Archive for January, 2012

INSPIRATION: Here Today Gone Tomorrow

January 30, 2012 31 comments

I had driven past this old shed for many years and often wondered what it may have been used for. It sat out in the middle of a farmers field with nothing else around it, braving the elements of all the seasons. Each year it would lean over a little bit more and the paint would become more weathered. I never saw any human activity there or even any machinery stored inside. It was just there.

Late one winter afternoon, I was driving by the old farm and shed, the wind was blowing fiercely. Snow was drifting and covering the roads that were clean and dry a few hours before. It was the pre-curser to a storm that followed later that night. I had my camera with me and wanted to capture the stormy weather and the shed standing up to the impending storm.

Sadly, last spring the old shed was torn down and a community of new homes took it’s place.

I am glad I was able to take this photograph before this old shed vanished. It was the inspiration for me wanting to capture and preserve the images of older buildings and structures in the area I live. They may not be there tomorrow.



IN THE FIELD: The Language of The Lost

January 27, 2012 41 comments

I rarely have concerns about getting lost traveling around the United States, since I figure we all speak the same language and I can always ask for directions. Although, there have been times when I did wonder if I was in a foreign country, or even in the Twilight Zone. Because I would hear the words, but they wouldn’t make any sense. It was as if they were spoken in a completely different language that only a local resident could understand.


Here are a few of my all time classic responses when asking for directions:

Yeah, just follow the signs…[why would I be asking you for directions if I could find the signs?]

Just go down the road a piece…[how big a piece?]

It’s real easy to find…[then why am I lost?]

What do you need directions for? [Because I have been driving around the same city block for what seems like an hour.]

Just on the other side of town…[is that the right side of town or the left?]

Follow this road to the second stoplight, turn right, no go straight, no maybe its a left [bye-bye.]

Well…ya can’t get there from here…[then how did I get here?]

You’re looking for what? You want directions to where? [bye bye]

Just down the road a ways, ya can’t miss it…[well, apparently I did, which is why I am asking.]

Which way are you heading? [If I knew that, I wouldn’t be lost.]

Do you want the long-cut or the shortcut? [Dude, I just want to get there…]

Go to the last traffic light in town…[ah man, you gotta be kidding…you do know I’m from out of town, right?]


Problem: Strangers and directions can be like oil and water…not always a good mix…

Solution: Bring a map, compass, or GPS…


In the Field: Winter Woodland Patterns

January 25, 2012 36 comments

I have always been fascinated with the seemingly random patterns created by trees in the woods, especially in the winter when the leaves are gone and snow is on the forest floor. And I have found if you study them long enough, not-so-random patterns can start to develop.

During a late October snowstorm, which dumped a foot of heavy wet snow, we had a lot of broken branches and downed trees here in the heart of the hardwood forest where I live. The landscape has been drastically altered and I have been able to photograph many of the changes.

However, I have been waiting for the perfect moment to capture this one tree with two broken branches. It is at the edge of our property and I see it every time I walk out onto our deck. We had a small amount of snowfall a few days ago, and the other morning the temperatures rose, creating a misty foggy atmosphere. Finally…the moment I had been looking for.

I set up the tripod and took a series of shots. Both horizontal and vertical formats worked well and I also played around with the white balance. Some settings rendered the scene as it was, and other settings gave a colder tone.

I liked the contrast of the dark wet trees against the snow. And the muted spot of color from leaves on the oak trees, which will stay until Spring. The foggy mist added just the right mood. And the crossing of the broken branches provided a focal point against the jumble of smaller criss-crossing branches.

I finally got the shot of those trees I wanted. Sometimes it does pay to be patient…


IN THE FIELD: West Quoddy Head Light

January 23, 2012 37 comments

In my previous post, I described our quest to be the first people in the country to see the sunrise at Quoddy Head State Park, which is the eastern most point in the United States.

While the sunrise that morning was short lived due to dense fog, we returned a few hours before sunset to visit the West Quoddy Head Light.

The 49 foot tall lighthouse and keepers house were built in 1858 and stand guard over the Quoddy Narrows, which is a strait between Canada and the United States. Known to be a very foggy area, the beacon, fog horns and bells warn mariners of the dangerous ledges, cliffs, and the infamous Sail Rock, which is a large outcropping several hundred yards out to sea.

The lighthouse is now automated and maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. While closed to visitors, tours can be taken of the light keepers house. As we explored the site on our own, we wondered what life was like for the person or family who’s task it was to maintain the lighthouse. How did they entertain themselves? Was it a lonely experience or did they embrace the privacy? Were they allowed to leave the site to go into town once in a while?

Fortunately, we ran into a volunteer who was preparing to give the last tour of the day. How lucky was that? We learned about the lifestyle of the light keepers and their families, how they maintained the station and what they did for amusement. This lighthouse is not as remote as others in the state, so the families often had visitors. The children walked to school for several miles to the town of Lubec. Supplies for the keeper’s families were procured there as well.

At the end of our tour, I was able to capture this image of the station, bathed in lavender light from the sunset. Grand Manan Island which is part of New Brunswick, Canada, is visible at the horizon, about five miles out to sea.


IN THE FIELD: West Quoddy Head

January 20, 2012 28 comments

A few years ago, my wife and I were vacationing along the coast of Maine, exploring the many small towns along the way to our final destination to the eastern most point of the United States. Upon reaching our last stop-over, the plan was to be the first people in the country to see the sunrise the next morning.

To accomplish our goal, we needed to travel to the West Quoddy Head State Park in Lubec Maine. There is a lighthouse in the park, built in 1858, and it stands guard over the Quoddy Narrows. Quoddy Narrows is a strait between Canada and the United States.

We stayed at a bed and breakfast, and on the morning of our quest, hit the road around 4:00 am…long before anyone else began to stir. It was a short drive and we arrived at the park about 45 minutes before sunrise.

Daybreak was still a good half hour away, so we had plenty of time to make our way down the trail that follows the cliffs alongside the ocean. Flashlights helped in finding a good vantage point since it was still dark and we were in the middle of an evergreen forest. The smell of the trees was wondrous at that hour of the morning.

We were able to get a few shots of the lighthouse and its beacon as dawn was approaching. Unfortunately, a glorious sunrise wasn’t meant to be that morning. The sun rose above the horizon for a few minutes and then it was obscured by fog. At least we were the first ones to see sun-up.

Thinking to make the best of the situation, we looked over the edge of the cliff at the rocks below and saw a great photographic opportunity. I grabbed my gear and climbed down the 40 foot cliff to the ocean’s edge. It was then I realized the tripod was up on top of the cliff with my wife. I had two choices on what to do. Climb back up and meet my wife halfway so she could hand me the tripod…or make do with the situation at hand.

I decided it was time to make do before my feet got wet. The tides there are extreme, averaging around 15 feet, and it was coming in…fast.

I was using slide film, it was still early dawn and foggy, so there wasn’t a lot of light available. The fastest shutter speed I could muster up was 1/15th of a second.

Turning myself into a tripod, I squatted down, tucked my elbows in between my legs, held my breath and fired off about 6 shots. When the slides came back from the lab, I was surprised to see that they were sharp, and I had managed to capture some movement in the water.

I don’t recommend this technique when a tripod and cable release can be used, but occasionally you can get lucky. Very lucky.

I used a section of the rocks as the feature image in my masthead for this blog.


INSPIRATION: A Glimpse of Summer

January 18, 2012 26 comments

While looking through my archives, I found several photos that hint of a warmer season.

When I took this particular photo, it was a summer morning, the sun was shining and there was a slight breeze. Conditions were a bit different then, compared to what we have been experiencing lately.

Yesterday I heard the weather man say the outside temperatures may climb above the 30 degree mark this week…for a day or two. This would be a nice change since the temps have been in the 20’s during the day and the teens and single digits at night. And it has been very windy so that adds to the chill. No grilling dinner outside for me.

We haven’t received any snow except for the fluke October storm that dumped 12 -14 inches of the white stuff in one day. So, photos of landscapes under a fresh blanket of snow are going to have to wait since there is nothing in the forecast that refers to a winter wonderland anytime soon.

But then again, you never know what Mother Nature may have up her sleeve.

HOW TO: Photographers Comfort

January 16, 2012 24 comments

Handling a tripod with metal legs that are close to a cold outside air temperature has always been a challenge for me. In the winter, setting up the tripod and then composing shots is difficult because my hands get cold.

When it is warm outside, carrying a metal tripod on my shoulder is not the most comfortable thing to do either. One way to alleviate the discomfort of tripod tubing on a shoulder or cold feel of the metal legs, is to cover them with some kind of padding.

My wife gave me a set of tripod leg wraps from OP/TECH USA this year. The wraps, or covers as they are sometimes called by other manufacturers, insulate the cold legs from bare hands, and help cushion the tripod when carrying it on your shoulder.

Covers, pads or wraps also help protect the tripod from dents and scratches. They are easy to install, lightweight, very durable and can be washed with damp cloth if they get dirty.

With padding on the legs of my tripod, my hands no longer become numb from the cold metal. And in the summer, it will be way more comfortable carrying the tripod when trekking about the countryside.


IN THE FIELD: Staying Warm Inside

January 9, 2012 47 comments

Early this past week, the weather in this area was bitterly cold and windy. Outdoor photography can be a bit of a challenge in these conditions and normally it doesn’t bother me. After all, I am primarily an outdoor photographer and the weather, pleasant or unpleasant, is part of the experience. But with the wind chill near the single digits I decided to cut myself a break.

An alternative to freezing outdoors is getting creative indoors. Benefits include warm fingers, toes and face, plus the camera equipment works better.

We often overlook photographing subjects within the confines of our own homes, probably because we are so used to seeing them on a daily basis. Looking through a camera and lens at ordinary and familiar items in our surroundings can present them in a whole new perspective.

Who would have thought the inside of the clothes washer would make for an interesting subject? To me, this looks like some kind of futuristic propulsion unit for interstellar space travel.



IN THE FIELD: Winter Photo Adventures

January 6, 2012 36 comments

My wife and I first met in the middle of the winter a few weeks before Christmas. A few of our first dates consisted of “photo excursions.” We would explore local parks, or the streets of the town where she lived, or just go for a drive and see what we could find.

On one frigid afternoon, we went for a drive down a country lane and came across a group of frozen ponds near the road. We thought we might find interesting patterns in the ice to photograph.

We parked the car in a safe spot and gathered up the camera bag and tripod and headed through the brambles towards the ponds. As we got closer to the ponds we noticed the ice resembled what we called a Star Wars landscape. Apparently, freeze thaw cycles caused the ice to lower and break on the protruding rocks.

We got some shots of ice crystals near the edge of the pond, and some overall shots of the surroundings. We began to experiment with exposure settings and colored filters normally used for black and white photography, trying to duplicate how an alien landscape would appear.

My sister had just given me a polarizer filter for Christmas and we thought we should try that one to see the effect. I got the filter out of the camera bag and tried to hand it to my wife (girl friend at the time). But both our hands were so cold, the hand-off was a complete failure in coordination.

That brand new, never-been-used filter, dropped to the ice, and slid out to the middle of the pond like a hockey puck. She was horrified. “Oh No! David, I can’t believe I dropped your brand new filter! Lordie, you must think I am a bumbling idiot!”

I reassured her several times that our impromptu hockey game was an accident. After a few moments of laughter and teasing, we went on a quest for a long stick and ventured out onto the ice to retrieve the filter.

Had we been wearing warmer gloves that day, the old adage “there really is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing” would not have come into play.

IN THE FIELD: Brrrrr It’s Cold Outside

January 4, 2012 42 comments

Winter is here for sure. We had a light dusting of snow this morning and the temperature will not get out of the 20’s. The wind is gusting to 40 mph and the wind chills are somewhere near…well, let’s just say it’s a bit brisk. Since it is the winter season, I thought a photo reminding me of warmer times would be a nice treat, and this waterfall scene fits the bill.

My wife and I had been to this location several times for picnics and hiking and photo excursions, but on this day I had something else planned.

It was a beautiful warm summer day and the conditions for photography were just about perfect. We got some shots of the falls and then ventured downstream to photograph the water tumbling over the rocks in the stream bed.

We took our shoes off, clambered onto some larger rocks to sit and cool our feet in the mountain stream. We sat there for a while listening to the sound of the water and enjoyed the woodland surroundings. The air was refreshing with a light mist from the falls and the wild rhododendron bushes were in bloom, covering the banks of the stream.

We agreed this was one of the prettiest places we had visited together. I decided this would be the perfect time for my surprise. So, I pulled this little velvet box that you get from a fancy jewelry store out of my pocket, opened it, and asked her if she would like to spend the rest of our lives together. She looked at the “sparkly” resting in the box, and almost fell off her rock.

She told me later that she had an idea I was going to ask her to marry me soon…just not when she was teetering on a rock in the middle of a cold mountain stream.

This waterfall is named Silver Thread Falls and it is located in the lush woodlands of northeastern Pennsylvania.