I came across an old photo today and all these years later it makes me feel as good as it did that day. I was lucky to work for the Associated Press at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea. I worked the evening shift, so during the day I would go out and shoot around the Olympics. One day I got on the subway and headed out to a neighborhood away from the Olympics. It was a fairly poor area and it didn’t take long to realize not a lot of 6’2″ guys with blonde hair wandered their streets.
I noticed a young boy and girl walking across the the street from me and they were giggling and gawking at me. I waved to them and they waved back. It continued for a few blocks and they disappeared. I thought it was a pretty cool experience when the two appeared again. They came over to my side of the street and were carrying three ice cream cones, one for each of them and one for me. What a surprise!
It was one of the nicest gestures ever. We stood there eating our ice cream and laughing. I pointed to my camera to ask them if I could make a picture of them. They gladly posed, waved goodbye and headed off down a side street. I wished I was able to go to their house but at least I had a great memory and a nice photo. It was fun thinking about it again today.
It is always sad to come to the last day of a workshop when I have met so many fun, nice and interesting people, but the 2016 edition of my Vermont Fall Foliage Photography Workshop came to an end today. Eight participants came from all over the country to enjoy Vermont’s beauty and hopefully improve their photography skills. My friend Nat Clymer joined us on Tuesday to share his photographic knowledge, it was great having him here.
I’m a lucky man.
I have my amazing, loving wife, Robin, who puts up with me and welcomes me back from my travels. I have my health. Those are the only two things that really matter. But on top of that I am fortunate to be able to capture the beauty that I get to witness and share it with others.
This year I hit a milestone by getting to my 50th state, thanks to photographer friend Walter Choroszewski, who helped me finally get to Hawaii. Walter helped me get to Alaska a couple of years ago, the last two states I needed to check off the list. This year I also had trips to Florida, Virginia Beach, Acadia National Park in Maine, the Hamptons on New York’s Long Island, Mystic, CT, Washington, D.C., and finally to California and Joshua Tree National Park. I was able to get away from N.J. and spend some time at our Woodstock, VT., home, but not nearly enough.
There were a loot of great people I met along the way, whether they were attending one of my photo workshops, coming by my art show booth or just great faces that I stopped to photograph. One of my favorites was a large Hawaiian family having a big Mother’s Day picnic on beach in a rather remote cove on the Big Island. They saw me walking past and one them started chatting with me and asked me to take a picture of the group. They had consumed plenty of beer and it took about 30 minutes to corral all of them around the picnic tables. They were a fun bunch.
Selecting my favorite photos of the year wasn’t easy, I kept it to 50 so you don’t get too bored.
2015 was a beautiful year and 2016 looks to be even better.
The annual Somerset County 4-H Fair is one of the few places in New Jersey where you can easily photograph farm animals, so that was what I was looking for when I went there. I was walking around the grounds and saw an older gentleman with a great face sitting on a bench. He was wearing a real cowboy hat, which you don’t see real often in New Jersey.
I told the man that I loved his hat and would like to take a picture of him. The sunlight was falling across his face but it wasn’t quite right so I moved a little to my left and he naturally moved with me and then the light was just where I wanted it. As I was shooting, I knew it would make a great black and white photo. I gave him my business card and told him to send me an email and I’d send him the photo. I didn’t hear from him.
Friend Lisa Lacasse invited me to join her Queechee Area Camera Club 10-day photo challenge where you have to shoot and post a photo each day for the next 10. I’m not a big fan of shooting photos just to shoot, I like to have a purpose and a goal. While there are times I’ll go out and just enjoy the search for something different, I usually have something that I am looking for or something I want to work on.
I haven’t shot tight faces for a long time, so I decided to make faces my challenge. Old men are a subject I enjoy to photograph and chat with. While shooting at an old church with Lisa this morning, I heard a voice across the street. A man was telling us that we could come over and take pictures of the church from his yard. While I knew the photos wouldn’t be too good from there, I thought it would be fun to talk with him.
Leonard has lived in the little house for many years and grew up in the town. He told us some interesting details about the church that built in 1844. I joked with him wondering if he saw them build the church, I guess he really didn’t see the humor. Later I asked him if I could make a picture of him and he declined. I pressed him a bit knowing he was just being shy. He finally relented and I made some nice shots of him.
Walter and I have a rather scientific formula developed for making sure we are in the right locations at the right time. We start heading for one place based on the weather forecast and if the weather doesn’t look like predicted, we take off for some place else. Sitting in the hotel near Portland last night, seeing the 100% chance of rain forecasts for most of Oregon, Walter was mapping how long it would take to get anywhere from Redwoods National Park in California (5 hours+) to Idaho (even longer) to Crater Lake (4 hours) to Mt. Rainer in Washington state. None of those made any sense since we had to be back to the Portland airport tomorrow evening.
So we planned on working the rain by going to waterfalls in the central part of the state. As we drove south, the sky was beautiful and clear so we veered off and headed for the coast again. I’ve heard people in many places say if you don’t like the weather wait 10 minutes and it will change. Oregon in November must be where that saying originated. At one point while shooting on the coast, I was shooting crashing waves in pure sunshine and went back to the car to grab a cable release and by the time I made the five minute walk, rain and hail pelted down. It wouldn’t have been that bad, but I left a camera and 70-200mm lens on my tripod down by the rocks and it was getting soaked. I scrambled back down the hill and when I got to my dripping camera the sun came back out and the rain was gone. I dried everything off and it works fine but I didn’t leave anything uncovered again.
The weather on the coast was great, other than the quick hailstorm, and we started by getting to Thor’s Well at high tide. Thor’s Well is a unique hole in the coastal rocks where the surf surges into the hole at high tide and spurts out at low. The surf today was especially rough and there were several nearby places where the water would shoot into the air as the waves crashed into the shore. We watched as large waves crashed over where we needed to be standing to shoot Thor’s Well and quickly realized today wasn’t the right day, we’d get our clothes wet at best, which wasn’t a big problem, but we had a very good possibility of drenching our camera or getting washed out to sea. We shot the crashing waves for a while and made another last minute decision and go farther south to the dunes while the tide went out and come back for the last light of the day.
The dunes made for some nice photos and when we got back to Thor’s Well the water wasn’t flowing in, only shooting out. There were still plenty of great shots to be had, just not the classic photo of Thor sucking the water into the earth.
I went on another crazy photo adventure today with fellow photographer Walter Choroszewski. Walter got us a deal on a flight, and suggested we spend the weekend in Oregon. Walter hadn’t been in Oregon before and wanted to check another state off his list. He still needs Wisconsin and North Dakota and we both need Hawaii to make it 50 for each of us.
We caught a flight this morning from Newark and were in Portland before noon. We have been watching the weather forecast and it looked like today might be our only day with sunshine, a frequent Oregon problem this time of year. We went straight for the coast to the typical ocean town of Seaside and then headed south.
Cannon Beach is one of the iconic photo spots on the Oregon coast and we discovered why. There is a rock formation in the water known as the haystack and it is spectacular. The light was great, nothing like being on the west coast as the sun gets low. I think my favorite shots are of Walter as the sun comes across his face, maybe I’ll score the dust jacket of his next book.
I don’t know, there is something about cool faces that attracts me lately. While we were out today on the Vermont Fall Foliage Photography Workshop, we stopped in the little village of Felchville for a break. Two guys were leaning on the back of a pickup truck in front of the post office/town hall. I loved the big white beard of one guy, so after making photos of both of them, I focused in on the beard. The man runs a saw mill up the road and had great eyes to go with the beard.
As my friend Lisa Lacasse and I were wandering around southern Vermont looking for great foliage, we stopped in Newfane for some lunch. We had driven a lot and were getting a bit tired, so we left the cameras in the car and headed into a country store. As soon as I walked in I saw this older gentleman with a great face sitting at some tables in front of a big picture window. The soft light flowed on him and I spun around and went back to get the cameras.
I’m not shy about talking to people, at least when I have a camera around my neck. I told the man who I am and that I like his face and the store and I’d like to take some pictures. I talked to him a little and then shot some pictures but I didn’t like the light and knew it would be better from the other side. So I went around and Lisa sat down near where I was standing and we talked with him a while. William is 93, lives down the road in Brattleboro and was a regional planner for many years. Even though he told his daughter he wouldn’t, he occasionally gets in his car and drives to Newfane where he lived with his wife before she died a few years ago.
Even though I was out looking for leaves, meeting William was the highlight of the day.
I had the pleasure today of shooting in a great, old barn owned by my friend Molly. I’ve been wanting to shoot the barn since Molly told me about it last fall during my Vermont Fall Foliage Photography Workshop. The barn is packed with character, as is Molly, and there are thousands of photos that could be made in it. The large, hand-hewn beams are amazing and the sunlight purges in through gaps in the walls making everything look cool. We found a dead dragonfly wrapped up in an old cobweb, it made for a photo that is creepy looking and nearly mystical.
After spending lots of time in the barn, we traipsed down to an old truck in her woods. The former milk delivery truck is surround by tall ferns and trees. It is a unique truck and the rust makes it look all the better. I love the detail shots of the rust and they will only get better over time. Molly has been photographing the barn and truck for quite a while and know that she has something special.
I can’t think of a better morning that seeing the true Vermont in an old barn and then sitting on a hillside having lunch. Thanks Molly.
I was lucky in being born at the right time that I missed being drafted by a little over a year. But I take the time to thank veterans whenever I can, especially on their day. I like to photograph the Somerville Memorial Day parade, it is a nice little parade with veterans, scouts, fire trucks and ambulances. It is always worth checking out.
So if you don’t think good photography makes a difference, watch the two versions of the Paul Harvey “Farmer” video. The first was done in 2011 by farms.com using snapshots and a few professional looking photos.
The second version, below, is the one that ran during the Super Bowl for RAM Trucks. It was put together after hiring 10 professional photographers including National Geographic photographer William Albert Allard and documentary photographer Kurt Markus. According to photographer rep Heather Elder’s blog, the other photographers were Jim Arndt, Daniel Beltra, Mark Gooch, Andy Mahr, David Spielman, Andy Anderson, Matt Turley and Olaf Veltman. It just shows that quality does matter and using professional photographers makes a huge difference.
I saw some grumblings around the Internet that the truck ad was a rip off of the farms.com video. Yes, it was, in a way. The agency and RAM Trucks worked with farms.com and are raising money together to help farmers.
The power of the still image shined bright during the Super Bowl last night. I was struck by the incredible moments and portraits used in the RAM Truck “Farmers” commercial. Immediately the photos hit me and made me wonder where they came from.
It turns out ad agency The Richards Group in Dallas commissioned 10 photographers to shoot the images, including National Geographic photographer William Albert Allard and documentary photographer Kurt Markus. All the photos used in the ad were originals shot just for the ad, according to a Chrysler press release. The voice-over was recorded by legendary radio newsman/commentator Paul Harvey over 30 years ago.
It amazes me that more agencies and companies don’t understand the power of original photography.
It was strange sitting around listening to the police scanner as Hurricane Irene roared through New Jersey. Most of the heavy wind and rain was overnight, and it didn’t keep me awake. In the morning I started monitoring and reporting on my Somerville NJ news site, SomervilleToday.com and then headed out to photograph the damage. Flood waters were at near record heights, so I headed to the normal flood areas and places that don’t normally flood.
There are lots more photos at SomervilleToday.com
I’ve photographed the Tour of Somerville since 1988, when it was the hottest day ever at the bicycle race. At least it was the hottest I’ve seen. Fellow photographer Dean Curtis and I thought we would kick everyone’s ass even though neither of us had every photographed bicycle racing before. We had tons of photos, many of them good and we had a great plan for covering the winner crossing the line. Dean was one side of the street and I was on the other. We both had long lenses and got way back down the street so we would have the sign and the winner crossing as the pack was right behind. What we didn’t know was that the winner had broken away from the pack and flying up the side of the street. We both were watching the middle of the street and neither one of us got the shot. We did learn from it though.
This year was pretty hot too. I was shooting for Middle Earth, the non-profit agency that helps kids and does most of the work to put on the race. Having photographed the race so many times, I’m always challenging myself to get a different shot. One year I shot most of the race with a 4X5 camera. Interesting, but I only needed to do that once. I always like when the 100+ riders line up for the start of the pro race. There are lots of faces, some tense, some relaxed but they are always rearing to go. I thought it would be nice to get a high angle on the riders and have the big banner that goes across the street. So I put my camera on the end of my monopod with a 16mm lens and did a Hail Mary shot from about 11 feet high. It would be fun to get that shot while they are riding away, but the riders would be happy to run me over.