EarthMover Credit Union


DSC_2917_8_9_tonemapped ps.jpg, originally uploaded by ecfman.

Now , why did this property become the subject of my camera? Well, I felt fairly comfortable doing HDR photography and decided to see if there was financial gain in shooting commercial photography using this technique. Both the Earthmover Credit Union and Cozhiar Harley Davidson seemed like good subjects.

The plan was simple, go shoot a business* on a day when the sky was filled with dramatic clouds. The first attempt was not successful but learning from my mistakes, I went back for a successful second crack at it. After processing the image, sending it off to the photo lab and getting it back, I then personally delivered the print to the person in charge of marketing. I figured by giving out a couple 8x10s I stood a change of gaining future work. Nothing ventured nothing gained..right?

Well, after finally tracking down the right person and delivering the photos, the story ends with a rather anti-climatic conclusion. While the woman was happy** to accept the photo, she stated that there was no money in the budget for any type of this kind of work. I am not sure if my catching her by surprise (it was a cold call) hurt the reaction, but either was I got no work from this. But I do like the photo.


* Just to clear up any confusion..I was using a camera and not a gun. I am a peaceful person and do not even own a firearm. I am not suggesting that anybody take arms against a business. Do not take such expression as “shot a business” as to be adding to the already charge political climate. Any attempts to defame me through implications to any acts of violence not committed by myself will be met full force with a video of me decrying “blood libel”. You have been warned.

** Actually I am not certain she was happy. I think I am merely projecting my wishes upon my memory of the past. While I like to think that these pictures were hung in a vp’s office, they could just as easily been filed away…or even thrown away.

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Posted by on January 13, 2011 in About a Picture


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A Moody Chicago Picture


DSC_2700_1_2.jpg, originally uploaded by ecfman.

Yet another Chicago picture. The setting sun dramatically lights the skyscrapers against a very lovely sky. I really, dig the shadows cast onto the buildings. For some reason, this picture evokes a feeling of nostalgia for me, a feeling of the 1940’s. I am not sure why, but it may suggest old Max Fleischer Superman cartoons.

While have a human subject in the picture is good, but the lighting on her isn’t. I could live with that, and perhaps, via the magic of Photoshop could fix that. That, however, doesn’t cure that one glaring problem…the cab. If only I shot this a few seconds earlier or later.

While I won’t print or publish this picture, and I doubt anybody would ever want a copy, I still like it. I guess there are things we all like but there is not good logical reason for it. Perhaps the thought of what it could have been, is enough to elevate its stature to me.

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Posted by on January 11, 2011 in About a Picture


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The Man in the Reddest Suit Ever

One thing I love about shooting in Chicago are the surprises that walk right across your path. Something wonderful will happen, something you can never anticipate. To me, a man walking absent-mindedly wearing the reddest suit ever made is one of them. The minute I saw the man I knew I was on to something wonderful.

During the time I photographed him I would sprint a block ahead and take pictures as he approached. Then I would then spent another block ahead and take pictures as he approached. The pictures here are the final point at which I followed him. Being stopped by the light provided a great opportunity to catch some fun shots.

Man in the Red Suit 2

Yet another shot of the owner of the red suit standing at a street corner.

While normally my running….shooting….running….shooting would be noticed by the subject, this man appeared oblivious to it all. I am not sure the man’s story nor can I provide any other background except that the way he acted demonstrated some sort of mental illness. But as oblivious to his surroundings as he seemed, he followed the “rules of the road” as a pedestrian.

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Posted by on January 6, 2011 in About a Picture


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The Happy Thoughtful Man

I got this shot while working on a project to photograph panhandlers in Chicago. This is one of those pictures that resonate with me more because of the situation than of the picture itself.

Looking at this fellow, he has a beautiful face. With the right hair cut and the right clothes, it looks like this man could be anything he wanted: model, actor, lawyer, businessman, engineer, etc.

While this shot indicates a serene and thoughtful man, he is crazy. I don’t mean crazy like Robin Williams is crazy, or Evel Kenievel crazy. I mean not living in this clear and present reality kind of crazy. He was muttering to and gesturing to a non-existent person as he ate and drank out of garbage cans.

I guess there are some different ways to look at this photo. Perhaps this represents what this man could have been if only he were in his right mind. That in this one photo at this one moment of time we gain a glimpse of him in full mental health.

On the other hand, maybe this shows us that appearances are deceiving. That when we look at people, and maybe even when we talk to people we make certain judgments that are completely wrong.
There are people we admire based on what we see, but those same people would repulsed us if we knew about the things that we don’t’ see. I think too often we look at movies stars as being embodiments of the characters they portray, but in reality their morals or their intellect may be a vacuous as space and that if we had to spend a weekend with those people it would seem a week too long.

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Posted by on January 5, 2011 in About a Picture


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George At Weldon Springs

Man standing in prairie 

Wissmiller–5.jpg, originally uploaded by Jeffrey Jones.

For the start of the new year I will share my thoughts on my favorite pictures I took in 2010…in somewhat of a chronological order.

George and I have been friends for years but we don’t see each other much. But, one day he called needing pictures for his political campaign for public office. He has interesting facial features, given his intense eyes and rambunctious brows, so this was a treat for me. We shot a number of pictures in various locations at Weldon Springs and had a good time.

This picture isn’t the type of photo one posts on the website for political campaigns. But it is the type of picture photographers create/take because it answers to that inner muse. Often, among the many pictures we take for the customer, there are some we take for ourselves.

There are two reasons that I chose to do this photo in black and white. The first answer I would give is that the aesthetics which a monochromatic pallet give and that treatment compliments this particular photo the best.

There is, however, a hidden reason, one used to cover up mistakes or hide problems as they relate to color. You cannot tell from this shot, but the sun was rapidly setting and as the sun goes down it produces very warm, orange light. The kind of light that gives a feeling of life and vitality. On the opposite side of that warm orange sun is a perfectly blue sky. We think of the sky as a passive background not as a light source, but it is a light source like the sun, just much less intense. At this time of day the sun was at a very low angle shooting orange light at his face but the blue light from the sky was reflecting off his head. There was no way to easily color correct for a head that is partially orange and partially blue. So the simplest answer was to remove the color entirely.

Had I caught the problem as I shot, I still didn’t have the equipment nor the extra hands to correct for it. But even so, I am well pleased with the result. And who knows, even if the color balance on his head was right, I still may have converted it to black and white anyway.

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Posted by on January 4, 2011 in About a Picture


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Getting Natural Looking Portraits

With portraits we often see the subject in an expression that seems…well…unnatural. Sometimes the face is twisted in the typical “cheese” grin, or other times the subject simply has the deer-in-the-headlights expression. Why is this?

Most of us are not professional models and we communicate both in words and expression with other people, we are not used to having a camera pointed at us and staring into the “unblinking eye”.

Also we are too self-conscious. When in front of the camera, the subjects do not have the types of feedback when naturally engaged with another person. Does our belly show? Does our nose show too prominently? Is our grin too cheesy?

These two issues combine into a serious case of nervousness.
We are out of our comfort zone. We are trusting this person, who we may not really know, to not make our defects prominent in the photo. With tension comes physical rigidity which ensures that the poses look awkward and the smiles look fake.

To combat this problem I discovered a trick early on; once you pose the subject, get the subject talking. Get him to talk about his classes, his job, his favorite move. Get her to talk about her friends, her college major or her family. Find what is important to the subjects so that you connect with them. While they are talking make sure you are shooting pictures. Yeah, this method produces a lot of wasted shots, but more likely than not, you will get some definite keepers. With the tension drained out of the situation, people will start looking more like people and less like mannequins.

Also, when people engage in conversation they give glimpses of expressions that are truly theirs. The hand reaching to brush away their bangs from their eyes, a smirky half-smile, a laugh that causes their eyes to glint are moments that are hard to capture when simply posing people.

It takes time to build up the chemistry, the trust and the energy so plan to spend more than a few minutes shooting pictures. It generally takes at least fifteen to twenty minutes for me and the subject to “warm up”.

Following this advice you should get more natural looking portraits. But be forewarned, using this method on some people (like my four-year-old son) can lead to some zany results that cannot be predicted.

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Posted by on November 6, 2010 in Photography Advice


Are Portraits a Window into People’s Souls?

Recently, while listening to one of the podcasts I subscribe to, Philosophy Bites, the subject came up discussing portraits and some various thoughts on portraits being and insight to a person. It isn’t very long and I recommend it.

The podcast resonated with me since it, in some ways, echoed my thoughts of portraits and the people being photographed. I make no claim to have some sort of superpower which allows me to stare directly into the subject’s soul, but I do feel that there is something I learn about the subjects in the act of taking their portraits. Self image, imagination, self-reflection and willingness to take risks come across very clearly during a session.
This is no less true when taking portraits of groups. In general when shooting groups I first ask the people to arrange themselves in a way that feels right to them. Most of the time, aside from some adjusting on my part, they are very close to being spot on. It is very telling about the family on how people position and posture themselves in relation to others in the group. Who stands next to who? What spacing do individual impose? What are they doing with their hands and arms? That says a lot about the dynamics within a family. I am not saying it is a perfect window, but it is very telling.
So, next time you look at a portrait, even if it is a family snapshot by uncle Ray, look at the arrangement, see what things you can pull from that photo, you may be surprised. Likewise, when you are being photographed, what are you telling the world about yourself?

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Posted by on October 31, 2010 in Musings


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