My photo blog… visual thoughts around me.

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“Home Is Where The Heart Is”

Pinelands-9

“Swamp Beauty”

I recently had the invite and honor of going on a photo workshop, with Rich Lewis into 4 different areas of the Pinelands. Many who know my background of having grown up in Browns Mills, raising a family in Chatsworth and recently moving to Southampton, might scratch their heads and ask why I would go with someone into “my backyard”. There is a pretty simple answer. As photographers we sometimes isolate ourselves from those who shoot around us. I have always been very open to new perspectives even in an area I am very familiar. Rich, besides being a very good friend, has a unique and really personal take on the Pinelands, so I couldn’t pass that up. I have grown immensely in both vision, technique and camaraderie because when I opened myself up to the visions of others… besides the saying “keep your enemies close” really fits… LOL.

We started at sunrise, at the Franklin Parker Preserve with a 25 degree morning which kept everyone moving right along. There is nothing like watching the sunrise over a long stretch of bogs. First the sky gradually changes, then the light plays with the foreground until finally it dances and highlights the many open spaces. This is serenity for me, sharing a home space and talking about our craft to one another I felt very blessed. It still surprises me after shooting countless times in and around my home that I always can find something new.

Next location was a cedar swamp, where just the mention of the word swamp is enough to turn most adventurers off. Rich guided us to a place just off the main road, one I had driven past countless times but always took for granted… big mistake. Lucky for us there was a raised path, so there was no mucking around. The light created many shadows and presented a challenge to create a picture from the chaos that was all around. For me, the reflections in a frozen puddle made it all worthwhile.

Further down the road was an abandoned brick factory which had been transformed into a “graffiti and paintball haven”. Talk about really stretching your shooting and composition skill-set, well this is the place. With so many bright colors in the middle of the forest, it almost seemed surreal.
Last on our list was my actual backyard… Lebanon Lakes. Finding a “not to familiar shot” here was challenging, but as before, if you just open up and drink in the ambience, it will appear. What also awakened in me were many happy memories of walking my dogs here as well as showing my daughters the many wonders that could be found… their favorite… frogs ! As I closed my eyes I could hear my wife’s laugh, it was unmistakable, in both vibrance and warmth… I knew I was truly HOME.


” ART of DECAY “

"Weeping Window"

“Weeping Window”

My use of photography to document, enlighten or just to visually interpret what is placed before me, has taken me on many journeys, with just as many side paths. The photographs below represent a creative vision that both revealed its beauty and exposed the art which was created by the decay.

An invitation to shoot a once state of the art lab that had been left abandoned and for the most part almost unrecognizable as its former self, was an offer not to be missed. The day was cold, but not unbearable, with a bright sun overhead. Snow covered many of the exposed areas surrounding the buildings, giving it an almost peaceful setting. A large opening in the front of the main building was the starting point of my exploration inside. The layout felt just like city streets, pretty much straight hallways with lab rooms and other halls branching off. I stayed in the first room and just took it all in, the light and geometric lines would guide both my eye and imagination. I quickly became enlightened by what the decomposed walls and floors offered my compositions. Colors and patterns would emerge so that I could isolate an image and bring a different twist to what was before me. This alternative view would be expanded upon later in the digital darkroom. Corridor, and room after room revealed just how the elements could break down a seemingly sound structure. The weakest part to this demise was the ceilings, and whatever they were made of, which just seemed to melt and opened up this place to the weather.

The decayed, deteriorated and degraded interior of this site enhanced the twist I alluded to earlier. With the many holes, came the opportunity of light to play a big part of what I could manipulate into my artistic vision of this place. To accentuate this raw ruin into an artistic photograph, I would have to take up to seven shots of the same scene in order to bring enough light into the shadows and tame the really bright areas.

The decay is like an ever-changing canvas upon which time will either enhance or remove its form till all that is left is a witness to its existence… a photograph. My hope is that you can see into and past the rot, corrosion and eventual collapse of this site while becoming entertained, even engaged by its art.

ps… for detailed background and another photographer’s vision on this place, please follow this link to Rich Lewis’ blog.


“The Ups and Downs of NYC”

Wake up Call

“Wake up Call”

Since growing up between two of the largest cities on the east coast, one being Philadelphia and the other New York, you would think I would be familiar or at the very least comfortable with them. Actually that is the furthest from the truth as I grew up in the pines of south jersey, so visiting anything with more than 2 stories was both illuminating and many times quite confusing. When traveling to the city of choice for this post, “NYC”, I relied on the calm but monotonous one and a half hour ride on a train which would deposit me at Penn Station in Manhattan. This put me right in the center of where my quest to document 4 visits to this urban oasis would be fulfilled.

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Urban Reflection

Urban Reflection

 

My first trip took me to lower Manhattan’s financial district. The structures and how the light reflected on them truly fascinated me. Peering up and down the streets and trying to make a connection with my camera was a task that was made easier by one of my guides, meet-up planer/photographer Martin Joffe. He had made special arrangements to shoot inside the “Woolworth” building. When I stepped inside this place, I was immediately sent back in time, where money translated to some of the most opulent decor one could imagine. The juxtaposition of the old to more modern architecture, was eye-opening to say the least.

 

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“A Selfie Moment”

 

The next visit to NYC was to shoot in Chinatown and my guide would be street/portrait photographer DC Fahsbender. Imagine the street noise and traffic of a big city combined with the unknown elements of a different country. The signs, language and most of the people being of a different culture, brought my lens to a place, both old and new. While I walked up and down the narrow streets of the many shops, I felt swept along by a current of people. By inviting the culture of this place in, I was able to slow down and click away.

 

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“Capturing a Dream”

 

A little further over would take me to the East Village, with its mix of old and new, which was evident from its late 19th century architecture to the present. The hispanic flavor of this part of the city was apparent just by viewing the restaurants and hearing the rhythmic music that echoed down many of the small cross streets. My lens once again gravitated to the people, whether they were engaged in a pickup basketball game or played dominos on the sidewalk.

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Caged View

“Caged View”

 

Last, but not least, would be my trip to the Williamsburg Bridge and its namesake on the other side. Walking across, while overlooking the traffic and parts of the city, was not a sight to be missed. The pace of the people riding bikes and driving over this bridge was perilous at times, unless you stayed on the right side of the yellow line. From the view up high, to the street art down below, this section of town had me using pan blurs and structural composition to express my take on a walk across a busy city bridge.

Upon looking back at my little adventures to the Big Apple, I would not have changed a thing. I met some wonderful people and had great knowledgeable guides to help point which way was uptown or downtown and… which way was home. Although I would not trade where I live, the experience of urban life certainly made my camera happy.


” Sakura Festival “

Pond of Reflection

Pond of Reflection

Sakura, in Japanese culture, translates to ‘Cherry Blossom’. This festival was scheduled to happen at a special park in Philadelphia. With my interest and curiosity tweaked, I decided to try and capture it through my lens.

   drums beating in time
   maidens twirling and frozen
   slow meticulous

The atmosphere of a festival can be both intoxicating and informative, especially one from a different culture than what I grew up in. Suddenly all that is foreign, becomes a reality into which one can immerse their senses.

   bright circular fans
   smiles and rhythms flow with pride
   a past brought to life

While walking from one end of the park to the other, trying to catch each event can become a challenge, but the subconscious snap of my mind and shutter revealed its own rewards.

   luminescent ripples
   the essence in a single pond
   zen like images

The aura and satisfaction that a few hours away from home can bring to ones soul helped me develop a more trans-formative outlook on the world… lets pass it forward!!!


“Just Horsing Around”

horseblog-7

“Just A Lil Wet Behind the Ears”

Long ago, man domesticated and trained horses for both work and pleasure. Although in time, their use in today’s economy has been diminished by machines, we still have the pleasure of viewing their grace and beauty in various sports. Along with their powerful size and fluid movement, one can’t help but be drawn in by their soul-searching eyes. With that kind of compelling ‘bait’, this year I eagerly attended three different horse events: Jumping (Saugerties, NY), Polo (Brandywine, PA), Racing (Wilmington, DE).

First up, horse jumping…. I have never before been exposed to the immense size of these horses. The grace and power of being able to lift their weight and also a rider, seemed effortless. In order to prepare shooting the actual event, I used the warm up ring to time and find the right angles. The light in the competition ring was overhead and very challenging, as was finding the right position to try and keep out background clutter. The movement from one jump to the other was like anticipating a quiet storm. The approach was slow and calm but then a blast of power was emitted only to ease back into a methodical trot.

Next up the sport of Polo… not knowing the sport was the first hurdle, but the hardest was yet to come. I set out to find an engaging spectator, one whom I could ask questions. The questions just spilled out from this rookie… how do they score, which way does each team go, are their time limits etc? All were answered with a great sense of knowledge and pride by a duo I had accosted who were also proud parents to two of the riders. I found out the teams came from all over, even as far as Argentina, and when in the US they play in a circuit that takes them from the east to the west coast. My quest began when I tried to find the right combination of action and develop a personal connection. The easy part was the side to side, back and forth movement of the teams. The hard part, as usual in team sports, is to isolate the subject to get a unique connection with the sport and its participants.

Last, but not least was horse racing… not a betting man myself, I was befriended by one who does on a regular basis. I found out about the weight of jockeys and how it plays a part in what the horse carries. The horses also raced on dirt and an inside grass course. Getting a shot of the inside of the track took a lot of ‘up, down and under’ rail maneuvering. The riders, owners and horses seemed to have a connection when racing but when finished, I did not find a loving relationship or bond like in the previous venues. I believe this was in part due to the money being spent and the very high-strung nature of the horses. This was evident especially when they finished a race, as many horses just wanted to keep going. Timing was key to almost all shots here, as you would place yourself in one position for each race and compose frantically as they blew by.

An intimate connection to the horses was not achieved in these outings as I originally thought would happen. I believe this had to do with each being a viewer’s sport while the deeper connection would exist with the people who raised and trained them. For me this heart-felt, soul-searching event would have to happen at a later time when my interaction with these noble animals would not just be play but on a more personal level. As I viewed my pictures, the competitive-nature of this magnificent animal is apparent, but if you look more closely… you can get the feeling he is just ‘horsing around’ with us.


“Recreating Our History”

The Lineup

The Lineup

 

To be so dedicated to one thing can sometimes be isolating… unless, you are a re-enactor of a bye gone time. Whether it be a huge piece of history or just a small intimate moment, to the enthusiast it seems just like yesterday. Their wealth of knowledge can be just as transforming as their choice of costume.

I had the privilege of shooting a piece of history at Jockey Hollow in Morristown, NJ as part of the Adventures in Photography meet-up group led by Boris Hardouin-Deleuze. While very small in contrast to a Civil War event which spanned several miles and had hundreds of participants, this firsthand event was no less important to the enthusiastic volunteers. Set during the Revolutionary War, the location depicted a small encampment, complete with tents and the life that transpired around it. The venue and time of day forced me to compose in small snippets rather than the grand scheme so often envisioned in large-scale events. I also choose to edit and develop my captures with a similar recipe. This recipe came about from experimentation and my inner vision of what the event spoke to me as a photographer. Through the use of filters in NIK software, and finishing touches in Lightroom, I was able to apply this to each of my compositions. While true to my vision, the actual events from that time period might take on a more drab, less polished and even dated place in history. This manipulation… recreating a past event, fits my vision and passion for documenting what was seen with what I envision my path in photography to be about.

 


Embracing My Softer Side

 

"Stepping Into A Floral World"

“Stepping Into A Floral World”

Inspiration, whether it be stumbled upon, pushed toward or forced into, can be a powerful motivator. My ever-increasing thirst for improvement led me to discover a photographer named Mike Moats. I was instantly pulled in by his compositions, both found and created, which he called “Tiny Landscapes”. His laid back approach inspired me to look closer when shooting an event in the field and at home.

The next step in my learning how to walk, through this type of photography, came more like a big push… or ‘shove’ towards what was actually in front of me all along. This enlightenment came when I was privileged to attend a solo showing by fellow photographer Pat Worley. Her creative eye on what could be done with flowers, light and most of all one’s take on art, was electrifying, to say the least. Seeing prints blossom from the almost mystical to up close and personal, was the final nudge for me to explore what I had overlooked in the past.

I jumped in with both feet, and a couple of not so gentle hands, by taking a workshop with Denise Ippolito. Two things drew me to this choice… one being the venue, Longwood Gardens, which was a place I had never shot or even visited, and the second being Denise. I knew she had a strong vision of what she liked to create, but what took me by surprise was how impactful this vision would be on my photography. The many teachable moments and discussions she presented, were priceless, as it opened my mind and lens to endless compositions. Denise, Joe and Lou led by example and guidance throughout this venture for me into a secluded, but extensive living environment. Their familiarity with the place, was enriched by them also being outstanding creatives themselves, helped me to find not just the standard shot, but forced me to look further and to think outside of my self-imposed box. The true test of any teacher / leader is not just about their portfolio, but what they can share and inspire in others… Denise is a true teacher.

Having been tripped, pushed and forced to see what others already knew about flower photography… this softening of my ‘edges’ has truly reinforced my mantra of to always be willing to grow and learn, but most of all… create.


” 50 Shades of Winter “

"Winter's Kiss"

“Winter’s Kiss”

 

Seasons… a common occurrence around the world. Where I live on the east coast of the USA, I get to experience all 4 of them. While taking photos around the US and abroad, I have mingled, interacted and shared  with people from all over. The discussions included favorite places, and fantastic lighting, to name a few, but most times it invariably ended when we delved into places and times that are closest to what we call home.

My home, which is located in the middle of a state forest in south Jersey, is one such place and this year my season of choice is inescapably winter. The frigid cold mornings, that brought frost and fog also opened my minds eye to every subtle optical shade of this season, and was without compare. I say ‘was’ in a whisper, as to not invoke the wrath of mother nature’s possible late spring snow… AGAIN. The change in temperature, the leaves gone and the first signs of ice on the ponds and lakes, helps slow down my busy life. I await the first snow like a child but, for a very different reason. Snow, that comes at night, is as haunting as it is soothing when I walk and bathe in its silence. The perfect snow for me is the one that happens during the daylight hours, for this is when I get to play. This year brought many different kinds of storms… wet sloppy, large flaky and mind-blowing sideways. The light that was hidden during a storm, when caught early enough, gave off just the right amount of color to make one want to stay and capture its ever fading hues.

I created this blog post as a kind of peace-offering to the weather gods. First to say thank you for letting my camera catch every subtle shade this season had to offer but also to pray I do not have to shovel my plowed in drive way for another third time in a single DAY!!!!!
Peace ‘Mother Nature’… I still love your “COOL” sense of humor.


“Remnants From Our Past”

From Past to Present

From Past to Present

 

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.

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Mack Attack

Mack Attack

 

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.

 

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Final Curtain

Final Curtain

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.

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The Looking Glass

The Looking Glass

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.


Fencing… not a pointless sport.

"The Point"

“The Point”

As a photographer, I seek out new places, people and creative concepts where ever I go. This could be overseas, in the US or, in most instances, very close to home. Living in a state forest has many pros, but one con would be that you have to drive just to get milk, let alone find a unique venue as in this post. Driving is not always just traffic and mindless waiting at lights. It can be a welcome activity after being in a classroom for five days. One such drive took me north along the Delaware river to a crossing point into PA, this crossing is made up of two towns… New Hope on the PA side and Lambertville on the Jersey side. While exploring the Jersey route, I came upon a very interesting structure, and after a closer inspection, found it to be a training facility for fencing. It was closed at that time but I took note of the high windows which I believed would let in enough light to shoot and possibly stop any action within. I waited a couple of months, while corresponding with the owner of the fencing company BCAF, and was delighted to be able to photographically document the following activities.

I made two visits to make sure the light and the fencers were well covered by my lens. The light inside was almost too bright at times, but the alternative would have been worse. Viewing the rhythm of this graceful sport took some time. Just trying to get into position so I could align the light with the fencers took some refining and adjusting. I quickly found the atmosphere both soothing yet explosive. The coaches and students worked very well together, so well in fact, that I could feel the mutual respect they displayed toward each other. All fencers’ faces were rendered almost emotionless because they were hidden by black mesh. I was very surprised that, with the right light and detailed processing afterward, these featureless combatants came alive. Their code of discipline, responsibility and respect, coupled with good sportsmanship, was evident throughout my visit. It was refreshing to see the bumping of elbows and the saluting of ones opponent when matches were completed. This for me was the essence of understanding sport and respect given to your adversary.

Without getting in too deep with the history of fencing, I would like to point out, what other athletic pastime can be portrayed as both an art form and sport? Something with this much discipline seems to both educate the mind as well as the body, therefore… it could never be viewed as pointless.


“One Tough Mudder”

"Tough Mudder"

“Tough Mudder”

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.


“Touching, Sensitive, Heartwarming….. Motocross ???”

"Just Have Fun"

“Just Have Fun”

Having shot quad racers (4 wheels) earlier in the year, I decided to go back and see what the two-wheeled version could do for me. I expected to see high-flying, dust kicking, ear-piercing drama and I was not disappointed. While I had all of that and then some, to my surprise what started to evolve was quite the opposite.

I made my way around the track and shot the races as they unfolded in front of my lens. Making sure to watch the light and to time the action at various points in my journey. Seeing and capturing the events was exciting and yet very familiar. What intrigued me most this time around was the personal side of the participants. By stopping and slowing down my usual fast paced sport shooting, I revealed to both myself and my camera,  another side of this sport. While talking with and really getting in touch with the competitors, a new visual of this venue started to emerge.

To see how involved the parents were, especially with the younger riders, gave me an inside perspective I did not expect to find. The way every group of families interacted with their children reminded me of how my parents helped me develop a sense of participation, respect and love for a sport. The coaching, strategy and sometimes tears where all brought back from what seemed like a not so distant memory.

After developing and working with the images for this blog, I was very happy to rediscover a kind of solace that still exists in the world around us. My humanity  was refreshed by just seeing the faces and camaraderie present at this motocross event. We normally do not associate sensitivity and heartfelt touching moments with a motorcycle race.
I will let you in on a secret…. I did !!!!


” Up Close and Personal “

" Got Ya"

” Got Ya”

Many times I have been privileged to shoot awe-inspiring locations, but what I found more fantastic, was to uncover the world within. Discovering with my lens another world that is actually right in front of my nose, can be an eye-opening experience. Whether a subject is found in nature or from objects that have been discarded, I find that these tiny things evoke a surreal almost other worldly composition.

I am usually drawn to the big picture, a grand landscape or fast-moving action shot. For me macro, or close up photography, is none of these. It calms my mind and slows the body when I immerse myself in this world. Light still plays an important part of seeing and creating a dynamic photo. But what really sets it apart, are the details. I get lost in them, almost to the point of distraction. As with other types of photography, you have to take the chaos out of what you see and produce a shot that the viewer can immediately engage with.

Two photographers that have influenced my work are Mike Moats and Les Saucier. Their take on the tiny world may make a believer out of you too.

When doing macro work I close out a lot of what is around me. This helps me bring the ordinary, and at times the overlooked, up close and makes it more  personal.


” A Chip Off The Old Block “

"Ice on Fire"

“Ice on Fire”

“Fire and Ice” was the name of the annual festival held on High Street in Mt. Holly, New Jersey. The fire in the title refers to a chili cook-off contest. I stayed immersed in the ice part of this, very crowded at times, event. This was my second year, with the first being very enlightening and the temps on the warm side… lots of melting. Opposite of last time, the temps were a perfect 19 degrees in the morning which steadily rose to a toasty 23 by noon.

The forming of a three-dimensional figure from a solid piece of ice was fascinating to this photographer. My challenge was to try and create an image with depth on a flat surface. That surface never wavered, whether viewed on the screen or in print format. These artists visually saw the figure they wanted to create within that one-dimensional surface. I watched in amazement at how a crude block of ice transformed into a glistening piece of art. The process seemed rough and loud at times because of the tools that were used, but the end product was well worth the wait.

On the shooting side, this year was just as challenging as the year before. For a photographer, bridging the gap between bright sunlight and deep shadows provided one heck of an exposure dilemma. I looked at it this way, take the risk and maybe come away with the reward. Getting in close was foremost on my mind. I wanted to show the grit and emotions of the artists and deliver that to the viewer. Mixing shots of what is around at an event, with the core of what is happening, fell into place for me. From the huskies and their smoldering eyes to the whimsy of the people around, I blended into the crowd. With the click of my ice-cold fingers, I began to capture frozen moments in time. I could only hope to bring as much depth and artistry, from around me, into my photographs. Each time I shoot an event or place I try to peel away the layers of what I see and feel. In this case, I developed a feeling of ‘oneness’ with the artist… both chipping away until we had created a body of work.


” DRAGON BOAT…. the drum beat of hope ! “

“Fiery Finish”

So what is Dragon boating? Enthusiasm, camaraderie, team spirit and just plain fun. The atmosphere is all that and more.  It is an event that is made up of men, women and open paddling teams. Each team has 20 rowers with 1 steers-person and 1 drummer. The teams come from all over the US and Canada, and can represent a corporation, business, cause or just about anything else. The key is to put together a team and practice till they become a cohesive unit. A very rhythmically paced team can usually overpower a physically strong team.

What drew me to this event in Mercer Park was not only the amount of people who were attending this open air competition but also the almost carnival-like  atmosphere. The people just oozed with support and happiness for each other and who or what they were racing for. Some raced for time, while others raced for their committed cause. You could not help but feel swept away by the many smiling faces from young and old. The power that 20 paddlers can generate took me by surprise. To see and hear 6 to 8 teams row in unison to the drum beat was mind-blowing. As I tried to get a feel for the movement of the boats and people, shooting became quite effortless. Even though I had full access to the docks and rowers, mingling between paddlers and spectators was  challenging at times. What kept me focused was when each race started, hearing the race gun, then the drum beat which was followed by cheering from the crowd. This rhythm of the start, the drum beat and click of my shutter, continued throughout the day. The enthusiasm of the rowers, combined with excitement of the crowd, kept me involved …. but more importantly the beat of my heart and shutter, were in sync with the boom of the drum. That boom couldn’t help but resonate deep inside everyone… it carried the message of hope in accomplishing their cause.


” Timeless Voices “

Memorial Day“, not just in the U.S. but around the world, is a day of remembrance. When I was little, I remembered my father being in the Navy and I ran up and down the rows of sailors, after his long tour, looking for him. Thinking back on my childhood and being raised between an Army base and Air Force base, I realized the impact that it had on me. Working in the summers and after school, watching everything stop… cars, people and sports events, because at 5:00 pm, a cannon and then a bugle would play as the flag was lowered. You learn to stop, you remember not just someone, but a name, then a face, and always the family that it impacted upon. It’s important to remember their voices no matter how painful it might be because… only we can hear them now.

The quotes below were taken from “Dear America” by Bernard Edelman and “Letters From Vietnam” by Bill Adler.

“We are your sons America, and you cannot change that.

When you awake we will still be here.”

                                                                                                                                                                                               Cpl. W.D. Ehrhart, Marine Corps.

“Some of the guys had tears in their eyes and you just want

to hold their hand or something, so you just smile.”

Barbara J. Lilly, American Red Cross

“We’re not supermen… and we’re not about to walk into bars,

where the music automatically stops at our entrance…”

Sp/4 George Olsen, Army Ranger

“But it was the last two choppers crammed with bodies that

I hope I can forget someday.”

Capt. Bobbie MacLean Fry, Army Nurse

“Save for them a place inside of you and save one backward glance

when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go.”

Maj. Michael Davis O’Donnell, Helicopter Pilot

“Don’t mourn me, mother, for I’m happy I died fighting my

country’s enemies, and I will live forever in people’s minds.”

Pvt.1st.Class Hiram D. Strickland, Army

“Be a good boy and I want you to know that I’m the proudest and luckiest father

in the world to have such a fine son as you. I am glad you chose

me to be your father.”

CS1. James C. Kline, Navy

“I turned my head and looked away, I fought the words I could

not say. HE’S DEAD. He’s dead and gone, but I am

here and must go on.”

1Lt. Timothy Schlink, Army

“It seems at times that we are gilded leaves feeling the first

chill winds of winter that will blow us away.”

Sp/4 Rob Riggan, Army

“The rock-solid values expressed by American citizen-soldiers, epitomizes

the motivation that has been a guide from the time of

George Washington through today’s conflicts.”

Al Santoli, Author


“OUR COMMON DENOMINATOR”

"Fiddling For You"

When at first taking photographs, the human element can be very intimidating. Being shy about approaching people does not help in finding subjects. My love of photography acts as a kind of ice breaker. Unless it is street photography, I always ask, whomever I am shooting if it is okay. This initial introduction is like a conduit for what will hopefully come next. My interaction, from this point, becomes much more personal as we talk about their life stories and mine. I can connect with ones eyes which helps me better record the light that both dances on their faces and frames the subject. This brief conversation is what bonds us and connects my pictures to them.

Street photography, on the other hand, is still hard for me. You would think being somewhat shy, that this form would suit my personality. For some reason, without the personal interaction, I feel a disconnect during this type of shooting. The more I study and interact with this process, I feel the better I might become. The interesting part in street photography, and probably what brings me back, is that I can catch a more natural unfolding human story. Unlike anything else, these snippets of life always convey the human connection to my images.

Environmental portraiture for me puts it all together. I get instant feedback from my sometimes elusive subjects doing what is important, to them. With this type of picture-taking, I find I can tie all elements together, much like landscape photography. This connection can be instant or will develop over the course of the shoot. I feel this shared knowing is the bond we both experience. As my subject opens up, so do I… voices and stories turn into an instant slice of life, a frozen piece of time.

The human element in these pictures is what I am most passionate about. What someone sees, and what I try to emote, is what connects a single frame from my camera to what you actually view. Can you hear their voices, share in their existence, form a story? Then,  the common denominator that bonds the stories I feel I can tell with a single image, is …. YOU.


“Shadow Play”

Grip of the Past

Shadows for me, as a photographer, create depth and contrast in a composition. You can take it to an extreme level and show a very graphic picture, or go the other way to just bring out subtle effects. Shadows can bring your eye into the photo and almost guide it around the shot. I print and see very graphically, so shadows can present both the “Ying and Yang” to my photographs. This delicate balance of seeing and creating, can sometimes turn a viewer off or encourage them to explore the picture further. I like to think it stimulates them but I am not that naive to feel this will happen with all of my pictures.

Shadows can play with our emotions and bring a focus to the photograph which may help explain the story it evokes. This scenario is very important to me as I develop each photograph separately. A guided approach helps me see if this is truly what I want to present to the viewer.

Our photography club held a competition entitled “Shadows” and the format was color. The word color stood out loud and clear to me, almost as a challenge, to come up with an idea that would show this form in not just the black and white versions that I normally shoot. After many tries, I started to find what I was looking for in both subject and graphic quality. I still find myself very attracted to the graphical side but found out that by creating a color form for my shadows, it brought out another side, and not just black and white.

The shadows in these compositions I do feel compliment the photograph. They play with each other as well as challenge the viewer to open up and play right along side of it. Take the challenge… shadows are not just child’s play.


“Blessings Come In All Shapes And Sizes”

I get excited when I hear of an event in my area that I have never photographed before. My thought process is even more stimulated when the event is of a culture that I am not very well versed in. The celebration of the Chinese New Year in Philadelphia was one such event. It was to be the “Year of the Dragon” and the SJ meet up group was organizing this venue. It helped me get into the thought process by taking a train into the city and then walking up to Chinatown. As I approached my destination, I could see an arch that stretched from one side of the street to the other. I felt like it was welcoming me into a world and culture very different from mine.

"Dragon Fire"

As I meandered through Chinatown, the many signs and unique smells almost made me forget I was still in the city. The “Suns”, a local group of dancers and musicians, were preparing for the parade. They planned to stop at various businesses in the area and offer a blessing for the coming year. There was a brightly colored dragon which was serpentine in its shape and length. To create movement, there were dancers under the dragon that bobbed and weaved from sidewalk to sidewalk. The other elaborately decorated dragons were manipulated by groups of 2 that made their way to designated store fronts throughout the morning. This signaled a whirlwind of choreographed movements that symbolized bestowing a blessing onto the stores. The deafening sound of firecrackers mixed with drums, moved me in a crisscrossing pattern. Crowds were led by the smoke and the undulating progress of the dragon dancers while I attempted to capture the essence of what was happening. Looking around at the people watching this spectacle, I could see wonder and awe in the children’s faces, contrasted by a sense of pride from the older hierarchy.

Whatever way the new year is celebrated around the world, in Chinatown, the “Year of the Dragon” was set to a drum beat and punctuated with a bang. Whether a participant or spectator — just being there and sharing the moment was a blessing in itself.


“With These Hands”

To create with one’s hands, whether a painting, sculpture or other object, has always been  something that held me in awe. It is true I use my hands to create pictures, but in reality, I am capturing the images of objects that my eye sees. When someone takes a piece of clay and transforms that most basic element into a creative design, then that someone becomes an artist.

I visited an exhibit where two such artisans showcased  their work and also gave a demonstration on how they performed their skills. I talked to the potter, while he was setting up, and asked for permission to shoot his work. His name was Glenn Hudson and, how lucky can one be, he was also a photographer. We talked mostly about pictures and how he came to be a potter. Then as he started his demo, I was so entranced by how he became one with the clay. The process seemed organic and what started out slow, quickly evolved to reveal beautiful shapes. His hands and the wheel worked the clay into smooth symmetrical forms, right there in front of my lens. I found myself going back and forth with what was on his wheel and the anticipated finished piece. Often I hesitated to click my shutter in fear of disturbing what seemed like a magical moment.

His tools were his hands, but in reality it was his imagination and inner soul that exposed the clay before him. With his hands he created not just a bowl or pot, but a work of art…. ultimately an expression of heart, mind and hands.


“WAITING FOR SPRING”

"Frozen"

Besides the obvious cold… winter can be magical. It’s mesmerizing to see how frost can capture nature in frigid moments. You can get lost in all the icy mosaics that are formed in trees and fields while, ponds and lakes take on a more abstract look. The swirls and bubbles that are frozen in time make for very creative patterns.  Where I live, snow fall can be elusive as it comes in either knee-deep drifts, or a lite dusting. Its silent presence is breath-taking, in more ways than one.   I find the experience of shooting during a snowfall to be very different then that of shooting the aftermath. Fresh snow seems to evoke a quiet, eerie otherworldly feeling. The size and rate of its descent can also have a dramatic effect on a composition so much so that, the final photograph can turn out very different then what was originally seen.

How do you capture this feeling in a photograph? Do you show the romantic side or its twisted finale. I found I could not choose. Just as my feelings and moods change, so do the cold frozen moments that materialize in front of my lens. I must eventually rely on form and contrast to guide me. It is helpful to stop and take it all in, feel the tiny flakes melt on your face, let your breath fog things up—- eventually you experience a more visual energy.  I,  like my subjects,  also feel the cold settle in and slow my movements.  My time here is done, but my photographs will hopefully freeze this time of year for all to relive as…. we patiently count the days till the vernal equinox.


“EYES OF THE BEHOLDER”

"Majestic"

The opportunity to take pictures sometimes can be both thought-provoking and time sensitive. I very rarely turn down an invite. Pat Worley, the SJCC’s trips coordinator, was told about a possible field trip to the Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge in Medford,NJ. Pat, being the organizational wiz she is, set a date and 19 of us participated.

I quickly found myself immersed in the background of the refuge and its inhabitants. Cedar Run takes in injured and abandoned wildlife. Their goal is to rehabilitate the hurt creatures and return them to the wild. Many times the animals cannot be returned because of severe enough injuries that would keep them from fending for themselves.

Our group split and took turns shooting the different species that were available. When viewing them through my lens, I found myself captivated by their  gaze. I tried different angles to get that special composition that would spotlight the subject. This isolation proved to be just what I was looking for. You can truly form both an appreciation and attachment to the subject and its surroundings.

Upon returning home to start the editing and developing process, I thought of the other photographers and what they were seeing. I then chose to transform my images into variations of the same picture. From black and white to HDR and even a sketch and watercolor finish, this metamorphosis from one image to another brought me back to the live animal I found originally staring at me through the lens. I felt reinvigorated by seeing different takes of the same subject.

See which one moves you, and touches your soul… it’s all in the eyes of the beholder.

The slideshow below shows the transitions of each subject. To stop the slides… just click the arrows.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


“Rising to the Occasion”

 

I decided to join a meet-up group to shoot the Quickcheck Balloon Festival at Solburg Airport in Whitehorse,NJ. Having seen pictures of balloon events out west, I was curious about what I would experience here on the east coast. It rained the night before and the start of the day looked bleak. Lots of overcast skies and some rain were predicted. I thought that since my destination was over an hour’s drive away, maybe the weather would improve. The heavy clouds never cleared but the rain held off.

After parking my car, I took a long walk to a very large field filled with vans and trucks. Still no balloons in site. Then suddenly people came out of their vehicles, as if on cue, and unfolded large sheets of very colorful material which they spread out on the grass. Looking around, I still was not able to get a sense of what was coming next. Teams of helpers and pilots were starting to fill the deflated shapes by blowing air into them with fans. These huge fans were replaced by burners which heated up the air and made these colorful shapes rise.

And rise they did, from all over the field. The balloons transformed into many different shapes and sizes. There were balloons that took on the shape of a butterfly,cow and even a soda can. The many teams that launched these colorful wonders came from all over… Canada, out west and many from the east coast. The pilots of each balloon were very informative and gracious in answering my many inquiries. As I tried to maneuver to get a shot of the inside of these behemoths, the colors and patterns drew me in like a bug to light.

Everyone was excited to see them rise, if only to be stalled in mid-air by tethers attached to their trucks. Up, up and away was not to be this day. The cloud cover was too thick and the weather radar did not show much promise.  It felt like a sporting event paused in mid-air. Even though deflation was near, I did not feel deflated. This experience had lifted my spirits and left my mind’s eye free to capture the possibilities by chronicling the occasion.

 


“Making the World Smile”

Have you ever wondered whether clowns just clown around or do they seem to have a purpose in what they are doing?

In pursuit of the answer I visited  Seaside Heights,NJ during their annual “Clownfest”. Initially I started out trying to compose a group shot but quickly became overwhelmed by all the colors and variations of clowns. Big,small, loud,silent, funny,sad… so many to choose from.  I decided to stop and head to the boardwalk to re-organize myself. I knew from my map that groups, and single clowns would be at different parts of the boardwalk during certain times throughout the day. I was surprised by how many very young children did not seem to like clowns. They even hid behind their parents when approached. But for every miss there was a home run just around the corner.

When adults and children started to truly interact, magic seemed to change their faces. The clowns also began to feed on this enthusiasm and boy was it infectious. Mimes attracted an older clientele, while balloon making clowns drew a younger crowd. Their colors and antics drew looks and then spontaneous interaction. Every clown had its own personality and schtick, which is pretty amazing considering there were over 50.

I found myself looking away from what they were doing and letting my mind be transported back to when I was a child. All I had to do was stand behind any group of clowns and peer over their shoulders to find a mirror image of a younger me in the faces of the crowd.

The answer…. “clowning around” has a deeper purpose. It provides us with an escape, a stage where we can get in touch with the happier times in our lives. If you don’t believe me then just look into the eyes of an audience, both young and old, who are watching clowns perform. You too will smile as you are transformed back — even if just for the moment.