This week, guest host, Anne Sandler, has asked us to look at the world in Black and White for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. She also asks us to describe the process by which we convert our pictures to black and white images, so I thought it might be helpful to show both the original picture and the processed image. I don’t have an expensive camera or a lot of fancy software for doing this kind of work but what I have seems to be sufficient. For the first two b/w images I opened the originals in Microsoft Digital Image, converted them to black & white then made lighter and darker versions of both pictures. After that I sent them over to Canon Digital Photo Professional and put them through the HDR processor then sent the resulting images back to Digital Image for a final spruce up. Do I really know what I’m doing? Heck no! But I like the results. I find that the lack of color helps to focus the eye on the bold lines of the architecture.
The next two images were converted solely with the Digital Image software. I’ve used this program for years and it’s done the job remarkably well. Of course there are some things that it can’t do but I can live without all those extra features.
Here are two recent images from the photo files that really caught my eye and which I thought would work well for the theme of Orange in Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week. Captured in our garden and at Volo Auto Museum.
This week, Patti is challenging us to pick a color and go from large to small for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge. I decided on blue for the color and took Chicago as the setting. Plenty of blue in the big city beginning with blue skies reflected in the waters of Lake Michigan.
Overlooking the lake, on Michigan Avenue, the Roosevelt University building really stands out in the crowd.
Next up, the Evening Star, built in 2001, part of the Shoreline Sightseeing fleet, offers Architecture and Classic Lake Tours on the Chicago River and Lake Michigan.
If you have ever visited the Art Institute in Chicago, you will probably have seen Marc Chagall’s ‘American Windows’ which debuted there in 1977 and were made famous 10 years later by an appearance in the film ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.’
The skies may not have been blue the last time I went to the Air & Water Show downtown but there were a few blue umbrellas to keep the rain off.
It’s always nice to see a swath of blue in the Lurie Garden at Millennium Park. I’ve really missed my trips downtown this past year but I’m hoping to make the trip again soon, once I figure out how the trains are running now that things are slowly returning to pre-COVID conditions.
No piece about The Windy City would be complete without mention of the Chicago Cubs and cubbie blue. Even long- time rivals, the Milwaukee Brewers, were decked out in blue.
I’m now down to the smallest blue items for this topic which are paperweights at the Chicago Art Institute, some of the 1,400 paperweights in the Arthur Rubloff Collection.
This week, Amy has asked us to recount our Photography Journey. Mine has been a long and varied one. Starting in England, it probably began in the late 1950’s when I appropriated my parents’ Kodak Brownie camera. My subjects were usually my dear Mum and Dad but when they weren’t available, I’d sneak up on the dog.
Although I liked the results that I got from the Brownie, there were so few pictures on a roll of film and I later switched to the smaller format of the Kodak Instamatic, only using the Brownie on the odd occasion. The pictures weren’t anywhere near as satisfactory but evidently quantity took precedence over quality in those days. Black and white eventually gave way to glorious color and in the late 1960’s the lens was focused mainly on my eldest daughter and my parents’ garden, with occasional visits to Whipsnade Zoo.
I brought both the Brownie and the Instamatic with me when we came to live in the US in 1973 and continued to use them to capture our family’s early days in Chicago. But I wanted more! I longed for a camera where I could change the lenses and add filters and swagger about in a photographer’s vest, pretending to know what I was doing. Then in 1987, my husband bought me a Minolta X-370 and, so that I might give it a good test run, we took a trip to Niagara Falls and, later that summer, to the Badlands in South Dakota. During subsequent years it accompanied us to Virginia Beach, Wisconsin, Iowa and Florida amongst other places.
I experimented for a while with a Polaroid camera but, although it was useful for those situations when you needed the picture right then and there, the results were disappointing to say the least and the novelty soon wore off. I even branched out with a Super 8 movie camera but the short duration of the film, the high cost of processing and the fact that it had no sound were not in its favor.
My first foray into digital photography was in 2002 with a Canon Elph. Wow! What a revelation! No more eking out pictures on a roll of film and saving what I could spare from the housekeeping to get them developed, only to find that half of them were duds. Digital photography was here to stay, thank goodness!
Later I received the gift of a Canon EOS Rebel. Since then, I’ve upgraded to a newer model and rarely go anywhere without it. I’ve tried to vary the content of my pictures but I suppose nature is my preferred subject, although the family photo files take up quite a bit of space on the hard drive. Over the years I’ve belonged to a couple of camera clubs and learned quite a lot about composition and presentation from my time there, but I never could get the hang of f-stops and metering and technical stuff like that. These days I usually set the camera on automatic and hope for the best.
The last two images were, I thought, especially appropriate for this challenge, the first picture being of our youngest granddaughter taken just days after she was born in 2019 and the second of my dear mother taken two years before she passed away in 2011, at the age of 96, both the focus of much of my photographic journey.
There is plenty of room Up top for Becky’s January Squares Photo Challenge this week. And the view is pretty spectacular from up on the top floor of these high-rise buildings in downtown Chicago.
Of course, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a high-rise in Chicago. You can catch a great view from up top these less conventional structures; the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, the YMCA Leaning Tower in Niles, a lookout tower at Fort Snelling in Minnesota and the Moser Tower Millennium Carillon in Naperville.
Whether corporate or cute, there’s always room up at the top; Oakbrook Terrace Tower in Oakbrook Illinois, the Amegy Bank Tower in Houston, the James H. and Joann N. Collins Tower along the River Walk in St Charles and a lookout point in the rose garden of Olbrich Gardens in Madison Wisconsin.
This week, Ann-Christine would like us to share what we have Found in the Neighborhood for the Len’s-Artists Photo Challenge. I make no apologies for dipping into the photo files for this one. We have been asked to stay at home as much as possible for the next 30 days because of the virus and, in trying to comply, I am not about to venture out for anything less than toilet paper and Marmite. These pictures may not be recent but I don’t think I’ve published them here before.
With limited travel and photo opportunities, it’s been quite a challenge to come up with recent pictures rather than dipping too far back into the photo archives, but here are a few shots, taken in the past few weeks, that I thought would fit in with Cee’s theme of Dark Red for her Fun Foto Challenge.
The last of the roses at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
The barn at Volkening Heritage Farm in Schaumburg.
Two places of interest in the historic shopping district of Long Grove.
And lastly, a leftover guest from our Family Fall Festival.
As I had promised, I returned to Long Grove this week to make further purchases at Paddy’s On The Square and, while I was there, checked out a few places that seemed like pleasant spots to Pull Up A Seat and take a break.
This week, Tina’s choice of What A Treat as the theme for the Lens-Artists Photo Challenge sparked a trip down Memory Lane and prompted me to re-visit and re-capture the glory days of a once-popular tourist destination.
There was a time when we considered spending the day at Long Grove’s historic shopping district a treat. On busy days and especially when there was a Festival in progress you would be lucky, despite the myriad parking lots, to find a space to leave your car. Yesterday it was almost empty.
It was here that we came to buy perfumed soaps and chocolate-dipped strawberries, to eat ice cream in the summer and drink hot apple cider in the Fall. We would browse for hours through antique shops, boutiques and novelty stores.
It was here, too, that I came to find the sort of foods that I missed so much from home; Spotted Dick, Bovril, Oxos, oxtail and Mulligatawny soups (before the ban on imports that contained beef because of mad cow disease and other import restrictions more or less drove them out of business.) Here I stocked up on Christmas puddings, mince pies and Twiglets, and got recent news of home from the proprietor who made frequent visits back across the Pond.
To be fair, the decline in Long Grove’s fortunes began long before Covid arrived, but it certainly didn’t help matters. Remembering the good old days, it was very sad to see all the places that had closed down and so many of the beautiful old buildings falling into disrepair.
Gone is the magical place where you could find all manner of plush toys, much to the kids’ delight, and gone too, the store that sold the best Christmas decorations. No more, the shop that sold every kind of kitchen accessory known to man and, as far as I could tell, even the old apple press (the core of the annual Apple Festival) is no longer functioning.
The old covered bridge is still standing but only just. They had only recently reopened it after having it renovated because of damage caused by an accident involving a delivery truck, when the very next day it was hit by a chartered bus. What are the odds!
But it’s not all gloom and doom. There are still some businesses that are hanging on and people are working very hard to make a go of it. Restaurants and wine bars seem to be the glue that is holding Long Grove together these days, despite the limitations set by the pandemic.
And on the bright side, there is still a touch of whimsy, despite a general feeling of doubt about the future of the place.
I did my bit to help the economy with the purchase of a jar of Marmite (what a treat!) and various other items at Paddy’s on The Square, with a promise to return in a week or so. It may not be how we remember it but, if you are in the area, I urge you to stop by the historic shopping district of Long Grove and sample some of the treats that are still available. Who knows! Despite all adversity there may yet be a chance for the revival of Long Grove’s glory days.