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.
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.