Hey where’s everybody at? (…we roll into Princeton at daybreak and it was perfect. Well I should say “almost perfect”)

Howard Henry Dormitory at Princeton University.

Howard Henry Dormitory at Princeton University in the early morning predawn hours.

Where are all the people at? It really was a perfectly executed plan between my friend Mark and me. It starts out with an idea to photograph architecture at Princeton University. I know it seems easy and fun, but what about all the people? How do you get good photos with all the people roaming to & fro on campus? And you must know I am a big fan of not bothering people with my being all up in their face with a camera and a tripod when I am not there to photograph people. On the other hand if I was photographing people… well then I am a little more in their face, but still with respect to personal space.

I had actually had this idea for several years and it always got nixed because it seemed like more trouble than it is worth. I mean if you look at it realistically; ok, I need to be on the campus when there are no people so how do I do that. If I go on Sunday morning there will still be the dog walkers and joggers out at the crack of dawn and once the day gets going… well it is all downhill after that. But it was Mark who said “well I guess if we go there at mid-August would be the best time because like most colleges if you go at the end of August you will have everybody coming back to school a few weeks before opening day so I think that to be the best time.” So on August 19th we roll into Princeton at daybreak and it was perfect. Well I should say “almost perfect” because while there were no students and very little staff there were several contractors working and mulling around on campus. However contractors are not bothered too much at all by two friendly photographers. So we get in early and after about two and a half hours we’re done and headed for coffee.

Pavilion of The Enlightened (literally a maze of walkways over the water.)

Pavilion of The Enlightened located in Ancient Siam City, Bangkok Thailand.

Pavilion of The Enlightened located in Ancient Siam City, Bangkok Thailand.

He we see an image of the Pavilion of The Enlightened located in Ancient Siam  also known as Ancient City. Ancient Siam is a 200 acre outdoor museum located in the Samut Prakan province of Thailand and is a photographer’s paradise. Pavilion of The Enlightened is #110 on the Ancient Siam map for those who are looking to put it on their photography list. My visit there was in December 2014 the last day of my trip and what an amazing day it was. Sadly I took so many photos I could not edit them all, but this was also a good thing, because I every so often pull a set of RAW files out and run them through Photoshop’s HDR Pro and have some fun.

This photograph was a seven bracket HDR and it was shot towards the end of the day. I had rented a golf cart for the day and as I was approaching the Pavilion I was once again taken by the amazing scene, the colors are mostly Green & Yellow and the whole structure sits above the water. Although I captured many angles I really feel I did not capture the best angle of the structure and this would be due in part that I was tired and just plain wore out from not only the day of shooting, but also from my whole trip. I had been in Thailand for about a month and I was looking forward to going home.

My visit to Ancient Siam was a last-minute “on a whim” visit and I did not know what I was in for. When I arrived I almost did not rent a golf cart, thinking I could use the exercise, but in a moment of clarity I thought “hey wait a minute… if there are golf carts here then they are here for a reason.” If you ever visit and your there for photography please take my advise and rent the cart, no matter what your physical shape you’ll be glad you did because the place is huge. I really do not remember any other place I have ever been to shoot for “just the fun of it” and actually got tired of shooting amazing structures. After a while I was saying to myself “ok, I’m done this is the last one and then I would round the corner on the cart… OMG look at this, I just have to get shot of this. Yeah it really was a lot of fun.

There are basically three styles of structures Replicas of Original, Reconstructed Original and Creative Design. The Pavilion of The Enlightened is a creative design and is literally a maze of walkways over the water.

Photo of The Day (Just choose your steps wisely.)

Watch your step.

Watch your step.

Live your life day by day and step by step. Believe in yourself and have confidence in every step you take. You control your feet, you have the power to decide where to place your foot for each step. Following a road well-traveled is very safe, venturing off the road is where adventure begins… Just choose your steps wisely.

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.

 

A Day At the Iconic Steel Stacks (If it said “Bethlehem Steel” it was made by “real” American workers.)

Five Bracket HDR f/16 ISO 50 75mm

Five Bracket HDR f/16 ISO 50 75mm

 

I spent several hours out at the “Steel Stacks” in Bethlehem Pennsylvania yesterday. It was actually quite an interesting day. When I left my home in New Jersey to make the 50 minute drive I had blue sky with lots of big white fluffy clouds. And having used my sun calculation app I knew I could get some really nice late day shots with dramatic skies. I arrived early so I could walk around and check things out. I was disappointed to see that as I arrived the sky tuned to just a clear blue with no clouds at all. Blue is good, but blue with those high white clouds would have been so much better.

In my travels trekking around the plaza I met up with a video crew shooting a cooking show for world-renowned Austrian chef Erwin Cooks. With him was Philadelphia musician Alex Meixner. Erwin is in the Lehigh Valley filming a cooking show and Alex was providing music for the show. Really nice guys as were the crew members I had talked with earlier in the day. We exchanged social media links and websites before we parted.

I also met a wonderful lady from Australia who had lived in Bethlehem when she was six years old. Now at 56 years old she comes back to visit Bethlehem and was really happy to see the Stacks still standing. Her father was an engineer who worked in Bethlehem. She was very awe-struck to see one of her father’s friends in a historical photo posted at the Steel Stacks. We had a great conversation and she too got to meet and talk with the chef and musician.

So as the sun was fading and the even light was quickly approaching I left our friendly get together and set out to capture what I came for. Sadly enough I did not capture what I wanted and that was to get the stacks with a dramatic sky. Sure I could Photoshop it in but I wanted something organic. The good news is… I get to go back another day.

For those who do not know the Steel Stacks of Bethlehem are an iconic reminder of how great the USA once was when it came to manufacturing raw materials and the power of engineering. These stacks and this foundry produced raw iron & steel that literally built the USA and the world. These stacks saved us from the perils of WWI & WWII… These stacks represent what the USA used to be “hard working people that produced something great” not pansy pencil pushers or keystroke smackers that we have become. If it said “Bethlehem Steel” it was made by “real” American workers.

Princeton University Photowalk (open your mouth and make a friend)

5 Bracket HDR f/16 ISO 50 55mm

5 Bracket HDR f/16 ISO 50 55mm

 

I have learned a long time ago to talk to people. Just talk to someone whom you might night not normally talk to and it can open a door that will lead you to so many great things, such as friendship and good times in good places and of course good memories. I know this can be hard for many people, it was hard for me too, and that is until several years ago when I was exposed to large groups of people on a weekly basis. I have a catering business and we cook mostly on location so I would see no less than 50 people and of course you’re cooking this awesome food for them so many people will want to talk to you. I really think that this is what has made my catering business so successful over the last 18 years. Now I must tell you I never planned it this way, but if someone came to talk to me I certainly could not be rude so I would engage them in conversation. And of course there are those times that people want to talk and you are in a bad mood or something just isn’t going right and the last thing you want to do is talk to anyone. You know… these are the times when really all we want to do is talk to ourselves… out loud with profanity (lol). But even in these times I learned you must step back and think of the person engaging you. Ask them (not tell them) “is it ok if we talk later, now is not a good time for me” and most times (if not all) the person will understand.

I really feel passionate about talking with people because I never knew I had it in me and I never planned on getting good at it. And while it became a great tool for my catering business it is also just as great for my photography business. If you are going to photograph people you need to be able to communicate, but you also need to be able to just relate to people. New York based fashion photographer Lindsay Adler once said she likes to talk a lot with the model during technical problems on a shoot. Sounds crazy I know, but the logic is; that there is no “dead” air because silence in that situation lets people become unfocused and maybe even nervous. Like an announcer at a sporting event, maybe there is a delay of some sort, but the announcer will keep talking. Just imagine how awkward it would be if he didn’t talk during a delay? So yes Lindsay is right and I actually learned this a long time ago, long before I heard her say it.

We have all been in that awkward situation where we are left alone with someone and there is time to kill, but the only thing dying is us and it is because of silence. Because we’re both afraid to just talk and say something to the other person. Now maybe the other person just does not want to talk, this could very well be, but how would you know unless you take that little step. After all that little step could be one of the biggest steps in your life. Just stop and think about that for a moment… ok so maybe the person is unreceptive and that is ok. Or are they unreceptive because you’re not relating to them? Remember it is not just about talking, you must also relate to them on some kind of level or common ground. I think the biggest and most used icebreaker is the weather, however this is the one topic I steer clear of. I mean if I just walked into a room and I was soaking wet because I got caught in a rain shower… ok I might mention the weather at that point lol. But most times I don’t mention weather because it is too generic.

How do you get better at talking and relating to people? Just get out and be around people in a genuine way, but also in a way you have to interact and physically talk to them. So throw away social media on this one because it will not help you at all.

Quick story and it is directly related to the photo. So I go to a photography seminar in Philadelphia several months ago. The speaker is renowned photographer Joe McNally so I’m really excited. As we are entering into the room and looking for a seat, I see several empty seats and one that is taken. So to be nice and courteous I ask “is this seat taken” and the gentleman replies with a “no” so I sit. He looks like he is by himself and I reach out and introduce myself and shake the man’s hand. Now relating in this situation is very easy because I know he likes photography. So after we are settled and we still have time we begin to talk (now remember this could be that god awful silent time) and long story somewhat short is we find out we live very close to each other and we agree that we should go out and enjoy a day of photography together. Well not only have we done that but Mark has also helped me with a model shoot and just yesterday we went out for a fun day of just freestyle shooting. The location we chose was Princeton University and yes we had a great time. We started at daybreak and ended about 10:30am and then went and viewed a photography exhibit at a local hospital. And it all happened because… I opened the mouth god gave me and made a friend in doing so.

Photo of The Day (I got to really work my new Induro tripod and put it through the paces of HDR. )

5 Bracket HDR f/16 ISO 50 33mm

5 Bracket HDR f/16 ISO 50 33mm

Spent the early morning hours out photographing the grounds of Princeton University with my friend and fellow photographer Mark. What a joy it was to have the place to ourselves for the whole morning. Then as the people started to come out & about we called it a day and headed home. I got to really work my new Induro tripod and put it through the paces of HDR. The AT 214 was great. I’ll do a video review next week.