Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Washington D.C. - Thursday, October 29, 2010

As I mentioned in my last post, I stayed with a fantastic friend while I was in D.C.  She basically dropped me off at the train in the morning, let me do what I wanted while she was at work and then picked me up again when I was done and let me sleep on her couch.  Seriously, this to me is perfect.  I'm not a high maintenance house guest and I don't like being fussed over.  When I'm shooting, especially, I like to be on my own.  I don't want to worry that I'm annoying someone who's waiting for me to get that *one* shot which requires that I wait for that cloud to blow over/those people to move/that animal to open its eyes.

When I got into Baltimore, I took the bus to Union Station just to check my bag.  And also to know where Union Station was because it was where I could both pick up my on-again-off-again tourist bus and where I'd take the Metro out to meet my friend each evening.

So I stored my bag, came out of the train station and the first thing you see is the Capitol Building.  So I found my tour bus, hopped on, went the three stops to the Capitol and hopped off.  I have to say, I love living in a country where I could just go wandering the grounds of our national capitol.  (As long as you don't want to set up a tripod.  You do that and the Capitol Police will be all over you in very short order.)

Right near where the bus let me off there was the sidewalk to nowhere.  Basically it was the "TAKE YOUR PHOTOS HERE" spot.  A slab of sidewalk about twenty-five feet out into the lawn of the Capitol and it gave you a pretty great view of the building.  No one bothered you if you set up your tripod out here either.

I'm Just a Bill... and I'm Sitting Here on Capitol Hill
One of the things I had fun with on this trip was playing with angles and isolating parts of things.  As much as I love my nature photography, it is easier to play with things when you know your subject isn't going to move.  Here, I practically lay on the sidewalk to nowhere and shot up at the building to make it look even bigger and more impressive than it already is.  Also, the clouds swirling around the dome make me think of a scene out of a scifi movie (Ghostbusters springs to mind for some reason) where all the clouds start swirling around the highest point of a tall building and some kind of lightning or beam comes out and strikes that highest point.  But, yeah, nothing that interesting actually happened. :)

Here's a different angle.  From here you can see that to the left and right of the rotunda are the wings for the Senate and the House.  If I recall the signs correctly (and remember which way I was facing when I took this), the Senate is on the right and the House is on the left in this shot.
Capitol Dome

Like I said, I did some playing with isolating parts of buildings and things on this trip (yay telephoto lenses!)  So, obviously this is the outside of the dome.
Inside the Dome
This is the inside of the same dome.  You can see how different the windows look from the inside and the outside.  So, obviously I went in and took the tour, since you know, anyone can.  It was pretty busy so I couldn't do things I wanted to do (like actually lay on the floor and shoot this, I had to do the best I could just leaning back).

Stars and Stripes and Columns
Another isolation.   This is the row of windows at the bottom of the dome with a flag in front of it.  By the way, I'm not sure if anyone remembers, but a couple days before I left for D.C. Chicago had record winds.  Just crazy hard winds.  Those winds caught up with me in D.C.  It made for some great shooting of flags.  They were moving pretty good on Thursday, but Sunday when I did my last day of tourism, I thought I was going to get blown *into* the reflecting pond between the Lincoln and Washington Memorials as I waited for my turn to go up in the Washington.  There are some very cool pictures of flags that I'll post when I get to Sunday.

Capitol Greens
Here's one last shot taken from a much wider angle on the sidewalk to nowhere.

I Can't Go Here
 So after getting shots outside, I went wandering around looking for the tours.  There really aren't any big signs that say things like, "Politicians: This Way, Tourists: Go Over There."  So I figured I'd just get close to the building and wander around until I found it.  Apparently the Capitol Cops are fine with that until you actually get close to the door where the real politicians go in and start taking pictures.  I was "politely escorted" away from this door and over to the corner and pointed to the "we don't trust you" doors with every kind of metal detector in the world.  In fact (and I'll talk more about this later), I'm surprised I don't glow in the dark from all the x-rays and metal detectors and whatnot I had to go through as a tourist in D.C.

Chicago Has State and Madison.  D.C. Has... this.
 Okay, if you're from Chicago, or even if you're just pretty familiar with it, you know we burned our city down to the ground a while back.  When they rebuilt it, they had the sense to go, "Let's make the city a giant grid.  We'll put in a 0,0 at State and Madison and everything will be counted from there."  This really is brilliant and explains why I get lost in any other city that doesn't use this plan.  D.C. has a really screwy version of it.  They have this star in the middle - literally the middle - of the Capitol floor.  From there, the city is divided into 4 quadrants.  Each quadrant has it's own zipcode.  Which leads to insanity like, "The office across the hall from from any given side of this foyer has a different zip code."  They also complicate things with "spokes" through their grid - angled streets - and round abouts, and about 3.6 million people who CAN'T DRIVE meeting up where six different streets merge and... it gets ugly.  A lot.  I don't remember *ever* being on the road and not seeing at least one ambulance go past.

The Washington Monument Sees What You Did There
Okay, this shot was taken while my tour bus was moving.  I was lucky enough that at least on Thursday it was in the low seventies (not bad for a few days before Halloween!) and I could sit on the upper deck and take shots.  But, you know, the bus kept moving.  Anyway, these are the lights to keep airplanes from rounding off the point there, but it just gives the thing a menacing "I'm watching you over there" look.  Especially as they're flashing lights.  The birds in the dying tree just add to the whole spooky Halloween thing that was going on.

Fall in Progress
And with all the history and architecture and whatnot around, I still found myself noticing things like this.  Just one bright red leaf, laying on the ground, symbolizing fall.

Okay, ten pictures makes a post.  More soon.

December 28, 2009 - the I'm not dead yet post...

Wow, my life got away from me for a few months there.  I had an art show, where I sold my photography for the first time.  I went to Nashville a couple times to see my nephew (hopefully the next time I go down it'll be decent enough out to go shooting). And I went to Washington D.C. for the "Rally to Restore Sanity."

Very quickly, the Rally was a huge blast.  I stayed with a friend while I was in D.C. and she helped me (and the rest of the visiting public) navigate the D.C. Metro.  There was an insane amount of people there, but even with that, it was a wonderfully fun, calm event where no one felt it necessary to be completely stupid.  I think Sanity was Restored.  We were shoved up against (I think it was) the Library of Congress, so we couldn't see much of the actual Rally, but we could hear most of it.

The best shooting for that was the signs people carried.  I literally shot over 900 different signs.  I put some of them to music, since, really, who can stare at 900 pictures of signs with out losing their sanity a little bit?

In the next few posts I'm going to start posting the photos from the trip.  I'm typically pretty *bored* with architectural photography, but come on, it was Washington D.C... There's some pretty impressive buildings out there.  But I also looked for all the nature I could find.  :)

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Rollins Savanna - 9.20.10 - Post 3

And now back to your scheduled programming...

I got distracted there for a few days by finding out that I will, in fact, be able to show in a large local art show, after being initially told that it was sold out.  So now I'm trying to decide which shots to show and what sizes.  If you have a shot you're particularly fond of, or ideas about what makes a photograph commercial, I'd *love* to hear from you!

In the mean time, I was posting about Rollins Savanna...

A Swath of New England Asters
 I love these asters.  For flowers in the fall they were still going strong.  And the way they cut across the frame brings your eyes down and over through the entire shot.

Duck Checks Her Rearview
 The ducks in the three ponds were pretty calm - much calmer than, say, the kildeer. I was able to get up pretty close to this female mallard and then she turned to see what I was up to, which was nice of her. :)
Onto Every Chicory, A Little Rain Must Fall
I'm still quite fond of chicory plants.  I like the jagged edges of the petals and the stark black and white in the center.  As I mentioned back in the first post, it was raining off and on all day, which gave me this beautiful rain splattered flower.

Egret in Flight
 Okay, so getting good shots of birds on the ground or in a tree is still challenge for me, never mind me getting good ones of them in flight.  But this one doesn't suck.  I was even able to crop out the houses he was flying over.
Egret Reflects
 Another egret and reflection.  It was nice of him to stand where there was a patch of un-duckweeded water nearby. ;)
The Frog Remains the Same
 Remember in that other post I mentioned the frog that was sitting by the bridge as I passed by... and was still there, like, two hours later when I came by again?  Here is on my second pass.  I could see him breathing and his eyes are open, so, you know... not dead... but not active either.  On this shot I could see his little froggy toes turned in under his chin.
Tall Heron
 A Great Blue Heron being as tall as he could possibly be on top of a muskrat lodge.
Heart-Shaped Red Admiral
 A Red Admiral on white flowers.    I like that in this shot he's heart-shaped.
Goldenrod and Honeybee
A honeybee on goldenrod.  I can count his stripes. :)

A Pack of Quackers
Like I said, the place was thick with ducks.

Okay, one more post and I'll be done with this trip.  Is it bad that I'm kind of hoping for a week or two of crap weather?  I need some time to catch up!  As it is, it's October in Chicago and it's going to be 80 degrees today and 84 tomorrow.  I think I'm going to need to go out and shoot some more while I can.  Which, you know, is not helping in the "catching up" department.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

And now a word for your Sponsor[ship]...

I've been asked if any of the photos on this site are for sale.  Yes!  They absolutely are.  Please contact me either through a comment here on the blog or you can email me at kymberleericke@gmail.com.

I have some of my favorite shots up at my Etsy shop.  You can see them here.  But if you don't see the shot/s you like, please contact me and I'd be happy to set something up.  The pictures on the blog itself are severely scaled down to keep loading times reasonable, but prints will be hand cropped from full resolution original images.  Depending on the shot, I can do anything from small, standard 4X6s to really large prints like 24X36.

Additionally, I've put together an animal alphabet book.  Every picture in this book was photographed by me.  Each letter of the alphabet has from 1 to 8 animal representatives.  And to make this really fun for any small people in your life, I can insert pictures you send me so that if "D is for Dog", your small person's dog will be the picture.  I did one for my nephew with his dog and cat, my ferrets and references to the rabbit his father had growing up.

Here's the direct link to that item on my Etsy shop:  ABC Animal Book
Or feel free to contact me via email or through the blog.  On the Etsy site, there's a listing of all the animals currently available to be inserted into the book.

Here are a few sample pages from my nephew's book:


Inside cover

A is for...     B is for...

C is for...   D is for...  
 Here you can see where I put in his dog and cat.  All you'd need to do is send me pictures of your small person's animals.  If they don't have a cat, for example, this cat would be removed and another animal added instead.  Any pet or companion animal can be added to the appropriate page.

E is for...     F is for...

M is for...    N is for...

If you'd like to see a book about a different theme - all birds, all animals native to Northern Illinois, whatever... let's talk!

Rollins Savanna - 9.20.10 - Post 2

Okay, picking up where I left off with Rollins Savanna.

Patterned Feathers
Because I ended up hiking counter-clockwise, I found the area I was looking for sooner than I expected.  Which was a good thing, as the animals were already starting to settle in for the evening.  This duck was eating the duckweed (go figure).  I adore the patterns in his feathers.

Duck in Bubbles
There were a lot of ducks out there from a couple of different species.  This female mallard was in the middle of a ring of bubbles.  I'm not sure what was making the bubbles (I don't think it was the duck ;), but it makes for an interesting shot. :)

Egret in the Grasses
Okay, so my parents live in Florida and they call these things "Florida Chickens" - they're kind of ubiquitous down there.  But in Northern Illinois they're a little more rare. (Did I mention this before?  As I type that I'm having deja vu.) And I was kind of keen on how you can barely see the water, and the egret is such a small part of the picture.
Watching Lunch
I was able to sneak up a little closer as he was looking for food in the pond.  I love the shapes they can make with their necks.
Egret Reflects
This was as close as I could get on the bridge.  Another reflection shot.  Yes, I'm unusually enamored of those lately.
Frog from Behind
As I came around the path and onto the bridge over the second pond, I found this frog.  I have no idea what he's sitting on, but you can see that he's, essentially, not in the water.  And while I was able to see him breathing, he was otherwise very, very still.  I walked up to him, and past him.  And then about an hour later I circled around and he was *still* there.
Can I Help You?
I can't get the color on this one to correct the way I want it too.  I've discovered that the white balance - even the auto-WB setting on my camera is great when I'm shooting in Aperture or Shutter Speed modes, but when I use the auto-settings, like 'sports-mode' or 'portrait', the shots come out much too blue.
Eyes and Ears and Froggy Toes
I think this is from my second pass.  Still just sitting there.  Talk about a great shot of a frog's ear.  Check out how prominent that tympanic membrane is.
Kildeer on Muskrat Lodge
Again with the color correction issues.  Partly it's saturation, partly it's white balance, and I haven't yet completely figured out how to fix that in my post-production software.  Anyway, another new species.  Kildeer!  Talk about skittish birds!  This was as close as I could get, and I spent quite a while trying.  I'd always heard that there were Kildeer in Northern Illinois, but I'd never seen one before these.  They're sitting on muskrat lodges.  I checked repeatedly and moved very slowly, but despite the *large* numbers of lodges (another casualty of kids not being able to handle language - we would have called these dams when I was a kid) and the large number of birds I saw on them, I didn't see one muskrat all day.

Muskrat Casa Es Mi Casa
Speeking of Birds on a Lodge... here's a duck making herself very comfortable.
Sunflowers Stretch into Fall
A few flowers were holding on even though fall was seriously starting to settle in.  These little sunflowers were a nice spot of bright yellow on a gray day.
Dam Lodge
Here's one of the lodges.  Don't get the idea that they've been there for a while, but there's greenery and flowers growing on top of most of them.  I want to head back in the spring, because I would imagine they make great nesting spots for breeding ducks.

Okay... there's more, but I think I actually have more than ten shots in this post, so I'll wrap this post here.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rollins Savanna - 9.20.10 - Post 1

Rollins Savanna - Grayslake, Illinois.  This trip, in hindsight had more ups than downs, but it did have a couple big drawbacks and the Universe was determined to make this not be an easy trip.

First of all, I Googled the place, read the website and it sounded great.  "One of the largest uninterrupted savannas in Illinois."  Sounds good, right?  What they didn't say is, "And we've plopped it right in the middle of several busy suburban neighborhoods."  I give this place a C- for one major reason - I could never hike far enough out to be clear of the noise of traffic.  No matter where I was in the park, I could hear cars or trains or both.  At one point I even heard a massive car crash (I hope everyone was alright - it didn't sound good at all).  From most points I could see the traffic light at the parking lot entrance and/or large tracts of modern houses.

I did see plenty of wildlife, which was great for a fall walk, but it might have been even better if the on-again, off-again rain would have stayed more off-again.  As it was, it was dry for the hour drive up there, but as I got about a quarter-mile up the trail it started to sprinkle.  I didn't mind getting me wet so much, but the camera equipment would not have approved, so I booked it back to the car. I could see a break in the clouds, so I figured I'd sit in the car and read a book for half an hour and see where we were.  Twenty minutes later, it had stopped so I set back out.  I got about half or three-quarters of a mile up the same road this time before the rain started again.  So, again, I turned around and headed back.  Only this time it stopped before I even made it back to the car.  But I really didn't want to see the first bit of that same trail a third time - it wasn't that interesting the first two times.  So I went around to the left instead, and fortunately after that the rain held off.

Before I was even out of the car and set up to hike, I saw these two birds of prey circling me.

I know northern Illinois has Red Tailed Hawks, but I'm not sure if this is one.  (I didn't do anything to 'remove' the background on this shot... it just happens to be the same white as the blog's text box.  Weird.)
Something about the way this one moved made me think it was too body-heavy to be a falcon.  I know I heard at least one owl.  Could this be him?
This body shape makes me think this one was a falcon.

I think I shot all of these with my kit lens - I hadn't even had a chance to put on my telephoto yet, so they're crap shots.  I need to actually set up with the tripod somewhere and wait for something to come into view and see if I can get some better ones.

This bee is on a New England Aster Plant.  Most flowering plants are done at this point, but these asters seem to still be going strong.
I'm fairly sure this is a Red-Eyed Vireo.  I saw a lot of these guys, but I couldn't get a really, really sharp shot of any of them because they're highly skittish.
 So the leaves are changing.  Most of them slowly going yellow or occasionally red.  This tree, for some reason, seemed to be heading for a bright "Tang" orange. (Anyone else remember Tang?  Do they even make that stuff any more?)
 Two Bull Thistle flowers.  I love that these are coming off the same stem, yet one is purple, one is white, one is closed and one is open...  I'm pretty sure the one on the right is going to seed.  You have to wonder how they didn't mature at the same rate.
 My bee on the aster again.  Look how clearly defined his wing veins are.  Love that!  Also, the joints in his legs are clear.  He was being highly cooperative. :)
Another Vireo.  Like I said lots of these at this park.
Another crap picture, but I finally saw a deer!  I'd seen the hoofprint at Volo, but I hadn't seen an actual live one all summer.  This guy was running down the length of the fence.

Lots more to come.  This walk had a few false starts, but once I got moving, there was more to see than I initially thought there would be.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Matthiessen State Park - 9.25.10 - Post 2/2

Okay, here are the rest of the Matthiessen shots... (told you I didn't take many. :)

Stepping on Stones
Because this is a water-worn ravine/canyon, there are lots of places with either flowing or standing water.  Which led to a lot of either natural or concrete stepping stones.  Some of which were more stable than others.  One of our group ended up with one very wet foot. Whoops!
Roots Protrude
Erosion is a huge force in the area, which means that tree roots that were probably under earth or rocks or even water are now exposed.
Tangled Roots
 Here's a tree that's still growing strong even with this much of it's root system exposed to the elements. 
Roots Creeping Across the Terrain
Here's the long shot of that same tree.  Look how far the exposed root system extends.
My Kitchen Tap Has a Faster Flow
 One of two small waterfalls we saw.  It's hard to see from the only angle I could get, but the water at the highest level falls into a small pool and then the pool spills over, very slowly, into the next level down.  You can see that it's more of a water-migration than water-fall at that level as the lower pool is very still and highly reflective.
Sticks and Stones... Don't Break My Bones.  Please.
More stepping stones.  With fallen logs for bonus difficulty.
A Face in the Log
 So then there was this.  A fallen tree right across our path.  Is it me, or does anyone else see a face?

Not the Gator You Thought I Was

It reminded me a lot of this one from Volo Bog.
None May Pass!  Just Kidding.
 Okay, I am, in no way, a fan of graffiti.  But this did amuse me a little.  It's like it's a gargoyle guarding the cavern.
The Ghost of Hikers Present
And one last oddity.  I was running a thirty-second shutter to try and get the back of this cavern.  I didn't realize one of our group had gone back into it to explore the passage that was on the left hand side.  She came out and walked through my frame.  If I ever want to convince someone I've photographed a ghost, I know exactly how to do it now. ;)

Okay, that was it for this hike.  Like I said, I suspect it'll be better in the spring or summer, but I'm not looking to drive 2.5 hours each way again to get there anytime soon.