Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Count Down 3!

"LeRoy & Sally's Smokehouse"
5X7" color pencil rendering

Below zero by a good margin this morning but I'm still counting down! It'll be spring in 3 1/2 weeks and I'm celebrating with a new little's another color pencil piece and I'm working small and intimately. This is a location that friends took us to a couple summers back, and the couple that owned the property showed us around the property (beautiful/fun gardens!).

There was a small building that caught my eye and I felt it was something I needed to do some day down the road, so I've been working on it "when I could" the past month.

I like doing color pencils but they can be very frustrating and I have torn my share of them up. I remember one piece (a large one for me) was torn to shreds when I wore a hole right through it after trying desperately to correct a mistake after having invested nearly 3 months of work into it!

LeRoy & Sally's Smokehouse meant "summer" to me so it was a cheering piece to work on with the snow and wind blowing around outside.

Thank you LeRoy and Sally for the fun diversion and the nice visit two summers back!

Do "you" have a neat old building of character on your place you wouldn't mind me stopping by to check out for some artwork or photos some day down the road? LeRoy and Sally will get a free signed open edition print of "their" smokehouse - I'd do the same for you!

Feel free to email me - I'll put you on my itinerary this spring/summer/fall, and try and stop by! You can reach me at -

Counting down!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Count Down!

Least Bittern at Dewey's Pasture - Lost Island Marsh

I'm going to countdown over the next 4 weeks, at least once a week, to celebrate the return of Spring! We need something positive to look forward to here, and even though this has been one of the "prettiest" looking winters I can's been a lot of work!

I'm going to post an image (drawing, photograph or painting) each week to celebrate something I'm looking forward to this spring and when the weather warms. The top image I've posted is of a Least Bittern I photographed from my floating blind at Dewey's Pasture at Lost Island Marsh in Palo Alto County, Iowa.

Photographing from a blind is full of surprises and uncertainty. The morning I photographed this Bittern was mid spring; the cat-tails and rushes were just up and piercing through the layer of last year's dead vegetation. A wonderful and pungent time of the year to be on a marsh or slough! The sounds and smells are something I will never lose to memory...I love it!

Raccoon under the kitchen window bird feeder

Right into the first sentence of this blog entry a Raccoon sauntered past the studio window, and on up the kitchen path to a comfortable seat under the kitchen window! It has spring fever too! The little critter sat right under the sunflower feeder hanging above the window and started shoveling in the seed...think someone's hungry!

So I got the camera out and walked outside and over to the side yard fence and took a few didn't seem to mind (or was too hungry to), but ran when the outside unit of the studio's air to air exchanger kicked on. Not too pretty of a setting but a fun diversion this afternoon.

4 weeks to go! see you at the Winter Thaw workshop!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fighting the Urge

I'm beginning to find myself fighting the urge to give irreverent titles to my blog and in describing winter this year! I think I have a grasp on how our recent ancestors felt when they first moved to the plains and the prairie. The hardships were not scarce. Either their crops disappeared under dark clouds of locusts, homes swept away by prairie fires or they froze or were driven mad in the never ending blizzards of winter!

Ha! Well, I don't have that much to gripe about I guess...after all we've got no place to be...let the winds whip through for days on end and bury our hard work in new snow each day - so what! Auuuuugggghhhhh!

Sorry, think that's out of my system now for the short term any way. :)

Tomorrow morning we get to test the snow blower repair made on Friday...wish us luck. But as I said, we're not going anywhere any how!

We are going to the Winter Thaw Nature Photography Workshop next Saturday though! Maybe that's what we all need - a reason to get out and enjoy ourselves?!

The workshop will be held at the Emmetsburg Iowa Lakes Community College campus on Saturday, February 20th. There will be a $20 registration fee to cover presenter expenses and lunch. Registration is required so plans can be made for food and materials.

To register or ask questions about the workshop contact the Iowa Lakes RC&D office at 712-262-2083.

My part in the workshop will be to emphasize the beginning aspects, equipment and field techniques. Photographing the Landscape, as well as Flora and Fauna. I also want to stress a part of digital photography that I am not seeing enough of these days - craftsmanship in the digital darkroom. There won't be enough time at the workshop to get deeply into this subject, but it is one I want to raise an awareness of.

I taught the darkroom for many years at the community college level, I worked in commercial darkrooms as far back as the early 1970's. Professional Photographers paid me to use my expertise in printing from their film, or entrusted their film to me for processing and printing. They needed me to help them keep bread on their tables and I took a tremendous amount of satisfaction from it.

Darkroom work - film processing and printing, is nearly a lost craft now, in oh such a short time since it was practiced on a daily basis in the industry and fine arts. I went to an exhibition a while back, an exhibit of Black and White photography. The scope of the work was amazing, even enviable - but the print quality was sorrowfully absent. It was as if Weston, Adams, Tice or Caponigro had never lived! WHAT A SHAME!

I do see this in digital darkroom work too, especially in Black and White work. Why do people throw a file into the digital soup and accept what the automated process gives them? If only people would reach back and study the masters - those that did it by hand, the hard way - the studied way. B&W isn't cool because it's "retro". It's only amazing when it's carried through as a fine craft.

I do strongly believe that most people do not realize this because they have never been exposed to the master photographers and print makers like Ansel Adams or George Tice and others. They don't have a base of comparison or experience.

OK, I'm getting cranked up again, must be the weather.

Anyway, I'm throwing the following illustration in for the workshop next week just to give people something to "chew" on for a bit. This relates to the digital darkroom.

Just as in traditional darkroom manipulation, digital darkroom programs can craft a fine image from a file that would not have been possible without processing in an appropriate
software or manner.

The following images illustrate an example of photo manipulation in the digital darkroom - illustrates how an image file looked prior to, and after processing in a photo software program. You see the true possibilities that rested in that file, the image that I saw when I took the photograph. It was a crappy day, snowing and windy. The subject matter (Bison) was poorly lit and could not be repositioned for the shot...the fence was there and there to stay...moving back or forward would not help and shooting through the wire was out because the subject was right next to it. The finished (processed) example also goes a step further to illustrate what you can do with image information that is obstructing or spoiling the experience of the image that you were wanting to create.

Original file from the camera

File after processing to bring out original intent and detail

Come on over to the workshop if you're able, stop and say "Hi"!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Bison near the Prairie Heritage Center

Would I have ever made it as a pioneer 150 years ago? I'm not convinced.

Now, I would have really liked to have seen the tallgrass prairie before the plains were explored or settled by non-native Americans! It must have been an amazing sight to incredible world of flora and fauna!

I watched a program the other night on was about the Donner Party. Well, I knew where that would lead and I wasn't sure I was up to it. But against my better judgment went ahead and watched. It was such an incredibly horrific tale, but also one of cues not followed...advise not heeded...many mistakes leading to an unbearable winter under several feet of never ending snow!

I know what we've been having is not bad at all compared to that story. We are only past the 50 inch mark for this a few inches at least. This winter makes one wonder though, we have so much snow to remove and I'd been getting along just fine with a 27" 8 hp snow blower, however two days ago it broke down. The blower's 10 years old so I guess it's due, doesn't make it easier to cope with though.

We tried a fix yesterday, didn't work...we tried a couple more ways to fix today...didn't work. Going to have to haul it to town I guess.

We shoveled out the lane, the turn-arounds, and the parking spots today. I spent some time (while shoveling) pondering what this could be compared to and came up with the thought that we had (if we still lived in town) shoveled out 7 neighbor's drive ways and hand. I think I have all the incentive now that I need to get the old blower to town for repair!

What did the pioneers do? They shoveled by hand if they had to move snow...that simple. Guess I'll stop whining and just be grateful!

Bison don't let the snow slow them down either...they dig through it and find what's underneath...ask cows to do that and you have dead cows...don't have the wild instinct to survive without us pandering to them.

The Bison in the heading photo is one of the cows (female Bison) at the Prairie Heritage Center south of here. They seem to be taking winter in stride just fine. Hmmm..of course they don't have a driveway to clear out either! I kept the far farmstead in view with the Bison; I thought it was a good juxtaposition comparing the new world of the prairie with the symbol of the once wild prairie.

Speaking of the Prairie Heritage Center, you might want to put them on your blog radar...they now have their own blog going...great to see!

Other good friends, Bev and Dwight Rutter of The Prairie Flower, also have a new blog going!

Winter and loads of snow...a good time to blog don't you think?!