Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Indianola Balloon Classic

Every year Indianola plays host to the National Balloon Classic.  Many years ago we were host to the National Balloon Championship but they decided to go elsewhere but because balloons were so ingrained in our community we decided to continue with the Classic.  We haven't had any problems getting teams to come for the competitions and the hospitality and the community loves it.  (Ok, maybe some in the community are balloon scrooges but they don't really count, do they?)

If you have never had the opportunity to see a hot-air balloon and especially the chance to see one set up and take off then too bad for you.  If you ever get the chance, I would definitely recommend it.  They are really cool and pretty amazing up close.  Even after all of these years (35 and counting) I continue to gawk at  the sky when 25-30 balloons all take off and fill the horizon.

Like many things of this nature, there are plenty of photographers who have captured the experience for all to see and share.  These are my first attempts.

Balloons will take of from wherever they can but they MUST get permission from the homeowner before setting up.  It is a major faux pas (and just plain rude) to just trounce around someone else's property without getting their consent.

God Bless America Statue

A little over a month ago a new statue arrived in my hometown.  It is a statue by J Seward Johnson called "God Bless America".  This 25' statue is his homage to the famous Grant Wood painting "American Gothic". It will be at Simpson College in Indianola, IA until the end of 2013 at the least.  You see it is up to the town that wants the statue to come up with the funds to move it.  When you get the funding you are guaranteed 6 months with the statue.  If no one comes up with the money needed to move the statue before your 6 months are over, then you get to keep the statue until someone does come up with the money.  As you can imagine, this statue has generated quite a bit of interest around town.  We have had visitors from across the state coming to see it (you'd almost think it were actually "American Gothic" instead of a tribute.)  I suppose though, because "American Gothic" was painted in southern Iowa and Grant Wood is himself an Iowan, something this big (pun intended) is bound to generate some buzz.

Anyway, there has also been no shortage of amateur and professional photographers trying to capture the essence and awe of such a large sculpture and of course they all want to do it their own way.  Some are trying to get special assistance from Simpson for lighting from surrounding buildings and some are trying other techniques.  As I have been taking walks with the dog and rides with my daughter, I usually try to look for a different perspective than what is usually taken and I'm pretty happy with my latest attempt.  As I was walking before the statue I happened to look right up at it and there was a fantastic glow from the sun right behind the couple.  I thought it looked interesting and had some potential so I put my camera to my eye and started snapping a few shots.  Here is my favorite of the group.  I hope you enjoy.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Downtown Farmer's Market

This was our first trip to the Farmer's Market this year.  Usually we are there the first weekend it is open but bad weather and poor timing has kept us away until this last weekend.  It was a cool but beautiful morning and we could wait any longer.  Our usual plan at the market is just to do a little shopping and a lot more eating and that pattern held true again this time but this time we decided to stop at the booth of the Iowa Balloon Artist (iowaballonartist.com)  He is a very charismatic artist who truly does amazing things with balloons.  After watching him make a few puppy's Elena decided she wanted one too so that is what she got.

European Vacation

My wife and I decided last summer that we were going on vacation for spring break 2013 and we wanted to go to Paris and London.  She loves to travel and I had never been overseas so it was definitely a win-win for both of us.  We decided to fly into London, take the Chunnel to Paris and we would fly out from there.  Then last fall we were asked (at the last minute) to host a foreign exchange student.  We hesitantly accepted and were we ever lucky.  Her name was Astrid and she was wonderful.  She was from Liege, Belgium.

One night when we were all sitting in the living room we mentioned that we were headed to Europe for spring break and she quickly said "You should stop over in Belgium and see me."  At first we were thinking "You don't just 'stop over' into another country" but then we considered the fact that we hadn't really set any hard plans yet so "why not!"  So now our plans were to fly into London and spend 2 days and one night, then take the evening Chunnel to Brussels and spend one night there and the next day with Astrid in the Capital of Belgium.  We would then spend the night at her father's condo and take the Thalys to Paris for three days and three nights of touring.  As it turned out that was a great plan and everything turned out great. I had an amazing experience overseas and I can't wait to go back and take more pictures.  These are some of the highlights of the trip.


Tower Bridge

St. Paul's Cathedral & Millenium Bridge

St. Paul's Cathedral


Random street

The Grand Place

The Queen's Gallery

Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula



 Eiffel Tower

Arc de Triomphe

Notre Dame

Random street

Rue Cler (street market)

Been a while.....More Rural Decay

I know I haven't written in quite a while so here's my pathetic attempt to get caught up.  Last fall when I was leaving work I couldn't help but notice the amazing sunset.  In my mind I had the perfect subject to photograph and I knew it would be awesome.  So I hurried over to the barn I was thinking of and got set up.  The whole time I was driving I kept thinking to myself "I'm gonna miss this great sunset.  It's gonna be gone by the time I get there."  Much to my delight it was not only still there but just a vibrant as ever so I started shooting.  This is definitely the best picture of the group.

Then a few days later it started to snow.  This was the first snowfall of the year (and first of many) and it was a really pretty snow.  I decided to make my way back over to the barn and see what I could get.  This was also the best picture of the bunch.

Finally, I decided on night after work to look for another type of landscape photo.  Something interesting but not necessarily unique to the area.  What I found was this picture.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Commercial Photography

The other day I decided to stop by my buddy's new dental office and take a few pictures.  I figured that he spent a lot of money building that new office and making it look good, why not try and do him a favor and get a really good picture of it.  So when I got close to the office and I liked the blueish color of the sky (I knew it would be perfect in just a few short minutes) I decided to give it a shot.

After I got done, I decided to immediately start processing the photos.  I wanted another try at HDR (trying to keep it realistic) and this was just my shot.  I combined the photos and started making a few tweaks.  I removed some garbage cans and a couple of handicap parking signs as well as a reflection on my UV filter and voila, this is the shot I ended up with.  Not too bad if I do say so myself.  =)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Rural Decay 2

For the first couple of years living in our current house I took a certain route to work.  Every day on my way home I would notice a certain old car that was a little ways off the road.  This was a car that was really unremarkable in almost every sense of the word.  It was completely rusted out, in the middle of nowhere with no real hope of ever getting restored.  Anyway, there was always something about that old car that drew my attention almost every time I drove past.
Now for the last year or better I have been taking a different route to work that does not take me past the old car.  I had almost completely forgotten about it until the other day when I was in the area with Elena and my parents (in another car) and again noticed the old car.  I didn't have a good chance to stop at that moment because E was on the verge of a melt down and it would have required leaving her in the car unattended (apparently that's frowned upon.)
So the following Friday I walked out of my workplace and noticed the layered clouds of an overcast sky and decided right then to try and get a good picture.  As I got to the place on the interstate a few things were going through my head that had nothing to do with photography.  Should I really be parking my car along an interstate?  Can this really be safe?  Am I prepared to trespass on private property?  Is it really trespassing if there are no signs?  What if a state trooper sees me (what are the chances of that actually happening?)  What if the owner of the car spots me and starts to come down there?  Like I said, nothing to do with photography but everything to do with my surroundings.  As you can tell, I decided that no, I should not be parking on the interstate but I was going to anyway.  I was prepared to trespass, and yes it is still trespassing even if there are no signs.  I will accept whatever a state trooper decides if that should become an issue.  I would ask for forgiveness from the property owner if they confront me.
After scoping out the scene and deciding which lens to use, I got my camera setting set and took a few pictures.  I started shooting in color but decided B&W might work better and switched to monochrome.  B&W was definitely the right setting for this scene.  I recomposed and took a couple more.  All-in-all I only took 6 total shots.  I figured if I can't get it figured out in those shots with no interruptions or distractions then I deserved to have to come back and try again and maybe I would learn my lesson.
When I got home I waited 'till that evening to process the photos and when I did I immediately had a favorite.  I went through my typical processing techniques and showed my wife the photo.  She thought it was pretty good and so did I.  It was sharp and had plenty of contrast.  So I stopped and went to bed.
Fast forward to Monday and I wanted to show a couple people from work.  When I showed the picture to my buddy Matt he thought it was pretty good too, but when I was tabbing through the pictures he caught a glimpse of the very last photo I took that day and said it was his favorite.  I asked him to explain why and he did.  After looking over the two photos again I couldn't help but agree.  It was a much better composed photo with stronger visual cues and fewer distractions.  I hadn't even given this photo a chance when I initially reviewed them and I'm glad I waited for someone else to see them before I sent it to the cutting room floor.  I went through the same processing techniques for this photo and cropped it down a little and came up with the photo you see below.

IMHO I think this is a great photo (not just "pretty good") and I am one very happy camper.