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Tag : NJ

09 Feb 2016

Vintage cameras from a friend feel right at home

cameraCollectionI don’t know how I got so lucky to have great family and friends.

My wife Robin and I had dinner tonight with our friends Brian Horton and Marilyn Dillon. Marilyn was Robin’s editor back in the day and helped get Robin going in the right direction as a writer. Marilyn continues to be a strong inspiration for both of us.

Brian was a longtime photographer and headed sports photography for the Associated Press. He set up AP’s coverage for major sporting events all over the world, whether it was Super Bowls, Olympics or World Series. You name it Brian had it covered.

I met Brian when both of us were working in Ohio. I was at a small newspaper in southern Ohio and he worked for the AP photo bureau in Columbus. Ronald Reagan was coming to my little town two days before being elected president in 1980. It was a huge deal in town so Brian came down to cover it and then to help us. Those were the days when most newspapers didn’t have color photos and Brian brought one of AP’s new color transmitters so we’d have a color photo on the front page the next day. A few years later I got a photo editor job in New Jersey and Marilyn had just started as the newspaper’s metro editor and Brian was working for the AP in New York City.

Brian and Marilyn have a beautiful home down on the Jersey shore and they’re in what they call a slow process of moving there from their longtime home in Fanwood. Combining two houses into one is never fun and one day when I was at their house I was admiring Brian’s collection of old cameras. Brian offhandedly said I could have them when he got them all packed up. I didn’t think he meant it and forgot about it.

When we went to dinner tonight, Brian said he had a surprise for me in the car. Of course I love surprises so I begged him to tell me what it was. Brian said it was the old cameras. I was elated and pretty shocked. Robin could tell by the look on my face that is was something special but she didn’t really understand the significance of what I was getting.

After dinner Brian pulled a cardboard box out of his car and handed it to me. I looked in his eyes and could tell he was more than a little emotional about passing on the cameras. I was honored that he entrusted them with me and I knew I had the perfect place to display the cameras in my office. So Robin and I ran over there right after dinner, I opened the box and gently pulled out all the cameras that Brian it carefully wrapped in newspaper.

My office is in a building built in 1892 and it has incredible woodwork. There’s an old fireplace at the end of the room with little wood shelves perfect for my new camera collection. I carefully put each camera on the shelves starting with old box and Brownie cameras, a twin lens reflex camera, some Kodak Junior cameras with bellows and finally a couple old 4X5 press cameras.

I’m thrilled to have the cameras part of my new office, they really add to the atmosphere. I will admire them, remember their history and think of Brian every day. It is the perfect home.

31 Oct 2015

The latest sunrise of the year and unexpected frost

1411Today is my favorite day of the year to shoot sunrise, the sun rises at its latest time of the year since tomorrow we switch back off Daylight Savings Time. So today’s 7:30 sunrise becomes 6:30 tomorrow. I can handle getting out before 7:30, but 6:30 is always more of a challenge.

1473Even though I spent a lot of time in Vermont chasing fall foliage, I thought I would catch the end of the New Jersey version since the forecast was for clear skies this morning.

I was geared up to shoot the remaining leaves on the trees but when I got to the park there was a beautiful layer of frost on the ground.

Change of plans.

1358I walked around looking for unique patterns and great color before the sun hit, since I knew the frost would last only minutes once sunlight covered it. I found an area that had leaves from many different trees and the colors were really nice. I set up my tripod waiting for the sunlight to come over. I was looking for nice colors and found plenty of them and shot until the frost melted off.

I saw some nice leaves on a bush in the shade so I went over to check them out. The light falling on them was soft and warm and really brought out the color that was bordered by frost on the edge of the leaves. I worked my tripod around to get the composition I wanted and found myself standing there with a smile on my face. The soft light changed quickly and suddenly the best photo was gone but I got the shot I wanted and still had a smile thinking about how lucky I was to be the only person to have witnessed that fleeting moment of natural wonder.

31 Oct 2015

Shooting macros of leaves in my backyard

Maple Cells     As I was out early this morning getting some shots from the last blast of fall foliage, I was trying to shoot the sunlight coming through a leaf hanging on a tree. There was a very slight breeze but it was just enough to make getting a sharp photo near impossible. When I got home I noticed lots of colorful leaves in my yard, so I decided to backlight them.

red leavesI picked up some nice leaves and placed them on a glass table on my deck. I pulled out a small, portable flash, put it on a little light stand and stuck it under the table. I had my 100mm macro lens on my camera so I added an extension tube so I could get even more magnified shots. With the camera on a tripod, I shot straight down on the leaves, set the flash on full power and let it blast through the leaves. I had to guess at exposure but after a few shots I figured it out.

I love the way the cell structure of the leaves comes through with the strong backlight. I was shooting at f/28, so on some shots I needed a five or 10 second exposure to get enough light on the top leaf.

13 Aug 2015

Finding a face at the fair

4hPortraitThe 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.

19 Oct 2014

Enjoying the beauty of Duke Farms

Duke Sycamores

It seems like I can’t photograph Duke Farms too much. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that I love going to the old estate of Doris Duke now that her foundation encourages the public to come visit. I take my Somerset Photography Meetup.com group there two or three times a year and it never disappoints. I love the large old sycamore trees growing along the main road in the estate. The light always plays nicely with the light bark and today the deep blue sky added lovely contrast.

03 May 2014

Special time at the Olympics

Charlie shows off another gold medal he won at the Special Olympics.

Charlie shows off another gold medal he won at the Special Olympics.

For the past 22 years, I’ve had a special friend. Charles Morgan lives in a group home in Bridgewater, NJ, and he has become part of our family. Robin did a story about him for the newspaper and then he moved nearby and our phone hasn’t stopped ringing since. He joins us for every holiday and birthday celebration and loves to come over and have the dogs lick him and beat me in dominoes.

He also enjoys the Special Olympics. I’ve been to quite a few, watching him race and tear up the track with his electric wheelchair. He always wins two or three medals at the local competition and then goes to the state event and gets more medals. The medals were stuffed in a drawer in his bedroom for a long time, so I made a nice wood and glass case to show them. That was about about 15 years ago and I thought the case would last forever but now it is overflowing.

Today was a beautiful one for the event. Charlie did his usual great job in the morning and won his race, collecting another gold which he was happy to show anyone who strolled past. In the afternoon, he missed a couple of cones in the obstacle race and ended up with a silver medal.

I don’t know if he qualified for the state Olympics, he hopes he gets to make the trip to Trenton so he can win some more medals. It won’t be long before I have have to make a new display case.

29 Oct 2013

Hippee Halloween dog

halloween_dog13Tonight was the annual Halloween costume contest at The Hungry Hound where dogs put up with their owners desire to make them look funny. Some dogs handle it better than others, wearing a wig and a hat isn’t something that comes natural to many pooches. My favorite of the evening, and the official winner, was Gia, dressed like a funky hippee from the ’60s. Gia was far out and groovy and matched the look of her handlers. She also was good at posing in the studio. There are more photos over on The Hungry Hound’s Facebook page.

19 Oct 2013

Buzzing around in a helicopter

silo_aerial

fhrm13Today was the annual Far Hills Race Meeting in NJ where 30,000 people try to outdo themselves and put on extremely lavish tailgate parties on a hillside while steeplechase horse races are happening. I’ve photographed the event from the air for over 15 years, buzzing the horses and seeing how many people wave at me. Usually we take the door off the helicopter and I put on a climbing harness and hang out the side. Last year we used a chopper that had a rear door that slide open so I could hang out. I meet the helicopter at an airport about three miles from the event and when it landed today I wasn’t real happy. It wasn’t the same machine we used last year and all the doors were on. The pilot said they didn’t want to remove the door, he didn’t say why, so I was stuck shooting through a small sliding window. That took all the fun out of it, plus the ability to move around much. The pilot pointed out right away that it was a twin engine jet helicopter, which is good since there is no logical reason those things should fly. Even though I didn’t get to wear the harness, it was still fun zipping around the countryside.

On the way back to the airport, I saw this abandoned grain silo and small building with a road curving around. It looks pretty cool, I’ll have to try and find it from the ground.

07 Aug 2013

Sunflowers look good even without the sun

Sunflowers in Hillsborough field.

A friend told me about a field of sunflowers that are in perfect bloom. I like sunflower fields and since I am going to be in Vermont for over a week, I figured the sunflowers might not look too good when I get back. Even though the sun wasn’t out, I went to the field late in the day and shot away.

The sky was pretty cloudy with a few blue spots, so I initially tried keeping the sky out of the photo. Since the sun wasn’t shining strong, many sunflowers were bowed down for the night and the ones still looking up were beginning to droop.

As it happens so many times, the photo I had envisioned before I got there wasn’t doable, so I had to try something else. I went back to the Jeep and got a strobe and umbrella reflector so I could be sure there was good light on the sunflowers. I under exposed the overall scene about a full stop and made sure the strobe was outputting the right amount of light for a proper exposure. I like the dramatic effect it created.

19 May 2013

Lots of crabs at Cape May photo workshop

This weekend was my workshop in Cape May. The weather started off great but turned cold and rainy by Saturday night. The group didn’t seem to care as we were out making photos in the rain of the lighthouse after sunset during the blue hour. I always like being out in the rain and shooting and the beacon from the lighthouse looked cool blasting through the rain.

Cape May is famous for birds and Victorian architecture. The shorebirds are late arriving this year, they flock to the Delaware Bay as horse shoe crabs come ashore in May to lay millions of eggs. The crabs were a little late this year too, but they were still there in big numbers. They are an amazing thing to watch and photograph.

It was a great workshop and everybody made some great photos.

13 Apr 2013

Cape May looking good on a bright spring day

I decided to spend the day in Cape May, which is my favorite place in New Jersey. Hurricane Sandy destroyed most the of the New Jersey shore last fall but spared Cape May. It looks like some of the main beach is missing but none of the structures, including the boardwalk, were seriously damaged.

Cape May has been a tourist destination for decades. The small town is at the southern tip of N.J. where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Delaware Bay, and is known for the large number of Victorian houses. There are so many the entire town is on the National Historic Register.

The houses make for fun shooting, I walked around and concentrated on the gingerbread trim, fancy gables and great architecture. The houses are known as the “painted ladies” of the town because of all the great colors that are used on the houses.

Cape May is famous in the birding world because it is a stopping point on the Eastern Flyway. In May, thousands of horseshoe crabs come ashore in the Delaware Bay to lay eggs and thousands of birds stop while migrating north to gorge on the eggs before finishing their migration. It is an amazing sight. Today it was too early for many bird shots, but birds are only one of the attractions of Cape May. I did have a great experience with a swan and goose near the lighthouse. Read more about it.

Walking around got me excited for the photo workshop I’m leading in Cape May on May 16-19. There is so much variety that we will all end up with new photos in our portfolio.

13 Apr 2013

Nasty swan gives friendless goose a chase

A swan nips at a Canada goose while flying around a Cape May pond.

I witnessed one those things in nature today that I doubt if I will ever see again. I went to a state park in Cape May near the lighthouse to see what birds might be around this early in the year. As expected, there wasn’t much activity but I went to a blind on a pond to take a look. I’ve gone to the blind a dozen times before and probably didn’t shoot a frame and I really didn’t expect anything different this time.

As I walked in there were a couple of ducks swimming around and soon a Canada goose landed to my left and went into the tall grass. In a few minutes a mute swan swam in from my right. It paddled right in front of me as I shot away. I noticed the swam wasn’t swimming in a normal, smooth way, it was lunging, like it was doing the breast stroke. The swan headed for the goose and the goose flopped into the pond and starting swimming. The swan headed out toward the goose and quickly caught up. I learned swans swim faster than geese.

The swan got right behind the goose and the goose flew about 30 feet and then landed again. The swan quickly got on the goose’s tail and the goose flew another 30 feet, landing in the pond. The two raced around the five acre pond a few times and then the goose took to the air. As I was watching the goose fly, I heard the swan taking off and I learned that swans fly faster than geese. The swan would get right on the goose’s tail, the goose would dive and the swan would be right back on the goose. They circled the pond, flew up and down as the swan tried biting the goose in midair. Lucky for me they were going right over me and I was ready. I had a 70-200 mm lens with a 2X teleconverter and filled the frame as the swan tried to take a nip of the goose.

The goose landed in the pond and the water chase was on again. Three more times across the pond and they did the aerial chase again. The goose landed in some tall grass and was safe. That was until two other geese landed on the pond and the goose who was getting bullied started honking at them. I was thinking the goose should shut up or the swan was going to know where he was. Well, the goose flies out and lands over by the other two geese. They looked at him and flew off. I don’t know if the goose had BO or was a jerk, but obviously he wasn’t liked by swans or geese. As soon as the two geese left, here comes the swan and the chase is on again.

After nearly an hour, I left and they were still swimming around the pond. When I go back to Cape May for my photo workshop in May, I’ll see if they are still on the chase.

29 Mar 2013

Crazy hawk pays the price for trying to steal eagle eggs at Duke Farms

This is an amazing clip from the Duke Farms live eagle camera. A not-too-smart hawk tried landing in the nest to steal the eggs. It didn’t work out so well for the hawk, but the eagles had a fine lunch.

Dukes Farms is one of my favorite places photograph since they opened the estate last year. The eagles are in a restricted area that you can’t access, which is good, but there are lots of other photo opportunities on the grounds. It is well worth visiting, not only is it free, it is a beautiful place.

10 Mar 2013

A duck of a different color is still just a duck

I went to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge today to see what might be flying through. I have several favorite places, some require a little hiking and I was feeling lazy so I drove to the spots that have easy access. I pulled up to the largest pond that you can park beside and there were a couple of people out taking photos.

On the far side of the pond was a bunch of ducks. This time of year usually the only thing I see floating is Canada geese. When I see them, I don’t even stop, but the ducks looked interesting. The ducks were pretty far away, too far to get a very close photo. The other two people with cameras were moving around quite a bit, which kept the ducks away. When everyone stood still for a while, the ducks would slowly move closer and then one of them move around and the ducks would move away.

The two camera toters finally gave up and left, I guess the ducks were too far away. That was fine with me, so I froze in place and the ducks slowly got closer. The ducks were diving and popping back up, they were fun to watch. I remember reading that diving ducks use their feet to help them take off. I don’t know why, but they run across the water as they take to the air. They were almost in camera range when something gave them a little spook and several took off to the other side of the pond. I didn’t spook them but I was ready.  They weren’t in the light I wanted but it is a fun photo anyway.

And once again, waiting for the shot pays off. The other two with cameras left without anything, if they would have been quiet and hung out another 10 minutes they may have made a shot.

I’ve shot a lot of ducks, but I don’t know what kind this one is. I looked it up in my bird books, but I still am not sure. If you have any thoughts, let me know.

15 Sep 2012

It isn’t not a snap dragon, but don’t tell the orchid

I was photographing this morning along the D&R Canal in Griggstown, NJ, with my Meetup group. It is fun going out with other people and taking photos.

During my days as a news photographer, I always noticed that the photographer who got away from the pack and wasn’t standing around chatting with the other photographers was usually the one with the best photos at the end of the day. I’m noticing that with our meetups too. Now some people are there to meet other photographers and get photo tips, which is great. But some are there to make the best photos they can and that person is rarely bunched up with the others.

Today I spent most of the time talking to others, showing them what I was shooting and thinking and answering their questions. I then wandered over to a nice little flower garden and got out my macro lens.

I saw this orchid growing tall above the others, so I moved in and started shooting. I liked my initial shots of one stem isolated against a dark background. I loved the way the rising sun was backlighting the stem and shining through the pedals. I thought I had my shot.

When I looked even closer, there it was: an orchid face! It looks like a dragon coming at me.