When I got up this morning it was -12 degrees outside my house in Woodstock, VT. I don’t care where you are from, that is cold. The way I can usually tell if it is really cold is if my mustache freezes when I breathe and it was only about four steps from the door and I could feel the ice.
Since it was so cold I thought it would be a good time to blow some soap bubbles, watch them freeze and photograph them. I have to admit it wasn’t a first-thing-in-the-morning decision. I knew it was going to be this cold today so I planned ahead. It isn’t easy to find the little bottles of kids’ soap bubbles mid-winter in Vermont but I found some at a dollar store in Rutland yesterday. I had told my friend Lisa Lacasse I was going to try it and she wanted to join me. She had done it before but is always up for something different.
I did a little research and learned that adding corn starch and sugar to dish washing detergent makes stronger bubbles that the fun stuff in the bottle, so I made a few different concoctions of varying strengths. After making the photos, I don’t know that it mattered at all.
Lisa got her bright and early while it was still at least -10 outside. The wind was blowing pretty strong so we went into my unheated garage and set up a little studio.
The tricky part is not breaking the bubble before it freezes. Most of the bubbles broke right away but I got pretty good at making them hang around for a while. And then after one freezes it tends to slowly collapse within itself, so the photos had to be shot fast if I wanted the full bubble.
I used two flashes to light up the bubble and/or the background and a 100mm macro lens on my camera. For some of the shots I put a colored gel over the flash, trying to make either the bubble or the background colorful. It worked pretty and we shot for almost two hours before the cold said it was time to get inside.
Lisa hit the road and I looked at one of drinking glasses I used to mix the soap and corn starch. It was just starting to freeze up and was making some great crystal designs on the side of the glass. I hadn’t put my gear away so I tried a few more shots. I used one flash to illuminate the frosty glass and another to light some colored material I put in the background.
The weird thing is I spent almost three hours in -10 degree weather hoping to get great shots of frozen bubbles and my favorite picture is of the freezing glass.
Click on a photo below to see a larger version.
Photographing water fascinates me, it can be the waves of the ocean, a river winding through a field or a creek falling off a hill. I decided to look closer and photograph water drops splashing and colliding.
Getting these shots takes some special equipment, the key is controlling the drops and then synchronizing the camera and flash to catch the drops at peak time. I got a setup from MJKZZ, it consists of a tube that holds liquid, a solenoid to release one drop at a time and a small programable board to control everything.
The best photos are when one drop makes a splash and when that happens liquid shoots straight up and then a second drop hits the splash of the first drop. Every time it happens it looks different but many times it looks like a mushroom. There are tons of variables, such as the liquid being used, water and milk are the easiest. The timing of how long the delay before the first and second drop is critical to getting unique looks.
Then once the splash happens you have to freeze the action. Few cameras have shutters fast enough to stop action that fast and the cameras are incredibly expensive, think 10s of thousands of dollars and I wouldn’t even think about buying one. The other way to stop action is with a flash. Small, handheld flashes have a very short duration of light when they flash so they are great at stopping action. I use two or three flashes to give different looks and will put a colored gel over the flash to make for colorful splashes. The color of the background can easily be controlled by the color of the light.
I hope you enjoy some of my first efforts, I’ll be doing more experiments and seeing how the splashes go.
To see larger versions of the photos, click on a photo and then you can scroll through the pictures.
Today 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.
Even 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.
I 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.
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.
I 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.
I was out in my favorite location in Pomfret, VT, looking for foliage photos and looking at a small set of birch trees. A single fallen yellow maple leaf had landed on the trees and provided a nice splash of color against the white bark.
But the light was pretty bad. I was deep in the woods and there wasn’t any light getting down to the leaf.
So I pulled out my flashlight and since I use my tripod for most of my photos I was able to do a long exposure which let me light the scene with my flashlight. Rather than illuminate it from the front with a flat light, I moved the flashlight to the side to give it nice modeling and texture on the tree. I like sidelight and backlight and use it whenever I can, so when I can control the light, that is what I aim for.
Usually most people think of doing light painting at night, but there are many times when kicking in some extra light can make a big difference in an image. It is good to have a strong flashlight handy.
One of New York City’s newest attractions was made out of something old. Someone had the great idea of turning an old elevated railway into a natural park and thus the High Line was created. The High Line is a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. It runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th and 12th Avenues. The area around the High Line was once the booming meat, fruit and biscuit center of New York. The new park gives a unique view of the city and has created its own green spaces.
Like all of NYC, it is full of diversity and I love my two views of city buildings, the old and the new.
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.
When it is cold like it was this morning in Vermont, I look for details that tell the story. At a couple of places there was great looking frost on windows. Barn windows had a very neat design and I liked the way the frost covered three window panes.
Then there was the old Universalist Church in Cavendish. It was built in 1844 and is a very cool old stone building with unique architecture. The windows have more panes than any old building I have seen. The frost was looking great.
I love the cold, at least the way it looks. It was 6 degrees in Vermont when I went out before sunrise today. I have several tricks I use to keep from freezing, Number One being putting those little chemical hand warmers in mittens that have fingers. But today the best way to fight the cold was to not stay out too long. I didn’t get far from the car, when I got cold I got back in and got the seat heater going.
There isn’t much snow on the ground, so I had to look for tighter scenes. I was driving over a little creek and saw there was some cool freezing happening to the flowing water. I got a couple of shots I like using a telephoto to get close.
Each Friday night during the summer classic cars show up on Somerville, NJ’s, Main St. and take over the town. There isn’t just a few, the town is packed with old cars as hundreds show up.
With the cars come the spectators and the photographers. Lots of pictures are taken and many look the same.
I grew up in northern Indiana, a few miles from Auburn where they built Duesenbergs, Auburns and Cords until the great depression wiped them out. Duesenbergs may have been the best cars ever built. After all “it’s a doosey!” They were custom made and only the super-rich could afford them. They cruised at around 140 mph with their huge turbo-charged engines. Each year on Labor Day the cars return to Auburn for a grand weekend.
The gathering in Somerville isn’t the Auburn festival, all the cars in Somerville don’t cost as much as a Dusenberg, the most expensive being a 1931 that sold for $10.3 million last year. But the cars are fun to photograph and tonight I focused on the grills and details of the old cars. Today’s cars just don’t have the design and intricacies of the classics.
See more photos at SomervilleToday.com
When I was a kid and it started to rain, I’d run outside and wait for the water to roll down the street. We lived at the bottom of a small hill and in our little town there weren’t any curbs or storm drains. So when the rain began, I’d run out in the street and start moving dirt to make a dam to capture the water as it started flowing down the hill. When you’re a kid in a town of 300 people, you have to work hard to find entertainment. But it gave me an enjoyment for rain.
Today was about as rainy a day as they come. It rained hard all night, waking me up several times. After sitting around for a while, I decided to put on some old boots, grab my raincoat and umbrella and head out in the rain.
I put my macro on, stuck the camera under my raincoat and swung my tripod over my shoulder and walked over to a local park along Peter’s Brook. The rain was coming down pretty steady, so I sat under the umbrella by the broke, which was running fast after all the rain.
I tried some shots of leaves overlapping each other. The wind and long exposures made the images blurry so I moved father down the brook. I saw some fine yellow vine wrapping around some large leaves at the edge of the brook. A couple of the leaves were bright red.
I really liked the way the rain made the green, yellow and red colors shine.
As I was walking back home, I saw a large sycamore leaf laying in the grass. It looked like a leaf in October not what I usually see in August. It was fun to see all the color this time of year, so I wrestled with my umbrella to keep the camera dry and shot a bunch of close-up shots to show the detail of the color and the leaf’s veins.
By the time I got home, I was pretty much soaked. But I kept my camera under my rain coat and an extra lens in a plastic bag, so they were dry.
It got down to 11 degrees overnight, which is quite a shift from the 75 degrees when I left New Jersey on Friday. The cold usually means clear skies and the morning light was gorgeous, creating shadows in the snow.
This morning I thought it would be good to go to Lord Stirling Park in Basking Ridge, NJ, which is adjacent to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. They are essentially the same place, they are only separated by the Passaic River and a different name. I got there while it was still fairly dark, taking advantage of the last day of daylight savings time. Now I have to get up an hour earlier to see the sun rise. I got out of the Jeep and saw a sign that said Trails Closed and then a rope across the main trail. Hanging off the rope was a little sign saying something about deer management. In other words hunters were in there culling the herd. So I thought I’d just go over to the NWR, I still had plenty of time before the sun came up. Of course, only hunters were allowed. I’m sure I could have found a trail in but a bored hunter might take a shot for fun.
I understand the need to hold down the deer population. There are too many and when there is a tough winter, there won’t be enough food for them to sustain themselves. They are changing the landscape, you can see a browse line at their head height in any woods in the area. Many people complain about the deer eating their scrubs, I don’t care about that, but no new growth is happening because the deer eat tree saplings before they have a chance to grow. But I hate having the image in my head of a deer being shot by an arrow and then running in pain for however long it takes for the deer to bleed to death. I guess that is better than starving to death.
So I went over to the Audubon Society’s place, which is only a few miles away. They didn’t have any hunters but I was there before they opened the gate. So I drove around the property and came upon a water falls at the end of Ledells Pond in Mendham. It seems like I have been shooting lots of waterfalls lately but it looked good as the mist rose.
I went back over to the Audubon sanctuary and while I was driving around I saw three large bucks. I couldn’t tell if they were in the rut or scared by the hunters, but they looked nervous. Hopefully they didn’t stroll under a hunter’s tree stand.
This morning was rather chilly, in the low 30’s when I hit the road before sunrise. I wandered back to Colonial Park in Franklin, NJ, and was happily greeted by a light frost on the ground. I enjoy getting down on the ground with my macro lens to shoot close-up shots of frosty things, especially colorful leaves.
I had my tripod splayed out and I was on my knees hovering over the camera and concentrating rather hard on getting the angle I wanted as the rising sunlight swept across a leaf. I heard a little noise and I was rather startled to see a man standing nearby with his dog. I was in a part of the park that doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic, so this was the only person I had seen. As I looked up, the man was a little startled too. “I don’t see someone on the ground very often, I came over to make sure you were OK,” he said. I laughed and thanked him for his concern, I guess I did look like a blob of humanity on the ground. It was nice that he took the time to check on me.
After my old knees didn’t want to be on the ground any longer, I noticed the sun shining through some long leaves along a fence in the formal garden. I liked the way the light interacted with the blades and created a highlight on the edges.