Category : Classes & Workshops

25 Jul 2018

Iceland is a special place

This is the last day of my Iceland photography workshop, it is always sad for it to come to an end. We had a great bunch of people and it was fun working with them. But before heading back to the airport we had time to explore and photograph Reykjavik, the largest city in Iceland. Most of Iceland has rather utilitarian architecture but they have some pretty cool buildings in Reykjavik.

Harpa is a new building that is a concert hall. It is covered with glass pieces that reflect differently depending on which direction you look at them. It is a fun building and filled with geometric shapes and I got a fun shot of Paul, one of our photographers, reflected in one of the panels.

Nearby is Sun Voyager, a sculpture shaped like a boat with a node to Iceland’s norse heritage. It sits right beside the ocean and it very striking.

The tallest building in Iceland is Hallgrimskirkja, a modern Lutheran church with a unique design. The light wasn’t right this morning for a good shot of it but a few of us went up in the tower to get a view over the city. We walked the streets nearby and came across a row of colorful houses, I like the way they look together.

Then it was time to make our way back to the airport and head home. It is always nice to be home but Iceland is a special place. At least I feel good knowing I’ll be back in August for another workshop.

24 Jul 2018

Photographing pretty puffins in Iceland

The cutest thing in Iceland and some people think anyplace, are puffins. They are colorful birds about eight inches tall that have a rather sad face. They spend most of their lives at sea and only come ashore in the summer to mate and raise babies. Then they are back to the ocean, floating on the waves for nine months. I took my Iceland workshop group to a location where they nest in the cliff near a very public area.

I hadn’t seen puffins before and didn’t know what to expect, I saw a woman with binoculars so I asked her if she was seeing puffins. She gave me that “you’re a stupid American” look, said “yes” and went back to her bird watching. So much for conversation. I noticed a nearby rock in the grass with some bird poop on it. That’s always a sign of bird activity, many birds poop before taking flight to literally lighten the load. As I stood there I saw a puffin sticking its head out of the grass, but it was too far away to make a good photo. At least I felt good that they were around. Soon I realized the birds that were landing all over the cliff were puffins, but they were still too far away.

I gathered our group and told them to aim their telephoto lenses at the rock, there was going to be activity there. Several birds flew up to the rock and then quickly circled and flew away. They were landing everywhere else but not close to us. I had all of us move back about 10 feet to see if we were crowding them too much and before long a puffin landed near the rock and in range for us. As I was shooting like a maniac I could hear the other cameras firing away but the bird didn’t care. Another one landed and suddenly we were able to shoot two together.

Puffins dive in the ocean and come out with a beak full of small fish that dangle out. One landed with a longer fish than most and seemed to do a happy dance on the rock. It made me pretty happy too.

23 Jul 2018

A green day in Iceland

From our hotel in Vic we ventured even farther along the coast today. We started at the black sand beach in Vic and made some fun photos out toward the sea stacks. Legend has it that three elves were ship wrecked trying to land there and when the sun came up they were frozen for eternity as rocks in the ocean. I didn’t know elves didn’t like sunlight, so I learned something.

We went to a wonderful canyon that has been carved by water from glaciers for the last two million years. The climb to the end of Fjaðrárgljúfur is only a little easier than trying to pronounce it, but it is worth the effort. There are a few waterfalls that aren’t accessible, but the beauty is the deep canyon and lush green walls.

Another of my favorite places is off the beaten track. It is a tongue of the Vatnajokull Glacier, Europe’s largest glacier. Over 11 percent of Iceland is covered by glaciers and they are beautiful. At our little remote spot you can see the glacier coming down from the top of the mountain and it has created a small lagoon at the bottom. The glacier is a lovely green and it is hard to get a feel for the actual size.

After I drove the van back out of the rocky dirt path, we got back on Highway 1 and headed to one the coolest places in Iceland: Diamond Beach. A nearby glacial lagoon fills with sea water and chunks of glacier float into the ocean and up on the black sand beach. When the sunlight hits the ice they can look like diamonds. We weren’t lucky enough today to have sunlight but it is fun to shoot the ice strewn beach.

Between out hotel in Vic and Diamond Beach is a large rock outcropping, I don’t know if it has a name but it makes for some tremendous pictures. I love getting low with an extreme wide angle lens, putting some rocks and water in the foreground and shooting up at the mountain. It made for a nice reflection.

22 Jul 2018

A day of waterfalls in Iceland

Today we left the Snaefellsjokull Peninsula to go to the southern end of Iceland along the coast. The south coast looks much different and there are some major waterfalls that we stopped to photograph. 

One of the tallest ones is Seljalandsfoss, but it also has a ton of tourists, who tend to be in the way of great landscape photos. But I was able to use one to show the scale of the falls, which is an impressive sight.

We then went to Skogafoss, which is also filled with tourists. It is a large waterfalls, both in height and width. It is a challenge to shoot without a ton of people but getting in the middle of the river helps. I bring boots that go up to almost my knee and since this is fed by a glacier, not many people wade into the cold water.

One of my favorite locations in Iceland is Kvernufoss waterfalls. It is a beautiful falls but you have to climb over over fence and walk about 1/2 mile to get to it. The hike can get a little rugged in a couple of places and it isn’t well known so there aren’t many people there. Of course, today there was a fashion shoot happening, with video and a real drone, so it we waited until they were done before we got the shots we wanted. I love the way the water flows away from the falls and how green it is in summer. I was here in winter and it had a totally different look, although still beautiful. I really enjoy being in places where I see nothing made by humans and just being out in nature. There isn’t a more wonderful place.

21 Jul 2018

Not too abandoned in Iceland

The good thing about an overcast sky is that you don’t have to get up early to catch sunrise! We are all pretty tired from a long day of traveling to get to Iceland, especially since the flight is overnight and not long enough to get a full night’s sleep.

We headed out right away to one of Iceland’s most picturesque waterfalls. Kirkjufellfoss is best known for the towering nearby mountain but today the mountain was shrouded in fog. It didn’t allow us to the get classic shot I had hoped for but it is still pretty amazing with two sets of falls. They aren’t the biggest but they are extremely pretty.

After making plenty of pictures at the waterfalls we went to the nearby harbor town of Grundarfjörður. We went down to the industrial part of the harbor, which only had three of four boats and a few buildings including an abandoned fish processing plant. It being early and a Saturday I expected to see a few people but it was like a ghost town. We walked about for an hour without a car going past or seeing hardly any other people. It was a lot of fun and we found a nearby cafe for lunch that had plenty of people.

I had seen a sign for an artist who had fun stone sculptures around town. We drove over to his studio and he was outside carving away. Ludvik Karlsson likes to go by Liston and has some great work. He carves outside when he can and when it is too cold he goes inside and paints. We bought some small things he carved, I would love to be able to get some bigger work in my suitcase. Liston was a lot of fun to talk with and he enjoyed showing his power tools that are made in America.

We then headed to a lava field covered in moss and ventured to another black church in the extremely small village of Bjarnarhöfn. A sign says this little church is the oldest wood frame church in Iceland. From the size of the door, the people who built it weren’t very tall. It is an amazingly scenic location with rolling hills, sheep and horses and the a fjord behind it.

Our final shoot for the day was at an abandoned house out in the middle of nowhere. I drove down a long path and there it was, a stone foundation and walls were intact but the roof was gone. We still had cloudy skies, it would be great to photograph the stars out there with the old house. Hopefully on another trip.

20 Jul 2018

Not the best start for an Iceland workshop

It is great to be back in Iceland although I’m not off to a great start. As I was sitting on the tarmac in Newark I realized I left my coat inside the airport lounge. They had already closed the plane’s door, so I wasn’t able to run back in and grab it. When I was packing I originally tossed in an extra rain coat but pulled it out to save space. I have this thing about cool looking jackets, I think most of them are and I could buy nearly every one I see. Since my first trip to Iceland I’ve had a hankering for ones made by 66 North, so I resigned myself to needing to buy one now. Like everything in Iceland, they ain’t cheap!

I knew there was a store in the airport that has a large selection of 66 North and I thought it wouldn’t be too big of a problem getting a nice, new jacket there. When I arrived I ran right to the store before going through customs and all that junk. They had the one I was dreaming of and as I was checking out they asked for my boarding pass. It turns out since I was arriving and not leaving I couldn’t buy it! It was the duty free area they wouldn’t let me have it. I hate stupid regulations like that, but I didn’t get my jacket.

Well not only did I not have a coat, after going though passport control I went to get my luggage only to find it wasn’t there. I went to the missing luggage window to learn they don’t scan arrivals so they didn’t know if it was still in Newark or where it was. They said it would probably arrive on the next day’s flight from Newark. Not what I wanted to hear, I was taking the group a couple of hours north of the airport and we wouldn’t be back this way for three days. This is really not the way I like to start a workshop but I didn’t have much choice.

Since everyone was meeting at the airport and a couple of other flights were late, I had some time to find a store that was near our morning’s route through Reykjavik. I knew if I didn’t get a coat there I probably wouldn’t find another place to get one, so we went to a mall and I paid an outrageous amount for a pretty new blue jacket. I am the proud owner of a 66 North jacket (the latitude of Iceland).

As I was coming out of the mall I checked my email and learned my luggage did arrive at the airport and had been misplaced. We were now 90 minutes from the airport and I didn’t want to waste three hours round trip to drive back and get it so they assured me it would be delivered to our hotel tonight, so I could breath some relief, I had a coat and I didn’t need to buy underwear.

It turns out I needed my new raincoat, the weather was pretty wet today. It was the typical misty rain, enough to make being outside not as much fun but not heavy enough to keep hardy photographers indoors. We drove up to our hotel on the Snaefellsjokull Peninsula and stopped at some cool locations on the way. One of my favorites is a church painted black in Budir. It is out on an old lava field and today there were some sheep wandering around. Even with the damp sky it made for some fun photos. We were then on to the little fishing village of Arnarstapi.

After some more shooting we had dinner and settled into our hotel and my luggage arrive at about 11 p.m. Now it is a better start.

06 Jun 2018

Final day in Acadia

Today was the last day of my Acadia Photography Workshop for this year. It was a great group who were a pleasure to work with and we made some wonderful pictures. It was cloudy so we didn’t have to wake up early for sunrise. We headed over to one of my favorite Acadia locations, Sieur de Monts, which is an area away from the coast but is extremely diverse. There is a beautiful grove of birch trees, long flowing bright green grass, a garden and trails through large trees. During our classroom session earlier this week I showed one of my favorite Acadia photos I have shot, a path winding through birch trees. I took people over to the spot and they enjoyed shooting photos there. I went off on a different trail looking for some logs and found some beautiful moss growing on rocks and fallen logs. It was something different than I have shot in Acadia before and a great way to end my week here. I can’t wait to come back next year.

05 Jun 2018

Making the most of a rainy day

Our streak of great weather ended and the rain has taken over at my Acadia Photography Workshop. We spent yesterday afternoon and this morning in the classroom, talking about light and looking at some of the photos we have made so far. It is always fun to look at photos made by everyone in the workshop, we are all at the same places but invariably come away with different images. Again, people had their own vision and saw things I didn’t. It was fun looking at what we had created so far.

This afternoon we braved the light rain and went down along Somes fjord and had lunch in the cute village of Northeast Harbor. We stopped along the fjord where we made some fun photos of the gray day and shot around the marina in Northeast Harbor. I saw a lone tree isolated against the foggy shore and loved the way it stuck out.

When we left Northeast Harbor we stopped at the beautiful Asticou Gardens, even though there was still mist falling. I’ve seen the garden looking much better but there is always something to shoot there. I focused on some raindrops that lined up on a leaf. It can be tricky to get all the drops in focus, so I moved my tripod so I could get the most possible the same distance away from my lens so they would all be in focus. I worked on the drops for quite a while and came out of the rain with a photo that I really like.

04 Jun 2018

Fighting the fog on Cadillac Mountain

Our early morning at my Acadia Photography Workshop started with a drive up Cadillac Mountain to see the sunrise. The tourist brochures like to say this is the first place in the U.S. that sees the sun but the reality is there are a couple other remote places that get the light a little sooner. It may be the first place people in the U.S. see the sun, but it really doesn’t matter. There is usually a crowd on the summit, it is fun to see families wrapped in blankets sitting on the rocks waiting for the sun to come up. As we were driving up the mountain I could see fog and clouds up on the mountain and then we started seeing cars coming down. It didn’t take me long to figure out they must be coming down because the clouds covered the summit. When I got to the top I was right and we drove back down until we were below the clouds. I didn’t want to go too low and lose the effect of being up high and there aren’t many pulloffs. There were already lots of cars parked at the place I wanted so I found a spot and we had a great view as the fog rolled across us.

We then went over to Sand Beach, not too far from Cadillac Mountain. One of the amazing things about Acadia is how different the areas are even though they aren’t that far apart. Sand Beach is the only sandy beach in the area and you can see Boulder Beach down the coast. There is also a lovely marsh area that I love to explore. There was obviously a big storm since I was last here because the little creek that goes through the marsh is much wider and crossing it was harder. The marsh is at the base of The Beehive, a cool hill with a unique shape.

03 Jun 2018

Beautiful afternoon for stomping around Acadia

After our early morning shoot during my Acadia Photography Workshop we took a mid day break to grab a nap and get cleaned up. After lunch we headed to the south west side of Mt. Desert Island. One of the most iconic things on the island is a little bridge in Somesville, so we stopped there. There is usually a field of wild lupine flowers growing near the bridge. This year everything is blooming a little later than normal so there weren’t as many lupine as usual but the ones that were there looked great. I tried to isolate one as it was surrounded by yellow wild flowers.

As some of the people were photographing the bridge one noticed something big flying across the street near the cove. It was a bald eagle! I love seeing eagles and during all the time I’ve spent in Acadia it was the first time I’ve seen an eagle. It flew around a little and landed in a tree not too far away. It was quite a thrill.

After photographing the eagle for a while we went farther down the island to our destination of the quaint fishing village of Bernard. It is a cool place and has my favorite lobster pound which is also a great place to make pictures. My plan was to shoot around the harbor and then have dinner at Thurston’s, right there on the water. I grabbed lunch at Thurston’s on Thursday, using my stop as excuse to make sure they were open while having a fresh lobster roll. Well I didn’t see the sign that they are no longer open on Sunday’s since late last summer. As we were walking around I ran into the owner and he said he can’t find enough help to stay open on Sundays and since the fishing fleet doesn’t go out on Sundays it was a good day to give his family a rest. I knew of another good restaurant on the other side of the harbor so we went over there and got our lobster.

We ended our day photographing Bass Harbor Lighthouse. There were a few other photographers there when we got there and they were where I wanted our people to be. I’ve photographed the lighthouse from the rocks below it several times and the best shots are when I used my big flashlight to illuminate the lighthouse and rocks. Since we were a little crowded, I didn’t shoot photos, only helped people with their exposures and did the lighting. When we got there the people already there acted a little miffed that eight photographers showed up but they were pretty happy when they saw how much better I made it look with my light painting. It was a long day but we made lots of great photos.

03 Jun 2018

Early sunrise in Acadia

We got off to an early start today at my Acadia Photography Workshop, sunrise on the Maine coast is always special and we went to Boulder Beach and Monument Cove to photograph the sun coming up over the water.

It is a bit tricky to get down to Boulder Beach, you have to climb down a rather steep hill and then scramble across the rocks, which are round and tough to walk on. I use my tripod as a walking stick to help me stay on my feet. When you get below the tide line the rocks can be covered in slippery green moss. That is where I usually stop, the slimy rocks are treacherous. Before the sun came up I shot the crashing waves splashing onto the rocks. Using a long shutter speed makes the breaking waves look like mist or smoke, which looks pretty cool.

It was a cloudless sky, which isn’t always a blessing when trying to photograph the sun. It is better to have a few clouds on the horizon and in the sky, but a clear sky is better than all clouds. Once the sun comes over the horizon at 5 a.m. I quickly changed from getting the sun in the photo to see what is being illuminated.

I love the patterns created on the beach and looking up the coast to Otter Cliff as the sun glows on the rocks.

We shot for a while before heading to another fun beach, Little Hunter Beach, which features smaller rocks but they are completely different. At Boulder Beach all the rocks are the same color, a not too exciting light brown. At Little Hunter Beach the rocks are smaller and colorful. Many rocks have multiple colors and unique patterns. They are so cool there is a sign at the walkway to the beach requesting people not take any of the rocks. I have been there at near high tide as the incoming waves push the rocks around creating a strange rumbling sound.

02 Jun 2018

Off and running at Acadia workshop

This afternoon was the start of my Acadia Photography Workshop in wonderful Maine. We started with a classroom session where we talked about light, creatively using a wide angle lens and we got to know each other. Four of the participants had gone to my workshop in France last year and decided there to join me in Maine this year. The other four photographers had done workshops with me before, so it was nice to have a workshop full of people I knew!

We went to nearby Eagle Lake to get our shooting started. It is a beautiful area with a couple of ponds and the amazing lake lined by large trees and some rocks along the shoreline. We were treated to spectacular light as the sun went down, turning the clouds into a colorful ceiling reflecting in the water. It was a great way to end the first day.

01 Jun 2018

A day in Acadia

The bad thing about loving to shoot sunrise is that I have to get up before the sun. And when I’m in Maine at this time of year, sunrise comes way too early. So I got up at 4 a.m. and headed into Acadia National Park to see the sun rise and, as usual, it was worth the effort.

I went to Monument Cove and was treated to beautiful light pouring onto the rocky coast. The first light of the day is special and it is always exciting to see the warmth of the sun illuminating Acadia’s coast. After shooting for a while I went over to one of the ponds, made some photos and enjoyed the gorgeous morning. Feeling a bit tired from the early morning, I took a good long nap, which really felt good.

Later in the day I went back out to catch the evening light. I went up to Cadillac Mountain to see what the world looked like today from the highest point on the East Coast.  The day had been fairly clear but the clouds were coming in as I got to the top of the mountain. Many times that can be a problem but today they rolled across the islands near Bar Harbor. As the clouds blew across the water they flowed around the islands. Looking down from above the clouds surrounded one island making for a fun photo.

I then went over to a beaver pond I had seen earlier. It was getting dark and I decided to light the beaver hutches with my large flashlight as the sky became dark. I was making long exposures and a beaver was swimming around. I shined my light on a beaver and followed it as it swam. Suddenly it slapped its tail on the water making a large splash and the beaver disappeared. The splash showed up nicely in my photo, it was great way to end the day.

05 May 2018

Putting light on an old bunker

The last thing we did today during my Cape May Photographic Creativity Workshop was to break out my big flashlight again and illuminate an old WWII concrete bunker on one of Cape May’s beaches. The bunker is pretty cool but not pretty. Built right at the water’s edge to watch for German attacks, it is now well back from the water but surrounded by sand. There are no lights nearby which makes a perfect object for light painting. After the sun went down we set up our tripods and I painted the bunker several times. I tried lighting it from different directions to see how unique each one looked. I liked how this angle brought some detail and how the light looked on the sand.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is calling for lots of rain, so we may end up in the classroom rather than the field but it has been great working with people as they shoot and trying some new things.

05 May 2018

Using exposure as a creative device

Workshops are just plain fun! It is great to get out with people, think only about making images and enjoying wherever I am. Today wasn’t the greatest weather for my Cape May Photographic Creative Workshop but that doesn’t matter. I started a the day before sunrise with a small group on the beach again. I decided to shoot the same pilings I did yesterday and try to see how I could make the same object look different. It was mostly cloudy as the sky got some light but they were pretty cool clouds. I tried some shots of the piling to emphasize the clouds and then changed my settings to make the pilings the center of interest. The photos looked completely different but I didn’t move the camera. It was a fun experiment in creativity.