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.
All aboard for a blast to the past, a “Trolley Graveyard”. Before embarking on this workshop shoot I had preconceived ideas of what I would encounter, as I had shot old trains in Connecticut about a year back. The venue in CT provided wide open spaces that showcased the trains, along with overgrowth that reached over 6 feet high in many places. After my initial eye-opener to the area, I slowly made my way to the back of the property. You might say it was literally the end of the line, in so many ways, as the tracks ended and the overgrowth was even harder to get through.
I approached this place in a backwards type of planning, for when hiking in and past the trolleys, I would take mental notes on what to shoot on my way back. This proved very rewarding as most of the group started in the front. I could line up wide and distant shots without human ‘ghosts’ walking in and out of my long exposures. The trolleys gave up their past, through patterns of decay and framed windowless panels of the fall, throughout the day. Exploring and creating, while trying not to trip on stumps, played out like a game of where not to step. The overcast day provided the perfect flat light I needed to expose the colors and decomposition found all around me.
When the time came to process these relics of a time well past, I was torn between color and black and white. The colors found at this time of year spotlighted and gave the trolleys an almost peaceful place to rest their rusting bones. When the right image was flipped to B/W, the past came alive… you could hear the sound of bells and metal screeching on tracks… the area seemed to come to life again. When turning back after my trek, I could truly feel that this was their last stop… castaways in the woods but comfortably paired with each other as if to say “we are home… just out of service.“
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.
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.