THANK YOU, AND STAY TUNED!!


Cooper in the creek at White Water Canyon, Iowa -------

Joan, Cooper, and I are less than two days away from our vacation. We go east this time, and as always, we still try to stay away from civilization. Means, the tent and sleeping bags are packed, the spirit is high, and our minds are wide open for the things to come!

I didn’t post any pictures from the bottom of White Water Canyon last Sunday but some shots were taken… Thank you for staying tuned and coming back to this website!!

 

YOU CAN’T ALWAYS GET WHAT YOU WANT


Prairie near Whitewater Canyon, Iowa -------    

I think photographers know better than a lot of other people how to take the song of the Rolling Stones, “You can’t always get what you want!”. Sunday afternoon I hiked down to the bottom of Whitewater Canyon, one of only three true canyons in Iowa, and highly interesting for people interested in geology, wildlife watching, and nature in general. (for location and more detailed description please feel free to use this link: http://www.mycountyparks.com/County/Dubuque/Park/Whitewater-Canyon-Wildlife-Area.aspx ) It is surrounded by prairie land, rolling hills, and fields. 

So why don’t I show pictures from the canyon? As said, you can’t always get what you want! The truth is, the light really sucked. A big field of gray clouds started covering the sky while me and our dog Cooper were on our way down to the canyon. With the dull light of an overcast, well photography in a canyon can suck too! Back on the way to the parking lot and up on the prairie I saw the edge of the clouds moving east and towards me. And here is the point I’m trying to make. The next opportunity for a decent photo is just around the corner.

I sat down on a big boulder that marks the border of the parking lot, let our dog Cooper do what he wanted to do, and watched the development of the weather for about 45 minutes. As soon the edge of the gray clouds passed the sun, the camera was out of the bag and the shutter was clicking. All the blossoms of the wildflowers in the prairie are gone, but the prairie grass in the fore- and middle ground adds texture to the image, and the “crying” clouds are just lovely in my books. Well, no canyon pictures today, but next time I may get what I want… 😊

SEPARATION IN THE FRAME


Trumpeter Swans, Mill Creek Ponds, Eastern Iowa

My last visit at the Mill Creek Ponds between La Motte and Bellevue, Iowa was May 21st, 2017, and at that time the Trumpeter Swans were still sitting on the nest. It is hard to believe how fast their five (yes, 5!!) cygnets have grown up to almost adult size. Sure, I have some pictures that show the whole family of seven swans but I like the intimacy of this photo the best. It seemed that the most difficult part today was not light, contrast, or too much distance, but separating the birds from each other in the frame, without cutting off body parts of another swan in the background or at the edge of the photo.

THUNDERHEADS


Mississippi River, Mud Lake, Iowa  ------- 

With thunderheads still towering over the east side of the Mississippi River I could not finish my short trip through the countryside without finally driving down to Mud Lake yesterday evening. The sun had disappeared already behind the ridge of the valley but threw still gorgeous light at the puffy clouds on the Wisconsin side of the river. This place is never the same twice and one of the reasons why I keep coming back over and over again.

Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-120mm / f4, Schneider Graduated ND filter 0.9, @52 mm, 1/50s, f/8, ISO100

DOES SUMMER HAVE AN END?


To my friends and family in Germany I always describe September as a month that has in general still the character of summer here in Iowa, This is in particular true for this year. During the last few days unusual high temperatures made life a little uncomfortable for people like me, who love a more moderate climate. This all had to come to an end and this evening thunderstorms crossed the country and will continue to cool down the air in the next 24 hours. With thunderstorms come big, puffy clouds. If you follow my blog since a while you know already that I like to make clouds the subject of photos in my landscape photography quite often. I just love how clouds, and the ever changing light that comes with them, can create drama in a landscape. If in addition a string of Canada Geese crosses the sky, the shutter of my Nikon D750 is rattling… Oh, I love fall, even if it still feels like summer…😉

VOICES - MURAL ART PROJECT IN DUBUQUE


Last Saturday I was in town for a visit of the Dubuque Museum of Art, which hosts at the moment three photography exhibitions. The most remarkable is “Remnants of the West”, photography by Edward S. Curtis and Mark James, but I can recommend the other two, “Dimensions of Photography: Dubuque Camera Club 5th Annual Exhibition”, and “Curious Constructions”, photography by Les Allen, as well.

While killing some time before the opening hour of the museum, I discovered that downtown Dubuque has a new attraction. A variety of colorful murals has been painted by several artists on the sides of old buildings this summer. The project is called “Voices” and didn’t just impress only me. Several people took pictures with their phone cameras or DSLR.

I like to keep as many distracting elements out of the frame as possible, without producing a ‘mural-art-only’ photo. Too many cars parked in front of the mural can be very distracting and can take away from the subject. And don’t get me started on wires and power lines hanging between buildings! To say it mildly, the power grids in many cities here in the US are very old fashioned and fragile in comparison to other parts of the world. For photographers it means that many cityscapes and interesting views the architects had in mind are spoiled up to some degree. And maybe that’s the real challenge, coming back with a decent image despite all the distractions?

Nikon D750, Nikkor 16-35mm / f4, @ 35 mm, 1/1000s, f/5, ISO 100

AT THE BOTTOM OF THE CANYON


White Pine Hollow State Preserve, Iowa -----

After a week in Chicago I was longing for a real nature experience, away from urban areas, and I don’t know any better place around here than White Pine Hollow State Preserve near Luxemburg, Iowa. This is rugged terrain and getting down to the bottom of this canyon took some hiking efforts and requires solid boots and an outfit that can withstand thorns and stinging nettles. If you make it, you will be rewarded by solitude and a beautiful nature. The recent flash flood has changed the canyon, rocks have been moved and some of the gullies are a lot deeper. The leaves have started falling off the trees, although we don’t have really fall colors here yet.

Contrast becomes very high if the sun is out and exposure can be a problem. Starting the hike in the afternoon, when the light became softer but still reached the bottom of the canyon, was the way to go today.

27TH FLOOR


Chicago downtown

An exhausting week lies behind me. The annual trade show of the printing industry, PRINT 17, is history but took all my attention, hence the lack of any blog posts this week. All what I can offer is a few views from the 27th floor of my hotel room in Chicago. I always ask for a high floor and was lucky again to have a room that allowed for shooting the skyline of Chicago. With Willis Tower (the former Sears Tower) on the left, Soldier Field stadium, and Navy Pier on the right, it doesn’t get any better. The only difficulty for a shot like this is the fact that several sheets of glass were between the lens and the subject. This really prevents a high quality image, but I was aware of this limitations and nevertheless not unhappy with the results.

Nikon D750, Nikkor 16-35mm / f4, GITZO tripod GT2931 Basalt, KIRK BH-3 ball head, VELLO wired remote switch, @ 35 mm, 13 s, f/8, ISO100,

NATURE CLICKS #385 - EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE


It has been over two months since my last visit in the Green Island Wetlands, down south where the Maquoketa River meets the mighty Mississippi, but last weekend I finally was able to get back to this location, which is a favorite since a long time. This is not prime season for a wildlife photographer in this area. Duck hunting season has opened and the gravel road on top of a levee that goes through the actual wildlife refuge is closed, which itself is a good thing. However, all together it limits the chances to make a good click for those who hunt with the camera in hand. As you can imagine there wasn’t a single piece of waterfowl on the water but with a little patience and open eyes you still can find photo opportunities. Beside pelicans, eagles, egrets, herons, and swallows I saw at least two warblers and this Eastern Wood-Pewee. I cropped the image a little bit because there was a body of water between me and the bird and getting closer was not an option. Pretty soon this flycatcher will migrate to the northern part of South America.

Nikon D750, Sigma 150-600mm / f5-6.3 DG OS HSM S, @ 600 mm (DX mode), 1/80 s, f/6.3, ISO200

BREEDING PLUMAGE


American Goldfinch in breeding plumage, April 2017

It is quiet around here, except for the never ending sounds of the crickets and locusts. At least we see a few goldfinches every day at our feeders. They are one of the latest nesting birds. They start not much before July, when most other songbirds are finishing with breeding. Pretty soon the American Goldfinches will change from breeding plumage to winter plumage by a complete molt of their feathers. It is the only member of its family that has a molt in spring and fall. All other species have just one molt each year in the fall.

The males still have their yellow feathers at the moment but the plumage is not as bright and beautiful as it was back in spring, when this photo was taken.

Nikon D750, Sigma 150-600mm / f5-6.3 DG OS HSM S, Induro GIT 404XL tripod, Induro GHB2 gimbal head, Nikon SB 800 speed light, MAGMOD MagBeam flash extender, @ 600 mm, 1/1000s, f/7.1, ISO200,

NATURE CLICKS #384 - GREEN CLEARWING


Green Clearwing, Mississippi River, Deere Dyke, Dubuque, Iowa

What do you do if you find a nice subject in great light that would require a macro lens and all what’s available is your widest lens? Some may say, enjoy the view and keep going. Well not me, I tried to get as close as possible with a 35 mm focal length, and I mean really close, only a few inches away. This still doesn’t do the trick, there is a reason that a true macro lens has at least a reproduction ratio of 1:1 and a longer focal length. I shot the beautiful Green Clearwing in a reasonable size but still way too much of its surrounding. To make this image work a pretty hefty crop was applied in post. Not my usual way to solve a problem. but hey, it’s a dragonfly in killer light… 😊

Nikon D750, Nikkor 16-35mm / f4, @ 35 mm, 1/320s, f/4, ISO200, B+W F-PRO Kaesemann High Transmission Circular Polarizer MRC filter

SOME STILL LOOK GOOD


We had a mild and lovely evening today and I was glad to have the camera with me during a walk with the dog down on the Heritage Trail in the Little Maquoketa River Valley. Most wildflowers have passed their prime around here as we are approaching fall but some still look good for a picture if the light hits them just right.

I’m testing a new polarizing filter (see info below) in anticipation of our vacation in October, which will hopefully lead to some good autumn photos. The B+W replaces an older 77mm Promaster filter that I never embraced 100% in regards of image quality and design. I have good experience with the 58mm B+W that I use since many years on the Carl Zeiss Distagon T*, 35mm / f2 ZF lens and I hope the 77 mm delivers the same good results.

Nikon D750, Nikkor 16-35mm / f4, B+W F-PRO Kaesemann High Transmission Circular Polarizer MRC filter,  @ 22mm, 1/250s, f/4, ISO100

GOING FOR THE DETAIL SHOTS


Shaft of light on a rock in the Volga River, Iowa -----

Yesterday’s photo here in the blog was all about the river, the season, and the mood of the landscape. But I always like to look for the lines and textures, and when the light or just color contrast make a subject pop I see another image. This was sometimes a challenge along the Volga River last weekend. The recent flash flood left a lot of clutter, like sticks and broken trees, along the shore and between the rocks. Keeping them out of the frame is not always possible and cleaning a few sticks up in post process is not a crime in my books.

Fern, Brush Creek Canyon State Preserve, Iowa

On our way home we briefly checked out another area, Brush Creek Canyon State Preserve, near Arlington, Iowa. The preserve contains a rugged forested gorge along the Silurian Escarpment, a prominent ridge located on the western edge of the Paleozoic Plateau landform region in northeast Iowa. We didn’t have the right boots to hike down into the canyon but want to come back better prepared another time. However, a few images were made. The fern growing out of 435 million years old Silurian dolomite didn’t have a shaft of light on it, like the rock in the first image, but the color contrast makes this photo work for me.

PADDLING ON THE VOLGA RIVER, IOWA


Volga River upstream from Albany Bridge ------

Joan and I had a wonderful weekend. Together with our dog Cooper we paddled the Volga River again. Someone was funny and asked on Joan’s Facebook page if we were in Russia! No folks, this river is right here in northeast Iowa! It is a gorgeous river valley that reminds me a lot of the Sächsische Schweiz (Saxonian Suizerland), back in Germany near my home town, a mountain area with sandstone bluffs, rocks, and steep valleys.

It was a different challenge this time. The water level was a bit lower than some weeks ago and we had to incorporate “a few” short portages into our kayak tour. Joan counted over 30, oh well, it was a great way to exercise getting in and out of the boat on this almost 14 km (8.5 miles) trip…

The photo above was made this morning about a mile upstream from our campsite. The water of the Volga River was very clear and some yellow leaves on the rocks tell already the story about fall will knock at the door very soon. 

Nikon D750, Nikkor 24-120mm / f4, @ 38mm, 1/6s, f/18, ISO100,

‘ROMANCING’ A RAILROAD BRIDGE


Mississippi River, Swivel-Railroad bridge, Dubuque, Iowa -----

Some of my favorite subjects for architecture photography are the bridges across the Mississippi River. Unless it is a totally new subject that I haven’t shot before, there has to be a certain quality of light before I consider to take the camera out of the bag. This happened one evening earlier this month at the swivel railroad bridge in Dubuque. I had never made any close photos at the north side of the bridge and discovered just recently the access for this shooting location.

By the way, these bridges are a great subject to become familiar with new gear, like cameras, lenses, or teleconverters. Learning about depth of field, light fall off, sharpness, etc. in a controlled environment, but still with an interesting subject in front of the lens, is priceless (beats test shots in the backyard by far 😊).

This photo is another try to ‘romance’ my landscape photos with Macphun’s Luminar software. I still have a tear in my eye because the good old NIK collection is on it’s way out, but any time I gain more experience with Luminar I love it a little more. It is intuitiv for someone who has worked with Adobe Lightroom and NIK before, but I can see why it might be a little overwhelming in the beginning for someone who is new in post processing their images. There are a lot decisions that can be made how to process an image and I will be the first one to admit, overdoing it is very easy…