The Simple Pleasures in Life

IMG_4336-800Today we’re going to address the simple things in life that can bring us pleasure.  In this case it’s our pets, and for me specifically, my dog.  Maybe I’m a bit biased, but as you can see he is a handsome creature.  Very dignified.  A total goofball in personality… a big oaf in many respects… but he certainly does look dignified, doesn’t he.  LOL!!!

I include him in the Family category because he really is a legitimate member of our family.  He is 4 years old.  We have had him for just over a year.  We adopted him from the Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center, if anyone is interested.

IMG_4389-800Missy and I took him out to the front yard one evening because I wanted some decent recent shots.  It was a great deal of fun.  He squirms a lot, and I have many photos where he looks away at just the last moment as I’m taking the photo… which, of course, makes us laugh even more and makes the whole process more fun… but the good photos we do get like these make it all worthwhile.

The photo above was when a car drove by, and that caught his attention in a, “Ooh, who is that?” kind of way.  The other photo we managed to catch in between “squirms”.  I cannot decide which one I like better… the serious photo or the goofy photo.  They both convey his personality.

He is part Basset Hound and part Black & Tan Coonhound.  He has the long body and head and temperament of a Basset, but the coloring and slightly longer legs of a Coonhound.  And his paws… they are HUGE.  People always comment on them when they meet him for the first time.

So, it doesn’t have to be all landscape.  Take some time for the simpler things in life, too.  It’s well worth it.

 

Court is in Session

Benton County Courthouse, Vinton IA
Benton County Courthouse, Vinton IA

This photo has always been a favorite of mine.  The perspective, the lighting, the mood, the subject matter, all of it.  There’s something about courthouses that can be very exciting… in a nostalgic sort of way.

A few years ago Missy and I went around the state and photographed different county courthouses.  We focused mostly on courthouses built between 1880 and 1910 as that era produced the most interesting buildings.  We noticed that the 1920s thru 1950s courthouses tended to be a more sparse design and feeling to them… almost sterile.  Definitely boring and uninteresting.

The courthouse shown in the photo is the Benton County courthouse in Vinton, Iowa.  It was completed in 1906 and cost $105,000 to build.  It is the county’s third courthouse.  According to history the first courthouse was a log structure and didn’t have a floor or roof, so they moved to a log home in inclement weather.  Now, that’s funny!

Simplicity!

Red BarnI have several “favorite” photos, of course, but this one is one of my favorite favorites.  It’s detailed.  It’s focused (no pun intended), as in focused on the details of a limited area.  It’s thought-provoking.  It’s… simple.

The surrounding area was busy and distracting, but you’d never know that from this photo.  This shot brings you in to the details.  It makes you want to reach in and grab.

You can’t really tell by the photo, but it was an overcast day and slightly drizzly, which limited my photo options, but at the same time the moisture helped bring out the richness of the red in the paint on the barn.  This barn is near Collins, Iowa, right beside the highway.  I caught it on my way home from Des Moines one day and did my patented screeching stop… while looking to make sure there were no cars behind me, just to be safe, you know.

Maybe the moral of the story is “Always be ready to slam on the brakes!”  Haha.

The Road Trip, Pt 2

IMG_4162_3_4_tonemapped-FBHere we are again, revisiting last week’s road trip.  This is an old semi-abandoned one room school house out in pretty much the middle-of-nowhere southwest of Waukon, Iowa.  I say “semi-abandoned”, because, while it is not being used anymore, whoever owns it is clearly trying to restore it and provide some upkeep.  The roof is being redone, in addition to other aspects.

Needless to say, this hampered my photography a bit, but that’s ok.  It’s nice to see something like this being taken care of for a change.  When they’re done it won’t have quite the same rustic charm, but it will have been preserved for future generations.

The Road Trip

IMG_4120_1_2_3_4_tonemapped-FBMissy and I took a road trip yesterday.  Our primary goal was a long abandoned one-room schoolhouse near Waukon, Iowa.  We did get some nice shots of that, and will share them later, but the best shot of the day, in our opinion, was the one shown here.

We’re tooling down… or, up, if you follow a map and the north arrow… on Hwy 150 between Vinton and Independence when the sun was coming up.  I did my patented “screech stop” and proceeded to capture some very nice sunrise shots.

You never notice how fast the sun rises until you want it to hold still for a photo?

Anyway, as you can see there was a low cloud ceiling, which gave it an interesting appeal… and also limited my available time.  When we set out I was not specifically interested in a sunrise shot.  We had the schoolhouse as our goal, but when you see something good you can’t help yourself, but to stop.

The Value of a Good Photo Club

IMG_4001-600I have been a bad photographer.  I blew off my photo club meeting today.  (I had too much ‘at home’ stuff that needed to get done.)  But, that doesn’t mean a good photo club isn’t worth one’s time or effort.  Far from it.

I belong to the Linn Area Photo Club (LAPC) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  We strive to be an educational and teaching club, and we do a pretty good job of that, in my opinion.  Almost every meeting has an educational aspect of some kind.  We have contests, too, of course, but unlike many clubs contests are not our primary focus (no pun intended).

We also have “photo shoots”, or outings where we get together as a group and go shoot a specific place or event.  In January we visited the Hawkeye Model Railroad Club in Coralville, Iowa.  It was super cold out, so the indoor shoot was most welcome.  The people were very friendly and accommodating, and it was a great deal of fun.

This photo is one of mine from that shoot.  I spent a lot of time doing “low depth-of-field” shots like this, and I wished I still had my tilt-shift lens, but I still got some very nice shots.  I hope you enjoy it.

This is Iowa!

MW-4-059Yes, this is Iowa!  I say that, because apparently, this is what Iowa natives think of when they think of their home state.  This image is, by far, my biggest seller.  Especially to Iowa natives who now live elsewhere and who want to have something comforting and nostalgic to look at.  I even sold a digital copy to an Iowa politician who wanted to use it as a banner on his re-election website.  He loved it because it epitomized everything he wanted to say about his home state.

It does evoke a soothing and comforting feeling.  It also tells a story, of sorts, and highlights so much of what Iowa is and does.  You have the farm, the silos, the barn, the gravel road, the truck, the fence, the fields, the windmill… this image brings it all together.

This image was taken near Swisher, Iowa, ironically enough as I was traveling one early morning to a photo club shoot in the Amana Colonies.  I spied this scene as I was cruising down the highway and had to stop and take some shots.

Reverence

Veterans memorial at county courthouse in Luverne, Rock County, Minnesota

I took this in front of the county courthouse in Luverne, Minnesota.  The overall memorial was very impressive, but this statue in particular inspired me.  The detail, the feeling of emotion, that it evoked was humbling.  Both before and after taking some shots I sat and just absorbed the feeling.

This is yet another example of finding things that you aren’t looking for.  We went to Luverne to visit Blue Mounds State Park, and courthouses are always interesting, so we gave this a shot (no pun intended) on the way out of town.

I should add that I found the town of Luverne quite charming.  Missy and I loved our visit, and have talked about going back sometime.

What do you think of HDR?

Apples in Allen’s Apple Orchard, Marion, Linn County, Iowa

High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography isn’t exactly new, but it still seems to stir emotions.  Some love it, some hate it, and there doesn’t seem to be much opinion in between.

Personally, it has grown on me, but with some qualifications.  The primary factor for me is that it needs to look real.  No “cartoonish” effects.  I want something that resembles what I was able to see with my own eye, and HDR helps with that.

I was able to take several shots of some apples, and using HDR combine the highlights and shadows and come up with something that looked good enough to eat.