Summer in Chicago

The weather here has been pretty miserable the past few days: cold, windy, rainy. Oh, and a mid-April snowstorm a few days ago. This time of year, summer can’t get here quickly enough. This photo just screams summer to me: green trees, flowers in bloom, a warm sunset, and people congregating in the park. Those days aren’t too far away, though it sure doesn’t feel like it right now.

Chicago skyline at sunset with a park in the foreground.

Another Holbox sunrise

I’ve returned to editing photos taken in Holbox, Mexico back in January, and I’m amazed by how good so many of the sunrise photos turned out. It pays off to get up early. This photo, like the previous sunrise photo from Holbox I posted, was taken from Punta Cocos, a beautiful beach which looks across a shallow lagoon. I don’t know if we just got lucky while we were there or if the sunrises are always amazing in Holbox, but they were among the best sunrises I have ever seen.

Sunrise in Holbox, Mexico

Early sunset at Sunset Cliffs

Sunsets can be hit and miss, since the quality of the light is dependent on the amount and location of the clouds. A perfectly clear sky looks boring but too many clouds and the sunset isn’t visible. Ideally, there is a moderate amount of clouds high in the sky. But many days are not ideal. The day in San Diego that this photo was taken was one such day. This photo was taken about half an hour before the sun was supposed to set. Because of the clouds low on the horizon, the sun had already disappeared by this time and minutes later all color in the sky was gone. When photographing sunrise or sunset, it is always a good idea to arrive early, because you never know if the light will be good early, late, or somewhere in between.

Sunset over the ocean in San Diego

Phoenix of China Lights

China Lights is an event that has been held in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area each of the past three years. The event features a large display of handmade traditional Chinese lanterns. This lantern features the Phoenix, a mythical creature which could regenerate or be reborn from the ashes of its predecessor. The lantern was massive with vibrant color and intricate detail for such a large display.

Phoenix traditional Chinese lantern

Sunset #3

Everyone loves a good sunset photo, so why not go for 3 sunsets in a row. This photo was taken on the island of Holbox, located in Mexico, a couple hour drive and ferry ride from Cancun. The small island has dirt roads, most people get around by golf cart, bike, or by walking, and the island has no shortage of beautiful beaches. This photo was taken on our walk back from attempting to walk to Punta Mosquito, which we realized was not going to happen when we reached a river we would have to swim across to continue, a river in which crocodiles swim, so you can understand why we turned back. Fortunately, this meant that we were walking along a beautiful stretch of secluded beach as the clouds in the sky lit up as sunset approached.

Sunset on a beach in Holbox, Mexico.

Sunset surfer in San Diego

We’re going with a sunset photo for the second day in a row, because who doesn’t like a good sunset photo. This photo was taken in San Diego, more specifically from Windansea Beach in La Jolla. It was a perfect early November evening with just enough clouds in the sky to make for a great sunset, a beach full of people, and an ocean full of surfers. It took me a few tries to get a decent photo of a surfer, either I would mis-time the photo or they would fall before getting to the position I wanted them in, but eventually I got this photo of a surfer catching a nice wave in front of the setting sun.

Sunset with a surfer in the foreground

Egret at sunrise

This photo was taken during a recent vacation on the island of Holbox, Mexico, which is a couple hour drive and a ferry ride from Cancun. It is a beautiful, relatively undeveloped island with nice beaches, lots of birds, and great sunrises/sunsets. This photo was taken at sunrise from Punta Cocos. Most of my favorite sunrise photos are taken before the sun actually comes up, but as you can see, this photo was taken shortly after the sun appeared. The way that the sun bathed the clouds and water in golden light made for a very warm friendly scene, and this egret was nice enough to land in front of me just in time to get in the photo.

Warm sunrise on the island of Holbox, Mexico with an egret in the water

Futuristic Chicago

HDR Photography

HDR, short for high dynamic range, is a type of photography which is used to capture a greater range of luminosity than is possible with standard photography. This is especially useful in high contrast situations (e.g., sunrise or sunset) because cameras are not able to capture the range of luminescence that our eyes are able to. So, that beautiful sunset that we see comes out with the sky looking great but the foreground completely black in our photos. HDR has been around for many years but started to really become popular about a decade ago. Trey Ratcliff, who runs the website Stuck In Customs, was the first photographer who got me interested in HDR photography. Looking back at my earlier attempts to create HDR photos, many of them have the classic “over-cooked” look that many people do not like about HDR. I got away from HDR photography for a while, partially because the software available was not incredibly user friendly, but started taking more HDR photos recently. I generally try to use HDR to capture the moment as I saw it (or at least how I remember it looking in the moment), but occasionally I go for something a little more artistic and less realistic. Most newer phones have an HDR mode built in that tries to replicate the more complex process of taking multiple photos and blending them together, but I still like the greater control of doing all of the processing on the computer.

Futuristic Chicago

I took this photo on a photo walk in Chicago, led by Trey Ratcliff. When I started processing this photo, I wanted to make it look as realistic as possible, but somehow I ended up with this result. It has a futuristic look to me, not necessarily what the city will look like in the future, but how it would look in some low budget sci-fi movie. I’m not completely sure what it is, but there’s something I really like about this photo.

Early evening photo of the Chicago skyline

Streets of Èze

Èze

Èze is a small medieval village on the southern coast of France. The “streets” going through the old part of town are narrow and for pedestrians only, which adds to the charm of the village. In addition, the garden at the top of the village has a nice collection of cacti and features stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea below. Èze is easily accessible from both Nice and Monaco and has become a popular tourist destination.

Do Not Delete

This photo was taken while wandering the streets of Èze. Luckily, it wasn’t very busy the day we visited, so I was able to get some nice photos without people in them. Unfortunately, this was 9 years ago and my photo editing skills were not as good back then as they are now. There are some things I wish I could go back and do differently with this photo but I foolishly deleted the original files after editing the photo and there is only so much that can be done with the JPEG file. Be smarter than I was my fellow photographers, save your RAW files, at least for your good shots, because someday you may want to go back and re-edit old photos and it is a lot better to have the RAW files to work with. That said, I still like this photo and feel like it captures the essence of Èze really well.

Photo of the medieval town of Èze, located in southern France, showing the charming old buildings and narrows streets.

Fall Colors in Door County

Four Seasons

As the dead of winter approaches, it can be hard to remember why living in a place where winter means below-zero temperatures and the sun setting around 4 p.m., that is, on the rare days when the sun is hidden behind the clouds all days. Luckily, there are some upsides, like the excitement of nature coming back to life in the spring, appreciating the warm sunny days during the summer, being able to enjoy a white Christmas, and the beauty of leaves changing their colors during the fall.

Fall Colors in Door County

This photo was taken a few years ago during a weekend trip to Door County, Wisconsin. Door County is a wonderful area with several state and county parks, charming small towns, and miles and miles of shoreline, with Lake Michigan on one side of the peninsula and Green Bay on the other. The fall colors were at their peak the weekend we visited and while it was cloudy and rainy the entire time, the weather didn’t stop us from taking in the natural beauty Door County has to offer. This photo was taken along a quiet country road as we were on our way to one of the parks.

Beautiful fall colors along a quiet country road in Door County, Wisconsin