I love when when great planning comes together to create a good picture. I love even more when dumb planning and incredible luck combine to create a special image. I was out shooting star trails over a pond last night and lined up a cool looking shot. I planned on getting some good reflections from the trees I was lighting with my flashlight in the water. Star trails are essentially very long exposures and the stars blur due to the earth’s rotation. This photo was made in a period of 2 hours and 45 minutes, but rather than being one shot it is about 275 photos that were 30 seconds long each. They are then assembled with software to show the movement of the stars. I add some light to the trees so there is a nice foreground and I knew I’d have a pretty cool shot. As I’m sitting out in the dark the International Space Station flew over. It is always fun to see it streak past but this time it looked like it was going to be in my shot. About 90 minutes later it came by again, this time lower in the sky and not as bright. Hey, I might catch that one too, I thought. Today when I put the photo together I was thrilled to see the ISS flew right in front of Polaris, which is the star the others rotate around. Now that is cool. Plus I have the second ISS pass lower in the shot. Damn I’m good.
So much happened in Cuba with the coronavirus hanging over our heads, even there was very little evidence of it in Cuba but there was the constant concern that we may be delayed coming home. But the week was magical and we made some great photos. I didn’t do a great job editing, so here are a bunch of photos I shot. If you click on one it will bring up a larger version and then you can use the arrows on the extreme right and left to scroll through the images.
Iceland is full of wonder, maybe one of the most amazing is ice cave in the glaciers. The caves are formed by rivers flowing through the ice in the summer, carving out tunnels during the annual melt. Once winter arrives with colder temperatures, the hollowed out ice becomes a special place. I’ve been in several caves during my Iceland journeys but the one we went to today was a special one. I hired a private guide for our group, which is the only way to get there. We rode 45 minutes in a van with huge oversized tires to traverse the bumpy road to the glacier. We then hiked a little over a mile to get to the cave before the sun rose. The hike was long but pretty easy and the scenery on the way was special. There were other photographers at the cave, it is impossible to go to an empty cave. But the photographers worked together to not get each other in the photos. Once the regular tourists appear, the caves become crowded and making good photos are tough with everyone trying to make selfies.
The glacier glows a wonderful blue as light makes it way through the ice. I moved to the side of the can and used an extreme wide angle lens as one of the other guides posed with an ice axe. The person in the shot provided a sense of scale and helps the scene make visual sense.
We walked farther back in the cave where there were fewer people and the pictures were equally cool. Again, having a person in the photo made the shot. It was a special day and one I’ll remember forever.
Nature is amazing and one of the most unique sights is the Aurora Borealis – the northern lights. To see them in full fury is a thrill and we had a great display tonight in Iceland. It takes the right combination of dark skies, sun spot activity and no clouds. There is a scale of 1-9 that rates the solar activity and they predict it three weeks in advance. Last week it was showing that we would only be at a 2 all this week, so I sent a note to my Iceland workshop participants not to expect much in the way of aurora.
Then two days ago when I checked tonight’s rating was 3, which isn’t bad. We had dinner and then went out of town to an area I know would make a good foreground. As we were driving the aurora was glowing bright on the horizon. Once we parked we were treated to an amazing show of light. We had a small mountain in front of us and the green light started on the right side. Then it started appearing on the left side of the mountain. I was doing a happy dance as the aurora danced across the sky. After a while a hook of light appeared on the right side creating a classic Icelandic aurora. We stood out in the dark for over two hours being amazed by what we saw. It finally diminished and we went back to the hotel with a special memory.
I keep getting older and life keeps getting better! Sure, creaky bones and old man stiffness is coming on strong but my brain still thinks I’m in my 20’s. I am fortunate and thankful that I am loved by my wife Robin, have great family and friends and am doing the work that I love.
One of my life dreams, opening a photography gallery, came true this year and I’m traveling to places I could only have imagined not too many years ago. I made trips to Italy twice, exploring the beauty of Tuscany and visiting Venice before it gets sadly destroyed by flooding. Iceland is one of my favorite places and I’m glad I don’t have to decide if I like it better in winter or summer since I go there in both seasons. And I had the thrill of chasing a total solar eclipse in northern Chile. It is one spectacle that I can’t get enough of.
I spend as much time as I can at my Vermont house, which is a great place to photograph snow in the winter, the Milky Way all summer and the immense beauty of fall foliage in October. This year’s foliage was one of the most colorful in recent years and I’m blessed that my neighbor allows me access to her special property nearby. It is where I made the shot above.
Getting out and working with other photographers during my many workshops is very fulfilling. Whether we are getting together at my gallery or around New Jersey, going into New York City, cruising up the Maine Coast, checking out scenic Bucks County, PA, stomping around Vermont or going international, it is fun to see what other photographers come up with.
Entering a new year and decade is exciting and I look forward to seeing what new adventures await.
Below are some of my favorite photos I made in 2019. Move your mouse over a photo to see where the image was made or click on a photo to see a larger version and then you can click the arrows to move through the pictures.
I just completed a new installation of four photos at The Woodstock Inn in Woodstock, VT. I worked with Cheryl Griggs, who is the head interior designer at Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. Cheryl had a very specific color scheme she was working with, looking for images to go with the blue/gray colors of the furnishings she had selected. She sent me color swatches to help me understand what she was needing. Cheryl wanted Vermont scenes but didn’t want fall foliage or bright red barns since those colors wouldn’t work with the rest of the room. She went through my website and I loaded more photos onto a special page for her. She was interested in several photos and a couple that didn’t quite have the right colors. I went back into those photos and made the colors more of what she was looking for. The Overlook had more orange in the sky, which I took out and made the blue hues match her colors. I toned down some of the brighter colors in Morning Fog and brought out some other tones to make the photo work well with the decor. And I drastically changed the color of Looking Up by color matching the blue and then pulled another shot from that shoot to give Cheryl the related photos she wanted to work with a large mirror.
The three photos grouped together have a traditional black floater frame while the Morning Fog has a lovely walnut frame. All photos are printed on canvas to give them a painterly look.
The photos are now hanging in the newly redesigned Conservatory, a great space where people can sit and relax. In the evening they offer wait staff for drinks and snacks. It is a beautiful space that was expertly created by Cheryl.
A fun workshop that I do with fellow professional photographer Ron Lake is a tour of New York City’s big bridges. We can’t hit them all in one day but we go to five of the most photogenic. Our first stop is usually the George Washington Bridge and the little known Little Red Lighthouse that sits underneath. I’ve written in my blog about it before but it is still fun to take people to something they didn’t know existed. We then go to one of the prettiest bridges, the Queensborough, then the industrial Williamsburg Bridge. Finally we go over to Brooklyn to shoot the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges. Photographing the Brooklyn Bridge at dusk as the lights of lower Manhattan start glowing is always a favorite. A helicopter zipped past tonight as I was doing a long exposure creating a streak of light and dashes from a flashing light. It is a lot of fun and the scene never gets tiring.
Today was a special day – the official grand opening of my photography gallery in Bedminster, NJ. Having a brick-and-mortar gallery of my work has been a long time dream and to see it come together is a thrill. Then to have family and friends come together to help me celebrate made for a day I won’t forget. I’ve had the space for a few months but with all my workshops and traveling I wasn’t able to put all the final pieces together until this month. With the help of new gallery manager Susie Fang, the gallery will be open Wednesdays through Sundays and by special appointment.
I am showing my work in four formats. Earlier this year I purchased a high end 44″ wide photo printer so I can make my own prints. So I’m offering traditional prints on archival paper with beautiful frames. I’m having custom frames handmade in Philadelphia and using the highest quality Museum Glass in the frames. The glass has very little reflection so you can hardly tell there is glass covering the photo. I am now also able to print on canvas and frame them myself. Canvas prints have a painterly look to them and don’t need glass. I am also offering paper prints mounted behind acrylic. This is the most expensive way there is to mount a photo and I wouldn’t think of trying to do it myself so I have a top pro lab produce them. The look is amazing as light goes through the 1/4 inch highly polished acrylic and makes the colors and detail pop. Finally I’m also offering prints on metal. Again this is a highly specialized process where dyes are infused into the metal, so I use a top lab in Florida to make them. The metals have a look similar to the acrylic mount but they are lighter and easier to handle. They are a little less expensive and the metal is extremely durable, it can even be hung outdoors or in a bathroom where the shower creates a lot of steam.
I wish I could have a party like today everyday, just have lots of friends hanging out, enjoying each other, loving life and selling a few photos.
Thanks to friend and fellow photographer Walter Choroszewski for sending over some photos from the event.
One of the techniques I enjoy doing with my photography is light painting. Much like it sounds, I illuminate subjects in a similar way as painting a wall. But I use a flashlight, sometimes a big one. During my Vermont Fall Foliage Workshop I like to take people to Chittenden Reservoir and light up an island that is about 250 yards from the shore. I have a big 18 million candle power flashlight that does a great job on the island. The best shots come 20-30 minutes after sunset when there is still some light and color in the sky and it is dark enough that the background is dark. We use a 30 second exposure which gives me time to light up the island. Just like painting a wall, I don’t try to cover the whole island in one splash of light, I paint across it so any one area may get only 5-8 seconds of light. When the conditions are right, it can be a fantastic photo.
Maine’s coast is hard to beat for great scenery and when you toss in a bunch of lighthouses it becomes a true visual treat. I hosted a workshop this weekend that started with driving from New Jersey and picking up people along the route to Portland in my 12 passenger Sprinter van. We had people from five states including Florida for the fast three day excursion and we photographed 10 lighthouses. The weather was ideal giving us brilliant sunrises and colorful sunsets. We went to classic locations that every photographer should see including Portland Head and Nubble and some lesser known ones.
I rarely take groups to places I haven’t been before but I had a gap and did a ton of research to find us another place to shoot between Portland and our Saturday night location in Rockland. Squirrel Point lighthouse looked good in my research and I knew it would be a fairly long hike but as we were walking out we crossed a small bridge and I noticed the tide was coming in. I tried to see if I could find a high tide line or something to tell if the water came up to the bridge but I couldn’t see anything. Since I hadn’t read about any problems and I couldn’t see anything, we ventured on. We photographed the lighthouse for a while and some of the group was ahead of the rest and a gentleman out running told them to hurry because the rising tide would be a problem. And it was. When we got to the bridge both ends we almost a foot deep in water. Our runner friend came back and asked if there was anything he could do to help. I had some cheap plastic boot covers in the van and he was kind enough to run the 1/4 mile to get them and bring them back. Some of our people had already ventured across before I got there and either took their shoes and socks off or just went ahead and got their feet wet.
The runner came back, seeming to enjoy running through the water and helping us. I assisted the rest of our group put on the little plastic bag/boots and they made their way dryly through the water. Disaster averted.
For me the best part of the weekend was sunset on Saturday at Marshall Point Lighthouse, which just happened to be where Forrest Gump finished his run. The evening clouds were great and as darkness set in I got out my trusty flashlight and did some light painting of the walkway and the lighthouse. We were given a great show and it was a wonderful weekend.
I saw my first total solar eclipse while in the Oregon desert in 2017 and decided right then that I would an eclipse chaser. I started planning for the next one as soon as I got home. Well, it was yesterday and pretty much all I can do is say WOW!
I was concerned that maybe the first eclipse would be the best and seeing another would be a let down. It sure wasn’t. The impact of seeing the moon move in front of and totally block the sun isn’t something I can do justice in words or pictures.
This time I went to the desert of Chile, which is the ground zero for astronomy in South America. I hadn’t been to this part of Chile before and I didn’t have a local guide, which added to the adventure. I was lucky to find a cool cabin for our group to stay Monday night and during the eclipse, so logistics couldn’t have been better. (See blog post)
So yesterday was all about making sure my workshop group was ready. I had made solar filters for each of their cameras along with my own. Each person in the group shot with two cameras, I was using three. I had one with a 70-200mm and a 2X teleconverter giving me a 400mm lens. This one was mounted on a star tracker so it would follow the sun as it moved across the sky. Once totality began, I set it to shoot non-stop during the entire 2.5 minutes. I had another camera with another 70-200mm lens ready to shoot the landscape during totality. Since we knew where the sun would be during totality I set it in a fixed position on a tripod and manually fired it during totality.
My third camera had a 400mm lens with a 1.4X teleconverter giving me a 560mm lens. This was my main camera and I manually tracked the sun during the eclipse and shot all the phases. During the partial phases of the eclipse you have to use a special filter to keep the sun from burning out the camera’s sensor. The same for your eyes. But during totality the filters come off. I had my laptop running an eclipse countdown program that showed when each phase was happening, which is important to know.
Just like in Oregon, the partial phase of the eclipse is cool but not overly compelling. For this eclipse it was an hour and 16 minutes from the start until totality began. People watching are excited for the first few minutes as the black disc of the moon slides over the sun. They people tend to stop looking much and wander around. There were about 40 people in out little compound, all of them family or friends of the owners. For all of them it was their first eclipse. At one point I went over and showed a 10-year-old boy how to hold his hands so the shadow from the partial eclipse would make a very fun design on the ground. He liked it for a few minutes. But I knew the best was yet to come.
About ten minutes before totality things really start to change. We were out in a mountain desert that didn’t have many trees or wildlife. July is winter in Chile but we were so far north that the temperature was in the upper 60’s. As the totality became more imminent the air quickly cooled and suddenly birds started fluttering around. I hadn’t seen any all day but now they were appearing from nowhere.
One of my favorite things of totality is the light. Being a photographer I appreciate light daily and love sunrise and sunset for the quality of light then. Right before totality the light gets this amazing color. It is dim but it isn’t the same warm color like a sunset. It is incredibly unique and all I could do was smile and spin around looking at the surrounding mountains. It all happens so fast and lasts such a short time that it is hard to take it all in.
Then totality happens.
My one mistake was having the camera with the tracker too far away from me and I had to run over to it to take off the filter. There are two cool shots to get at the edges of totality. The first is called Bailey’s Beads which looks like little beads at the edge of the sun. The other is Diamond Ring, which is a very short moment when the edge of the sun is just sticking out from behind the moon creating a cool glow. At the start of the eclipse I missed both of them running from camera to camera. But I got them as totality ended!
I had told the other photographers in my group that I was there to help them get the best photos they could but during the 2.5 minutes of totality they were on their own. If there was a problem at that point it wasn’t going to be something I could fix so they should just not worry about the camera and take in the eclipse itself. I also told them to plan on not making pictures during at least half of totality so they feel what was going on around them.
As totality began I looked and the other photographers looked like they were doing ok. I realized there was suddenly a lot of noise. People in the compound and other camps down the mountain were yelling wildly. Their exuberation was contagious and then cheers of “Chile, Chile, Chile” broke out. It was a great scene. I was having a hard time monitoring the cameras and taking it all in.
I wish I could describe in words or pictures the feeling I get during totality. Many times during the planning and worrying about logistics I wondered if it really was worth all that time and effort just to see something for 2.5 minutes. There is no doubt it is worth it. After totality ended and I got the camera filters back on for the rest of the eclipse I just stood out in the Chilean mountain desert and looked around thinking how absolutely fortunate I am. I got quite emotional. This was special. Incredibly special. Amazingly special.
Running around Chile without speaking much Spanish is a bit intimidating but what a great adventure!
This is the first time I’ve done a workshop and hadn’t either been to the location or worked with something who knew the area. I billed the workshop as an exploratory adventure and so far it has been fairly free anxiety or stress. I did a ton of research before going so I had a good idea where the best viewing locations would be but not exact places. I’m on a Facebook group of hard core eclipse chasers and they helped with pre-arrival scouting and logistics. The hardest part was finding hotel rooms around La Serena, they were sold out early but I found accommodations through AirBnB. All I could get was a three bedroom so I only brought three other people with me, Burt and Evelyn, an American couple living in Ecuador and Jane from New York City.
Sunday I took the group an hour east of La Serena to the Eliqui Valley and the town of Vicuña, near several international observatories. It is one of the darkest places in South America and is well known among people who care about that sort of thing. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get into the big observatories but I had read about a smaller one run by volunteers. We drove right up to it, ok, we had to kinda open the gate, but there weren’t many people around. We tried talking to a guy wandering around but he wasn’t a whole lot of help. A woman came over and said she heard English being spoken. She was from Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts and working with other universities around the world to film and study the sun during the eclipse. She told me what experiments they were doing but it was way too detailed for my brain to handle. I told what we were up to and while obviously not impressed, she asked if I had heard of Fred Espenak. Yea, he is the king of eclipse photography. She said his group was using one of the three buildings on the site. If Fred is here, then this is the place to be. A while later the observatory’s head guy arrived and told us the place would be full for the eclipse and we couldn’t be here. Drat.
As we were leaving there was a small camp next to the observatory and they had a little sign selling food. There were several small buildings in the complex and it looked like there might be room for our group to hang out on eclipse day. I had driven past it a little bit but we thought it might be a good idea to see if we could come back for the eclipse. I pulled the van into a dusty area near a tent and a couple of very friendly young people in their 20’s came over. They spoke great English, which makes things so much easier. We asked them what the deal was and the guy said they had two cabins for rent. How interesting! He gave us a tour of a newly constructed cabin and it was barely large enough to hold our group. It had two bedrooms and futon in a small common area. I was thinking the others could have the bedrooms and I’d take the futon.
One of my main concerns about any location was going to be traffic from La Serena. For months the government issued warnings about how bad the traffic would be since there was only a two-lane road out to Vicuña and the Elqui Valley and that they would be making much of it a one way road before and after the eclipse to handle all the traffic.
If we could spend Monday night on location and not have to fight traffic in the morning, I’d have no stress at all. The weather forecast was perfect and there wasn’t a better place to view the eclipse. I asked how much for the little three room cabin and he said $900 for a night. Ouch! I let him know that was way too much and I offered $200, pointing out that it was only two days away and $200 was better than nothing. His whole family lived there and he went to talk with his mother and aunt, the “chef” at the “restaurant.” He came back and said $300, telling us how good the food and wine was. Toss in two bottles of wine and we’d do it. We shook hands, I gave him a deposit and I was thrilled to be in such a great spot. It would also allow us to be out in a dark place for the night to shoot the Milky Way and stars. As we were walking out, workers were coming out of the second cabin, they had just completed both of them and we were their first guests.
We came back Monday afternoon in time to see exactly where the sun would be during the eclipse. Totality was at 4:42 p.m. so the sun would be pretty low on the horizon. I had found several maps online that showed where the shadows would fall at that time of day, which wasn’t a place I wanted to be. Interestingly the government had set up 11 official observation locations that had restroom facilities and most of them would be in shadow during totality, which was going to disappoint a lot of people.
Our compound was near the top of the mountain and it was a windy dirt road to get there. I had noticed there weren’t any utility lines to be seen and asked about the electricity. The camp ran on a generator that they turned off at midnight. Since we wanted to be out photographing stars, I was thrilled the place would be dark. They did have great cell phone service, so all was wonderful in the world!
The brightest and most colorful part of the Milky Way rose above the mountains around 8:00 p.m. so we made sure we were out there. Several camps had sprung up in fields below us and they had generators too. And they created a lot of light. I was hoping for legendary darkness but we could see town down in the valley and light from the other camps. It didn’t bother the Milky Way though, it glowed brightly in the sky. I wanted a photo of the complete Milky Way arch, which is hard to photograph in the Northeastern U.S. I have cell phone apps that show stars’ locations and knew the shot I really wanted was going to be between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. It was a perfectly clear night and I have never seen so many stars.
I used a flashlight to illuminate our cabin as a foreground and made some fun shots. I had also wanted to do some star trails shots. In the old days you left your camera’s shutter open for a couple of hours and hoped the film could handle it, which usually wasn’t the case. Now with digital it is a matter of making a bunch of photos and putting them together in the computer. If you aim the camera at the North Pole or in Chile, the South Pole, the stars rotate around it. Yes, it is actually the earth’s rotation that causes the starts to move. Earlier in the evening I aimed a camera at a mountain to the east and let it shoot for a couple of hours. I did 30 second exposures with a gap of 10 seconds between shots to give the camera time to process. You get a weird effect shooting to the east rather than the pole. Before I went to bed for a few hours I set up another camera behind the cabin aiming south and let it run all night. I set an alarm to get up at sunrise to fetch the camera before somebody else saw it and it was still firing away.
It was the perfect lead up to a total solar eclipse.
One of the island in the Venice lagoon is Burano and it is one of the most colorful places you will see anywhere. All the buildings are painted bright colors and most of them look like they were freshly done. Everywhere you look there are bright colors. Just like Venice, there are canals throughout the island and the reflections add to the colorful scenery. Also like Venice, the houses are built right up against each other but the individual units of each building are painted a different color. About 3,000 people live there and they all must love color! Interestingly, the main product of the island is lace, which is not colorful at all.
I didn’t know exactly what to expect when I joined with Ron Lake to host a photography workshop in Venice, Italy, during Carnival. I knew there would be masked models on the street near San Marco Square each morning and they would be wearing outrageous costumes but I had no idea how crazy they would be. The best time to photograph many of the most ornate costumes is at sunrise, models come out and there are mainly photographers there, not the hordes of tourists that are around later. Of course there are way too many photographers so it was challenging to keep them out of my images but it could be done. The professionals have business cards to exchange with photographers to get free photos. It is a pretty good deal, great costumes for a few photos.
There is something about getting out in the crisp, cold air and making photos in Vermont. This week was my annual Vermont Winter Wonderland Photography Workshop and it was a true wonderland. Last weekend over 18″ of snow fell on the area, which makes everything look great.
I had ten photographers attending plus my pro friend Ron Lake. We made the most of the time, after a “classroom” session on winter photography we got right out shooting on Friday heading over to a fun farm scene. I was taking the group in my 12 passenger Sprinter van on some back roads to a special location I discovered when a major snow squall came through. Knowing it was a narrow hilly drive I made a quick decision to skip that location and after stopping at a quaint scene with an old hay rake we photographed a covered bridge in Woodstock after the sun went down. I use a flashlight to illuminate the bridge and people always have fun making pictures in the dark.
Saturday we were on the road before sunrise at a special overlook not too far from Woodstock. Then it was on to breakfast and photographing people ice fishing, it is exciting to see people walk on a lake for the first time. It was cold out but there wasn’t much wind, which makes a big difference. We traveled up to another covered bridge where there are great shots of the river flowing under it. Thursday’s heavy rain washed away the usual ice and piled it up where I usually have photographers shoot the bridge. There was no getting there this time. There were still plenty of good pictures to make. We then headed over to a large waterfall that I knew would be running strong and looking icy in the cold temps. After darkness set in we were back at my house for pizza and getting to know each other better.
Today we started out again before sun rise and went to Jenne Farm, which some say is the most photographed farm in America. It looked great in the snow, there are lots of angles and the sky was beautiful. Some people had a long drive and headed home and the rest of us went to another covered bridge near a dam. The mist from the falling water had frozen on the bridge leaving a unique frost on the side. I hadn’t seen that before. Then it was on to some red barns as the snow started to fall. It was a great place to end the workshop.
Below are some of my photos, you can see images made by the participants at https://lorenphotos.com/vermont-winter-workshop-photos/.