What does a year bring to one who loves family, devotes countless hours to work and tries to express themselves through photography. Well for me it was not only life changing but mind challenging. It started last year and like a clock that stares back at you, it announces milestones in dangling updates, as each test is scheduled, viewed and double checked for errors. There seemed no errors were to be found. Like the constricting body of a snake, each squeeze signified a darker end. PSA levels rose until, April when they elevated way above the norm. The invasive, but essential, biopsy was scheduled and once again the mind paralyzing wait for that meeting I would both dread and embrace at the same time. The initial shock and reality that all 15 biopsies would return a positive verdict. My ride home made easier by a mother never willing to let one of her children go, trying to exude a positive exterior while hurting beyond belief inside. For me it is so hard to watch others suffer so I try to internalize my sadness and see past tests and surgery.
The answer to the above question… HELL YES! It can take the life and soul out of your spirit… especially your soul. The alternative answer, and the one clinged to this summer… USE cancer, just as it forces itself on you and the ones you love. Use it to motivate. Use it to bring a calm reality to expectations… USE IT UNTIL IT DIES. The alternative, is unacceptable… it is doing its best to crush not just your body but that soul that makes you who you are.
Planning family visits, and especially photography trips started a year prior. The logistics of saving and finding what will fill that creative spirit produced a lot of mental legwork. Just as cancer was working its evil plan for the following year, I would do the same until both would collide in July, two weeks prior to my leaving for a visit to see my youngest daughter and grandchildren. I can only tell you what I decided… I chose to live as best as one can even with a dark cloud constantly following. The verdict was Prostate Cancer and dates for tests and surgery were set into what seemed like slow motion while the angst of waiting ran head on in my desire to rid myself of this deadly parasite.
The solution was to immerse myself into my happy place… photography. My cathartic travels started in Maine by participating in a natural light Portrait class lead by Matt Cosby. For six days I was exposed not only to his spirit, but as I learned the spirit of the class, especially the people I interacted with in order to learn their story. Thinking about the cancer did not come up until the last day when Matt asked… “so what are you going to do when you get home?”. Suddenly cancer reared it head and with tears in my eyes I shared with him what was waiting for me. I told him I was there because… I chose to be and did not want cancer to control any more of me then it had already. Next I would travel to Nova Scotia and then on to my next class in Newfoundland with Dave Brosha and Wayne Simpson. This would also be about portraits but included learning the use of lights. I listened to how they fell in love with photography and stressed the human spirit in their subjects. It touched my soul like no other workshop I have attended and would help me on my long ride home. I finished up in NL on a landscape shoot with photographers Curtis Jones and Wayne Simpson in Bonavista, NL. What struck me most during my time there, is the backstories both would share with us. The “why” became almost as strong as the technical aspects of their journey. Finally, after arriving home and taking inventory of my life and hospital tests, I embarked on a weekend photoshoot in an old steel town in PA named Johnstown. This was a creative lighting portrait class with Joel Grimes… I am amazed at how much of himself Joel gave to everyone including the models. During the day, creating and learning side by side with other photographers, talking with family each night set my mind up for my next journey.
Surgery would come and go just as the cancer that tried to overtake my body. What is present… the spirts of those around me. Friends both old and new stay in contact and call or send letters, and especially shared travels, experiences and life lessons. I am reminded that we are never alone… family is a constant in both encouragement and support. I embrace everyone of the souls I met this summer, I know part of their story and now I can share part of mine, through the photographs I took and the creative spirit that still dwells deep inside.
Since growing up between two of the largest cities on the east coast, one being Philadelphia and the other New York, you would think I would be familiar or at the very least comfortable with them. Actually that is the furthest from the truth as I grew up in the pines of south jersey, so visiting anything with more than 2 stories was both illuminating and many times quite confusing. When traveling to the city of choice for this post, “NYC”, I relied on the calm but monotonous one and a half hour ride on a train which would deposit me at Penn Station in Manhattan. This put me right in the center of where my quest to document 4 visits to this urban oasis would be fulfilled.
My first trip took me to lower Manhattan’s financial district. The structures and how the light reflected on them truly fascinated me. Peering up and down the streets and trying to make a connection with my camera was a task that was made easier by one of my guides, meet-up planer/photographer Martin Joffe. He had made special arrangements to shoot inside the “Woolworth” building. When I stepped inside this place, I was immediately sent back in time, where money translated to some of the most opulent decor one could imagine. The juxtaposition of the old to more modern architecture, was eye-opening to say the least.
The next visit to NYC was to shoot in Chinatown and my guide would be street/portrait photographer DC Fahsbender. Imagine the street noise and traffic of a big city combined with the unknown elements of a different country. The signs, language and most of the people being of a different culture, brought my lens to a place, both old and new. While I walked up and down the narrow streets of the many shops, I felt swept along by a current of people. By inviting the culture of this place in, I was able to slow down and click away.
A little further over would take me to the East Village, with its mix of old and new, which was evident from its late 19th century architecture to the present. The hispanic flavor of this part of the city was apparent just by viewing the restaurants and hearing the rhythmic music that echoed down many of the small cross streets. My lens once again gravitated to the people, whether they were engaged in a pickup basketball game or played dominos on the sidewalk.
Last, but not least, would be my trip to the Williamsburg Bridge and its namesake on the other side. Walking across, while overlooking the traffic and parts of the city, was not a sight to be missed. The pace of the people riding bikes and driving over this bridge was perilous at times, unless you stayed on the right side of the yellow line. From the view up high, to the street art down below, this section of town had me using pan blurs and structural composition to express my take on a walk across a busy city bridge.
Upon looking back at my little adventures to the Big Apple, I would not have changed a thing. I met some wonderful people and had great knowledgeable guides to help point which way was uptown or downtown and… which way was home. Although I would not trade where I live, the experience of urban life certainly made my camera happy.
When visiting a place that has any history I always try to find the back story and related articles that can shed light on the subject. Letchworth Village is one such place. It is located in Rockland County, NY which for me was about a 2 and a half hour drive from my South Jersey home. While driving, I ran through some facts about my destination in my mind so I could better visualize the place, and try to figure out how to document it when I arrived. Opened in 1911 as a state of the art facility for the mentally ill, it closed in 1996 amid documented abuse of the patients and staff. Like many of the facilities from this time, the word asylum was to offer sanctuary and protection for its patients, but over time this shelter became a house of horrors for many. For me, growing up and reading the after effects of these places, the word “asylum” took on a whole other dark and menacing connotation.
After finally arriving, I had wanted the day to be gloomy and overcast, so to set the mood and background to what I perceived my experience would be. A little disappointed, I was greeted with a beautiful sunrise and bright skies. The initial look and feel of the place was anything other than beautiful. The buildings and grounds showed the decay and overgrowth that I had expected. What was unexpected was the way the ivy created a brilliant backdrop of different shades of red, yellow and orange. This impact of color, along with the decay, let my mind travel in a different direction. Suddenly the colors complemented the decay and changed the mood from melancholy to a more uplifting outlook on this place. Exploring, by myself and with other photographers, the many buildings and fall colors became a driving force in helping me find the beauty that existed in the exterior of this so-called sanctuary. Finding refuge from the bright outside light in a huge 3 story power plant, I began to feel its dark side only to be startled by the almost heavenly, broken and dirt stained windows. Again and again the light and colors blurred the lines between the past and the present.
This dichotomy of decay, sunlight,fall colors and disturbing history brought an almost uplifting shift to my compositions. I can’t thank Marty Joffee of AIP enough for making this available to us and also letting me shed a different light on the often horrendous side to the word “Asylum ”. Depending on our perspective, we can dwell on the “what was” or, as I hope my photos will help you, choose to view the beauty of life and “what is”.
Sakura, in Japanese culture, translates to ‘Cherry Blossom’. This festival was scheduled to happen at a special park in Philadelphia. With my interest and curiosity tweaked, I decided to try and capture it through my lens.
drums beating in time
maidens twirling and frozen
The atmosphere of a festival can be both intoxicating and informative, especially one from a different culture than what I grew up in. Suddenly all that is foreign, becomes a reality into which one can immerse their senses.
bright circular fans
smiles and rhythms flow with pride
a past brought to life
While walking from one end of the park to the other, trying to catch each event can become a challenge, but the subconscious snap of my mind and shutter revealed its own rewards.
the essence in a single pond
zen like images
The aura and satisfaction that a few hours away from home can bring to ones soul helped me develop a more trans-formative outlook on the world… lets pass it forward!!!
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.
CAUSE… one definition really sums it up for me : “a principle, aim, or movement that, because of a deep commitment, one is prepared to defend or advocate.”
In any country the mention of the word WAR brings up many opinions and emotions but mention “Civil War” and you get a deeper connection to it, be it via history, location or DNA. My visit to New Market, VA brought on a combination of all three.
My initial plan, born out of dreams of being a photo journalist at one time, was to really give a feeling of the loss and grittiness of war in this place. To shoot alongside the soldiers on the battlefield…. (sound of screeching tires)… I was abruptly awakened from my dream of grandeur when I had to inquire about the yellow tape and fences that seemed to prevent me from my task. A man dressed in official period garb informed me that this re-enactment was as true to what actually happened and, unless I was of period dress and carried a working camera from that time, my place would be on the sidelines. As it turned out, the sidelines rekindled in me a vision of curiosity and, with my gift of gab I proceeded to stop and question various people dressed in full period clothing. What I received was everything from, hey what kind of camera is that, to where are you from and everything in-between. This personal type of interaction forced me to envision portraits and open up my subjects to create a history lesson about the time and place. The more I shot and listened, the more this place came alive, helping me realize this battle was one of the last Confederate victories and that control of this area had to do with food to feed the vast amount of troops there and in the future. I was treated throughout the day to a living history that would have been lost within the benign pages of a high school lesson. The conversations enlightened me to the loss and courage that had occurred just yards away. Eventually the barriers melted away and vignettes appeared, punctuated by the cannon’s deafening fire.
The thinking of which side one was on, quickly disappeared, once I fully immersed my self into the personal side… the side that today is only talked about and remembered after so many years of loss… the cause seems to almost disappear when the lens captures faces, actions, and sometimes even the whispers that are interwoven into a reenacted part of our history.
In the past 2 months I had a very rewarding experience to do some photo shoots with Matt Christopher. Imagine being able to go up into an attic and rummage through books and objects from past eras that you grew up in… that is how it felt to me. The three places I visited below, brought back this deja vu type of experience to me. Looking through the lens and bringing back past life events, seemed very real to me at the time. Each room or object had a story that I hoped could be awakened through my compositions. I divided my visits into three sections that would represent each place visited.
The first was an abandoned slate mine. I had visions of going deep into the earth of the actual mine, only to be slapped back to reality when our guide explained that all the water from the winter flowed down into what looked like a football sized shaft, no tunnels or rails down into the earth… still frozen. The exploring of what was left, provided many vignettes of the past… from machinery and patterns of rust, to the left over slate mine just yards away.
The next chapter, from this ‘blast back to the past’, was found not far from where I live… an old theater in the city. Trying to find parking in an area that has not seen the best of times in quite a while, proved an adventure in itself. What struck me, from the minute I entered, was how colorful this place was. It still had more than enough dirt, dust and cracks to keep me entertained for the rest of the day. The back stage was a favorite of mine, as just looking out to the seats one could easily envision a packed house for the opening night of a movie. Exploring the rooms was a real treat, especially the projection room. ‘Whoa’, did that bring back memories of my being a projectionist back when film was shown on 20 minute reels and you had to switch from one projector to another.
Last in my odyssey of reliving the past, proved to be my most creative… an immense lace company in the middle of a steel town. The sheer size was evident when I was given a map and cell number in order to reach both the guide and our instructor. We were told to buddy up in order to lessen our chances of getting lost…. well 10 minutes in and we were both lost. The many levels and pass-throughs, some blocked and others just passable, proved both exciting and frustrating. To give you an idea of just how large this place is…. it had its own bowling alley and gym, complete with a stage for its workers. Creating in this environment was a joy, from the large open rooms to reflecting pools of perfectly calm water, it seemed to bring back both the echoes and activities of days gone by.
Each of these venues not only let me chronicle my explorations but to also bring back a memory of my past… reawakened through the lens and somehow brought back to life… truly unforgettable on so many levels.
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.
This is the second post from my visit to Iceland and as always let me know what you think.
My trip out of the country began with a marathon run thru the airport and only ended when I was greeted by my couch when I arrived back at my home. My destination was in Iceland and I found it true to its moniker “Land of Fire and Ice”. Upon viewing it in person, I was very cognizant of what had happened millions of years ago, but with one very important difference… it was now 2013.
The land looked as if it had just cracked open yesterday and this was made more evident by its active volcanoes. I traveled in a 4×4 and van, with a small group of 8 photographers. I had mixed blessings on most of my trip by being with and without rain. The ‘with’ enabled my pictures to develop the drama and contrast needed to expose the real Iceland. The ‘without’ made it much more comfortable moving around and not having to wipe off my lens every minute. Trekking high above the island’s floor, I was presented with the fantastic colors of the highlands in Iceland. The way the browns and greens meshed and melted together, created a wonderful palette in front of me. As I stumbled over frozen lava fields and sweeping views of meadows and mountains, I just sat in the open wilderness and thought how lucky I was.
Throughout my stay, I was able to visit very small hotels that provided exquisite meals made on the premises. The trip took me from the city life in Reykjavik to beaches and miles of mountains and waterfalls. The beaches were covered with black sand and beached ice which took on the look of a grand crystal glass shop stuck out in the middle of nowhere. Finding the right composition amongst the millions of ice formations can be overwhelming to say the least. I traveled by small boat through the ice fields to the birthing place of all these ‘ice cubes’… the glaciers in Jokulsarlon. From the silence of the water to the clicking of shutters I was in my element, creating and seeing what I had only glimpsed at in books and magazines.
I finished up my trip back at a familiar site… waterfalls. Visiting waterfalls can get a little confusing, due to the sheer number of them. This last one Seljalandsfoss was complete with weather challenges… rain, wind and cold. I knew I was not home in 90 degree heat the minute I stepped out of the van. Walking first in front of this grand waterfall to going behind it, was both a challenge and a culmination of my visit to this island of ‘Fire and Ice’. Even though trying to compose in the rain was difficult, the true beauty of this place reached out and embraced me. If I was to mentally file my trip to Iceland, it would be under ‘O’… “Once in a Lifetime”.
PART 1 of 2
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.
Like a hand searching for the right time to create
You can feel its outstretched fingers… slowly, steadily
Reaching out… back and forth like a great tide
The hand of Fundy
Its daily ritual… forever etching its rhythm into your soul
Which appendage will the hand point to… misty, foggy
Anticipate the ebb and flow, what next… sunny, moonlit
Only the hand knows
My body and mind, now are one with this hand that has guided my inner vision.
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.
I’m always looking for new places, experiences and meeting people who enrich my daily routine. But sometimes I simply yearn for the comfort of an old sweatshirt, broken in sneakers and familiar surroundings. Sort of a home away from home. Maine holds that comfort zone for me.
I have attended Maine Media College workshops for many years and still manage to find new ways to view its “nooks and crannies”. The town of Rockport is usually my base of operations and is the perfect respite for just kicking back and contemplating what to shoot next. I have taken classes in everything from, how to shoot with a digital camera to, advanced techniques in adventure photography. In between classes and especially early mornings and evenings, I can experiment with what this place has to offer. Exploring the harbors, people and hidden abstracts keeps me coming back each summer.
The photographs shown here were not taken specifically for class assignments but are the results from the influence of the area and its people. My favorite people to talk to, outside of the workshops, are the vendors. I always tell them where I am from and ask how they found this fantastic place. They almost immediately tell me a little bit about themselves, but more importantly, a story about a town in Maine they grew up in or settled in. This exchange of backgrounds and history resonates inside me and every time I make plans to visit, it expands my horizon while searching for new venues.
From the first mouth-watering bite of a lobster roll, creative imaginings of the children, serene beauty of the seaside communities, to the graceful silhouettes of the boats, and shared moments between friends…. Maine is so much more than that.
I had one of the more peaceful rides to a ferry from across to . The island of Chincoteague,VA came just before the and was my destination for this trip. The refuge is home to wild horses, and many other species. is a meeting point for many and would be my starting point for a surprising photographic opportunity.that I have ever experienced. The road to Chincoteague started in and ended in , by way of a
The three days spent here were filled with history and the zen like solitude of a personal retreat. I never have had the patience to shoot birds… until now. The presence of many herons in one place was astounding. Trying to capture them hunting and flying, was all timing and being in the right place at the right time. Horses however, drifted in and out of reach the entire trip.
Two great sunrises and a very windy finish on the beach sealed the deal. There is something about a beautiful sunrise that puts my mind and body as one with nature. The brief wait for light to finally illuminate the horizon can be euphoric. Hearing waves break during a sunrise just adds a beautiful soundtrack to the whole process. Walking along the beach on my final day as the wind picked up, you could see the rhythmic natural patterns emerge from the sand. The tiny particles would build up on one side of an object and fall away on the other. But just as the birds had to eventually leave, I too, refreshed and re-energized, had to make my migration back home.
Autumn or fall, whatever your word of choice, it’s the time for nature’s colorful explosion. With this comes an expectation of change. The drop in temperature and the shift in time, signal the season. Fall can be very subtle, to outright in your face bursting with color. To further explore this new season, I traveled to the Canaan Valley of West Virginia at Blackwater Falls State Park. I was there on a photographic workshop run by Joe Rossbach and Alex Mody, two very creatively gifted and knowledgeable photographers. With their guidance and insight to the best that this area had to offer, I was off to find my own take on autumn’s splendor.
I was greeted by waterfalls with swirling eddies, to sweeping vistas of color that were back-lit by overwhelmingly beautiful sunrises. This was by far the most stimulating environment I had visited in hopes of capturing the seasons glow. Morning mist presented a new visual experience for fall color, and I had to embrace a more subtle composition. With so many different hues, at times I was a bit hard pressed to separate the luminosity and create a unique vision of this time of the year.
The endless color combinations that stood out challenged my sense of place. But in the end, a true understanding of how the seasons change, came into focus. Front and center, far and wide, subtle and bursting, this autumn’s show proved to be both inspirational and a visual moment for me. Thanks to mother nature, I can once again view life thru my new ‘rose colored’ glasses.
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.
In this gallery set I wanted to showcase a different spin on my experience in Cody,Wyoming. I was able to venture out-of-town and shoot wild mustangs who roam on protected unfenced land. You will also see some BW,sepia and even a little painted in flavor. To view the main post click here.
This 10 image slide set was entered into the essay competition at the DVCCC.
You say to yourself, “What is an east coast boy doing out west?” What else except, gearing up for a rodeo. I was in Cody,Wyoming for the annual Rodeo Stampede and attending a workshop being run by Bobbie Goodrich. We had access to anywhere in the arena. Having never shot an event like this before, I started to scout for locations and fire off some test shots. Trying to figure out the lighting, like where is the sun during the day shots and dealing with high ISO’s at night to stop the action, was proving to be a challenge. I was able to mingle with the people behind the scenes for quite a while before the action started. It is amazing to see how focused the riders were. When I came eye to eye with what they were going to ride, I could see why.
The moment to shoot had arrived. You could feel the tension in the air from the crowd, to the silence just before the rider says pull. For an instant, the loudest sound is the gate jolting open, then magic happens. I get lost in lining up my shot and trying to let the rider and bull do their dance. The crowd is pumped but I still keep focused on this brutal, if somewhat brief, 8 seconds maximum interplay between the cowboy and his partner. If you just listen to the crowd it will reveal everything, from a just missed 7.9 second ride to the inevitable buck off. Through the dust and lights, I start to settle down and get into a good rhythm with the camera, but at a very safe distance.
I have a great deal of awe and respect for anyone that would get on a 1500 pound bull for ANY amount of time. The awesome size and amount of power it takes for an animal of that size to get off the ground, is jaw dropping. Never mind the ouch factor of watching and wondering who will hold on for the seemingly unreachable time of just eight seconds. For me the revelation and god like powers of the rodeo clown were mind-boggling. They constantly step in front of these animals to keep the riders safe. It was like a dance with the devil and sometimes the devil won, to body slamming excess. I don’t know what goes through the rider’s mind, but my adrenaline is pumping. Action is fast and almost nonstop. I only get a breather, and this is sad to say, when a cowboy is ejected. The power and grace of such a huge animal is both exhilarating and scary to watch. Not many reach the coveted 8 second mark, while a lot just last a couple of seconds. When one skilled, and in my eyes, very lucky rider gets close, the crowd is deafening.
“So you still want to be a cowboy?” Well as for me- I am very happy to be on this side of the lens.
Part 2 of this post can be viewed here.