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?

The Broadside of a Barn

Shadows on side of a barn, near Calavaritas, Calaveras County, California

Sometimes simplicity is the order for the day.  It doesn’t really matter where this photo was taken.  The particulars of the barn itself isn’t a concern.  The surrounding scenery is wholly irrelevant.

No, the simple selective composition shown here speaks for itself.  A simple side of a barn… at the end of the day, as depicted by the shows… some mud on the wall, how and why is it there?… a rough stone foundation… barbed wire hanging on the wall… all serves to reinforce that this is a working barn in daily use.  That gives the photo an honest credibility.

Would you believe this is hanging on my wall?  It is.  It’s a small 5×7, framed, with a hunter green mat.  It looks very nice as a small accent piece.

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 Old and the New

The old and the new, near McCallsburg, Story County, Iowa

This photo has always been a favorite of both Missy and I.  We took this about three years ago near McCallsburg, Iowa, in Story County.  The image evokes kind of a nostalgic feel and nicely contrasts the old and the new.  That and the quality and richness of colors is what makes it so appealing, I think.  This photo is yet another example is stumbling onto something when you least expect it.

In our case, we had attended an all-day Toastmasters meeting in Ames.  We chose to take an indirect route home, avoiding the main highway and using still-nice, but rural, county roads.  Took longer, but we had the luxury of time, and we did purposely want to see new places both with photography in mind and simply just to see new things.

What’s strange, to me at least, is that in spite of how much we like this photo, we haven’t done much with it, and I cannot explain why.  I’ve never put it up on my website for sale (that will change soon).  I’ve never really displayed it, except a couple incidental publishings, and I think I entered it into a club contest once.  This needs to go on my wall.

The Tree in the Intersection

Tree in rural intersection, Cass & Audubon Counties, Iowa
Tree in rural intersection, Cass & Audubon Counties, Iowa

Missy and I did another road trip this weekend… 20 hours and 591 miles… with Wesley… specifically to go see this tree.  The unofficial story behind the tree goes something like this…

Back in 1850 a surveyor cut a cottonwood sprout to use as a walking stick, later planting it in the ground to mark a section corner.  The roads were no doubt not there in 1850, but since roads are commonly laid out along section lines, the tree ended up in the intersection.  Why the tree was allowed to stay is a mystery, but allowed to stay it was.

It grew into the massive tree that still stands there today. The trunk is roughly 12 feet in diameter.  There are no markers, no signs directing you to it, but it is not all that hard to find.  I will say that the quality of the roads are questionable, though, especially after a rain and doubly especially after a rain and at 3:30 am.  It is at the intersection of 350th Street and Nighthawk Avenue, on the county line that separates Cass and Audubon Counties.  It’s also only about an 1/8 of a mile from I-80, and Nighthawk Avenue crosses the interstate, but there is no interchange.  You cannot see it from the interstate, though, as there is a hill in the way.

As far as layout, it is not conducive to good composure for photography.  We made an effort to get there before sunrise, not really knowing what we would find, and I got some decent shots, but nothing that really wowed me.  This shot was done with my 15mm rectilinear fish-eye lens.  It has the obvious curved perspective, which in this case I kind of like, so I left that part alone.  It helps add a sense of presence and location that is otherwise missed with “normal” lenses that I also used.  With this shot you really can see that the tree is truly in the middle of the intersection.

I’m going to have to think about this location and the shots I took for awhile.  I may decide to re-visit some more shots and thoughts here in the future.  And, please feel free to leave some feedback.  I’d be interested in your thoughts and perspective.

 

A Blast from the Past

Red Barn near Calaveritas, California
Red Barn near Calaveritas, California

As we end August let’s go back to April… 2004.  I was still living in California.  I was into my photography.  I had another website that I allowed to go defunct a couple years ago (I don’t even own the URL anymore), and this was one of the premier photos.

Now, California is known for its awesome beauty.  The Sierra Nevada Mountains, Yosemite National Park, the redwood forests, the coast, and yes, even the desert.  So much to choose from.  And yet even within all that splendor, you can find little nuggets like this.

This photo has always been one of my all-time favorites.  I shot it several times from varying angles, and was never disappointed.  I spoke with the owner one day… an extremely nice gentleman… and he told me that its even better in the winter with snow on the ground.  I can believe it.  I would be willing to make a special trip back just for that.

I plan to incorporate some of my better west coast photos into my blog and website, though they will remain primarily Iowa and the Midwest.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, this photo is still literally a “wall hanger” in my home.

The View from Iowa!

MW-4-118Right now, this is it.  As you drive down the road, this is pretty much all you see.  Corn and more corn and still more corn, as far as the eye can see, and taller than you are.  It’s like being the short person at a general admission rock concert.

Not being a farm boy myself, I was somewhat shocked when I first moved here.  The planting season is late, compared to what I was used to seeing on the west coast, and the corn starts out slow, then increases at a dramatic pace as the summer winds down.

Sweet corn near the end of summer is a BIG DEAL in these parts.  You will see stands everywhere.  Prices range from $3/dozen to $6/dozen, and quality is not consistent.  There’s a place just outside Manchester that has fantastic quality sweet corn.  They’re $5/dozen and well worth it.

Soon will come the harvest and the landscape will feel naked.  And we’ll have to do it all again next year.  I can’t wait!

 

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.

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.