is not a new one. This story has been told all across Corporate America for some time now, the difference is now it includes me. You see after twenty years of loyalty to an organization, I was let go of my employment…restructured out. You might think to yourself, yeah that stinks but it happens all of the time. You would be correct in that thinking and that is the crime of it all, it happens all of the time.

Twenty years…you came to work whether your were sick or tired, even if the weather was terrible or there was a crisis on the home front. You were there, at work, doing your job to the best of your abilities.

Twenty years…people saw your worth and recognized your talent and what you brought to the table for the company. You honed your craft to the point where you made it look easy. Maybe that was part of the problem, you made it look too easy.

Twenty years…you have survived many of the organization’s restructuring processes but now it feels different. The powers that be are looking at you and thinking “we could get younger and cheaper.” You know in the back of your mind that some of the people in charge don’t realize what all you bring to the table anymore. They just see the floor plan that the most recent consultant has put before them. Oh those consultants, my company has hired more consultants than Baskin Robbins has flavors in ice cream.

Twenty years…the desk phone rings fifteen minutes before what is supposed to be the unveiling of the new restructuring plan. It’s Human Resources calling and that is never a good sign. The conversation in the H.R. office is short and cold. A one sided sheet of paper is handed to me explaining the demise of my job and my career there. Then a very unemotional “thank you for your service.”

Twenty years…not even a gold watch. “Thank you for your service.” In other words, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Twenty years…wasted?

This I am afraid is modern day Corporate America. Loyalty to employees is gone even though the employees have been loyal to the company. It happens in all of corporate America’s many forms including companies like mine who’s purpose has much to do with living a Christian life and human rights. That vision seems to get lost when it comes to it’s own workforce.  All companies after all, are run by people and with that comes all of people’s self interests, weaknesses and sins. Even at Christian companies who should know better.

Twenty years…life starts over. You take your dream or part time business, in my case my photography business and try to turn it into something that will provide more joy than you ever got in the previous twenty years. Hopefully I will treat my people better.

Here is to the next twenty years!

Chasing the light with Ektar 100

Photography by it’s very definition is painting with light. As a photographer it seems that we do a lot more chasing of that light than painting with it. Landscape photographers are always chasing the sunrise and sunsets. I’ve done my fare share of that. For me great light can happen anytime and anyplace. The light can me made by nature or man made. I have created the wonderful light myself when it didn’t already exist in the situation being photographed.

They say the golden hours are the best time for photos and to some extent those time tables can certainly put the odds in your favor for getting beautiful light. In this case it was morning but it was already getting past what is considered the golden hour. On this day I was chasing the fog as much as I was the light. I needed the sun to be a little higher in the sky for the dramatic look I was hoping to capture.

With my camera backpack in hand I headed off to a nearby forest where I knew the sun would break through the fog with a cool effect. On the way I passed this cemetery and instantly went to plan B, which required a U-turn on my part a race back to the cemetery. As a photographer if nothing else you need to be flexible.

I had never explored this cemetery so I had to scout it out quickly before I lost my light. I knew this event wouldn’t last long. I drove to the back end of the cemetery and there the light was just streaming through the trees like you see in these photos. It was amazing! I loaded my camera with Kodak Ektar 100 in the hopes for more saturated colors but I was worried if it would have enough latitude to capture everything. I ended up really liking the look. I shot off one roll in less than 30 minutes and the light was gone along with the fog.

While I was taking these photos a woman walking her dog came up to me and asked “what are you taking photos of?” Probably curious as to why anyone would want to shoot in a cemetery. With what must have been an incredulous look on my face I stammered “well the gorgeous light of course!” She looked in the direction I was pointing and her eyes widened and she said ” oh my that is amazing!”

This morning I chased the light and received it by the bucket full. I was looking for things that other people would walk by and not even notice. Beautiful things.

Happy wandering.

All photos were shot on a Mamiya M645 and the film was developed and scanned by Indie Film Lab.

Let’s talk fishing

I’ve been having a love-hate relationship with technology lately. As an Art Director for a magazine I love what the advancements in technology has done to make my job easier. As a photographer I am placed more in the middle of the road about it. With certain things, such as off camera lighting, the digital revolution has helped tremendously. It certainly has made leaps and bounds of improvement in the quality of images from 35mm gear. My medium format film gear however, still puts up a good fight against digital. Yet as a father and member of society technology greatly frustrates me.

Yes those techno-marvel gadgets have made a lot of things easier, too easy in a lot of respects. Raising a teenager you realize that it is so much easier for kids to get into trouble because of the ease of access to various things due to society’s appetite for all things hi-tech. Kids and adults become mind controlled zombies glued to their tiny phone screens for hours a day. One on one conversations have been replaced by text messages and tweets. Life revolves around tiny, computerized pieces of disposable plastic.

Obviously I am from the generation that didn’t have these things as a child…thank God. You actually had to use your imagination and create fun things to do or you had to…gasp…go outside and play. Step away from the computer games young ones and walk towards the light!

There is one particular outdoor activity that has brought almost magical healing powers to both of my boys. Healing not from physical ailments but mental and emotional issues that this overloaded society piles on our children. That activity is fishing.

If you start them early, they will gladly put down all electronic devices, even the phones, to go fishing. Heck they will even get out of bed early which is no small feat when you are dealing with a teenager. Instead of staring at a tiny phone screen they will be entranced by that magical globe of red and white plastic floating in the water. The child’s whole being will be transfixed on that bobber waiting for the inevitable tap, tap, tap followed by plop under the water. Fish on!

There is a real sense of wonderment with a boy or girl’s first fish. The colors, the feel and yes sometimes even the smell of it all gets stored in their little brains. It’s cool, it’s real and it’s not electronic. Initially it will be all about catching fish for them but over time they will start to appreciate the whole experience. Things such as how the sky looked one evening as the sun set or the smell of the water mixed with fumes from a small outboard motor on a fishing boat. Maybe if they are lucky they will see a bald eagle swoop down and catch their own fish. This is a good place to be both in mind and sole.

What does this have to do with photography? If you have your camera with you, and you always should, you have the chance to capture moments of childhood innocence. Images of youth doing something healthy, clean and fun.

Tight lines and happy wandering.

Why film?

A little background about myself. Many years ago I graduated with a BFA from a private art school called Kendall School of Design. My major was illustration. Yes I drew and painted pictures. I didn’t use computers, nobody did back then, I used pencils, paper, paint and canvas. These were things that you could touch, feel and smell. It was a sensory connection that helped you translate the communication of your idea into the final image. When you were finished there was a relationship between yourself and the piece of art that you had just created.

Over the years life became complicated and busy and I didn’t have the hours available to allocate towards creating images. I however still had the desire. I took up the camera as my image making tool. I started with film, went headlong into digital and now am back to film for at least my personal work.

Why film? Two main reasons really. First reason came while visiting my father one Easter. He pulled out a nondescript box that had an assortment of old photos in it. An unorganized treasure of my family’s history. It made me wonder what will my children have? Hard drives fail, memory cards quit, cell phone pictures disappear when you upgrade your phone and someday Facebook won’t even be around. There certainly won’t be a box of old photos hiding in a closet. So I vowed to shoot some film and make some prints. Even if I don’t print everything that I shoot, there will still be the negatives that will last longer than myself. My children will have something to look back on and remember their family history and even me.

The second reason I went back to film was for that sensory connection. I needed to have that tactile feeling back into my art again. I needed the craft put back into the images that I was making. Most of my cameras that I use for my film work don’t even take batteries, it’s all springs and gears. I love the way that they feel in my hands. I love that there isn’t any auto settings to save you. I love that you have to figure everything out manually. I enjoy the tactile feeling of loading 120 film into my Rolleicord or loading 4 x 5 film holders in the dark. I enjoy the process of it all.

I choose what film I use like I would choose what type of paint to put on my palette. Each has it’s own look and personality much like the uniqueness of watercolors, oil paintings or even pencil sketches. Do I want to shoot black and white for the mood or Portra film for the more neutral color spectrum? Will the photographs be for a portrait or a landscape? Whatever film I choose it will be part of the relationship between myself and my final image.

Hybrid photographer. I am what is considered a hybrid photographer. I shoot images on film and then the negatives are processed and scanned into digital files. I don’t have a darkroom but I do develop my own black and white film with the aid of a changing tent and daylight developing tanks. The color film gets sent out to Indie Film Lab for processing and scanning and they are terrific.

Developing my own black and white film has put another element of the craft back into my photography. Another part of the tactile process that I really enjoy. Since I don’t have a darkroom I scan and then print my photographs digitally. Like darkroom printers, I try to achieve the best print possible. I choose the papers not only for how they will make my photograph look but also how they feel. Holding the final print in my hand is the culmination of the relationship between this photograph, my craft and myself.

Happy wanderings!

It’s not fair

As we get older things we used to be able to do at a younger age hurt more than they used to. Our bodies, like an old car, get more miles on them and our parts start to show their age and start to wear out. This is to be expected, maybe not liked but expected. It seems reasonably fair.

When someone you know or love, or even yourself, gets diagnosed with cancer it never seems fair. With age however, we expect to see more of these ugly possibilities showing up. Fair enough I guess.

To me what has never seemed fair is when a child gets cancer. For a child to have to spend their precious young years fighting a disease to stay alive is not fair. I know there are plenty of other societal issues that have children fighting for their lives and those aren’t fair either but today I am talking about cancer.

Why bring this up in a photography blog? Well I was recently given the privilege of photographing a precious little three and half year old girl named Ania. I was photographing her for The Little Lutheran magazine. Ania has cancer of the eye called Retinoblastoma. By the time I was able to photograph her the cancer had already required the removal of her left eye. Her right eye is the most beautiful, brilliant blue that I have ever seen. I can only imagine her left eye was the same. It’s not fair.

Ania is a happy, vibrant little girl who just happens to love painting pictures. Her mom Erica came up with the idea as art therapy for Ania and it took off from there. For a young budding artist to lose one of their eyes does not seem fair.

It has not slowed Ania down for she continues to paint prolifically with glee while listening to her favorite music. Art supplies were donated by Blick Art Materials, which gave Ania a stash of paints, brushes and canvases that would be the envy of any artist. Unfortunately as we know, cancer does not play fair. Ania now has to endure six months of systemic chemotherapy. She will feel sick and she will lose her hair all in the hopes of stopping her cancer once and for all. It’s not fair.

Erica writes a blog chronicling Ania’s cancer battle. It can be found at, daintywarrior.blogspot.com. Ania is a warrior for sure but so are her parents. They are giving all they have to save their little girl. They have opened an Etsy store at www.etsy.com/shop/daintywarrior where they sell prints of Ania’s paintings to help pay for the medical and travel bills. The costs of this battle, as you can imagine, are not fair.

The day I photographed Ania, I chose to shoot a roll of medium format film along with the required digital images. The film images are what you see here. If you would like to help Ania, go to the Esty site and buy a painting or follow Erica’s blog and say a prayer. Help make Ania’s fight a little more fair.