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The Sycamore Steam Show

Working Hard - Steam driven thrasher being loaded with hay.
Working Hard – Steam driven thrasher being loaded with hay.

A delightful display of early steam driven farming implements is presented every year on the Taylor Marshall Farm in Sycamore IL. The Northern Illinois Steam Power Club had its first membership meeting on February 16, 1957 at the Halverson’s Implement Co. in DeKalb IL.  J. I. Case Company showed a motion picture “When Steam Was King” to 150 people, led by Rupert Jordan and Chuck Taymond.  Rupert Jordan was elected president and the name “Northern Illinois Steam Power Club” was officially adopted. 49 people registered for the membership.

Inside a steam boiler
Inside a steam boiler

The first Thrashing Bee for the Northern Illinois Steam Power Club was held at John Allen’s Corners in Hampshire.  The 50th Annual Threshing Bee occurred in 2006.


The clubs purpose of the show is to be known as a friendly place among beautiful shade trees to visit and exhibit.  A large Vilter Tandem Compound Corliss Stationary Steam Engine and Ammonia Compressor has been operational since 1999

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Close-up of the rotating wheel on the Vilter Tandem

The show was held for 4 days.  On the last day I went there to photograph some of the machines.  It was fascinating and I got some interesting shots.  Besides the steam engines, there was a small group exhibiting WWII equipment.  We had a discussion with one of the presenters who was a tank operator back in the day.

WWII Ambulance
WWII Ambulance

There are some interesting pictures and comments on the clubs Facebook page

The official Northern Illinois Steam Power club windmill
The official Northern Illinois Steam Power club windmill

The Farm Yard

The Farm Yard
The Farm Yard

Finally finished “The Farm Yard.”  Typical setting of Midwest farm scenery this image is similar to the Primrose Farm in St. Charles IL.  See the previous post “Primrose Farm” September 21, 2014 for the description of this restored 1930’s working farm.  Why the interest in painting a barn picture?  Well, agriculture has always been one of my interests.  When I worked at Case Corp. a few years ago, I studied soil types and weather conditions then applied the knowledge to building a database for field recording of soil samples and crop conditions.  Today I realize there are quite a few farms converted into parks and museums and wondered if urban sprawl may be a reason.  Is there a decline in farm land in Illinois?  Here are some facts on agriculture in Illinois.

Some 80% of Illinois is farmed with 2/3rds in row crops such as corn and soybeans and 1/3rd in pasture, forage crops, orchards, and woodlots.

From the 1880’s to the 1930’s, a succession of innovations came into use to transform the pastoral farmscape by these introductions:

Higher yields. From animal husbandry to mechanical equipment,  fertilizers and hybrid varieties of corn causing yield from 50 to 120 bu/acre fron 1940  to 1990.

Different crops.  Addition of soybeans and reduction of wheat, oats, and hay.

Fewer kinds of major crops. Production of orchard fruits and vegetables for the canning industry with orchard acreage.

Fewer animals. Livestock (especially hogs) became a specialty crop, less as part of ordinary farm operations and replaced by factory-scale facilities. Livestock remains a significant income-producer mainly on land less favored for row-crop agriculture, such as the hilly districts of west and northwest Illinois.

More use of chemicals. Low-cost nitrogen, and herbicides. Today more than 96% of all cropland in Illinois was treated for weeds at least once each year.

The most permanently destructive of agricultural Illinois land is urbanization. Farming became untenable even on land that is not yet built upon. Increased traffic on narrow rural roads makes it harder to move machines and material to fields; field drainage can be disrupted by construction on adjacent land; vandalism and complaints from nearby residents about farm noise, dust, and smells are common.

It has been estimated that 17 of Illinois’ top 20 farming counties are located in or adjacent to urbanized areas. The population in Illinois increased from 6 million in 1920 to 12.9 million in 2014 or an average increase of 7% per year.

The Northeastern Illinois Planning Commission estimates that between 1970 and 1990 the population of the six Chicago-area counties grew by 4%, while the amount of urbanized land expanded by 51%–a net land consumption over the two decades of more than 360,000 acres. Today, cities only occupy 1/7th the land, conversion of farmland to residential use impinges on the state’s ability to meet future demands for food.

Farm Yard – In Progress

Farm Yard In progress
Farm Yard In progress

Didn’t quite finish the pastel.  I stopped and thought I need to add something to the foreground.  I decided I should add a farm animal like a cow or something .  Maybe a fenced in area with a cow?

The picture above shows the sides taped.  This is to prevent pastel dust migrating to the framing area.  The actual sand paper is 16″ x  12″. The tape masks off some of this area leaving a 12″ x 9″ area to work with.

I should be able to finish this up this week.  Later….

Back to the Farm

LRG_9062 WC Block FB

The outing to the railroad museum was cancelled last Saturday afternoon due to excessive heat.  I didn’t do much in photography other than prepare images for possible expositions.  In lieu of that I decided to start a pastel of a farm yard.  In particular, the Primrose Farm in St. Charles, Illinois where we did a photoshoot there a few weeks ago.

I haven’t done any painting so far this summer since it was rather nice outside photographing and hiking.  As a result I sketched the farm on a 9” x 12” sandy paper for pastels then added water color for the background blocking. Now I’ll have to add the pastel layers.

One of my blogs “Studio Photography” mentioned a Promaster LED Lighting Wand for $300 which I used for a close up of a rose.  The light did a good job a couple of feet away.  Looking at the specs, however, I didn’t quite understand the relationship to wattage and lux!  The light puts out 116 lux at 10’ at maximum power.  Is there a wattage equivalent I asked?  I found these tables on  The tables show the typical luminous efficacy for various light types, a lumens to watts table, and a lux to lumens calculation along with the math formulas for deriving the results. One formula is lux and square feet to lumens or lumens = 0.09290304 x lux x (square feet).  For the 166 lux lamp that comes out to lumens = 0.09290304 x 166 x 10 2 = 1542 lumens.  According to the lumens to watts table 1500 lm = 100 watts!  That’s not too bad at 10 feet.

Man Ray (Emmanuel Radnitzky)

Emmanuel Radnitzky
Emmanuel Radnitzky

Radnitzky grew up in New York City where he studied architecture, engineering, and art.   He became a painter about 1911.  In 1915 he met Marcel Duchamp and they formed a group of Dada artists.

The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows 1916
The Rope Dancer Accompanies Herself with Her Shadows 1916

Man Ray moved to Paris in 1921 and was inspired to experiment with many types of media including photography.  He rediscovered how to make images without a camera called photograms.  He called photograms rayographs made by placing objects on light sensitive paper which he exposed to light and developed.  (Note of interest:  I did the same thing when I was in high school but wasn’t told the process was called photograms.)  He published a book in 1922 of his collection of rayographs “The Delightful Fields”. In 1929 he also experimented with the technique of solarization which is exposing a negative and part positive with a print or negative to a flash of light during development.

Les Champs délicieux 1 1922
Les Champs délicieux 1 1922

During the 1920’s and 1930’s Man Ray pursued fashion and portrait photography of the celebrities of Parisian cultural life.  His photographs were published in Harper’s Bazaar, Vu, and Vogue.  He also experimented with short video clips where he directed a number of influential avant-garde short films known as Cinéma pur.

Man Ray moved to Los Angeles, CA from 1940 to 1951 due to the Second World War.  While there he concentrated on painting.  He married an American dancer, Juliet Browner in 1946.  His exhibits of the Shakespearean Equation Series were held at the Copley Galleries in Beverly Hills.  A book of 38 pages with 248 illustrations is available at

Man Ray returned home to Montparnasse in 1951. He continued to work on his paintings, and published his auto-biography in 1963 – titled “Self-Portrait”.  Man Ray passed away in his studio in France at the age of 86.


Taking Photography to a New Level

Days End - A photographic collage
Days End – A photographic collage

The tools needed to post process your photographs may be used to modify images to give them more impact, add emotion, and bring attention to your work.

Off Road Geese DSC_1906 FB

If the tools allow layers such as the various Photoshop apps, ON1, Gimp, NIK, etc. you can cut out, combine, and blend images.  Note Gimp and NIK are free if you’re concerned about cost and do a great job.

In Days End above, a white background sized for a full frame image, started the 1st layer.  The 2nd layer added a cropped lake with waves, then enhanced with ON 1.  A clouds texture with reduced layer opacity was applied for the 3rd layer. The 4th layer is a photograph of a rocky shoreline with a misty ocean where the ocean was blended using Photoshop mixer brush tool. Geese were cut out from a plain photo using Topaz Labs Remask.  (Topaz does a great job of masking photos.)   The cutout geese were converted to black and white in Silver Efex Pro before applying them for the 5th layer.  For the final layer a Photoshop grass brush was used for the foreground and polished off with a dark vignette to enhance a foreboding emotion.

A simpler process but intensely emotional is “Foreboding Skies”. The photograph of the geese flying over the tree tops was converted to black and white using Silver Efex Pro.  ON1 Perfect Effects was incorporated to supply two textured images.  One was an ON1

Foreboding Skies
Foreboding Skies

texture called “Earth” at a reduced opacity and another texture layer overlaid the “Earth” layer, also with a reduced opacity.  The image then added a vignette layer to darken the edges. The trick to using textured images is changing the opacity and using layers effectively to achieve what you are looking for.

 We Are Here
We Are Here

“We Are Here” was an interesting challenge.  I needed to make my own texture to create the new image.  I took a very small cut out of a section of the cannasol lily and resized it to full frame size. ThatCannasol Lily Showing cutout area FB action produced a very grainy image which was modified by adding soft dynamic contrast, strong noise reduction, and reduced saturation of red and yellow in ON 1 Effects producing a more pleasant image.  I then created another layer with overlaid reduced opacity place mat fabric texture.  Another layer of a reduced opacity texture of clouds was applied. Finally a light straight rain layer was added.

An image of gazania flowers were cut out with Topaz Labs Remask then placed in the bottom corner of the image. The final touch I used the grass brush from Photoshop below the flowers.  This brush is interesting because repeated clicks of the brush cause the grass to paint in a new position.  It not only uses the chosen color but also blends the background colors when it paints.

Lady In White
Lady In White

I also wanted to create a high key photograph.  I photographed a macro shot of an orange and yellow rose then converted it to a black and white image using Silver Efex Pro.  A little fog was selected to soften the image somewhat with contrast and brightness adjustments. I also selected Agfa APX pro film type which produced an excellent rendition, after that, a white vignette was applied.

Eliminate harsh shadows and create a bright environment to achieve high key. Using a camera, shoot between 100-200 ISO in a bright environment with an f-stop that’s high enough to give a bright scene but remember the lower the f-stop number the shallower your depth of field will be.

The development of layered images, cut out, and assemblage takes time, patience and practice.  I mean lots of practice!  Not all photographs will work but with persistent attempts you will discover your own art form.

Making 3D Images from My DSLR


Garfield Farm and Museum 4” x 6” Stereo Card
Garfield Farm and Museum 4” x 6” Stereo Card

The June issue of PSA magazine has several articles on stereo photography detailing what it is, the various equipment one could use to create their own stereo photographs, and techniques. I latched onto the “Beginners Guide to StereoPhoto Maker” by Andrea L. Shetley, FPSA. From this article I went out with my camera and took two pictures. One for the left eye and one from the right eye. I did this by snapping a frame with my weight on the left foot then shifted to the right foot to snap the second frame. Now I have two images one left eye image and one right eye image. I downloaded StereoPhotoMaker from and created an analglyph with my two images. An anaglyph has two aligned images in blue and red superimposed for one image.

Analglyph of Lake Marmo at the Morton Arboretum
Analglyph of Lake Marmo at the Morton Arboretum

You need one of those blue and red viewing glasses to see the 3D image correctly. I made mine from an old pair of glasses by coloring the right lens blue and the left lens red with Sharpie permanent markers.  I wanted to buy red and blue clear plastic sheets to make my own pair but couldn’t find them in the local brick and mortar stores.  After viewing the image and seeing it worked I went searching for a viewer.

I bought a viewer “Loreo Z-GL2001-VAA Deluxe 3D Stereo Print Viewer, Multicolor” from for under $30. This would have to be a lot better than straining my eyes through those colored lenses!

Loreo Z-GL2001-VAA Deluxe 3D Stereo Print Viewer, Multicolor
Loreo Z-GL2001-VAA Deluxe 3D Stereo Print Viewer, Multicolor

This system uses 4” x 6” maximum size cards with two 4” x 3” images side by side. By using the StereoPhotoMaker software I separated the anaglyph into two separate images and printed out the card.  Looking through the viewer is easier on the eyes and clearer 3D viewing in place of the colored lens glasses.

You can also buy a 3D camera or for certain models 3D lens attachments.  Many 3D cameras are unavailable and hard to find from a store.  You might have to buy used. Amazon has 3D attachment lenses for Canon and Nikon.  The Nikon is $190 at  I shortened it using Owly because it is a long one.  A DXG 3D Camera is available on the cheap for $90 on Amazon at Maybe I’ll get one or the other in the future.

There is a simple PDF document “Basic Principles of Stereo Photography, using a single camera” from the following link  It will explain in more detail what to do.  A good idea if you use a single camera is to buy or build a slider so that you can more accurately move the camera for the required distance. You can find a table for proper distances on this page for the article “SHOOT 3D with ANY CAMERA.”

From my “Studio Photography” blog, recall that I used the All in one LED 24 inch cube photo light kit with two Egyptian like objects.  Macro shots like this one and closer require smaller linear camera movements to get a good working pair of images.

I discovered if I saved a .jpg file of the card processed in SterophotoMaker, I can open it in Photoshop to copy each image and resize them to 4” x 3” vertical images and move them to a 5 x 7 canvas.  After printing I would trim it to the 6” x 4” size.

egypt stereo card FB

Finally, the best tutorial on how to use StereoPhotoMaker at because figuring out how to use the software would otherwise be a long process.  Alignment of the images is very important to get a good 3D effect and this program does a good job of it.

Studio Photography

F5.6 at 1/125 sec. and 3200 ISO
F5.6 at 1/125 sec. and 3200 ISO

I took the opportunity to photograph indoors with lighting demonstrations by PROCAM Photo & Video Gear in Aurora Illinois with the Chicago Chapter of the PSA.  To say the least, it was a blast. All the lighting for the models used two daylight equivalent lights with softboxes. On one setting a LED ring light was used. All of the lighting used various types of stands.  Studio lighting was offered as kits with various size softboxes from about $150 on up.  Macro photography demonstrations used LED and fluorescent lamps and a self-contained tabletop light box.

Nikon D610 F5.6 @ 1/125 Sec. and 8063 ISO
Nikon D610 F5.6 @ 1/125 Sec. and 8063 ISO

The cute dog used a 9’ x 12’ green background with two softbox daylight corrected lamps set at about 45 deg. The dog rested on a table top. Although the lighting seemed bright, the lamps were about 250 watts or less.

The girl posed in dance movements on  a very large seamless arctic white paper floor to ceiling backdrop.  The ceiling is about 15 feet high. Two soft boxes on either side where the left was at 45 deg to the model with the right lamp stand moving anywhere between 30 to 60 degrees from the model.  Just off center to the left of the model was a 6500K LED ring light usually used for Macro shots but here it was used as a fill in light.

LRG_8900 FB
Nikon D610 F5.6 @ 1/125 Sec. and 8063 ISO

A swinging door with red barn on one side and light colored roughhewn wood on the other side was the backdrop prop for the fireman shot.  Here only two softbox LED flood lamps were used at about 45 degree angles with the right stand higher than the left.

Finally there were two tables for macro photography.  One table was set up with a tube and ring light with flowers and other objects.  Another table used an All in One LED Photo Light kit.

Nikon D610 with Sigma close-up lens on a 70-300 mm zoom lens. F/11@1/25 sec. and 8063 iso
Nikon D610 with Sigma close-up lens on a 70-300
mm zoom lens. F/11@1/25 sec. and 8063 iso

The rose was lit by a” ProMaster Light Wand Handheld Portable Light”.  The light wand is battery powered and outputs 116 Lux at 10 feet (~15 lumen/sq. ft.) at 5600K. It is 24 inches long and is mountable on a tripod.  This lamp is really interesting.  Lux output is not directly related to watts so I can’t say how bright it really is but at two feet from the rose there was enough light to get a gorgeous picture.egypt stereo card FB

The last table was with the All in one LED 24 inch cube photo light kit.  I located a couple of objects from the table for an Egyptian theme.  I shot two pictures a left and a right view so I could experiment with stereo photography.  More of this will be presented on another post!

24 inch all in one lighht cube FB
All in one LED 24 inch cube photo light kit

The PROCAM studio in Aurora Illinois is available for rent for your own photography or your own shows!  PROCAM also offers seminars or events for a small fee to learn more on photography.  See for these events.  The PROCAM web site is at


Preserving History

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Recently members of our camera club and I went to visit the Garfield Farm Museum for a photo shoot.  Garfield Farm Museum operates a large 375 acre farmstead area including woodland, prairie, crops, rare livestock, and the preservation of buildings and farming implements using natural areas and museum management tools and resources.  Garfield Farm & Tavern Museum is the only historically intact Illinois prairie farmstead and former teamsters’ inn being restored by donors and volunteers from over 3000 households in 37 states as an 1840s living history farm and inn museum. It is a Registered Historic Place in Kane County, Illinois.

DSC_0519 FB
Garfield Tavern and House

The red brick neoclassical Federalist style tavern and house is a 2 ½ story building built by T.P. Garfield in 1846. Attached is a 1 ½ story framed annex whose purpose was used as a kitchen, laundry, and storage room for firewood and grain.

1906 dairy barn
1906 dairy barn
1849 horse barn
1849 horse barn

There are four barns standing on the ground, an 1842 hay barn, 1849 horse barn, 1895 grain barn, and the 1906 dairy barn.  The dairy barn is 34 by 84 square feet it and the largest of the four barns.

What's a farm without chickens!
What’s a farm without chickens!

Garfield Heritage Society is responsible for the day to day interpretation of the site and Campton Historic Agricultural Lands owns the bulk of the property. Both groups are responsible for the preservation of the buildings, lands, and history. The two nonprofits depend exclusively on donations and are currently seeking $3 million to complete restoration of the 24 historic structures at Garfield Farm and the adjacent 2nd generation’s 1859 Edward Garfield/Mongerson Brothers Farmstead the project acquired in 2002.


Garfield Farm is in Campton Hills, IL on Garfield Road just north of Illinois Route 38 between Geneva and Elburn, Illinois. It is about 3 miles west of Randall Road, which is at the west edge of Geneva and St. Charles. From Illinois Route 38 turn north on Garfield Road and go about 1/4 mile to the museum’s entrance.

The Garfield Farm Museum is open for drop in tours June – September, from 1-4 p.m. on Sunday and Wednesday. All other times by appointment, year round. (For an appointment to visit Garfield Farm Museum, call 630/584-8485.) Basic tour donation is $3 per adult and $2 per child under 13 years of age. Special events, seminars, and classes have fees ranging from $6 to $500.

Digital Manipulation of Paintings


"Rectangles and Triangles" original mixed media
“Rectangles and Triangles” original mixed media

Sometimes an abstract painting requires using a variety of color concepts.  The mixed media version using foil and photographs I have been working on is interesting. However, I wanted to do more of them.  Instead of redoing the painting or creating new originals, I used Photoshop to replace the colors for each triangle and rectangle.  In this case the interiors were erased completely of their contents and replaced with solid colors.  No longer a mixed media or painting but rather an enhanced digital image.  Two problems have to be overcome: First, the “Bucket Fill” tool doesn’t quite do the job because of all the different shades of the color are present for the seemingly same color. The “Lasso” or Magic Wand” tools take way too much time.   Second, the original brush stroke and canvas texture is removed.  To fix these problems I used a simple paintbrush to go over each area.  When all the rectangles and triangles had been painted, I added a “canvas” texture layer to make it look more realistic.

Brown, beige, and yellow
LRG_8746 II FB
Red, yellow, and black

I replaced the four plus blended colors, and photographs of the mixed media original with just three colors as shown above in the two images.  For the third image shown below I used a monotone theme in shades of green.

If the images were to go up for sale, a customer would be able to choose whatever color(s) and size or type of the print they desire. On Fine Art America, many choices are available for medium from simple glossy paper to museum wrapped canvas and a large selection of frames.

LRG_8746 IV FB

The making of additional images can be made easier now by taking one of the digital images and just do replace color.  However, this caused another problem. Colors that were not included using the “Replace Color” tool remained.  Instead of continuously performing color replacements to handle all the color variances, it is best to start with a clean slate! A good basic solution is to fill all the areas in white and save it as the base.  Then using the base, bucket fill the areas with whatever color(s) you desire. When that is completed, add a canvas texture layer.

Base showing only the foiled lines.

Using a digital base image before proceeding with a project would have been the best thing to do before making the painting.  That would help you to start with a color plan instead of impromptu.