For a lot of reasons, it is good to have 2016 behind us. It was a tumultuous year for me professionally but it provided me with many opportunities and adventures. I’m lucky to have a great friend, Edgar Monzon, in Guatemala who hosted a workshop there with me. I was honored to visit his country. I got to tour Tuscany with new friend Ron Lake while we did a workshop there. My art shows went well all summer as I traveled from Virginia Beach to the Hamptons, Connecticut and Vermont and I made my first venture into Florida’s shows, with many more there this winter.
As I look back at 2016, I am grateful to be married to such a wonderful person. Thanks for all the support Robin.
Enjoy the photos.
At Chittenden Reservoir in Vermont there is a pretty little island about 300 yards off shore. It is a favorite place for photographers and I’ve photographed it on many occasions at different times of day and different seasons. I decided to try it at night and use a large flashlight to illuminate the island using a technique called light painting, where you pass the light over the subject many times during a long exposure, I usually do 30 seconds. So tonight I started about 30 minutes after the sun went down and shot for the next hour. There was only a slight breeze which gave me the nice reflection on the water. Then I was lucky to have a shooting star which gave me a beautiful final touch. This is one exposure with only minor adjustments in Lightroom. As the sky got darker I needed to bump my ISO up to 400 and I was shooting at f/5.6.
I’m a lucky man.
I have my amazing, loving wife, Robin, who puts up with me and welcomes me back from my travels. I have my health. Those are the only two things that really matter. But on top of that I am fortunate to be able to capture the beauty that I get to witness and share it with others.
This year I hit a milestone by getting to my 50th state, thanks to photographer friend Walter Choroszewski, who helped me finally get to Hawaii. Walter helped me get to Alaska a couple of years ago, the last two states I needed to check off the list. This year I also had trips to Florida, Virginia Beach, Acadia National Park in Maine, the Hamptons on New York’s Long Island, Mystic, CT, Washington, D.C., and finally to California and Joshua Tree National Park. I was able to get away from N.J. and spend some time at our Woodstock, VT., home, but not nearly enough.
There were a loot of great people I met along the way, whether they were attending one of my photo workshops, coming by my art show booth or just great faces that I stopped to photograph. One of my favorites was a large Hawaiian family having a big Mother’s Day picnic on beach in a rather remote cove on the Big Island. They saw me walking past and one them started chatting with me and asked me to take a picture of the group. They had consumed plenty of beer and it took about 30 minutes to corral all of them around the picnic tables. They were a fun bunch.
Selecting my favorite photos of the year wasn’t easy, I kept it to 50 so you don’t get too bored.
2015 was a beautiful year and 2016 looks to be even better.
On a quick trip to southern California, my friend John invited me to go out to Joshua Tree National Park and spend a day in the desert. I hadn’t been there before but I knew a good bit about it, I’m not sure if it was because of Jim Morrison’s legendary trips there, or U2’s famous album (that was really in Death Valley) or just reading about it from lots of other photographers.
The park is a unique area with Joshua trees, sand and big sandstone rock formations. Some feel mystical powers emanating from the rocks, it was a cool place, but I didn’t catch any special vibes.
We got there yesterday afternoon and went to the main areas that everyone seems to visit. Being the weekend before Thanksgiving, it was pretty crowded, more people than John had seen on his many trips there. People were climbing the rocks, most of the big formations had people on top of them. It made getting a clear show without humanity pretty hard, but it was still great to see.
As the sun was getting low, we went to a standing rock monolith that has a cool old juniper tree nearby to get shots after dark. I had found the spot while doing research before my trip and it looked like a great place to do light painting after sunset. I brought a couple of large flashlights with me, so I had John light up the background a bit while I illuminated the tree and rock.
The moon is going to be full in a couple of days, so it was pretty bright out in the clear air of the desert. We could walk around with using our headlamps and see perfectly well. We stopped at another rock formation and I did a few shots with the starts and moon. I love the look of moonlight shaping the rocks.
Since there were no clouds, I want to do a star trail shot, but I didn’t want to do an all-nighter in the desert, so I set up a camera on a tripod with a 15mm fisheye lens, hooked an old iPhone to it with TriggerTrap and started shooting. The moonset was around 2:30 a.m., so I wanted the camera to start firing then so there wouldn’t be any light in the sky. Earlier at the hotel I worked to get a delay going with TriggerTrap but I couldn’t make it work. So my only option was to let the camera fire all night and hope the batteries would last until well after the moon went down. I set TriggerTrap to fire a 30 second exposure, wait one minute, make another 30 second exposure, wait, fire, wait, fire for the next six hours.
I set the camera up about a hundred yards off the road, not too worried that someone would spot and steal it in the middle of the desert. We went back to the hotel and planned on getting camera after coming back out for sunrise. We got up at 4 a.m. and headed back into the park. It was still dark and we thought we knew exactly where the camera was but we drove right past it and got back to the place where where we did the light painting last night. Since the light was coming on fast, I decided to hike a little and shoot the sunrise there and we’d find the other camera later.
Sunrise in the desert is a lot different that what I’m accustomed to in the East. The light came very quickly and since there were no clouds, it didn’t take long for the sunlight to be very harsh. I tried lots of shots but wasn’t too thrilled with any of them.
It was time to go find the other camera and see what I got. We went back through the park and watched for a pulloff near a large mound of rocks. It was farther than we thought but I recognized it and could see my camera from the road. I don’t know which died first, the phone or the camera battery, but they both were dead and the last shot was taken at about 3:30 a.m. That gave me plenty of images to stitch together to make the shot I was hoping for. The moonlight shots gave me nice light on the Joshua tree and surrounding landscape and also good color in the sky.
I look forward to getting out there again and perfect some things that I learned.
Today was the last day of the Acadia Photography Workshop. It was a good week and I really enjoyed the group, they were fun to be around and jelled immediately. We had people from Washington, D.C., Vienna, Austria, New Jersey, New Hampshire and Vermont.
After the group departed, I went out to Sieur de Monts again, since I loved the way the light looked there. I found a neat trail that was lined with birch trees. I loved the way the light filtered through the trees and the muted colors of the trees and the grass matched.
It was a beautiful end to a great week in Acadia.
I’m always amazed at how often I’m looking for one thing and finding another. During this weekend’s Vermont Fall Foliage Workshop, I was looking hard for the beautiful colors produced by the maple trees when I noticed this plant along a pond’s edge. At first I wasn’t too interested, I was looking for bright reds and yellows. But when I looked closer, I loved the way this plant’s leaves intertwined and how it stood out against the deep blue of the water reflecting the clear sky.
I worked the angles a bit to make sure there wasn’t anything but water behind the leaves and shot like a fool. It wasn’t the colors I was looking for, but I sure like the outcome.
I photograph a lots dogs at my little studio at The Hungry Hound. They can be loads of fun and they can be a real pain. But once in a while I get a shot that has something special, like tonight when Emerson posed with her dog Rosie. Rosie is a chocolate Labrador Retriever, so is naturally full of life, curious and ready to lick anything that moves. Zany dogs like her are my favorite dogs to shoot because I can get their attention, even if it is just for short periods.
Emerson was a good model too. She enjoyed having her picture taken and followed direction very well. We took lots of photos and when we were done her parents and I were pretty happy with the results. This shot is one her mother picked and then asked if I could make it black & white. I don’t usually suggest black & white since many people aren’t used to seeing images that way any more, but the tonal qualities of the dog, Emerson’s face and her dress really stand out. I really like the way it created a timeless portrait that I hope the family will cherish forever.
It has been a long, cold, snowy winter and I love it. I love the way landscapes look when snow covered and the simplicity that happens with the blanket of white.
I’ve been out shooting quite a bit but haven’t taken the time to add to my blog. So after today’s shoot, I decided to post some photos from the day. Before sunrise, I met friend Lisa Lacasse and we went to a farm that I have been eyeing for a while. As the sun came up over the ridge, the light was magical on the barn, snow and fence.
There was some great patterns in ice in the road, so I got out the 100mm macro and extension tube to shoot some close-up shots, which were looking good. As I was sliding around on the ice, a woman came down the driveway from the house. She was going to take some hay out to the horses and stopped to chat. She was an extremely interesting person, a former dentist, now self-sustaining farmer with cows, horses, chickens, goats and large sugar camp. She is also a boxing promoter, tough mudder and mother of four grown sons, who are scattering all over the world. It is always fun to meet such interesting people.
Enjoy the gallery of photos from the day.
Today was the last of our short Oregon weekend photo adventure and we concentrated on waterfalls. Walter and I headed out from out hotel in Salem to Silver Falls State Park, home to several large waterfalls and plenty of hiking. The first falls was near the parking area and it is spectacular, it is one of the most photogenic falls in the state. Even though it was a short walk, Walter and I were shooting like fools before we even got to it. The trail leads behind the falls and to the other side and we worked our way around, shooting too much and trying not to get too wet from the blowing mist coming off the falls.
The next falls was about a mile away so we hiked the trail and made plenty of photos. The hike was pretty nice, of course water flows downhill and after shooting the second falls we had the choice of hiking farther for more falls or heading back toward the car. Time was getting late since we constantly stopped to shoot mushrooms, leaves and the green moss growing on trees, so we headed back for the car. The trail back was a little over a mile and, like usual, I was carrying a lot of camera equipment and the hike back was uphill. When I ran out of breath I’d find something to photograph so I didn’t look like the total out-of-shape old man I’ve become. Other hikers a bit younger than us were on the trail and struggling as much as me and they weren’t carrying extra gear, so I took solace in that.
We got back to the car and ventured back north to shoot waterfalls along the Columbia River gorge. Not long after getting in the car the rain started and stuck with us the rest of the day. The weather prognosticators got it right, they said 100% chance of rain and that is what Oregon got.
When shooting moving water I prefer cloudy days so I can keep my exposures long, the longer the better. The waterfalls in Oregon are huge and spectacular but very hard to shoot in a way that makes them look like anything more than a long, thin white ribbon. We stopped at several falls in the gorge and hiked down to Bridal Veil Falls, which surprising seemed like a long hike going down than coming back up. Walter and I were pretty tired at this point, we had driven a lot and fought the rain all day and when we got to the falls it pretty much looked like the other long, thin Oregon falls. The sky was very dark and as we were walking out I noticed a couple of bright yellow and red leaves at the edge of the water rushing away from the falls. The light was dim and everything was wet and the colors popped. Green moss on the rocks seemed to glow and with the water flowing past I knew it would make a great photo. My 13 second shutter speed made the water look milky everywhere and I came away with a photo that will be hanging big on my wall for a long time.
Walter and I have a rather scientific formula developed for making sure we are in the right locations at the right time. We start heading for one place based on the weather forecast and if the weather doesn’t look like predicted, we take off for some place else. Sitting in the hotel near Portland last night, seeing the 100% chance of rain forecasts for most of Oregon, Walter was mapping how long it would take to get anywhere from Redwoods National Park in California (5 hours+) to Idaho (even longer) to Crater Lake (4 hours) to Mt. Rainer in Washington state. None of those made any sense since we had to be back to the Portland airport tomorrow evening.
So we planned on working the rain by going to waterfalls in the central part of the state. As we drove south, the sky was beautiful and clear so we veered off and headed for the coast again. I’ve heard people in many places say if you don’t like the weather wait 10 minutes and it will change. Oregon in November must be where that saying originated. At one point while shooting on the coast, I was shooting crashing waves in pure sunshine and went back to the car to grab a cable release and by the time I made the five minute walk, rain and hail pelted down. It wouldn’t have been that bad, but I left a camera and 70-200mm lens on my tripod down by the rocks and it was getting soaked. I scrambled back down the hill and when I got to my dripping camera the sun came back out and the rain was gone. I dried everything off and it works fine but I didn’t leave anything uncovered again.
The weather on the coast was great, other than the quick hailstorm, and we started by getting to Thor’s Well at high tide. Thor’s Well is a unique hole in the coastal rocks where the surf surges into the hole at high tide and spurts out at low. The surf today was especially rough and there were several nearby places where the water would shoot into the air as the waves crashed into the shore. We watched as large waves crashed over where we needed to be standing to shoot Thor’s Well and quickly realized today wasn’t the right day, we’d get our clothes wet at best, which wasn’t a big problem, but we had a very good possibility of drenching our camera or getting washed out to sea. We shot the crashing waves for a while and made another last minute decision and go farther south to the dunes while the tide went out and come back for the last light of the day.
The dunes made for some nice photos and when we got back to Thor’s Well the water wasn’t flowing in, only shooting out. There were still plenty of great shots to be had, just not the classic photo of Thor sucking the water into the earth.
I went on another crazy photo adventure today with fellow photographer Walter Choroszewski. Walter got us a deal on a flight, and suggested we spend the weekend in Oregon. Walter hadn’t been in Oregon before and wanted to check another state off his list. He still needs Wisconsin and North Dakota and we both need Hawaii to make it 50 for each of us.
We caught a flight this morning from Newark and were in Portland before noon. We have been watching the weather forecast and it looked like today might be our only day with sunshine, a frequent Oregon problem this time of year. We went straight for the coast to the typical ocean town of Seaside and then headed south.
Cannon Beach is one of the iconic photo spots on the Oregon coast and we discovered why. There is a rock formation in the water known as the haystack and it is spectacular. The light was great, nothing like being on the west coast as the sun gets low. I think my favorite shots are of Walter as the sun comes across his face, maybe I’ll score the dust jacket of his next book.
I checked out a couple of parks along the Gulf this morning and then headed to the famous rookery in Venice. Unlike yesterday at Gatorland, this is a much smaller rookery that has been preserved by the Audubon Society. It is right off a major highway, smack in the middle of way too many people, but the little park is just what the birds need.
The rookery itself is a little island with a bunch of small trees in a little pond. It is the perfect place for the birds, alligators live in the pond, protecting the birds and people are just far enough away that the birds don’t care about us.
A nice pavilion is near the pond, so people can sit under cover and watch the birds all day. It is free and always open, luckily I noticed a donation box, this is worth as much as the $20 I paid at Gatorland.
When I arrived, a light rain was ending but there were five other photographers there. You can walk around the entire pond, so the light is always coming from the right direction. Within 30 minutes the others were gone, I didn’t take it personally, but I was happy to be the only one shooting.
There was plenty of action. Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Anhingas, Snowy Egrets, Cattle Egrets, Glossy Ibises, Green Herons, Tricolored Herons and Black-crowned Night-Herons all make the island their home. I saw young Anhingas sticking their heads literally down the throats of their parents to get food. Two young Great Blue Herons went crazy when mom arrived with food. There was constant screeching coming from the nests as little loud-mouths were yelling for food. It was quite the scene.
I ended the day along the beach in Ft. Myers, shooting shore birds. It was quite a two-day adventure.
See a photo gallery from my two days in Florida.
When I’m driving in Florida, I have this crazy expectation that the drivers are friendly and relaxed. They aren’t. My first day here and I’m driving around Orlando and Kissimmee and people are frantic. I expect that in New Jersey, but people should be calmer in Florida. Four times I got honked at within the first hour around here.
I come to Florida looking for nature and wildlife, the critter kind. So it is rather crazy that I am hanging out in the ultimate tourist trap of Orlando. Everything looks like it was built for $15 and there’s a million signs wanting me to stop and buy something.
But I’m here to photograph birds and I’ve made my first journey to Gatorland. I’d heard about the rookery at Gatorland and I was extremely doubtful. But I did a lot of research and it seemed to be real. A tourist trap had been built around a rookery and they made sure plenty of gators are around to keep the tourists happy. They put a big boardwalk through the rookery and built some towers to make observation even better. I was initially repulsed by the idea of it but the more I thought about the more I realized that if money wasn’t being made, then somebody would fill in the ponds, knock down the trees and build another un-needed hotel.
Gatorland lets photographers come in at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday through Sunday for $20, while the rest of the public doesn’t come in until 10 a.m. There were about 15 people heading in this morning, a few had been there before and several, including me, were Gatorland rookies.
It was worth the $20. It is the largest rookery I’ve ever had access to. There are lots of different species nesting and most are close enough to get good photos with a 200mm lens. The nests are down low because they are protected from raccoons and other predators by the big, mean-looking gators. The gators get fresh snacks when young birds fall out of the nest, so it is a good thing for everybody.
The birds have grown accustomed to the people because they know they are protected. Hundreds of birds were sitting, flying, wading and doing everything birds do and I shot until my trigger finger was sore and the sun was moving up in the sky.
I left the busyness of the Orlando area and headed west to the coast to check out some parks in the Tampa area.
See a photo gallery from my two days in Florida.
People living in the New York metro area have a deeper feeling for 9/11 than people around the country. I’ve talked to many friends and relatives from different areas and they don’t have the sense of loss that people near New York.
Everybody here knew somebody or knew somebody whose relative died that horrific day. I’m not saying people here are special, it is just that 9/11 is stamped much deeper in our hearts.
One of the most ominous memorials is the beacon of lights that shine from lower Manhattan. Last year they said it would be the last year, but there were back for one night again this year. So I went to Jersey City to shoot across the Hudson River and see the lights.
I hadn’t been to Liberty State Park for a couple of years. Last year they dedicated a new 9/11 memorial in the park, right by the river. The monument is called Empty Sky: New Jersey. It is a stunning monument that lines up with the fallen buildings. The monument has two tall walls with the names of New Jersey residents who died on 9/11 inscribed on the inside.