Category Archives: The Arcanum

August 2015

This month I am showing many pictures that have been taken from the City of Chicago plus a few from elsewhere in the Midwest. Most of these pictures are basically previews that I have yet to finish off before I put them up in the rest of social media. 🙂

This is kind of interesting to look at this month. And I like the idea of doing a monthly recap of what I’ve done . And, I think I can feel the growth here, too. I’ve had my first experiment with textures. I think I’m finally starting to understand how to compose curving features in camera, too.  I met a world famous photographer, and I also met a pioneer in pinhole photography from Columbia University. She encouraged me to do something I thought was stupid. Have you ever seen someone holding up their hands in the shape of a window to look through? Well, if you do this to get a similar field of view as your lens of choice, it’s actually a good exercise!

I toured Little Italy in Chicago as part of my quest to photograph every official neighborhood of Chicago. This is a relatively new quest, btw. Little Italy is a nice neighborhood that includes the University of Illinois at Chicago. But there are some sobering sights, which I have included.

This gallery is from the beginning of August when I spent a day in the Loop.

Throughout this month I will rework some of these pictures. So, I will produce separate blog posts for each final rework I do.

Thanks for viewing my photos.

Just keep trying and see you next time!

The first weekend of the month in Chicago’s Loop.

This gallery is the Trey Ratcliff Photowalk in Chicago. It was really cool and the weather was perfect.


My Non Chicago Pictures for the month!

My last weekend in Chicago in August 2015. The first half of these photos are from my photo walk through Little Italy.


North Window Arch (My gateway to The Arcanum)

This is another photo that I had redone after getting more knowledge from The Arcanum. This is a recent photo. In fact, I had taken this photo ONE DAY before I got the e-mail telling me that my mentor / master, had chosen me. It was also among the first photos I processed from my vacation. I was very excited to have this photo when I first posted it. I still am proud of the photo. But I know that I would have been far more effective taking another photo like this in the future!


At the intersection of stone, horizon, sky, and sunrise: The North Window Arch at Arches National Park
At the intersection of stone, horizon, sky, and sunrise: The North Window Arch at Arches National Park

What did I do differently? Well, in the original, the sky was getting a tonal shift. In this one, the sky is much smoother. The rest is finer detail work that increased the detail of the stones. I can honestly say it is an improvement! 

Chicago Skyline on liquid lights at night. (Redone)

I redid my Chicago Skyline photo from the Planetarium! This was, in my opinion, a significant improvement on the first one I did for many reasons. Not the least of which was the feedback and new skills learned in The Arcanum. This photo was taken on a relatively cool evening and Lake Michigan was still shaking off the last vestiges of ice on March 20, 2014. The thin sheen of flexible and floating ice is primarily the reason why the reflection looks like this. This was also the weekend after Saint Patrick’s Day. That’s the reason why some of the lights are green.


Chicago on Liquid Lights


I wish I was posting more to the blog lately. I’ve been getting a lot more information about photography while in the Arcanum. It is certainly informing my artistic choices. I recently had a review with my Mentor (they call it a “Master”, but I think to those not part of The Arcanum, it’s better understood as a Mentor).


I’ve basically learned that if I’m going to continue down this road of the ultra large panorama that I have to be committed to examining a lot more detail. I think this will give me a larger hurdle to jump than I previously thought. But it won’t keep me from trying! I’ve got a few more ideas to photograph. I got a couple in the works. There will be more to come. I know I keep saying that. But there will be.


Further processing notes about the photo:


This particular photo was stitched from 4 (but mostly 3) landscape positioned frames of the City. They were all 10 second exposures. I rotate the camera about one third through the frame for better stitching. When I processed the photos, the first thing I did was cool the color temperature down a bit so that I can bring out all the different colors of the lights. Then I used Microsoft Image Composite Editor to stitch the frames but to also save as a layered PSD file. Before I saved it though, I changed the stitching method and made the horizon level. (The original had a curved horizon!) I brought it into Photoshop and from there I did my final edits.


Please click on the photo to view it in Smugmug in super high resolution! This photo was made to be printed large on a 3×1 print. I recently changed printers with Smugmug to Bay Photo to accommodate this.

Sandstone Arch

The Sandstone Arch in Arches National Park is a really neat site. It is about three quarters of the way through the park on their main roadway. I highly recommend seeing it. It’s not along trail but it is a very unique one. The previous picture I released showed one of the ‘fins’ you have to walk between in order to get here.

As you can see, the colors of the sandstone is quite impressive. There are many variations of magenta, reds, oranges, and purples in these stone layers.

You have to walk past this cotton wood tree to get here, btw. But you still have to have water with you! When I got to this I knew I was already a bit dehydrated, but I also knew that it was a very short walk. If I knew the water spigot was not too far away, I think I would have stopped for that, first.

Why do I bring that up? I made a mistake in some of my shots here. I left my tripod in a scene. I wouldn’t have done that if I was thinking clearly. I would have been thinking clearly if I was hydrated.

Why did it take so long for me to post this? I’ve been learning a lot in The Arcanum. I put several new techniques into processing this. It’s funny, what I would have done two months ago would have been to just get it to where I’m ‘ok’ with it. But what did that feel like to me back then? It felt like I was turning in my homework incomplete but passable. Even now, I feel that there are a few small things I could do better, but I’m much more confident that these things that could have been done are minutia to most people.

I’m learning more and more every day. I only learn by doing. I’ve done a lot that I’m sitting on until after I’ve gone through a critique with my master/teacher in about a week.

I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks & more to come, swear.

Arlington Heights “Irish Fest”

The Mike and Joe Band

In Arlington Heights, IL, we have an Irish Fest every year. It’s a festival to help the local history museum. All the usual suspects come out for such a thing to sell stuff, art, food and beer all with heavy Irish leanings, or course. But I’d never taken photos of a band before and this was a good time to do that.

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I have to say I’ve been a little pre-occupied lately. My art has been getting a lot to think through, improve, and hopefully change for the better. I’ve recently become an “apprentice” with The Arcanum. This isn’t an apprenticeship like you hear about. I’m not doing some other photographer’s crap work.

I’m a student. I study under a master who has 19 other students. The students form a cohort. Together we have an opportunity to discus each other’s work, learn from others, and grow in our art of photography. We get assignments from our master. These five photos I’m sharing was “Never Done Before”.  They aren’t the best band photos in the world, but they aren’t terrible in my humble opinion, either.

I don’t think I would have tried it without the nudge from the master. It’s sort of on the edge of what my camera and lens can do. I used my fastest lens and kept the exposure 1 stop under to keep the shutter fast without cranking up the noise to unacceptable levels.

The band sounded great, though. They weren’t ‘noise’. 🙂