Because of our unusually cool spring, my beloved sakura did not make a showing this year. I drowned my sorrows in the apple blossoms outside my office building, and was even lucky enough to catch a bee:


A pair of curving brick walls topped by some decorative iron rails form a little gateway into the campus’s northernmost quadrangle. The flowering apples relieve the stark metal geometry:

Ring of Flower

End of Term

Warm weather and final exams encourage students to enjoy the outdoors:

Reading Day

Midday produced unexpectedly nice light on this tree:


Everyone’s taking pictures with the restored Alma Mater:


Two Portraits

I don’t do nearly as many portraits with added light as I used to, which means I’m not as fluent as I’d like and it takes me longer to set things up when the mood strikes. Part of that is aesthetic, too; I like to change the color of my lights, and finding the right look may take a bit of thought. Here are two relatively recent portraits with added light.

Deadly Cute

I was flabbergasted when my son not only let his face be painted at a carnival, but enjoyed it. A picture had to be taken. By the time we got home, my back yard was in full twilight shade, and I seized upon a warm/cool color contrast for the image. The key light was diffused with a shoot-through umbrella and had its color shifted with a CTO (Color Temperature Orange) gel. Temperature and mood are inverses of each other, of course: blue is high temperature but “cool” in mood, while orange is low temperature but “warm” in mood. By using the CTO and setting a manual white balance, I could warm the light on my son while shifting the ambient to a pleasing blue, suggestive of the time of day.


For Christmas, my sister-in-law had given my wife a hairstyling device to ease the production of hair buns, and when she tried it out one morning her silhouette screamed “this needs a mantilla.”

Here we see a slight modification of my favorite color portrait look: low-saturation green fill with a hard warm key. As previously discussed, greening up the fill light (1/2 Plusgreen, in this case) prevents the shadowed skin from going magenta, while a warm key (1/4 Color Temperature Straw, a less-red version of CTO) establishes a reference skin tone that is subconsciously applied to the shadow areas as well. In this image, the color combination is also evocative of older color negative film, an appropriate choice for the subject as attired.

I have not yet moved beyond the “bag of tricks” method for controlling color in my portraits. It’s OK for now, but I want to develop more mastery over the medium, so as to let the nature of the subject determine what colors should be used.


A couple months late, here are my beloved crocuses:



No deep thoughts for these. They’re pretty.

Alma Universitatis Mater

The famous sculptor Lorado Taft was the son of a professor of geology at the University of Illinois. While not born in Urbana, he certainly felt a great affection for the city, as he endowed it with two sculptures: Lincoln the Lawyer, currently in a park across the street from Urbana High School, and Alma Mater for the University.

Virtual Reality

In 2012 it was decided to transport the statue to a conservation firm in Chicago for restoration and cleaning. Alma was supposed to be back in May 2013, but the initial investigation found much greater damage than supposed, delaying her return until April 9 of this year.

More Power

For some reason, a few workmen had to jump up and down on the pedestal to align the restored statue. I’m not sure what good that did, but they seemed to be having fun.

Mater Redivivus

As part of the cleaning, a sealant was applied that will prevent re-formation of the green patina. I’m of two minds on this: on the one hand, she looks better in this state, but she stood out more from her surroundings when patina-ed.

Alma, tell us,
All modern statues are jealous:
Which of your magical wands
Got you cleaned to your fine burnished bronze?

– From an idea by my friend Bill Busen, with apologies to Tom Lehrer

Found Objects

When the weather outside is frightful, and my camera is scared to venture out in it, I spend a lot of time in photographic hibernation. On rare occasions something in the house will nudge my muse out of her slumber, like this:

Still Life With Bath Toys

That duck looks hopeful; too hopeful, in fact. When one is made of soft pink plastic and is regularly dunked in the water by unruly children, there’s not much cause for hope.

My bathroom has a skylight, so soft high-key images come naturally there. For edgy light we must wander into my dining room, on the morning after making pizza from scratch:


Love that morning light, strategically filtered by the little semicircle window high in my front door.

No Ragnarök This Year

It took a while, but the unusually harsh cold and snow finally began to depart in mid-February.


Crossing the street was particularly fun, what with young lakes at every corner. These three guys were just about to cross Goodwin Avenue.

Three Happy Chappies

The Krannert Center has an interesting system of drainage for its roof that produced this stalagmite under one downspout. The tip was broken off a few feet away, yielding a sort of miniature ice caldera inside.

Mighty Mite


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