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.
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.
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.
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.
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 !!!!
Drove up to Wallkill, NY for a photo shoot with the Ridgewood Meetup Group. It was organized by Martin Joffee and run by Mark Lasser. Our group would be shooting “quads”… four-wheel motorcycles at the Waldon Motocross Track. Usually when I think about MX racing I envision the 2 wheeled variety of bikes, but these riders left nothing to the imagination. They were just as fast and high-flying as their speedy cousins.
I had access to the whole course, which could be seen in its entirety from the entrance. At first glance it appeared very hilly and there was a lot of dirt…. I mean, dusty, muddy, loose, clumpy… you name it and I stepped and even tasted it, because when these riders get going they can really move that dirt around. It took a while to find the right vantage points for each jump, bump and turn and to also get my timing down. There is always a lot of trial and error when shooting any fast event, lucky for me they do it over and over again. The engine sounds would give you a clue to how fast and then how high they would launch from one of the many hills. The problem I came across was trying to figure out where they would land and then be in position to capture it. When covering an event like this, finding and waiting for the action to appear is essential. You need patience and a certain amount of luck. You also need to be very conscious that ‘what goes up, must come down’. The fact is it seems to not be an exact science with MX racers. Just as my photo adrenaline kicked in, so does their competition gear, and sometimes it got stuck in high. Some landings were as graceful as a dancer and other times you just wanted to look away. I was struck by how fast these four-wheeled bikes could go and by the end of the day, also how loud they could be.
My ears were ringing and I am still cleaning the dust and mud off my equipment but… ya gotta love the atmosphere, and for me the end product… pics that emoted the sound (loud)… the pace (fast)… and the taste (dirty) !!!!!
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.
We have all heard the phrase but, you have not seen nor felt its literal meaning until you have set foot in this park. What a gem! It is located just a little over an hour north of Las Vegas near a town named Overton. On a map, this park looks very navigable as it has only a couple of main roads in and out. Now that’s on paper, but in reality, the enormity of what it covers can only be experienced by parking your vehicle and actually setting foot on one of many trails. There is Balancing Rock, Elephant Rock, just to name a few of the many more such sedimentary formations. I mention this because I was very happy with my choice of going with an experienced photo guide. Without his insight and direction, our group would have definitely missed many unique and mind-boggling beautiful vistas.
Our sensei for this 2 day adventure was Joe Rossbach. He is a truly gifted photographer who has traveled and explored this park many times. Joe took us down, around and over numerous rocks and paths until we could visualize what he saw. The sky was very dramatic, with rain clouds building in the distance. Waiting like hyenas for their prey to be exposed, we were rewarded with subtle but very specific light. We could just sit and be in awe of the natural beauty that was in front of us all. Our group was guided to a small slot canyon, which I for one, would have never found nor been able to maneuver through.
During the two rewarding days spent on this trip, I was reminded of how special it is to be willing to open one’s visual and personal senses to the not so obvious path. By taking the one less traveled, I learned a very crucial lesson…. don’t just seek out a map but find a time proven reliable guide!!!
My last trip for the summer of 2012 was to Banff NP in Alberta, Canada. Like many other parks, both in the US and Canada, this location has been and continues to be shot by some of the best photographers in the world. While I do not include myself in their ranks, I do study the work they produce. I use what I have seen of their photographs, to both guide and inspire my own work. Seeing the light and perspective that these photos captured aides me to focus my vision of this iconic place. Below you will find shots that I felt were from my minds eye, which is not to say I did not take the classic shots. I hope this will help shed some light for others, on what made me create these compositions.
I had seen this first shot many times before. The rocks in front brought my eye into the larger picture so it enabled me to include a foreground element. It solidified a balance and completed the shot for me. The subtle light on both the back mountain and the foreground, do not compete with each other but instead helped finish the story for the viewer.
After a short hike uphill, I could envision the picture I wanted to take. I shot a standard wide angle that included the whole lake and mountains. It had a nice composition but it was still missing that Aha moment. The shot you see above came to me on my walk back.
I kept glancing over my shoulder, watching the light and reflections in the lake. By using a longer lens to flatten the perspective, I then framed the image with the trees. The final piece to this puzzle came when I converted it to B/W.
These next two compositions proved to be very special to me. This was my first time on a glacier. Most are very high up and take a lot of hiking to reach. Often the trek required some really small steps in order to keep from sliding on the ice. I was amazed at how dirty the ice was at the lower levels. It appeared much whiter higher up where there was less movement. To show the expanse and give it a sense of place, I included people in this wide shot. Next, I tried to create flowing abstracts and still not lose the feeling that this was part of the glacier. The curves and a slow shutter helped blur the moving water and made this stand out both in the camera and the final print.
Some days of my trip proved very rewarding. You can go seven days without the perfect sunrise, as I have experienced many times before. One morning I found a very accessible lake just off a main road. The problem was finding the right angle and foreground to match the beautiful sunrise that was quickly forming. The next obstacle was to try and not cause any ripples in this super calm lake as I was just inches from the water. In the final composition I had just the right light on the mountains and the reflection of the clouds.
On the last morning of my trip, I visited a place called Lake Louise. The views of this vista were breath taking and I took the standard shots but it still seemed unfinished until a cloud bank came in. It was just what I needed, my camera eye went into overdrive. The clouds provided the drama element and by turning it into B/W, it sealed the deal and thus ended my trip on a high note.
Through my experience…. always take the standard shots, pictures that come easily, but don’t forget to take a second glance at the scene. It will help you create something different, and often unique…. you may find that iconic shot replaced by an unforgettable and truly original composition.
As a full-time teacher and, when I can find the time, a casual photographer, I constantly juggle family, job and outside interests. Travel and photography are my chance to unwind and be a little creative while experiencing a different place from my everyday routine. I do not always succeed with combining both but, I am more committed once I leave the comfort of my home. One trip that would best exemplify this was the one I took to Ouray, CO, the “swiss alps of the west”.
As usual I have to escape the east coast via the dreaded airport, and in my case that means Philadelphia International. As most people know, this first step can be a crap shoot with delays, weather and just an overall gloomy vibe that surrounds you. I often cross my fingers, and anything else I can find, to bring out the “nice travel gods”. By the time I make it to the Denver airport, which also includes a transfer to another plane, I find my gate and follow stairs that lead down, and by down I mean way ‘basement like’ down. I had never transferred this far to another plane until then. I found myself tracking what seemed like an unending maze of ropes and passages until I found the exit door. I opened it and froze for the moment as I saw the tarmac. Half expecting sirens to explode and 10 TSA agents to tackle me… hey that would have probably been exciting except that my travel plans would have ended. To my utter surprise, a very cheerful attendant pointed to the plane… can we all say “now thats a small plane”. It turned out this was where my adventure began and hopefully did not end… on a twin prop plane that literally flew straight up and then down to yet another first…. one of the smallest airports I have ever been to.
The town of Ouray is wedged between mountains on all sides, one road in and one out, and let me tell you it is a really dynamic road which is called the “4×4’s into the San Juan Mountains for the next five days. I traveled in awe thinking what kind of people it took to carve out these twisting roads just to reach their mines deep in the hills. What seemed isolating for early settlers, just beamed with beauty. The calm stillness in the air and the grandeur of the mountains still yet to climb, left one breathless… and in my case, it was compounded by the altitude. The out lying areas were of a time long past, with their decaying buildings and overgrown mines, but the wildflowers and snow-covered mountaintops just welcomed you with open arms, and encouraged the clicking of shutters.”. There are no guard rails just beautiful vistas on all sides and I was there to breathe it all in, if I could just keep my eyes on the road! My group would be taking large
All my travels seemed to end on a note of both joy and a little sadness. The happiness came from being immersed in a place which I saw with new eyes. A place, that on the surface seemed to be withering and almost swallowed up by the elements, I found beauty in the old wheels and homes that were left behind, chronicling life from another era. The sadness I felt was in knowing my adventure had ended. What was still left was the meeting and sharing with like-minded artists and viewers… rekindling memories of my experience with photographs that captured moments that were both aging yet ageless.
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.
When I prepare to go on a photo workshop, a lot of things pop into my head. Foremost for me, it is about putting my trust into the hands of almost complete strangers. These instructors hopefully will embrace and nurture this trust. They will not only be my guide and compass but, also teach by example. When far from civilization they have to become my sole “go to” medical guys, and more important, social workers to a bunch of seemingly needy adults. Being a weather predictor, with a little help from the gods, is also an excellent work related skill, although I for one would probably pay extra for the latter.
The three faces of Olympic NP that I encountered on my photo trip with Joe Rossbach and Ian Plant… two of the best social workers (a.k.a.photographers) in the business… were the beach,mountains and rainforest. ONP was so diverse from parks I had visited in the past that, it was easy to get distracted. I learned early on if you keep an open mind and invest 100% of yourself, the returns can be very rewarding.
My biggest obstacle I thought, upon viewing photos from the park, was the rainforest. At first sight, the word, busy and chaotic came to mind. But after immersing myself in the many different floras and types of vegetation, I found I could make sense of the patterns and rhythms of this seemingly prehistoric landscape. I am still amazed and impressed by how this environment can mold maple trees into curved frames for photo compositions. Getting around and setting up equipment can be a challenge. The end product, when you press the shutter, is instant. Seeing your creation on the screen, you can almost forget the “rain” in rainforest.
The next face in this trilogy was the mountains. Luckily we were able to drive up to Hurricane Ridge, which by its name is indicative of wind,rain and unpredictable weather. Here is where the “weather gods”, and my willingness to pay extra comes to mind. My ascent was met with, dare I say again, “rain” and clouds. But as we reached the peak, the rewards for waiting were jaw dropping. Clouds were now above and below in the valley. The sun broke through and painted the peaks in golds and rust. I could not stop taking photos. When I did pause, the beauty was breathtaking. My final parting shot, while driving down the pass, was a small black bear that was feeding on the hillside. Future note to self… make sure not to block a bear’s exit when he wants to cross the road!
The third face in this journey was “the beaches”. Our group saw many beaches,from the easily accessible to the more rugged and somewhat challenging. Sea stacks and more sea stacks came in every shape and size. Some were hidden in shadows and mist, only to be revealed by long exposures. Others presented gaps and holes to let rays of the setting sun come through. I found out early on that, tides control access to these wondrous places. The tides also can hamper a quick exit. Tidal pools were deceptively inviting. While many starfish and anemones invited us to come closer, they remained protected by very slippery and jagged rocks.
There was a final face to this journey. It was the transition of a complete stranger who, by the end, became a true companion. I was blessed to be partnered with someone who I could exchange ideas,thoughts and creative visions. Someone whose voice and face will resonate with me throughout my future journeys. What adventure wouldn’t be more enriched than one that is blessed by the face of true friendship.
Link to Olympic pt.2.