Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Composition in Snow-Lines, Tracks and Curves

I can't imagine not living in a place that has a change of seasons-for me it's like I can't wait for what is around the corner in the next progression of the year.  Some I'd like to spend a lot longer with (Fall) and others I'm starting to appreciate more (Spring).  Photography sure spurs my interest in what lies next, what I'll discover in the next season.  I love winter and snow, especially a new snow, and we've had our share this year.  Cross country skis and snowshoes provide the means to  explore and  snow provides the canvas.  The tracks provide the mystery of what was going on the previous night and day.
The long low light, even at mid-day, can bring out interest from patterns and lines in the snow or from the dark contrast of trunks on white.  I like the cleanness of these images compared to this shot if taken at another time of year.
Lines and Curves

Death and Life

I don't know the story behind this deer.  How it died, how it came to be here.  That really doesn't matter now, she is providing life in her death.  This winter is a severe one so far with deep snow and very cold early December temperatures making it a struggle for some to survive.  She is slowly returning back to the earth and saving some of her fellow creatures along the way.  Cruel? No, it's natures way and one animal is no more important than another, although as humans we sometimes think so.

I almost snowshoed past this find, I was tired from breaking trail and just wanted to keep moving, but the camera was handy and I held it high directly overhead and made the picture.  One nice thing about late December days is the sun is always low and can provide interesting light and shadows, so even the crow tracks stand out on the snow.  Made me wonder how many animals have stopped here to take their share of the carcass. By spring, I doubt many of the bones will even be here any longer-carted off to different parts of the surrounding woods, maybe for me to find another time, on another hike.
Death and Life

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Night has Eyes

I couldn't help use that title-I'm guilty.  The hard falling snow during the night just seemed to match too closely the coyotes suspicious eyes. 
I expected a coyote to make an appearance sooner or later....and I guessed sooner. We've had a wolf or two in the area a couple winters ago and really hoped to get a picture of one, but there have also been tons of hunters about, so I'd guess they are laying low.  I love the wildlife that make their home in the neighborhood and I feel fortunate to be able to walk out the door and live among them.
The Night has Eyes

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Crow and Eagle

There is a poignant painting by Georgia O'Keeffe completed after her husband, Alfred Stieglitz died in 1946, of a lone crow flying over a bare landscape, a metaphor of his death and her loneliness or freedom afterwards.  Crows fascinate me, not that that has always been true-they sure seemed more of a pest than anything-loud and obnoxious but so intelligent and social.  They can usually give away a hunters hidden position or lead to a dead carcass.  I've come to respect them-their freedom, playfulness smarts and carefree life.  There was a sick crow hanging around the woods here this fall-I felt bad for "him"...perhaps he had West Nile disease or some other injury that prevented him from flying.  He'd just appear  and I'd see him hopping around for several weeks and never knew what became of him.

I decided to experiment a little after gun season when I moved a found yearling deer carcass to an open spot on a field.  There was good ground cover nearby and thought maybe I'd get some photographs of an eagle, coyote or wolf.  Well, the crow became the number one subject-I should have known.  This first photograph is just crazy with the silhouettes and wing position of the crows-you can almost hear their raucous calls.
In this second image, you can see the nervousness of the crows on the carcass as the eagle has his wings set and gliding in to claim his share of a meal.  In the far north, the wolf and the raven have a relationship-each benefit the other.  Here, I think the crow and the eagle likewise do.  It's common to find one bird or the other locating their next meal, which is grudgingly shared.  The eagle, gets first dibs and takes charge upon arrival though.

Eagles are still not that common around here, and I always appreciate it when I do see one.  For me, it is a good omen.  I marvel at their size and strength and in the image above-the size of their wingspan is amazing.  The lone crow in the distance doesn't stand a chance of feeding anytime soon.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Freighthouse Favorite

A year ago I had the chance to photograph some of my good friends performing at the Freighthouse in LaCrosse Wisconsin during Oktoberfest.  It was a self assigned job, part "roadie" and part photographer.  I do enjoy shooting people I know, and these guys have so damn much talent and I'm privileged to call them my friends.  It was a great night of music, fun and laughter.  The photography was a bit challenging to shoot in dark conditions, but the colored lights were just fun to work around.  I think I had about five hundred images by evenings end and then onto the editing.  This was one of my favorites-I like the reflections of the musicians and the feel of what was happening at that moment.  Even now, after some time has past, I still enjoy this picture.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Guilty Pleasure: Sunrises

Another hunting season is over for now....muzzleloader starts this week and then archery again the following week.  One of my favorite things to experience is the day waking up.  While hunting of course, I get to watch that all the time and it's just the best.  I don't seem to get tired of it at all.  So there are millions of sunrise and sunset photographs-they're pretty don't you know?  I've made more than my share of them, but I'll still press the shutter when I see a good one because they make me stop and appreciate things for a few minutes.  I can't find any fault in that, so my "pretty" sunset and sun rise photographs continue to pile up.  Sometimes, when I don't have a camera, I just make that shot in my mind and there is nothing wrong with that either.

This image is from yesterday morning-the last day of the deer hunt.  I arrived in my camo tent way before sunrise, not because of the hunting, but rather to settle in in the quiet and get ready to see the first brightening of the eastern sky.  This day was pretty dramatic and the photo doesn't do it justice.  For whatever reason the camera toned way down how brightly saturated the sky was-bright reds and deep yellows.  I messed around with different iso's and bracing it, but no tripod equaled a lot of blurry photos.  This one was okay.  Worth making this picture anyway.

Was it a successful hunt this day?  Absolutely.  Did I see a deer?  Not a one.
Sunrise over Reeds Farm

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Emerson By Brooke

A photographers blog is supposed to be all about posting our own work and coming up with witty things to say, or our thoughts and feelings about our art.  So why have I been a little slow in the posting department?  I'll pick an excuse: School, work (okay, the same thing), bow season, traveling to friends, gun season, World Games, organizing the garage, walking the pups, daylight savings time change....on and on.  I'll bounce back I'm sure.

Thankfully some photographers are still at it.  Yep, Brooke is now a "photographer," whether she knows it or not.  Oh, I think from seeing her earlier work, she has been a photog (?...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photog) for a while-you can just see her love for the craft (not sure I like that term) in what she shoots, how she makes pictures and her enthusiasm  for pressing the shutter everyday.  Of all the hundreds and hundreds of students that have passed thru my class, just a very few are or became photographers with that vision and creativity and the eye of a photographer.  Cliche, I know, but I think true.

One favorite and sometimes very difficult assignment is called "Personality Portraits."  Trying to share the essence of someone's personality within the frame of a photograph.  I think it's a simpler matter for older subjects and people you know well.  But in this case, Brooke nailed a terrific portrait of Emerson, a young girl she was babysitting.  As usual, the camera was along, and the kids became models for the assignment.  Of all the images produced, the following is just mesmerizing to me.  Technically a great image. But that's not the important element in this picture.  The emotion here is hard to define, but it doesn't matter, the eyes pull you into the photograph and that's all that's needed.
Nice job "BB."
Emerson By Brooke

Monday, November 22, 2010

tuLane's Vision

"tuLane" ( a nickname from track) is one of my HS photography students, now on her second year in Digital Photography.  She has a great eye for making pictures and has her own style.  Portraits are one of her strong suits and I always love to see what she has taken and how she tries new things-definitely not afraid to experiment.

 Landscapes are another interest of hers and I'm posting an example of her work below.   It's not a grand landscape-no majestic mountain scene or beautiful sunset, but rather what I come to think of as a "real" landscape....what we see here,  in our own backyards and what many people would just drive or walk by.  I think I really like this because it's a scene I can connect with-subtle beauty.  I think the photographers greatest gift is seeing what others miss and seeing art in everyday things...in everyday life.  It's a great thing to have students with that ability and watch it grow and develop.
tuLane's Frosty Morning

Friday, November 19, 2010

Noise, Noise, Noise

Digital cameras produce noise.  Sometimes lots of it.  Bad, right?  Film had grain, and in those days it could be good (create a "look") or bad.  Seems digital noise doesn't get that same freedom....or so I thought.  There seems to slowly be a movement to allow some noise-for the good of the photo, or rather for the "look" of the image.  In a previous post, I commented about how the story in the picture was more important than the visual imperfections, and I guess I've always known that to be true.  But still, there is this nagging tug on my sleeve that says any noise is bad.

I wanted to post a picture today.  I went back into some of my old images and found this Sandhill Crane shot from last fall.  It was wayyyy dark (and in color) and noisy, but the crisp primary feathers of the birds caught my eye and maybe this could be okay.  Black and white seemed to be a better look, but in brightening the sky, up came the artifacts.  As I wrestled with it, it started to get a grainy, old newspaper look and I liked it.  It started to tell a story of the cold wind that day, the long flight ahead for these birds and that things would be difficult for them.  As it sunk in, I considered that maybe a little noise for this image was okay.  It's by no means a great photograph, but one maybe worthy of a look.
Long Flight South

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Color, texture and pattern revisited

Being outdoors a lot provides opportunities to experience nature in a personal way.  The camera is usually close by and when I see something that peaks my interest, I try to make a picture of it.  Georgia O'Keeffe once said that unless art is good in an abstract way, it doesn't matter what the subject is.  Okay, so that is a more-or less quote.  What she meant is the building blocks of art need to be present in order to have a decent work of art.

Textures, of course, are an element of art and one photographers really need to pay close attention to and can, by itself, be an interesting subject.  (just as color and pattern are).  So all this rambling is leading to two images from a while back, but photographs I like which feature the above mentioned elements.  Maybe that's why I still like them, even a couple years later.
Barley Texture
Barley, our favorite hunting lab, is always by our side and about as good as they get.  Cold wet weather doesn't seem to phase her one bit.
Rooster Feathers
The rooster pheasant has to be about the beautiful bird in North America and one of the hardest to harvest at some points.  I'm always in awe of  when holding them in my hands.

Friday, November 12, 2010

NHS Digital Photography: Junkmans Window

NHS Digital Photography: Junkmans Window: "Time to put up or shut up. I keep telling my students to write more...to post more, but I need to realize they have more than just photogra..."

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Mike in North Dakota

I wanted to re-visit some of my NoDak photographs and post some that I connect with and frankly, bring back good feelings.  I maybe have one more posting after this one of another series of images, but for now, these  lit here.
Mike and James headed to Wind Mill Pond
Mike is my oldest friend, not in years old (although we're getting there) -I've know him since moving to Rib Mountain as a kid and joining scouts.  We worked our way to Eagle Scout together and from those days on have spent many hours working  the woods and swamps for grouse and ducks.  We live in different towns now, so a chance to go afoot hunting is more than welcome.  James is his oldest son and in his second year of making the North Dakota trip.  No longer a rookie and I think he's hooked for life and he really is a hoot to have a long .  He works for the Minnesota Twins.  This image was from the first morning after the big blow, the day dawned sunny and beautiful and we made a huge plan to surround a series of pot holes.  Ice covered everything....plan didn't work out so well-it felt like we hiked to Saskatchewan.  We still managed to pick up a few birds. 
This picture I like a lot-I guess I hit the "magic hour" as we headed out laden with waders and decoys and shotguns.  There is a such a raw beauty out here.
Mike and Pete
Another photograph of Mike-this one a day later while hunting pheasants along a bean field.  Pete is a few years old now, a Yellow Lab picked up from a kennel in Neillsville, WI.  Color or black and white for this image?  I think the latter worked well.  I like the vastness of this area and it's accentuated by the lone tree on the horizon.  I like the bands of different textures from the ground cover also and movement of the grass-you can almost feel the wind.  While hunting, I feel more alive from that sharpness in my face.
Mike cleaning game
Last photo of Mike here-and this did not start out as a "mike post" at all-I changed the photographs here and the title along the way-I just felt my pictures and thought process changed directions mid-stream.  Film cameras gave us grain-sometimes bad, sometimes used as a "mood" or feeling.  Now digital cameras give us "noise" at high ISOs in dark conditions.  I've hated noise, but in the course of a few weeks, because of where I've been shooting, noise was inevitable.  Live with it Steve.  Just like my Twangfest picture a few days ago, the blurriness and the noise is second to what's happening here and my connection to it.  It's cold, we've marched all day hunting, food and a beer are all that is on our minds, yet we need to honor this game by cleaning it and finishing the hunt off properly.  Ducks and pheasants were lined up and quickly processed for the table.  For me, this illustrates our end of day routine.

Monday, November 8, 2010


SO much I could write about Twangfest this year-gut busting laughter, man hugs, good camp food, hours in the woods, success and failures of the hunters, but a bond of brothers to be sure.  27 years we've been gathering each fall.  Some years I've taken tons of photos, some-not so much.

This photograph is dark, noisy, blurry and I love it.  It tells a story.  I think as hunters we love seeing a day wake and drift off into the night, so darkness accompanies us always.  The hunt can be successful or not.  This one, had  a great ending.  God blessed us with a harvest.  It shows also the brotherhood we have at Twang-sincerely happy with the success of each other and willing to help-it's part of camp life.

I guess life can be dark, noisy, blurry and.....we love it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Great Plains

I'm settling back in Wisconsin for a few days anyway and can finally get a new post up.  I was pretty happy I survived the trip out to North Dakota-crazy record low pressure reading and winds over 50 mph.  It took tow days, but we made it.  Hunting was not great-too deep of snow for pheasants and too hard of ice for ducks.  Still....had fun.  It is a beautiful place and I love spending time there, but I'd need my beloved trees to live.  I tried my new camera, the Samsung XXX model, and had my trusty Canon SD550 and my Canon SXI.  The new camera I was a bit afraid to carry while hunting, but used it on the trip and around camp.  Worked okay-some little things I don't care for, but I'm getting used to it.   This will probably be a multi-post thing, a few images here and some to follow.
Lone Cemetery Cottonwood
I can't remember what this cemetery was named on the topo map, but I'd run across it a few years ago.  We were doing a push for roosters across a big field and I knew this was near the end.  I had to visit it again.  These little cemeteries are tucked all over out here on the plains-postage stamp sized pieces of the harsh life out on this land.  It's not visible here, but the cottonwood was growing up thru the middle of a grave site, maybe 6' X 6' and was long forgotten.
Barley doin her thang
Barley is one of the best Labs I've met-small, compact, retrieves and has the whole get in their face pheasant thing figured out.  Amazing dog.  She seems to be featured in a lot of my photos and after a long day hunting, find my bed her favorite place to sleep.  I thought this photograph really summed up her as a hunting dog.  A picture tells a "tousand" words I do believe.
Hunter Dave
As the camp photographer, a role I easily won over my pals, there rarely is any photos of me-I don't mind and enjoy making a book of each trip.  Dave is one of my closest friends and he, besides Barley, seems to get 'shot' a lot.  This image I liked-just the hunter hunting and the simpleness of the foreground-the pheasants habitat (which is sadly disappearing).

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Return To North Dakota

As I write this-the winds here in Wisconsin are starting up and rain decided it was time to revisit once again.  In ten hours or so, Dave, one of my closest friends, Rick, Tenleys  man and labs Gracie and Barley, will begin our journey west.  In seven or eight hours of driving (if we're very lucky tonight- read: blow and snow) we'll arrive in Lehr ND.  This will be our fifth trip out west and every one brings excitement, laughter, friendship and memories.  There is a unique beauty there that I love.
This is also my chance to shoot a lot-with 12 guage and camera.  I usually make a photo book from the trip each year, and the guys love and charish that.  It feels good to share my images in that way.  At times I wonder what it would be like to just be a photographer during this annual hunt.  Sure would make things easier making good photographs.  The gun, shell, dogs and keeping a keen eye out for shooting (the gun) does hinder photography.

But, I guess if I only held a camera in my hands I would be an observer, and I really love being a participant.  So I do need to hold the gun, smell the burnt powder and harvest some game and hold them in my hands.  There is a difference....I can't really hunt with just a camera.
Dave in North Dakota

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Twangfest 2010

This is a photo blog, right?  So I'll post the most unusual photo I have here, but really this isn't about the picture.  Hmmmm maybe it is.  Twangfest will see its 27th addition in a few weeks and I'm pretty amazed the group of guys have kept at it all along.  It started when we all were in college in La Crosse (WI ) and we'd take Sundays to head up to Black River Falls to bow hunt.  Somewhere along the line, someone came up with the brilliant idea to make it a weekend and camp, hunt and just enjoy ourselves....and call it Twangfest.  The bow hunting part has always been very important, but also the chance to get together each year as brothers.  Over all these years this group of guys have seen jobs come and go, marriages, divorce,  children brought into the world and sadly some our parents leave it.  We're scattered now across Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, and Tennessee, but still make the journey back each fall.  It's funny... in a good way, that it takes all of 2 seconds to feel like we've just been together, even though a year has past.  We jump right back into our close knit friendships.  I guess the picture does tell some of the story-music, skits, hunting, autumn and goofiness which all play a role in Twangfest.  I know for myself, as the air cools, trees turn color and the first squawking of blue jays ("THERE he is....there HE is!") start, I get excited about Twang getting closer.  It effects all of us during the year too, new purchases of gear, vehicles, and hunting clothes all have a sense of Twangfest in the back of our minds.  "This will be great at Twang!"
Not too many days to go now-better start packing.  I can't wait.
The 1987 Twangfest Brothers

Friday, October 15, 2010


So Molly is slowly recovering from her broken hip-it's been 8 weeks now and she seems to have turned the corner physically and mentally.  She is excited about life again, acting like a lab should.  It was really hard during her recovery watching her waste away, no energy, not eating, not being able to do the things a dog loves to do.  She still can't quite run, but she has a good little jog and trot and water is always one of her favorite things.  I liked the full color of this shot from a late afternoon hike in the woods.  Most of the fall color is going quickly, soon no leaves will remain, but a new season is around the corner. :)
Molly at Pond

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Twisty Branches

So I always have this contradictory feeling as fall slowly starts edging toward winter.  I love fall-the smell, the color, the coolness, the depth of feelings from years spent in Autumn woods.  But there is also an excitement around the corner-coolness changes to crisp cold and snow.  The real quality time with bow and gun starts soon and that is also such a part of me.  It's sad to see the color give way to the bare branch, but on a short walk yesterday I saw beauty in that also.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Mythical Sunrises

So sometimes I get an idea in my head and finally have to act on it-sleep sure wasn't working.  So photoshop elements was loaded at eleven thirty and I pulled up the recent sunrise images again to work on.  Maybe it was something I'd read about Ansel Adams today...about "post processing" and if that was "real " photography.  We do call this "making a picture," right?  The author stated Adams once said that shooting the photograph was just half the work, and the rest was creating the image in the dark room.  So we're back to our darkroom, the computer.  I do understand in journalistic terms images can't be altered, but in artistic terms, anything goes.  I'm not doing anything original here-other photographers have selected areas, copied, pasted, stretched, tweaked to get their vision of an image.  I had done a technique like this many years ago, but for whatever reason the idea came back when I worked on the sunrises yesterday.
Not knowing which of the images really turned out the best (in my mind) I kept rolling them in front of my eyes.  I still don't know.  They look mythical or dreamlike to me- whatever that really means.  Sometimes it's fun to just really work an image, and this is what sometimes happens....

Monday, October 4, 2010

Cave Point Sunrise

Sunrises and sunsets-I feel obligated to make pictures of them-they do stir the soul.  But...everyone does them.  It's a struggle to decide if I should or let someone else make those images.  In the end, I pressed the shutter because I made the effort to rise early, drive like a maniac to get to this location and manage to get lost.  By god, I was going to shoot this day!  Cave Point is just north west of Whitefish Dunes State Park and a photographers "got-to" location.  There were several other photogrpahers there when I arrived (after getting lost along the way!) who had been there since early morning.  It had looked like the light would be gone, but a distant cloud bank lifted and the morning light poured through.  It's amazing (and maybe shouldn't be) that I can take 50 frames and only have a couple "keepers" or images that I think are interesting.  So here are my sunrise pictures from an October morning in Door County.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Misty Morning

So one day this week I missed a great opportunity to make some pictures-fog rising from the Black River-steam lifting off frost covered round bales....just a beautiful start to a fall day.  My second chance came a day or so later and I pulled over in the car, pulled out the camera and pressed the shutter.  Back in the classroom, my students are also creating photo blogs, (which is going really well) and I was anxious to post new work.  As happens so many times, what the eye sees and mind remembers is not always what the camera harshly records. So off to work and bring back some color, some "feeling" back into those shots.  Here are a couple I remember when I took the photos.
Morning Light on Hwy B
Neillsville Westside

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fall Continued...

I should have never looked at Jim Brandenburg's (www.jimbrandenburg.com) site last week.  I was using it to discuss different elements of composition in my HS class and of course spent quite a bit of time myself looking at his work.  I've always loved his photography.  But, his images of fall just killed me-especially his panaramas of colors in the forest.  So I have those images in my head as I walk around and get frustrated that I can't find that picture myself.  Maybe that is the struggle a photographer has, and that's okay.  Yesterday I headed down to the road with the pups and the light was just great.  I shot a ton of pictures of the light thru the trees, but really wasn't thrilled with anything.  Besides, it's always good to take pictures of your dogs, so I did that instead.  Well......also some of the full moon and a couple feeble attempts of the trees too.
Molly & Ruger with Rainbow Flare
Self Portrait with Old Oak

Saturday, September 25, 2010

2010 Flood

Wow.....in 28 years of living in the Neillsville area, I've only seen water like this once, the Fathers Day flood back in '93.  School was let out early Thursday and called off Friday.  Roads, even county hiways were closed because they were covered with water, or washed out.  Of all the water, the Black River was amazing-just the sheer power of it, and you really need to be standing near and listen to and feel it.  My camera did not do it all justice.
The Black River south of Lake Arbutus.
The Black River south of the Cty Hwy K Bridge
The Snyder Lake Dam, Wedges Creek

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fall Colour?

My plan was to drive down to Levis to ride after work.  Such plans.  The color was so bright along the road and I couldn't help but pull over several times to take some pictures.  The further I drove, the more I knew my plans had changed-oh, I'd ride alright, but the big camera was coming along and the focus of the ride was now images.  Way to the west of Levis and Trow Mounds is an old RR line that used to run to Merrillian and it crosses a couple old tamarack bogs.  I had an idea of the picture I wanted-a lone birch, full of yellow, surrounded by the bog and green and marsh grass.  Such plans...again.  Storms were approaching, sky building up, and even though there were a few pictures along the way, none what I had in my minds eye.  So I passed these two spots on the way out,and since I had to ride all the way back, and past them again, they caught my eye-their starkness, the line, the texture.  Not a pretty "fall scene" but something made me hop of the bike, pull the camera in front and push the shutter.

Something Doug said this summer seemed to bounce around in my head-I can make pictures for myself-what I like.  Maybe others along the way will like them too......
Old Jack pine-Clark County

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Today I had taken a long hike with Ruger out on the land, grabbed my camera on the way out.  I love fall, and there should be so much to make pictures of, but on this day, I wasn't seeing them.  This fallen log was nothing earth shattering, but sometime during the summer the old butternut had hit the ground and now mostly ash leaves had settled down and found a resting place on it.  I'm not sure why I stopped, but I liked how the leaves were randomly scattered by the wind here.  Not all of we feel in the fall is bright red and orange color, sometimes it's more subtle.  We're about to move into a new season and maybe that is what I was feeling with these modest players of Autumn.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Dirt Riding

Just needed to squeeze a ride in between going out hunting for Miatake Mushrooms and cooking during the packer Game.  A quick ride thru Snyder Park and out on the dirt logging roads of the county forest worked for me.  It's pretty hard to shoot anything good with the camera while riding, but I just love this time of year, cool and colorful and had to show it somehow-I always connect with this kind of thing.
The Superfly on Dirt Two Track

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Homecoming Parade

Each Homecoming Friday, the students get out early for the parade-of course, this also means during the day, there is much anticipation, facepainting, dress up and general escalating of voices and activity in the classroom.  Tiring day for the teachers to keep the lid on and teach!  But the parade does provide an opportunity  to make some fun photographs and the younger kids are really excited.  Time for the long lens and patrolling up and down the street looking for images.  Of course, every kid wants their picture taken, but those usually are not as interesting, but I do anyway.   These are a few that were fun for me.