Category Archives: Architecture

Greeley Iowa – A Photo Essay

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My first photo essay on a decaying small town. I lived here for a year more than 50 years ago: Greeley, Iowa.

Greeley was founded a little over 100 years ago. There is a small central park with an open air gazebo, a lovely flower bed, and a small book share facility. All that really remains of Main Street in Greeley is 3 or 4 run down buildings on one side of the road. Kind of indicative of the rest of the town, really. Although there remain some lovely houses with wrap-around porches, most of the buildings seem to be mobile homes or in deep disrepair.

Greeley is now more road than town, it seems. A place to slow down, but there are no gas pumps, not the slightest hint of groceries. Some electronic maps will tell you there is a place to eat in town, but it has been long abandoned. State Road 38 is being resurfaced through Greeley, but the sign itself is as misshapen as much of the rest of the town.

The largest business in Greeley is a feed store and grain elevator. The wind turbines have altered the skyline, such as it ever was, a hint of modernization – good or bad – in a town otherwise seemingly stuck in 1940.

In many ways, Greeley seems very much to have given up on itself. Even the flagpoles in what passes for the city park have no flags flying, even on Independence Day weekend. The former city Maintenance Shop is perhaps the best metaphor existing for the current state of Greeley. It has itself failed to be maintained so thoroughly that it is collapsing on itself. There are apparently no city buildings suitable for habitation, so state and federal flyers mandated for public display are posted in an open air display case bound to the chain link fence around the water tower with baling wire.

 Greeley has at least one claim to fame – The original drivers of the Budweiser Clydesdale team, who worked with them for around 40 years, were brothers and born in Greeley. Anheuser Busch donated a Clydesdale statue to the town in their honor. The paint is peeling and discolored, however.

Once upon a time the steeple on the Catholic Church was the highest point in town. The turbines have claimed that distinction now. The Greeley cemetery is nearly full, yet it’s difficult to imagine how long it will take to fill the remaining plots, with so few people left in the area.


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Blue Turbine

Blue Turbine

f:/9.0. 1/1640, ISO-200, 17mm

Also posted in Mechanical, Natural Lighting, Photography Tagged |

Calm Water

Calm Water

f/22, 5″, ISO-100, 70mm

I found myself awake at 4:00 AM this morning and, given the rarity of that situation these days, jumped (rolled) out of bed and lollygagged around for an hour, then decided to go out and shoot the sunrise.

I don’t know why I never remember that shooting a sunrise means you have to have your camera set up and pointed east, ready to go, a half hour before sunrise. When the sun is over the horizon, it’s already probably too late. This morning it was pretty cloudy, but there was a break with some lovely red color just off to the northeast that I might have been able to put together with a zoom lens. But I was about 5 minutes too late and the whole effect was gone.

In a fit of pique, I satisfied myself with this one instead, which was studiously pointed away from the eastern sky.

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Forever Waiting

Endless Waiting

f/1.4, 1/400, ISO-200, 50mm

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Home Of The Vikings

Home Of The Vikings

f/3.5, 0.8″, ISO-100, 18mm

This is one of those pictures that I’ve been driving past every dark, foggy morning for years, and yesterday I finally got out of the car to take the picture I’d been envisioning all this time.

Also posted in Night, Photography Tagged , , , , |

On The Town

On The Town

f/22, 4″, ISO-160, 55mm

I’ve been trying to find the time to get to this one for days. Whenever I do a portrait session, I try to do at least one thing that is new to me and which I’m not entirely sure will work. Oftentimes it doesn’t work. In this case, I wanted to see if I could take a very long exposure on a reasonably well-let street, and have the model be pretty sharp.

I achieved the effect by setting the aperture as small as it would go to reduce the ambient light striking the sensor as much as possible, and relied on a flash through an umbrella to light the model sufficiently. In this case, I think it worked very well. I got tail lights from a passing vehicle to spice up the shot a little more. All in all, I think it gives great atmosphere within a small town that many seniors believe has no interesting backdrops to give up. Hopefully this will help them look at their town with a new pair of eyes.

Also posted in Flash Lighting, Night, Photography, Portrait Tagged , , , , |

Weekly Photo Challenge: From Lines to Patterns


f/6.3, 1/30, ISO-640, 85mm

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Sunrise Fog

Sunrise Fog

f/20, 1/200, ISO-1600, 85mm

Grabbed this on the way to work yesterday morning. I’m pretty disappointed with it. I didn’t take enough time to set it up properly. I forgot to set my ISO to something reasonable from when I was learning the controls the night before. I should  have had this set to ISO-200 and f/5.6 or so and there would have been a lot less noise. On the other hand, my excuse is going to be that the noise adds character to this particular composition.

We’re always told to learn from our mistakes, and one of the things I learned from this one (other than don’t rush) is that my 70D is not going to do a stellar job at high ISO in low light. I applied considerable noise reduction in post processing to this, and it still is pretty grainy.

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Against A Wall

Against The Wall

f/6.3, 1/200, ISO-200, 50mm

I had lots of good intentions of taking an extended photo walk this weekend and creating a new backlog of images to post here, but a virus put me down for four straight days. I’m feeling better now, but here’s a little something to let you know I”m still alive. It’s a straight-forward portrait of a local senior you’ve probably seen a time or two elsewhere on this site 🙂

Also posted in Flash Lighting, Mechanical, Natural Lighting, Photography, Portrait Tagged , , |

Jones & Hitchcock

Jones & Hitchcock

f/10, 1/800, ISO-800, 85mm

So I’ve been absent for awhile, in case you’ve noticed. I’ve been working 65-70 hours a week picking up a little overtime for a new camera. After three years and assuring myself that this photography thing I’ve gotten myself into isn’t just a fad, I made the decision to upgrade my camera body.

Coincidentally, I also gained a two-month opportunity to get a little  extra income, and I jumped at it. This meant I had to put the camera down for much of that time to get an extra 25-30 hours a week, but I put in my last hour this afternoon. Now I’m back to more or less a regular schedule.

So what camera did I decide on? I chose the Canon EOS 70D. I’m not sure when I’ll actually be receiving it, as it isn’t scheduled to be released until mid-September, and indications are that demand will exceed initial supply. I’ll count myself lucky if I get it by October 1.

I’ve been researching a lot about what  I should get for a camera. Given the Canon lenses and such I already have, and the fact I’ve never used another SLR in my life besides a Canon, there was no possibility I was going to choose a Nikon or Sony or anything else. But I did look around at other manufacturers to see the specs and to attempt to make sure the price point of the 70D was reasonable for its features.

I was really amused by the ferocity of the online arguments between fans of the various manufacturers. Judging by some comments I’ve seen, there are apparently people out there who can instantly spot a photograph taken by one camera manufacturer or another. A bad or noisy photograph must always be from a Brand X camera, and if you want “good” photographs you must always use Brand A.

Hogwash, I say. The photographer makes the photograph, not the camera. It is the photographer’s responsibility to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the camera in hand and make a good photograph. The idea that you can take the same photo with the same settings and the same lighting with two different cameras and get a “better” or “worse” image from one or the other entirely misses the point of being a photographer. As a photographer, you adjust the lighting, you adjust the settings, as necessary. If the camera could do it for you, there’d be no point in being a photographer.

For my purposes, there were several reasons I settled on the 70D rather than, say, the 60D at half the price. Understand I’m coming from a Rebel XS world, the least powerful and expensive camera in Canon’s DSLR line. Pretty much all of the reasons have to do with improving my workflow as a photographer, which is the only thing the camera can do that will ultimately lead to better photographs.

  • Articulating screen – I’ve had far too many shots I had to give up on because I could not see through the viewfinder or even see the LCD well enough to take a sharp, well-composed image. The ability to articulate the screen was actually one of my highest priorities based on three years of shooting experience.
  • Live view auto-focus and touch screen LCD – Much has been made of the 70D’s new AF technology, and the ability to accurately focus by using the LCD’s touchscreen. This was also very important to me to help insure that shots at difficult angles could be focused properly.
  • Fast AF – Based on what I’ve seen, it appears that auto focus speed should be significantly improved over my current camera with this model. It didn’t appear to me that this was necessarily the case with the 60D. If I’m reading between the lines correctly, it seems like the 70D should also be much more reliable focusing in low light scenes than current technology, and I spend a lot of time shooting at sunrise and sunset.
  • 7 FPS – I’ve lost more than one opportunity (and many dollars) to get “the shot” that a customer wanted because the XS shoots at only a little over 2 frames per second. You try getting just the right shot of someone jumping into water at that frame rate. It takes more skill and practice than I have, and you only get one chance at it (assuming, as in my case, that the subject wants to start out dry).
  • Integrated WiFi – A nice-to-have, perhaps, but I like the idea of being able to wirelessly control the camera from my Android tablet. There will be cases where it will be handy to be able to wirelessly transfer images from the camera to the tablet as well.
  • AF Tracking – Based on what I’ve seen so far, I’m impressed by the camera’s ability to “lock on” to a subject and track it while moving. This will be handy at sporting events, which I’m hoping to do more of. I can imagine more flexibility for doing portrait photography as well.

None of my reasons have anything to do with video mode, which is where Canon’s marketing machine is really targeting. I understand why, but I do wish more reviews and information would go deeper into the benefits of still photography. I also like the thought of 7-exposure bracketing, and I want to at least see how in-camera HDR turns out. In my opinion, though, Canon could have saved some memory by ditching in-camera Instagram-like features. If I wanted to ruin my photographs, I wouldn’t be spending $1200 on a camera.

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