Monday, December 31, 2007

The End of 2007

Another year has finally come to an end. Friends have been made and lost, the landscape of many locations around the world changed. Today as I write this I have just finished the last piece of artwork to be created by me this year. Somehow it is fitting that it has both an English theme, the flavor of travel and the feel of techniques of the past.

Captured by a digital camera, this image was converted to black & white and then altered to have the grainy feel of high-speed film. Because of the long exposure time needed to render the flame, ghostly images of people moving about the memorial have made their way into the scene.

As we're a long way from home, travel over the holidays helps to take our minds off not being with family and friends. Thanksgiving was spent in Paris having fine French wine and croissants instead of roast turkey with oyster stuffing and hours watching the Macy's parade. The connection to our temporary home country of England is obvious.

Titled "Ghosts Around the Flame" this is an image of the Princess Diana Memorial in Paris , France at night and as I stated, the last artistic piece I will create in 2007. It is available for purchase at my ImageKind gallery.

I wish everyone a safe and Happy New Year. Leave your bad memories and bad habits in the past where they belong, treat the upcoming year as the new creation that it is; devoid of mistake and folly until we bumble along into it. May God bless each and every one of you.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

New Life on the Farm

One of the things that I most enjoy about living here on the farm is that there always seems to be something going on. Prepping animals for shows, feeding/cleaning, collecting eggs. On and on and on. But one of my favorite times is happening right now: lambing season.
The expectant mother sheep were brought in last week to help the newborn lambs survive the weather. As you might expect, they don't do cold and wet very well. Last night saw the first of an expected flood on new lambs born. I am always amazed at how they're up on their legs, looking for their first drink of milk 5-10 minutes after being born. Within a couple of days they're jumping and hopping around, playful bundles of energy.

Life on the farm is good.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas from England!

Just a quick note wishing everyone out there a very Merry Christmas. We have gotten as close to a white christmas as we're going to get this year in the form of fog. Lots and lots of fog.

Remember the real reason for the season.


Friday, December 14, 2007

ImageKind Making a Great Photo Better

There's good news and bad news about the print I'm about to discuss, but in typical storyteller fashion I'm going to wait until the end before I let you know what that news is. Cheeky monkey, ain't I?

So back to today's topic: print-on-demand (POD) enterprises. Some of you may remember how excited I was about finding a company that made prints of my work that were just as good as if I had made them myself slaving over my own square-eyed monster (the computer). ImageKind has continued to prove themselves as a firm I can entrust my most prized images to for top-quality treatment. Case in point: my Mammatus and Crepuscular images.

This series of images was captured from the drive in front of my English farmhouse and lasted for, oh goodness, almost 2 minutes. Luckily I was able to capture a few that exceeded my expectations. One in particular I got my creative digital artist fingers into and made what I think is a stunning image very suggestive of an oil-on-canvas painting. So, off it went to ImageKind to be printed on canvas and shipped to me.

Awesome doesn't begin to describe what I pulled out of the shipping tube a couple of weeks later.

Rich colors, fantastic textures and the incredible feel of heavy canvas boasting an image I created on its surface. It went right from the Post Office to the Frame Shop at RAF Lakenheath(since this is a personal piece I can use their services) and now, hanging on my family room wall, it a piece of art I am very fond of.

Now, as promised: bad news and good news.

Bad news: this particular print is MINE and if you want it, you'll have to pry it out of my cold, dead fingers.

Good News: this particular image is available for you to purchase (along with many, many other of equal quality) from my ImageKind New Arrivals galleries. The print you see is 32 inches x 21 inches set in a 1-inch deep distressed black wood frame.

Well-done ImageKind and RAFL Frame Shop. You make my images (as well as my walls) look great!



Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I Wish I Knew the Story

If you're a regular reader of my ramblings or have the pleasure of knowing me personally then you will know how I get about stories. The goal of my photography is to allow people to look at my work and have it bring out memories that they pass along to those who surround them in the hope that THEY will pass the tales along in the future. One of my earliest posts in this blog helps you understand how the discovery of a small, seemingly insignificant item can suddenly take on a life of its own.

So imagine how chuffed I was (chuffed is an English term meaning excited and currently without a Wikipedia entry) when my wife called from the States saying she had found a large American flag at a second-hand shop. From her description of it, it sounded like a "casket flag" of the type used at the funeral of a US Armed Forces veteran upon their burial. Sadly, it was folded and hanging from a coat hanger.

Upon the flag's arrival back here in England I found it was indeed a casket/storm flag measuring 5x91/2 feet in size and manufactured by the Valley Forge Flag Company of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The stars are made of individual pieces of cloth sewn onto the blue field as opposed to being completely embroidered as most flags I've seen lately are. The two brass grommets have the number "2" stamped on them. Not sure if this gives an indication if it's age or not. Sadly, there were a series of stains (they appear to be from the flag being wet, perhaps stored wet) below the star field running through many of the white stripes. Happily, after numerous washings and a couple of attacks with a toothbrush and stain removed they're almost gone. I'm still in the process of trimming the stray thread from the stars. As far as age I can only say that it is a 50 star flag and dates itself to the post-1959 timeframe.

OK, you have a big American flag. So what?!?!?!

I photograph many US Armed Forces family members to include active duty Air Force members as well as a fair number of Boy Scouts, both of which look just cracking in front of a huge US flag. As this one was 1/3 the price of a new one, if nothing else it was certainly good value for money.

But here's the nostalgic part of me making an appearance:

What's the story behind it? The thrift store it was found in (Valley Thrift) is located just a few miles away from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. Dayton has quite a large number of military retirees. Casket flags are used in the funeral service of an honorably discharged veteran and presented to the family at the conclusion. Was this flag used for this purpose? What was the history of this veteran; what had they seen, what stories could they (or did they) pass along to the next generation? Had the family member passed away and the flag been found and donated? Was it used as a casket flag at all or as a storm flag?

I wish I knew as I have mixed thoughts about using it. Am I showing disrespect by using it in the course of my photography (properly displayed according to the US Flag code, and only for the aforementioned purposes)? On the other hand, might it mean more to someone having their portrait made with a flag honoring a veteran?
Honestly, I'm just not sure. I can say I'm proud to own it and if nothing else it has been cleaned, mended and stored according to protocol. If you think this might know the history of this flag or have any thoughts I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Equipment Testing

I must admit that these days I take any manufacturer's claims with a grain of salt. In some cases with an entire handful to be quite honest. (I attribute it to being an "old grumpy codger" or at least aspiring to the title.) That is, with the exception of one company: Canon.

As I mentioned in an earlier post I've acquired the latest bit of digital camera kit from Canon, the 40D camera body. Having come up through the ranks with their previous offerings (Digital Rebel/Rebel XT and 20D) I knew what to expect for the most part. I had heard about how "noise-free" the newest DIGIC III chip was supposed to perform and decided to put it through some of the same lengthy exposure times I used when shooting Fuji Velvia slide film just for fun, to see if the reports were exaggerated or not.

Well, I have to say the excitement over this piece of equipment is justified. I set up looking out through a window here in England and used an exposure time of just over 11 minutes. I honestly have to say that for the first time, I'm beginning to see the gap between what digital can reproduce in night photography significantly closing! Compared to similar images coming from a 20D the difference is quite amazing and I fear this means more trips into the cold night air once again.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Fountains at Versailles

Paris. The city of love and lights. Romance is conjured up at the very mention of the name in the minds of most people. The dream trip for young couples in love.

I was fortunate enough to spend the Thanksgiving holiday in Paris and witnessed young couples in love staring deep into each other's eyes. In one instance there was a proposal at the top of the eiffel Tower and in another Paris was where an engaged couple purchased their wedding rings. Love was definately in the air.

Along with the veritable bucketloads of love being flung into the air is the flip-side of love: war. Paris was the scene of revolution, upheaval, plague and the depths of human suffering at the hands of one another in the name of... whatever you mind can come up with.

Just outside of Paris is the palace of Versailles, a spectacular display of planning and workmanship. It very nearly bankrupt the country of France as it was being built. Aside from the intrigue and treachery it was witness to over its lifetime, Versailles is a marvel of engineering at its pinnacle. Engineering on a grand scale no less. I've been in many a village around the world that would fit nicely inside the stone and guilt iron perimeter many times over with room to spare. Impressive for sure.

Many more images are on the way from this trip, I'm working hard at trying to get them out in time for the holiday season. Check back to see if I've made my self-imposed deadline!


Thursday, November 08, 2007

Mammatus and Crepuscular

The saying goes "better to be lucky than good" but personally, I'd rather be both. I much prefer the saying "chance favors the prepared mind". Simply put, be ready to take advantage of whatever happens across your path. Let me illustrate...

Today a colleague of mine was up at our house (the Middle of Nowhere he calls it) working out the particulars of a holiday photography event we are doing together. Meaning, of course, that we were inside most of the day polishing ad copy, constructing sets, all that fun stuff that makes the lives of photograpers the envy of all those around them. Well, maybe not. Add in that the weather has turned blustery and drizzly and the day was productive but not the kind of thing you's use to sell a new life in the English countryside.

Driving back from picking up my son from the bus stop I caught a flash of color out of my eye and as we rounded a bend in the road. The hedgerow opened up and there it was: mammatus clouds on fire from the setting sun. Mammatus clouds are very cool, like hanging balls on the underside of a cloud resulting from sinking air. Despite their sometimes fierce look they actually signal the latter stages of a storm and for me, are the pot o' gold at the end of the rainbow. As if this sight weren't good enough, bby the time I dragged my cameras into the driveway the sun had sunk below a band of clouds creating spectacular crepuscular rays (god beams, sun rays).
The entire event lasted perhaps 10 minutes from when I first saw it and then, gone. Lucky because I live in a place that these two sky events happened, good because when I ran in the door everything was ready to use and in the scant time available I was able to, I think, capture the essence of what I saw.
I love my job, I love my job, I love my job...

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Slideshow for 2008 Calendars

As I previously mentioned, there are now SIX 2008 Photo Calendars in this year's offering. New for this year is a streaming photo slideshow complete with music for those who wish to browse a bit before making a purchase decision. To view the slideshow, click this link.

An Active-X plugin from Photodex is required, the software company that is responsible for dragging me kicking and screaming into the world of streaming image content!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Blast From the Past

Today I was performing the exciting task of file maintenance on my computer (oh yeah, the exciting lives of photographers!) and came across this image I hadn't seen in some time. Thought I would share about it.
While living in the Azores I was very fortunate to become friends with a great group of men through our common association with Boy Scouts. It was our intention to have a cross-island hike with the Troop and to spend a couple of nights sleeping under the stars.
Well, apparently WE thought it was a great idea but the BOYS just rolled their eyes and developed various maladies that took them out of action. Know what? The men went anyway!
Terceira Island is known for dairy cows and a great cheese/butter making tradition. you're bound to pass field after field of dairy cows and as we passed this one paddock we realized that the ground was much higher on the other side, giving me a perfect hoof-level view of the approaching bovine subject. One of the guys on the trip was Bill Comp who caught me in-action while I snapped away making what would become a very popular image from my time at Lajes Field.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Evening on the Farm

Fall is a wonderful time of the year, seemingly no matter where in the world you are (that is, unless you're somewhere where there IS no fall). The air gets that crispness that can catch you off guard if you're not expecting it. You look out the window at the grass and can't quite tell if there is dew or frost on the blades. Then there's the sun hitting those leaves as they make their final transformation from natural powerplant to natural fertilizer.

Then there are the nights...

Night photography has always been my time for me. Like shoveling snow or mowing the yard, it is a time when you know you'll not be disturbed. Despite being just a few steps from my door, I was able to enjoy nearly an hour of time to experiment with a new camera body and enjoy an unusually clear night on the farm. And with all the advances in technology over the years, when I photograph at night, for the most part I time my exposures with the time-tested mantra of:

"One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi..."


Monday, October 29, 2007

Boys and Their Toys

"Find a job you love and you'll never work a day in your life."

I am incredibly fortunate to have the above line apply to my line of work. I enjoy what I do. I like the travel, the people, the events I document.

I also love one of the benefits: gear, kit, tools... toys.

One of my latest acquisitions is a Canon 40D digital camera body. Back are some of my favorite functions from when I lived in the "F" world (F for film of course) such as spot metering and more frames-per-second but also an innovation for the digital SLR world: live view.

Simply put, I can now see through the lens on a nice bright 3.0 inch screen on the back of the camera which lends itself quite nicely for macro photography when your camera is in an odd position such as when I was photographing the read/write heads of a crashed hard drive. When hooked up to my computer I can even remotely locate the camera while watching what is before the lens on my screen. I can see some fun and exciting bird and (hopefully) wild mammal images in my future.

Love my job, love my job, love my job....


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Spirit of Murphy is Alive and Well

There are areas in life where I am on the cutting-edge and then there are areas where I'm a bit... behind. For instance, I think I'm one of the few people who hasn't seen Cats. So, while trying to find some entertainment for the family at the video rental store I find the musical on DVD and thought I had found a gem.

Arriving home I opened the case and no kidding, I think I was the first person ever to rent the movie. Not a single scratch on the disc. Not a smudge. Clean as a whistle. And it was utterly enjoyable until about the 10th minute when it started to crap out. You know, pixels appearing, stutters and the like. And yes, I checked it in other players and with similar results and it continued throughout the remainder of the program. So much for seeing singing dancing cats.

On a similar topic, my daughter's copy of Barbie of Swan Lake looks as if it was mauled by a belt sander yet doesn't skip a beat.

Thanks Mr. Murphy, wherever you are.

PLEASE NOTE: I've gotten a couple of comments from my European readers that some of my "James-isms" don't readily translate. So, where possible, I'll try to link to sources that help explain some of my peculiar terminology. Love the Wikipedia!


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fall Surprise

I call it the Green Monster. Spread out before melike some limitless ocean of vertical fury, it called to me. No. Beckoned me to come and tackle it with what puny weaponry I could amass.

I am, of course, referring to the lawn.

Arriving in England in one of the driest summers one could remember I foolishly assumed every summer would be like that one, that the tales of rain and mist and cold penetrating fog were the by-product of a people wanting to keep the "good stuff" to themselves.

And then there was THIS year. No kidding, I would have to take the battle to the lawn every 5 days. Not even a whole week went by before I stepped out into this 3-acre nightmare of continuous greenery once again. With a walk behind mower, no less.

So I was filled with glee (scary thought) when I 'rounded the shrubbery in the front yard and came across a small stand of silvery mushrooms sprouting up through the lengths of grass blades and fallen leaves. So, in typical James style, I quickly abandoned lawn care and grabbed my gear for a 30-minute session spent on my belly trying to capture this little treasure, this fall surprise that I found in my yard.

And when I was done, in typical James style as well, I mowed it flat.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

More and more...

More calendars have been added with at least a couple of more on the way. The latest calendar is titled QUIET PLACES and contains soothing images from around the world to hopefully bring just a bit of calm and quiet to our otherwise busy lives.

It is forcast to rain quite a bit here in England today so it is a perfect day to sit inside and be creative with my images!


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Jill and I get WICKED in London

In a rare moment of not-work, Jill and I took a trip down to London and saw the musical WICKED which is the back-story if you wish about the two witches in the Wizard of Oz.

First, let me say that the Apollo Victoria Theatre is a grand structure seating just over 2,400 people in a very classy art deco style (as it was built in the 1930s) and fits the production quite well. The stall seats on the floor have nary a bad view until you get close to the front. Reasonable priced drinks and all the fixings for a fun evening to include popcorn and ice cream at intermission.

So, without going into any plot-wrecking details, let me say that this show was simply fantastic! There were quite a few twists and turns along the way that made good use of the existing Wizard of Oz plot and certainly give one a thought or two to ponder on the way home. The singing was spot-on and for once the sound didn't blow me out of my seat (unlike our experience seeing Phantom of the Opera last month). The leads were strong singers as they usually are but Kerry Ellis, who plays Elphaba (the Wicked Witch of the West), just blew me away with her voice. She is quite impressive and reason alone to go see the show (if you only needed one).

So suck it up, spend the bucks and have a fantastic night getting WICKED in London.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Let the calendars come forth!

Just a quick note to let you all know the first of many 2008 calendars are being released today. In typical James style, the first offering is somewhat unusual: eggs.

Yes, eggs. The kind that chickens lay. On the farm. Not the sterile uniform shapes you see in the local supermarket but the eclectic variations of size, color, texture and shapes that you only get from chickens that run around the farm eating who-knows-what and laying their eggs behind office doors and on the seat of the tractor.

EGGS 2008 Calendar

More to follow...


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Snowdon conquers... again!

Back in July as some of you might remember I went to Wales with another leader in our Scout troop to see how challenging Mt. Snowdon, Britain's highest peak, would be to our young men. We were met with a stiff wind and for the final 1,000 feet of the 3,560 mountain was shrouded in fog. Despite climbing the cairn at the top, we saw nothing. I could have been hiking in a quarry for all I new.

Well, the weather was not exactly the same last weekend. It was worse. We hit the cloud deck on the Snowdon Ranger trail at what I estimated to be the 1,500-1,750 foot mark and climbed the switchbacks for what seemed like eternity before again reaching the top in what seemed like a full-force gale with nothing to see but the swirling grey.
Looking back, it was among one of the best hikes I've had in a long time. Sadly it was also my last with the Scouts as family committments consume my limited "free time" and one must set priorities. Be prepared. Hike hard. Smile, Scouts!

Friday, September 28, 2007


Over the past few weeks I've had multiple occasions to interact with non-Americans here in Britain and almost always the topic comes up about America's doings in the world. I hear things like:

"Why does America do XYZ..."

"Why do you Americans do XYZ..."

"You Americans always do XYZ..."

For the most part I smile and endure the rant and then proceed to do a little education, take advantage of the chance to make a couple of points:

1. America is made up of individual persons, each possessing an individual point of view.

2. Not every American agrees with the decisions made by the government.

3. When our leaders mess up, we let 'em know it. An election often results in the voice of the people being heard.

4. Despite my personal feelings about current US policy, both domestic and international, I love the place with all my heart. It is home.

Just as all Brits don't enjoy Guiness and mushy peas, not all Americans enjoy war and politics. Take a little time to get to know us as individuals and you might be surprised at what you find.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Encouraging Our Youth

Every once and awhile my vocation allows me to encounter what I feel is a young person with amazing potential. such is the case with Cassandra. I met her family through Boy Scouts which her brother attends and soon found myself tutoring her in photography. She brought a selection of her arts and crafts and I immediately was captured by her Sculpy figures (Sculpy is like modeling clay but you can bake it in the over to cure it and make the sculpture permenant).

Currently we are collaborating on a series of figures (she sculpting and I photographing) and I am constantly amazed at what emerges from the tissue-filled shoe boxes I get from week-to-week. Snakes, hedgehogs, fairies and as this image shows... purple dragons.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Work, work, work...

Summer this year in England has been atypical to say the least. A year's worth of rain in just over a month and cooler than normal temperatures (usually) have made it very unlike last season when you couldn't buy a cool wet day to save your life (or your crops).

The good part is it allows one to get caught up with projects sitting around the house. A perfect example is the website dedicated exclusively to portrait photography at the studio. Check it out!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

On the Queen's Rolls Royce

OK, not exactly the photo you were hoping for but c'mon, this is as close to being on a Rolls Royce as I'll probably ever get!

When friends and family come to visit us (no matter where we are) its an excuse for us to visit the places we don't get to see because we're stretched a little thin. Yes, you're all an excuse for me to have a holiday! So, when Jill's folks came to visit one of the places we visited was the Queen's cozy little getaway at Sandringham in Norfolk county not far from the city of King's Lynn.

Inside the house proper there was no photography allowed and after viewing the incredible number of art works I can see their point (reluctantly) but what a feast for the eyes of a confirmed car nut when you entered the museum's car section which is thankfully open to photography!

This Rolls Royce was one of my favorites and the touch that set it off for me was the hand-painted seal just above the trunk (boot) release. With my reflection in the mile-deep paint I couldn't resist my one chance to show everyone that I really HAD been "seen" on the hood of the Queen's personal car!



Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I'm Back!

Back from a conspicuous absence! Lots of things going on, lots of updates so let's get going.

WINTER HAS RETURNED: Saturday a front moved in, the ran came with it and now it is a chilly 44 degrees with a nice fresh wind out of the north. I swear I thought I saw a polar bear roaming the fields.

VISITORS HAVE A GREAT TIME: Jill's parents and her brother arrived from Nebraska, USA and we literally drug them around the southern part of England non-stop for a week. Norwich cathedral, Castle Rising, Sandringham Estate, Iceni village, Westminster, St. Paul's Cathedral, Tower of London as well as a little time with the grandchildren. That are back home safe and sound.

MORE "KIDS" IN ABUNDANCE: Many sightings of baby blue/great tits, blackbirds as well as green finches. Little balls of fluff, full of energy.

IRIS WATERCOLOR SERIES AVAILABLE: A series of watercolor-style images from the ever-blooming iris beds in the yard is now available, just click here to go to the gallery.

NEW BOOK SERIES: Very close to launching an entire series of books and that's all I'm going to say. OK, not all I'm going to say. A combination of visual and written impressions from around the world.

NEW LOCATION: The sheep we've been tending over the winter are now in a BEAUTIFUL pasture next to a very picturesque river and they're LOVING it. Taken with a very small Nikon COOLPIX L11 digital camera purchased for Jill's upcoming travels around the world.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Getting (re)Organized

I enjoy solving problems. Lighting situations, efficiency issues, all are a challenge I enjoy. My stock image cataloging system has been finalized now for a little over 2 years but was at least twice as long in development. Every once and awhile I get that itching thought that "there has to be a better way" to do something and next thing I know a week has passed and although no "real" work has been done the garage and tool shed have been re-organized as well as my documents on the computer and my workflow for posting to all my electronic venues.

So, if you wonder if I've dropped off the edge of the English coastline, fear not. Just getting organized (again) and preparing for a week of my wife's parents and one of her brothers coming over the pond to visit us.



Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Shave and a Haircut

Life on the farm is quite a blessing for a photographer. I would equate it with being a sports photographer and living next to the spring training camp for your favorite team or being a military aviation photographer and living on a military base (with permission to shoot no less)!

Not long ago I was able to photograph the time-honored task of sheep shearing. A couple of observations I made during the event:

  • You should be of short stature in order to minimize your need to bend over,
  • You should be strong as an ox in order to wrestle a full-grown ewe or ram into an unnatural position,
  • You should love what you do.
I've seen shearers on TV do sheep in less than a minute, but not sure how long they could actually keep up the pace. The guys I watched would do one every 2-3 minutes and kept that pace up for nearly 12 hours. And as silly as I thought sheep looked with a full fleece, they look ridiculous with a "high and tight".

By month's end the livestock will be moved to summer pastures, my twice-daily walks through the farm will be but to collect eggs. I'm glad to think of them in a large grassy field, but then again the kids and I enjoy greatly the chance to go to the barn and walk among the, to talk and pet Ben and Dave and Daisy in the cow pens. To look for Puppy, Spot, Patch, Dominic and Mr. Texal in the sheep pens and chase the wayward lambs back home to their mums. But they'll be back in the fall and we'll welcome them.



Friday, May 04, 2007

Sidebars and Moles

You might be looking at the new element to the right, how cool is that? My friends and e-commerce partners at ImageKind have developed a way for YOU to quickly browse a featured gallery from this page. Plans are to rotate the galleries on a weekly basis. I am SO glad to be partners with the best and most innovative fine-art printers in the country!

As promised, here's a small peek at what I was able to capture in pixels after my boys caught a European mole (Talpa europaea) in our bathroom (entry point unknown). When seen close-up, he can actually look quite frightening (although he seemed to be yawning)! I was amazed at the purpose-built nature of this creature; an organic tunnelling machine capable of making up to 20 meters of yard-devastating passages a day!

On the home front: still no rain. After the driest and warmest April in recent memory we still haven't gotten any measurable precipitation. A fencing project around the yard (for rabbit control, pesky little, well... pests) is on hold as you can't get into the ground at all. Good news is the clouds have moved back in, let's pray for rain!



Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Weekend Update (but I'm not Chevy Chase)

What an event-packed few days it has been here in England! I'm not really sure where to start.

The "kids" a.k.a. the 3 song thrush chicks talked about in this post and this post have been sighted multiple times in the yard acting just like three brothers: dive-bombing each other, fighting for food, that kind of stuff. Great to see that they've stuck around as the thrush population has dwindled in this area from what I've been told. Hopefully they will discover their singing voices soon, right now they're just yappy noisy kids!

The mole is no more! My youngest son Jordan discovered it in a trap Saturday morning whist mowing the monster, er... the yard. From his size I'm guessing it was the Poppa mole. I was amazed at how soft his coat was and how HUGE his paws were. Now I know why they're so destructive.

In related mole news, the boys caught a LIVE mole. In our BATHROOM! More as that situation develops.

The Boy Scout trip was great, a 1-mile hike with full gear from camp to the beach end and back, then a 10-mile hike from Stiffkey to Wells-next-to-Sea along the salt marshes of the north English coast. No injuries during a session of sand dune free-fall time and everyone made the hike with only minimal injuries to feet due to new boots (despite warnings, don't get me started).

And finally I've discovered the incredible diversity in the (seemingly) mundane world of eggs. I grew up with eggs coming into our home 12 perfectly formed copies at a time, all white and clean and perfect. Well, they don't all come out that way, especially if you have "farm" chickens around. Here's a sample of my egg portrait series.



Monday, April 23, 2007

Unexpected Visitors!

For those of you who have been along since I started this little bit of literary bumbling you may remember the second post I did about the Demise of the Hen Harrier. Long story short: beautiful raptor found dead in yard. So imagine my joy at sighting not one but TWO raptors as I brought the kids home from the bus stop! If my handy-dandy Peterson Field Guide is correct then this must be a pair of kestrels (Falco tinnunculus). Kestrels are small falcons and these two were gliding and swooping over the hedgerows from field to field, one stopping just long enough for me to grab this image from the van (because no one EVER goes anywhere without a 300mm lense, right).

With any luck they'll hang around and settle into our little corner of paradise so I can write about them a little more and perhaps take a better portrait next time.



The Kids are Gone!

No, not MY kids. The kids in the nest. You know, the thrush chicks that hatched just before we left on holiday. THOSE kids. They're gone. Outta' here. Flown the coop, so to say.

I will say that they were in real need of a bigger place. Three of the four eggs hatched and they were jammed into the nest rather snugly. No, it was worse. It looked like a soup bowl with three feathery gaping squawking beaks in it. I was happy to see the mum in a wanut tree in the front yard this morning, singing her heart out. So, I'll assume the kids are fine and growing fast since I didn't discover any of them with the lawn mower. Egads, that would have been horrible.

It was a short stay but it was great seeing what I almost pulled out of the double-blossom cherry tree go from mess to nest to home. Fly fast, fly free (but stop in for family photos if you please)!!



Thursday, April 19, 2007

A Little Good Press

Publicity. Anyone who has ever had anything to do with sales of any kind knows that if people don't know about your product, sales are tough to come by. Luckily for me I have the gift of gab and can talk to almost anyone about anything and oddly enough, my occupation happens to be included in "anything"!

Through some great networking over at the Online Visual Artists forum the subject of press releases came up. I developed one and sent it to the local papers here in Norfolk county. As an afterthought I also sent it to the local branch of Stars and Stripes newspaper. A week or so later I was interviewed and just before we left for holiday in Garmish-Partenkirchen in Germany they called asking for more images.

The result was a very nice full-page, full-color spread in the UK Weekly section of the paper which also includes posting the article online. For those of you wishing to read it simply click here.
Be thankful that only the print version includes a photo of yours truely.



Wednesday, April 18, 2007

My Kind of Camera Store

Having been gone on holiday this past week I'm always poking my head into camera stores around the world. While in Innsbruck, Austria I finally found one that takes photography as seriously as me!

But seriously, holiday was great. We were back in the mountains and of all the topography we've experienced over the years these are our favorites. We saw some incredible sights, met some great people and might have even gotten a decent photo or two. Most importantly I'm fully recharged and back at work full-steam. More from our trip to come in the weeks ahead.



Friday, April 06, 2007

A Face Only a Mother Could...

Oh come on now, she HAS to love her little ones, right? But really, not exactly the face one would put on the desk at work.

I was quite excited a few weeks ago to discover the beginnings of a bird nest in the cherry tree of the front yard. Initially a collection of birch twigs and straw, I wasn't sure it would even hold water much less a wiggling young one. But as the weeks progressed I was amazed at how it began to take form and as of 2 weeks ago the inside was a perfect bowl shape, lined with soft grass and moss. Amazing. Not long after, 4 blue speckled eggs appeared. I was going to have quadruplets (surrogate, that is)!

Yesterday while mowing the monster (a.k.a. the yard) I took a quick peek in and saw one chick out and a second struggling to get the shell off of his head. A quick snap and I've left them alone to get a bit of nourishment from mum. Hopefully I've correctly identified the egs as belonging to the Mistle thrush (Turdus viscivorus) with the help of our farmer friend, Graham. Close cousin to the common blackbird (Turdus merula) I'll keep observing from a distance to get a definative ID as I've yet to get a good look at mum on the nest.



Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Sound of Silence

2,200 years ago the emperor who unified the warrior-states of China died. Buried along with him were more than 6,000 life-sized warriors, archers, horses and chariots painted in full-color and made of terra cotta. Found in 1975 by a group of farmers digging a well, the terra cotta warriors of Xi'An in Shaanxi province, China are a UNESCO World Heritage site and truely a sight to behold.

So what does this have to do with a blog about an American photographer living in Norfolk county, England? It just so happens that I have a close connection with that area. My oldest daughter, who we adopted from China in 2001, is from Xi'An and during our trip there I picked up a small set of miniature terra cotta warriors. Since then they're moved from Ohio to Alaska to the Azores and are now sitting in my office here in Necton.

As part of my collection fo projects for Alamy I have gotten much of my collection of Chinese trinkets and photographed them against a high-key background for their potential use in reference books, travel guides or websites.
Funny how the things you pick up along the way not only bring back vivid memories but also make themselves useful in way you would never have imagined.

This is likely the last post before our outing to Germany for Spring Break. Chances are I might find something to photograph along the way... well, maybe.



Thursday, March 29, 2007

Yet Another Outlet

Good news if you're in the field for stock images, I am now working with the stock photo agency Alamy. Images from all over the world will start to appear at my personal Alamy page which can be accessed by simply clicking the Alamy button below. As always, requests for specific images are given full consideration and researched fully at no charge.

Stock photography by James+O%27Rear at Alamy

In other news, the weather in England was AWESOME for 3 whole days and is now back to what is considered stereotypical English weather: cold and fog. Even at 3pm I can barely see the Necton church steeple and the wind turbines of Swaffham are somewhere out there (white windmills in fog, even I haven't figured out how to photograph that situation... yet). I'll let you know when that photo is available!



Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Unexpected Guest

Soon after arriving in England and finding this wonderful house I began researching the wildlife I could possibly encounter while performing my vocation. Walking around woods and fields in the wee hours of the morning trying to find the perfect angle and lighting means you can run into some interesting creatures. Alaska was full of adventure from large mammals, most notably bears and moose. The Azores had the elusive least weasel to try and find (which I did). England has a selection of deer (have seen both the red and muntjack varieties), the fox and badger (not seen... yet) and lest I forget: the hedgehog.

Despite being covered in 6,000 hard spiked spines, the hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) doesn't top my list of creatures to be feared while "in the wild" much to the disbelief of some of the Boy Scouts I work with. While camping on Terceira Island in the Azores, Portugal I had one crawl inside my tent and wake me while sniffing around the opening of my sleeping bag. When I realized what it was, I went back to sleep and lived to tell the tale the next day.

This guy was almost flattened by my van as I pulled out of the driveway. Luckily he survived and later in the day I was able to photograph him (or her) whilst rummaging through the flowering hyacinths for bugs and slugs. He's welcome in our yard anytime and quiet honestly would love for a group of them to move in, as long as they sleep in a place where I wouldn't accidentally run over one with the mower.



Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Lights in the Sky

Yesterday's weather was a simply ugly event here in East Anglia. Tempertures were just above freezing. There was a strong north wind that stung your exposed skin. It would rain. Then sleet. Then snow. All in the space of a couple of minutes, then start all over again. There wasn't enough accumulation to really affect travel, but the conditions made going about your daily tasks rather... unpleasant.

Today was better with growing sun breaks and the wind began to calm down. As I returned home from the base the sun was setting and a large expanse of sky opened up and there they were, fat in the middle of the opening: Venus (the star-like light) and the crescent moon. Fortunately I was able to get home and grab a few images from the driveway before the cold and hunger drove me inside. The day really wasn't that bad I guess.



Monday, March 19, 2007

The Exploding Tit

We have gotten a cold snap! A week ago we were outside flying kites and riding bikes on the patio (ok, the KIDS were riding bikes) and it seemed as if summer was on the way. NOT! Today we have snow showers, sleet storms and a brisk wind out of the north. Cold, cold, cold.

Despite being covered in down and feathers, the birds feel the cold as well. Winter finds them in need of high-energy food and the reason suet cakes exist (bird feed in cakes of lard... YUM!). A trick they use to keep warm is to fluff-up their plumage. The spaces between the feathers holds in the heat they generate and is the reason why poofy down jackets are so warm. This little guy (a blue tit) was fluffing-up and looked like he was about to explode!

We also have a new neighbor; a cow in the buildings behind our house delivered a calf over the weekend. I'm doing a sort of "farmer apprenticeship" program with the father and son who run the farm, what fun! I'm sure it will provide the meat of many a future post. Stay tuned.



Thursday, March 15, 2007

Sarcasm Central

This may come as quite a surprise to many of you but there have been times in my life (rare, to be sure) where my fantastic command of the English language has been used in a less-than-congenial manner.

I know, I know. Hard to believe.

Be that as it may, I have often been complimented about the speed with which I am able to spout forth a stream of unbelievably sarcastic statements, sharp as rapiers and barbed as the stems of roses. So it is in this spirit that I offer:

Ever wish you had the perfect comeback for someone's cutting remark or wish you had a way to express HOW you feel without actually SAYING it? Imagine their surprise when you smile and sip a bit of coffee as they see exactly what you're thinking. Oh, I'm a bad man...

Currently populated with a growing selection of coffee mugs it will soon be joined by t-shirts, posters and more. Take advantage of my arsenal of cutting, biting remarks to express yourself and quite possibly not get written up for doing so.



Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Strange New World

Today in a rare burst of cleanliness I extracted the duster from the closet and brushed away the accumulated bits of nastiness from my shelf of beloved cameras I have used (and abused) over the years. Ranging from completely manual Canon FTbs to the AE-1/A-1s of my "cutting teeth" periods to my beloved Canon EOS 1-n and medium format Brooks-Veriwide 100 I can remember the angst and anticipation inside me as I waited for the lab to work their arcane magic on my celluloid creations. I remember the jubilation I enjoyed when I found a lab in Anchorage, Alaska (Photowright Labs on Fireweed, love 'em) that could get my slides back to me in 3-4 hours instead of 2-3 weeks. It was like the photo fairy has sprinkled her magic dust all over me! Reminiscing about those magical old days has really got me thinking about how technology has changed things for artists in general and specifically for photographers like me.

Take this morning for an example. The birds in my back garden feed pretty heavily between 7-11am, thus I'm pretty active at the camera stand during those hours (see my blog posts for the on-going saga of "the blind", link below). As the morning went on I would shoot, switch cards out and continue shooting while downloading and running images through CaptureOne. I'd shoot a little more, switch cards, run the keepers through my Photoshop template actions for my CafePress greeting cards. Shoot a little more, keyword, upload, create descriptions, shoot a little more. So, in those three hours I was not only able to capture my little friends feeding and grooming but process the images, catalog the images, create products out of them and have them available for purchase all within (literally) minutes of the images being captured.
Despite all the changes that have taken place in the process, the motivation is still the same:

I love what I do!

If the light goes to crap (what a concept here in England) I'm able to take my hands off the camera and simply enjoy the starlings trying to get to the suet feeder while the "yard boss" robin runs them off. I can laugh as the green finches never give up trying to crack safflower seeds even though they can hardly get a single one into their beaks! Yes, I'd love to be able to pay my bills with the money made from stock image fees and product sales, but I'd still be doing this anyways.

We've come a long way, baby.



Monday, March 12, 2007

Great Visit to London

One of the great things about being active in some sort of community forum is the ability to network with folks and make new friends. I belong to a particularly active and most useful forum called the Online Visual Artists Forum run by the lovely Sarah out of Seattle, Washington. Through this group I was fortunate enough to become friends with Mr. Paul Helm.

Paul is one of a handful of old-fashioned honest-to-goodness print makers using traditional methods involving such items as plates, ink and presses (like, no electricity or CPUs). He and a group of fellow printers had the ability to have a gallery show in London and I was invited to attend (and I said YES of course)!

So, Saturday found Jill and I driving down to Epping to catch the Tube into London. Morely Gallery is just a short walk from the Lambeth North tube station and the Imperial War Museum and a 5 minute walk from the south bank of the Thames River and the London Eye.

We met Paul who was not only nice as could be but also took us on a tour of the print making facilities of Morley College where he creates his masterpieces. Here's a photo of Paul and I (he's the distinguished looking chap on the right, I'm the pale hobbit-ish bloke on the left) in front of his display area.

Be sure to visit his website to learn more about him and his art, fantastic stuff. An incredible day topped off by incredible weather and my first ever serving of fish and chips at the Three Stags Pub. Highly recommended though you might want to take your cholesterol medication just before eating.



Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The blind: one step closer

While sitting in front of the square-eyed devil known as my computer a wave of realization came over me.

Birds are cool.

Most of the people I know would agree but have already conjured mental images of bald eagles, red tail hawks and the like. I'm referring to the little guys that are coming in ever-increasing numbers to my back yard feeding station.

Blue tits, robins, sparrows, blackbirds. THOSE birds. Plain old ordinary residents of everyday backyard feeders. If you have the time and can sit and watch then, it can be quite a laugh.

Our yard has what I refer to as a "yard boss" and he is the smallest of the three robins I see regularly. But there is no doubt that HE is the boss, HE controls who comes and goes to the feeder from his perch on the bird bath. He squawks, he jumps, he flitters and chases if he were a child of mine I likely would have tied him to a tree just to hush him up. He is quite comical to watch when he gives chase to a blackbird 3-4 times his size AND WINS.

They say that when you pet an animal it releases 5-6 different pleasure hormones and helps lower blood pressure. I haven't given bird-petting a go but I will say that as the "yard boss" does his thing and the blue tits burst into a furious fit of movement (see photo) all seems right with the world for just a moment, and sometimes a moment is all you need to make it through the day.



Monday, March 05, 2007

A Fine and Pleasant Misery

One of the greatest authors I have ever had the pleasure to read is Patrick McManus, a fine writer who creates books about his youth with titles like "They Shoot Canoes Don't They", "Never Smell a Gift Fish" and my long time favorite "A Fine and Pleasant Misery".

I mention this as I had the distinct pleasure to finally go camping (if for only one night) in the fabled woods of England called Thetford forest. As if that wasn't exciting enough (for me at least) it was also the first night camping for many new Boy Scouts that had made the transiting from "cub" to "boy" and were now entering the world of the boy-led camping world (and all that one might imagine that entails).

Having just endured a week of stuck-on-the-couch illness I figured a night in a tent would either cure me or kill me and at the moment either was a welcome option. Suffice it to say I survived with nary a scratch and was pleased beyond reason to discover we hadn't missed the total lunar eclipse. Best of all, everyone lived although the kids with wet sneakers (trainers) weren't all that pleased about it. When asked by my wife how it was I remember thinking it wasn't quite a "fine and pleasant misery" but it certainly had potential.



Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Blind: a work in progress

Photographing military aircraft or the aurora is much easier than photographing teeny-tiny birds. Even the bigger ones are wiley and smart with eyes like eagles (duh James).

While not a fantastic shot, this is an example of how close I'm able to get to our resident red-legged partridges (called Frenchies by the local farmers). My office has 2 large doors that open onto the back yard and with the air of curtains and some clamps I'm able to create a "blind" of sorts to view the action.

With spring approaching, more and more visitors are showing up. Earlier this week we saw a pair of great spotted woodpeckers. My youngest daughter was watching blackbirds in the bird bath when she said one of them "looks wrong" and upon closer inspection I realized why. Improvements on the blind are planned, will advise when there is more to report.

I should also let you know that more and more images are being added to the fine-art print galleries. Having recieved works from this fantastic e-commerce partner I can say with utmost confidence that you will LOVE the results. If you're looking for something extra special consider ordering a print on canvas. Incredible. something you'll pass down to your children.



Wednesday, February 21, 2007

People People Everywhere!!!!

Crowds. Ick. I am NOT a city guy by any means, I'm much more comfortable in the middle of nowhere facing the elements with my wits and a small survival kit than I am a tourist map and urban canyons.

So finding myself in the middle of London during the Chinese New Year celebrations left me a bit... wanting. Mostly for solitude.

We had taken our family to London for the day so you might imagine how a parent with two little ones dealt with the crowds. Mostly by afflicting the girls with the grip o' death among the swarming masses of humanity. This was also my first real trip into London (I had arrived at Heathrow 6 months ago but promptly boarded a bus for new diggs in Norfolk) so I was attempting to take in this historic city in between glances around me to find the little ones. I must say it is an amazing place and one which I plan on documenting in my own way at a later date (sans children and crowds if I have my way).

Since this wasn't a "working" trip photography was a second-tier activity but I was able to get an image or two which lent themselves to my artistic interpretation of the day and have just been released as a short series of blank greeting cards. We'll see if subsequent trips to the urban jungle produce similar results. Hopefully without the whole of England along as well.



Sunday, February 11, 2007


With great joy I announce the publication of my book:

"Unique Imagery From Around the World: Stories and Techniques Behind Their Creation"

Filled with some of my favorite images from Alaska, the Azores, China and Venice, Italy this book endeavors to let you in on what happens behind the scenes of a single image. Weather, culture, technical considerations, the whole lot.

More information as well as excerpts from the book are HERE!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Bring on the Snow!!!!

As you may or may not have heard, England is suffering from one of the biggest snow falls in 4 years.

Well, most of England is.

Knowing that chance favors the prepared mind and that mine is nice and new (I keep it in a box so I don't use it un-necessarily) I set up Jill's nifty little Canon S3 on a tripod in hopes of recording a series of images showing our yard filling with with a glorious gift from the clouds.

And yes, the titles are on the correct images.

The top photo was at 9:30am. The bottom one at just before 11 as I returned from my accountant's office.

The kids got out of school early.

They had a 2-hour delay today.

They got sent home just after being picked up.

There is LESS snow in my yard now.

I love the Brits but they don't know JACK about snow.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Notecard sets now available

Mother knows best. We all have heard it over and over again but for some of us (me) it takes a couple of hard knocks to the head for me to listen sometimes.

My Mom has told me numerous times how she wished she had a certain image on a notecard. Mom is a big fan of cheering people up by sending a card with a simple message inside. In this day of instantaneous communication using modern technology the art of hand-writing a card or letter is becoming a lost art (and a sin I'm blatantly guilty of).

Finally realizing yet again of just how smart Mom is I have begun releasing a series of notecards featuring my images in full-color on the front and a "ghosted" black and white image inside. Each package contains 6 cards as well as envelopes and are available in a growing number of designs. If you have a favorite image you's like to see on a card simply let me know!



Monday, January 29, 2007

Birds of a (different) feather

Photography is a lot of things but stagnant probably is a poor choice of descriptive terms. Technology is constantly changing the equipment we use, the film we prefer as well as the subjects we choose. While in the Azores I became a great fan of cultural festivals which included Holy Spirit parades and bullfights.

Bullfights are scarce in England.

Birds, on the other hand, are not. Even in the course of the winter season there is a plethora of both big and small feathered friends about the property. So, adapting to what has been presented me, I have began in earnest to photograph my littlest friends.

Late last week I was working on capturing a very active resident of the property feasting at the seed feeder. The Great Tit (Parus major) is a small bird with vivid yellow breast covering and moves with great speed. Setting a position to photograph from is greatly eased as they feed just outside my office doors that lead into the garden. Closing the curtains and applying a couple of clothespins and I have an instand blind which also allows me to coma and go at will.

During this session a subject suddenly presented itself, a bird of a different color, so to speak. Skimming just above tree-top level came a pair of RAF Apache Longbow helicopters, the same kind that recently participated in the extraordinary effort to rescue to downed British soldier. Quickly shifting from one bird to another I was able to get one frame of the helo before it disappeared behind another line of trees.

Then the Great Tit, as if missing the attention, chirped and sang while on the feeder. Posing for me.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Happy Happy Happy Joy Joy Joy!!!!!

There are times when being a photographer is exciting and the basis for campfire stories: hanging out of helicopters and airplanes, navigating avalanche-prone mountain roads or avoiding an angry mama moose.

But most of the time its work, work, work. Keywording images for stock publication distribution (boring). Cleaning camera equipment or backing up image libraries (more boring). Filling out paperwork for governments or accountants (the worst).

Somewhere in between those two extremes is time spent creating designs based on the images captured during the exciting times (made possible by the work done in the boring times). Yesterday I was in front of the dual-screened devil known as my computer creating note card designs and as usual took a short break to peer through the curtains into the backyard to watch the birds at the feeder. My spirit soared with delight at the sight of fat fluffy flakes of SNOW falling from the sky.

Just a couple of posts previous to this I had lamented at how my winters seemed doomed to be remembered as the time of extreme rain and wind storms instead of lawns filled with the main ingredient of a well-built snowman. Now, a million unique designs a minute were washing away my cares. I was rejuvenated.

Design on, photographer. Design on.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Could it Really Be....

There's a nasty rumor floating about that there might actually be some white, fluffy-type precipitation coming our way over the next couple of days! That would be simply marvelous since I have both daffodils and snow drops blooming.

My guess is it will never equal the massive dump we saw on Saint Patrick's Day in Anchorage but at
this stage anything would be a welcome change. I should also mention that the SEE ROCK CITY birdhouse in the photo was supplied by my Mom who was kind enough to send me another one for my garden here in England. LOVE YOU MOM!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

When the Wind Blows

Winter to me used to be snow, snow and snow (and not necessarily in that order). With those three magical ingredients you could become occupied for hours making snowmen, quinzee shelters or pelting the city busses with snowballs. But for the last 2 years (and perhaps the next three) winter has taken on another meaning.

England is the second island I have lived on that is in the Atlantic Ocean. Despite being a 4-hour plane trip north of the Azores, winter here seems to be the same as it was there: windy and rainy. This morning just around 8am there have been wind gusts of 99mph reported at the Needles on the coast south of London. The winds here have picked up greatly and torrential rain squalls are frequent. Polar winds are to follow the storm but I'm not getting my hopes up for any form of wintery precipitation. In fact, if you were to peer into my head when someone says winter you'de likely see this image flash into my brain. Storm battered coastlines appear to have replaced snowmen.

Experiencing life around the world is part of the life we lead and because of this we can bring you such images. We continue to meet fascinating people and make great friends and often we both wax and wane about the "good old days" when winter meant snow. What will it be like when my kids are grown I wonder?

To view the image shown in various framing and matting options, click the link below to be taken to my ready-to-hang fine art print gallery:

Storm Sentinel



Tuesday, January 16, 2007

How Strange Art Thou, oh Weather?

Is the weather crazy where you live? Well it is here in England. According to the folks who track the weather this is the warmest winter in a couple of centuries. Trees budding, bulbs springing and I'm having to contemplate getting that darn lawn mower out.

From the news it sounds like the "typical" weather of my childhood has reared its ugly head in the States with my mother-in-law reporting 7 inches of snow and -10F temps in Nebraska.

It may be hard to believe but strange weather can often give you fantastic results with your camera if you seek out the opportunities.

This image is from the forthcoming image gallery of amazing cloud images I have collected over the past few years. When strange weather happens at odd times the sun is often in a different position than it normally is when this type of system develops giving you a chance for a rare series of images.

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