The Autumn Witch (a different Halloween photo shoot)

The Autumn Witch 

Just the mere mention of the word Halloween will conjure up images of witches along with the rising of a full moon on a cold autumn night. Today we often think of the green faced witch with the pointed hat from the story The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. However, most of us know that a true witch was something different. In Shakespeare’s Macbeth the image of a witch was depicted as an old wart ridden crone and yet again this could be somewhat misleading. Truth be told witches could have been young or old, rich or poor and ugly or as beautiful as can be. 

In most cases the label “witch” was something that was bestowed upon a female by the society that surrounded her, by the people whom she knew as members of her community, her church, friends and often her own family. It did not take much to acquire the label of being a witch. All you had to be was different, look different, talk different or be able to do something out of the norm such as cure a sickened person with some herbs & wild roots. Being different was truly the key thing that all witches had in common. Sometimes her difference was that she stood strong and she spoke up to be heard above the men. Going against the grain of society could often be a death sentence for a woman of these early times in history.  

While we have all heard the stories of witches being burned to death, many were hanged or died during the torture of an inquisitor. And then there were the few… There are a few incidents in history where accused witches merely perished from the sight never to be seen again. This only added to her guilt and the mystery of her magical powers, when in reality she had just slipped out of town under the cover of the nights darkness and cast herself to a life of solitaire among the forests and the fields.  

So, it is here we find our beautiful Autumn Witch wandering her new found queendom. A queendom she presides over not as a ruler but, as a care taker, for we know the true ruler of the forests & fields is the queen of all queens Mother Nature herself. However, the Autumn Witch will spend her time becoming one with the wildlife and the land of which she dwells. She will bathe in the pure water of the mountain streams and adorn her beauty with that which Mother Nature provides her. Once a witch and now a queen she wears her new found crown with peace, dignity and pride.  Peace and solitude preserve her beauty and allow her inner spirit to grow and glow beyond that of any woman bound by the chains of society’s oppression. Yes, she “is” truly different… with and unbreakable spirit, inner & outer beauty and a mind of her own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The name says it all… “A different Halloween photo shoot.” 2020 has certainly taken a toll on my photo shoot creativity. Due to restrictions from the virus crisis the budget for a creative photo shoot just did not exist. You can have all the creativity you want however, if there is no budget the creativity will just sit inside your mind and… well, that is about it, it will just sit there. It is kind of like being hungry and having no money for food.  

In January I had set many goals for my photography for 2020. One goal was to achieve an awesome Halloween photo shoot such as I did back in 2016 when I wanted to create a portrait of a clown. The idea was an evil clown walks into a studio to have a photographer create a portrait of him. The shoot had a budget that allowed for a paid model and SFX makeup artist. Without a budget there would have been no makeup and therefore no clown and no shoot. 

The virus crisis killed many people and that is truly the saddest thing about 2020. But there was a lot of collateral damage from the crisis with shutdowns and job loss. My photography business has been almost nothing, other than a few portrait jobs here and there. Certainly, no big jobs like weddings or events. 

As the year was passing by, I watched as many of my goals fall by the wayside and I did not think much about it. As Halloween was approaching, I suffered with the death of a 30-year-old family member who suffered from addiction and then my elderly mother was injured in a fall. Could 2020 be any worse of a year? Yes, actually it, could.  

I had actually told the model whom I been planning on shooting with that I was cancelling all future shoots until further notice. I felt I needed to take a step back and… Then it just hit me, the thought that I was letting it win. “It” being the year 2020 and all the horrible misfortune we have all had to deal with. I’m not a quitter, I have never quit anything. I have been beaten down, beaten up and left a bloody mess by many things in my life and all those beatings have been the result of not quitting.  

So only a few days after telling the model I was cancelling all future shoots, I contact her and contradict myself saying I want to do a shoot. (My whole life has been a contradiction lol.) It would be a Halloween shoot and like 2020 it will be not a normal Halloween shoot. Actually, I had no real idea because in January I had set a goal but had never came up with an idea because Covid hit and everything came to a grinding halt.  

So, I turn to my various places for inspiration. Places like magazines, (remember them) yes, I still subscribe to various magazines like Vanity Fair, Vogue, Cowgirl and more. I also spent hours looking at 500px.com and Pinterest as well Instagram. I think it was Instagram that I was looking at when I came to the realization that most all Halloween shoots involve makeup, lots of makeup. I found a little money for a budget but, not enough for makeup & wardrobe. So, let’s just go with wardrobe. As for a theme… I just sat there thinking “Halloween” and how many times I see girls dress up as cats & witches. Then It struck me that the typical “Halloween Witch” with the black dress and pointy hat is as far from what a true witch even looked like. And then I remembered years ago reading a book (can’t remember the name) about a girl in medieval times who was accused of being a witch. She never really did any real hocus pocus and her crime was that she was good looking and out spoken. The other women had deemed her an “odd character” because she drew the attention of men, sang to herself and when a child in the village she had been looking after became unexplainably ill… well you know how the story goes after that. She’s different so she must be a witch. Before they could round her up and put her on trial, she disappeared. Her disappearance only confirmed that she must be guilty and confirmed she was in fact a witch. In reality, she had slipped out of town in the middle of the night and lived as an outcast in the forest… and then the story continued on. 

So, there it is, that is my photo shoot idea. It will be a different kind of witch photo shoot because 2020 has been a different kind of year lol.  

As I was putting together all the ideas for the shoot wardrobe, location, shooing date ect… I thought about how today’s society is not much different than that of long ago. Being different always comes with a price tag. Being different comes with scrutiny, labels and judgments. But, being different is what make life exciting.  

Happy Halloween 2020 

 

Out THe Door Without A Plan ( Thanksgiving morning at daybreak is driving nirvana.)

1/200 sec at f/8.0 ISO 200 168 mm.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I started the day by getting up early grabbing the camera bag, the drone bag and heading out the door before sunrise. My goal was to capture a scene that would convey “Thanksgiving in The Country.” Or something close to that, however I knew going out the door without a plan is a horrible idea. And it was.

But not all was lost, because being out early on the empty roads was like therapy. It gave me time to think. For whatever reason driving for me is relaxing and driving when you’re the only one on the road is like heaven. Thanksgiving morning at daybreak is driving nirvana. After a while I could care less about capturing my Thanksgiving photo. I was driving along the Delaware River and I started thinking about the upcoming Christmas season and that thought lead to the “New Year” coming and that thought lead to “what are my goals” and then I… well let’s just say “I was lost,” like literally lost for a moment. Not really lost, but more like “hey I need to turn back” and head home because I do have a holiday dinner to prepare lol.

So I did just that and as I was heading back I kept taking roads that lead towards home, but just not the usual roads. And then I came across this scene with the horses and the farm in the distance. I actually turned the car around so I could shoot without getting out of the car (I’m lazy lol). First I sat and marveled the scene and took it all in. It was about 25°F so the air was crisp; the sun was on the rise and not a cloud in the sky. The foreground was still in dark shadow so this in my opinion made it “not” the perfect shot, but it was beautiful nonetheless.

I’m not a “horse” person per say, but I love to see them grazing, I love the fences and farms are part of me because I grew up on a dairy farm. Farms are beautiful and here in my part of New Jersey they are getting far and few between.

So there it is, my Thanksgiving Day photo and the day was more productive than I first though because I started planning out my goal for 2018. I have more thought to put into them before I solidify them and write them down. I truly want 2018 to be a great year in my life and as for my photography and videography… it’s going to the next level.

Photo notes: 1/200 sec at f/8.0 ISO 200 168 mm. Then I edited in Photoshop and applied a few LUTs.

Drifting Away (…the “joy” of autumn is drifting away.)

1/15 sec at f/8 ISO 100 24mm

1/15 sec at f/8 ISO 100 24mm

Autumn 2016 is starting to wane here in New Jersey. While out for my bicycle ride today the weather was nice, certainly sunny and not too chilly. I was testing my new camera and trying to enjoy what I know is inevitable… While autumn season is not truly over until December 21, I have always found that by mid to late November the “joy” of autumn is drifting away. Like a small boat that has come detached from its mooring and starts to ever so slowly drift with the current, drifting till it is further and further downstream. At some point you look away and when you gaze back the boat is gone.

We will have our nice days and we’ll have our rainy days. The rainy days are the times we look away and when the sun shines again… the days are colder, shorter and less color till soon we enter the “grey days” of late November early December. The only cheer at that time is to look forward to the Christmas  and New Year season.

I will leave for Thailand the day before Thanksgiving and miss the whole Thanksgiving holiday. 40 straight hours of hell as I travel from my home in Linvale, NJ to Ko Chang (Chang Island). That is 40 hours with no bed, just a plane seat and or an airport floor or bench to sleep on. Yes I will have fun in Thailand… I sure hope so after 40 hours of travel. But when I return back home to the USA autumn 2016 will be of just a memory.

Photo taken with the Canon EOS-M3 with the 18-55mm lens and I did apply my personal Photoshop recipe. Camera settings were 1/15 sec at f/8 ISO 100 24mm.

Autumn Fun (…the leaves were not at their peak color yet, there was still a great vibe in the air…)

Ryan McNally 1/125 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 70mm

Ryan McNally 1/125 sec at f/3.5 ISO 50 70mm

Ryan is new, but a fast learner. We had a great outdoor shoot in Stockton, NJ along the Delaware River. It was a beautiful autumn day and while the leaves were not at their peak color yet, there was still a great vibe in the air that added to our mood. The Prallsville Mill adds such a great backdrop to any photo shoot, be it wedding, engagement or model. On a weekday there is always a few people walking or riding bikes and of course they will stop and look and that just adds to the fun. We’ll see more edits from this shoot in the coming days.

Graveyard Photoshoot. (The Bethlehem Church was a perfect choice… )

1/160 sec at f/10 ISO 50 70mm

1/160 sec at f/10 ISO 50 70mm Model Kendall Strampel

It is not often I shoot with the same model two weeks in a row, but that is what happened this weekend. Last week’s shoot was very nice and the images of Kendall in a field on a mountain gave me a light beauty feel so the edits were exactly that; bright & light with lots of back lit sunlight.

So for this week’s shoot it was just the opposite. We were shooting in a church graveyard, ironically located just 1/2 mile from the field we shot in last week. So the concept for this shoot was Kendall’s idea and she presented it to me and when I heard it I knew the exact location. The Bethlehem Church was a perfect choice because the actual church building is burned out from a lightning strike that occurred many years ago, leaving an abandoned stone shell. Now the building is off limits but their is a graveyard with a wrought iron fence and all the graves date back to the early 1800s. Because it is abandoned there are no people, well other than the occasional passer-by and we had a just a two people walk through the background of the shoot.

I shot both natural light and studio flash. Natural light is a true love of mine, but having the Paul C Buff Einsteins on location really does open up the ability to be more creative and give different feeling to a shoot.  Before the photoshoot started I already knew I would go for higher contrast images, I knew I would be shooting around f/8 to f/16 and I also knew I would be “shooting for Photoshop.” While my Photoshop skills are very good I, like most people do not want to spend a lot of time in Photoshop fixing things, but I love to use Photoshop to create images. Difference is fixings an image in PS is something that is done to save an image or help it out a little… or sometimes a lot. However when I open PS to create something that is a different story because I am doing something that most times could never be replicated in camera. So when I “shoot for Photoshop” I am actually creating a RAW image with a camera and using it as an ingredient or a seed that will be grow something from PS. With all that said I still want to create my image and be done, so I have many actions recorded in PS that move the process along a little quicker. Two things I recommend to anyone working with Adobe Photoshop and they are “learn keyboard shortcuts and learn how to create actions and use them.” Same goes for Adobe Lightroom “learn the keyboard shortcuts” they really do make life a lot easier.

I’m not a big fan of light meters however they do make life very easy when working with studio strobes. For today’s shoot I used only one light and that was a PCB Einstein 640 with either a beauty dish or a 8 inch reflector and a 30 degree grid. In the end I can say we came away with some nice images, both natural light and studio light.

Autumn Horsemen (Just how I feel today)

Autumn Horsemen

Autumn Horsemen

Just how I feel today. It is in a rainy autumn morning here where I live.

This is a piece I created a few years back.

Autumn Walkway ( just driving up & down Princeton using my computer until I found it.)

Hand held HDR of a walkway in Princeton New Jersey in the autumn.

Hand held HDR of a walkway in Princeton New Jersey in the autumn.

I really like this image I captured this morning while traveling through Princeton New Jersey with my wife. I like the image, but it could be better. Truth be told I did tweak the yellow just a little in Photoshop and the photo is a “hand held” HDR. For those who are not photography geeks should know an HDR image is most times captured using a tripod and it is a combination of under exposure, normal exposure and over exposure images all merged in Photoshop.

So why not use a tripod? And why do I not love the image? Like most landscape images you never really capture the “wow” factor the first time out to the location and this time was no different. I want to capture the day when there is a carpet of yellow leave blanketing the ground. So because it was not at its peak moment I decided to take a quick photo by hand holding the camera.

I first saw this location posted on a photo site three years ago and the caption read “Princeton Sidewalk.” I am familiar with Princeton because I live not far from there and I knew at some point I had walked past this place, but I could never really remember where it was. I used Google Earth Street View to actually locate it. And believe me that was not easy. I spent three different sessions on Google street view just driving up & down Princeton using my computer until I found it. And of course when I did find it, it was a big DUH!

So I will head back to the location in a few days for a second chance.

 

Photo of The Day (Autumn Sun)

1/200 sec at f/6.3 ISO 100 168mm Model Kendall Strampel

1/200 sec at f/6.3 ISO 100 168mm Model Kendall Strampel

Last Sunday we took the recently acquired posing chair to a wonderful location high atop a mountain and placed it in a field of wild grasses in the midday autumn sun. As for the technical difficulty in capturing an image like this… It really is not all that hard. As you can see the model’s back is to the bright sunlight. I am using a 22 inch white beauty dish for flash to light the model’s face. The camera is in “Manual” mode. The settings are 1/200 sec at f/6.3 ISO 100 168mm. 1/200 is the limit for my sync speed with the flash, I wanted to go as fast as possible with shutter speed to slow down the hair blowing in the wind. The lens was the ever so awesome EF70-200mm f/2.8L II IS USM and the flash was a Paul C Buff (rest his soul) Einstein 640 powered by the PCB Vagabond Lithium Extreme.

So in the end it was… get to the location, set the chair in the field, set the model in the chair, take a few test shots and then fire away.

Editing started with  Lightroom CC and moved to Photoshop CC using my own methods with some Emily Soto magic added at the end, then back to Lightroom CC for cropping and watermarking.

Ebony Autumn Beauty (but for my model it meant goose bumps o’plenty and uncontrollable shivers.)

1/80 sec at f/16 ISO 50 153mm

1/80 sec at f/16 ISO 50 153mm

From today’s shoot with NYC area teen model Danny Sturdivant. We had a rough start to the day… there was no heat in the studio. For me that mean a little bit of a chill, but for my model it meant goose bumps o’plenty and uncontrollable shivers. Danny was a true professional and pushed through. We wrapped the the model in warm blankets and pushed on.

We had the ever so talented Ambre Baxter for our makeup work today and as always she delivered a beautiful look to Danny’s face and Ambre helped with styling. The autumn headpiece was made by yours truly. I really wanted to do a floral headpiece similar to the one I shot last year. But this year I chose muted colors because I felt they really went well with the ebony skin tones. There is very little color adjustment made to this photo. Skin was retouched minimally because Danny has nice skin. The main adjustment was a little pull of the vibrance slider to the minus side (Lightroom CC) to give the muted look a little extra tweak.

We shot several looks that will appear here on the blog in the coming days. We really wanted an “outdoor” autumn shoot, however the weather did not want to play along with our plan, so we changed things up at the last-minute and went into the studio for the day. Great shoot, good times and most of all lots of fun and high energy.

Foxtails Autumn 2015 (just another part of the beauty that is the autumn season)

1/500 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 150mm

1/500 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 150mm

Foxtail in the late day autumn sun. I love Foxtail when they’re fresh and green during the summer. But they really look their best in the fall when they dry and turn a straw color. On the farm where I live there are Foxtail along the borders of the fields and they are just another part of the beauty that is the autumn season, same as pumpkins, cornfields, apples and of course the flaming foliage.

What does Autumn mean to you? The first of a series of images that will be posted in the coming days/weeks titled “Autumn 2015” it will be a series of images that define what I see as the beauty of Autumn. This is a personal project that I have been wanting to do for several years and never really followed through. I’m hoping to create 10 to 20 images although weather and mother nature will dictate some of the ideas I have planned.