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.
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.
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.
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.
The light that flows openly over…
It accentuates the beauty
Highlights ones’ curves and
Exposes the deep dark crevasses of the soul.
Follow the light…
For it will yield the human form
Bring out a voyeuristic curiosity
Make the luminescence a vulnerable path to our inner vision.
Create a brilliance on the imperfect form…
Let the lens reveal
Let It expose a unique vision
This cold mechanical device has now bonded with the radiance of the
‘Human Landscape’ .
These images were created after shooting the ‘Human Form’ on 3 separate occasions. I guess… “third times a charm”, as the light, models and location proved to be the difference. I would like to thank Frank Veronsky for providing the venue and guidance and to Noah and Jackie for being my canvases for the day.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
WoW…. what a day. I joined South Jersey Meetup Group for photography venues and critiques. My first meetup was at the Cross Keys Airport in Williamstown,NJ. Met Lou Dallara one of our organizers and went over where we were allowed to shoot. From there it was time to get oriented to where the divers would be dropping. And boy did some of them swoop in from seemingly out of nowhere. Sometimes shooting in and around the sun was both challenging and quite creative. Tried isolating the divers and getting my timing down. I then went on a journalistic approach and tried to build a story around me and the divers experience.