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.
“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.
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.