This afternoon was the start of my Cape May Photographic Creativity Workshop and I have a great group of people. We spent a couple of hours talking about creativity and pushing ourselves beyond the obvious. I found a great quote from Picasso that goes something like “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” I can’t say that I understand most of Picasso’s paintings but that is the point, I don’t need to. We get so wrapped up in making sure that others like what we do that we drop into a formula that worked once and we force everything else into that same formula. We don’t try new things, we don’t try to fail, we only try to succeed the same way we did the last time.
When I started in photography I had to buy film and pay for processing, so it cost me money I didn’t have to make mistakes. Fortunately I worked as a newspaper photographer and shot pictures all day every day and I could make a safe picture and then try anything I wanted to see if it would work. I learned a lot more from my failures than I did from my successes. I still do. When I’m out shooting I try lots of different things and shoot a lot of bad photos. It doesn’t cost anything more than time and if I come back with nothing then the worst thing that has happened is that I had a great time being out of my office and being creative.
Creativity really comes down to three things: exploring, discovering, and imagining. Wow, isn’t great to be able to go out with a camera in hand and worry about nothing other than exploring, discovering and imagining! Explore. Discover. Imagine. When I do that the result doesn’t matter, it is the journey. If I focus on the journey and explore, discover and imaging then it is amazing how many times great results pour in.
After the classroom session we went out shooting near Cape May’s lighthouse. We finished the day by painting light on the lighthouse. I have a great big flashlight and illuminated the lighthouse well after sunset while there was a little light left in the sky. The long exposure made the clouds floating past look intense as stars and planets shined through the clouds. A great way to end the first day.
Today is the start of my Cape May Photographic Creativity Workshop and I started the day well before sunrise out on the beach right across from my hotel. It was a beautiful morning and one of the great things about being out at sunrise is there aren’t many other people, especially at this time of year. I love the way the world looks before the sun comes up but it is always hard to drag my butt out of bed. I woke up at about 4:30 a.m. and looked out the window kinda hoping to see rain even though the forecast was for clear skies. The moon was shining bright on the beach and I could see stars. Drat.
I threw on some clothes and grabbed a jacket since it is always colder on the beach in Cape May. When I arrived in town yesterday the temperature was 85 degrees until I pulled into Cape May when it quickly dropped to 67 thanks to the ocean breeze. It was pretty chilly as I dragged my photo backpack and tripod across the street and onto the sand. Light was just starting to enter the sky as I looked for something other than sand to shoot. Even though I’ve spend the last 30 years living less than 30 miles from the ocean I’m not an ocean person. I don’t like crowds, especially rowdy crowds and I always seem to encounter them when I go to the beach in the summer. So being here in early May and before the sun comes up is pretty nice. Now to find something to shoot.
I saw some pilings not too far down the beach and I headed that way. When I got there I saw it was actually an ugly drain pipe and the pilings were there to keep it in place. Not my idea of natural beauty but I thought I could work with it. I had a very wide angle lens on my camera and I decided to use the pilings as a graphic feature of my photo. The moon was slowly setting as more light filled the sky, a bank of clouds were coming up from the south and another patch of clouds were out over the ocean to the east. The light was beautiful and I used a five second exposure to make the incoming waves look silky smooth. The pilings reflected nicely in the wet sand where larger waves had rolled in and some nice color hit the clouds over the ocean.
What a beautiful, peaceful morning.
After 10 days in Iceland it was finally time to go home. I wasn’t quite ready, there were lots more photos I wanted to make and some I wanted to get another shot at since I wasn’t overly pleased with some of the photos I made. When hosting workshops my main goal is to make sure my participants are getting great photos and that usually comes at the expense of my own images. That is fine, that’s why I’m here. At each location I make sure everyone is seeing and capturing what they want and then I’m able to get a few pix of my own. I’d like more time in the ice cave without other tourists, but I’ll to do that on my own. The caves are only open in the winter and they’ll be closed in the next couple of weeks so that will take a special trip. I wanted to get a killer shot of the northern lights but conditions weren’t right. That also means a winter trip, so it sounds like I’ll be back next winter. I hope I can talk my wife Robin into joining me in the cold and dark.
I did get some shots that I was real happy with. I do some quick toning and editing while on trips via my laptop computer but do more exacting editing on my big color-corrected monitor in my office. I am usually able to pull some surprises out of my files and I’ll add them to the gallery on this page.
I started writing this blog post during my five hour flight home. I always get window seats on the plane because after all these years of traveling I’m still awed by seeing the earth from the air. I made sure I was on the left side of the plane when I was going to Iceland in case I could see the northern lights flaring. I didn’t. I got the right side going home so I could see Iceland as long as possible and maybe Greenland. Most people had closed the window shades within 10 minutes after takeoff but I was still peering out my window. It wasn’t long until Greenland appeared and out came my iPhone. The stranger sitting behind me saw me snapping away and opened her shade and it wasn’t long before she was taking pictures too. Greenland looked amazing, lots of glaciers, snow, ice and mountains.
For a while clouds obscured my view but it opened up again. I couldn’t help but wonder if any humans had ever walked where I was looking. How cool would it be to be the first, or even just explore the wide open space. It was a rugged but beautiful landscape and looked mighty cold, so I thought maybe summer would be a better time to explore. We covered a lot of territory before I saw anything that looked like civilization and then it was just a couple of roads winding through the mountains and along the coast. The clouds came in again and I couldn’t see anything until we were well into Canada.
Before long the plane was starting to descend and I was seeing all the snow in New England and enjoying the beauty of that but glad I didn’t have to do any shoveling. The trip was exciting but it is good to be back home.
Below is a gallery of photos from the trip. Click on an image to start a slideshow you can click through.
Today we are making our way back to Reykjavik and I’m feeling a bit blue. It has been a great experience with a fun group of people. I always feel lucky to spend this much time with people who have the same interests and are able to let all the pettiness of the real world not affect them. These workshops are a great getaway!
We had hoped to shoot sunrise on the beach in Vik but the clouds scuttled that plan. On our way back we stopped at a couple of the most visited natural wonders in Iceland, Gullfoss water falls and a nearby geyser. The crowds can be huge at these places but it is wasn’t overrun with tourists today. As our driver Eidur likes to say, even though our bus had visitors from other countries we were photographers and not “bloody tourists.”
Gullfoss is a massive waterfalls, actually it is two falls but it looks like one. The sky was overcast, which didn’t help for overall photos. There was still ice in some of the best vantage points and they were closed, so we couldn’t go down there but it was still cool to see. There are plenty of angles to shoot it and we gave it our best. After a couple of hours there we went to “Geysir” as the Icelandics call it.
Geysir is a field of hot springs and some geysers. There is one that shoots out about every 10 minutes and looks pretty cool. The area around the geyser is roped off so boneheads don’t walk into it but there are still plenty of dopes running around. The wind blows the hot water and steam after each eruption and there is always a group of “bloody tourists” standing where the wind is blowing. They get wet with hot water and steam but some seem to think it is fun. I heard a family got burned pretty bad last year from the boiling water and have now tried to sue Iceland for damages. That doesn’t work in Iceland, they believe people need to take care of themselves in situations like that.
After shooting several eruptions were back on the bus heading to Reykjavik.
My Iceland photography workshop is winding down and the weather isn’t being nice. Another day of rain and strong wind kept us from shooting much but it was also planned to be a bit of a travel day. We made our way to the little town of Vik and the beautiful black sand beach. The rain was coming down hard and the wind was blowing 50-60 mph, not a great combination for scenic photography. We went to the beach anyway and our driver Eidur positioned the bus so people could shoot from the door and get photos of the sea stacks near the beach. About half of the group decided to venture out onto the beach and see what photos we could get.
Before the workshop I had advised people to be ready for any weather conditions and they were. They had full rain gear for themselves and their cameras so we might as well get out there! With the wind blowing that hard you could only shoot with the wind at your back or your lens would be immediately drenched. I had brought micro fiber clothes for everyone and they were pretty happy to have them today.
I put a 70-200mm lens on my camera and stuck it all in a plastic bag and held it close as I walked to the beach through the wind and rain. The wind was blowing so hard I didn’t want to extend the legs on my tripod so I kept it low and knelt in the sand as I was making my composition. Big waves were crashing into the sea stacks and I was amazed to see bird soaring around the big rocks. I thought the wind was blowing so hard they would get caught in it and end up miles aways but they looked like they were just soaring on a calm day. I guess when the wind frequently blows like this they adapt pretty fast.
I hunkered down in the sand and wrapped myself around the tripod, pushing it down as I used a remote shutter release to fire the camera. Even though I carry a big, fairly heavy tripod I knew that with this wind it would get pushed around. I tried some different exposures, using a fast shutter speed to stop the movement of the waves and a slow shutter speed to give the crashing waves some blur and motion. Both ways looked pretty cool.
It looks like our streak of great Iceland weather has come to an end. We had some morning shoots planned but the rain came in so we spent the morning doing a Lightroom class at the hotel. Some people went out and shot an old barn near the hotel after breakfast and I bet the got some good images. The big plan for the afternoon is to drive to an ice cave. This one just opened three days ago and our guide Raymond is pretty excited to see it.
We had a special guide for the trip to the ice cave. We rode in a specially outfitted Mercedes Sprinter that had been modified with massive wheels and four wheel drive. We then had to walk about 1/4 mile to the opening, which was a shock for some people. The opening was about three feet high and four feet wide, meaning we had to crawl. Once we got in the cave it opened to a large room that could easily handle 20 people. Raymond was surprised we were the only ones there since other tour companies go there too. We had about 30 minutes by ourselves and then the hordes arrived. Our ability to shoot was pretty compromised with all the people walking past but we still make some exciting photos.
Time flew by in the ice cave and soon we had to leave. I could spend all there and I hope to some day.
The weather was still looking bad so we had dinner but Raymond keep an eye on the radars and forecasts and noticed there was a spot with cloud openings that we may be able to get another shot at the aurora. The aurora’s activity wasn’t super high but it was worth a try. We drove for another 3o minutes, went around a mountain and sure enough the clouds were parting there. It looked about the same as the other night we tried it, cool to see but the great photos weren’t there.
We drove father east this morning for my Iceland photo workshop and the wind really made itself present. Iceland is the third windiest country in the world and we felt it today. We started at the southeastern most part of the island, Eystrahorn, on a cool black sand beach. The mountains in the background made for a great photo with the black sand in the foreground. The wind was blowing hard making it tough to keep the camera steady on the tripod. I loved the image I made and taking it to black and white made it even more dramatic.
Next to the beach was a sand dune, the first time I’ve seen black sand blowing. Blowing might be an understatement, the wind was howling and pushing the black sand everywhere. The black sand was drifting and flowing over the drifts. I stood there quite a while trying to figure out how to show the movement of the sand but everything I tried didn’t work. Another thing I had to just observe and admire.
I had to make sure my jacket pockets were zipped closed or they would have filled up with black sand. The wind was a steady 40-50 mph and gusts were even strong. Our guide, Raymond, wasn’t even phased by the wind, just a normal day he said. We spent a couple of hours out there and when we got back in the bus one of our workshop participants looked like a raccoon. The black sand had stuck to her makeup, especially around her eyes. At first I thought her mascara had run but looking closer it was obvious there was sand all over her eyes and mouth. Rather than try to wipe it off I made sure she rinsed it off so it wouldn’t get in her eyes.
As we were heading to our next location there were some Icelandic horses having lunch so we stopped. They were more enthralled with lunch than us but a couple came over to say hi. Eidur, our bus driver, told us the farmers don’t like them being called ponies since they are horses, just not real big ones. Since they have such heavy coats they stay outdoors all year unlike cattle which have to go indoors when it gets real cold. Now that Maryann had all the black sand off her face, she was able to make friends with the horses. They liked her too.
We made one more stop near a lighthouse, which, like most Icelandic lighthouses, wasn’t overly pretty. But there was a great view of another coastal mountain, so we worked that pretty hard. The wind was still blowing pretty strong, but not as bad as earlier.
We started the third day of my Iceland photo workshop at the largest glacier in the country: Svinafellsjökull. After a little hike we were right at the edge of the glacier, the blue ice offering a great contrast to the snow on the mountain peaks behind it. The grandeur and majesty of the glacier and mountains make for great photos. We started photographing from up on a hill to get overall shots and then moved up closer to the tower chunks of ice. The weather was perfect and it was fun for the group to shoot with no other people around. We spent a good deal of time there but it couldn’t have been long enough.
We then went to one of the places I was looking forward to the most: Diamond Beach. It is a black sand beach where chunks of the glacier break off, float down a river and then onto the ocean beach. A nearby glacial lagoon is where the chunks form when salty sea water melts the glacier and the pieces break off. Seeing the crystal clear ice on the black sand is exciting and I after showing some of the workshop participants how to shoot it, I made some images myself. Looking back at my shots I’m not too happy with what I got, I hope we get another chance later in the week.
This is our first day of shooting in my Iceland photography workshop. Last night the group got together for dinner and we met our guide for the week, Raymond Hoffmann. We hit the road with our driver Eidur, a fun guy with great stories about his homeland. Our went to three large waterfalls, the first one was filled with tourists but the water was flowing. Near the falls was a stairway to a viewing platform that catches a lot of mist and it had frozen all winter.
Then we went to another falls that wasn’t so well known. It was nearly a half mile hike back to the falls and the scenery was great all the way back. All the snow was melted but there was still some ice around the waterfall. I made some nice photos of the falls and a little rainbow in the mist. After a couple of hours we got lunch and went to another nearby falls.
Skogafoss is one of the most photographed waterfalls in Iceland and for good reason. There were a ton of people there but it was possible to get in front of them for some photos. I tried some from in the stream and our guide Raymond made a nice shot of me in the water. Raymond also had crampons for everyone to put on their boots when walking on the ice. They really made a difference, many of the tourists were sliding around in sneakers and we were just waiting for one to fall on his head.
The mist coming off the large falls caught the sunlight and make for a huge, beautiful rainbow. We made a ton of pictures and I corralled all the workshop participants and we got back on the bus for a long ride to our hotel in Vic where we had dinner. Since it was a clear day we went out to try capturing the Northern Lights. The sky conditions were great but the aurora activity level wasn’t very high. There was a good wind making the night feel pretty cold but we could see some color in the northern sky. One of the great things about digital cameras is they see more at night than the human eye. We didn’t get the “dancing” light we hoped for but it was still a great experience.
In my Iceland research I came across a waterfall that lines up nicely with a mountain, so I decided I should head there on my second day in the country. And being there at sunrise was the time for the best photos. The bad part is that it is 2 1/2 hours from my hotel in Reykjavik, so that meant getting up at 3 a.m. to assure I was there in time. Since my body was already messed up from the five hour time change I figured it couldn’t get much worse. So essentially I left the hotel at 11 a.m. according to my body time and hit the road to the Snaefellsnes Peninsula. Once I left Reykjavik it was a two lane road all the way in the pitch black darkness. I kept looking to the north to see if the Northern Lights were showing their colors but I didn’t see anything. What was bright were the trucks coming at me. The big tractor-trailers have a set of lights on top of the cab. The first one freaked me out, I didn’t know what this super bright light was coming at me. It turns out they mount four big lights, brighter than the biggest headlights, on the truck and turn them all on. Fortunately the drivers turned them off when they saw me coming or I would have been blinded.
I rolled into the parking lot for Kirkjufellsfoss while it was still dark, there was just a glint of morning light in the east. I got out of the car and shined my fairly large flashlight toward the falls only to see that they were completely frozen. That was something I didn’t plan on, it didn’t even occur that all I might see was ice. It was about 15 degrees but there wasn’t any wind, so I put some more clothes on and made the short hike up to the falls. It was even more frozen that I could tell from the car. I set up my tripod and waited for the morning light to get a little brighter and some color to come into the sky. After making some not-too-exciting photos, I got out my flashlight to do some light painting on the falls. The trick is to make whatever I am lighting become nearly as bright as the sky. I make several exposures as the pre-sunrise sky became more colorful. There is a point where I know there won’t be any more color in the sky so I decided to cut my losses and head to my next planned location.
When I was back in the hotel I noticed the large, bright moon shining outside my window. I thought it would be cool to make a photo of it but I thought it would set before I got in a place to shoot it. I forgot how far north I was. As I was driving over a mountain pass, there was the moon in basically the same position as four hours earlier. The sun was just now rising and the color was amazing so I pulled off the road and was greeted by a strong, cold wind. The light was amazing, the landscape barren, just ice and rocks, but it was beautiful. There I was, alone, literally in the middle of nowhere, the sun was rising, the moon was shining, the light was incredible and I didn’t know what to shoot. I made some shots of the moon then the color above a mountain peak, the light pouring over another peak. I finally decided to just experience the scene and take it all in. I didn’t need to make a photo at this point.
As the sky got brighter I got back in the car and headed toward another church painted black in Budir. It is pretty isolated, about five miles from the nearest town. The sun had just come up as I pulled so I used a wide angle lens to emphasize the church against the pretty sky. A church painted black is pretty unique and the story is they put pitch tar used on ships on the church buildings to protect them from the harsh weather.
I found a place to get some breakfast and went to a few other locations. I was pretty tired so I took a nap in the car and woke up a couple of hours later. When I woke up the clouds had rolled in and I was still feeling pretty groggy. Since I had to drive over two hours I decided to head back to the hotel and get ready for the official start of my workshop tomorrow.
Life is wonderful. I landed in Iceland this morning, made my way through the Reykjavik airport, got my rental car and enjoyed the colorful horizon before the sun rose as I scraped ice off the car windshield in the parking lot. This is my first trip to Iceland and I came a couple of days before the start of my workshop so I could make photos. When I am hosting a workshop, I take some pictures along the way but my real purpose is to help the people in the workshop, so I’m not able to concentrate solely on my photos.
The airport is about 30 miles from Reykjavik, so I decided to explore the peninsula near the airport today and tomorrow head to another peninsula to the north west. I do a ton of research before I go to a new place so I know some good places to shoot. Near the airport is the little town of Keflavik and I saw some fun pictures of sod roof houses, so that is where I started. The sun was about ready to show itself as I pulled up to the huts. I don’t do a lot of selfies, in fact, I hate going to beautiful places and s
eeing people taking pictures of themselves and nothing of what they came to see. Anyway, I was waiting for the sun to get high enough to eliminate some bad shadows so I decided to snap a selfie. I really needed a person in the photo to show the scale of how small these houses were and since I was the only person around I broke into my super-model mode.
I spent several hours driving around the peninsula, it is basically a lava field with crazy, not-too-pretty landscapes, hot springs, craggy coastline and a few towns. After leaving Keflavik I drove past the very small town of Hafnir and noticed a church painted black. I planned on visiting one tomorrow and didn’t know about this one, so I went into to town. The church was about the only thing there, I was hoping to get some breakfast but I would have had to knock on some house doors to find any food. The church was cool but the light wasn’t right, I needed to be there in the afternoon.
I have several things marked in my Google map to see, so I stopped at them all. That doesn’t mean they were good photos, but at least cool things to see. I stood in both Europe and North American at the same time. There is a place with a bridge that crosses a gully created by the two continents slowly moving apart. It was cool but I didn’t make any great photos. I then went to a light house and a hot spring that has a nearby huge geothermal plant supplying hot water and electricity to Reykjavik. My next stop was at a tidal pool on the coast where the waves were splashing on the rocks. It was cold enough that the spray froze after hitting the rocks, which looked pretty cool.
I finally found a town with a restaurant and it was now about lunch time so I had a great meal of fresh cod and french fries. I was told that food in Iceland was expensive but I was still a little shocked to pay over $25 for a fish and chips lunch. I saw several more fun sites and then decided it was time to head to Reykjavik and find my hotel.
After settling in to the hotel I went to shoot a lighthouse nearby on a little island. Grotta Island isn’t very big, maybe 1/2 long and 1/4 mile wide. There is a little causeway to walk across to get to the island. I got there as the sun was going down but the sky was perfectly clear, which doesn’t make for great sunset photos, it is better to have a few little clouds to catch the light and color. I made plenty of photos anyway and hung out until well after the sun was gone to see how the color would look. I love that time of day, after the sun is gone and before it is completely dark. There is a little house near the lighthouse that looks like someone lives there but I didn’t see any people. The path to the building and lighthouse were intriguing and I liked the way it made the whole scene come together.
Darkness was settling in and I was done shooting. I went back to the causeway to see the tide had come in and didn’t leave me much room to walk in the sand. At one point I needed to scramble up on some rocks to get back to my car. I’m glad I didn’t stay on the island longer or I might have been there for a long time. I made a run to Reykjavik’s most famous landmark, the Lutheran Church Hallgrímskirkja. It is the tallest building in the country and an impressive sight. I wanted a photo of it at dusk and I got there a little later than ideal but it still make a nice shot.
What a great first day in Iceland.
The worst day of any workshop is the last when I have to say goodbye to friends old and new. I had a group at this year’s Vermont Winter Wonderland Photography Workshop. I enjoy having people return to my workshops and meeting new folks. This workshop had about half returnees and half new to my workshops. It was fun to start the day at one of Vermont’s most photographed scenes, Jenne Farm. It is a beautiful location and we had a nice snowfall to add to the scenery.
It turns out today was photograph red things day. After leaving Jenne Farm, we went to the Taftsville covered bridge and then to the Red Barns in Quechee, where I posted a photo from on Thursday. It is funny how the same scene looks different every time I visit it and the Red Barns felt different today than they did on Thursday. They didn’t look that different although the sky was a bit different. I tried some angles I didn’t shoot the other day and tried one shot from about the same place. I enjoyed helping the workshop participants find angles that may have different than they have tried before and then see them exciting with the results.
I can’t wait to have another group come next year.
We got a break from yesterday’s brutal cold and started my Vermont Winter Wonderland Photography Workshop at one of my favorite overlooks. I found this spot several years while driving backroads looking for great places like this. I’ve shot many great sunrises here but today there was a little too much cloud cover and we didn’t get the super sunrise I was hoping for, but it was still spectacular.
After sunrise we went to Barnard and Silver Lake. I love the general store there and always try to take groups there for breakfast. They usually only have one cook working so her eyes get pretty big when 14 of us walk in. She does a great job managing the orders and gets the food out pretty quick and it tastes good. People are usually happy to sit around a little, have some coffee and get warmed up.
When breakfast was done we went out on the lake. It is always fun to take people out there to see the people ice fishing, especially if the photographers haven’t walked on water before. The ice is about two feet thick, so there isn’t any chance of falling through. Well almost. Just after I got done telling them to stay away from the edges where the ice can be thin because there isn’t enough water under it to freeze thick, one of our guys had a foot go through and into the mud. It wasn’t deep enough to be dangerous but his boot filled with water, which isn’t fun. We got him some fresh, dry socks, stuck a plastic bag in his boot and he was good for the rest of the day.
We went to Tunbridge where there is a scenic covered bridge crossing a rock strewn river. It always makes great photos and today wasn’t any different. Then we headed to a large waterfalls that was frozen pretty solid but still was fun to shoot.
When we got back to Woodstock, I got out my flashlight and lighted a covered bridge as night was falling. It is a great way to end a full day.
Today was the first day of my annual Vermont Winter Wonderland Photography Workshop. The workshop is again sold out and I have a great bunch of people from all over the East Coast. We started this afternoon with a “classroom” session at my house where we talked about making great photos in the snow, thinking about how winter photos have a different impact than other times of the year and staying warm.
We went to a couple fun locations and started making some great shots. We ended on top of a hill where the wind was blowing at least 20 MPH while the air temperature hovered at 5 degrees. It was cold. In fact, it was brutal cold. I’m always prepared for the cold and most of the workshop participants were ready too, but the blowing cold was too much. I planned on light painting a covered bridge this evening but I postponed it to tomorrow night when it will be a little warmer.
I’ve photographed these birches trees many times but I’m still excited to see how different they look and what I can do with them. We’ll get more snow photos tomorrow.
Tomorrow I host my annual Vermont Winter Photography Workshop, so while I was out scouting conditions at some of my favorite locations I stopped in Quechee to photograph the red barns. They are pretty easy to find, just go up Red Barn Road and they are right there on the left.
One of the my biggest problems in Vermont is finding red barns and then getting permission to stomp around the barn yarn. The owners of the Red Barns are about as photographer friendly as any place you’ll find, they even post a sign by the road welcoming photographers but discouraging other crazy people from trespassing.
We have good snow cover and I’m looking forward to working with all the photographers.