Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Do You See What I See?


Do you see the red fox and the coyote in this picture? No? Well, that's because they're not there now, but they were there when I was brushing my teeth and gazing out the window. Unfortunately I don't keep my camera handy when in the bathroom and I missed the two critters crossing paths in my back yard.

A photography workshop leader once commented that you will only capture with a camera 10% of the photographs you see. Add this one to the 90%!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

World Traveler Extrodinaire


Two weeks ago at the overlook by the El Pipila monument in Guanajuato, Mexico I met an extraordinary woman traveler. On the road for 19 months when I met her, she had a remaining 5 months of travel planned through Latin and South America before returning to Australia.

Her route thus far had taken her through Cambodia and Vietnam and most of Africa where she spent had six months exploring all of Egypt and several other African nations. She meandered up and down the east and west coasts of the United States and Canada with a few days in Chicago, Toronto and Montreal.

I listened as she spoke excitedly and with great enthusiasm about Cambodia, Vietnam and Egypt and was a fount of historical information about Guanajuato and other central Mexican cities and their colonial past. She was a living and breathing travel guide.

Though a writer, she claimed she hadn't undertaken the trip for the purpose of writing about it. I never did find out why she had undertaken the trip and how she was managing to drop out of life for over two years to wander the world. In fact I didn't even discover her name. But we had a wonderful chat at the scenic overlook with the lights of the city below us coming to life as the sun set.

As I returned to my hotel via the funincular, I wondered if I had the gumption and stamina, let alone the time and means, to undertake such an adventure as a solo traveler. Her tales inspired me and enriched my own travels.

Here's to you, whoever you are. It was a pleasure to meet you, and I wish you safe travels through Argentina, Peru and Chile and home.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Big Apple


Last week I attended the PDN PhotoPlus Expo in New York City for the first time. After three days of workshops, meetings, and trolling the hundreds of display booths featuring camera equipment, software and gizmos, I decided I needed further sensory overload and walked to Times Square with my point-and-shoot in hand. (Yes, I do own one.)

Signs, lights, scrolling tickers, billboards stacked three high on the faces of buildings, advertisements, street vendors, tour bus hawkers and yellow taxis constantly call out for attention. To experience life as one with ADD, stroll a few blocks in Times Square.

A morning in Times Square brought two reactions on my part. One was amusement, the other disinterest. As a photographer I found it fascinating to study the images selected to catch the eye in the midst of a multitude of advertisements. As a human being, I found I couldn't handle all the stimuli and began shutting down the receptors. The processing circuits were sizzling and needed a break. The glitz, the glamor, the buzz were fun, but how much of the information actually stuck in my brain? Research project anyone?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Making Friends in Small Towns


This fall I've been traveling through the northern part of Illinois seeking to fill some holes in my stock files. My travels have taken me through small and mid-size towns such as Dixon, Amboy, Moline and Grand Detour, Illinois along with the Iowa side of the Quad Cities.

I've discovered that when a woman carries a large camera, a camera waist pack and uses a lens hood she attracts attention -- particularly in a small town where everyone knows everyone. Curiosity gets the best of many people and they want to know if I work for the newspaper, if I'm taking pictures (no!), what brand of camera I use, what is that funny thing on my lens and would I take their picture with their camera.

Frequently the interaction becomes a conversation and I have met many fascinating people and heard some great stories just because I've been toting a camera. While in Dixon, Illinois, I kept running in to the same group of 8 adults at multiple locations. It so happened that we ate lunch in the Baker Street bakery where I learned that they were four siblings and their spouses who vacation together annually. Now scattered about the country, their rendezvous point this year was Dixon, Illinois. No one could quite explain how the Dixon area was the pick in 2007, but they were having fun visiting Ronald Reagan's childhood home and other local sites.

While enjoying fabulous home-made pies at Baker Street, they agreed to pose for a shot together. In a day and age when it has become increasingly difficult for family members to share the same air space, this group inspired me and were a highlight of my Dixon visit.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Evening at Navy Pier


Chicago's claim to fame as a destination city for travelers and tourists is not because of it's fabulous weather. But when all the all the forces conspire, Chicago can put out some absolutely marvelous days with clear blue skies, light breezes and low humidity. Yes, even in August!

Chicago's Navy Pier is a primo place to enjoy a day or night of fabulous weather. Take a boat tour, a water taxi, a ride on the Ferris wheel, a Shakespearean theater production or just take in the sights and enjoy a great meal, Navy pier offers all these options and more.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Cicadas are Returning!


After 17 years of living as a nymph sucking on the sap of tree roots, the periodic cicadas are scheduled to emerge in late May or early June in the northeastern section of Illinois. Fortunately the adults are not as large as the children in the cicada costumers pictured here!

Each male when performing his mating call can be as loud as a kitchen blender. Heavily wooded acres which have remain undisturbed for the past 17 years could have as many as 1.5 million cicadas per acre. Yikes! The Lake County Forest Preserve District has a Cicada Mobile which will travel about the county (IL) educating adults and children on this marvel of nature.

During the media day for the Cicada Mobile, I learned a great deal about these red-eyed insects that will descend en masse this spring, causing outdoor music festivals to move indoors and brides to wonder why they ever planned an outdoor wedding!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Devil in the White City


Last winter I read Erik Larson's "Devil in the White City", an historical account of the lead architect of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Daniel Burnham, and the grisly serial killer who worked unseen on the city's south side during the fair.

While I've visited the Museum of Science and Industry many times over the years and knew it was a building from the Exposition, I had never explored Jackson Park and the Osaka Japanese Gardens to the south of the museum. Nor had I heard of the Wooded Island or understand the vision behind their design by Frederick Olmstead.

Last summer I remedied my deficiency. Thank you to Erik Larson for bringing a time period from Chicago's history to life and for making me aware of hidden treasures in the Windy City.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

PDN's 50 States Issue


This year I was honored to be selected as the Illinois representative in the PDN (Photo District News) annual "50 States" issue. Currently, subscribers to the online version of the magazine can access the article text, but the photographs can only be viewed in the hard copy version, unfortunately. An online gallery is scheduled to be available shortly.

Pick up the issue at a local newsstand or bookstore and peruse great photography and a synopsis of the state of the business side of photography from around the country.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Fabulous Photoshop Book



Photoshop CS2 is an amazing program with so many capabilities and features that the learning curve is quite steep. Various books, web sites and magazine articles have helped me over the years as I've sought to utilize more of Photoshop's capabilities and to enhance aspects of a particular photo. Nothing like necessity forcing one to learn another skill in Photoshop.
My new favorite book is Vincent Versace's "Welcome to Oz: A Cinematic Approach to Digital Still Photography with Photoshop", published in 2007 by New Riders. Vincent walks the reader step-by-step through the process of optimizing 5 different still photographs. Included with the book is a CD containing high-res versions of the 5 still photographs used as examples and enables the reader to follow Vincent's steps.
Vincent begins with the usage of image maps that provide a template for optimizing an image's depth of field, lighting and light-to-dark range. From Chapter One alone, I have learned several masking techniques, shortcuts, as well as how to utilize the Filter>Render>Lighting Effects feature in Photoshop more effectively.
Several years ago I shot an image of the hillside village of Gordes in Provence on film. I've scanned the image and played around in Photoshop before, but never achieved the look I was striving for. Along came "Welcome to Oz", and I have finally made a print that conveys the scene the way I wanted. See the before and after examples above. Can't wait to see what new skills and techniques await in the four remaining chapters.

Monday, January 8, 2007

Christmas Day Goodies


Another Karpeles family tradition is having home-made cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Christmas Day. After opening gifts, we head to the kitchen for warm sweet buns with confectioners sugar icing.

This year I was able to hold off the hordes and snap a few pictures of our traditional delicacy. I hope you enjoy them almost as much as we did!