What does a year bring to one who loves family, devotes countless hours to work and tries to express themselves through photography. Well for me it was not only life changing but mind challenging. It started last year and like a clock that stares back at you, it announces milestones in dangling updates, as each test is scheduled, viewed and double checked for errors. There seemed no errors were to be found. Like the constricting body of a snake, each squeeze signified a darker end. PSA levels rose until, April when they elevated way above the norm. The invasive, but essential, biopsy was scheduled and once again the mind paralyzing wait for that meeting I would both dread and embrace at the same time. The initial shock and reality that all 15 biopsies would return a positive verdict. My ride home made easier by a mother never willing to let one of her children go, trying to exude a positive exterior while hurting beyond belief inside. For me it is so hard to watch others suffer so I try to internalize my sadness and see past tests and surgery.
The answer to the above question… HELL YES! It can take the life and soul out of your spirit… especially your soul. The alternative answer, and the one clinged to this summer… USE cancer, just as it forces itself on you and the ones you love. Use it to motivate. Use it to bring a calm reality to expectations… USE IT UNTIL IT DIES. The alternative, is unacceptable… it is doing its best to crush not just your body but that soul that makes you who you are.
Planning family visits, and especially photography trips started a year prior. The logistics of saving and finding what will fill that creative spirit produced a lot of mental legwork. Just as cancer was working its evil plan for the following year, I would do the same until both would collide in July, two weeks prior to my leaving for a visit to see my youngest daughter and grandchildren. I can only tell you what I decided… I chose to live as best as one can even with a dark cloud constantly following. The verdict was Prostate Cancer and dates for tests and surgery were set into what seemed like slow motion while the angst of waiting ran head on in my desire to rid myself of this deadly parasite.
The solution was to immerse myself into my happy place… photography. My cathartic travels started in Maine by participating in a natural light Portrait class lead by Matt Cosby. For six days I was exposed not only to his spirit, but as I learned the spirit of the class, especially the people I interacted with in order to learn their story. Thinking about the cancer did not come up until the last day when Matt asked… “so what are you going to do when you get home?”. Suddenly cancer reared it head and with tears in my eyes I shared with him what was waiting for me. I told him I was there because… I chose to be and did not want cancer to control any more of me then it had already. Next I would travel to Nova Scotia and then on to my next class in Newfoundland with Dave Brosha and Wayne Simpson. This would also be about portraits but included learning the use of lights. I listened to how they fell in love with photography and stressed the human spirit in their subjects. It touched my soul like no other workshop I have attended and would help me on my long ride home. I finished up in NL on a landscape shoot with photographers Curtis Jones and Wayne Simpson in Bonavista, NL. What struck me most during my time there, is the backstories both would share with us. The “why” became almost as strong as the technical aspects of their journey. Finally, after arriving home and taking inventory of my life and hospital tests, I embarked on a weekend photoshoot in an old steel town in PA named Johnstown. This was a creative lighting portrait class with Joel Grimes… I am amazed at how much of himself Joel gave to everyone including the models. During the day, creating and learning side by side with other photographers, talking with family each night set my mind up for my next journey.
Surgery would come and go just as the cancer that tried to overtake my body. What is present… the spirts of those around me. Friends both old and new stay in contact and call or send letters, and especially shared travels, experiences and life lessons. I am reminded that we are never alone… family is a constant in both encouragement and support. I embrace everyone of the souls I met this summer, I know part of their story and now I can share part of mine, through the photographs I took and the creative spirit that still dwells deep inside.
When people hear that I am from New Jersey they automatically presume that I am very familiar with travel in the big cities, namely NYC. Growing up in the rural areas of south Jersey, I can not even tell people an exit off the Garden State Parkway, as is a common form of location indicator for north and east coast residents. So hearing that Princeton Photo Workshop was conducting a Subway shoot, I was all in. I knew I could find the NY Penn station by traveling from a Hamilton NJ train stop, which in the end, would lead me to our tour leader Alan Kesselhaut and his wife Barbra. The plan was to shoot the old subway line going north one weekend and then on the next one, go south to the WTC transportation hub, which is commonly called “The Oculus”.
Traveling with a group was perfect for me as navigating underground proved very challenging for someone who finds exploring in the Pines more familiar. Not seeing the sun only compounded my lack of sense of direction but having our teachers easily guide us on and off trains, made shooting underground a lot more calming to me. The sounds, smells, murals and performers stood out at each stop. Even the everyday commuters were not bothered by our group of snap happy photogs. Finding compositions could be challenging at times, with all the movement of people and trains. I perceived darkness and tight spaces to be a challenging factor when shooting, but was relieved to find many areas with enough light, as long as you remembered to change your camera settings to adjust for your surroundings.
I found talking and comparing notes on settings, with members of our group very enlightening. It was Alan’s positive outlook that pushed us to try new settings, compositions and the telling of stories, that made this event much more than a “shoot and go home” venture.
No there were no flying monkeys or evil witches down there, even though it felt like I was relocated from Kansas to a world filled with characters from OZ. From the underground performers to the otherworldly serene world of the Oculus, I would not have passed this trip up, but… there is still “No place like home”!
CAUSE… one definition really sums it up for me : “a principle, aim, or movement that, because of a deep commitment, one is prepared to defend or advocate.”
In any country the mention of the word WAR brings up many opinions and emotions but mention “Civil War” and you get a deeper connection to it, be it via history, location or DNA. My visit to New Market, VA brought on a combination of all three.
My initial plan, born out of dreams of being a photo journalist at one time, was to really give a feeling of the loss and grittiness of war in this place. To shoot alongside the soldiers on the battlefield…. (sound of screeching tires)… I was abruptly awakened from my dream of grandeur when I had to inquire about the yellow tape and fences that seemed to prevent me from my task. A man dressed in official period garb informed me that this re-enactment was as true to what actually happened and, unless I was of period dress and carried a working camera from that time, my place would be on the sidelines. As it turned out, the sidelines rekindled in me a vision of curiosity and, with my gift of gab I proceeded to stop and question various people dressed in full period clothing. What I received was everything from, hey what kind of camera is that, to where are you from and everything in-between. This personal type of interaction forced me to envision portraits and open up my subjects to create a history lesson about the time and place. The more I shot and listened, the more this place came alive, helping me realize this battle was one of the last Confederate victories and that control of this area had to do with food to feed the vast amount of troops there and in the future. I was treated throughout the day to a living history that would have been lost within the benign pages of a high school lesson. The conversations enlightened me to the loss and courage that had occurred just yards away. Eventually the barriers melted away and vignettes appeared, punctuated by the cannon’s deafening fire.
The thinking of which side one was on, quickly disappeared, once I fully immersed my self into the personal side… the side that today is only talked about and remembered after so many years of loss… the cause seems to almost disappear when the lens captures faces, actions, and sometimes even the whispers that are interwoven into a reenacted part of our history.
In the past 2 months I had a very rewarding experience to do some photo shoots with Matt Christopher. Imagine being able to go up into an attic and rummage through books and objects from past eras that you grew up in… that is how it felt to me. The three places I visited below, brought back this deja vu type of experience to me. Looking through the lens and bringing back past life events, seemed very real to me at the time. Each room or object had a story that I hoped could be awakened through my compositions. I divided my visits into three sections that would represent each place visited.
The first was an abandoned slate mine. I had visions of going deep into the earth of the actual mine, only to be slapped back to reality when our guide explained that all the water from the winter flowed down into what looked like a football sized shaft, no tunnels or rails down into the earth… still frozen. The exploring of what was left, provided many vignettes of the past… from machinery and patterns of rust, to the left over slate mine just yards away.
The next chapter, from this ‘blast back to the past’, was found not far from where I live… an old theater in the city. Trying to find parking in an area that has not seen the best of times in quite a while, proved an adventure in itself. What struck me, from the minute I entered, was how colorful this place was. It still had more than enough dirt, dust and cracks to keep me entertained for the rest of the day. The back stage was a favorite of mine, as just looking out to the seats one could easily envision a packed house for the opening night of a movie. Exploring the rooms was a real treat, especially the projection room. ‘Whoa’, did that bring back memories of my being a projectionist back when film was shown on 20 minute reels and you had to switch from one projector to another.
Last in my odyssey of reliving the past, proved to be my most creative… an immense lace company in the middle of a steel town. The sheer size was evident when I was given a map and cell number in order to reach both the guide and our instructor. We were told to buddy up in order to lessen our chances of getting lost…. well 10 minutes in and we were both lost. The many levels and pass-throughs, some blocked and others just passable, proved both exciting and frustrating. To give you an idea of just how large this place is…. it had its own bowling alley and gym, complete with a stage for its workers. Creating in this environment was a joy, from the large open rooms to reflecting pools of perfectly calm water, it seemed to bring back both the echoes and activities of days gone by.
Each of these venues not only let me chronicle my explorations but to also bring back a memory of my past… reawakened through the lens and somehow brought back to life… truly unforgettable on so many levels.
This is the second post from my visit to Iceland and as always let me know what you think.
My trip out of the country began with a marathon run thru the airport and only ended when I was greeted by my couch when I arrived back at my home. My destination was in Iceland and I found it true to its moniker “Land of Fire and Ice”. Upon viewing it in person, I was very cognizant of what had happened millions of years ago, but with one very important difference… it was now 2013.
The land looked as if it had just cracked open yesterday and this was made more evident by its active volcanoes. I traveled in a 4×4 and van, with a small group of 8 photographers. I had mixed blessings on most of my trip by being with and without rain. The ‘with’ enabled my pictures to develop the drama and contrast needed to expose the real Iceland. The ‘without’ made it much more comfortable moving around and not having to wipe off my lens every minute. Trekking high above the island’s floor, I was presented with the fantastic colors of the highlands in Iceland. The way the browns and greens meshed and melted together, created a wonderful palette in front of me. As I stumbled over frozen lava fields and sweeping views of meadows and mountains, I just sat in the open wilderness and thought how lucky I was.
Throughout my stay, I was able to visit very small hotels that provided exquisite meals made on the premises. The trip took me from the city life in Reykjavik to beaches and miles of mountains and waterfalls. The beaches were covered with black sand and beached ice which took on the look of a grand crystal glass shop stuck out in the middle of nowhere. Finding the right composition amongst the millions of ice formations can be overwhelming to say the least. I traveled by small boat through the ice fields to the birthing place of all these ‘ice cubes’… the glaciers in Jokulsarlon. From the silence of the water to the clicking of shutters I was in my element, creating and seeing what I had only glimpsed at in books and magazines.
I finished up my trip back at a familiar site… waterfalls. Visiting waterfalls can get a little confusing, due to the sheer number of them. This last one Seljalandsfoss was complete with weather challenges… rain, wind and cold. I knew I was not home in 90 degree heat the minute I stepped out of the van. Walking first in front of this grand waterfall to going behind it, was both a challenge and a culmination of my visit to this island of ‘Fire and Ice’. Even though trying to compose in the rain was difficult, the true beauty of this place reached out and embraced me. If I was to mentally file my trip to Iceland, it would be under ‘O’… “Once in a Lifetime”.
PART 1 of 2
Englishtown, NJ was the site of a photo shoot that was done through a meet-up group called ‘Adventures in Photography’. Some people may wonder WHY a meet-up group? Well for me, working full-time and having family as a priority in my busy life…. the problem is, how do I fit in a big passion of mine… photography? The easy answer is to seek out different venues that will help me satisfy my camera ‘A.D.D.’ and yet fit into a hectic life. Groups like ‘Adventures in Photography’ feed my shooting appetite by offering different events and locales. The Tough Mudder Event was one I could not pass up. I feel you have to be a little curious, and at times adventurous, to fill the addictive jitters one gets when not shooting for extended periods of time. This event turned out to be a 7 course feast for the eyes and some other senses described below.
It takes a sense of humor above all to even think about participating. Most people competed in groups and this camaraderie was evident all around me as these herds of happy, wet, mud covered participants found their way through each obstacle. When you view the images, as I did many times during the editing process, my sense of taste was put on notice. TASTE you say… yes… just look at what they went through. Mud seemed to find its way everywhere. Taking these shots, hearing their groans and watching the different shades and textures of mud make its way into every orifice, stirred this curiosity. Happy to say I did not experience the taste, just witnessed the aftermath of facial contortions. The sights and sounds were non-stop, from leaping off platforms, to my favorite… crawling through ‘real’ electrified wires. What was very clear throughout this spectacle of self-torture, was a constant hand given to help and encourage anyone with or behind them.
In my mind you would have to be very adventurous, a lil’ crazy, have a great sense of humor, while a low sense of taste and smell would be helpful. Most of all, you would have to be one tough mudder… or at the very least, have one who will drag you through all the obstacles.
In a photo trip, many feel it is “just about the picture”…. for some it is…. but for me it is about enjoying the validation of my place in the world. When I truly immerse myself in an extended shoot, be it 1 day or 11, I try and bring a positive energy with me as I interact with the people and the place I am at. In Moab,UT this was truly encouraged from my first meeting with our workshop leader Richard Bernabe and his assistant Tom Schmitt. You could just feel the vibe when he described what the place had revealed to him since he has been there many times before. Our group began to meld over the next 3 days as we shot and got to know one another… the venue, and especially our stellar breakfast landing point “The Love Muffin Cafe”, sure did help after rising by 3am and leaving at 4 to reach our destination and catch the perfect light.
When looking at a map for the town of Moab you instantly realize just how out in the middle of nowhere it actually is. But one person’s ‘out there’ is literally another’s ‘dream’. For me it was the later, with Arches and Canyonlands NP located on either side. Our group explored Arches each morning and early evening to utilize the best lighting. I can only describe my feelings as if being on another planet with stone formations jutting out from the desert floor. The reds and yellows were almost overwhelming, especially when the first rays of the sun hit them. That glow stayed with me for what seemed forever as we searched for the best this park had to offer.
One night shoot in particular, created such a memorable visual impression. We had hiked in and set up under nature’s beautiful arches and waited for the night sky to light up. I am not exaggerating as ‘light up’ is an understatement. On the east coast we have what is called light pollution so we see a varied amount of stars. In a place like Moab, that has virtually no light pollution, the overabundance of stars you see can almost seem unreal. You would think being out in a strange place in pitch dark would be unnerving but just the opposite happened to me. Knowing the people and hearing their stories about family and life became very communal in nature.
What can you say when a place speaks to your soul and the people around you bring such peace back to your life. Moab and its surrounding parks is one such place.
We must commit ourselves to becoming good stewards and guardians over the inherited portals to our past.
I had a fantastic opportunity to shoot in the Adirondacks for a couple of days with Mark Bowie. Our group would be trying to capture the night sky as it coincided with a new moon. A new moon is the darkest of moons and this would provide less light pollution in the dark skies. I normally see only about four bright stars, due to light pollution from Philadelphia, NYC and to round out this Bermuda Triangle… Atlantic City. This bleeding of light makes it difficult to see and shoot very dark skies, as it creeps up from the horizon and illuminates low-lying clouds and atmospheric humidity.
When in upstate NY, the lack of this light pollution was quite evident from my first night out in the field. It seemed like ‘twinkle overload’ from the amount of stars that could be seen by the naked eye. Perfect conditions surrounded me… very little cloud cover and almost no wind activity. Having only seen the Milky Way in static pictures from science books, I had to prepare myself to sit back and take it all in. This spectacular show seemed to stretch and arc right above me, in an endless stream of pulsating lights. Techniques for shooting at night vary but often share some very similar and sometimes frustrating dilemmas. In my case it was how to focus in the pitch black. My solution, and possibly yours, lies in the ebooks that Mark Bowie, David Kingham and Roman Kurywczak have produced. Some of the photos you see, seem to be lit by a super flashlight. This was not the case, as illumination was actually street lamps and house lights that when exposed for long periods, fill the area in a nuclear luminescence. At other times just the diffused light from a town on the other side of a ridge was enough to create a moody backlit scene.
As many of you know who follow this blog, I am not one to sit around and wait for the next star show to appear. Waking early after staying up late can lead to sleep deprivation or in some cases a magical morning shot. A couple of mornings greeted me with a deep mist and rising fog over the warm waters, while other times, filtered light illuminated the cloudy skies. My outlet is photography and the adventure in finding and shooting things that I have not experienced before. This search lead me to Inlet, NY… where I could sit back and unplug my very busy mind and truly connect with nature. Try it… you just might find yourself energized by the worldliness that surrounds us all.
In the summer, I usually look forward to visiting Maine. I primarily go to take classes at the Maine Media College in Rockport. On my most recent trip, I included a couple of extra days so I could shoot part of Acadia NP with Stephen Johnson. He was also going to be my instructor at the college. Needless to say, weather plays a very important part in outdoor photography, sometimes fog, rain or extreme sun can throw a wrench into getting a good shot. My motto is “ you can’t shoot it if you are not there “, so I just kept my fingers crossed and prayed to the photo gods. I know nothing is ever perfect but I always try to make the best of what is presented to me at the moment.
The above composition was taken on my drive up to Acadia. I had stopped for my yearly “lobster roll” in the town of Wiscasset. The most publicized place there is “Reds Eats” but, it is normally packed and I really hate lines. Just across the street is “Sprague’s Lobsters”, which has a beautiful deck overlooking the inlet, and shorter lines so it was a no brainer. While eating and dodging gulls, the sky became overcast and shadows started opening up around the pilings. I observed the clouds, along with the movement of the gulls, and was able to dial in a shot that had all these qualities and yet spoke volumes about the intimate serenity enjoyed in nature.
About 2 hours further up the road, this amazing cable bridge came into view. I immediately turned around and found an outlook point and started framing pictures, from very wide to more isolated. The last comp here is a cropped version of my larger photo. I loved how the dark shadows formed a ‘V’ down each side while the clouds were a bonus and added a much-needed background. FYI… the Penobscot Narrows Bridge was finished in 2006 and is located in Fort Knox NP.
A day later I finally made it into Acadia NP and came across one of 16 cobblestone bridges which criss-cross the park. I was fascinated by its structure and how it seemed to frame what was on the other side. After shooting many variations I turned my lens to some of the many plants in this area and found this fern which drew my eye and camera down its spiraling fronds.
Now was the time near sunset to drive to the top of Cadillac Mountain. Clouds and an overcast sky made it very difficult to get a decent sunset shot. After circumnavigating the top of this mountain, I came across many lichen covered rock formations. They took my camera in many directions until this almost perfectly carved cross came popping out. I am still amazed at how many colors nature presents to me in the outdoors.
The next day I decided not to fight the crowds of summer and take a trip to the opposite side of Bar Harbor. Schoodic Point Road toward Winter Harbor turned out to be the perfect choice. No crowds and many pull-offs to hike out and take in the view. The first shot was made after a short hike through the woods where I found the fog just starting to lift. I noticed a sailboat tacking back and forth so I waited until it was parallel to the dock. While waiting for the boat to come back, I looked down at what was crunching beneath my feet. Shells… thousands of them, all cracked open. I learned that gulls drop them on the rocks to break them and then eat the mussels. To me they formed this wonderfully colorful ode to why I was there. Sometimes it is not to make the iconic most oft taken picture but instead, be witness to what is around and embrace it. The last photo was at Winter Harbor, on the point, and the sun was now at its apex … noon… kinda like the bewitching hour for photographers. I strolled out to the slippery point and concentrated on the shadows and how the tide and waves were moving in. I learn a lot about the area and myself while shooting. Just like the rhythm of the ocean around me… take it in, flow with it and do not fight the moment. Just being there is what life’s all about…. I do not dismiss those iconic places, as I will be back when the crowds dissipate and the skies open up, hopefully with a fresh eye and a new “ point of view “.
I woke up very early Sunday morning preparing myself for the hour and a half drive ahead of me. I was off to shoot in the NYC harbor on what seemed, at the time, a large raft. I met the captain, Bjoern Kils and found out he grew up in northern Germany where I was born… the world just keeps getting smaller. I kept eyeing the craft and after stepping on board, was transfixed with how stable and open it was, great for the type of photography I was hoping to encounter. Our captain was the perfect host, as he kept our safety, weather and position on the boat a top priority. Bjoern, being a photojournalist full-time, would guide and position our boat into areas that would optimize our shooting opportunities. He filled our group in on the history and background of all that we would pass by that day. The wind and chop of the open bay made me more thoughtful of just how incredibly hard it must have been when hurricane Sandy hit this area.
For myself, I found out early on, that standing and shooting on a moving platform was a 50/50 experience. When the wind cuts across the bow, I had to place myself on the opposite side or better yet…duck behind someone. Ocean spray can do wonders to an otherwise dull bridge shot! Around each corner was another scene, ready to be captured and tamed by my viewfinder. I realized early on that the symmetrical formations in front of me were not unlike the landscape pics that I normally line up in my camera. There was a surreal quality to many of the compositions I encountered throughout the day. What struck me more than once was the beauty in an otherwise extremely urban seascape. The angle and perspective which presented itself was priceless, thanks to the captain and his craft’s maneuvering.
I grew up being driven, and later driving myself, past all the refineries, airports, rows upon rows of homes, and miles of turnpike exits to reach relatives and downtown NYC. What I was exposed to, on this trip, was another completely different layer in my quest to photograph my adventures. “Industrialized Symmetry” accentuated and enhanced the harborscape that surrounded me everywhere. This seemingly simple trip opened my eyes and lens to the world of the outer edge of NYC.
A big thanks to Marty Joffe of the Ridgewood CC meetup group for finding and organizing this one of a kind photo excursion.
We have all heard the phrase but, you have not seen nor felt its literal meaning until you have set foot in this park. What a gem! It is located just a little over an hour north of Las Vegas near a town named Overton. On a map, this park looks very navigable as it has only a couple of main roads in and out. Now that’s on paper, but in reality, the enormity of what it covers can only be experienced by parking your vehicle and actually setting foot on one of many trails. There is Balancing Rock, Elephant Rock, just to name a few of the many more such sedimentary formations. I mention this because I was very happy with my choice of going with an experienced photo guide. Without his insight and direction, our group would have definitely missed many unique and mind-boggling beautiful vistas.
Our sensei for this 2 day adventure was Joe Rossbach. He is a truly gifted photographer who has traveled and explored this park many times. Joe took us down, around and over numerous rocks and paths until we could visualize what he saw. The sky was very dramatic, with rain clouds building in the distance. Waiting like hyenas for their prey to be exposed, we were rewarded with subtle but very specific light. We could just sit and be in awe of the natural beauty that was in front of us all. Our group was guided to a small slot canyon, which I for one, would have never found nor been able to maneuver through.
During the two rewarding days spent on this trip, I was reminded of how special it is to be willing to open one’s visual and personal senses to the not so obvious path. By taking the one less traveled, I learned a very crucial lesson…. don’t just seek out a map but find a time proven reliable guide!!!
There is a special pull about a water environment that keeps me going back. I grew up near the water – canoed and kayaked on it, played and swam in it. Now I create pictures of its reflections, the shore line and in Newport Rhode Island, the sailboats on its choppy waters. The chance to shoot large racing class boats up close and in action, drew me to this outing.
A group of us met at the harbor to really test our skills at taking photographs of these sleek fast sailboats. I would be shooting from a chase boat that bobs and weaves with the rhythm of the race. Just as I had done in the past, when shooting an unfamiliar event, I studied the subtle movements first. I watched the light as my position changed on what seemed a very unstable surface. This was due in part by our smaller chase boat which moved in tandem with the larger ever-changing sailboats. Trying to compose and expose turned out very challenging at first but, once I got my sea legs working, I started to anticipate the movements of these graceful crafts. I relaxed and clicked away. It was amazing to see how much work it took to keep the wind in their sails while speeding toward a distant finish line. The teamwork was at times static and then very frenetic when the right amount of wind turned up the pace of the race.
After the race, I was introduced to the many varieties of boats on the water at any given time. From small and large sailboats, both young and rustic in form, to speed boats and even the immense Queen Mary. The size of the latter can only be really appreciated when at water level from about 20 yards away while staring up and watching the sky disappear. Reaching shore from a long day of shooting and after what seemed an hour, my body and equilibrium started to settle down and become grounded once again. The group was treated to some land shooting of lighthouses and fishermen plying their trade. When the occasional boat would drift by, I felt my pulse quicken while remembering the excitement of the race environment I was exposed to earlier in the day.
Eventually I settled back into my land lubber legs where even the call of the water couldn’t replace a stable surface to work on, create and compose – until the time would come when I would feel its magic pull again.
My last trip for the summer of 2012 was to Banff NP in Alberta, Canada. Like many other parks, both in the US and Canada, this location has been and continues to be shot by some of the best photographers in the world. While I do not include myself in their ranks, I do study the work they produce. I use what I have seen of their photographs, to both guide and inspire my own work. Seeing the light and perspective that these photos captured aides me to focus my vision of this iconic place. Below you will find shots that I felt were from my minds eye, which is not to say I did not take the classic shots. I hope this will help shed some light for others, on what made me create these compositions.
I had seen this first shot many times before. The rocks in front brought my eye into the larger picture so it enabled me to include a foreground element. It solidified a balance and completed the shot for me. The subtle light on both the back mountain and the foreground, do not compete with each other but instead helped finish the story for the viewer.
After a short hike uphill, I could envision the picture I wanted to take. I shot a standard wide angle that included the whole lake and mountains. It had a nice composition but it was still missing that Aha moment. The shot you see above came to me on my walk back.
I kept glancing over my shoulder, watching the light and reflections in the lake. By using a longer lens to flatten the perspective, I then framed the image with the trees. The final piece to this puzzle came when I converted it to B/W.
These next two compositions proved to be very special to me. This was my first time on a glacier. Most are very high up and take a lot of hiking to reach. Often the trek required some really small steps in order to keep from sliding on the ice. I was amazed at how dirty the ice was at the lower levels. It appeared much whiter higher up where there was less movement. To show the expanse and give it a sense of place, I included people in this wide shot. Next, I tried to create flowing abstracts and still not lose the feeling that this was part of the glacier. The curves and a slow shutter helped blur the moving water and made this stand out both in the camera and the final print.
Some days of my trip proved very rewarding. You can go seven days without the perfect sunrise, as I have experienced many times before. One morning I found a very accessible lake just off a main road. The problem was finding the right angle and foreground to match the beautiful sunrise that was quickly forming. The next obstacle was to try and not cause any ripples in this super calm lake as I was just inches from the water. In the final composition I had just the right light on the mountains and the reflection of the clouds.
On the last morning of my trip, I visited a place called Lake Louise. The views of this vista were breath taking and I took the standard shots but it still seemed unfinished until a cloud bank came in. It was just what I needed, my camera eye went into overdrive. The clouds provided the drama element and by turning it into B/W, it sealed the deal and thus ended my trip on a high note.
Through my experience…. always take the standard shots, pictures that come easily, but don’t forget to take a second glance at the scene. It will help you create something different, and often unique…. you may find that iconic shot replaced by an unforgettable and truly original composition.
As a full-time teacher and, when I can find the time, a casual photographer, I constantly juggle family, job and outside interests. Travel and photography are my chance to unwind and be a little creative while experiencing a different place from my everyday routine. I do not always succeed with combining both but, I am more committed once I leave the comfort of my home. One trip that would best exemplify this was the one I took to Ouray, CO, the “swiss alps of the west”.
As usual I have to escape the east coast via the dreaded airport, and in my case that means Philadelphia International. As most people know, this first step can be a crap shoot with delays, weather and just an overall gloomy vibe that surrounds you. I often cross my fingers, and anything else I can find, to bring out the “nice travel gods”. By the time I make it to the Denver airport, which also includes a transfer to another plane, I find my gate and follow stairs that lead down, and by down I mean way ‘basement like’ down. I had never transferred this far to another plane until then. I found myself tracking what seemed like an unending maze of ropes and passages until I found the exit door. I opened it and froze for the moment as I saw the tarmac. Half expecting sirens to explode and 10 TSA agents to tackle me… hey that would have probably been exciting except that my travel plans would have ended. To my utter surprise, a very cheerful attendant pointed to the plane… can we all say “now thats a small plane”. It turned out this was where my adventure began and hopefully did not end… on a twin prop plane that literally flew straight up and then down to yet another first…. one of the smallest airports I have ever been to.
The town of Ouray is wedged between mountains on all sides, one road in and one out, and let me tell you it is a really dynamic road which is called the “4×4’s into the San Juan Mountains for the next five days. I traveled in awe thinking what kind of people it took to carve out these twisting roads just to reach their mines deep in the hills. What seemed isolating for early settlers, just beamed with beauty. The calm stillness in the air and the grandeur of the mountains still yet to climb, left one breathless… and in my case, it was compounded by the altitude. The out lying areas were of a time long past, with their decaying buildings and overgrown mines, but the wildflowers and snow-covered mountaintops just welcomed you with open arms, and encouraged the clicking of shutters.”. There are no guard rails just beautiful vistas on all sides and I was there to breathe it all in, if I could just keep my eyes on the road! My group would be taking large
All my travels seemed to end on a note of both joy and a little sadness. The happiness came from being immersed in a place which I saw with new eyes. A place, that on the surface seemed to be withering and almost swallowed up by the elements, I found beauty in the old wheels and homes that were left behind, chronicling life from another era. The sadness I felt was in knowing my adventure had ended. What was still left was the meeting and sharing with like-minded artists and viewers… rekindling memories of my experience with photographs that captured moments that were both aging yet ageless.
The pace of the world can be a challenging place to even the most progressive of cultures. A place that will never catch up, to the world around it, is Smith Island in the Chesapeake Bay. Not only has the so called outside world failed to overshadow this place, but it is also where its residents don’t care what other people think of their way of life, which is to continue on as in the past.
The island has its own rhythm and the residents have a “outer banks brogue”, which I liken to the accent I have heard in many of the outlying fishing villages on Maine’s coast. The sad part for me was knowing that this island community is dying. With many of its full-time residents being over 50 years old, the younger inhabitants are leaving the island culture and not returning. What impressed me the most was the hospitality of just about everyone I met on the island, from the captain of the ferry who brought us from Crisfield, MD to Tom Horton a local writer whose home I stayed in.
The “watermen”, as the local crab fishermen are called, were unwavering in their daily ritual of trawling for crabs. I watched as a very adept but weathered septuagenarian plied his trade by dragging, and then pulling up by hand, a sea rake that entangled the crabs. Talk about back-breaking work, which is the norm around the island for both young and old, as they very rarely miss a day of work. The salt marshes seemed endless around the outer island but our guide and host Tom, easily navigated our group from Tylerton to Ewel which are the two biggest villages in this area. Tylerton, the smaller of the two, is where I stayed, was separated by an inlet from the bigger island. This separation from the mainland way of life gave me the perspective I needed to photograph this vanishing culture. The isolation permeated my vision, as the fast pace of my daily life was now acted out in slow motion, punctuated by the click of my shutter.
While dinning on crab cakes, soft shelled crabs and their famous 8 layer cake can hardly be called roughing it, you can not escape the feeling that you are witnessing history in its most unescapable form… documenting a way of life that may not be seen again, but will forever be written and read about.
How do you decide upon a destination? I ask myself that question almost every time I embark on a new shooting adventure. I find the most apprehensive part is just meeting my group for the first time. Our guides (teachers) become the focus during this initial meeting. It is make or break time, and then I find out they both share the same name, Doug. Although the names were similar, what becomes very apparent, is that these two individuals are as unique as the place we are about to shoot in.
The place was “Grand Teton NP” and our two teachers were Doug Johnson and Doug Ness. You know you are in a good place when you are met with a smile and a fantastic sense of humor. Doug and Doug would guide, advise, and lead by example through the next six days. Both had a sense of place and a very personal attachment, having been here many times before. I had signed up with Rocky Mountain School of Photography before, and they should be commended for their choice of instructors.
We divided into groups to make it easier to car pool around the many destinations in the park. My group consisted of Michael and Lisa and can you believe, they were teachers like myself. Our banter between shoots was as wide-ranging as the park itself. Rants about the world, our profession, likes and dislikes flowed like the streams we were about to see. Intimate talks about family and life brought us full circle.
Throughout the days, we visited and revisited sites within the park. Up before sunrise to catch that perfect glow on the Teton mountain peeks. The reflections found at String and Jenny lake were not to be missed. Mormon Row drew us back many times and the experience was as special and distinct as the people around me.
A place can, and usually does, produce a bond that is both exceptional and singular. But what makes this journey special were the bonds, camaraderie and lasting friendships that were cultivated throughout this trip… only unparalleled by the magical beauty of the Grand Tetons.
Traveling and taking pictures is a rewarding and relaxing time away from the hustle and bustle work of daily life. Finding a place that is different from where I live and grew up was an enticing challenge. I eventually stumbled upon a unique workshop given by a truly gifted photographer, Craig Varjabedian. His business is titled “Eloquent Light”, and after a week, it really lived up to its name. What was unique in this workshop was the fact that I would be living at a place called Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu, NM. If the name does not ring a bell… it was Georgia O’Keeffe’s summer residence where she painted many of her landscapes. For me it was a time to forget the east coast and see with new eyes.
I remember finding my living quarters in a cabin up on a small mesa and breathing the air far from my corner of the world. Breathing was an understatement… the ranch is located at 6500 ft. above sea level. For lowlanders, as I was called, this provided a small setback. It took me 2 days to get use to the thinner air as, just walking up and down that small hill to the dinning hall proved a challenge. The reward though was breathtaking, in more ways than one… I was surrounded by sweeping vistas of a land I had only previously seen in books and movies. The light and color, of even the dirt, attracted my camera in all directions. I could not believe how many different shades of red and brown there was in one place. Cliffs that seemed distant at first light became increasingly closer as I extended my free reign of this enchanted place. On a side trip, all the color that I had previously described, vanished. “Plaza Blanca…the White Place” is exactly that. Where most of New Mexico is painted in shades of red, orange and brown, this place was void of color and felt like another planet. Cliffs, pillars and arches were made of the same bright white rock. I could see why many Sci-fy movies were made here. My challenge was to find drama and detail in this illuminated place. After exploring this otherworldly setting for a day, it was time to head back to the ranch.
After dinner on my last night, I headed out into our courtyard to surprisingly find a pitch black night, eloquently accented by a maze of stars. Lights of major cities did not spill over into this area as it does in the east. The blackness actually opened your eyes and mind to the unbelievable beauty of the Universe. Both quiet and tranquil, it was a soul awakening experience that reminded me of where I was…. and made me homesick for where I wanted to be.
I had one of the more peaceful rides to a ferry from across to . The island of Chincoteague,VA came just before the and was my destination for this trip. The refuge is home to wild horses, and many other species. is a meeting point for many and would be my starting point for a surprising photographic opportunity.that I have ever experienced. The road to Chincoteague started in and ended in , by way of a
The three days spent here were filled with history and the zen like solitude of a personal retreat. I never have had the patience to shoot birds… until now. The presence of many herons in one place was astounding. Trying to capture them hunting and flying, was all timing and being in the right place at the right time. Horses however, drifted in and out of reach the entire trip.
Two great sunrises and a very windy finish on the beach sealed the deal. There is something about a beautiful sunrise that puts my mind and body as one with nature. The brief wait for light to finally illuminate the horizon can be euphoric. Hearing waves break during a sunrise just adds a beautiful soundtrack to the whole process. Walking along the beach on my final day as the wind picked up, you could see the rhythmic natural patterns emerge from the sand. The tiny particles would build up on one side of an object and fall away on the other. But just as the birds had to eventually leave, I too, refreshed and re-energized, had to make my migration back home.
Autumn or fall, whatever your word of choice, it’s the time for nature’s colorful explosion. With this comes an expectation of change. The drop in temperature and the shift in time, signal the season. Fall can be very subtle, to outright in your face bursting with color. To further explore this new season, I traveled to the Canaan Valley of West Virginia at Blackwater Falls State Park. I was there on a photographic workshop run by Joe Rossbach and Alex Mody, two very creatively gifted and knowledgeable photographers. With their guidance and insight to the best that this area had to offer, I was off to find my own take on autumn’s splendor.
I was greeted by waterfalls with swirling eddies, to sweeping vistas of color that were back-lit by overwhelmingly beautiful sunrises. This was by far the most stimulating environment I had visited in hopes of capturing the seasons glow. Morning mist presented a new visual experience for fall color, and I had to embrace a more subtle composition. With so many different hues, at times I was a bit hard pressed to separate the luminosity and create a unique vision of this time of the year.
The endless color combinations that stood out challenged my sense of place. But in the end, a true understanding of how the seasons change, came into focus. Front and center, far and wide, subtle and bursting, this autumn’s show proved to be both inspirational and a visual moment for me. Thanks to mother nature, I can once again view life thru my new ‘rose colored’ glasses.
Adventure photography at the Maine Media Workshops in Rockport,ME. How do you transition from the static life of a landscape photographer to the fast paced world of shooting outdoor sports? That question bounced around in my head, on the drive north, many times. Many of my questions were answered during orientation when I met Michael Clark, our instructor and exceptional extreme sports photographer. The sports would be running, mountain biking, sea kayaking and rock climbing.
For the first shoot we hiked half way up a ski slope. Carrying lighting equipment and myself proved to be a test. I was fascinated by how intricate strobe lighting can be to set up. To catch a rider in just the right position, and get the most dramatic light, took countless tries. In order to get our runner to line up, timing and camera position were key. I ended up with many shots taken but also experienced a feeling of weariness. One thing I learned that day, was getting a good shot, you had to be precise and your timing spot on.
Mountain biking was to be next, to my exasperation… same hill but, this time all the way to the top! Lighting was tricky, as the riders moved much faster than our runner. I was amazed at how many missed shots I was getting due to the speed of the biker’s rapid decent downhill. Crashes, jumps and walking back up proved tedious, but the pictures created with our instructor’s input, were much more effective. Creating an angle to accentuate the movements and show the drama of the jumps was challenging but, very rewarding when captured.
On the next outing we shot sea kayaking and were informed that it would be from a boat and not from land. I knew from experience this would be problematic, but if done right, a truly beautiful shot could be achieved. I was greeted with an epic sunrise as we sped out of the harbor to one of the many islands. Pictures were coming from everywhere, as the freedom to compose and create was almost overwhelming. Light was being reflected from both the kayak and the rocks beyond his boat. Reflections and reflected light danced all around us. All the confinement from shooting on the hill seemed to just disappear when out on the water. This was truly an enlightening experience.
The final extreme sport was rock climbing. We secured our guide from Atlantic Climbing School, out of Bar Harbor,ME, and made our way to the cliffs of Acadia NP. As I hiked the trail to our destination, a calmness took over when I saw the coast and cliffs above. I watched as Pete, our guide, made the repel down to the edge of the ocean to secure his line. What came next was jaw dropping. Pete was able to climb the massive wall with grace and sheer power. Capturing the image came easy as the backdrop to our climber was very picturesque. I was still in awe as I made my way to the top of the cliff and gazed all the way down, realizing the full scope of the climber’s ascent.
My adventure, albeit lived vicariously through others, was over. From the solitude of running to the extreme nature of rock climbing, this is one adventure I will not soon forget….in my dreams.
Visiting the Adirondacks in the summer, turned out to be just the ticket to escape the sweltering heat and humidity of south Jersey. Canoe Photo Trip- I liked the sound of all three of those words. The tour I chose was given by the Adirondack Photographic Institute, which I highly recommend for photo workshops and tours. Mark Bowie was our designated photographer and Griz Caudle enriched us with his knowledge on the local lakes.
I arrived in Saranac Lake,NY a little early, in order to get the lay of the land and locate some of the main roads to Tupper Lake,our base camp. The workshop met at St.Regis Canoe Outfitters, very early on the first day, in order to capture a sunrise shoot. Griz gave us tips on the hows and whys of canoe handling after which, we were off. All around me, the quiet stillness of the lake was mesmerizing. I tried to take it all in, while many in our group paddled to either the right or left in the lake. I stayed in the middle, and a little behind, so as to get some human elements into my scenes. How hard could this be I thought, well, I soon found out. It didn’t take long before I became frustrated by the movement of the canoe and the contrast between a very bright sky and deep shadows. After taking a couple of deep breaths and relaxing, I soon found my center. This rhythmic movement, that I at first tried to fight, in a short time became my ally. I would wait for the canoe to move my eye into the picture. As for the bright sky… well I started to use it in a graphical way, as I composed my shots.
When just floating and not shooting we were both entertained and informed about our surroundings. Griz’s banter was priceless. We only needed our “translator” Mark, a few times as our guide’s dialogue became clearer. I think as a collective group we started to become pleasantly cohesive. For me, Mark was the consummate teacher. He had the patience to wait for stragglers… me. He also brought and shared, throughout our paddling, the technical advice he developed from years of shooting this little piece of heaven.
That night, and the following morning, we paddled and shot and talked and shot some more. When I say, “do you canoe?”, I can only speak for myself. I do, and you should too, BUT don’t forget the password –DEET!
With a park this big I just had to add this second post. You will also find links to the places in ONP that I visited … enjoy. Olympic NP, Rialto Beach, Second Beach, Ruby Beach, Hurricane Ridge, Sol Duc Rainforest, Hoh Rainforest, Port Angeles, Forks. Link to original post.