Ron Jensen Photography: Blog en-us (C) Ron Jensen Photography (Ron Jensen Photography) Sat, 27 Mar 2021 18:32:00 GMT Sat, 27 Mar 2021 18:32:00 GMT Ron Jensen Photography: Blog 120 102 Sisters There is a story that goes with the photo of these two yearling Alaskan Brown Bear cubs, and to mean anything at all, it requires being told completely and in sufficient detail, which can be a bit long for Facebook posts, but I think it’s worth telling and reading.

It happened on a day In July, 2012, when Cindy and I were in Alaska on a day trip to the Silver Salmon Creek resort at Lake Clark National Park, to photograph Alaskan Brown Bears.  They are a grizzly gear, although somewhat different in color and about 30% larger than the Rocky Mountain grizzlies.  And boy, did we come to the right place to meet a few.  We flew down from Anchorage that morning on a bush plane, which landed on a narrow beach.  Looking out the window on letdown, it was almost like a feedlot scene in Nebraska, only with bears instead of cows.  The wide mud flats in this area, caused by the monstrous tides, leave a huge area for the bears to dig for clams.  And the great part is that they are so interested in clamming they have no interest in the humans following them around and making photographs.  Provided, of course that you use a modicum of good sense and don’t get so close as to interfere with the clamming.  In which case, you’ll fly home in a horizontal, as opposed to vertical, position.

Also, it’s a good idea, in fact absolutely necessary, to be in the company of an experienced guide familiar with the local bear population and their behaviors.  Our guide was a neat young guy by the name of Scott, who along with his wife, Sage, spent the summers at Silver Salmon Creek, where he’d been visiting since he was a teenager.  The rest of the year, they were both teachers in Seattle.

At a certain point in our wandering around on the mud flats, Scott got a call on his hand-held radio and then turned to us and said, “Let’s go back over towards the lodge.  There’s a yearling cub high up in a pine tree over there, who climbed the tree when a male bear tried to catch and kill her yesterday evening.  [Yep.  Sorry Disney fans, but they actually do that].  Apparently, her sister is on her way to get her down and join up with her.”

Sure enough, after we had walked maybe fifty yards and could clearly see the bear in the tree, the sister broke out of the forest, obviously headed for the treed bear.  She blanched and stopped when she saw us, and Scott, in a calming voice, said, “It’s okay.  You’re fine.  Just come on.”

Amazingly, she did, and by that point the treed sister was scrambling down from her lofty perch.  When she reached the ground, the two touched noses and gamboled a bit, and then were off, not to hunt clams, but to graze on the ample sedge grass that grows on shore there.  It was obvious that the sister who gathered up her treed sibling was larger and most likely the leader of the pack of two.  Scott said that the two yearlings, whose mother had in the spring turned them out on their own, would den up together in the fall and then then in the spring, split up and raise cubs of their own.

But on that day, that was all in future for them, and for the time being, the two would be practically inseparable.  As we watched them graze on the sedge grass, Scott said, “I don’t think the smaller one would make it without her sister.”

As we watched them there that day, I knew I had witnessed something I almost certainly would never see again, and once again, I was struck by how much alike all the world’s creatures are.  Including the humans.



]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Sat, 27 Mar 2021 18:29:22 GMT
It’s About Fathers and Sons (and) Daughters This past Sunday evening on the MLB channel was really special.  It began with a one-hour program, “Field of Dreams 25 Years Later,” followed by the movie itself. The 25 years later program was a fascinating one-hour conversation with Kevin Costner, who said that actors mostly show feelings they are not really experiencing, and if they’re good at it, they’re successful in their craft.  But sometimes they show their true personal emotions, and that was the case for him in the scene where he asks his father if he wanted to, “Have some catch?”

That scene always breaks me up.  As a kid, I spent countless hours playing catch with my Dad in our front yard of the little house I grew up in on south 35th street.  He was never too busy or too uninterested not to accept an invitation to toss a baseball back and forth.  Cordova, the little town he grew up in, like all of them in that era, had a town team, and he was a pitcher.  He enjoyed telling stories on his screwups, but I suspect he was pretty good at it, and he maintained an interest in the game for the balance of his life.  On Sunday afternoons, he enjoyed lying down on the bed, turning on the game on the radio, and then falling sound asleep.  Asleep though he was, if you stepped into the room and turned the radio off, he was instantly awake asking, “Who turned off the game?”

And when we wanted some baseball besides that which could be played in our front yard, we’d head out to Sherman Field, along with the father and son from across the street, and take in a Lincoln Athletics game from the first base bleachers.  That would have been in the Western League, where Lincoln was a Philadelphia franchise.

With that history and my boundless love for my father, I’m never able to get through Field of Dreams dry-eyed, and this showing was even more special in that my feelings also got away with me when James Earl Jones (a decided non-athlete himself) gave his speech about how baseball has always been there – this nation can defy its principles like wiping text off a blackboard, and baseball always helps to bring us together and lead us back to them.  It seemed to kind of fit what we are going through right now.

I was lying in bed at the end of that evening, and I thought about the father and son thing.  I have just one child, my wonderful daughter, Kristi, the horsewoman and school teacher, keeping it western down there in Gainesville, Florida, and I can truthfully say that I’ve never wished to have had more children, including a son.  I regret never owning my own airplane a heck of lot more than I’ve ever even considered not having a son.

And that led me to muse that, actually, baseball has been a frequent ingredient in the relationship that I’ve loved with Kris all these years.  Kris spent part of her growing up living in Alma, Nebraska, and whatever radio station she favored there carried the Kansas City Royals games, and Kris listened to all of them and became a loyal follower of the Royals.  One summer, we took an excursion to Kansas City, and she knew the lineup from memory, but I bought her a program anyway.  It was a great trip.

When she was acting and going to school in Colorado Springs, a spring or summer visit out there would frequently include the two of us heading over to the east side of town to take in the Springs’ triple A “Skysox,” a Denver franchise that played their ball in the highest elevation professional baseball stadium in the U.S.  Speaking of Denver, Kris, her then-fiancé, Leo, and I attended the third game the Colorado Rockies ever played, which took place in Mile High Stadium.  Leo was and is a baseball guy, and like my Dad, always seems to know what the season average is for players on any nearby teams.  Once the Rockies got settled in at Coors Field, I had a ticket connection, and we made any number of visits there to what is one of the truly great ball factories.

When the kids moved to Florida and settled in the Daytona area, we would try each summer to take in a Daytona Cubs (now Tortugas) game at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, where he played his minor league ball.  This is baseball right out of Bull Durham, and we love it.  And it goes without saying that we’ve been to a game at Haymarket Park, to see the Saltdogs do their stuff in one of the finest minor league parks in the country.

Each year, Kris and I exchange greetings on Opening Day.  I still recall that in one of these exchanges, Kris announced that, “The boys of summer are back.”  Something about that line grabbed me and still does today.

Over the past few years, every once in a while, the Booth’s – now including granddaughter Delaney - and the Jensen’s have rendezvoused for a long weekend in one of the country’s more fabled cities, and those trips, which were made even more memorable when Cindy joined the group, inevitably have involved taking in a major league ball game.  Accordingly, we’ve seen the Yankees in their last summer in the original house that Ruth built, watched the Yankees take on the Red Sox at Fenway, and of course watched the Cubs stumble their way through a contst the last summer before the Ricketts family bought the franchise and significantly lifted the club’s game.  A city that’s been on our list for some time is San Francisco, though when it comes that particular trip will probably lack a ball game since they are no longer played at Candlestick.  Like all baseball folks, the Jensen’s and the Booth’s are traditionalists.

Though Kris and I have probably not ever played catch more than two or three times, falling asleep that evening I realized that The Field of Dreams may be about fathers and sons, but just as fittingly can be about fathers and daughters, and how “the game” can be a factor binding and bringing an additional dimension to their relationship.

Sometimes I think about how empty my life would be if Kris had not come along and joined the dance, and on this particular occasion, I also thought about just how much baseball has been a shared interest and passion over the years, enhancing the tie between us.

“I see great things in baseball.  It is our game – the American game.  It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.”

Walt Whitman (you can look it up).


]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Tue, 17 Nov 2020 20:00:32 GMT
The 2020 Election is Over  

The 2020 Election is Over


One of the reasons I’m an official registered nonpartisan, along with some 90,000 other Nebraskans, is that it leaves me quite free to criticize either of the state’s two major parties.  From that perspective I have a couple of observations about the just completed Presidential contest.

My first observation is that President-elect Biden is probably better served by having the repubs hold onto the Senate, which gives him a buffer against the more “out-there” elements of his own party.  Biden and McConnell are old friends, having served and worked together over the period of their joint Senate tenure to fashion reasonable, middle-of-the-road solutions to any number of knotty issues.

In this regard, Biden should consider telling the far-left element in his party – which came damned close to costing him the election – to put a sock in it.  And to the status of the vote counting, does anyone really think the dems could organize a nationwide deep and secret conspiracy to steal the election?  C’mon folks, they’re Democrats.

That said, may I say also that there seems to be among the public a stunning lack of knowledge about recounts and the role of the courts, if any.  This afternoon, I heard on the radio a lady in Tennessee say that she wants to wait until the recount is completed and see what the Supreme Court will say.  Please note: THE SUPREME COURT – SUPREME THOUGH THEY MAY BE – DOES NOT COUNT VOTES NOR RULE PER SE ON THE OUTCOME OF ELECTIONS.  That is a function reserved to the states under the Constitution.  The Supreme Court did get involved in the 2000 election to the extent that they ordered the recount in Florida to end so the state would meet a Constitutional deadline by which the states are required to complete the counting.  It just happened that George Bush was ahead at that point, and that the election was set to go whatever way Florida would wind up going.  Bingo – Bush was President-elect, but note the Court did not choose the winner.  They don’t do that.

What happened in 2000 won’t happen in 2020 because A) Biden will in the end have some 306 electoral votes; B) No state, by themselves, will have sufficient electoral votes that, were they swung the other way, would make Trump the winner – that would require three or four states; C) That would be an undertaking of a size, scope, and cost so as to be virtually impossible.  Nebraska has an automatic recount statute.  Election results that are sufficiently close automatically toll a recount.  In states where recounts are requested – and likely there will be at least two states where the vote will be close enough that it begs to be recounted – the entity doing the requesting is required to pay the state’s cost in conducting the recount, as well as the cost of the lawyers they will want to be observing it.

A word about lawyering.  Attorneys who specialize in the field of election recounts are extremely specialized, extremely competent, and extremely expensive.  There are probably hundreds if not thousands of attorneys who would jump at the chance to participate – for free - as counsel in the recount of a Presidential election, but they’re not the ones you want representing you if you were the party seeking said recount.  And the sad fact is that the GOP and the Trump campaign are pretty much out of money, which is going to be a problem for them. 

I have two rules of politics: It is always changing; it never stays the same, and; Anything can happen.  With that caveat, the 2020 Presidential election is over.


]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) presidential recount Mon, 09 Nov 2020 18:53:31 GMT
The Story of Spot and Skimp The Story of Spot and Skimp

Hi.  My name is “Spot” – short for “Spotted Back.”  I’m a squirrel (the one looking in the window) and I mostly live in a large backyard of a house in South Lincoln.  There are a lot of trees in the yard of the house, so it’s very popular with squirrels.  It’s not unusual to see four or five of us foraging for food dropped from the bird feeders and chasing each other around the yard.

My name comes from a spot on my back, light blond and about the diameter of a cigarette filter.  Because it’s on m back and I’m a squirrel, I’ve never seen it and don’t know or remember how it got there.  I do know that it makes me easy to recognize by other squirrels and also Peanut Man, the man who lives in the house with his wife who also lives there.  He’s a nice guy, and I’ve heard the woman call him “Ron” so that must be his real name, but to a couple of us squirrels, it will always be Peanut Man.  That’s because he likes giving un-salted peanuts to us squirrels if we come up close to him when he’s sitting out on the patio.  He almost always seems to have a supply of them handy to share with us, and especially with me and another squirrel who lives in the same back yard.

That other squirrel’s name is “Skimp” which is short for “Skimpy Tail.”  I don’t know why, but his tail is only about 2/3 as long as the rest of ours, with not that much hair – at least for a squirrel – growing on it.  I don’t know what happened to Skimp to damage his tail in that way, but I know he pays a price for it.  He seems to be the favorite of the other squirrels, with their long, luxurious tails, to chase out of the yard.  Fortunately for Skimp, he’s a good climber and I’ve never seen hem even come close to getting caught.

What’s really neat is that over the past few weeks, Ron has expanded his squirrel feeding program to giving Skimp and me a peanut if we come to the patio door of the house and look in the window.  When we do that, if he is in the den on the other side of the door, and sees us, he’ll usually open the door and drop a peanut on the concrete if we’ll come up real close and look at it held in his hand.  He doesn’t make us take it from his hand, though I know I would if I needed to in order to score a peanut, and I’m pretty sure Skimp would to.

And the other squirrels?  The guys without a spot on their back or a short-changed tail?  They’ll come up on the patio sometimes, just to see if a peanut may have been left there, but get this: they run like crazy when the Peanut Man opens the door.  I know he’d give them a peanut too, if they didn’t run off, but they’re so cool – in their minds – that they run away from instead.

That’s pretty ironic because Skimp and I really do rank at the bottom of the squirrel social register, flawed as we are.  It’s almost like Ron watches out for us just because we’re kind of squirrel outriders and not really accepted by the group.  Underdogs, if you want to put it that way, and I have to wonder if Ron in his life has ever been or felt like an underdog himself.

Whatever, I just hope he keeps the peanuts coming. Spotted BackThe Story of Spot and SkimpSpotted Back Skimpy TailThe Story of Spot and SkimpSkimpy Tail

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Fri, 04 May 2018 18:00:06 GMT
Even Mayday Ain't What It Used to Be When you get to be my age, it's not hard to imagine that simply everything was better back in the day, but having said that, it sure seems Mayday ain't what it used to be.

When I was a student at Sheridan School - before the Cold War got fully to the duck and cover phase - Sheridan had a Maypole and each May 1st, we'd "dance" around it. Assuming of course that it wasn't raining heavily that day. But the McCarthy era, together with the prominence of May 1st in communist doctrine, eventually pretty much took care of that. Don't know what ultimately became of the pole.

The other important first of May used to come at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, when the track annually opened for practice on that day, leading to a somewhat casual contest among the teams to put the first car on the track that year. Most of the competing cars were constructed in Southern California in that era and came to the Speedway on open trailers and only about half completed, leaving the teams to devote the balance of the month looking for the speed necessary to make the field and be competitive. In those years, the motors got the lion's share of attention, the suspension of each of the cars being pretty primitive and pretty much identical. Today, the month-long warmup to the race itself is history, and the teams put in most of their labor on fine tuning the chassis setup along with tire inflation, the engines actually being leased from firms that build them, with the teams actually forbidden to do anything much beyond changing spark plugs.

So, we won't this year be having a maypole for grade schoolers to dance around, and the town of Indianapolis won't be taken over for a month by a group of grown-up hotrodders from the west coast, renting quarters in private homes and working daily to squeeze out another mile per hour or two.

Too bad in a way.


]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Tue, 01 May 2018 19:41:13 GMT
Karen Blixen's Africa Today, April 17, is Karen Blixen/Isak Dinesen’s birthday, in 1885.  If the names don’t resonate, think Out of Africa, the best movie ever filmed (for my money) and the title of a memoir of Africa, written by Blixen under the pseudonym of Isak Dinesen.  Blixen nee Dinesen was born and lived much of her life on her family’s estate north of Copenhagen, but it is her seventeen years spent in Africa that define her for much of the public. 

I fell in love with the Africa portrayed in books in my mid-twenties and was therefore completely prepared – especially as a Dane - to also love the movie Out of Africa, which was released in 1985.  Accordingly, I developed a strong interest in the events and people included in the film.  Fortunately, just about all of the major real-life characters portrayed in Blixen’s story either penned auto-biographies or were the subject of professionally written biographies, and I’ve read them all.  Of the bunch, there’s no question that Blixen was the most fascinating.

After a romance with a distant cousin failed to flower, Blixen married his twin brother, Bror Blixen, in 1915. and the couple went out to Africa to establish a Kenya coffee farm with their families’ moral and financial support.  They purchased land framed by the Ngong hills to set up an estate that eventually covered several thousand acres.  As expansive as the estate was, at an elevation of 7,500 feet, it was a bit high for coffee, and Bror turned out to be much more interested in hunting than farming, as well as something of a rounder.  Accordingly, Karen contracted syphilis – apparently from Bror - after a year in Africa and had to return to Denmark for treatment, which at the time consisted of taking doses of both mercury and salvarsan, an arsenic derivative.

The treatments were successful, and she returned to Kenya pronounced cured after about a year in Denmark.  Though she was apparently clear of syphilis, the disease (or something) ravaged her health for her entire adult life.  She died on the family estate in 1962, reportedly weighing sixty-some pounds at the time.

Bror sought and was granted a divorce from Karen after about a decade in Kenya and Karen subsequently took up with the scion of an English aristocratic family, Denys Finch Hatton.  Finch Hatton was the handsome son of an Earl, a graduate of Eton College and by every account a dashing and charismatic figure.  Where her marriage to Bror was something of an arranged personal and business partnership, Karen loved Finch Hatton deeply, spending some five years in a live-in relationship with him at the coffee plantation.  Throughout those years, however, the fiercely independent Finch Hatton steadfastly refused to marry Karen, causing her a boatload of anguish and grief to go along with the joys and passions of an adventurous and creative romance.

In May, 1931, that romance was coming to an end, with Finch Hatton having moved out of Karen’s house and subsequently losing his life in the crash of his Gypsy Moth airplane at Voi Airport.

The final failure of the coffee plantation – now a museum owned and operated by the nation of Denmark – followed, in 1932, Blixen returned to the family estate for the rest of her life.  She never returned to Africa.

In the book Out of Africa, Karen wrote these words:

If I know a song of Africa, does Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me?  Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?

A failed marriage, a failed deeply romantic relationship, a failed coffee plantation.  One could understand a Karen Blixen who returned to Denmark cynically bitter about her time in Africa, but the fact is that she considered that period the most exciting and rewarding of her life, and viewed the ravages of syphilis the price to be paid for her success in becoming an internationally accorded author.

Africa will do that to you.  I finally got to there, with Cindy, in 2013, and though we visited South Africa as opposed to the too-often-violent and dangerous Kenya, given the time and money, I’d go back in a nanosecond…even to Kenya to visit the Blixen Estate.




]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Tue, 17 Apr 2018 16:47:41 GMT
A Day I’ll Never Forget to Remember September 2, 1945, seventy-two years ago, at the end of the summer between, for me, kindergarten and first grade, the Empire of Japan surrendered unconditionally in a ceremony aboard the USS Missouri.  Thus, a global conflict that had actually been started almost exactly six years earlier, on September 1, 1939 when Nazi Germany invaded Poland came to an end on the deck of a United States Navy battleship.  After taking the lives of an estimated 60 million human beings.

Though the shipboard ceremony was the official end of World War II, it had actually ceased some two weeks earlier, when the U.S. dropped the second of two atomic bombs on a Japanese city, and they decided maybe they wouldn’t fight to the absolute end after all.  In truth, I probably remember the dropping of the bomb(s) more distinctly than the surrender signing ceremony.  And in a way, it’s even more important in that it has been estimated to have saved the lives of perhaps a half million American servicemen, and I’ve always firmly beleived that my cousin, Blaine, could very well have been one of them.

By the summer of ‘45, he already had used up most, if not all, of his chances of surviving the war in the Pacific.  He’d hopscotched across that ocean, making I-don’t-know-how-many landings under heavy fire.  He’d had a landing craft sunk out from under him during one of those landings, wherein he and a buddy decided that instead of waiting around to be picked up, they’d just swim in, a distance of several miles.  And on a Sunday morning that he was assigned to an anti-aircraft gun crew, a kamikaze pilot flew his bomb loaded plane into the company worship service, killing many of his friends and a chaplain that he adored.  When he came to our house for dinner, after making it home in the fall of ’45, he broke into sobs when he told my parents about that incident, agonizing over the fact that because the suicide pilot came in with the early morning sun at his back, the gun crew was unable to acquire him as a target and interrupt his deadly mission.  Today, we might call it survivor’s guilt

Ironically, Blaine’s brother Jerome, was also in the Pacific theater, but stationed in Honolulu for the duration, didn’t really have such a bad war…if any can be good.  Blaine, on the other hand, came home rope thin, malarial, and shell-shocked, which today we’d term PTSD.

But you know what?  He healed.  He got a job, went to work, married, raised a family and lived a fine, useful, and fulfilling life.  A life that might well have been denied him if he had participated in that final landing of the war in the Pacific.  The one that got cancelled.

So seventy-two years ago today, Japan gave up its cruel vision of a world which would live under its conquest after the perfectly horrible death and destruction brought about when the United States unleashed on them a terrible destruction of two atomic bombs, and Blaine got to come home.

Am I morally conflicted about that?  What do you think?

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) germany japan navy poland uss missouri wwii Sat, 02 Sep 2017 13:00:00 GMT
National Dog Day 2016 Originally posted August 26, 2016


Today is National Dog Day, a time to honor dogs, present and past, and all they bring to our lives.  This dog is Cheri, a Miniature (half-way between a toy and a standard) Poodle, who lived from 1963-1973.  She just may be the best dog ever to share my life, but probably did not get the acclaim she really deserved because in that era, she shared the household with Mike and Pat, two truly beautiful matching black and white English Springer Spaniels.  Because "the boys" were flashy pheasant hunting machines and certified characters of the first degree, their adventures and misadventures (twice they "eloped" for two weeks but made it back home hungry but otherwise undaunted) simply got more play than Cheri's marvelous temperament and sterling behavior.

CheriCheri Cheri was calm, loyal, affectionate, absolutely obedient and blindingly intelligent.  She had the house to herself, dog-wise, for the first half of her life, and then had to make room for newborn daughter, Kristi.  That can be a recipe for trouble, but Cheri never, ever growled or snapped at Kris, even when the little girl started toddling, more than once bumping into Cheri, or at least requiring hasty evasive action.

Cheri was truly a remarkable dog and only one of the many who have added so much to my world and whom I have loved and was loved by in return.  Over a lifetime, I've raised dogs, trained dogs, shown dogs, hunted with dogs and field trialed dogs.  Decades ago, I remember a (I believe) National Geographic television special on the history of dogs that included a line talking about the bond that develops between a puppy and a boy or girl "when each discovers that the other is somehow like themselves."  You probably have to grow up with a dog - which I did with my Cocker Spaniel, Taffy - to fully understand how you indeed come to inhabit the same world as a child with a devoted dog as a constant, loving companion.

I once read an author who discussed dogs' "tragically short lives," and that's one of the reasons why these days no dog shares our household (other than occasionally my stepson Nick's bouncy little "cocktail" dogs, Leia and Sara).  Personally, I have reached the point where I don't want to tell another dog a final goodbye.  I recall a few years ago, in a magazine devoted to hunting dogs, a piece about the owner who realizing it was time for his devoted dog to trade this world for the next, took the euthanized animal to one of their favorite hunting fields and buried him beside a little stream.  In recounting his walk back to the road and his car, he stated, "For just an instant, you think you hear the whistle of the Master, calling His dog home."

And in the last analysis, that's how it is with dogs.  In reality, they are all His dogs, sent to this world to grace our lives for the time we get to love and care for them, before they go home.  Once, in a philosophical discussion with a pastor friend of mine, the cleric asked me if I thought dogs go to heaven.  My answer:  How could it be heaven without dogs?

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) national dog day nebraska nikon photography Fri, 01 Sep 2017 18:47:03 GMT
Just What Are You Trying to Say, Anyway? Originally posted May 24, 2016


Back in the spring of 2008, when I was just beginning to get back into “serious” photography, I signed up for and attended a Popular Photography workshop in Durango, Colorado.  I’ve loved Colorado since I was a little boy and we would visit my Denver-based uncle and aunt at their rustic cabin at Eldora in the Front Range.  So when the chance came along to combine my growing renewed interest in clicking the shutter with the opportunity for some quality instruction in one of Colorado’s premier locations, I jumped at it.

The instructors for the workshop were Beth Wald and Tom Bol, both of them very successful photographers with perennial National Geographic contributor Wald perhaps outranking Bol, at least a bit.  But they both did a great job, and the workshop was a fun and valuable experience, the value of which, to me, was probably enhanced because it came at just the right time in my development as a digital – as opposed to film – photographer.

Mesa Verde WeaverMesa Verde Weaver There was one incident, however, during the time we were all together that I found kind of frustrating, involving a photo I essentially “grab-shot” at the gift shop and restaurant at Mesa Verde National Landmark.  At noon, the line for the cafeteria snaked directly past an elderly Native American woman who was weaving what appeared to be a rug on a wooden loom.  I had stowed my equipment, except for my camera, but asked politely if I could photograph her and she agreed. All the while this was going on, the line was moving, so I had to work fast or lose my place and go to the back.  I raised my D300 with the on-camera flash popped up and took one shot, which when I looked at it later, I really liked.  It showed the wonderful cragginess of the woman’s skin, her colorful native dress and displayed to an extent the process in which she was engaged.

At the end of the day, we were to show to one of the instructors what we considered to be our best work that day. This day I was assigned to Tom Bol and showed him the weaver photo along with a couple of other so-so pictures.  I noted for him that the weaver photo was purely a grab shot…an opportunity that fleetingly presented itself that I – well – grabbed.  After briefly criticizing the harsh light from the on-camera flash, he asked me, “What are you trying to say with this photo?”

I was quite taken aback and stammered something akin to “I guess I don’t know.”  There followed a lecture from Tom on the importance of A) knowing what you wanted to say, and B) saying it.  Reviewing it in my mind today, however, I’m sorry I didn’t say something closer to, “Not a darned thing,” which was the absolute truth.  As much as one gets that “saying” question – especially at workshops – I don’t know that I’ve ever made a photo that I wanted to “say” something other than, “Hey, take a look at this.  It’s (take your pick) beautiful, startling, heart-touching, curious, or interesting.” With interesting probably being the best of all. To me, a photo that is not at least a bit interesting is not worth shooting.  And the weaver at Mesa Verde was indeed interesting.

The reason I have not blogged on this previously is absolutely not because I can’t accept criticism.  I usually deserve it, and I can and do accept it.  But I’ve thought that perhaps I was the only photographer who thought like this when it comes to saying something with my photography.  Recently, however, in reading a biography of Dorothea Lange, I came across a quote from Jack Delano, himself a legendary photographer, musician, composer and author, who said, “I have always been motivated not by something inside me that needed to be expressed but rather by the wonder of something I see that I want to share with the rest of the world.


So there you go.  No more complicated than that, and the next time someone ventures to ask what I am trying to say with a photo, my answer will indeed be along the lines of, “Nothing really.”

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) nebraska nikon photography Fri, 01 Sep 2017 18:45:33 GMT
All Are Special but One is More Special than Others Originally posted Mar 14, 2016


Atlantis-displayblogAtlantis-displayblog The Space Shuttle Atlantis (Orbiter Vehicle Designation: OV-104) was launched for the first time on my birthday - October 3rd - 1985, but that's not why it's special.  It went into space a total of 33 times, but that's not why it's special, either.  It was the last manned space vehicle mission, probably in my lifetime, launched from Cape Canaveral on July 8, 2011, and I was there to see it along with my daughter and her family.  And that is why it is so very special.  I wear its mission patch on my leather bomber jacket, and it's framed and matted photograph entitled "ONE LAST TIME: The Final Launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, July 11, 2011," hangs in the entry way of our home.  I'll be the first to admit that it's not a great picture, but It was the last expression of the 30-year space shuttle program, which until it was struck by tragedy, we had come to view almost as routine as an airline flight.

As many are aware, my daughter Kristi, son-in-law Leo, and granddaughter Delaney live on Florida's east coast about 50 miles due north of Canaveral.  And I'd seen launches before from that distance, the first one being a night launch back in the late-nineties.  From that far away, what you see is some flame at the time the rockets are ignited and liftoff, then a long, long contrail which follows the shuttle out of Earth's atmosphere.  For that night launch, we simply went over to the beach, which is straight and un-obstructed all the way to Canaveral, and watched the fireworks.  One thing that you don't hear on television, and I've never heard reported or commented on before, is the huge sonic boom as the ship leaves the earth's atmosphere, generally out of sight by that time.

STS-135_Patch_svgSTS-135_Patch_svg The second launch that I saw was also pretty exciting, coming on the Fourth of July, 2006, when Discovery was launched.   That one came in the middle of the afternoon, and the kids by then had moved 15 miles up the coast from Ormond Beach to Palm Coast.  It was Leo's idea - and a good one at that - for us to drive over to Flagler Beach, and time it so we would be at the top of the high bridge over the Intra-Coastal Waterway at the time of launch.  If you've never seen it, I should tell you that during a shuttle launch, and especially on a holiday, central east coast Florida essentially stops in place to watch the event.  That phenomenon seemed to completely un-nerve a young Flagler Beach policeman, who in driving across the bridge himself, thought that he could somehow throw a little weight around and get traffic moving again with the launch only a minute or two away.

He couldn't, but he did stop to hassle me a bit as I stood leaning against Leo's truck.  "That truck has to move," he said.

"Okay," I said.

"I said that truck has to move," he said.  "Move that truck."

"Not my truck," I said.

"Don't get smart with me," he said, rather forcefully, actually.

At this point, I reviewed my situation and noted that I was on vacation and would be for another two weeks, so what would an afternoon visit to the Flagler Beach police station amount to?  So I stuck my head in the passenger window and said, "Let's review who's getting smart.  You said the truck had to be moved, and I acknowledged that and told you it's not my truck, so who's getting smart with whom?"

By that point, Kris, who was observing all of this, was quite convinced that I would be going straight to jail, but the kid simply grunted and moved onto the next car, which would have been about number 28 in a one hundred vehicle line on the bridge.  But before he could get snarky with anyone else, there it was: the flame and contrail heading northeast out over the Atlantic against a crystal clear blue sky on the Nation's birthday.  And I'll never forget that.

As memorable as it was, however, that experience couldn't begin to match the final launch of Atlantis and almost certainly the final manned U. S. space shot in my lifetime.

We got up reasonably early that morning to head down to the Canaveral Shore National Seacoast, determined to get as close to the launch site as possible.  That turned out to be somewhere between two and three miles on a fairly crowded beach.  Not close enough to seen Atlantis on the ground, but plenty close to see ignition, liftoff, and to track the shuttle vehicle as it headed out to sea on an almost due westerly heading.  The only question that morning was whether the launch would take place at all.  It had originally been scheduled to go the day before, but something - weather or a technical glitch - called for the launch to be scrubbed.  The problem the next day was the weather itself, which was windy, cloudy and overcast...just inside the ceiling and visibility minimums that NASA demands.  And if it couldn't go this day, it would then be some weeks before the involved astronomical window would open again.

I set up a tripod holding a Nikon body and a 600mm lens with a 1.4 tele-converter.  Leo had his compact shortwave, AM/FM radio tuned to Mission Control and was reporting to us - and a group of listening others - on the countdown.  It soon became apparent that this launch crew were more than a little determined to fly that day.  There was a hold at nine minutes for the weather parameters to be specifically assured.  Finally, they were verified as not that great, but "an acceptable risk."  The countdown was resumed at nine minutes and ran smoothly until halted at thirty-one seconds, announced as due to a "failure."  The failure was that the computer would not confirm that the service arm, which swings away from the ship just prior to launch, had been fully retracted, though anyone watching could see that it had.  That was confirmed by "camera 64" and the launch commander announced "Press on."  Yeah, these guys were going to get it done and get it done today.

And they did.  It was estimated that over two million people watched Atlantis depart the earth's atmosphere that day.  Arial photos showed I-95 as a parking lot with cars stopped in all six lanes, as well as parked catch-as-catch-can on the shoulders and filling the medians.  Because of low-lying cloud scud, the shuttle disappeared from view almost immediately after being launched, but then topped out of the overcast, heading straight out to sea.  It remained visible for a long, long time and finally after having disappeared, let us know she had left the surly bonds of earth with the expected sonic boom.  It was truly an experience of a lifetime shared with three of the four humans I love the most.

Because traffic was a crawl all up and down that section of the coast that day, we stopped for pancakes, to let it clear out a bit and talk over the experience.  Something that you just knew without asking, would never be forgotten in any detail.

I'm never confused that Americans live in the greatest nation on earth, although I've never been much of a flag waiver...something I got from my Dad who believed that an excess of nationalism can lead to war, and has.  That said, the final launch of Atlantis that day touched me very deeply, and just reading about it can cause me to have to rub something that somehow gets in my eye.

And Atlantis was special.  As noted earlier, she made thirty-three trips into space with never a hitch.  She held the record for the shortest time between missions, once having been turned around and sent back into space in a period of forty-five days.  She was supposed to have been relegated to a "parts hulk" several years before her actual retirement, but with the loss of two of the other craft in the program, her life was extended until we completely stopped going into space.  In a way they saved the best for last.  And at the end of Atlantis' useful life and the shuttle program itself, she came home.  Though earlier slated to wind up as a static display at a park or airport somewhere, in actuality, Atlantis has been put on permanent display at the NASA museum at Cape Canaveral.

One day - maybe on my trip to see the Kids this spring, I need to make a run down there to see her up close and personal.  I'll have to remember to take along some Kleenex.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) atlantis cape canaveral nasa nikon orbiter vehicle designation ov-104 photography telephoto Fri, 01 Sep 2017 18:41:38 GMT
Cranes In Flight Originally posted Feb 29, 2016


If in Nebraska you are a runner, sooner or later you have to run the Lincoln marathon.  If you are a cyclist, you eventually have to prove that by undertaking and completing BRAN, the Bicycle Ride across Nebraska, which I’m proud to say I did a number of years and several pounds ago.

And if you consider yourself a wildlife photographer – and especially if you want others to do so – sooner or later you have to turn your skills to photographing Sandhill Cranes during their annual visit to the Cornhusker State.

Over a half-million Sandhill Cranes drop in here every March, as they have been doing for millennia.  They’ve wintered south of here and come spring, they leave on their journey as far north as the Arctic Circle to mate, nest, and raise their young.  On their way back south, in the autumn, Nebraska will only be flyover country, as they have no real reason to spend time here on that journey.

The reason they hang around, in the Central Platte Valley, for a month or so in the spring is because Nebraska is and has been for thousands of years a staging area for them.  They stop in here to put on 30% of their body weight and gain strength for the long flight north.  One political wag once suggested in a public hearing, at the Nebraska Legislature, that the cranes are like state senators: they come to town early in the year; put on 30% of their body weight; and, then leave in late spring.

Regardless, the cranes put on a great show for us while they are in residence here.  At night, they are at roost on sandbars and in the shallows of the Platte River, as a protection against predators.  In a river as broad as the Platte, coyotes, foxes and others who might wish to help themselves to a crane meal can’t get close enough to them un-observed to get the job done.  That’s one of the reasons why it’s important to regulate the flows in the Platte to maintain a broad, braided channel, as so many others – people like Tom Mangelsen and Michael Forsberg – have pointed out repeatedly.

Roosting cranes are interesting, but what will really get your attention is when they leave the river in the morning and when they return in the evening.  At those times, the birds can virtually darken the sky, and the noise of their call is almost as loud as a rock concert…something that has to be seen to be believed.

It’s also difficult-off-toward-impossible to photograph.  In the morning, the cranes begin to lift off fifteen to twenty minutes before sunrise, and once there is enough light for a reasonable exposure, they’ve cleared out, headed toward corn and bean fields to spend their day cleaning up what the combines missed or spilled last fall.  And, they’ll return to the river and their roost in the evening, but again, the really massive fly-in, takes place in the minutes after sunset, when picture taking light has pretty much faded.

Photographing cranes in the mid-day fields is also a difficult challenge.  They are not an especially colorful bird, and spring being spring in Nebraska, frequently overcast skies don’t light them up sufficiently for a photo to capture what beauty they do possess.  Also, Nebraska is one of the few states not to have a hunting season on Sandhill Cranes (we did once, but somebody finally realized it was costing our state a load of visitor dollars, plus cranes are, I am told, perfectly dreadful to eat) which makes them extremely wary.  They light in the fields well back from the roads, and if you are going to picture them, you have to have some really big glass, which comes with its own challenges, only one of them being cost.

I’ve been after a great crane photo for about a decade now and have yet to shoot one that really knocks me out, though the one we are putting up on the web site today certainly pleases me, for a combination of reasons.  It was taken standing in the middle of a gravel road, of cranes headed to join colleagues feeding out in a nearby corn field.  Flying birds, of whatever kind, I think are hard to photograph, the major challenge being to get them sharp. They are moving, and assuming you are using a big lens, you could well be shooting them with a shallow depth of field, and those two things along with getting them in a decent composition, is kind of like rubbing your stomach and patting your head.

Cranes in Flight-blogCranes in Flight-blog I was helped in capturing this particular photograph by a well-known professional photographer by the name of Jim Zuckerman.  Jim publishes an electronic magazine that I subscribe to, and ironically, this month’s issue features an article on photographing flying birds.  As it happened, I read the article yesterday morning just before heading out to the Kearney area to take crane pictures.  Jim’s instructions on camera settings were something I’d never tried, but boy, did they work.  What Jim’s method boils down to (and it may be quite common, but I’d never heard of it personally) is to set the camera mode to manual, the shutter speed to 1/2500 or 1/3200 to stop the bird’s motion, the aperture to f/8 to give a reasonable depth of field, and then set the ISO to automatic to get the exposure correct.

So I did it just that way, using my new Sigma 150-600mm with the Sigma 1.4 extender, and voila! Flying cranes, and they are tack sharp.  In shooting these photos, I was especially pleased with the Sigma lens over the Nikon 600mm which it replaced.  I find that it performs just as well – or at least well enough - that I’ll never tell the difference, and it can be handheld, as it was here.  Thank you Sigma.

Now, Jim, if you have any spare ideas about shooting Crane portraits, please bring ‘em on.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) nebraska nikon photography Fri, 01 Sep 2017 18:34:09 GMT
Here We Go Again Originally posted Feb 04, 2016


PolarBearPolarBear伀瀀琀椀洀椀稀攀搀 戀礀 䨀倀䔀䜀洀椀渀椀 ㌀⸀㜀⸀㘀㌀⸀ 砀㤀㔀 ㌀㔀挀愀 When Cindy and I returned from Africa a couple of years ago, I just kind of assumed – and told folks – that I envisioned one more big adventure, and that would be going into the far north to photograph polar bears. It seemed to kind of fill out the trilogy that began with the Alaskan trip – to photograph Alaskan grizzlies – in 2011, and would pretty much take care of my wildlife photography bucket list. Plus, they’re a magnificent animal but one that is in real trouble. Like with all the really cool animals, it seems, if you want to see them in the wild, best be doing it.

But at some point, there was an outbreak of common sense, when I looked at what a polar bear trip would cost, and I decided to abandon the idea. And because my role at the firm will take on a different cast next year, I began to cast about for an alternative venture to send me into my new professional life fully sated.

But actually? None came. Oh, you can drive a de-tuned Indy car three laps at the Speedway for a thousand dollars, and I’d love to, but at 150 mph, it’d be over pretty quick. I thought of going back to Silver Salmon Creek, Alaska, which is totally isolated and we enjoyed it so much, but we’d be going back, and I want to go forward with this undertaking.

Then I got to re-examining some of the research I did on polar bear tours and realized that some of the prices at least, were in Canadian dollars, which makes them about a third less expensive in U.S. currency. And from there, I undertook a whole new assessment of the issue and finally have decided that we can indeed visit the Polar Bears in northern Ontario…I’ll just need to live one less year!

Like with Africa, there are three levels of polar bear adventures, and all of them run out of Churchill, Manitoba, way up on Hudson Bay. The most elaborate ones take you from Churchill by bush plane out to rustic themed lodges surrounded by bear-proof fencing. And like we did at Silver Salmon Creek, you walk out over the tundra - or ride in a four-wheeler towed cart – to where the bears are and get close-but-not-too-close and photograph them.

The lowest level consists of a family that already had a restaurant in Churchill and decided to add a lodge, buy a tundra vehicle and get into the bear tour business. If the choice were to go with them or stay home, I’d agree to go with these guys in a nano-second, but their reviews weren’t quite as good, and they don’t guarantee you’ll see bears.

But as with Africa, there is a middle ground. It’s anything but cheap, but to me makes the most sense for all but the rich and aimless. And that’s what I chose, and I expect that – just like it did in Africa – it will be ideal. In this option, we’ll be staying in Churchill but heading out two days and one evening on a tundra rover, which would be like a school bus on massive doses of steroids. Each of the ten tires on the thing stand at least as tall as I am. There’s an open viewing platform at the rear, everyone gets a window seat (and the windows open easily for photography) there’s a bathroom on board, as well as capacities for cooking and eating. The agent assured me it’s a rough rider, but ideal to go looking for bears in. And, they guarantee you’ll find them!

Some other appealing things about this trip are that they meet you in Winnipeg the evening of your arrival for a dinner and introductory briefing and the next morning fly you to Churchill on a chartered aircraft (which sounds like a Dash-8), as opposed to mailing you a hotel voucher and a ticket on a local service airline. Also, they have available for clients’ use, parkas and boots suitable to the polar climate. So it costs a little – actually a fair amount – more, but we’ll only be doing this once, and we’ll remember the adventure long after we’ve forgotten what it cost.

The trip itself comes in November. That seems a long way off, but I’m sure the calendar will surprise us with how quickly gateway day gets here. The preparations for this trip won’t be nearly so extensive as they were for Africa, especially as you don’t need any specific inoculations to go to Canada…apparently no malaria or yellow fever up there!

From here I only see one problem: The walls of our home and at Jensen♦Rogert are so full of framed photos of lions, leopard, elephant, grizzly bears and wild dogs, that I’m not just too sure where the white bears will go. But I’d bet we’ll find some spaces.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) canada churchill manitoba nikon ontario photography polar bears telephoto tundra Fri, 01 Sep 2017 18:29:07 GMT
V.E. Day Memories Originally posted May 08, 2015 


Our Flag-blogOur Flag-blog Seventy years ago today the unspeakable evil that was Nazi Germany signed a surrender document to the Allied Powers, the U.S., Great Britain, and the U.S.S.R. It was a complete and total surrender, exactly as the Allies had established as an unconditional demand.

I was five years old, and I remember it well.

When I tell people that, I can tell that they wonder about the ability of a then-small boy to recall in any detail an event like this, but that is because you had not lived the total of your conscious existence with “the war” as a major factor in your life.  You had not watched your mother, upon emptying a can of any foodstuff, take both ends out of it and stomp it flat on the floor of the kitchen. The “scrap drive” would later pick it and its cousins up to support the war effort.

You didn’t live in a family that owned a car that was seldom driven due to the fact that you couldn’t get gas or tires for it without ration stamps.  You didn’t hear your mother complain about the proprietor of the neighborhood grocery because she had observed him selling rationed items to certain customers but claiming not have them for sale to others…including her. You weren’t told again, and again, and again, that you could not have, say, a pedal car because they were not available because of “the war.”  You didn’t routinely get around on public transportation.  You didn’t have the experience – which was marvelous – of riding the bus downtown to meet your father when the shift let out at Western Electric (where National Research is now), have dinner across the street at the YMCA cafeteria – which was a great place to eat in that era - take in a movie, and then ride the bus home as a family.

You didn’t watch your father leave for a winter in Chicago being trained for the Western Electric position and coming home to a little boy who had faced a very robust case of the measles while his dad – who was always the chief caregiver in any illness - was away, because of the war.

And you didn’t watch your favorite older cousin come home from the Pacific, rope thin, malarial, and shell shocked, breaking down in sobs as he related the kamikaze caused death of a favorite chaplain.  I remember my mother weeping after he left that evening.

So the surrender really was a big deal…a huge deal in fact.  Huge enough that my father got out the car that was almost never driven to join a community-wide, multi-directional motorcade of honking vehicles, trailing streamers.  We didn’t have any streamers, but there were always old newspapers or candy wrappers on the floor of my dad’s car, and I fashioned some foot-long “streamers” from those, to be trailed from the rear windows of our sedan.   And my dad, who was normally not given to nonsense steadily honked our horn along with the rest of the town.

Seventy years ago – a lifetime, and yet so perfectly remembered.  Remembered not as a hardship – though there were plenty of those and forever heartaches for families who sent a son, husband, or brother off to the fighting, never to come home again.

And yet, when I look back on it, it doesn’t stand as a sad time.  We played soldiers a lot.  I shared the joy of having my older cousins come home on leave…always arriving by train in the middle of the night, to be there in the morning when I woke up.  And how I loved and admired them.  We were a close family, and I was a well-loved and treasured child, and while the war was a monstrous inconvenience occasioning significant sacrifice, my parents – and just about everyone else – were glad to do that.  On every day, to live a life intended to hurry “the surrender.”  And when it came, it was everything.  Absolutely everything.

When my dad came home from his time in Chicago, he brought for my mother a genuine leather wallet/purse specially constructed for ration stamps and tokens.  I found it a few years ago when I prepared her condo for sale after she had been admitted to a nursing home.  It still had some stamps and tokens in it…items she had on V.E. Day – when we got the car out and honked the horn - and would never need again.

What I know is they – and not just the soldiers – were absolutely the greatest American generation.  Believe it.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Fri, 01 Sep 2017 18:23:49 GMT
Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Cordova, Nebraska Originally posted Jul 15, 2015 


Cordova is a small community (about 150 residents) – and a Danish stronghold – some 45 miles west of Lincoln in the southwest corner of Seward County.  Both of my parents grew up in and around Cordova and are buried there along with my paternal grandparents, various aunts, uncles, and cousins.

CordovaOurSaviorsLutheranChurch-blogCordovaOurSaviorsLutheranChurch-blog Now, I’ll be the first to admit that there’s nothing special about either Our Savior’s or the photo, which could essentially be duplicated in communities all over Nebraska.  But it’s special to me, and here’s why.

Up until about a half-century ago, 150 population Cordova actually had three Lutheran churches.  The Missouri Synod of course had their church, while the other two were part of either the “United” synod or the “American” synod.  (You have to be a cradle Lutheran to understand the division, so just don’t try)  In any case, the two congregations were known around Cordova as the “Sad Danes” and the “Happy Danes,” though about fifty years ago now, after the several national synods had merged, the Cordova congregations also got together and built one handsome new church.

During all the years preceding merger, however, Our Savior’s fell in the “Happy” category, and it was my Father’s family’s church.

Over a decade ago, when emptying out my Mom’s condo, I came to realize just how much that truly meant.  In the cleaning out process, I ran across both my paternal and maternal grandmothers’ bibles.  My Grandmother Heers’ (my mother’s mother) bible was in pretty good shape.  My Grandmother Jensen’s bible was literally falling apart.  That book had been carried and read through a lifetime, and folded in it was my grandmother’s newspaper obituary.

Sophia Jergensen (her maiden name) was born in the latter part of the nineteenth century.  She was baptized at Our Savior’s.  A few years later, as an adolescent, she was confirmed into the Lutheran faith at Our Savior’s.  (A family photo from that period shows her to be both slender and pretty)  Not too many years later, she was married to John Jensen II at Our Savior’s, and I’d bet almost anything that they originally met there.  Unfortunately, John died of a heart defect (which I’m sure they could repair today) in the early 1920’s at the age of 47, leaving Sophia with five children, and though she didn’t know it at the time, a sixth on the way.  John was of course buried from Our Savior’s.  All of Sophia’s six children were confirmed at Our Savior’s, and most of them were married there, including my parents.

And finally, in 1948, Sophia – a brittle diabetic most of her adult life – was herself buried from Our Savior’s, a sad day I clearly remember.

Reading that life record of a woman I knew as an even tempered, loving, humorous individual – and a Dane and a Lutheran to her very core – I was struck by how much Cordova’s Our Savior’s Lutheran Church was a critical fixture in her life and her family’s.  Everything important, whether good or sad, seemed to happen or find expression there, and her simple lifelong faith was so very much a part of her nature and being.

Today, memories of Sophia – Sophie - Jensen fade just as Our Savior’s sinks disused into the ground around it.  But as I hope the photo might convey, more than enough of each remain for them to live inside me, today and always.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) photography Fri, 01 Sep 2017 18:18:02 GMT
The Real King of Rock ‘n Roll Originally posted Jun 04, 2015


Last week at the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame awards, one of the presenters spoke reverently of Elvis Presley as the man who “started the whole thing.” That’s impressive, and think how impressive it would be if it were actually true.

Though the Wright Brothers were the first persons to fly a powered airplane in the U.S.A., and Henry Ford the first to sell automobiles at a price that almost everyone could afford, you don’t ever hear either of them being credited with being the inventor of the car or the airplane. That’s because at the time that Ford and the Wrights accomplished admittedly signal achievements in the development of powered automobiles and powered flight, there were individuals and groups all over the world working on exactly the same technologies. Figuring out who was actually the very first person to drive a car or fly an airplane would be impossible and probably doesn’t really make much difference. It’s the same with rock ‘n roll.

If we have to identify who “started the whole thing” most folks who were alive at the time would point to Bill Haley of the group Bill Haley and the Comets. I so vividly remember sitting in the long ago razed Lincoln Theater on a summer afternoon in 1955 ready to see the movie, “The Blackboard Jungle.” Suddenly, the black screen came to light with that driving opening, “One o’clock, two o’clock, three o’clock rock”. I’d never heard music like that before, and for me and millions of other kids looking for a musical alternative to Perry Como, the world of music changed forever, just like that. And Rock Around the Clock made it to number one on the pop charts a full year before Elvis got there with “Heartbreak Hotel,” the number that introduced him to kids everywhere.

But like with Henry Ford and the Wright Brothers, when Bill Haley and the Comets changed their name from Bill Haley and the Saddlemen and fused rhythm and blues (which in much of the south was still known as “race music”) with country western or western swing (if you prefer) to come up with rockabilly or rock ‘n roll, there were other folks out there who were also working on the same venue, including Elvis, Carl Perkins, Gene Vincent, and Jerry Lee Lewis to name but a few.

They all had their breakthrough hits, and Elvis ultimately would become a bigger star and major figure in American music than Haley or any of the rest. But Rock Around the Clock’s nationwide exposure in Blackboard Jungle gave it the instant and universal national recognition that took it right to the top of the pop charts, made it the anthem for a fifties generation, and brought rock ‘n roll into the mainstream of American culture.

Haley, who had a more-or-less chronic problem with alcohol, died relatively young, and to the end of his life argued that it was he, and not Elvis, who had “started the whole thing.” And if it came down to just the two of them, he was right.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Fri, 01 Sep 2017 18:09:56 GMT
Beyond the Sea Originally posted Apr 29, 2015


Having spent my entire life out here on the Great Plains, I was 19 before I ever laid eyes on the ocean…any ocean.  That summer, after July 4th, two buddies and I drove out to California with the intent of getting hired on at the then-new Disneyland for the balance of the summer.  And we did, joining some high school friends who had gone out earlier and were ensconced in an apartment across the freeway in Anaheim.

Because we had hardly any money, we drove more-or-less straight though and arrived late in the afternoon, to take a nap while our friends put in their evening shift at the park.  Then, a sizeable group of us headed down to Laguna to a very hip coffee house for a cursory introduction to life in a beach town.  Between espressos, one of my friends and I walked down the block for my first look at the ocean.  The surf was pretty high that dark night, and the sheer power of it visually knocked me flat.  When the friend asked if I wanted to go down the long flight of cliff-side board steps to the beach, I demurred, but the next day, after visiting the park and getting menial employment, we again headed for Laguna and got seriously acquainted with the Pacific.

That was a lifetime ago, but I’ve never lost my fascination for the sea, and whenever I’m around it, the ocean sort of takes over my visual life.  Whatever else is going on, I keep going back for another look.  The darn thing is so vast that I just can’t turn away from it in my imagination.

Since the kids moved from Colorado to Florida almost two decades ago now, I have had plenty of chances to be around, in, and on the Atlantic.  Their first years in Ormond Beach, their house was a couple of blocks from the beach, and after Delaney came along, when I’d go down for an extended visit, I’d lodge in a funky cottage right on the shore, where I’d fall asleep and wake up to the sound of the surf…assuming there was one that day.

Flagler Beach Morning-display2Flagler Beach Morning-display2

I’ve asked Kris if she ever just gets used to having the ocean at hand – if it ever becomes routine - and she says definitely not.  I liken this to the way those of us who spin in the orbit of the Nebraska State Capitol feel about that magnificent building.  It’s right outside my office window, and I have it in view whenever I’m in my office, but it never fails to fascinate.  I never walk in the door to the place without, at some level of consciousness, thinking/feeling “unbelievable.”

The kids now have moved up the coast a few miles to Palm Coast and also moved inland about five miles from Flagler Beach.  And I love to drive over there and just gaze out to sea and think that if you took off from there in a straight line east, several thousand miles later, you’d land approximately at Morocco.  Think Casa Blanca.

And I just can’t get over that…and never will.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Fri, 01 Sep 2017 18:06:54 GMT
Saying a Few Words for Think Tank Photo Originally posted Feb 04, 2015


I’m pleased to have been selected as a representative for Think Tank Photo, whose products I use and enthusiastically recommend.  If you order a Think Tank camera backpack using the link below, you’ll receive your choice of an accessory for free, and me a very modest percentage of the amount of that sale.

The reason I’m doing this – and trust me, I am not planning on taking any photo trips with the proceeds from this arrangement – is that I have been so thoroughly impressed and very well satisfied with Thank Tank over the past three years.

I have two of their equipment bags, the Airport Security roller bag, which went to Alaska with Cindy and me three summers ago, and the Airport Essentials backpack, which accompanied us to Africa in 2013.  Both of these great bags were purchased from Amazon, and I subsequently gave each of them a glowing review, which they very much deserved.

The Airport Essentials was purchased specifically because it will hold a ton of gear and will fit in the overhead of any “regional jet,” on which we flew the first and the last legs of our African adventure. The bag’s size notwithstanding, it carries two Nikon bodies, four lenses, and assorted accouterments, did not require three men and a strong boy to lift, and has a security cable that can be locked around any convenient object, like an airport bench, making it impossible to snatch and run with.  While it’s not a good idea to go and leave any kind of bag or container un-attended (unless you don’t mind if airport security seizes and blows it up for you), we spent most of a day in Heathrow, and it was comforting to know that I could relax and even doze off without worrying about getting to the bush with nothing more than a camera phone.

The Airport Security also has the cable arrangement.  It will fit in the overhead of a “real” airplane, but if you fill it up, you might need help in getting it up there.  Since getting the Airport Essential, I don’t use the Security for commercial travel, but do use it every time I’m traveling by car, truck, or Jeep.  It won’t hold each and every piece of gear I own, but it’ll come darn close.  Using it, with its padded dividers, keeps gear organized and protected in one place, obviating the need to go through several cases or duffels looking for your favorite lens.

One other Think Tank item that I really can’t say enough about is their cable organizer and carrying case, which I believe now comes in two models.  When I first saw this item cataloged, I tended to view it as overkill, but broke down and ordered it when I finally beheld all of the cables, chargers, batteries, etc. we would be taking to Africa with us.  This case is not that large but had room for all of that stuff in three compartments which, again, made it easier to locate the battery or battery charger I was looking for amidst all of those that made the trip with us. One especially nice feature of this little case is that its lid is clear vinyl, allowing TSA to see what’s in there – if they decide to take an interest – without ever opening it up and stirring its contents into a rat’s nest.  Not that they ever would, mind you.

So that’s my story on Think Tank, and I’m sticking to it.  Use the link below to review and/or to order for yourself any of the fine items they inventory.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) backpacks photography tank think Fri, 01 Sep 2017 18:01:20 GMT
So What’s So Top Forty About DSLR Sensor Cleaning Originally posted Dec 17, 2014


SensorView_XXXSensorView_XXX This year, instead of running my blog on taking better holiday photos for the third year in a row, I decided to see if I could bring more light than heat to cleaning – or not – the image sensor on a digital single lens reflex, for those of you who have them.

I bought my first DSLR in the summer of about 2005, with a substantial background in photography but no practical knowledge whatsoever about digital photography. I’d previously purchased and used for a couple of years a small digital point-and-shoot fixed lens Olympus for birthdays and holidays, and it did a great job with those kinds of photos.  It came with some proprietary photo editing software, and I was flabbergasted that I could do more with that computer program than I ever could three decades ago in my basement black-and-white darkroom…and without ever getting my hands wet.

But the day came when I decided that I wanted to get back into “serious” photography, including wildlife photography, and I knew that would take a DSLR.  I’d been an Olympus single lens reflex guy back in the day but decided that with a few more dollars to play with than I had back in those days, I’d spring for either a Canon or a Nikon.  I finally settled on a Nikon D70 probably as much because I had so wanted a Nikon back in the sixties, when I was a new dad and simply didn’t have the scratch to buy one.  Accordingly, I wound up with something called a Miranda, which went out of business within a year of my purchasing it.

After buying the D70, one of the smartest things I’ve ever done was travel out to Denver a few months later to attend a weekend Nikon workshop and find out just how this digital thing worked.  At that point, all I’d done with the camera was use it on the “Program” setting, and while that turned out some good photos, I knew that I wasn’t beginning to tap the D70’s potential.  What I found out was (duh) in these digital cameras, an electro-magnetic sensor simply takes the place of film in my old Olympus OM equipment.  Everything else was the same!

That very pregnant discovery was back almost a decade ago now.  Since then I’ve shot some 75,000 frames, having traveled literally half-way around the globe seeking “killer” wildlife and landscape photos, and going through several Nikons on the way to my present D3s, Df, and D810.  Early in that journey, I stopped using the Olympus editing program and found my way to Photoshop Elements, which I’m finally giving over for Photoshop CC and Lightroom 5, which is a story in itself and very much a work in progress.

What does this history lesson have to do with sensors?  Just this:  At the time I got into DSLR photography, we, as owners, were cautioned to never ever lock the camera’s mirror up and touch the sensor with anything.  That was a job for professionals, and unwary amateurs who attempted to wipe dust or a smudge off their camera’s sensor were risking scratching the sensor and rendering the camera body pretty much useless, the cost of the sensor being the major component in the price of the camera.

Inevitably, my D70 showed evidence of lint spots on shots with a large white colored area in them, and I decided I needed to get it professionally cleaned.  So I took it over to the camera store where I bought it and told the young lady behind the counter that I needed to have the sensor cleaned.  She politely said she could help me with that right on the spot and proceeded to remove the lens and wipe off the view finder mirror with a lens brush.  That didn’t seem right to me, but I wasn’t sure how sensors were to be cleaned, so I paid the modest charge for this service and went forth.

A couple of years later, at a Popular Photography workshop out at Durango, Beth Wald, a world class National Geographic photographer and one of the instructors, showed us how you really clean a sensor, but her cautions that came with the lesson were enough to haze me off of trying it myself for another three or four years.

So here’s the real deal on sensor cleaning.  You have three choices:  Don’t ever clean it; have a professional clean it; or, clean it yourself.

The only place I’ve found in Nebraska to have sensors professionally cleaned is the Camera Doctor out in Kearney, and he does a great job.  But he doesn’t give that service away, charging in the neighborhood of $100 for it, and you either have to drive out there (from Lincoln or Omaha) and spend several hours hanging around Kearney (having arranged a cleaning appointment in advance), or UPS the camera body out and back.  The only time I took the latter approach, the shipping and insurance along with the cleaning of two DSLR sensors brought the whole exercise to somewhere north of $300.  But again, the guy does good work, and periodically, DSLR sensors do have to be cleaned, or eventually, all you’ll have in your photos are dust spots, causing them to take on a sort of polka dot quality.

BUT, you really can do this yourself if you take the trouble to learn the process from the many videos on the subject posted on the web AND if you do it oh so carefully and with the right supplies and equipment.  This became all too apparent to me when I did yet another workshop in the Black Hills some three years ago with Moose Peterson (his real name), one of my true photographer heroes.  Every evening, after winding up that evening’s instruction, Moose would tell us, “Okay, spend some time in your room getting your equipment ready for a pre-dawn start tomorrow morning… batteries charged, lenses and bodies cleaned and dusted off, and sensors cleaned.”  What was that last part?  Yes, you can indeed clean the sensor on your DSLR, and it’s not that big a deal, again, if you use the right stuff, and do it the right way.

I’ve been doing it ever since the Moose workshop and have had no trouble with it whatsoever, though it is kind of a tedious process.  I personally use a Rocket Blaster bulb duster, an Artic Butterfly battery powered brush, an Artic Butterfly sensor loupe, and Copperhill swabs and cleaning fluid.  To do it right and carefully takes about 15-20 minutes per camera and generally is good for three to six months. Consult your camera’s manual on how to do this, which on a Nikon involves going to the menu and selecting the clean sensor option.  I’m sure that Canon has something quite similar, but on my Nikons, you remove whatever lens may be on that body, and select the cleaning option which locks the mirror up revealing the sensor.  Working in a well-lighted place, I first use the Rocket Blaster to blow air onto the sensor to chase any dust mites that could be lurking there.  Be careful not to touch the sensor with the spout on the Rocket Blaster squeeze bulb and NEVER, NEVER use canned air for this task, as it will indeed ruin your sensor.  After the squeeze bulb dusting, I fit my sensor loupe (sometimes supplemented by a small lithium battery flashlight and a magnifying glass) over the lens opening and carefully look over the sensor for evidence of dust or lint.  If you find none, congratulations, you’re through and ready to button things back up.  But I generally do find some, so my next step is to use the Artic Butterfly precisely according to the directions and see if that will do the trick.  If looking at the sensor carefully through the loupe shows evidence of smears or especially stubborn dust or lint (and about half the time it will), I then use a Copperhill swab, applying to it exactly the amount of Copperhill sensor cleaning fluid recommended and again, doing that precisely as directed.

That should do it.  And here’s probably the best piece of sensor cleaning advice I’ve picked up in my pretty extensive reading on all of this.  You won’t get it absolutely perfect – that’s what the Photoshop clone stamp tool is for.  Before I read those magic words, I might have spent an hour cleaning the sensor, going outside to take a photo of our off-white garage door, and then going back to the computer to look at that shot extremely closely to see if I could spot any remaining dust, etc.  And usually I could, but you know what?  If you keep the “big chunks” off your sensor, spotting out – in Photoshop – any dust spots that show up in clouds, etc. really is not an arduous task.  And then, when your photos begin to show two or three spots in any lightly colored area, it’s time to clean the sensor again, and that doesn’t have to be a big deal either.


A couple of side bars:

My Nikons have an on-board internal sensor cleaning choice in the menu, where you hold the camera upside down, and the sensor is supposed to vibrate all the dust and lint right off itself.  I’ve yet to see it work, and I think you have to consider that shaking things up inside the camera could actually cause dust or lint present to float around and attach itself to the sensor.  My personal choice is not to use this option.

Dust is endemic and attracted to camera sensors because they are, after all, magnetic.  So when it is said that sensors are dust magnets, they really are, but you can take some steps to avoid dust, the major one being establishing a routine for changing lenses that leaves the camera’s innards open to the world for the shortest possible time.  When I’m ready to put a lens on a body, or take one lens off and mount another in its place, I first get the back cap off the lens to be placed first, then remove the body cap so I can quickly attach the lens when I open the camera up.  If I’m changing lenses, I leave off placing the back cap on the one I’m removing until the new lens has been mounted and the camera closed back up.  The rear lens element is easy to clean…a lot easier than a sensor.

Also, consider where you change lenses.  I’m doing less of it than in prior years, but I am a lifelong motor sports fan and like to photograph area sprint car races, especially when I used to help sponsor the Tige Jensen #71 car.  And I’ve never been anywhere more dusty– including the Africa bush, which is supposed to be incredibly dusty – than auto races on a dirt track in the middle of a dry hot Nebraska summer. That being the case, I just don’t change lenses at the track itself.  I either mount a multi-purpose wide angle to telephoto zoom lens on the camera before leaving home and shoot everything with that setup, or I take two camera bodies, each with a different lens, and leave all the other lenses at home, because I’m not going to be opening the camera(s) up in an environment where you can cut the dust with a knife, when you’re not chewing on a mouthful of it.

Now, even though the theme of this piece is that you can clean your own sensor, my attorney would want me to say here that I assume absolutely no responsibility for any damage to your sensor, your camera, yourself, or any other bad thing that might happen when you try it.  I’ve told you my own experience here that cleaning a DSLR sensor can be performed by camera owners, but obviously can’t take responsibility for the actions of each and every reader of these words who decides to give it a shot.

So, that’s it for sensor cleaning.  If you want to read my general instructions on how to improve your holiday picture taking – even with the simplest of cameras – you can find that on this site in a blog post (originally) from a few years ago.

Thanks for stopping by my site and Happy Holidays to All!

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Fri, 01 Sep 2017 17:53:06 GMT
The Flying T-Bird and Me Originally posted Aug 20, 2014


T-Bird-blogT-Bird-blog The photo of the T-33 jet trainer is from the Offutt “Defenders of Freedom” air show this past July. It was a terrific show featuring a standout performance by the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration team.

I enjoyed it all, but the two performing aircraft that really made the hairs on my arms stand up were the P-38, that the late Everett Phillips – who got me my pilot’s license and opened up a whole new magic world for me all those decades ago – flew in the European Theater in WW-II, and the T-33 “T-Bird” that I myself got to fly one unbelievable Sunday afternoon back in the late-sixties.

I’ve talked here before about Phil, but I’ve never revealed the hop in the T-33 to very many folks, probably because it’s just fantastic enough to be pure b.s., but I swear it’s true. Although all these years later, it does seems almost fantasy-like.

The way it happened was, in the summer of 1967 – when we were expecting Kristi in a few months – Gene Budig was a first lieutenant and the public information officer for the Nebraska National Guard. In that capacity, he fairly frequently got to go for a hop himself in the T-33 and described it as pretty neat. At that time, I’d had about six or eight hours of flying lessons before getting discouraged (landing is a lot harder than one might think) and running out of money and allowed as how, if there were ever an opportunity to go up in that airplane, I’d jump on it like a mongoose on a snake.

Well, leave it to Gene; he managed to arrange for me to go up, on an August Sunday afternoon, with then-Colonel Morgan Batten, a WW-II fighter jockey who would eventually retire as Adjutant General of the Nebraska Air Guard! (Gene also managed over the years to become President of Illinois State, West Virginia, the University of Kansas, and the American League before retiring.)

I showed up at the Air Guard hangar at the appointed hour, was issued a flight suit, helmet, parachute, and the nicest kid leather gloves I had ever seen and was led by Gene out to the flight-line, where the T-33 literally gleamed in the sun. There was a ladder hanging from the cockpit which I needed to climb with the parachute – which isn’t light – hanging from by back and centered behind/under my butt (in the aircraft, it actually becomes your seat cushion), and Gene said, “There’s no graceful way to scramble up there – you just have to grab the ladder and do your best.” So, I did, and the crew chief for that airplane climbed up after me and helped me get belted in.

Shortly, the chief climbed down, Colonel Batten climbed up, introduced himself and said, “I’m going to brief you on what you’ll need to do if we have to leave this airplane. Assuming I’m conscious and know what’s going on, I’ll send us both, but if I can’t do that, you are going to have to execute the ejection procedure yourself.” He went on to describe how to raise the arm rests on the seat, which blows the canopy, how to brace yourself before simultaneously pulling the two triggers that will fire you out of the canopy, and warning me not to touch any of that stuff unless I truly wanted to be blasted out of the aircraft. Oh, and those cool gloves? You were required to wear those in case of fire in the cockpit.

Batten had me repeat the briefing to him, and it was at that time that the smallest part of me whispered that maybe this wasn’t such a great idea after all, especially when the grizzled crew chief reappeared on the ladder, gave me a hard look, pointed to the ejection controls and said, “Don’t ____with that.”

But those misgivings lasted only so long as it took the Colonel to settle into the front seat, lower the canopy and commence the startup procedure while explaining it all to me on the intercom, which along with the communications radios was wired in through my helmet, which also contained a mic and provided oxygen. He told me that the T-33 was a great little airplane, easy to fly and very forgiving, and that once we were airborne, he would turn the controls over to me. Well now!!!

We took off on what was then known as LNK “runway 17 right” and began gobbling up altitude like no 90 mph Piper Colt I had ever flown. We were probably no more than a thousand feet off the deck when he raised his hands in the air and said, “Your airplane.” And I started out just great, but when we penetrated a forming cumulus cloud and I lost reference to the horizon, the instruments started spinning fast and in some really strange ways, when Batten calmly said, “I’ve got it.”

What I’d experienced, of course, was the spatial dis-orientation that happens to folks not qualified for instrument flight who wander into clouds or fog, lose track of which way is up and dive into what aviators have since the beginning of flight called “the graveyard spiral.” But once we were up to cruise altitude – and it’s always nice up there between the sun and the clouds – the Colonel turned the airplane over to me again, and I flew it out to the Harlan County Reservoir, where we intended to overfly my in-laws’ house. When we began a descent to announce ourselves with a low-level pass, Batten once again took over the airplane, and in a flash we were past the house and pulling up into a graceful chandelle. We circled around and made another pass, and could see my in-laws out in the side yard waving, quite clearly in fact, as we were really, really low.

At that point, Colonel Batten said, “Okay, let’s go around and do one more, and you fly the airplane this time” and again raised his hands in the air and said, “Your airplane.” Now, when you’re a kid, you don’t know what you can’t do, and I kicked some left rudder, rolled in a little aileron and oh-so-gently, and then not-so-gently pulled back on the stick, and it still seemed like it took several miles to bend the T-Bird around in about a sixty degree bank with my cheeks actually sagging from the G-force. But I got us back there and did another pass, but not quite as low as the real pilot had done it.

At that point, the Colonel said that we had about reached the point where the T-33’s fuel range said “Go home.” But then he seemed to have a second thought and said, “How are you feeling?” Well, I was feeling outstandingly and magnificently terrific and told him so, when he said, “Let’s do one more pass – I’ll fly it and do a slow roll for them on climb-out.” To appreciate just what that meant to a junior birdman, you have to understand that the planes we fly around in as civilians…any of them except the aerobatic models…don’t do rolls unless you are okay with the wings falling off.

In any case we headed back down to the deck, overflew the house, entered into a sharp climb and the world seemed to revolve. Just like that – no G-forces; no real physical sensation other than the world did a 360 right in front of my eyes.

But wait…there’s more. After taking the T-33 back up to cruise, Batten once again turned the controls over to the 8-hour student pilot in the rear seat and told me, “Now you’re going to do a roll. Just lower the nose slightly, let the airspeed build to [I forget what], then raise the nose back to level flight and firmly take the stick all the way to the left or right and center it when you are level once again. Just go left or right and don’t tell me which before you do it.”

So I did. And it was just like when he did it. I went left, and the world just did one revolution before settling back to where it had been before. The Colonel said that was good. Try it the other way, and I did. Then he said, “Hold onto approximately the same heading, to get us to Lincoln, and take the airplane and just fly it down and around through these cloud canyons and have fun with it.” And I did that too. There was getting to be quite an afternoon cumulus buildup by then, and it was pretty much unbelievable.

And then all of a sudden and way too soon, Batten said, “I’ll take the airplane back now and get it setup for landing.” If I were making this up, I’d tell you how I shot the landing and that it lives in Air Guard memory for being one of the smoothest anyone had ever seen. But I’m not, and I didn’t. Colonel Batten did, and it was indeed a grease job. The man could fly airplanes.

And that was it. I jabbered on about it for a few days to anyone who’d listen. I swore I’d enlist if I were not already too old for flight training, But as someone once said, time passes; things change; life goes on, and people got tired of hearing about my adventure, and eventually I even got a little tired of telling it. Today, it does indeed seem kind of like a dream, and I seriously doubt that anything even remotely like that experience could happen in today’s world.

But for a couple of hours one Sunday afternoon in August, a few decades ago, I knew what it felt like to actually “slip the surly bonds of earth.”  Something I’ll probably be telling them about in the nursing home.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Fri, 01 Sep 2017 17:42:44 GMT
I hope you like the re-invented website Originally posted July 07, 2014


At the end of the day, Lincoln’s Randy Hampton has probably taught me more about taking and processing photos than anyone. For years Randy was the chief photographer for the then-Lincoln Journal before deciding to go out on his own. One of the things that fascinates me about Randy is his truly life-long involvement and fascination with picture-taking. I’ve always been interested in photography, but like with a lot of things, I can kind of blow hot or cold on it. For example, I had a tough time finding the excitement in photography after returning from last year’s trip to Africa. Coming back to photographing Nebraska after shooting 6K frames in a week in the African bush, of some of the most exotic animals God put on this earth, was what I imagine it would be like for a sailor who had recently cruised the South Pacific to return to sailing Branched Oak Lake. That’s not a put-down – just a simple statement of fact.

But Randy has told me that the key to becoming and remaining a competent photographer is to challenge yourself and maintain your interest by never stop growing and developing. In the year since the African journey, I’ve done two things: I’ve worked on expanding and deepening my interest in landscape photography and have most lately taken to photographing aviation on a more organized and active basis. And along with that, we have divided this website into sections: Wildlife, Landscape, and Aviation.

We’ve also eliminated the Welcome section because it was never really necessary and have also pulled the “Artist’s Statement” which I was never quite comfortable with. I’ll admit that photography done well can be art, but don’t really consider myself an “artist.”

photosrlj-dot-comphotosrlj-dot-com Finally, we softened the background color. A couple of years ago, when we first put the site up, I circulated it to some other photographers (including Randy) and asked for comment. To an individual, they all told me the blue background color was all wrong. That it should be white or light grey to better show the photos it backgrounds. Well, blue is my favorite color with yellow a close second, but this time around we have indeed softened the blue, which is probably as close as I’ll get taking their advice.

Let me know what you think, not just of the colors, but of the whole revised site.

And another thing: I would be truly remiss if I did not thank and acknowledge Julie Hulinsky, here in our office, for all the time, effort, and skill she has put into this site overhaul. She has worked tirelessly with the folks at Quick Connect not just to make the changes you can see, but also to initiate some strictly technical tweaks that will allow us to have more direct control over what goes up and comes down, and how, at PhotosRLJ. Thanks, Julie.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Fri, 01 Sep 2017 17:35:09 GMT
OM-D EM-1 Review Originally posted Jan 27, 2014


Great Camera, but Don’t Buy It Without Ordering the QuickPRO Guide for It.

OlympusReview-wmOlympusReview-wm Folks who know me know that, though I am a confirmed Nikon shooter for “serious” photography, I have been on a multi-year quest for the perfect “walking around” camera…something smaller and lighter than the Nikon D-3s but with quick response and high quality optics. I think I’ve found it.

Pictured on the left is a Nikon D-3s with the Nikon 24-70mm zoom – what I consider to be my “normal” lens for this camera – attached. On the right is my new Olympus OM-D EM-1, with the four-thirds 12-40mm zoom, which on the Olympus has a full frame equivalence of 24-80mm. The Nikon outfit weighs in at eight pounds; the Olympus at two-and-a-half pounds. If you were walking around, say, Boston, where I’m taking our family for a long weekend and a Red Sox game next summer, which would you rather be carrying? And, the Olympus camera+lens combination shown comes at about one-third the price of what I have invested in the equivalent Nikon setup.

YardSquirrel-wmYardSquirrel-wm And the OM-D is a great camera, and I’m very impressed with its features and results. For example, I purchased the 75-300mm micro 4/3 zoom lens for it, which would be the full frame equivalent of a 150-600mm. Add to that, the OM-D has a “digital 2x tele-converter menu feature. So, with that camera, that lens, and the digital tele-converter feature (which is nothing more than an in-camera crop, really) that takes you all the way out to 1200mm, if my math is correct. I’m including here a photo of a backyard squirrel taken at that setting. Granted, it’s not tack sharp, but it’s not bad for just “messing around.”

All of that said, there is one little thing: the OM-D EM-1 menu is anything but intuitive, and the owner’s manual that comes with the camera is somewhere next to useless. The manual’s table of contents and/or index will tell you, for example, that more information on a given function can be found at page 58. But when you turn to page 58, guess what? It’s in French, Spanish, or one of the Pacific Rim languages…apparently, the problem with having one publication serve multiple nationalities. You can –as I did – download all 163 pages of the on-line edition of the owner’s manual. It is complete but still difficult to use and to me, often creates more questions than it answers.

What the owners of the OM-D EM-1 really, really need is for David Busch to hurry and publish one of his excellent guides for this particular camera. (And in case you’re thinking of ordering the Busch guide for the OM-D EM-5 as a substitute, don’t – it’s not that helpful). While we are waiting for Busch to get with it, if you’d like to understand which button does what on the OM-D EM-5, I highly recommend the QuickPRO Guide DVD for this model. I found it very helpful and now actually kind of feel like I know what I’m doing accessing this camera’s menu and/or controls. Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t carry the QuickPRO Guide for the OM-D EM-1, but it’s available from the Olympus website and probably elsewhere.

For those who might be thinking, “So Ron, will you be putting your Nikons up for sale?” the answer is not in this lifetime. My main gripe against the mirrorless cameras, and the point-and-shoot models, is the lag between pushing the shutter button and the moment when a photo is actually taken. In this regard, I have dozens of photos of where a dolphin had just surfaced before diving again or an elk very recently had been standing against a forest background. On the OM-D, however, the menu will let you choose either “normal” or “short” for this interval. Even though the “short” option is supposed to use more battery, I chose it, and the lag is virtually non-existent.

That said, in my opinion, the full-frame Nikon still has it over the Olympus if you are shooting for publication, large gallery prints, or photos to be displayed on the internet. If that’s what you are up to, I believe you’ll still want the full-frame Nikon or its Canon equivalent.

All of that said, I do feel confident that I have at last found my “walking around” camera. Thanks, Olympus.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) olympus photography telephoto Fri, 01 Sep 2017 17:25:42 GMT
Where the Sky Goes All the Way to the Ground Originally posted Nov 05, 2013


I’ve been living out here on the Northern Plains for all of my life. But I love the mountains, and I love the sea only a little less than mountains. Also, I hate – and “hate” is the right word – the cold. Over the years, I’ve always had somewhere in the recesses of my mind the thought/feeling that a time would come when I’d be living either in the Rockies or somewhere on either coast.

Over the past couple of years, however, it has settled in on me that it ain’t going to happen. I know now that I’ll conclude life exactly where it began, here in the middle of the U.S.

And that’s okay…in fact it’s better than that; it’s great.

I’ve got everything I could ever have asked for right here. A wonderful wife and friend, a treasured extended family, good friends, and a job that I actually look forward to getting up in the morning – well, most mornings – and going to. Add to that photography, banging around the outdoors, and flying, and it’s hard to think anyone has it any better than I.

Add to that something that I truly love – and here, “love” is the right word – are the wonderful wide-open vistas that we enjoy in this part of the country. When I was not quite four, my family moved to Lincoln from the little village of Alvo. We went from a white two-story house set in an acre or two of ground, including a small orchard, to a wretched duplex in a neighborhood that at best could be called yeasty and where any riding toy left outside un-attended for even a minute, would promptly disappear. Even with that dearth of wheeled goods, my main little boy complaint about the place was that I could no longer, at breakfast, look out through the window and see trees and birds. I told my mother, “I miss the birds” and I did.

And even then, I missed the view. I love it that here you can arrange to literally see all the way to where the sky meets the ground, not where it disappears behind a building or even a tree. Since the kids moved to central east coast Florida, I’ve probably spent the better part of a year down there, and I treasure those visits. I never get tired of the ocean, and I’m spending time with three of the most important people in the world, to me at least. My daughter and her family actually live five miles inland in a tall pine forest, and although it’s even flatter than Nebraska, it’s lovely. But what they don’t have down there, unless you’re on the beach, is a view. There’s no place you can stand on a hill (they don’t have those either) and look off for miles and miles to the horizon.

As an English major, there was no way I could get through university without reading My Antonia, and I was absolutely captivated by Cather’s description of a prairie sunset, where at the last moment before sinking below the distant horizon, the sun fell behind and cast the shadow of a plow, in heroic size, across miles of landscape. I’ve never seen anything like that, but my favorite time of day is the hour before sunset, and as darkness grows closer, you seem to be able to pick out individual features on the horizon that are about as far away as you can see. Add to that the soft, somewhat candle-like, quality to the light at that time of day, and it really doesn’t get much better.

So, I’m going to shoot more landscapes. It’s not as easy as it might seem. I’ve been taking photos of outdoor scenes most of my life, and the results have a way of disappointing me. When I look at a scene, I really don’t see the utility lines running right through the skyscape, but the camera never misses them. That failing notwithstanding, I’m going to work hard at capturing and displaying on this site, the expansive beauty of Nebraska.  

In most of them, you can clearly see where the sky meets the ground. That’s the goal. Feel free to let me know how you think I’m doing.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) landscape nebraska nikon photography Fri, 01 Sep 2017 17:07:38 GMT
The Circle of Life Originally posted Sept 13, 2013


A very long time ago, when I was a young man and my daughter a little girl, our family bought – by the month, naturally – a brand new, “Firebolt Orange” Chevy Blazer with white vinyl upholstery with “Tartan Plaid” cloth inserts and all the options. This was quite the vehicle, and we purchased it right out of the show window at Duteau Chevrolet when it was still on “O” Street. It was actually our second “four-wheel-drive,” this being long before some adman had invented “SUVs” for yuppie moms to take the kids to school and drive to the grocery store. Humph.

And this vehicle went places. Two or three times a year out to Fr. Robinson, both to vacation and hunt, and at least once a year to the Colorado high country to climb over rocks and wade mountain streams, navigating long dis-used narrow gauge railroad rights-of-way. It was a family pet, which over the three or four years we owned it, had a lot of custom additions and upgrades. When it was traded in on a new Jimmy at the dealer in Crawford, Nebraska, he later told me he darned near lost every friend he ever had, in a local dispute over who got to buy it from him. I’ve always said that if I got as much use out of everything I’ve ever purchased as we did from that Blazer, the world of commerce wouldn’t owe me a thing.

My daughter Kristi was about four when we got the Blazer, and because she didn’t quite process the word, she tagged it “The Razorblade,” and the name stuck. The Razorblade it was, and still is.

I hadn’t thought much about that for decades, and wouldn’t be thinking about it now, except last Fall, Cindy and I – well I, actually – stumbled on a 2002 4WD Toyota Tundra pickup, for sale with low miles and in virtually new condition. It was a local one-owner truck with the papers to prove it, and I swear whoever had it must have kept it in the living room. I needed another vehicle like I’ve needed another thumb but eventually brought it home anyway.

And since acquiring it, I’ve been busy – and having a high old time – upgrading and refurbishing it, beginning with new leather upholstery and most recently adding Toyota original equipment “TRD Off-Road Development” accessory wheels(!). To quote Toby Keith, “I like [off-toward-love] my truck,” and like that long-ago ’72 Blazer, it has become a family pet. In our household, inanimate objects frequently collect a name…as in “Arthur,” Cindy’s beloved Suzuki Sidekick…but so far, this tendency had escaped the Toyota. We have been variously referring to it as “the truck,” “the Toyota,” or “the Tundra,” when the other day it hit me: that old pickup occupies essentially the same emotional space as the Razor Blade did way back in the seventies. Cindy and I had previously decided we would give it to Granddaughter, Delaney, when she turns sixteen in May, 2016, and when we were in Florida over Labor Day weekend, I asked Kristi if she remembered what she called our Blazer. “The Razorblade,” she answered immediately.

Razorblade2Razorblade2 "What would you think about ‘The Razorblade II’ for the Delaney’s truck?” I asked.

Kris thought that would be only perfect, and yesterday, the nice guys at Lincoln’s Autographics Specialties made it happen with a dry transfer on each side of the bed, that a future owner can remove if they wish, but which for now, gives that truck a name…and a great and appropriate name at that.

It tickles me so much that across the years, the beautiful young woman I am so proud to call my granddaughter will begin driving in a vehicle with a name that harkens all the way back to a well-loved “four-wheel-drive” that was so much a part of her mother’s little-girl years.

When I texted the attached photo to Kris yesterday, she responded, “Smiling and a bit teary-eyed.”

So’s your old man, Sweetheart.

The circle of life.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Fri, 01 Sep 2017 17:00:26 GMT
Sometimes, Dreams Come True Originally posted August 12, 2013

I dreamed of Africa, and now I’ve been there.

For as long as I have romanticized Africa – almost a half-century – it would not have been surprising if the reality failed to come up to the dream. But the real experience met the dream square on and more.

First, the landscape. The “bush” (in South Africa at least) is just that. Miles and miles and miles of low-growth trees and bushes, a large proportion of them with sharp thorns. The vegetation does not grow tall, but it does grow thick. There was no jungle, not to say that other parts of Africa may not be jungle territory, but not the 90,000 acres of the Sabi Sand and Krueger game reserves. In terms of protecting animal life, the bush does just what the creator of it all must have intended…it makes the critters hard to spot (and even tougher to photograph.)

But you can, and we did. I shot something over 4,000 frames. Cindy, because of her equipment and the way she works, probably captured a fourth of that number, but trust me, it’ll be good stuff. As I’ve said in this space before, she has the “eye.”

The typical day on safari in the bush began at 5:30, when the phone would ring, and a pleasant African on the other end wished you good morning. At that point, we had actually been up since 5:00 getting ourselves ready for a long day. At both of the lodges where we stayed, tea and coffee, along with English biscuits, were served beginning at 5:30 in the central dining area or the lobby. At Arathusa – the first of our accommodations – we were free to walk from our cottage over to coffee whenever we were ready to hit it. At Savanna, however, guests are not allowed to walk outside of their cottage after dark, unless accompanied by a staff member. So, at about 5:45, we would hear a lilting African voice announce “Hello” just outside our front door. That meant that it was time to gather our gear and ourselves for coffee followed by the morning game drive. (For most of the time we were at Savanna, our “minder” was armed with only a flashlight. However, during the three-day period that a Leopard had got past the electric fencing and took up residency in camp(!), our escort also carried a high-powered rifle. That’s when you know you’re not in Kansas anymore.)

After a cup of coffee the guides, trackers and guests settle themselves in the hunting cars, which head off into the bush. These cars are worthy of a bit of description. They are essentially the same at every lodge and consist of either a Toyota Land Cruiser pickup or a Land Rover pickup, which has had the top of the cab lopped off at the base of the windshield, which is then replaced with a fold-down windscreen ala a WWII Jeep. In the bed are constructed three rows of seats, ascending by about eight inches each from the first to the last row. There’s not a bad seat in these vehicles, OnSafari2013-1OnSafari2013-1 but I preferred the first or the third row, with the third row offering the most expansive view but also the roughest ride. The “guide” or “ranger” (the terms are used interchangeably) sits in the right front seat (of course) and drives. On the left there is a seat added at the front of the front fender. If you have ever seen the movie Hatari, you’d recognize that seat as the “catch seat” in the animal capture scenes in that film. In modern Africa, that spot is where the “tracker” sits, looking constantly for game spoor and the animals themselves. You can check the photo of the game car and see that there really are no bad seats, especially as compared to the pop-top Volkswagen vans, frequently used in other parts of Africa, where clients have to take turns popping up and snapping the shutter.

Guests are assigned to a particular car but are allowed to work out the seating arrangements on their own. We were never in a full car and on our second evening’s drive, we had the guide, the tracker, and the car all to ourselves. And that was a memorable drive on which we saw a Leopard, Zebra, and a Hyena at a new den with a three day-old pup.

At about 9:00, on the morning drive, the guide would announce that it was time for coffee (or tea) and we’d stop for that. The Land Rovers have a fold-up panel in the front radiator protector that serves very nicely to lay out the coffee, tea and snacks, but the morning coffee break was just as welcome in the Land Cruisers, where refreshments were laid out on the hood or a small table. At the conclusion of 20 minutes or so, we loaded up and headed back to the lodge, alert to any game spotting opportunities along the way.

Back at the lodge, breakfast was served at 10:00 and could be pretty much whatever you wanted it to be. I usually opted for coffee, orange juice, a couple of poached eggs and bacon, accompanied by toast and marmalade. But you could have anything from a croissant to an omlette.

At the conclusion of breakfast, you were free to download photos, arrange for a bush walk with your guide, sleep, or whatever until 3:00 when lunch was served. Like all meals, lunch was served family style and like dinner each evening, offered a choice of entrees, and a guest wanting extra malaria protection could indulge in a mid-day gin and tonic, or a glass of wine if they wanted to take their chances with the local mosquitos (of which I saw one on the whole trip).

After lunch, it was back to the hunting cars to load up for the afternoon game drive, which lasted until sunset, about 6:00. At that point, it was time for the bar to be broken out, set up on a folding table with a white linen table cloth, and for everyone to enjoy a sundowner before heading back to the lodge. On that evening trip, the tracker was equipped with a spotlight which he would sweep about to search for game, but being very careful with certain species not to shine the light directly in their eyes, which could result in a temporary or permanent loss of vision.

Back at the lodge, you had perhaps an hour to get ready for dinner, which was also served in the open-at-the-sides dining area and bar. Both of the lodges did everything they could to make the welcome to camp, after the game drive, memorable and evocative of a classic tented safari…like the kind that Hemingway, Ruark, and Jack O’Connor experienced. At Arathusa, the mosquito netting would have been lowered around the turned-down bed and the room set in soft light. Savanna did that one or two better however. The huge tub (in addition to which there was both an indoor and outdoor shower at each lodge) in the center of the equally huge bathroom, was filled to the level of a couple of feet with warm-off-toward-hot water, with candles aglow on a small table next to the tub, illuminating two glasses of sherry. You could cut the romance in the air with a butter knife.

The evening meal, preceded by cocktails and standup conversation, is the cap of the day on safari. Guests exchange sightings and other experiences of the day while staff circulate among them to take their appetizer, entrée, and desert preferences of the choices offered. Guides and staff join the guests for dinner served family style at a candle lit, perfectly set table with plenty of sparkling crystal. Good wine, good food, and good conversation…it really doesn’t get much better. There were never more than a dozen guests present at the evening meal at Savanna and perhaps twice that number at Arathusa. On one evening at both lodges, dinner was served in the “boma”…a round stockade fenced area with a healthy campfire burning in the center and torches and luminaries providing the ambient light, assisted by a million stars overhead (including of course, the Southern Cross).

At about ten or ten-thirty, it’s time to wander back to your cottage, accompanied at Savanna by a staffer with a flashlight and perhaps a rifle, depending on the situation of the un-invited guest Leopard.

And then you get up at 5:00 and do it all over again, reveling in a world populated by some of the most exotic, interesting, and potentially dangerous animals on the planet. During our time in Africa, we saw and photographed Lion, Leopard, Cape Buffalo, Cheetah, Elephant, Rhino, Zebra, Hippo, Wild Dogs, Hyena, Impala (always and everywhere) Kudu, Crocodile, Giraffe, and I don’t know how many I’ve forgotten. These experiences included seeing Lions, a Cheetah, and Wild Dogs on a kill. It’s not for Disney, but it’s the real deal.

And you can get close…literally within feet of these animals, as they are absolutely un-afraid and un-disturbed by the hunting cars. The reason for this, I’m told, is that they regard the vehicle as one thing and not something that contains humans. Guests are absolutely cautioned against standing up in the car, as that would change the profile, and the game would bolt to a hasty exit…if you’re lucky. And of course, nobody gets out of the vehicle, ever. One client in our car on one day dropped a lens cap next to the car, at a time when we were in the midst of a pride of Lions. The guide managed to retrieve it with a stick, but stepping outside the car to pick it up was never an option.

The bush is dissected by any number of trails, usually not much more than a two-track. But the guides are not in the least hesitant to head right out into the scrub, scraping by thorn bushes and driving over small trees, to get a close and good view of the animals. And, they understand light and photography, always maneuvering to get the light behind the hunting car, the better to illuminate the quest. That can be the all-important difference between “you can’t really see it clearly, but…” and a photograph you can be proud of.

And in the end, that simple act of getting the light right may evoke as well as anything the spirit of an African safari. All staff address you by name. They do your laundry every evening, having it laid out for you when you return from the following evening’s game drive. And everyone, from the lodge manager right on down through the entire staff seem to understand intuitively just how much it all means to their guests and are absolutely committed to do everything to make it truly the experience of a lifetime, which for me, it was.

Will I ever do it again? Probably not. It’s not inexpensive, and it’s a long, arduous haul over there…more than 35 hours block-to-block. But the saying in Africa is that safari is like malaria. Once contracted, it’s chronic and tough to cure.

We’ll see.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) africa arathusa nikon photography safari Fri, 01 Sep 2017 16:50:26 GMT
Four More Sleeps (two of them on airplanes) and The “Dream of Africa” Becomes Reality Originally posted July 31, 2013

When my granddaughter, Delaney, was still a little girl (she hit her teen years this past May) and would ask her parents something like, “When do we leave for Nebraska,” they would answer her by telling her the number of “sleeps” before the event would happen. As small children have a bit of difficulty with relative time…especially the future…it was a pretty neat way to communicate that concept to her. And as families do, the term and its usage have made its way into our lexicon. So, as this is written on Wednesday, July 31st, Cindy and I are looking at four more sleeps, and we’ll be in South Africa.

Two of those sleeps will be on airplanes.  The way it goes is that we get on an American Airlines flight around noon on Friday at Eppley. That will be a short hop over to Chicago, where we’ll board a late afternoon, overnight flight to London. We’ll be there the better part of a day before getting on a British Airways 747, which will fly overnight to Johannesburg, arriving bright and early on Sunday.

And we’ll be in Africa!  Unbelievable after all these years of dreaming of that place.

AfricaPakAfricaPak Getting ready for this trip – just like making it – hasn’t been exactly simple. Many hours were spent just researching wildlife safaris in South Africa and the agents who make them happen. Ultimately, I hooked up with Safaris 365, located in Cape Town, and worked with Romy and then Kerry (once Romy went on maternity leave) to select two lodges in the Kruger National Park and the Sabi Sands Game Reserve, which offer very comfortable accommodations and two game drives each day out into the African bush via open Land Rover, with the afternoon/evening one being concluded with sundowners served in the field from a full bar laid out on a white linen tablecloth.

Once that was settled and the necessary airline reservations were completed, “all” we had to do was decide what to take with us on such a trip and then round those items up. Again, this was anything but simple. The photo shows the bed in Delaney’s bedroom in our house, where I’ve been laying things out as I locate and/or access them. Without any clothing or camera gear (which is a strategic challenge of its own) it appears to be about half a suitcase full. Because South African Airways – who will fly us on the last leg of the trip, (an hour hop up to Hodspruitt) has an 80 kilo (44 lbs.) weight limit on checked luggage, there will have to be a weigh-in before we ever leave home.

For the photographically inclined, you might be interested in that aspect of packing for Africa.  I began with a commitment to take with me a whole heck-of-a-lot less gear than I did last summer to Alaska. All of the wildlife photos will be taken from an open vehicle shared with others, and there just won’t be room for my Think Tank chock-full rolling bag, requiring three men and a strong boy just to lift it. Plus, it isn’t necessary. I bought a Think Tank Airport Essentials, which is advertised as small enough to fit in the overhead of regional jets and am taking two Nikon DSLR bodies, the new Nikon second generation AF-S 80-400 zoom, a Nikon 24-120 zoom, and a Nikon 17-35 zoom, as well as a Kenko 1.4 tele-converter (because the Nikon 1.4 converter is not compatible with the 80-400. And of course, I’ll have the usual chargers, extra batteries, sensor cleaning kit (a necessity in Africa, I’m told) a Nikon 600 speedlight, two external hard drives and my 13 inch laptop, etc., etc., etc. I’ve already weighed in with this gear, packed, and it comes to 23lbs, and it will never be out of my sight on this trip.

(Cindy will be equipped with both of our Nikon 1’s, with a 10-30mm and a 30-110. Those are roughly equivalent to a 28-80. And an 80-330, and as usual, I expect she’ll bring back photos that will make all the stuff I’ll be lugging around, look kind of silly.)

Finally, there are the pills and shots. The Kruger area is malarial, and the medics felt that Hepatitis A and typhoid inoculations would be a nice accompaniment to the anti-malarial pills.

At times, all of this preparation has seemed almost over-whelming, but I feel as though, once the regional jet is pushed back from the gate at Eppley, a kind of calm will descend, and Cindy and I will for the next ten days be in a – brand new – little world of our own, which will be the neatest part of the adventure…sharing it with the wife from central casting.

Look for some Africa photos to be added to this site in the weeks ahead, and also, I’ll be able to tell you if, in the Southern Hemisphere, the water really does circulate down the drain counter-clockwise.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Wed, 23 Aug 2017 19:43:56 GMT
Africa and “The Road Taken” Originally posted July 10, 2013

We’ve put up a new photo on the website, “The Road Taken,” which captures what to me is so fascinating about visual Nebraska. Those who contend we don’t have any beaches or mountains here are, of course, quite right. But what we do have, and what really does stir my soul, are the huge vistas we enjoy out here on the Northern Plains. Places where you can see forever…all the way out to where the sky meets the ground. When I’m in Florida, where it’s usually about ten yards to where trees and other flora limit your view, I so miss being able to see the horizon.

Willa Cather intriguingly captured that type of landscape with her sunset scene in My Antonia, where, at the sun’s sinking finally out of sight across the prairie, the shadow of a plow was silhouetted in heroic proportions just for an instant. I frequently think of that scene, when I get to a good lookout point from which to watch the day fade away on the far Nebraska horizon. I’ve never caught the shadow of a plow flashing on the landscape, but I do frequently notice how vividly the setting sun outlines features that are miles away and makes them easily recognizable.

The photo we’re adding to this site isn’t of a sunset but nevertheless, to my mind at least, captures vividly the expanse of the Great Plains landscape in northwestern Nebraska, my own favorite area of the state. It’s actually a photo of a stretch of state highway #250, about half-way between Lakeside and Rushville, taken on a trip out that way the third week of June. For once, I had the opportunity of driving through that country and stopping to admire and photograph vistas that appealed to me. On that trip, I wanted to get up to the Ogallala National Grassland, where there are many such scenes, but the weather turned wet, the skies dark, which kind of trashed my intentions to come home with a flash card full of such scenes.

That full card will have to wait for another trip on another day, but for the time being, I hope you’ll enjoy “The Road Taken,” which of course is for sale here.

Now, about Africa. I received our “Final Itinerary” this morning from Safari 365, the agency we are using in South Africa to arrange the land portion of our trip. Here’s the “typical day on safari” at each of the two lodgers where we’ll be staying, according to Safari 365:

  • Early morning wake up with tea and coffee
  • Morning Game Drive and a chance to watch the sun rise
  • Breakfast at the lodge
  • Optional Bush Walk
  • Lunch
  • Afternoon tea
  • Afternoon Game drive with sundowner drinks & snacks
  • Boma dinner under the stars


When I observed this unfortunate schedule to my good friend Keith Wood, who has himself made three trips to South Africa, he offered this photo of the typical safari setup for “sundowner drinks & snacks” out in the bush.


Yes, I know I’m just going to detest this – you betcha.  (23 more sleeps until gateway day).

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Wed, 23 Aug 2017 19:36:20 GMT
Fireworks Photos - Not Really That Tuff Originally posted July 02, 2013

Interested in trying some fireworks photography this 4th of July? Do it.  It’s really not that difficult, and you might surprise yourself with the results.


Rosebowl-fireworks-9-2012-displayRosebowl-fireworks-9-2012-display The above photo is a good example of this simplicity.  Last September, we were walking to our car after U.C.L.A. had kind of cruelly used Nebraska, when we heard fireworks.  I had my compact Nikon 1V1 in my hands, set on full automatic, and turned around and “snapped” this picture.  It’s a grab shot, and I’d be the first to stipulate that it’s nothing special, but at the same time, it’s a good depiction of a not-so-memorable evening. With just a bit of additional time, preparation, and equipment, it could have been quite striking.

Probably the first rule of fireworks photography is use a tripod.  Whether you have an adjustable camera or just a point-and-shoot compact, they all have a threaded receptacle in the bottom plate where you can attach the camera to a tripod.  A tripod used for a compact camera doesn’t need to be expensive, and simply having a steady rest from which to take shots will do more for the result than anything else.  Without a tripod, the dramatic streaks of light left in the sky by exploding fireworks will look wiggly, not straight and sharp as you should want them to be.

Along with putting your camera on a tripod, setting it to manual focus, if you can do so, is probably the next best move you can make. You want the focus set to infinity…or as distant as possible. The two ways to get this setting are – with the camera’s focus on automatic – press the shutter button half-way while framing the most distant obstacle possible, and then turning the focus to manual so you’ll hold onto that setting. Or in a DSLR camera, just turn the lens focusing ring to the symbol for infinity “∞”.

If your camera only shoots on automatic, all that’s left for you to do is set the ASA number to 200, and you’re good to go have fun.

If you have a more sophisticated camera, you should still set the ASA to 200, but there are several other settings you’ll want to take advantage of, which will greatly improve your results.  “Experts” vary on these numbers, but the consensus of opinion is that you should set an f-stop of f-11 or f-16. Shutter speed should be anything from a half-second to using the camera’s “bulb” setting and holding the shutter open for 2 to 3 seconds. The longer exposure time will be useful to capture all the drama of the finale, when they fill the sky with successive multi-colored explosions.  A rule of thumb to keep in mind is that the longer the exposure time, the longer will be the streaks of fire left in the sky and captured in your camera.

One neat thing about digital photography that we just couldn’t do in the days of film, is to periodically check the monitor on the back of the camera, to see what results you are getting.  If it seems as though the shots are too light with too much clutter in addition to the fireworks, turn the ASA down to 100.  And if you feel your shots are too dark, turn the ASA up a notch or two, say to 400. 

That’s probably the neatest thing about fireworks photography: no matter how hard you try, you really can’t screw it up. Whatever setup you finally choose, or is available to you on your particular camera, you are bound to get some pleasing shots. And with this experience, think how much better your fireworks photography will look next year.

Have a great 4th of July everyone, and Happy Birthday U.S.A.!

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Thu, 29 Jun 2017 20:49:43 GMT
A Picture of a Picture Originally posted Apr 05, 2013


Prairie Mom-DisplayPrairie Mom-Display The State Law Library is in many ways the “hidden treasure” of the Nebraska State Capitol. And for me the crown jewel in that treasure has always been the mural over the entrance – inside the Library – “Spirit of the Prairie” by Elizabeth Dolan. It is so perfectly evocative of a time and place, in this case, the decade of the thirties out on the plains of Nebraska. The woman who gazes east with a toddler in her arms and another child and a dog at her side engages our imagination. We wonder what her thoughts are as she looks to the distance on a wind-blown Nebraska day in the midst of the Great Depression. We wonder what the future holds for her, her children, and yes, even the dog. The mother is perfectly attired and the prairie landscape is perfectly captured. For that matter, the dog also is perfect. A collie-shepherd mix, I well remember when every other farm yard in Nebraska was home to one, and they were great dogs…quiet, obedient, affectionate, and good with cattle.

The late Ralph Riefstack and I once pulled one out of the very middle of the Harlan County Reservoir. He had reluctantly been left behind by his family when it was time to leave to return to their home in Kansas, and they couldn’t find him. When Ralph and I spotted him from a considerable distance, he was attempting to swim the three miles across the lake and would never have made it. He was pretty close to done for when we hauled him into the boat, and he curled up on the floor, totally exhausted. We delivered him to the south shore marina, and he was subsequently reunited with his delighted family. Something that I’ve always been proud of.

Because of all of these things and what I find to be the mural’s nostalgic tone, I had long searched for a print or poster of “Spirit of the Prairie” but could never locate one. So, I decided to see if I couldn’t make my own by photographing Dolan’s mural. I first tried it from the floor of the Library, and it didn’t work at all. The parallax involved made Dolan’s work look as though it was narrower at the top than the bottom or maybe leaning backwards. I realized that to have a chance of making a decent photo of it, I needed to set the shot up from the back of the room on the balcony that surrounds it.

Eventually, I got around to lugging a tripod, a camera, and a medium telephoto lens over to the Law Library and took a number of shots, playing with exposure and composition. The result is “Prairie Mom” which is no more than a picture of a picture. No creativity involved – maybe just a modicum of technical expertise.

Whatever, folks seem to like it. The Capitol gift shop sells it and has reordered it twice in quantity. Also, I recently contributed a copy, matted and framed in a rather ornate gold frame, to the annual CASA fundraising dinner, where it brought $250 in a silent auction. That event got me to thinking that, even though it is not outdoor photography, we needed to get it up on the website where people who wish to do so can obtain their own copy.

I hope you like it... and if you do, give 99.99% of the credit to Elizabeth Dolan.  I’ll be quite pleased with whatever’s left.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Thu, 29 Jun 2017 20:45:18 GMT
Two Interesting Things Originally posted Mar 28, 2013

Last Friday, I was at the "Lift-off Luncheon" in Kearney for the 2013 Crane Watch, to hear internationally noted outdoor photographer, Tom Manglesen. Also, just along for the ride, which she says she does every Spring, was the "gorilla lady," Jane Goodall(!) who spoke briefly. Manglesen, on the other hand, spoke for about a half-hour, detailing his growing up years in Nebraska and showing plenty of his really marvelous photos.

On Saturday, Cindy and I went up to Omaha to spend the day - along with a couple hundred other folks -with noted nature photographers, John and Barbara Gerlach. The Gerlachs have figured out how to live on an Idaho ranch, near the west entrance to Yellowstone, complete with dogs and horses, sell photography books, lead photography tours and workshops all over the world, and actually make a living at it. And they're good at it. I've been to several workshops and have got something out of each of them, with the possible exception of Art Wolfe - who is an unbearable snob and smartass in my opinion - in Seattle, but the Gerlachs gave out as much hard and useful information as anyone I've come in contact with, though Randy Hampton right here in Lincoln is certainly a very close second.

But after the Saturday workshop, I told Cindy two really interesting things I've noted about these outdoor photographers. For one thing, most of them either are or were hunters. That's right. These guys who are all conservationists if not environmentalists just about all at least have hunting in their backgrounds. Tom Manglesen grew up hunting ducks and geese with his dad along the Platte and got on with Paul Johnsgard's graduate program when Johnsgard decided as how he'd overlook Manglesen's spotty academic record to have access to his skill at calling and recognizing just about every variety of waterfowl. John Gerlach also spoke of hunting in days past, though I don't know if either he or Manglesen still hunt. Randy Hampton was and is a pheasant hunter and has developed a way to carry a shotgun and his camera at the same time.

Actually, that hunting connection probably should not be surprising. I've hunted most of my adult life, only giving it up about five years ago after my cousin Kent, my hunting partner, had retired to the Ozarks, and Nicky the Labrador passed on followed a few months later by Pat the Springer, both of them cancer victims. Also, there aren't any more pheasants in this part of the state. But a couple of summers ago, when I was on a workshop with Weldon Lee that took place high on Colorado's Mt. Evans (the photo "The Kid" on our web site, business cards, etc., was taken during that trip) one morning sitting in Weldon's SUV, sipping coffee and quietly talking in the pre-dawn darkness, I realized how much nature or outdoor photography is like hunting. Those quiet times in the vehicle, gassing back and forth, waiting for the sun to make an appearance were one of the neatest parts of the hunting experience, and I realized that morning on Mt. Evans that I have found a way to continue to enjoy that experience as well as spend time in the outdoors, enjoying birds and animals and just the beauty of a creation that I sometimes find almost achingly sweet.

Now this is really interesting. There's another thing that those guys - and they are almost all guys - have in common that, as an english major really blows me away. Just about all of them say "pitcher." Not to be prissy about this, but wouldn't you think that a person in that business, and college educated as most of them are, would somewhere along the line have learned to say "picture" for something on paper or canvas that you look at and "pitcher" for a vessel that you pour liquid out of? Amazing. (It’s about as bad as the present generation’s penchant for calling an invitation an “invite.” For those who weren’t paying attention in middle school “invite” is a verb and not a noun.)

Oh well. I say picture; you say pitcher; but instead of calling the whole thing off, we're going to keep right on shooting. With our Canons and Nikons, that is.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Thu, 29 Jun 2017 20:43:47 GMT
The #99 Belanger Special and Me Originally posted Mar 09, 2013

Almost that Time Again....  I love Spring, and every year I wonder if it would seem so sweet if we didn’t have winter. I guess I’ll never know the answer to that, but each Spring there are two things that mark the beginning of the warm months and my favorite time of year. One of these is opening day…the first day of major league baseball each year. On that date every year either I’ll email my daughter, or she’ll email me, and we’ll offer each other “Opening Day greetings and best wishes for a great season.”

I’m really not that much of a baseball aficionado, but the “here we go” aspect of that day speaks something to me that I’ve never let go of.

The other Spring event that I can’t let go of is the season opening of sprint-car racing at I-80 Speedway. I help to sponsor the #71 car, driven by Tige (no relation) Jensen, and even though I’m kind of tired of car racing at the end of each season, on that opening day, I’m ready to go again. Noise, dirt, excitement and the smell of burning methanol…it doesn’t get much better. This year, the inaugural event will take place April 5-6, and I’ll be there at least one of those evenings to help get things rolling for the season.

Folks always ask me how I got hooked in this sport, and to respond to those questions, a couple of years ago, I put the little piece below up on a web page I was maintaining on the #71’s season. I hope you enjoy it.

The #99 Belanger Special and Me

It’s been termed “perhaps the most beautiful race car ever built” and for my money, it’s all that and whole lot more.

Like most of the cars that raced and won at Indianapolis in its era (and they were all “specials” then), it was constructed in the Southern California shops of Frank Kurtis and carried Offenhauser power. But it was different from the others in a couple of ways. For one thing, it was smaller. Its chrome molly tubing chassis has been called both a stretched midget and a scaled up sprint car. Whichever, originally built in 1950 and sold to Murrell Belanger the following year, its lines truly were lithe…lower, skinnier, and sleeker than most of its fellows. Though the car was originally red, Belanger, a wealthy Chrysler/Plymouth dealer from Crown Point, IN, had it repainted a deep blue with gold lettering and yellow wheels…Michigan colors and striking enough to ultimately earn the 99 a spread in the 1971 Fall issue of Automobile Quarterly. How many Kurtis-Krafts can say that?

BelangerSpec-1BelangerSpec-1 Like the chassis, the power plant also was smaller. The standard Offy product of the day was a four cylinder; fuel injected 270 cubic inches, the same mill that would literally vibrate the wood seats in the old Nebraska State Fair grandstand as a gaggle of them raced down the front stretch. The Belanger Special on the other hand was the same Offenhauser layout, only its engine was listed at 241 cubic inches. [Though one source terms the engine “supercharged” there is no other evidence that this was the case.] Whatever the engine’s displacement, it was enough, as driver Lee Wallard qualified the 99 for the middle of the front row of the 1951 Indianapolis 500 at 135.039 mph, less than one mile-an-hour slower than the highly vaunted Novi V8 which captured the pole.

In the event, the 99 won the Indy 500 that year at an average speed of 126.244 mph. And, as it happened, an article on that victory was featured in the very first issue of Speed Age magazine that I ever picked up, down at the Gold’s Department Store newsstand. And like “the road not taken” those two things taken together…the 99’s Indy victory and the Seed Age account of it…have made all the difference. A half-century later, I’m still totally fascinated with open-wheel auto racing as well as the siren-song styling of the #99 Belanger Special…the little race car that could - and did.

Though he piloted the 99 to victory at Indianapolis, Lee Wallard, unfortunately, never got the chance to campaign it on the old AAA Championship Trail, the string of 100 mile races held throughout the balance of the summer on mostly state fair one-mile dirt horse tracks. Honoring a pre-standing commitment to drive in a low-level local sprint car event in the days following the 500, Wallard was involved in a crash in which he suffered serious burns over much of his body. He would survive but never raced again.

Chosen to step into the cockpit of the 99 was the “Tinley [IL] Park Express,” Tony Bettenhausen. If ever a car and driver were made for each other it was the diminutive Belanger 99 and Bettenhausen. That summer of ’51, he won eight of the thirteen races on the Championship Trail calendar along with the season championship, and I followed it all breathlessly in the pages of Speed Age. To this day, I remember the article on (I think) the Milwaukee 100, where one spectator turned and said to another – according to Speed Age – “Now that Tony’s in the lead, we’ll see some real racin’…for second place.”

In the years to come, it would all change. For one thing – and in some quarters you can get an argument on this – I grew up. But racing was undergoing a transformation as well. In 1953 the ill-fated Bill Vukovich ushered in the roadster era, that would replace traditional dirt track cars like the 99, to be followed ultimately by the predecessors of today’s mid-engine creations. Tony Bettenhausen would survive the death and injury-laden contests of the high banks of the Midwest only to lose his life in 1961 at Indianapolis, testing a car for a friend. Following Vukovich’s fiery death at Indy and the Le Mans disaster one week later in 1955, the AAA would withdraw from auto racing, to be replaced by the United States Auto Club, then CART and then the IRL as the Indy 500 sanctioning body. And where the 99 represented a total investment of some $30,000 and was pulled on a flatbed trailer behind two guys in a Chrysler sedan, today’s Indy cars arrive in million dollar haulers with an accompanying cast of dozens. I got to Indy myself in 1982 to see Gordon Johncock edge out Rick Mears in the closest finish ever to that point. In the ensuing decade, I was privileged to meet and visit with both Mears and Johncock and was thrilled to find that the ‘82 race lives in their memories just as it does in mine. “Time passes; things change; life goes on.”

Fortunately, the #99 Belanger Special eventually found its way to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum where it remains on display today. Visiting it there, at a time other than 500 week, is indeed on my “bucket list.” Also, for years I’ve waited for somebody to make a diecast model of the 99, but if there’s one on the market anywhere, it’s escaped all the internet research I could reasonably do. However, there is a guy, at MA Scale Models, in Massachusetts (of course), who will build one for you in 1:43rd scale, starting with a cast resin body and going from there. I’ve known of this for several years but hadn’t quite been able to get past the price for a built-by-hand one-off model of the 99, until a day a few weeks ago when I again attempted to check in at the MA website and couldn’t find it. I did ultimately nail it down, and was just rattled enough to send them a credit card number with an order to get to it.









I settled down to wait, but the model arrived much sooner than I might have thought, and it’s perfect. Check the photos of the model and the real thing and see if you don’t agree.








So over a half-century later, the 99, or at least its spirit, lives on in the form of an exquisite model on my desk in the den, where I see it almost every time I leave the house…a tangible symbol of a lifetime of total fascination with real open wheel race cars and the people who drive them, and the little boy, who in the summer of 1951, fell in love with a race car and car racing, and who after all these years, still is.








]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Thu, 29 Jun 2017 20:42:53 GMT
Africa - 2013 IS the Year! Originally posted Jan 10, 2013

AfricanTigerAfricanTiger It’s official. On a Friday afternoon next August, Cindy and I will get on an airplane in Omaha and 32 hours later get off a different – and much larger - airplane at Johannesburg, South Africa!

From there, we’ll hop a small plane up to Kruger National Park, where we’ll spend six days photographing game from an open Land Rover and enjoying the African bush country while staying in two different luxury lodges, before returning to Johannesburg, London, Chicago, and finally, Omaha (whew, what a sentence). The dream of an adult lifetime is about to come true.

Of course, there’s a myriad of details in preparing for a trip like this. Just putting it together and booking it was no small undertaking, and now there’s clothing and equipment to be selected and – if it’s not already been acquired – getting it. I’ve got to get a photography backpack that’s smaller than my roller bag…small enough that an average man can actually pick it up and which will also go in the overhead, and/or under the seat ahead, of a so-called regional jet, which we’ll be flying between Omaha and Chicago. We’ll also need to be able to convert South African electricity in order to keep cameras and computers charged up, and Cindy has read that to travel on the smaller airplanes into the bush, our checked luggage should be duffel bags because they are easier to arrange and fit together in the reduced baggage areas of such craft. (I’m going to get a second opinion on this one.)

It’s actually going to happen, and after a lifetime of dreaming of Africa, I am indeed going to get to see it…see it, hear it, smell it, and photograph it. And it comes at exactly the right time. Through the long first session of the 103rd Nebraska Legislature, while waiting for an interminable public hearing to finally get to the bill I’m actually there waiting for, I’ll be dreaming of guess what.


]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Thu, 29 Jun 2017 20:35:34 GMT
I Dreamed of Africa - Is 2013 the Year? Originally posted Dec 27, 2012

AfricaAfrica Way, way back in the mid-sixties, I was privileged as a mere child (tsk-tsk) to hunt on the Nebraska team in the annual Broken Bow One Box Pheasant Hunt. It was the first year that the Mercury astronauts, led by Wally Shirra, participated, and it was a big deal. A very big deal.

Ultimately, Nebraska did not win the hunt...Illinois beat us by one bird...but I've never forgotten it. Ole Herstedt, the founder of Ole's Big Game Steakhouse and Lounge, in Paxton, Nebraska...shot on the Nebraska Team that year, and a photo of our team (including a very young Ron and a very young Pat I, probably the best of the three English Springer Spaniels I've owned over a lifetime) still hangs on the wall at Ole's, if you know where to look for it. Ole was a guy who showed himself a pretty good time (I love the pictures of the antelope hunt out of his fifties-era Mercury convertible) and by that point in time had already been to Africa and Alaska at least once. I'd read The Honey Badger by Robert Ruark and in doing so was totally captivated by the portion of the novel that details in fiction one of Ruark's own Kenyan safaris.

Also, about that time, I remember seeing a black and white television travel ad for Africa listing all the people - Teddy Roosevelt, a future King of England, Ernest Hemingway, Bill Holden, Robert Kennedy, etc., etc. - who "had to see it" and concluded by asking, "Isn't it time you saw it?" Throughout my adult life, I've never failed to answer that question to myself in the affirmative.

At the One Box, I quizzed Ole, who wasn't exceptionally friendly to me, on his African trip and told him that I wanted to see it "before it's too late."

"Kid,” he replied, “it's already too late."

Maybe so, but I've never stopped wanting to see it.

Yeah, I know, the Africa of today is hardly the one where Ruark, Ernie, and Ole took their extended trips in the bush. I know that many if not most of the animals are now to be found in game parks, frequently surrounded by a gaggle of Land Rovers or pop-top vans full of tourists clicking way with their point-and-shoots, stopping at a village on the way back to camp to witness a native dance and pick up a few souvenirs. I know that parts of the continent are such violent and failed states that you dare not go there, and that Kenya itself, the traditional heart of safari county, is sufficiently risky that it probably will manage to steer me to safari* in South Africa. But damn it; it's still Africa. It's still a sub-equatorial environment that is absolutely nothing like what we know here. It's still a wildlife repository rich with animals I've never seen, and never will see anywhere on this continent outside of a zoo, and I've still got to see it. Or not.

I'm fortunate - blessed, really - in so many ways. Cindy, the kids, my job and the people I work with, and yes, my many toys and wheeled goods, and also in that I've gotten to be this somewhat advanced age and remain in pretty good condition overall. Oh, I may have a little problem here and there...some incipient arthritis, a couple of minor annoyances that we won't get into here, and I suspect a bit of my hearing has gone south from all that time spent flying little airplanes and shooting money out of the end of a gun barrel...but overall, I'm still pretty spry, considering. But it increasingly occurs to me that this situation can't last forever, and even modern Africa is not an undemanding destination. Hey, you fly for over 24 hours just to get there, and they've got all kinds of assaults on the human system that we've never even heard of out here in the middle of the land of the free and the home of the brave. You're up before the birds every day on safari, to get out there and see the animals before, being wiser than humans, they lay up somewhere cool for the day.

Given all of this, over the past half-year or so, I've kind of come to the conclusion that the time for Africa is now...or never. Like Karen Blixen in Out of Africa, I may never be anything more than a "mental traveler" when it comes to the Dark Continent, and if it works out that way, it's okay and I'll nevertheless have a lot of wonderful real travels to relive in my dotage, if of course I can remember them.

So, as 2012 comes to a close, along with our traditional years-end life inventory, Cindy and I will be taking a long look at whether 2013 is the year to stop dreaming of Africa and get on an airplane. It's not a small decision nor a small undertaking, and as I write this, I wouldn't guess what that decision will be.

Stay tuned to find out, and if you have Africa thoughts of your own, feel free to send them along to me at the contact information on this site.

Happy 2013 everyone!

NOTE: "Safari" as used here refers solely to a photo safari - no shooting with anything other than a Nikon. Call it "catch and release" for mammals.


]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Thu, 29 Jun 2017 20:34:09 GMT
Photography 101 - Tips for the Holidays Originally posted Dec 21, 2012

There will be a lot of photos taken between now and the end of 2012. Some of them will be pretty good, and many others not so good, but they'll all be precious to the person shooting them. With that in mind, let's take a look at holiday photos taken with simple cameras and see if there are some basic things that can done to make them a more engaging and interesting record of individual and family activities around this time of year. I'm going to assume in this post that you are taking pictures with a digital, point-and-shoot camera. In other words a small camera with a simple electronic menu, or not,...or even a phone...that all you really have to do is aim it at your subject and push the button. Some of these cameras will allow you just a little more control over them if you want, but all of them up to and including the single lens reflex equipment offer the "full automatic" option.

And they do a great job. Digital has not just effectively put the old Eastman Kodak out of business but has paradigmatically expanded the quantity and improved the quality of what are essentially snap-shots taken by the average person. That revolution notwithstanding, a lot of these pictures could be markedly improved with a few simple steps.

Delaneyedited1Delaneyedited1 1. Composition. This is probably the single greatest threshold between some really great photos and those that in future years will serve only as a record of who was there and what we did this holiday season. First of all, if your pictures don't grab you, stand closer to your subject. In the viewfinder or on the monitor on the back of the camera, look around the edge of the frame. Is there stuff in there that doesn't really need to be, much of it actually distracting from what you are trying to feature? Move in a little and crop it out right there in the camera. And if you are taking a photo of a person or person, where are their eyes in the frame? Without thinking about it, the casual picture-taker will almost always center the eyes right in the focusing dot, right in the middle of the frame. The problem with that is that, again, if you look around the edges of the frame, you'll notice that there really isn't any subject matter included above the subject's head...just an area or empty space. When taking a picture of a person, put their eyes on a horizontal line 1/3 of the distance from the top of the frame. You'll be amazed at the difference this makes.

2. Light. This is tricky, and gifted photographers spend their creative lives attempting to make artistic use of it. For most simple cameras, you have to depend on a flash (strobe, actually) built right into the front of the camera. In the bad old days, each flash unit had a "'guide number" and you had to divide the distance to your subject into that number to give you an f-stop on which to set the camera lens to get a properly exposed photo. I'm serious. These days, virtually all strobes...on camera or off...measure their own output as it's reflected back from the subject and then they automatically cut it off when the subject has had enough illumination to be sufficiently lit. Unbelievable, huh?

The only problem...well two of them actually...with these on-camera strobes is that they light the scene in a harsh, flat manner, creating deep background shadows. And, they produce the dreaded red-eye. They are so fast that we humans can't close our iris fast enough to prevent them from lighting up the back of our eyes. If your camera has an on-camera strobe, there isn't a whole heck of a lot to do about this, but there are a couple of things that can offer hope. For one thing, READ YOUR CAMERA'S MANUAL (duh) and if it has a red-eye setting, use it. (Because the "manuals" that come these days with even the most expensive cameras are written by folks to whom English is most decidedly a second language, check to see if there is an independently published manual for your camera. If there is, buy it and read that one.) In red-eye mode, the strobe will blink a bit before actually firing, which is supposed to warn and close down the iris. Never works on dogs, but sometimes will on humans, so it's worth a try. The other thing you can do to make the lighting in your indoor photos a bit less harsh is to turn on all the lights in the room just as high as they'll go. That can illuminate the background just enough to take away some of the very dark shadows. (Yeah, I know - I can hear the environmentalists cluck-clucking right now about this energy use, but hang it, Scrooge, it's Christmas. How often are you gonna to this?)

If your camera's strobe...on-camera or off...happens to have a tilt feature, you've got it made. Tilt it in the air at about a 45 degree angle above your subject and look at the difference in your photos. Also, if your flash has an opaque plastic diffuser that can be fitted to the flash, put it on and leave it on. Note that after-market diffusers are available (check for many flash units that don't necessarily come with them. I sometimes have to pick up one of these even though I already have a lot of them... spread from one end of Nebraska to the other. They can fall off, so maybe you want an extra one.

One last word on flash. I don't want to make this post a pitch for you to spend your dollars on gear (the photo mags already have that hustle covered in spades), but if your camera does have a "hot-shoe" where an external flash can be mounted, and if you can find one that is "dedicated" to your camera model (so that it works automatically) you might want to think about buying it. They don't have to cost that much - especially the after-market ones - and because they typically come with a variety of tilt and angle possibilities, as well as an optional diffuser, the can make a huge difference in your photos. Really.

Finally, you don't always have to pose people before taking their picture. Some of the best and most charming people pictures that are ever shot are of folks just doing what they were doing right before somebody pointed a camera at them. If they are facing away from you, and you want their face in the picture, just say their name in a voice not intended to startle them and fire. Even when you pose folks, it's not absolutely necessary to say, "Everyone say 'cheese' (I once knew a person who insisted that everyone saying "peaches" produces a nicer smile than "cheese") If you want to give your subjects just a bit of warning, all you have to say is something like "Okay, nice smile" and fire away. And to be fair to both the subjects and the photographer, take several shots. The key to being remembered as a photographer...and everyone who makes a living with a camera knows to take a whole lot of photos and throw most of them away!

Happy Holidays, everyone, and good shooting.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Thu, 29 Jun 2017 20:31:21 GMT
Captain Everett Parsons Phillips and the P-38 Lightning Originally posted Sept 05, 2012

The guy who originally taught me to fly an airplane and get my license was the late-Everett Phillips. He's been on my mind a lot the past few months, as I've again taken up airplane driving. I've realized all over again just what a strong basis in aviation fundamentals and airplane handling Phil gave me and also recalled all the fun we had together as we became best friends, hunting partners, traveled across the country by private plane, and also became for a time business partners in our own ground school training operation. He was the most naturally talented and accomplished pilot I've ever been around.

As it happens, Phil, who grew up in the hills of West Virginia (he liked to say that he had to put rocks in his shoes the first six months he left the Alleghenies, so he'd feel comfortable) piloted a P-38 Lightning through the European Theater in World War II. That's impressive enough, but Phil's plane - christened "Bag and Baggage" with nose art and a hand painted leather bomber jacked to match - was the photo reconnaissance version of the Lightning, termed the "Phantom" by the then-Army Air Force. That airplane, which was the fastest in the fleet until the P-51 Mustang came on line, had no armament and no armor plate, the "protection" for the pilot presumably being found in its speed, which at the time was deemed sufficient to out-run anything the Luftwaffe could put up against it. According to Phil, his squadron's motto was, "He who clicks and runs away lives to click another day."

So there he was, a 22 year-old kid with an airplane that could fly straight up. And he was a fighter pilot, in spirit and manner at least, his entire life. He fit the mold perfectly. Kind of a compact guy with a bit of swagger, an almost-cocky grin, and an attitude to go with it. I'd known and been friends with him for several years when I noticed on a shelf in his house an old black and white photo I'd never seen before. It was 22 year-old Phil, sitting in the cockpit of that Oh-My-God airplane in a leather jacket and (I swear) a silk scarf, with that same go-to-hell grin he still had the last time I ever saw him in his seventies.

As much of a stickler as he was on safety...and especially things like the coordinated and proper use of rudders and elevators on approach and landing...he himself would sometimes "push the envelope" a bit. At those times, like as not, he'd tell me in effect to do as he said and not as he did. That notwithstanding, I'll confess that on more than one occasion he made me more than a little uneasy. When I'd mention to him that I really didn't want to end my days in the crash of private plane, he'd respond, "Yeah, but it would be a classy way to die." A fighter pilot.

He survived WWII and found upon returning home that the airlines (wisely, one would think) wanted nothing to do with fighter pilots regardless of his multi-engine experience in the Lightning. So, he came back to Nebraska, where he had trained briefly before going to war, married a Nebraska girl, picked up a degree in pharmacy at the University and had a very successful career as a pharmacist, businessman, and ultimately, the director of the state veterans' nursing homes, while always keeping his hand in aviation in one capacity or another. A man of many parts and many talents. He was proud of his service before Tom Brokaw ever coined the phrase "The Greatest Generation" (which for my money they were) but he never wore his patriotism on his sleeve or stuffed it down your throat. He knew what he'd done, and that was enough, actually making it easier to admire and honor him.

RuffStuff-displayRuffStuff-display As I say, Phil's been on my mind and my lips these past few months, so you can imagine my reaction at yesterday's Nebraska football game when the flyover was performed by a P-51 AND a P-38 Lightning. On a hunch, I drove out to the airport this morning, and there it was, sitting on the ramp at Duncan Aviation! I explained my interest to them and they arranged for me to be accompanied outside to look it over and photograph it. For all I'd heard about that legendary airplane, it was the first time I had ever seen one close up, and it was a very meaningful experience. And of course, I thought of Captain Phillips sitting in it in his silk scarf and leather jacket and that grin.

RuffStuff-II-displayRuffStuff-II-display I heard a lot of P-38 stories over my years with Phil and enjoyed every one of them, but I didn't ask enough questions, just like with my parents. For example, this past June, it occurred to me that I'd never asked him where he was and what he did on D-Day. Stuff like that. Hopefully, some day my chance will come to ask those questions, but I hope not too soon.

Phil, wherever you are, across the miles and ages, we salute you, and "Bag and Baggage." Keep the clean side up and Happy Landings.


]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Thu, 29 Jun 2017 19:33:01 GMT
Distinguished Visitors Originally posted Aug 28, 2012

I love hummingbirds. A lot of that is probably due to memories of them when I used to visit Arapaho Ranch, in the Colorado Front Range, every August. It was really only at night that you could not listen and hear the distinctive sound of their flight. We’d always put up a feeder upon our arrival at the Ranch, and they would be visiting it within minutes. And if the nectar in it got a little low, they’d let you know that by buzzing you, if you happened to be sitting on the porch contemplating Middle Boulder Creek. Something that we did a lot of at Arapaho.

Passing Through-DisplayPassing Through-Display So when my kids got me into birding by giving me a Fathers Day gift of a seed feeder a few years ago, it was only a few weeks before I was reading up on hummingbirds in Nebraska.  In all the time I have spent in the outdoors, I’ve only seen them here on three occasions.  One was a bunch of years ago when I saw one fly through a friend’s backyard while sitting on the deck.  The second was on September 1, 2011, when two of them spent a couple of hours feeding from the hummingbird feeder I had by then installed in my own backyard, and the third was yesterday.

While their presence here does not even begin to amount to what it is in the Rockies, hummingbirds do migrate through Nebraska, and some actually nest here. The peak times to find them attracted to backyard feeders – whether just passing through or hanging around for the summer – is the first half of May and the first half of September.

Armed with that information, I had for several Augusts and Septembers been hanging up a feeder in my backyard to absolutely no result. In time, I realized that the experts are right in advising that the nectar be changed and the feeder rinsed out once a week. I fully realized this three summers ago when I saw a hummingbird streak through my yard, stick its nose very briefly in the feeder and scurry away like it was on after-burner, obviously not caring for the fare being offered. (Come to think of it, that was a fourth siting over the years, but it hardly counts.) Adopting the practice of weekly washings, I finally scored the first hummingbird coming to my feeder last September, although it was just that one day.

I had my feeder out through this past May but failed to observe any hummingbirds in my yard or vicinity. When the birdseed store reported earlier this month that the rapid little creatures were visiting feeders in south Lincoln, I thought, “So what am I – chopped liver?” but vowed not to give up and to keep my feeder up and fresh through September if that’s what it took. I also added a second feeder, just in case there is some hidden bird flaw in the first one.

So imagine my delight when, returned from a bike ride late yesterday afternoon, I saw a hummingbird dipping its beak in my new feeder.  I hustled my camera and oh-my-god telephoto lens upstairs and set up shop on the patio.  After a few minutes, there were two of the little rockets, feeding and kind of hazing each other as well.  Because the presence of other birds seemed to keep them away, I moved the seed feeders to another pole and hung both nectar feeders on their former pole.  That worked, and I spent about ninety minutes watching hummingbirds come and go.  And it was only August 27th!  At this rate, they should be around for a while.  At least that’s my hope.

BackyardCameraWMBackyardCameraWM On an equipment note – which I usually avoid – hummingbirds are kind of hard to photograph. They are wicked fast and dart around a lot. In case you are interested, for this shoot, I used a Nikon 600mm f.4 routed through a Nikon 1.4 teleconverter to a Nikon D3s firing at an ISO of 12,800. Arguably, the ISO could be cut in half or even further, but then you’d lose just about all depth of focus, something that’s pretty nice to have when shooting something that moves about as rapidly as a hummingbird. But that doesn’t mean that you have to have all that stuff to take a hummingbird photo you’ll like. Any DSLR camera, or one of the new mirror-less interchangeable lens cameras, fitted with a telephoto somewhere in excess of 200mm – the more the merrier in this regard – can take a photo of a hummingbird. It’s just if you plan to print it really big or publish it on the web that you need the pro-line stuff with its outrageous price tags. Otherwise, leave that bag to those of us who are truly possessed.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) D3s Nebraska Nikon Photography hummingbirds Thu, 29 Jun 2017 19:23:35 GMT
The Tower on the Plains Originally posted Aug 21, 2012

Tower on the Plains-displayTower on the Plains-display My Dad used to tell me about being there the day they hoisted The Sower up to the very top of the Nebraska State Capitol. Today, I office directly across the street from that magnificent building, with a wonderful view of it right outside my window. If you live in Lincoln, and especially if you are caught up in the spin of state government, it is every bit a part of your daily life. It is a building to be loved, and we do.

I have asked friends who live next door to the Atlantic, the Rockies, and the Nebraska Pine Ridge if they ever get to the point of just taking them for granted. Each of them has said, no, you never do. Ever. It’s always there, and it always has a way of planting itself firmly in your awareness. And it’s that way with the Nebraska Capitol. Early in my career, I worked in it every day for two years. These days, I practically spend all my professional life in it for four to six months of the year. But I never, ever walk into it without noticing at some level of consciousness how truly unique and impressive it really is. There is a little thrill in re-encountering it each time, and it never goes away.

When things get a little slow in my work day, I like to walk over to the front entrance on the second floor and read the dedication plaque that was placed there at the time the building was brand new. In part, it contains the words, “It is difficult for Nebraska to realize what it has done…” Maybe. Maybe not. Built in the depths of the Great Depression and paid for on the day it was completed, I tend to think Nebraskans knew exactly what they were doing and what it would mean to future generations. Whether Nebraskans as a people would do something of that magnitude today is a matter that one can only speculate on, but they did it once, and we’ll always have that.

The Capitol probably has had some hundreds of thousands of pictures taken of it, but I finally had to add my own photo to the total. When I passed it the other day, the building and the sky behind it were so striking, I had to go home to get a camera and come back to shoot it. I don’t know if the photo is any great shakes, but it’s mine, and because it seems some organization or individual always needs a shot of the Capitol for a publication or project, I’ve put it up on this site, both in color and black and white.

I do know one thing:  Dad would have loved it.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Capitol Lincoln Nebraska Sower Thu, 29 Jun 2017 19:23:10 GMT
Good Things Can Indeed Come in Small Packages Originally posted Aug 6, 2012

Fascinated with the then-new Nikon 1 mirror-less digital camera, I gave one to Cindy this past Christmas.  I gave her the J1 model, which does not have a viewfinder, but rather focuses on the monitor, because I know that's the way she likes to frame a picture.  Once in a while I can put a big Nikon DSLR in her hands, but normally, she prefers something more in the point-and-shoot mode.  She is nevertheless a talented photographer, and I thought the J1 would be an opportunity to get her into some equipment that would do more justice to her obvious skills.

And she gets some great stuff with it.  She took it to Alaska, along with the 30-110 telephoto lens I got for her later on (the Nikon 1 is an interchangeable lens camera, just like the DSLRs), and toward the end of the trip, I began to wonder which of us had bought the most appropriate equipment.  I carried two Nikon D3 bodies, a 200-400mm lens, a 70-200mm lens, a 24-70mm, and a 16-35mm. Along with tele-converters, a strobe, extra batteries, lens cleaning supplies, and all the other paraphernalia you seldom need except when you don't happen to have it with you. Thus loaded, my Thinktank Airport Security roller bag weighed in at 36 lbs.  And I had to hoist that thing up into the overhead compartment on airplanes as well as buck it up a narrow, winding staircase leading up a flight to the observation level of our car on the Alaska Railroad. At the end of the trip, I wasn't even taking a single camera with me when we'd go out exploring in Fairbanks or Anchorage.  By that point, I'd had a gut-full of carrying all that stuff around, and my attitude was, "Let Cindy shoot it - she does a better job anyway."

Suffice it to say that once we were back in Nebraska, I put my now-former walking-around camera...a Fujifilm X100...up for sale, and Cindy (what a gal!) was kind enough to give me a Nikon 1 V1, the same camera as hers only with a viewfinder, which I prefer to compose in. Something about an old dog and new tricks.

Subsequently, I ordered the Nikon adapter for the V1 and/or J1, which will allow the use of any of my Nikon lenses.  I had it delivered to me down in Florida week-before-last but didn't get a chance to use it and then forgot it there.  Delaney found it in her room and emailed me to let me know, and Kristi kindly UPS-ed it to me.  It arrived this morning, and I was quick to try it out later today with both a Nikon 80-400mm and a 28-300mm.  Both hook up, but the 80-400mm won't auto-focus for some reason, and indeed the camera gives you an "M focus OK" prompt when it should be focusing itself.  But to make up for that, the 28-300mm works perfectly, and the crop factor which results from the V1's smaller sensor, makes 300mm closer to 500mm.

In addition to the crop factor, I further cropped the accompanying shot of a visitor to our bird feeder in the process of touching it up in Photoshop. V1 300mm shot-resizedV1 300mm shot-resized And look at it!  As a picture, it's no great shakes, but look at the sharpness and detail, and this with an outfit that doesn't weigh in at 36 ounces, let alone 36 pounds.

Now, I'm not getting rid of my pro-line equipment. I really do need that stuff for what I do, or at least try to do.  Also, there remains just the tiniest (far less than a second) lag between the moment the shutter button is pushed and when the shutter actually fires on the J1 or V1, something that is absolutely instantaneous with the Nikon D series. Nevertheless, I'm totally tickled with the Nikon 1 as a walking-around camera. It will be perfect for when Cindy and I take off to visit a city for a couple of days, and it will be a real advantage that we can share lenses and accessories. And if I can be allowed to say so, I think the evidence shows that it will also do fine for the occasional wildlife shot or two.

Sooo, if you have a point-and-shoot camera but would like to move up to an interchangeable lens camera that is just a little more complex and with a lot more resolution and detail, but still capable of being shot on full automatic, check out a Nikon 1 J1 or a V1. It may be just the camera you've been waiting for.

Apparently, it was for me.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) DSLR J1 Nikon Photography V1 point-and-shoot telephoto Thu, 29 Jun 2017 19:07:29 GMT
One Out of a Thousand - Not Too Bad Originally posted July, 21, 2012

I’ve put up five photos from the some 5,000 frames I shot on our recent trip to Alaska. There are other good shots in that inventory, and in the days ahead I’ll probably put a few more of them up on this web site.  Each of these pictures carries a story with it…which makes them especially special to Cindy and me…but for one of them, which is really, really special, I want to tell that story.

The photo, “Sisters” truly is a shot of two two-and-a-half-year-old sister coastal brown bear cubs, shot in Lake Clark National Park along the west shore of the Cook Inlet.  They are right at the age when their mother has kicked them out of the nest, and they’ll be together the rest of the summer and den-up together this winter.Come next spring, they’ll be sexually mature and will go off individually, to themselves renew the cycle of life.



But for now, they’re still best friends and each others companion and protector. And as it sometimes is with siblings, one of them…the larger of the two…is more active and aggressive while the smaller one is more shy, retiring and less “physical” than her sister. The day before we visited at Silver Salmon, a male who had been busy shadowing a mature female for the past couple of weeks…but had so-far struck out with her…tried to chase down and kill the smaller sister. She narrowly escaped, and had climbed high in a spruce tree, where she remained ensconced on the day of our visit.

At one point, however, Scott, who was our host along with his wife, Sage, said, “Let’s go over there. One of the sisters is up in a tree, and I just received a radio message that her sister is coming for her.”

We did go over there, and sure enough, here came the larger sister.  She detoured through some underbrush when she saw us (she’d have turned around if Scott had not assured her that “You’re okay”), and sure enough, the smaller sister started down out of her tree.  When they met on the ground, they touched snouts, gamboled around, and then took off at a lope, out onto the flat to graze on sedge grass, at which point Scott said, “I don’t know if the smaller one would make it without her sister.”

Now, I’m decidedly not anthropomorphic, and really appreciate it that, as well as Scott and Sage know these individual bears in their area, they refuse to give them names. They’re wild animals after all, but this really was something.  Watching those two golden adolescent girls relate to each other in a way much reminiscent of human siblings was pretty touching and something I’ll never forget.  I think of them now, and I’ll go on thinking of them, especially next spring, wondering if they both survived the winter and if they’ve both embarked on an adult life that includes being a mom to cubs of their own.  The cycle of life.

I hope you enjoy these photos, and if you have comments, would enjoy hearing from you.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Alaska Alaskan Brown Bear Anchorage Cooks Inlet Elmendorf Air Force Base Lake Clark National Park Lake Hood Merril Field Photography Silver Salmon Creek Lodge Thu, 29 Jun 2017 16:24:09 GMT
More Than We Could Have Hoped For Originally posted July 17, 2012

CooksInlet2CooksInlet2 Cindy and I are back from the Alaskan trip first mentioned here last February, and it was a truly special experience.

No, we didn’t do a cruise or a tour. We put the trip together from scratch in order to see and do exactly what we wanted, and it worked out just that way. For me, the highlight was photographing bears, especially the second day when we flew with a bush pilot south out of Anchorage to the Silver Salmon Creek Lodge, in Lake Clark National Park, landed on the beach and shot some 3,000 frames of coastal brown bears on the west shore of the Cook Inlet. For Cindy, it was a gray wolf which appeared at the roadside suddenly and was gone just as suddenly on our mid-week back country tour of Denali National Park. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quick enough to get a photo of the wolf, but in the days ahead I expect to put up several bear pictures on this site, which I hope you’ll enjoy.

Two things impressed me most about Alaska. For one thing, it is absolutely immense. It’s beautiful in the same sense that the front range of the Colorado Rockies is beautiful, but that beauty resides in such a much larger scale. Where in Colorado, you might look two or three miles across a mountain park or valley to distant peaks, in Alaska, that view can easily encompass thirty or forty miles. And of course, the state itself is huge, taking up a territory equal in size to about a third of the continental U.S. while populated by only 600,000 folks. You can fly over or ride the Alaska Railroad through a large chunk of the state and not see anyone at all residing or even being there.

The other thing that simply wowed me, as an airplane driver, is the extent of aviation in Alaska. I guess I knew about that, but still was not prepared to actually engage with it. Anchorage, for example, is served by four airports: Anchorage International, Lake Hood seaplane base, Merril Field for private aviation, and Elmendorf Air Force Base. In the area where the three civil airports practically adjoin each other, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of single-engine small planes parked here, there and everywhere. One in sixty Alaskans is a licensed pilot – which compares with one in two or three hundred in the lower 48 – and there is also one airplane for every 60 persons. In our first two days there, Cindy and I flew in five different light aircraft and with some truly skilled pilots. And don’t think I wasn’t lovin’ it. lightaircraftlightaircraft

Of course, at the end of our eight days there, it was the people…not the animals or airplanes…we encountered who made the experience special for us. So here’s a shout-out and sincere thanks to Terry, Jerry, Mark, Scott, Sage, Dave, and all the others who seemed genuinely glad to have us visit and to share their magnificent state with us. We won’t forget you or the place where you live.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Alaska Alaskan Brown Bear Anchorage Cooks Inlet Elmendorf Air Force Base Lake Clark National Park Lake Hood Merril Field Photography Silver Salmon Creek Lodge Wed, 22 Mar 2017 17:14:20 GMT
The Wife from Central Casting Originally posted Jun21, 2012

It's hard to know sometimes where to begin listing all the great things about Cindy.  One thing is that she always gives me the most imaginative and personal gifts.  Gifts that are loaded with imagination, creativity, and Cindy herself.
543292_3200366907109_1421445195_n543292_3200366907109_1421445195_n A week ago this past Saturday, I took her flying with me and Tristan, the young woman who has worked with me the past few weeks to get me up-to-date and signed off to once again be an active pilot.  ( If the weather cooperates, we are doing a cross-country out to York tomorrow, I take the FAA physical exam Monday, and assuming I pass it, I'll be back in business.)
At any rate, Cindy rode the back seat that Saturday in total equanimity, shooting photos with her Nikon 1 and generally enjoying the ride, which got a little bumpy occasionally with 19kt winds gusting to 28.
And then, this past Sunday, she presented me with a Fathers Day present...a DVD of a number of her photos set to music.  And it's great.  A loving gesture that also captures some of the magic of flight.
Thanks, Cindy.  We'll do it again...and again, and again.
(Here's the link to my Facebook page where the video has been uploaded. Check it out.)
Ron's Flying Excursion Video on Facebook


]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Mon, 20 Feb 2017 22:48:40 GMT
When You Meet One of Your Heroes, It's Exciting... Originally posted May23, 2012

...When You Spend Four Days with One, It's Special

For whatever my opinion is worth, the top three outdoor photographers in America are Moose Peterson, Michael Forsberg, and Joel Sartore. Forsberg and Sartore, interestingly, are from right here in Lincoln, which is not exactly scenic central, but that's a story for another day.

Most landscape and/or wildlife photographers that are household least to other photographers...hail from somewhere in the western United States. And if you think about it, that makes sense. The opportunities to not only take engaging pictures, but to grow and develop as a photographer are just so much more abundant anywhere west of the Front Range of the Rockies that it makes sense that the region would produce greater numbers of more talented picture takers.

Moose-and-KevinMoose-and-Kevin Moose - and that's his real given name - Peterson is from out there. He's a native Californian who makes his home in the Sierras and travels constantly throughout the year, taking photographs and putting on workshops and clinics for shooters who would like to emulate his art and talent. He has a photo library of 2.5 million pictures; he has a wildly popular website where he posts blog entries on at least a daily basis; he's published two books and numerous magazine articles on outdoor photography: and B and H Photo, in New York, has recently installed an 800 number for its "Moose Hotline" where the faithful can access products Moose has found useful and recommends (he's in the employ of none of them, even Nikon, and he's a Nikon icon). Suffice it to say that to a lot of folks carrying a camera around, the guys' hot.

And he's been one of my photography heroes for a couple of years now. I've read both his books, read each and every one of his magazine articles, have and refer to his Yellowstone CD, and check in with his blog just about every day. When I've read about his upcoming workshops, it always calls up wistful thoughts of attending one, but they are invariably a long way from Nebraska, and also, they're not cheap. But that all changed about six months ago when Moose announced that he and long-time associate, Kevin Dobler, were launching the series, K & M Adventures, informal opportunities to spend time with Moose and Kevin in a relaxed and informal setting devoted to taking photos, learning more about photography, and having fun. The exact agenda at each Adventure would kind of unfold as things went along, guided both by Moose and the interests of the participants. AND GET THIS: The second K & M Adventure would be held in the Black Hills of South Dakota - right next door - May 17-20, 2012! I immediately sent off a deposit and slogged through the Nebraska winter and a session of the Unicameral dreaming of spending time with Moose in the Springtime Custer State Park.

The day to leave for the Black Hills did inevitably arrive, and I headed off in an SUV loaded with just about every piece of photo gear I own, except for two or three items that I left at home, but it turned out I really needed. (Isn't that always the way.)

I returned to Lincoln a couple of days ago, having shot 2,971 frames, got out of bed for every sunrise, met and enjoyed the company of a SDLandscape-wmkSDLandscape-wmk half-dozen other middle-aged white guys who'd love to be just like Moose, and in the bargain became well enough acquainted with Moose to legitimately call him a friend.  He's the guy running the video camera in the photo included with this blog entry, while being photographed doing so by Kevin.  If there's a fascinating aspect to him...and there most certainly is more than is how he manages to maintain such an intense interest and schedule and never burns out on taking pictures.  He's interesting and a good conversationalist so long as you're talking about photography, computers, or wildlife. Once the subject turns from those topics, he really doesn't have that much to say.  (Kevin, on the other hand, is a structural integrity engineer at Cessna in Wichita and a fellow airplane driver.  Maybe you think that we didn't find a lot to discuss.)

Suffice it to say that the South Dakota K & M Adventure was all I had hoped for and well worth the time and expense involved, and waiting through a Nebraska winter for.  In the days ahead, I'll be adding several pictures to this website from the photos I shot while I was in Custer State Park.  I hope you'll enjoy them.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Black Hills Moose Peterson Fri, 03 Feb 2017 19:57:59 GMT
A Place to Work...and Have Fun, Too Originally posted May04, 2012

One of the things that people, who presumably know better or more than I, have always said to me is, "You have to have a place to work," if you indeed have any worthwhile work to do.

Photograp PlaceToWork4PlaceToWork4 hy falls very much into that category, and a while back, Cindy and I put the precept to work, setting up a place in our basement to do photography related tasks, fiddle on our computers, and store photographic equipment. You will note that so far, at least, I have not offered photography instruction or advice on this site, as I consider that I myself remain a learner and probably always will be. That state of being notwithstanding, I think we did a pretty good job of setting up our photo and computer work room and am passing along the result on the chance that one or more of you who read these words will find the information useful.

When I lived here by myself, staking out a particular area for one activity or another was not much of a task. I just dropped my stuff wherever I figured it would be handy and moved on. But when Cindy and I married and began to share the property...each of us having previously lived by ourselves in a family home...we really did have to make some adjustments, accommodations, and compromises. As easy as that was to do for something we both wanted so much, each of us did give generously of our former possessions to the Salvation Army and Goodwill. Once we took up joint residency, it was time to take the camera gear out of the wet bar cabinet, stop leaving lenses, flashes, and other accouterments laying around on the kitchen counter, storing camera gear bags in the pantry, and to get organized.

So w PlaceToWork3PlaceToWork3 e did. I first had Contemporary Woods Furniture build a couple of oak bookcases and then, subsequently, had them build an additional one just for loose equipment like flashes, tri-pods, remote shutter triggers, etc. I "built" Cindy and myself each a desk out of a door, stained to mostly match the bookcases, and two inexpensive two-drawer file cabinets. Nothing fancy, but they offer an ample work surface and are the perfect height for working at a computer keyboard, plus, the drawers offer additional storage. We also moved downstairs a couple of pressboard bookcases from eac PlaceToWork1PlaceToWork1 h of our houses to hold a major portion of what turned out to be a pretty considerable joint library of books, movie DVDs and music CDs. Later, I fashioned the photo rail so that we can put up and take down pictures without each time pounding a nail in the off-white painted -(formerly "pecan") - paneling.

And that's pretty much it, except for one particular touch, which has turned out to be super useful and of which I'm kind of proud. With day-in-day-out access t PlaceToWork2PlaceToWork2 o the kitchen counters out of the picture, I needed a place where I could set out my gear, select the particular pieces of equipment I wanted to accompany me on a photography outing, clean lenses, work on items requiring maintenance or assembly, etc., and do so standing at a comfortable working height...especially important to a guy with a gimpy back. So, I returned to Contemporary Woods (they like me down there) and had them custom build a 3x6 oak table to match the other furniture, but at kitchen counter height. It's a pedestal table, so they could take it apart to get it down here, or maybe one day, to take it out. And it's great. Very useful and used constantly. I really don't know just what I'd do without it.

So that's the deal. Both Cindy and I truly enjoy the room and especially like to dither away a winter Sunday afternoon in it just enjoying each other's company and doing things that aren't especially least to anyone else...but satisfying and fun to both of us.

That, in fact, is the best part.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Fri, 03 Feb 2017 19:33:42 GMT
"Bag and Baggage" Originally posted Mar29, 2012

My late friend, Everett Phillips, had that slogan, along with an attractive pinup, painted on the nose of his P-38 photo recon plane, which he flew throughout the European Theater in WW II. When I searched my mind for a title for this blog entry – which is actually a product endorsement – it came immediately to mind.

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog, if indeed there are any of you out there, know that Cindy and I are traveling to Alaska this summer where we will, among other things, photograph the Alaskan Coastal Brown Bear. From the time this decision was taken, I’ve known that I have all the camera gear and more than I’ll need for that trip. What I did not know was just how I would be getting it there. Traveling with photo gear is a balancing act. You want a carryon bag or pack that will just fit in the overhead of any aircraft you are likely to fly on but not so big that they’ll try to take it away from you at the gate. That simply can’t happen. You can not turn several thousand dollars worth of camera bodies, lenses and accessories over to the tender mercies of the airline baggage handlers.

So I went looking for something that would accommodate a big telephoto, two bodies, three additional lenses, a speedlight, teleconverters, lens cleaners, filters, etc. My tripod I’ll carry in the biggest roller bag I have, which I’ll check. AND, the carryon has to fit in the overhead storage of the regional jet we’ll be taking on the first leg of the trip. I went at this project pretty deliberately and checked the dimensions and considered the features of several possibilities, measuring them against the published airline maximums.

Having gone through this process, I ultimately settled on the “Think Tank Airport Addicted” backpack, which sells for a little more than three hundred dollars. It arrived today, and I’m absolutely delighted with it. It is extremely well made, intelligently laid out, and comes with all kinds of useful information regarding such things as the slickest way to pack your gear in order to walk it efficiently through airport security and make sure it goes in the cabin with you. It has a detachable computer compartment, which does have to be detached for it to meet the international dimension requirements, but again, my notebook – which I use as a photo safe on location - is small enough and rugged enough to go in my roller bag stowed in its neoprene case and padded with clothing. There is a cable which can be used to lock the bag up, and I intend to get a TSA padlock for it, if I don’t discover one packed with the bag. I think it will be as close to perfect as perfect gets.

Of course, that still leaves the possibility of a flight attendant meeting me at the door of the junior jet and telling me the bag has to be checked. But like Toby Keith says, “We’ll burn that bridge when we get there.” I’ll courteously but firmly ask to demonstrate that it will indeed fit in the overhead, and I’ve reserved our seating on the regional jets to make certain we’re among the first to board, so there should be space available.

Of course, what I’d like to do in that situation is to have a screaming fit, but then I don’t think that either I or the Airport Addicted would get to Alaska!

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Think Tank Fri, 03 Feb 2017 19:08:41 GMT
Photography on the Big Screen Originally posted Feb27, 2012

Saturday I again this year attended the second day of Photograph Nebraska, a two-day photography workshop held in Hastings, Nebraska. Only it was more fun this year, as Cindy attended with me. Somehow, she always seems to bring the entertainment, and I love it!

We heard interesting and useful presentations by NEBRASKAland Magazine Associate Editor, Jeff Kurrus, Lincoln’s Randy Hampton, the Omaha World-Herald’s Alyssa Shukar, and this year’s featured presenter, Joel Sartore. Where last year’s event was held at the country club in Hastings, this year it took place at the Hastings Museum, which also houses the Imax theater, although I understand that facility is no longer an Imax designee.

Whatever, the advantages of co-locating the workshop with the Imax were obvious before Saturday’s program ever kicked off. After having signed in, Cindy and I joined others in the theater, which was running a slide show of images. All of a sudden, there was “The Kid” displayed 25’ by 30’! I’d actually forgotten that we had submitted that photo (or rather Julie submitted it for me) when I registered for the workshop, so it was quite a jolt to see that picture that size…something that every aspiring photographer should get to experience.

The kickoff speaker…in the Imax…for Saturday was Alyssa Shukar, the very able young shooter for the Omaha World-Herald, who recently spent (if I recall correctly) some three weeks with Nebraska and Iowa soldiers in Afghanistan. Listening to this young woman and seeing her work displayed Imax size were a real treat. One of her photos displayed the equipment she carried around Afghanistan on her back, along with her clothing and personal items, and body armor. It was pretty impressive. She noted that she prepared for the trip by taking a UNO course on Afghanistan and also taking up weight lifting in order to cope with the physical demands of being embedded with the military in a war zone. I visited with her briefly after her presentation and observed for her that her picture should appear in the dictionary to illustrate “plucky.”

From Jeff Kurrus, I got some helpful ideas on what NEBRASKAland is looking for in terms of both words and copy. Jeff has recently authored a children’s book…illustrated by the photographs of Michael Forsberg…on Sandhill Cranes. He discussed just how you get from a photo project to a published book.

Randy Hampton, as always, was totally engaging and almost paradigmatically informative. I told Randy that we have to find a way to franchise him and go worldwide. His rather dry humor together with the solid and practical information he combines it with really hold your interest. I’ve lost count of the number of Randy’s workshops I’ve attended, but every time, I come away with something to put to use right away in my own photography. Cindy has observed that I also always come away with my eye on some piece of gear Randy has exposed me to, and this time was no exception. I’ve long salivated over the Pocket Wizard remote flash triggers but have been put off by their cost. Well guess what? At this presentation, Randy identified a similar product available at a fraction of the cost of the Pocket Wizard. Even though I don’t do that much flash photography, I don’t think I’ll be able to get by much longer without this bit of technology.

And Sartore. I’ve wanted to meet and hear from him for maybe five years, and finally the chance presented itself. He also showed his stuff on the Imax screen, and even this photography veteran and world traveler enjoyed seeing his photos at King Kong size. Suffice it so say that Joel Sartore lives a life that I have trouble imagining. He’s gone from home maybe six months a year and travels to the remotest corners of the world, shooting thousands of photos of subjects most of us can only dream of. The chief hazards of his career seem to be the exotic ailments that can be picked up in the places he journeys to for Nat Geo. He showed us pictures of an expedition to photograph bats in their cave in some remote corner of Africa, where he was hit in the eye by flying bat fecal matter. While that may sound like a pie-in-the-face bit, some eight to ten percent of folks exposed to the disease harbored by these particular bats, in this particular cave, die, and Sartore was immediately sent home to see if he would be one of them. He survived but has not been back to that cave and those bats again, and who could blame him?

At the end of the day, the thing that I find most intriguing about folks like Randy, Shukar, Sartore, or Michael Forsberg, for example, is how they manage to sustain a passion for something like photography for an entire lifetime. None of those guys have ever really done anything else other than the normal marry, buy a home, raise a family, etc. I kind of drift in and out of things without ever going head over heels for a particular interest of activity or ever quite giving it up entirely. Things like hunting, cycling, photography, mountain climbing, and flying have all at one time or another been a major interest in life. I cool on them but never totally walk away from them, and most of them have come around again at least once, if not two or three times.

But people like the ones I got to see and hear in Hastings this past weekend, somehow manage to maintain their original focus on an undertaking…photography in this case…right on through their adult lifetimes. And it’s that kind of dedication and commitment that makes them the sort of individuals the rest of us go to for inspiration, information, and example. Thank you Photograph Nebraska for the opportunity to share some time with some of the outstanding picture-takers in the Cornhusker State.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Fri, 03 Feb 2017 18:58:49 GMT
Alaska Dreamin’ Originally posted Feb14, 2012

A big part of the fun of any big trip is the planning and preparation. And in the case of this jaunt north to explore Alaska and photograph grizzlies, I absolutely have to (tsk-tsk) carefully review the gear I will be taking with me to make sure it’s appropriate.

Last week, I ordered LensCoats for both my 200-400mm and 600mm Nikon telephotos, even though I’ve decided not to take the 600mm. This is actually something I should have done when I acquired each lens, as the neoprene LensCoats do offer protection against cosmetic damage during transport or use. It will be important for the Alaska trip because, after a lot of careful (really) research, I’ve decided to buy Moose Peterson’s MB-3 photo backpack. Moose himself warns prospective purchasers of this item that it does not have a lot of “excess padding.”

Nevertheless, I’ve opted for this medium size bag over the larger MB-1 because we will be flying from Omaha to Minneapolis in a regional jet and will be using bush planes for transportation from Anchorage to Lake Clark and Katmai National Parks for the bear photography portion of the trip. Though Moose swears he’s never had an airline refuse to allow him to carry-on the MB-1 for cabin baggage, with my luck, I’m just liable to be the exception that makes the rule. However, I absolutely, positively know that I can carry the MB-3 on the small airplanes, and not lugging along both of the big heavy telephoto lenses will make for a much pleasanter trip as well.

Plus, the 200-400mm…especially as I will be bringing along my 1.4 and 2.0 teleconverters…will be more than adequate for the kind of bear viewing we’ll be undertaking. In Alaska, the way you photograph bears is to go to a place where they are known to congregate and wait for them to show up. In this case, that will be where they’ll be catching fish in the annual salmon run, where they will be too busy and in fact, too habituated to worry about some camera toting tourists. Doing it this way is far more productive in getting to see bears and a heck of a lot safer than just going out and walking around in bear country. While grizzlies are not out looking for people to chase down and eat, they are also quite unpredictable and can run faster than a horse. Years ago, I walked up on a cub grizzly in the Tetons. Like they do most of the time, this bear ran away, and I could not have believed how fast he ran without having seen it. Anyone who tells you they were charged by a bear and ran away and climbed a tree could also go to hell for lying.

Finally, it rains a lot in Alaska, even in July, so I ordered a rain cover that will mostly protect a camera with a big lens on it while still allowing me to go on shooting photos when things get wet. I have to confess that, as much time as I’ve spent banging around in the outdoors over the years, I’m really not very hardy when it comes to climatic conditions. I absolutely hate to be cold, and there are few things I enjoy so much that I can even have fun doing them in the rain. Actually, none at all, come to think of it.

However, after traveling several thousand miles and spending several thousand dollars to take pictures of bears, I’ll not be letting a little shower get in the way…at least not this time.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Fri, 03 Feb 2017 18:33:30 GMT
It's "North to Alaska" Originally posted Feb02, 2012

Cindy and I did have an extended discussion on what to do with "Summer 2012" and after re-visiting the Africa idea, as well as considering a rambling run to the left coast, we wound up right where we began, heading to Alaska next July.

That was the easy part, just like taking an airplane off. The hard part is what comes next...a landing you can walk away from and/or making all the arrangements for a trip that will involve transportation by airline, bush plane, and train, as well as lodging in four different venues. And, the first of February isn't getting stared any too early to nail down stuff in Alaska in July.

We'll be both going and coming home on American Airlines out of Omaha, and I was fortunate to get flights both ways that depart and arrive on the same day (due to the distance and time difference, traveling from one day into the next is not uncommon when going to Alaska). Because we'll get to Anchorage early evening of the day we leave Omaha, we are actually going to take two one-day trips to view and photograph bears. Ironically, it's actually less expensive to take two day-trips than to stay overnight at one of the "bear" lodges. IF you can get in, that can run eight or nine hundred dollars per person per night. Sooo, we are going to world famous Brooks Falls, in Katmai National Park the first day and to Silver Salmon Creek, in Lake Clark National Park, the second day. That also means that if we get weathered out one of those days, we'll still get to see bears on the other one...unless of course, we get weathered out both days (but that's not going to happen).

Another advantage to going out and back each day is that we don't have to take overnight luggage, the size and weight of which has to be limited in a small aircraft. That will allow me to take and check with the airline my bigger roller bag, while carrying on my photo equipment back pack - which will fit in the overhead of even the smallest regional jets - while I stuff the roller bag with clothes and some not-so-fragile photo equipment that my backpack won't accommodate.

After the two "bear" days, we will take the Alaska Railroad up to Denali, where we'll spend two nights in a cabin near the entrance to Denali National Park. There's no private motor vehicle traffic in the Park, so we are taking a full-day escorted tour of it, leaving the cabin at 6:15 a.m. and returning about that time in the evening. It works because in the summer the days are so long up there.

After Denali, we'll take the train on up to Fairbanks, where we'll spend two nights and one day, and then train back to Anchorage the following day. Sadly, the next day we'll climb on an airplane early in the morning to get back to Omaha late that night.

Expect to see some Alaskan Coastal Brown Bears pictured on this site, beginning early August.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Fri, 03 Feb 2017 18:29:30 GMT
California Dreamin’ Originally posted Jan10, 2012

I'm not sure what big trip Cindy and I should take next summer, if we should take one at all. Since my mid-twenties, I've wanted to visit Africa - which to me has always pretty much meant Kenya. But I've never been in a position to do it, or at least that's what I've thought. We were going to do it last summer, but what with marrying Cindy - something way, way more important than a trip to anywhere - and the inherent selling and buying of houses and re-configuring of living arrangements, etc. - it just wasn't the year.

And this is not the year for Kenya in that it's election year there, and to celebrate elections, they usually come close to an all-out civil war. It's a country still pretty much ruled by tribal politics, and the tribe that loses the elections takes up arms, or at least they did for the last election, killing thousands of innocent citizens.

That being the case, we have more-or-less decided this is the year for Alaska, where in addition to just seeing and experiencing the place, I want to photograph the Alaskan Coastal Brown Bear. But lately it's dawned on me that the expected unpleasantness in Kenya does not have to preclude travel in Tanzania to observe and photograph the great East African game migrations. Or at least I don't think so without checking the State Department travel advisories.

So that's where I am, but it occurs to me that Michael Forsberg and Moose Peterson - my two greatest photographer heroes - have spent careers making stunning photos without ever having gone to Africa. They've mostly shot what they've found around them, in various parts of the West, bringing a kind of focus to their work that eludes many other photographers. Heck, Cindy and I love travel by auto, and I know we'd be as happy as clams to load up the Pilot and take a couple of weeks to roam around the Western U.S., heading out to the Tetons, up through Yellowstone, on to Glacier, maybe even Banff, and then over to the west coast and down to Yosemite, before turning for home through Bryce or Moab.

Even though summer is a ways off, and I've got a session of the Legislature to get through, trips to Alaska and Africa have to be reserved well in advance to get to where you want to go and do what you want to do.

I'd better talk this over with Cindy, and fairly soon.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Fri, 03 Feb 2017 18:25:08 GMT
Slick ‘em and Click ‘em Originally posted Dec16, 2011 

I’ve been looking around for a used Nikon D3, mainly on ebay and I’d managed to convince myself that, when I carry two DSLR’s – which I frequently do at the sprint car races and other action events – having to switch back and forth between the control systems on my D3s and the D700 is unhandy and a hang up. (Yeah, I know, but any old excuse to buy yet another camera, right?)

I bid on a couple on ebay, but on each of them, the price seemed to jump way out of reason right at the last second of the last minute of the auction. I wanted a cream puff, and they were selling not much more than a thousand dollars cheaper than a new D3s. I finally just gave up on the idea for a few days. But then I found myself once again slipping over to the ebay site just to see what was going on. On this second “just browsing” tour, I limited myself to cameras that were clearly in mint condition with low shutter actuations, and available on a “Buy it Now” basis. The heck with the bidding wars.

The other evening, Cindy and I were downstairs in the “computer/photo lab” mousing around on our respective machines (her laptop, my desktop) and there it was. A truly mint D3 with 17k shutter actuations…the camera equivalent of a cleaner-than-a-whistle, 7,000 mile used car. And, it was priced right…just a little over half of the cost new. I visited with Cindy about it, slept on it, and the following afternoon, hit the B.I.N. button. A few minutes later, the seller phoned me just to make sure I was legit. We had a pleasant conversation, and he said he’d ship it right out to me. I assumed I’d see it sometime next week and then walked into my office after lunch on Thursday, and there it was, sitting on my couch!

I un-packed it kind of holding my breath, but it is absolutely as advertised. It and the accessories were packed in each and every little plastic bag that came with them the day of original purchase, and it is in simply perfect condition, obviously having had wonderful care. And the guy who sold it is an excellent photographer! I could tell, because when I went through the menu, entering my personal preferences to maybe fifty items, I changed his own settings only a couple of times. I told Cindy that I’m sorry I won’t ever really know the seller because I think we’d have a lot to talk about.

Thanks, Michael. I called and left you a voice mail thanking you for taking such great care of and selling me the camera, and also participating with me in a neat little adventure that I won’t forget.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) D3 Nikon camera photography Fri, 03 Feb 2017 18:17:18 GMT
Sometimes They Really Are Worth More Than the Paper They're Printed On Originally posted Dec 12, 2011

I'm adding a couple of new photos to the website: "Kids on the Rocks" and "South Arapaho Peak."

The "Kids" photo is pretty much self-explanatory. A couple of summers ago, I was privileged to spend three days with Weldon Lee - one of this country's outstanding wildlife photographers - on a high country photo safari. I took literally hundreds of shots of mountain goats. They really don't seem to have much fear of humans and will allow us to approach remarkably close to them so long as you don't invade their personal space or do something as stupid as try to touch them. [Saw a kid almost get butted in the ass for that, and he deserved it] The young goats, the other kids, were of course a special treat. They never get too far from their mothers but nevertheless will wander around in groups of three or four, almost constantly in physical contact with one another and gamboling about. Goat adolescents.

I hope you like this photo. I myself can't look at it without smiling.

I can't look at the photo of Colorado's South Arapaho Peak without a smile either, but for quite a different reason. The picture was shot in April of 2008 from the Peak to Peak Highway. I don't think the photo is any world beater, and will be quite surprised if anyone ever buys a print of it.

But it will always be an important mountain to me. See, I climbed that sucker...all 13,500 feet of it...on August 9, 1974. If that date seems to ring a bell, it was on that day that Richard M. Nixon became the only U.S. President ever to resign the office. And because of the significance of that date to the world at large, almost forty years later, I can still tell you the exact day I stood on the snow shrouded peak distant in that photo.

South Arapaho, at 13,500 feet, misses being a "fourteener" by 500 feet, but don't let anybody tell you it's not a long way up there. Because you need to be off the summit by, say, 1:00 p.m. to avoid the afternoon thunderstorm build-up and accompanying lightning strikes, it's a good idea to be on the trail shortly after daylight. As I remember, this mountain took some five hours to climb and three hours to descend. On the top, there is a round bronze plate, set in stone, that has the line of sight and distance to other mountains as far away as Pike's Peak, which is clearly visible. There's also a tablet in a metal canister sunk in the stone, where you can write your name and make an inane comment if you wish. I wrote, "It was a long climb up, but the view is worth every step." Profound, huh?

I was a young man in August of 1974, but it's been some time since I have been able to claim that status. In subsequent years, I tried Long's Peak and got up to the boulder field before being weathered off the mountain by a summer snow/hail storm. I still dream of standing atop Long's but most likely that's all it will ever be now. Along with August 9, 1974, a remembrance and a dream of a man no longer young.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Tue, 31 Jan 2017 22:57:39 GMT
Red Birds Originally posted Dec 1, 2011

I've posted a couple of photos of Cardinals and probably need to do some explaining about one of them. Nature photographers are not ever supposed to exhibit a picture that has a bird feeder in it. At the same time, it's darned hard to just go out walking around, shooting arresting photos of birds when and if you happen to see one. It's both easier and better to rely on a facet of bird behavior that many folks are probably not aware of. It's this: birds, when coming to feed, will almost always perch for a bit on a tree or something higher than the food location. They like to fly down to feed after briefly surveying the area for predators, etc.

A trick many bird photographers use is to construct a perch, higher than and near the feeder and typically made from a bare tree limb or branch. I tried this myself, but there are over twenty trees in my backyard, every one of them standing a lot taller that my bird feeders. Accordingly, the birds cheerfully ignored my branch-perch and continued to do what they probably always have done in my yard...perch on a "real" tree limb and then fly down to feed.

I know all of this and yet have chosen to include in the photos on this website one picture where both pictured birds were obviously perched on a feeder. I did this because the photo in question shows some bird behavior that until recently, I've been quite unaware of. What I'm talking about is the fact that Cardinals build a nest and tend to raising youngsters as a couple. The male Cardinal (and the female as well) bring food to the baby birds both in the nest and after they fledge. I didn't know that until I saw a dad Cardinal actually exhibiting this behavior, feeding safflower seeds to a Cardinal youngster, both of them perched on one of my feeders.

I was so struck by this that I did a little looking in one of my bird books and confirmed what I had witnessed. I've always thought that male Cardinals were, if anything, kind of cocky and self absorbed, probably led to that conclusion by both their appearance and mannerisms. But it turns out that this colorful and raucous guy is a liberated male, working together as a team with his mate to provide for their off-spring.

That may be extra meaningful to me because my parents both worked when I was growing up, and as I remember it, my Dad really did shoulder an equal share of the household load, though he - and the rest of us - drew the line at cooking. And if I had a dollar for every diaper I changed and bottle I fed when Kristi was little, well, I'm sure I could finance a get-away weekend in New York, or at least Chicago. Well, maybe Omaha.

I hope you enjoy the photos.

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Tue, 31 Jan 2017 19:19:00 GMT
It Isn't the Equipment, Really Originally posted Nov 1, 2011

Whenever a person compliments me on a particular photo, I’ll often respond with a self-effacing, “It isn’t me; it’s the equipment.”

But really, it isn’t the equipment, and in contrast to some other photographers’ websites, you won’t find a link here entitled, “my equipment” or “what’s in the bag” etc. That’s because, in truth, that stuff isn’t really that important.

Almost every photographer has been asked by some one admiring his or her work, “What kind of camera do you use?” It’s a legitimate question from an individual contemplating a camera purchase and wanting to compare results by brand. On the other hand, if they are thinking that by duplicating an excellent photographer’s equipment, they’ll also be excellent – forget it. Doesn’t work that way.

The truth is that any of the quality cameras on the market, in these days of computer-aided design, will take a good picture if aimed and operated correctly. Nobody ever asks a successful writer what kind of word processor they use.

True, there is an equipment fetish that goes with serious photography, and I plead totally guilty to being a worshipper. But I hope I’m honest enough to admit that I breathlessly await each of Nikon’s new offerings simply because that new gear is so cool, elegant, and even smells good; not because I truly believe the new stuff will make me a better photographer. Depending on what you seek to accomplish photographically, there are certain pieces of gear you want to have in your inventory. When I decided I wanted to seriously pursue wildlife photography, I sold a pretty nice pickup to finance an upgrade of my camera body as well as the acquisition of a 500mm f.4 telephoto lens. That’s because you can wait forever for the deer and the antelope…especially the antelope…to come to you. But, if you want effective pictures of most wildlife, you have to be prepared to optically reach way, way out and touch them. And that does take some specialized equipment, but the brand of that equipment is of little to no consequence.

That said, the best camera is always going to be the one you have with you when an engaging photo presents itself. As the saying goes, “The important thing is f.8 and be there.”

]]> (Ron Jensen Photography) Nikon camera photography telephoto wildlife photography Tue, 31 Jan 2017 18:55:52 GMT